Hometown remembers climber Hayden Kennedy
Hayden Kennedy made a conscious decision in recent years to unplug from the media hype and instant gratification that had infiltrated the activity he loved most and life in general, one of his former high school teachers in Carbondale recalled Wednesday.
“He closed his Facebook account and just adopted this neat philosophy that, in life, you don’t necessarily have to keep everyone up to date with each and every moment,” said Kayo Ogilby, a science teacher and outdoor instructor at Colorado Rocky Mountain School who stayed in touch with Kennedy over the eight years after his 2009 graduation.
“He preferred to wait until your paths would inevitably cross to share his stories,” Ogilby said, reflecting on the person his former student and friend had become since that time, and before his untimely death last weekend.
Kennedy, 27, a renowned climber and native of Carbondale, decided to take his own life after his girlfriend, Inge Perkins, 23, was killed in an avalanche Oct. 7 when the two were skiing in the rugged backcountry of southwestern Montana.
“Hayden is as fine a human being as anyone I have ever encountered,” Ogilby said. “They just don’t come finer than that.”
It was at CRMS, the independent college preparatory school situated just outside Carbondale, where Kennedy’s love for the outdoors and passion for climbing grew.
Instilled by his parents, longtime former Climbing magazine editor Michael Kennedy, an accomplished climber by his own right, and Julie Kennedy, founder of the adventure film showcase 5Point Film Festival, Hayden took it to another level as a teen prodigy in the sport of climbing.
Ogilby observed that it can be challenging to contain a young person who is so talented at any one discipline.
“If you’re not careful, you can have a problem on your hands when someone moves beyond the scope of what you have to offer,” Ogilby said. “What Hayden did was, he became the total opposite and learned to branch out.”
Kennedy joined the telemark ski team and the mountain unicycling team. And, when the fall trip rolled around, instead of going climbing, Kennedy decided to go on the fly fishing trip.
“What he seemed to see clearly early on is it wasn’t about the end all, be all,” Ogilby said.
“I think that one of the great pleasures of teaching is that we learn as much from our students as they do from us. This is certainly so true with Hayden.”
The day following news of Kennedy’s death, tributes and condolences for the families involved were many in the community where he grew up.
“Words just can’t describe the great loss our community and family/tribe of climbers and outdoor adventures is feeling now and especially Hayden and Inge’s families,” fellow climber and Glenwood Springs High School teacher Michael Schneiter wrote in a Facebook post.
Schneiter said a climbing expedition with Kennedy in Yosemite several years ago inspired he and his wife, Joy, to have kids, so that they could share the same love of the outdoors that Hayden’s parents shared with him.
“I remember wanting to just climb and wasn’t sure about kids, but the way Michael and Julie had raised such an amazing young man who was so filled with love and passion helped convince me that I wanted the same for our kids,” he wrote.
“As Hayden noted, it can be a curse, and every time I go out to guide a dangerous peak or climb an obscure line I think about the need to come home,” Schneiter continued. “But, it’s also a gift and I hope my kids appreciate that gift …”
Alison Osius, executive editor at Rock and Ice magazine in Carbondale, penned a Tuesday essay in which she also referred to Hayden’s move away from the “media persona” that often dogs accomplished athletes.
“Hayden had recently found so much, had broadened his life,” she wrote. “He had met Inge Perkins, his dream partner and herself a mountain athlete of his caliber …
“She, too, was modest and low key. Undercover. Probably no one could help thinking they were the perfect match.”
Michael Kennedy wrote in a family statement about Hayden’s death that the “unbearable loss” of Perkins led him to take his life.
“Myself and his mother, Julie, sorrowfully respect his decision,” he wrote.
Penn Newhard, 5Point Film Fest board chairman, also issued a statement, saying, “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Hayden Kennedy and his partner Inge Perkins.
“Hayden grew up as part of the festival as his mother, founder Julie Kennedy, established the tenets of 5 Point: commitment, respect, humility, purpose and balance as formative family and community traits.”
Ogilby said that ethic was apparent the day Hayden walked through the doors at CRMS.
“He was such a light in any situation,” he said. “He brought such an incredible combination of humor, enthusiasm and ridiculousness, but also reverence, thoughtfulness and seriousness.
“I am so thankful for every moment I have spent with him, and I can only hope that I might carry forward as soulfully, humbly, and enthusiastically as he did,” Ogilby said.
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