US Alpinist Hayden Kennedy dies at 27

by Natalie Berry - UKC 11/Oct/2017
This news story has been read 21,688 times

US alpinist Hayden Kennedy has died at the age of 27. Having survived an avalanche whilst ski touring in the southern Madison Mountains near Bozeman, which killed his partner Inge Perkins on Saturday, Hayden took his life the following day.

Hayden was a highly talented and respected climber with all-round abilities in the mountains, having made noteworthy ascents worldwide, from hard rock routes near his home in Colorado to new routes on Himalayan peaks. In 2012, Hayden established two new routes in Pakistan alongside the late Kyle Dempster and Urban Novak on K7 and with Dempster and Josh Wharton on the south face of the Ogre.

In the same year, Hayden made a notable ascent of Cerro Torre in Patagonia; the first 'fair means' ascent of the south east ridge alongside Jason Kruk, simultaneously removing 125 bolts placed by controversial climber Cesare Maestri in 1975.

Typically reserved in his approach to social media and averse to self-promotion, his sponsor Black Diamond described Hayden as 'a staunch believer in walking the walk, not talking the talk. You couldn't find him on social media,' they wrote, 'and until a few years ago he clung to his malfunctioning, archaic flip phone as if it was a crucial piece to his rack. In short, HK climbed to climb, not to spray.'

In a poignant article posted on Evening Sends the week before his death, Hayden wrote openly about the conflicting pleasures and pains of climbing; an activity through which he had lost many friends during their exploits in the mountains. Reflecting on his ascent of Logical Progression in Mexico alongside Chris Kalous, Kyle Dempster, and Justin Griffin, Hayden remarked: 'There's no easy way to say this, but half that team is now dead.' Hayden was referring to Griffin, who died in Nepal in 2015, and to Dempster's disappearance in Pakistan's Ogres last year. He continued:

'Over the last few years, 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.'

The son of two outdoor industry professionals, Hayden's father Michael Kennedy - a noted alpinist himself - is a former Editor of Climbing magazine and former Editor-in-Chief of Alpinist magazine and his mother Julie is the founder of 5Point Film Festival. In 2012, Michael penned an article for Alpinist titled 'The Sharp End - Letter to my Son' in which he writes about Hayden's loss of friends due to climbing accidents and his awareness of mortality.

Hayden and his partner Inge had moved to Bozeman, Montana in the months before their deaths. On Saturday 7th October, the pair were ski touring in the backcountry of southwestern Montana when they were struck by an avalanche, which killed Inge. Unable to bear the loss of his partner, Hayden took his life on Sunday 8th October.

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