The mountain can win in summer too

BeartoothBaron

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https://www.ktvq.com/news/local-news/body-of-missing-red-lodge-hiker-tatum-morell-found
Not a snowmobiler or sledding family (that I know of), but I've been following this story closely ever since news broke of a missing lone hiker/climber. This is an area I'm pretty familiar with: I've camped just over a mile away. When SAR was activated, it was already four days after last contact. By that time, the number of likely scenarios where she could still be alive were precious few. The area she planned to be in was relatively small, and so it was able to be pretty thoroughly covered. Other than her camp site, nothing was found for over a month. Ultimately, her remains were discovered when some hikers found a piece of hiking gear and investigated; she'd been buried in a rock slide, which explains why the intensive search failed to find her.

As with sledders, many back-country hikers and climbers will never go alone. A simple hiking or camping expedition isn't necessarily that risky, but mountain climbing such as this definitely is. Still, some people enjoy the solo experience, perhaps moreso with mountaineers. I made a similar–though not nearly as ambitious–solo trip with a fairly straightforward summit of Silver Run Peak last summer, but even at the time I remember thinking how easily it could turn into a serious survival situation by slipping and breaking a leg or such, miles away from any help. I wouldn't say I'll never do something like that again, but I won't be attempting any challenging summits solo. I also won't sit here and say that people should never go solo, only that they should understand the risks and work within their known abilities. She was experienced, by all accounts, and carrying a satellite communicator. Just as someone caught in an avalanche though, that made no difference in this case. Devices like an Inreach or SPOT are great tools, but I wonder how often they lead to "I've got an [Inreach, air bag, etc.], I don't need to worry" thinking. She was young, and a combination of technical expertise and "I've got a life-line" thinking might have resulted in her pushing too far. On the other hand, I've heard of very few injuries or deaths from rock slides in this area; she may have simply managed to trigger something in an area that seemed safe.

At the end of the day, it's tragic, but at least she was found and the family doesn't have to live with crippling uncertainty any more. This kind of thing doesn't deter me from venturing into the wild, but it's a stern reminder that it's not safe out there. I tend to be fairly cautious, but still at times I'll get myself into situations and take risks I didn't mean to. You can't take things for granted, and sometimes you just have to turn around and try another day. Even at your best, you go out there knowing that no matter how well planned and prepared, you're taking a risk. It's about living life. Some people knowingly and willingly push far beyond what I'm comfortable with, while others would never leave a developed trail, spend a night in the woods, or take a sled out because it's not "safe.' We'll never know if this hiker was pushing her luck, or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I prefer to think it was the latter. Either way, her name is Tatum Morell, and she is forever twenty-three.
 

Teth-Air

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Some of us can't resist the mountain. Solo or in a group, we must go. Those with this passion have accepted that if something goes wrong we went doing what we loved. This however does not make the above incident any less tragic. I pray for those left behind.
 

BeartoothBaron

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^ Exactly. I have to wonder, in our safety-obsessed society, how many people are talked out of their true passion because it's "dangerous." What the Wright brothers did was "dangerous." Progress always entails some risk. We must also acknowledge that there is a small minority who get a thrill simply from putting themselves in danger, and discourage such deliberate risk-taking. "Why do you want to do that?" could be a back-handed put-down, or it could be the most important question. I've already indicated that what she was attempting seems like more risk than I would personally entertain, but without knowing someone personally and exactly what happened, the most I will ever say of such a situation is that I wouldn't have attempted it. Regardless of how reasonable or unreasonable it seems to you, there's never a bad time to remind people that preparation and conservative decision-making may save their life, and that the cost of a foolish choice extends well beyond their life. Again, going off reports, all indications were that she was an experienced and responsible mountaineer, but sometimes all it takes is one small change in conditions to turn doing the same things in the same places you've been a dozen times before into a completely different scenario.

These kind of situations tend to invite some criticism, and you really have to separate your emotions and consider the source. Some "daredevils" are actually well-studied and will call off the moment something doesn't look right, while others can make relatively safe situations dangerous with an inattentive or arrogant attitude. I try to spread stories like these and encourage everyone to consider the choices made from a "Have I done that? What would I have done different?" perspective. It's possible to do so while still being respectful of the person(s) involved; I believe unfortunate souls who've lost their lives in situations like this would be glad to know that people with similar interests are discussing their situation and keeping their memory alive. Of course there are people who, for whatever reason, feel the need to make summary judgements. I very much believe in sharing and learning from these tragedies, but in doing so I also take it on myself to defend the memory of those involved. She joins dozens who've lost their lives just in my piece of the mountains we love. The first such story I remember was of a Boy Scout who fell and perished back in the '60s along one of our favorite trails. It was a little frightening to think of at first, but sometimes from fear comes learning. I'm not one of those people who has some strange desire to pass away in the mountains–I hope to come home safe from every trip–but it adds meaning to think of those who've not been so fortunate, and remember their names.
 
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