The accomplished mountain climber who killed himself after his girlfriend died in an avalanche in Montana had seemingly been at a breaking point prior to her death, writing weeks before on a climbing blog that the sport is “either a beautiful gift or a curse.”
Hayden Kennedy, of Carbondale, Colo., was found dead Sunday at a residence in Bozeman, Mont., one day after his girlfriend, 23-year-old Inge Perkins of Bozeman, died during an avalanche on Imp Peak in the southern Madison Range.
Kennedy — who was once considered possibly the “best young climber on the planet” by Elevation Outdoors — said in a Sept. 26 post on mountain climbing blog Evening Sends that the “true, lasting meaning” of the sport he loved was the “friendships and partnerships” he found along summits and valleys.
“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,” 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.”
Kennedy’s post continued with an anecdote about climbing a “big-wall route in Mexico,” an “incredible” experience with three good mountain climbing friends, two of whom would later die.
“There’s no easy way to say this, but half that team is now dead,” Kennedy wrote. “Justin [Griffin] died in Nepal in 2015. And Kyle [Dempster], along with his partner, Scott Adamson, vanished while climbing on a remote peak in north Pakistan a year later. I think about Kyle and Justin all the time. Their absence from this world is felt by so many who are left in a wake of confusion, anger, and frustration.”
Kennedy, whose family said he was recently working toward earning an emergency medical technician certificate, was “still processing” the demise of his “dear friends,” according to the blog post.
“Waves of sadness overwhelm me at times, making it hard to stand up or focus,” Kennedy wrote. “At other times I am able to think only of the enchanting adventures, contemplative conversations, and the simple yet enriching moments we shared as friends. These pendulum shifts between various emotions will never go away, as I am starting to learn.”
Kennedy said he saw “both light and dark” in mountain climbing. He was well-known within the sport for, among other feats, climbing the Southeast Ridge in Patagonia’s Cerro Torre in 2012 and removing many of the bolts placed there more than four decades earlier by Italian climber Cesare Maestri, according to the Associated Press. Kennedy and his climbing partner were later arrested.
Kennedy began climbing seriously at age 13 or 14, he told Elevation Outdoors, which noted that he had the sport “in his genes.” His father, Michael Kennedy, was an accomplished mountaineer in own right, establishing countless first ascents, and served as editor-in-chief at Climbing Magazine for 30 years.
A story remembering the lives of Kennedy and Perkins cited Michael Kennedy’s Facebook post that his son simply couldn’t withstand the “unbearable loss” of Perkins, his “partner in life.”
“He chose to end his life,” Michael Kennedy wrote. “Myself and his mother Julie sorrowfully respect his decision.”
Kennedy, during an interview with Climbing Magazine in 2014, acknowledged having “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,” Kennedy told the magazine. “I’m just trying to have fun and not take it too seriously.”