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American alpinist Hayden Kennedy
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Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk on the summit of Torre Egger, December 2012.
Photo by Jason Kruk
Piolets d'Or special mention: from left to right Stephen Venables (Jury President Piolets d'Or 2013); Peter Ortner and David Lama; Hayden Kennedy and Kay Rush.
Photo by Lanzeni / Piolets d'Or
Kyle Dempster and Hayden Kennedy, Baintha Brakk - Ogre (Pakistan)
Photo by Piolets d'or 2013

Farewell Hayden Kennedy and Inge Perkins, an indescribable tragedy for alpinism

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27-year-old Hayden Kennedy and his girlfriend Inge Perkins have lost their lives. Kennedy was considered one of the leading climbers of his generation.

27-year-old American alpinist Hayden Kennedy and his girlfriend, the 23-year-old climber and ski mountaineer Inge Perkins, have lost their lives. The two were skiing below Imp Peak in Montana, when Perkins was caught in an avalanche. Tragedy followed tragedy: Kennedy, utterly distraught, took his own life the next day. Naturally there are no words to comment a tragedy of these immense proportions, what remains is only the pain and dismay.

Kennedy took to climbing and mountaineering by following in his father’s footsteps - Michael is a highly accomplished climber and for decades was Editor of both Climbing magazine and Alpinist - and young Kennedy was widely considered one of the foremost alpinists of his generation. Many associate Hayden Kennedy with the bolt chopping of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre in Patagonia, carried out together with Canada’s Jason Kruk in January 2012. Removing more than 100 pressure bolts from the route forged by Cesare Maestri gave rise to fierce controversy across the entire mountaineering community, but this heated debate certainly overshadowed their beautiful "by fair means" ascent of the SE Ridge of Cerro Torre carried out a few days earlier, and also the first free ascent of the Compressor Route carried out only a few days later by the Austrians David Lama and Peter Ortner. Both these ascents were rewarded with a special mention at the 21st Piolet d’Or celebrated in April 2013, and it certainly would be short sighted to remember Kennedy only for these actions in which he truly believed.

This debate, which no doubt left its mark on the 22-year-old, did not stop him from exploring his love for the mountains. Indeed, only a few months later he travelled to the Karakorum in Pakistan where he forged a new route in perfect alpine style up the virgin East Face of K7 (6935m) together with Kyle Dempster and Urban Novak. Their July 2012 success came about after an attempt the previous year had been thwarted at 2/3 height. By now well acclimatised, in August 2012 Kennedy and Dempster carried out the third ascent of Baintha Brakk, better known as the Ogre. Once again, the summit was reached via a new route, and the two were accompanied for much of the ascent by Josh Wharton who was forced to turn back shortly before the 7285m high summit due to physical problems.

The Ogre summit had been attempted by numerous expeditions in recent decades but nevertheless it had only been reached twice before, namely in 1977 via the SW Ridge famously climbed by Britain’s Doug Scott and Chris Bonington, and in 2001 by Urs Stöcker, Iwan Wolf and Thomas Huber via the South Pillar. For their 2012 ascent up the South Face, Kennedy and Dempster received the prestigious Piolet d’Or in 2013, as well as the aforementioned special mention.

Two years later, in October 2015, Kennedy travelled to the Indian Himalaya with Urban Novak, Manu Pellissier and Marko Prezelj to make the first ascent of the unexplored East Face of Cerro Kishtwar (6173 m). The four acclimatised by making the the first ascent of the South Ridge of Chomochior (6278 m). Both ascents were carried out in perfect alpine style and, if confirmation of his valor and ability was still needed, this came in the form of a second Piolet d’Or for Kennedy in April 2016.

The loss of two important friends - Justin Griffin who died in Nepal in 2015 and Kyle Dempster who disappeared in Pakistan in 2016 along with Scott Adamson - unsettled Hayden Kennedy. Writing only a few weeks ago for eveningsends.com, thinking about friends lost in the mountains Kennedy had written "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."

>> Kennedy family statement following the death of Hayden Kennedy



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