2 Skiers Caught in Avalanche in Montana on Saturday | One Killed, Survivor Took His Own Life In Grief

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Hayden Kennedy and Inge Perkins. image: inge’s instagram

On Saturday, October 7th 2017, a backcountry skier, famous climber Inge Perkins, was fully buried and killed in an avalanche while approaching Imp Peak, MT.  Her ski partner, famous climber Hayden Kennedy, was only partially buried by the avalanche, searched for his buried partner, couldn’t find her, hiked out, and notified authorities.

The next day, Hayden took his own life in grief.

Inge, 23, and Hayden, 27, were lovers and lived together in Bozeman, MT.

“Inge and HK had moved to Bozeman, Montana, together in the last few months. On Saturday, October 7, they headed into the backcountry of southwestern Montana for an early season ski tour. On Saturday Inge was killed in an avalanche. Unable to bear the loss of his partner in life, the following day, Sunday, October 8, Hayden Kennedy took his own life.” – Black Diamond, today

Heyden Kennedy. image: black diamond

The avalanche was 1-2′ deep, 150′ wide, 300′ long.  

The slope the avalanche released was 38-45º steep with a north-northeast aspect at about 10,000′.

The below report contains full details from North America’s first avalanche fatality of 2017/18.

Inge’s death was the first avalanche fatality in North America in 2017/18.

“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. 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.”

— Hayden Kennedy told eveningsends in September, 2017

Inge Perkins. image: inge’s Facebook

Black Diamond’s Tribute to Hayden Kennedy:

In Memory of Hayden Kennedy

It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to our friend, Ambassador and true brother of the BD tribe, Hayden Kennedy.

To say Hayden was a talented climber would be an understatement. To say he was one of the world’s best climbers is closer to the truth, yet even those words fall flat and fail miserably at truly describing what Hayden—or HK as we called him—really represented in our sport. He was, with all intents and purposes, a climber who transcended barriers. From high-end 5.14 sport routes at his home crag in Rifle, Colorado, to 5.14 trad lines in the Creek, to the first fair means ascent of Cerro Torre’s Southeast Ridge in Patagonia with Jason Kruk, or his first ascent with Kyle Dempster and Josh Warton on the south face of the Ogre in Pakistan.

Yet, even that run-on list of incredible achievements hardly captures the whole picture. In truth, trying to share the full breadth of HK’s transcendental abilities in the vertical world, which he effortlessly cultivated in a mere 27 years, is impossible.

But to be clear, he was by no means an elitist. In fact, as if born from a different generation, HK was a staunch believer in walking the walk, not talking the talk. You couldn’t find him on social media, 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. And it was the moments in the mountains that mattered most to him, not “instatweetingmyfacegram” as he would often joke with his friends.

HK’s depth went well beyond climbing, however. In high school he played the sax, and recently he applied that musical theory to the guitar while recovering from a torn ACL in his hometown of Carbondale, Colorado. He diligently practiced during the length of that winter’s recovery, and soon had a repertoire of songs that hinted at his eclectic tastes in music. From old school country to classic rock, to German electronica, he absorbed it all with the same ease that he applied to his climbing. Alpine, sport, trad; country, metal, folk. To HK, it was all good.

For someone so multi-faceted, just climbing wasn’t enough. Whether he was talking at length about his latest reading list, or immersed in the finer points of baking bread, HK was constantly searching for new avenues of self-expression, and new ways to live. He often wrote about his expeditions to the greater ranges—frequently publishing pieces in Alpinist, Rock and Ice, Evening Sends and other mags and websites—and his ability to weave a meaningful narrative through the trials and tribulations of climbing was innate. He also incorporated this skill into his live presentations, where he’d hold the audience rapt with tales that often crossed into the deeper reaches of loss and love and how they become undivided in a life of climbing.

What he had recently found, though, was Inge. Inge Perkins was every bit Hayden’s equal. A brilliant climber, skier, and beautiful soul, Inge was HK’s latest source of dedication—and his commitment was unwavering as always.

Inge and HK had moved to Bozeman, Montana, together in the last few months. On Saturday, October 7, they headed into the backcountry of southwestern Montana for an early season ski tour. On Saturday Inge was killed in an avalanche. Unable to bear the loss of his partner in life, the following day, Sunday, October 8, Hayden Kennedy took his own life.

Our hearts go out to their families, and anyone they touched along the way.

We know the list is innumerable.

The slope that caught and buried two skiers with the crown and dimensions marked. Photo: GNFAC

About Inge Perkins by Mystery Ranch:

“I grew up bushwhacking around the Montana and Norwegian mountains with my parents, constantly whimpering from fear and discomfort, but always wanting to go out again.”

When I was nine, I watched a film about a girl saving wolves by climbing a cliff over the Norwegian border with the wolves, and I was intrigued instantly. I started training and competing with the Bozeman Climbing Team, giving me the skill base and strength to grow as a climber. However, after a trip to Wild Iris in Wyoming, the process of projecting beautiful routes in stunning areas while living outside amongst supportive company became far more appealing than traveling for competitions. I have continued to train while in school so I can realize new goals when I have the opportunity to travel. However, the biggest motivation for me to be in the best shape I can be has consistently been my desire to be able to climb lines that inspire me wherever I go. As my love for climbing and skiing grows, my dream is to intertwine the two more and more as well as use my drive to push myself in these pursuits as a means to explore magical corners of the world while sharing the excitement with others.


  • Ski traversed the Taylor Hilgard Unit in the Madison Range (20+ miles, 13k’ vertical) and did the second ascent of Vesper (14a) in the Fins one week apart

  • Skied the Grand Teton with powder conditions

  • Won the Montana Bouldering Championships and Montana Randonee Championships

  • Skied and climbed in 7 states and 5 countries during the ‘15/’16 school year

  • Won the first outdoor deep water solo competition at Summersville Lake, West Virginia

  • A few routes I am most proud of:

    • Rodeo Free Europe (14a), Wild Iris

    • Manhattan Project (14a), The Fins

    • Vesper (14a), The Fins

    • The Strawberry Roan (13c/d), Little Popoagie

    • No Country for Old Men (5.11, trad, 14+ pitches), The Black Canyon

    • Roadside Prophet (14a), Rifle

    • Hook, Line, and Sinker (5.12, 1800’), Mt. Hooker, Wind Rivers

  • Mystery Ranch
This pit is next to the avalanche that caught two skiers, resulting in one fatality, on October 7th, 2017. The hard layer of snow at the top is the layer that slid, and was likely 1-2′ deep at the crown where it broke. image: GNFAC

About Hayden Kennedy by Patagonia:

Hayden climbed his first multi-pitch climb, the Kor-Ingalls route on Castleton Tower, when he was 13. He was petrified the entire day. Rather than deter him, the experience solidified his climbing obsession. Today Hayden works toward the goal of mastery in all aspects of climbing. He finds inspiration from the struggle of a hard redpoint or the mental challenge of a dicey alpine lead.
Career Highlights
  • Ascent of Exocet Chimney (6a WI5 MI3), Cerro Standhardt, Patagonia
  • Ascent of the Huber-Schnaf (6b+ MI3), via a link up with the Spigolo dei Bimbi (6b MI5) on Torre Egger, Patagonia
  • The first “fair means” ascent of Cerro Torre’s Southeast Ridge


Location of the avalanche on Imp Peak, MT. image: GNFAC

Update: October 10th, 2017


by Galatin National Forest Avalanche Center

With unbelievably heavy hearts, we are sad to report there was an avalanche fatality on Saturday, October 7th. The incident occurred on Imp Peak in the southern Madison Range, approximately 20 miles south of Big Sky. Two skiers were caught, one was fully buried and killed.

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. Alex and Doug went in for the recovery and accident investigation, and will have a full accident report available later this week. Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of the skiers involved.

Location of Imp Peak, MT.

GNFAC Pre-Season Avalanche Info

Issued on October 3rd, 2017:

by Galatin National Forest Avalanche Center

Good Morning. This is Doug Chabot with pre-season avalanche, weather, and event information for the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center issued on Tuesday, October 3. This bulletin is sponsored by The Friends of the Avalanche Center and sponsors of Powder Blast on October 27, 2017.

Mountain Weather:

Last night the Bridger Range picked up 6” of new snow. Other ranges got 1-2”, with the exception being West Yellowstone, which got missed. This morning mountain temperatures are in the teens and ridgetop winds are out of the west at 15-20 mph. Snowfall is tapering off and the next shot of moisture is Wednesday night which will be followed by sunny skies and seasonal temperatures.

Snowpack and Avalanche Discussion:

Since Saturday night 6-10” fell in the northern mountains and 3-6” fell in the south. Ridgetop winds are westerly at 15-20 mph in the Bridger Range and are strong enough to drift snow and create wind slabs. Areas with the deepest snow, least amount of rocks, and most inviting skiing will be wind-loaded areas: gullies and higher elevation slopes. This presents a quandary because wind-loaded slopes are where someone could trigger an avalanche.

Avalanches are more easily triggering during a storm and soon after the snowfall and or wind-loading stops…today and tomorrow. Even small avalanches injure and kill. The sacred rules of backcountry travel are not loosened in October:

  • Carry rescue gear (beacon shovel and probe) along with other personal safety you normally carry mid-winter (i.e. helmet or airbag).
  • Only expose one person at a time in avalanche terrain, both heading up and sliding down.
  • Cracking and collapsing of the snow, most likely in wind drifts, are signs that slopes are unstable and could avalanche.

With snow on the ground, now is a good time to sharpen our minds and check our gear. Replace batteries in your beacon, recharge your airbag, make sure probe poles aren’t sticky, and shovel parts fit together smoothly. There are many avalanche education opportunities this fall, such as an avalanche workshop next Wednesday evening (October 11) at MSU. Check out the full education offerings HERE.

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3 thoughts on “2 Skiers Caught in Avalanche in Montana on Saturday | One Killed, Survivor Took His Own Life In Grief

  1. The avalanche death is a tragedy for sure. But the unnecessary suicide of the survivor is a disgrace to those who suffer beyond our first world bubble and yet continue to persevere. We all know what we’re going into when we venture into the mountains. Its always a risk. Hopefully its a calculated risk.

    I just can’t fathom taking a God given second chance and throwing it away like he did. There is no glory in suicide. There is no honor in suicide especially, when your circumstances are living in a first world country and knowingly putting yourself in danger (Mountains are inherently dangerous). So many people in the world face tragedy on a level none of us in the U.S. can fathom, and yet so many people in the world continue to fight instead of giving up. There is no heroism in suicide. Its not virtuous as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet will have you believe. Bestowing virtue on suicide is a danger to those who are mentally ill or at risk of suicide. Its not the answer.

    As someone who has lost family to suicide, its a hard topic to discuss. But, its a discussion worth having.

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