RED LODGE — The Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office and other regional search and rescue crews on Wednesday joined the effort to find a missing hiker in the Beartooth Mountains outside of Red Lodge.
The additional resources were deployed to search for 23-year-old Tatum "Tate" Morell, who has not been heard from since the evening of July 1 when she spoke with her mother on an InReach satellite device from her camp at Shadow Lake in the West Fork of the Rock Creek drainage.
Authorities believe she left the camp Friday morning on a plan to solo hike five peaks over 12,000 feet in the area. The Carbon County Sheriff's Office announced Monday evening a search had been launched for the woman, who is described as an avid hiker.
When Morell was first reported as missing, search and rescue was made aware that she had an inReach device. An InReach is a satellite communicator made by Garmin that can send messages, and track location even in the event GPS signal is lost.
According to officials, they attempted to track this device but failed, meaning the device is either off, broken, or the battery has died.
Search and rescue officials believe that Morell has, or had, her inReach device with her since it is not at her campsite. inReach has a mobile app where you can create an account and enter personal information such as emergency contacts.
“The most important feature (on an inReach) is the SOS button. So, they all have an SOS button so even if my phone is not working, and I am not able to send a message out I can press that SOS and that will start a whole process. That goes out to a call center at Garmin and then based on the account that I have set up it will contact local search and rescue and my emergency contacts,” says Amy Hyfield, the public information officer for Red Lodge Fire Rescue.
“We’ve worked with Garmin to try and get all of the track information. She did send a message on Thursday evening (July 1) to her mother. When the messages go out, they send a location and then apparently she turned it off, it could be that the battery also died,” says Hyfield.
Red Lodge Fire Rescue announced Wednesday morning that search efforts now included several teams from surrounding areas, including Yellowstone County, Gallatin County, Big Horn County, Park County, Wyo., and the U.S. Forest Service. The search effort also includes three dog teams and three helicopters.
The teams on Wednesday were tasked with searching the routes Morell may have taken to climb the peaks in the area, with a focus on Sundance, Bowback, Castle, and Whitetail mountains, according to a press release.
Helicopter crews from the National Guard and Two Bear Air searched the area through Tuesday evening using visual, infrared camera, cell phone tracking, and Recco tracking while ground crews searched the area around her camp and the surrounding lakes.
Morell is an engineering graduate student at Montana State University-Bozeman and is originally from Idaho. This was her first trip to the Beartooths. She is an experienced hiker who explores terrain like this often and recently accomplished a similar trip in Gallatin County climbing five peaks in five days, the press release states.
Anyone who may have seen Morell recently or has any information about her plans is asked to contact the Carbon County Sheriff's Office at (406) 446-1234.