Carbondale’s Hayden Kennedy, a noted climber, takes his life after girlfriend dies in avalanche

Inge Perkins and Hayden Kennedy

Hayden Kennedy, renowned climber and Carbondale native, committed suicide after his girlfriend died Saturday in an avalanche while the pair were skiing in rugged Montana backcountry, his family said.

Kennedy is the only son of Julie and Michael Kennedy. Michael Kennedy is a well-recognized alpinist as well, and was editor-in-chief of Climbing magazine for 30 years. Julie Kennedy is the founder of 5Point Film Festival, which features adventure films.

Hayden Kennedy, 27, and Inge Perkins, 23, of Bozeman, Montana, on Saturday morning went skiing on Imp Peak in the southern Madison Range, about 20 miles southwest of Big Sky, reports said. 

The Madison County sheriff said in a statement Tuesday that the pair “hiked 6 miles from the Upper Taylor Fork trailhead to the north couloir of Imp Peak. Near the bottom of the couloir around 10,000 feet, they triggered an avalanche while ascending on skis with skins.”

The avalanche was 1-2 feet deep at the crown, approximately 150 feet wide, and 300 feet long. 

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that both skiers were caught in the avalanche. “The woman was fully buried while the man she was skiing with was partially buried.”

Kennedy was partially buried and searched for Perkins, but could not find her and hiked out.

On Monday, Gallatin County Search and Rescue located her with avalanche probes, buried 3 feet deep. 

“Hayden survived the avalanche but not the unbearable loss of his partner in life. He chose to end his life. Myself and his mother Julie sorrowfully respect his decision,” Kennedy’s father said in a written statement Tuesday.

“Hayden truly was an uncensored soul whose accomplishments as a mountaineer were always secondary to his deep friendships and mindfulness. He recently moved to Bozeman to work on his EMT certification while Inge completed her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and education at Montana State University.”

SCARPA, a Boulder outdoors gear store, mourned Kennedy and Perkins in a Facebook post Tuesday.

“These two young adventurers inspired us all to push our limits and most importantly, have fun doing it. Excelling at running, climbing, and skiing, the pair was always living life to the fullest and showing the world just how that’s done. Our deepest condolences go out to their families and the community that will never be the same without them. We’ll miss you both, thank you for all of the smiles,” it said.

Elevation Outdoors proclaimed in 2014 that Hayden Kennedy “may be the best young climber on the planet.” Kennedy is listed on the Patagonia company’s site as an Alpine Climbing Ambassador.

In January 2012, Hayden Kennedy went on a climbing mission to southern Patagonia when he was 22 years old. He ignited controversy when he and his climbing partner removed more than 100 bolts that they deemed unnecessary as they rappelled down Cerro Torre.

“We wanted to give respect back to Cerro Torre,” Hayden Kennedy said at Carbondale’s 5Point Film Festival in 2012. “There’s never been democracy in climbing. It’s kind of a rebel sport. Climbing is the art of freedom.”

In a Sept. 26 post on Evening Sends, Hayden Kennedy wrote about the mortality of his favorite sport.

“Over the last few years, however, as I’ve watched too many friends go to the mountains only to never return, I’ve realized something painful,” Hayden Kennedy wrote. “It’s not just the memorable summits and crux moves that are fleeting. Friends and climbing partners are fleeting, too. This is the painful reality of our sport, and I’m unsure what to make of it. Climbing is either a beautiful gift or a curse.”


Carbondale Short Bus from Patagonia on Vimeo.

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