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Ducknut

Sad news from Yellowstone

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The article didn't identify them. Did you know them?

 

This is the suck.

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Beautiful climb indeed. RIP Mike and Mark; condolences to all.

 

From the Billings Gazette :

 

Ice-climbers die in Yellowstone: 'Just great individuals'

 

Two Bozeman men in their late 20s were killed this weekend in Yellowstone National Park while climbing a frozen waterfall below the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

 

Park officials did not release the names of the victims, but they were identified by Steve Langlas, who had employed both men, as Mike Kellch, 29, and Mark Ehrich, 28.

 

Langlas, of the construction company Langlas and Associates, said Kellch and Ehrich were childhood friends in Casper and were living together in Bozeman.

 

Yellowstone National Park spokesman Al Nash said one of the bodies had been recovered about noon on Tuesday, but deteriorating conditions forced suspension of efforts to recover the second body. He said rescue crews hope to complete the recovery Wednesday morning.

 

A search for the two men began Monday afternoon, after a friend contacted park officials and said the two men had not returned from a weekend outing. Nash said the men were ice-climbing Silver Cord Cascade, a steep, narrow series of waterfalls that drops nearly 1,000 from the south rim of the canyon to the valley floor.

 

Silver Cord Cascade is about three miles downstream of the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone. Joe Josephson of Livingston, who has climbed Silver Cord and has written a book about ice-climbing in southern Montana and northern Wyoming, said climbers ski to the site from Artist’s Point, rappel down and then climb back up.

 

Generally speaking, it’s not considered all that difficult a climb, he said, but “it’s quite spectacular.”

 

A press release from the park said a technical rescue team rappelled into the canyon Monday night and spotted the bodies of both men lying on a rock ledge about 300 feet below the canyon rim. Rescuers said it appeared that the ice column the men were ascending had collapsed.

 

The Yellowstone rescue team of about 20 people was assisted by three climbing rangers from Grand Teton National Park and a helicopter provided by a private contractor.

 

Nash said the elevation of the canyon rims is about 7,800 feet, and though it is still quite cold there, the ice on Silver Cord Cascade was getting “rotten” in the afternoon, which was one reason recovery efforts were suspended Tuesday.

 

It had been snowing off and on for several days, Nash said, and there had been temporary road closures in the park because of the snow. A low cloud ceiling also made it difficult to use the helicopter.

 

Langlas said Kellch started working for his construction company in Bozeman in 2001 and graduated from the Montana State University engineering program in 2005. After a year in Alaska, Kellch returned to work for Langlas as a field engineer and superintendent.

 

At just 26, Kellch was the field engineer on the construction of the Dehler Park baseball stadium in Billings. Langlas described him as a dedicated, hard-working young man, “our top draft choice, so to speak, in the last eight years.”

 

“He was a real star in the construction business,” Langlas said. “He was really something else.”

 

After a recent three-week climbing trip to Alaska, Kellch had just returned to start work on a school construction project in Ennis. It was his work mates on that project who reported his absence on Monday, Langlas said.

 

Ehrich also worked for Langlas, from 2002 to 2006, when he quit and went back to school in Bozeman.

 

Langlas’ nephew, Bill Langlas, gathered Tuesday with a few friends of both men at their residence in Bozeman. He said they were “just great individuals, the nicest guys you’d meet.”

 

He said they were also experienced ice-climbers.

 

“They must have had some bad luck, because they’re both definitely trained,” he said.

 

Nash said the last fatality in Yellowstone occurred on Sept. 10, 2009, when a woman drowned in the Bechler River in the southwest corner of the park.

 

Josephson said he climbed Silver Cord Cascade six years ago with a friend of his, a Yellowstone National Park ranger. He said the climb would probably be considered intermediate in terms of difficulty, but ice conditions can change so quickly that it’s hard to say what the difficulty is from day to day.

 

Silver Cord would be frozen nearly solid in mid-winter, Josephson said, but from March on, the flow of water beneath the ice grows steadily and can make climbing conditions dangerous.

 

Hiking and climbing in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are prohibited from the brink of the Upper Falls downriver to the Silver Cord Cascade drainage. Park rangers said climbers attempt Silver Cord Cascade maybe one to three times a year.

 

 

 

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I still can't comprehend this. I have been best friends with Mark and Mike for all of my adult life. I've known both since we were a little kids. Mike grew up down the street and Mark switched into my elementary school in 5th grade. In my life, odds are that if I was having a grand adventure or a blow-out good time, I could turn my head and one or both of these guys would be standing there.

 

A few years ago I wrote a TR about going to AK with these guys.

 

http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/553952/Re_TR_Valdez_Alaska_Numerous_3#Post553952

 

 

I could write a book about these two. As it is, I've been driving around Wyoming since Monday night telling stories and crying with friends and family. Everyone loved Mike and Mark and now we have a giant hole in their lives.

 

The Bozeman Chronicle has an article this morning - http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/article_3584ae72-685e-11df-9049-001cc4c03286.html

 

We never spent much time talking about religion because we were having too much fun, but if there is something on the other side - and I believe there is - I'll see you guys there.

 

Everyone I've spoken to since Monday has told me the same thing - it is certain that they were having a great time that day. I don't believe that people ever would want to die climbing, but I know that these guys wouldn't haven't wanted to live without climbing in their lives. They died in pursuit of the best life they knew how to live.

 

The last weekend I spent with Mike and Mark was in March, before they headed to AK to get on Ham and Eggs [Mark hurt his back climbing ice in Banff and Valdez on the drive up and had to come home without flying into the Ruth - Mike styled the climb]. We climbed the Killer Pillar on Saturday and then spent all of Sunday hanging out, riding bikes, barbequeing, and watching Mike show us his sweet pogo-stick skills. A top ten time for sure.

 

Matt

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well said Matt. I didn't know anyone in town when I moved to Bozeman a few years ago. Luckily Matt introduced me to his friends, including Mike and Mark. I feel so blessed to have known them. If you ever suggested heading into the mountains, they were practically packing their gear before you hung up the phone. We had some great times and I will truly miss them.

 

-Erik

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I thought Mr Tapley said it well

 

"Respect for those we've lost and sympathy for those left behind"

 

RIP guys

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Sound like a couple of great guys that are going to be deeply and sadly missed. Sorry to hear of it.

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I climbed with Mike almost every Sunday during the winter he was in AK. He was one of the most giving, sincere people I have ever met. We had some pretty crazy adventures, he was always up for anything. He was just up here on another climbing trip with his friend Colter a few weeks ago. They stayed at our house after climbing Moose's Tooth before heading back down to MT. I still can't believe it, it was way too soon for both of them, but I'm so, so glad I was able to say goodbye.

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RIP fellow climbers

 

but IMHO it was too late season, too warm to be on waterfall ice in the lower 48

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This sucks. Even more so as these guys really had the spark.

 

Well, it has not been the best weather for ice here in Wyo. lately, so this wasn't much of a surprise. While May can be cool, the sun is getting very high in the sky, nearby rock will be bare, the water is starting to run and we have had considerable wind of late.

 

Hard part of living here (NW wyo.) is that there are multiple fatalities every year here, some skiing, some climbing. So please be careful guys, safety here is very condition dependent. Seems like a lot of times, since one has a pretty good trip to get here (time & expense), folks arrive to find tough conditions and climb anyway. And usually its not the noobs that get it, it's people who have years of experience. Seems like with climate change, conditions here are changing dramatically, so the past is becoming less of a guide.

 

The nice part of living here is you meet so many nice folks and they bring such wonder and excitement with them, really refreshing as life here can be hard. So it's always really sad for us--even those who don't climb--when a tragedy like this happens. Please be assured that we here are thinking of those close to Mark and Mike.

 

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This really sucks and I'm sorry for the loss of these two guys. Having lived outside Bozeman in the mountains for six years, I was curious about the telemetry for this location and pulled up this: http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/nwcc/site?sitenum=384&state=wy data for the Snotel site very close to the site of this accident. It seems difficult to belive there would be any ice left to climb after such warm temps and it serves as a good reminder for all of us to check these sites as part of our trip planning protocol.

Edited by Bronco

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