Climber Hayden Kennedy and Partner Inge Perkins Dead After Avalanche

Perkins was killed by the slide. Kennedy survived, but distraught at the loss, took his own life.

Twenty-seven-year-old Hayden Kennedy, one of America’s most talented and accomplished alpinists, and Inge Perkins, a sponsored climber and ski mountaineer, are dead after being caught in an avalanche south of Bozeman, Montana, on Saturday, October 7. The couple were backcountry skiing on a peak called Mt. Imp, where they were caught in a 150-foot-wide slide with a one- to two-foot crown. Perkins was fully buried and died. Kennedy was partially buried and, distraught at her death, took his own life.

Hayden’s father Michael Kennedy wrote on Facebook, “Having lived for 27 years with the great joy and spirit that was Hayden Kennedy, we share the loss of our son and his partner Inge Perkins as the result of an avalanche in the southern Madison Mountains near Bozeman, Montana, on October 7th.

“Inge Perkin’s body was recovered by the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center at the base of Mt. Imp on October 9th. 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.”

The outpouring of shock and sadness was immediate.

“The Scarpa family is devastated to hear about the loss of Scarpa athlete, Inge Perkins, and dear friend of the brand, Hayden Kennedy,” wrote Scarpa on Facebook. “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.”

This morning, the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center reported, “With an unbelievably heavy heart, we are sad to report there was avalanche fatality on Imp Peak in the southern Madison Range on Saturday. Two skiers were approaching the north couloir when they triggered the avalanche. Both were caught, one fully buried and one partial. The fully buried skier was recovered from the scene by Gallatin County Search and Rescue yesterday.”

“On Saturday, two skiers 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’, they triggered an avalanche while ascending on skis with skins. The avalanche was 1-2’ deep at the crown, approximately 150’ wide, and 300’ long. The slope where the avalanche released was 38-45° steep with a north-northeast aspect.

“This area received one foot of snow since October 1st, which was on top of 3-4 feet of dense snow that fell since September 15th. The avalanche was a hard slab of wind-drifted snow that collapsed on a layer of soft old snow underneath, and slid on the old snow from late September.”

“Both skiers were caught, skier 1 was partially buried and skier 2 was fully buried. Skier 1 searched for skier 2, was unable to locate her, and then hiked himself out from the area. On Monday, Gallatin County Search and Rescue recovered the body of skier 2. They located her with avalanche probes, buried 3’ deep.”

23-year-old Perkins was from Bozeman, Montana, and is remembered by friends as preternaturally mature, driven, independent, and a deeply loyal friend. She lived an itinerant life, often living out of her truck between international travels to climb and ski, but called Lander, Wyoming, home before moving back to Bozeman with Kennedy. She was an impressive athlete, and had been gaining attention in the climbing world in recent years. Her accomplishments range from climbing a 5.12 route on Wyoming’s Mount Hooker, climbing long routes in Colorado’s Black Canyon, and redpointing 5.14 sport. She excelled in bouldering competitions, deep water soloing competitions, and podiumed at a Ronadonee race in Big Sky in 2016. She was particularly drawn to epics, from long backcountry ski traverses to marathon-distance trail runs. On her athlete page at Mystery Ranch, she lists traversing the Taylor Hilgard Unit in the Madison Range (20+ miles, 13k’ vertical) and completing the second ascent of Vesper (14a) in Idaho’s Fins in the same week as one of her favorite accomplishments.

Kennedy grew up in Carbondale, Colorado, the son of legendary outdoor leaders. Michael Kennedy is a noted alpinist in his own right and for several decades was the editor of Climbing magazine. Hayden’s mother, Julie Kennedy, is founder of 5Point Film Festival.

Born into such a family, it’s no surprise that young Kennedy became a big mountain phenom. He climbed his first multi-pitch route, the Kor-Ingalls on Utah’s Castleton Tower, when he was 13, and was logging 5.14s while still in his teens.

In 2012, Kennedy put up two new routes in Pakistan, first climbing 6,934-meter K7 with Kyle Dempster and Urban Novak and then pushing through on the south face of 7,285-meter Baintha Brakk, the Ogre, with Dempster and Josh Wharton, who became sick and stayed in the tent at high camp while Kennedy and Dempster finished the last 350 meters. Of K7, Dempster wrote, “[C]onditions were grim. We were tired, cold and snow pelted our faces. The route ahead was unclear and the three of us spoke about our options for bailing…That was when Urban commented, ‘But this is what we came for, we knew it would be this way, we must continue.’ Urban’s words made the stark misery of the situation seem manageable. After all, K7 was our choice.”

In 2016, Kennedy made a free ascent of Hallucinogen Wall in Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison. His partner, Nik Berry, said of the 2012 efforts that Kennedy “probably had the best season of climbing in alpine history. Its ridiculous. It’s so fun climbing with Hayden Kennedy. He’s such a rad, humble dude. He has this lighthearted attitude about everything. And super-psyched as well. His skill base is insane. This kid can climb everything. He doesn’t get super pissed if it’s not his day or things aren’t going well or whatever. He doesn’t throw wobblers. He’s just like ‘whatever, I’ll come back or not come back, it’s not a big issue.’”

Outside the core climbing world, Kennedy might be best known for his 2012 ascent of Cerro Torre, when he and Jason Kruk put up what they called the first “fair means” ascent of the southeast ridge, then chopped off 125 bolts that had been placed by Cesare Maestri in 1970.

Maestri had claimed the first ascent of the dramatic Patagonia tower in 1959, after his partner Toni Egger, died on the route. Many in the climbing world were skeptical (his claim was eventually refuted), and Maestri responded by climbing the southeast ridge and drilling more than 400 protective bolts along the way. He also left the compressor used to power his drill lashed to the rock. It was one of the most controversial episodes in a sport known for controversial episodes, and many saw Maestri’s bolt ladder as an abomination. Yet when Kennedy and Kruk removed some of the bolts, they were threatened by locals and detained. To some, they were heroes; to others, pariahs for removing some of climbing’s history.

At a loss for words. Such a sad day. Will always love you brother. Respect. #haydenkennedyforever

A post shared by Andrew Burr (@andrew_burr) on

Afterward, Kruk wrote, “The question that remains, is why? Maestri’s actions were a complete atrocity. His use of bolts and heavy machinery was outrageous, even for the time. The Southeast Ridge was attainable by fair means in the ’70s, he stole that climb from the future….Who committed the act of violence against Cerro Torre? Maestri, by installing the bolts, or us, by removing them?”

Recently, death and loss had been on Kennedy’s mind. In a poignant, personal essay posted on Evening Sends, he wrote about climbing Mexico’s Logical Progression with Chris Kalous, Kyle Dempster, and Justin Griffin. “There’s no easy way to say this,” he wrote, “but half that team is now dead.” Griffin died in 2015 in Nepal and Dempster disappeared in Pakistan’s Ogres in 2016, along with Scott Adamson.

“Over the last few years,” Kennedy wrote, “as I’ve watched too many friends go to the mountains only to never return, I’ve realized something painful. 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.”

“…Clichés like “they were just following their passion” are what we all say in moments of loss and tragedy. Of course, that is just bullshit.

“…There is this dual nature of sublime meaning and utter absurdity in climbing mountains. Sending harder, bigger, more badass routes won’t make you a better, more humble, more gracious or happier human—yet we often approach those mountains like they can. There is no glory, no real answers, in sending and summits, yet we organize our entire lives around the myth that there are.”

Photos by Kennedy family, Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.


Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal. Follow him on Instagram at @stevecasimiro.
Showing 28 comments
  • Raychel Johnson

    wow, tragic news. He was one of my favorite climbers, and one of the few I followed. May his family find peace during this sad time

  • Levi Kepsel

    This hits hard. I didn’t know Hayden, but I admired his ethics and prowess. My son is just 5 months old. I can’t even imagine the heaviness his parents are going through. It’s so easy to be numbed by the sheer amount of bullshit and absurd fuckery happening in the world, this cut through it like a knife. I’m holding my son extra close today. RIP, Hayden.

  • Alyssa Mavor

    Steve, I am distressed by your reporting on the tragic deaths of Inge Perkins and Hayden Kennedy. While you adequately described Kennedy’s successes, you referred to Perkins as “his girlfriend” and hardly touched on her life or accomplishments. In case you didn’t know, Inge Perkins was an incredible athlete sponsored by SCARPA, Mystery Ranch, Petzl, etc. She was a 5.14 climber and incredible mountaineer and person. The story and headline are horribly imbalanced in favor of one death over the other. I encourage you to return to the story and correct your errors. There were two deaths out there, Steve. Regardless of any athlete’s fame, or – dare I say – gender, they must be treated equally.

    • Jen

      Thanks Alyssa, for remembering Inge. This story, while appropriately mourning Hayden, dismisses Inge’s incredible warmth and her amazing accomplishments. Here she is only a girlfriend who was lost in Hayden’s tragic accident. She is so much more than that and I felt the same way when I read this piece.

    • andrew ellenburg


    • G. Harper

      wow even in death you have to turn everything into a gender issue? seriously?! Hayden was simple better known.. like when Dean Potter and Graham Hunt went in most of the obituaries focused on Dean.. luckily they were both men or you would be there shouting about discrimination or some such.. RIP Inge and Hayden you will be missed.

    • Aaron Peterson

      Thank you for expressing this, these were my thoughts as well. I imagine that many in the climbing/outdoor media had strong connections to Hayden both through his family and through his own accomplishments. However it’s incredibly disappointing that Inge’s story is completely left out. She deserves much more.

    • Dominique Clifford

      Thank you! This was all I could think of also. When would they speak of his partner? Such is the life of women in sports.

    • Jeanne


      Thank you for your response to this article and respectful acknowledgement of Inge’s accomplishments.

    • Josh

      Can you leave your hippy dippy, let’s make sure everyone gets a turn liberal feminism out of this conversation? Maybe try to focus on the deaths of these two young people and how tragic that is. If you are so offended then write your own obit for Inge and submit it to be published, but if you just want to criticize then stfu

    • Abbie Barronian


      Thanks so much for your comment. Your thoughts have been heard, and we’ve updated the article to better reflect Inge’s amazing life.

      Also, hi!! Hope you’re well. Glad to see your name floating around the internet.


  • Nancy Stover

    I will miss you so much Hayden as all us Stover’s will. I am sitting here at my desk at Summit Canyon Mountaineering
    in Glenwood and looking at the picture on my desk that I have framed. You were with Mark, Lil’ Paul, me and big Paul,
    your mom, dad, and your other classmates. It’s a picture of everyone at the top of Highlands Bowl. It’s dated 4/15/2000.
    We all had alot of great times together watching you boys grow up. You will be greatly missed! We love you! Peace

    • Alexa

      Thanks I was wondering about her! She was always a smiling face at spire rock gym and a strong climber, with wonderful vibes.

    • Nancy Stover

      I can recall Hayden coming in to Summit Canyon and telling me he was moving to Montana to be with this girl that he was crazy about! You could see the twinkle in his eyes while he told me all about her being so kind along with being a “rad climber”. I was so happy for him! We hugged and said our goodbyes~~ that was the last time I will have seen him. Their spirits are now soaring together forever!

  • Connie Self

    A remarkable young man. Unfathomable. Hearts are broken and love washes over all who knew and loved him. Grateful to have shared a wee bit of time with Hayden and seen first hand his deep wisdom and utter joy and playfulness. He will be sorely missed. Condolences and deep love to their wonderful parents and many friends and extended family. RIP Hayden and Inge. Fly free…

  • Dave Katz

    What a tragic event. Sending positive vibes to family and friends

  • A Hecht

    Inge Perkins may have been the most badass person I’ve ever met, period. This is heartbreaking. Please dedicate some more words to her, Hunter would probably appreciate it too.

  • Elizabeth Barton

    Dear Steve,
    This is a very sad story made worse by its one sided reporting. TWO very talented, incredible, and inspirational people died but one was the mountaineer and the other, a barely mentioned “partner.” One person’s life was described in many paragraphs while the other was given a few scant sentences. Shame on you.

  • Corrina Peipon

    I’d like to second Alyssa Mavor’s astute comments, above. These deaths are both tragic. Both athletes were accomplished and recognized as such in the outdoor world, but the article focuses on only one, notably the male athlete. I hope that Inge Perkins will be remembered with as much fervor as her partner, but articles like this serve to perpetuate the idea that the only adventurers who matter are male. My deepest sympathies go out to the both athletes’ families. What a huge and unfortunate loss.

  • Mike H.

    While I never got the opportunity to meet Hayden, I know he had other-worldly talents as a climber and so much more. I also know he was equally unassuming and respected around the world for his humility. As for Inge Perkins, my family has had the pleasure of knowing and loving her since she was a wee lass. We watched her grow up and quietly school all the boys (ours included) on the Bozeman Climbing Team. We watched her blithely crush countless big days in the mountains, skinning, grinning and light as a feather.There are not words to express the grief we feel for the loss of these brilliant, one-off individuals and the sweet families and communities of friends they leave behind. Peace, Inge & Hayden.

  • solarweasel

    Rest in peace, Inge. In the short time I got to run and ski with you in Durango, you left an impression on me that will forever last. I will always be struck by your living to the fullest and simply get-after-it approach to life. I’m heartbroken with this news, but you and Hayden will be remembered by many for the rest of our days.

  • Jeff Jackel

    Dear families of Hayden & Inge,
    Know that they are together forever …now angels in heaven…still climbing & sking & sharing their love with one another, in the most beautiful synergistic place one can only imagine. May their memories forever live with you, until it’s your time to depart this earth to meet and reunite with them.
    Peace & Blessings,
    Jeff Jackel

  • Carol Lindenblatt

    To both families: This is such hard thing to live with and keep going. I don’t know of these two, but I lost a son in an avalanche in Marble, CO in 2013, the worst day of my life. But we know they are at peace now and that we will see them again one day. It makes me remember that we have to live each day as if it was the last and try to live your dreams and just keep going. It is not an easy thing to do, actually very hard to do, but that is what we have to do – it is what they would want. I will keep you in my prayers; just know everything will be OK.

    God bless you,
    Carol Lindenblatt

  • Bo Schlitz

    To those who wish the article said more about Inge. Please write your own blog post about her accomplishments if you wish to see them in the world. I would love to read it. Stop blaming others for the lack of effort when you put in none at all.

    RIP to both exceptional humans.

  • Mark Bauer

    Tragic loss of two adventuresome and talented young people. Question: why in all the reporting is there no info about beacons or avalanche packs? Did they have that equipment on this trek? It would be helpful to those of us who want to learn from this event to make our own forays into the wilderness safer.

    • Steve Casimiro

      This story was reported as it was breaking, and not all information was (or is now) available. However, the head of the forecast center reported that Perkins did have a transceiver, but it was in her pack and turned off.

      • gringo

        And that in the end is the cold, hard take away from this mess. Two supremely talented Alpinists made a foolish mistake and many lives are forever changed as a result.

    • Abbie Barronian

      You can find the complete incident report on the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center’s website as well:

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