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Early this morning we learned that Hayden Kennedy, son of former longtime Climbing editor-in-chief Michael Kennedy, died after a skiing accident on Imp Peak (11,202’) in Southwest Montana. On October 7, Hayden and partner Inge Perkins were hit by an avalanche while skinning at 10,000 feet in the vicinity of the peak’s north couloir. Inge was fully buried and Hayden was partially buried. He was able to free himself, but could not locate Inge during a search. She died at the scene. The two lived together in Bozeman, Montana.
“The fully buried skier was recovered from the scene by Gallatin County Search and Rescue yesterday,” wrote Friends of Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center on October 10. The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center reported that, “The avalanche was 1-2’ deep at the crown, approximately 150’ wide, and 300’ long.”
“Hayden survived the avalanche but not the unbearable loss of his partner in life,” his father wrote in a public Facebook post earlier today. “He chose to end his life. Myself and his mother Julie sorrowfully respect his decision.”
Our condolences go out to Inge and Hayden’s friends and family.
Inge Perkins (1994-2017)
From Bozeman, Montana, Perkins, 23, was both a high-level backcountry skier and climber. She traveled often in her truck—her stallion—and also internationally, including skiing and climbing in five countries. As a climber, she redpointed 5.14 sport, climbed long, hard routes in Colorado’s Black Canyon, and fired 5.12 on 1,800-foot Mount Hooker in Wyoming. One in-a-week accomplishment included ticking both the 5.14 sport climb, Vesper, at the Fins in Montana, and backcountry skiing a 20-mile traverse with 13,000 feet of elevation gain. She topped podiums at bouldering, deep water soloing, and Randonee (ski mountaineering) championships.
“I grew up [in Bozeman] bushwhacking around the Montana and Norwegian mountains with my parents, constantly whimpering from fear and discomfort, but always wanting to go out again,” she wrote on a profile for Mystery Ranch’s website. Mystery Ranch was one of her sponsors, along with SCARPA, Power Climbing, and Petzl.
She continued: “As my love for climbing and skiing grows, my dream is to intertwine the two more and more as well as use my drive to push myself in these pursuits as a means to explore magical corners of the world while sharing the excitement with others.”
Inge studied math at Montana State University and also worked as a climbing coach.
Hayden Kennedy (1990-2017)
Raised at the confluence on the Roaring Fork and Crystal rivers in Carbondale, Colorado, by Julie and Michael Kennedy, Hayden chose to forgo a formal college education (as his father did before him) and started adventuring right out of high school. By the time he was 18, he had already been climbing and skiing at a high level for many years. His transition from teen to adulthood was captured in Fred Norquist’s film Life as a Non-Collegiate: Living the Dream in 2009. The film debuted at the 5Point Film Festival, produced by his mother, Julie.
Norquist’s film was made a year after Hayden, Jonas Waterman, and I climbed El Niño (VI 5.13 b/c A0) on El Capitan for his first time up the formation. Before that big wall, he’d climbed the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome with his father.
Jonas and I stared in wonder as he “quested,” as Hayden called it, through terribly runout 5.12 and 5.13 terrain. “Here we are watching the future of climbing,” I remember saying to Jonas and at the same time worrying about what his parents would say if anything happened to their teenage boy.
At 16, while a student at Colorado Rocky Mountain School, Hayden was firing off 5.14 sport routes at Rifle and 5.13 splitters in Indian Creek. He stormed up his pitches, carrying a light rack and rarely hesitating. And he was always polite. That’s what I remember most about Hayden: his attitude. He had a hang-loose sincerity that stayed with you.
During a road trip to Castle Valley outside of Moab, Utah, as he and I talked desert towers, he said he’d already done most of the ones I listed. “That was back before I was a climber,” I remember him saying.
Hayden never sought media attention for his achievements. Looking back, I think he interviewed with me over the years as a courtesy. In a 2014 interview, he shared:
“I started climbing a lot at 13, 14. I grew up climbing with my dad when I was super young. But I wasn’t that into it. Then as a teenager, I did more sport and trad climbing. When I was in high school, when I met you, I started climbing with other people and not just my dad and that’s when I became my own climber. Know what I mean?
“My first expedition I went to Patagonia. That was 2009-2010. I’ve been there [now] three times. I climbed Fitz my first year, and then smaller peaks and free climbing peaks. On the third trip I climbed Cerro Torre.”
His fair-means ascent of Cerro Torre, at age 21 with Jason Kruk (23), was followed by the controversial act of removing the bolts from the Compressor Route during the descent; it was an act that angered some people and resulted in his and Kruk’s arrest. Hayden spoke about the events at length in an interview on The Enormocast podcast.
Hayden’s additional alpine climbing accomplishments include a new route on the East Face of K7 (22,749′) and the South Face of The Ogre (23,901′), also known as Baintha Brakk, in the same season in 2012. His ascents earned him the American Alpine Club’s Cutting Edge Award.
At the end of our 2014 interview, he said: “It feels like an epic is when shit really goes down hill. I don’t think I’ve had those epics, but I’ve had lots of big adventures and lots of close calls. I think if you climb in the mountains a lot you get your fair share of close calls for sure.
“I’m just trying to have fun and not take it too seriously.”