First avalanche-related deaths of the 2017/18 season a heavy blow to climbing community

Hayden Kennedy. [Photo] Urban Novak

In a tragic start to the 2017/18 winter season, Bozeman resident Inge Perkins, 23, was killed in an avalanche on Imp Peak in Montana’s southern Madison Range on October 7. Alpinist Hayden Kennedy, 27, Perkins’s ski partner and boyfriend, later took his own life on Sunday, October 8.

The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center (GNFAC) reports in their October 10 update that the avalanche was triggered as Perkins and her partner, later confirmed as Kennedy, approached the bottom of the couloir they were ascending. The slide measured one to two feet at the crown and 150 feet wide and ran 300 feet down the slope.

The slide path on Imp Peak. [Photo] Courtesy GNFAC

A foot of new snow had recently fallen in the zone on top of three to four feet of early season snow that had accumulated over the previous month. The slide was a hard slab avalanche that “collapsed on a layer of soft old snow underneath, and slid on the old snow from late September,” the GNFAC reports.

The avalanche debris field where nine SAR volunteers searched for the victim. [Photo] Courtesy GNFAC

Both skiers were initially caught in the slide, Perkins fully buried. Gallatin Country Search and Rescue members recovered Perkins on Monday.

Hayden Kennedy was a friend to Height of Land Publications as a long-time contributor to Backcountry’s sister publication, Alpinist, and son of former Alpinist editor-in-chief Michael Kennedy, who shared the following statement.

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 County Search & Rescue 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.

He recently moved to Bozeman to work on his EMT certification while Inge completed her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and education at Montana State University.

Julie and I are on our way to Bozeman from Europe, as are Inge’s mother and stepfather. Memorial arrangements are still pending.

Inge Perkins and Hayden Kennedy [Photo] Courtesy Michael Kennedy

Our thoughts are with both victims’ families and the Bozeman community. We’ll update this story with more details as they become available.

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  1. What a frightful and crushing tragedy. As a professional counselor, now retired, I can only imagine the hell Hayden was going through after his partner’s death. I hope they find each other in the ether.

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