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Hayden Kennedy dies after avalanche in Montana

A huge loss for the entire outdoor community

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Hayden Kennedy
Hayden Kennedy chose to end his life after his partner, Inge Perkins, did not survive an avalanche over the weekend. Patagonia

Already a legend in the climbing world at 27, Hayden Kennedy chose to end his life after an avalanche killed his partner, Inge Perkins.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that the two skiers were skiing on Imp Peak in the southern Madison Range, about 20 miles southwest of Big Sky. An avalanche was triggered when the skiers approached the north couloir.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Kennedy’s father Michael writes, “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.

Hayden truly was an uncensored soul whose accomplishments as a mountaineer were always secondary to his deep friendships and mindfulness.”

The two were living in Bozeman while Perkins completed her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and education at Montana State University. 

Inge Perkins
Inge Perkins posted this photo of her and Kennedy on a September climbing trip. @ingeluf

Hayden’s father, Michael Kennedy, is the former Editor-in-Chief of Climbing Magazine and well-known alpinist. His mother is Julie Kennedy, 

In 2014, Elevation Outdoors said the Colorado native “may be the best young climber on the planet.” They reported the climber began taking the sport seriously at the young age of 13. 

They list some of his career highlights at that point including: the first ascent of Carbondale Short Bus (named after his van) a 5.14- in Indian Creek; an ascent of the notoriously runout Bachar/Yerian 5.11c R/X; climbing a new route up K7, followed by a new route up the South Face of the Ogre (Baintha Brakk), a formation near K2, topping out at 7,285 meters that had only been previously climbed twice; and a 10-hour all-free ascent of the Hallucinogen Wall (VI 5.13+ R) in Colorado’s Black Canyon.

Loved by many

“Hayden was the shining star of his generation,” said Duane Raleigh, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Ice and Trail Runner. “He had the rare gift of excelling in all arenas of climbing, and pushed the world standards of alpinism, twice winning the prestigious Piolet d’Or award for his audacious ascents in the Himalaya. His rarest gift though, was humility. He was a genuinely nice guy and shunned media attention, even deleting his Facebook page to avoid becoming a social-media celebrity.”

As soon as news broke, posts from shocked and devastated friends and climbing enthusiasts appeared on social media truly showing how beloved this young man was: 

Kennedy’s September blog post describes the sadness he feels as he says goodbye to climbing friends who have died. “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.”

In a letter to his son published in Alpinist in 2012, Michael Kennedy wrote a message that is quite fitting to all of us today feeling the loss of this talented man.

“An awareness of mortality prompts us to focus on what’s important: developing a strong community of family and friends; engaging in work that stretches us intellectually, creatively and emotionally; understanding that no matter how often we’ve erred or compromised in the past, we must always try to reach again for the highest ideals.”