Search of rugged Montana mountains continues for hiker, 23, missing nearly a month

Tatum Morell, 23, last made contact with family on July 1 near Red Lodge, Montana

A search continued in the rugged Montana mountains over the weekend for a missing 23-year-old hiker who officials and family believe is likely dead after she failed to return from a solo trip nearly a month ago.

K-9 teams from multiple agencies were being dispatched via helicopter on Saturday and Sunday into an area where Tatum Morell could have ventured after setting off alone on the West Fork Trailhead near the city of Red Lodge on July 2, Red Lodge Fire Rescue said Thursday.

FLASHBACK: MISSING MONTANA HIKER BELIEVED DEAD; SEARCH SCALED BACK, AUTHORITIES SAY

The expanded search was expected to encompass several mountain peaks and numerous lakes, including Whitetail and Silver Run Peaks, September Morn Lake, Timberline Lake, Lake Susanne and Snow Lakes. The agency said more could be added depending on time and conditions.

Crews have continued searching for Morell on a limited but continuous basis using trained rescuers and search dog teams since scaling back the search on July 10.

Morell last called her family using a satellite device on the evening of July 1 before setting out on the West Fork Trailhead. The trailhead is located in southcentral Montana, near the Wyoming border. She had planned to climb five mountain peaks over 12,000 feet tall in the area.

<strong>The search for missing 23-year-old hiker Tatum Morell was scaled back on July 10 after officials and family said it is unlikely she is still alive. </strong>

<strong>The search for missing 23-year-old hiker Tatum Morell was scaled back on July 10 after officials and family said it is unlikely she is still alive. </strong> (Carbon County Sheriff's Office - Montana/Facebook)

Rescuers launched a search for the 23-year-old when she failed to return on July 5. 

Teams climbed the rugged, 12,00-foot-tall mountains and navigated treacherous terrain filled with rock fields, car-sized boulders, scree fields and snowfields in search of Morell. After an exhausting five days, the effort yielded no results. 

Morell, pictured during a different hike, was described as an "avid and experienced hiker" with a lifetime of experience taking backcountry trips with her family and by herself.

Morell, pictured during a different hike, was described as an "avid and experienced hiker" with a lifetime of experience taking backcountry trips with her family and by herself. (Red Lodge Fire Rescue)

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Due to the sheer expansiveness of the rugged mountains and storms that had passed through the area, officials and family released an update on July 10, saying that the hiker had likely died.

Rescuers said it is believed the 23-year-old "had a tragic accident" and was unable to activate her inReach communication device.

"Tate was a fiercely independent, adventurous soul who loved the mountains," her family said in a statement. "We find some solace in knowing she passed in a place she loved."