Photolysis of chloroiodomethane (CH(2)ClI) in cryogenic matrices followed by recombination of the nascent radical pair produces an isomer (CH(2)Cl-I) that features a halogen-halogen (Cl-I) bond. Using ultrafast laser pulses, it is possible to follow the formation of this isomer by transient electronic absorption in low-temperature matrices of N(2), CH(4), and Ar. Frequency-domain measurements provide vibrational and electronic spectra, and electronic structure calculations give the structures of the isomers and the minimum energy path that connects them. The ultrafast experiments cleave the C-I bond with a 267-nm photolysis pulse and probe the formation of the isomer at wavelengths between 435 nm and 510 nm. The longest wavelengths preferentially interrogate vibrationally excited molecules, and their transient absorption shows that the highly vibrationally excited isomer appears within 1 to 2 ps, depending on the matrix, likely reflecting the loss of 2000 cm(-1) or more of energy in a strong, inelastic collision of the fragments with the matrix. The subsequent relaxation of the vibrationally excited isomer occurs in 20 to 40 ps, a time that is comparable to those observed for halomethane molecules and their isomers in liquids and in supercritical CO(2). These observations suggest that the formation and initial relaxation of the isomer in dense media do not depend strongly on the identity of the surroundings.