Ted Lange of Bozeman climbs the ice pillar “Code Red” in Hyalite Canyon on Sunday, March 24, 2013, shortly before a 10-foot fall that would break his ankle and lead to a backcountry trail rescue.
What started as a Sunday trek to climb a pillar of ice in Hyalite Canyon ended up as a mile-long crawl through the snow with a broken ankle for one Bozeman man.
Ted Lange and his climbing partner, Tate Dunkel, both had the rarely climbed pillar “Code Red” on their ice-climbing punch lists, and Sunday was as good a day as any to scratch it off.
After the three-hour ski from the parking area, Lange and Dunkel, both veteran climbers, planned to spend all day at the pillar.
“Our plan was quite a long approach,” Lange, 46, told the, Chronicle Monday. “It was so big you could climb several routes on it.”
Dunkel went up first around 2 p.m., leaving his gear in the ice. As a warm-up, Lange decided to climb up and clip in to Dunkel’s screws, the first of which was about 10 or 15 feet up the ice.
“It was amazingly cold,” Lange said. “The ice was very hard and brittle. A foothold broke — shattered — and I was off.”
Lange landed on the ground at the base of the pillar, pulling Dunkel off the ice with him. Near the bottom, the spike on his right boot caught on the ice.
“I felt my ankle bend — a lot,” he said.
“I just went flying and landed in the snow and got dragged,” said Dunkel, 39. “We both slid down the hill a ways, and I stopped on top of him in a big pile of snow.”
Lange helped belay Dunkel up the ice to retrieve the gear, and then the pair set off for the car, with Lange using his split board as a toboggan.
However, the going was slow. The split board kept getting stuck in ski tracks and sliding off the trail. By that time, the sun was getting low in the sky. Eventually, they decided Dunkel should ski out for help.
“I left him on the trail at 3:45, and it took me 45 minutes going as fast as I could to get to the car,” Dunkel said.
Meanwhile, Lange kept on crawling, moving himself out of the woods and into an area more easily accessible by snowmobile. And that’s where Gallatin County rescuers retrieved him around 7 p.m. He was cold but, apart from his ankle, otherwise unharmed.
“The search and rescue guys were pretty awesome,” Dunkel said. “I was really impressed with how organized they were.”
Lange also praised the rescuers and noted this was his first time being injured ice climbing since he began in 1983.
And Code Red is still on his list of local climbs to make.
“It’s just a beautiful place; the ice was gorgeous,” he said. “It’s one of the more obscure climbs in Hyalite, so it’s very frustrating not to have the day turn out the way I wanted.”
From the warmth of his Bozeman home Monday, where he was awaiting surgery on his ankle, Lange estimated via Google Earth that he’d traveled roughly two miles during his four hours in the snow — more than half of that while crawling.
“It was almost a little bit fun at times,” he said. “Almost.”