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Climber injured in remote area off Stillwater River trail needed 12-hour weekend rescue

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Search and rescue members gather around a man injured while climbing near Nye

Search and rescue members gather around a man injured over the weekend while climbing in a remote area off the Stillwater River Trail near Sioux Charley Lake.

A man injured after an approximately 50-foot fall while rappelling in a remote area near the Stillwater River Trail was rescued over the weekend after about 12 hours of work from multiple first responder groups.

Details of the rescue near Nye were shared by Stillwater County Search and Rescue on social media Sunday.

The climber was a 25-year-old Montana man, and he was "seriously injured" after falling "in a remote area" while rappelling Saturday. The fall happened in an area off the Sioux Charley trailhead in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

He had been with a group of about four or five people, Stillwater County Undersheriff Randy Smith said.

The injured man had fallen into what Smith described as essentially a boulder patch. 

"He had fallen into a bunch of large rocks," Smith said.

Two Bear Air was requested, but strong winds took them out of the rescue operation.

"The winds were bad enough that they weren't able to put a rescue technician out of the helicopter," Smith said. "Normally, they'd put a rescue technician on a long line and drop him out of the bottom of a helicopter and hook them into a Stokes basket and then take them to a landing zone."

Instead, Smith said search and rescue personnel had to carry the man back to the trailhead on a Stokes basket on a wheel. 

"It's still winter conditions in the mountains," he said. "There's snow, mud, ice. You know, you get to 10, 11 o'clock at night and you're in the mountains, the temperature drops."

Stillwater County Search and Rescue, the Stillwater County Sheriff's Office, Absarokee Fire and EMS, Nye Fire, Sweet Grass County Search and Rescue, Two Bear Air and Help Flight were all involved in the "extensive technical rescue." The initial emergency call came in at about 4:45 p.m. Saturday.

"It took a lot of manpower to get him down to the trailhead and get him into an ambulance and to a hospital," Smith said.

Sunday evening, the climber was recovering at a Billings hospital, according to Stillwater County Search and Rescue. Photos from the rescue shared by Stillwater County Search and Rescue show rescuers at night with headlamps navigating rocky and in some cases snow-covered terrain.

Smith estimated that annually local search and rescue deals with between one and two climbing related incidents along that part of the Stillwater River Trail.


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