In the wake of the tragic news about Hayden Kennedy’s death, we reflect on how he lived with conviction and confidence, all while avoiding the spotlight.
It’s been a challenging two weeks for rock climbers in Western North America. A 21-year-old Vancouver man died when his protection failed while climbing the Widowmaker route on Crown Mountain near the city’s North Shore on September 27. A 32-year-old Welsh man died in a massive rockfall in Yosemite Valley the following day. And now the tragic news that renowned rock climber Hayden Kennedy has taken his own life after his girlfriend, Inge Perkins, died in an avalanche near Bozeman, Montana on October 7th.
A few staff members of Kootenay Mountain Culture and Coast Mountain Culture magazines had the opportunity to meet Hayden over the years and one thing that really stood out to us was his modesty and good nature. He was not one to live in the limelight and we respected him for it. We hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting Inge but she was friends with friends and we heard that the pair made an amazing couple. A young couple. And that’s what stings about this news the hardest: Inge was only 23; Hayden was 27.
It’s just so sad.
This video of Hayden, taken four years ago, really captures his shyness about being on camera but also his generosity and his genuine passion for climbing.
Of all the stories that have come out since the tragedy, we appreciate Outside Online‘s coverage the most because it accurately sums up Hayden’s desire to simply climb and not be celebrated in the media for it. And in this day and age when 20-year-olds are posting their every footfall on social media, this was a remarkable stance, especially from a sponsored athlete. Matt Skenazy and Chris Solomon touch on this in their Outside Online article by writing, “Kennedy has long been one of the top climbers in the world. Though, unless you were steeped in the minutiae of climbing, you wouldn’t necessarily know it. He avoided most media. When Outside reached out to him four years ago about coverage he replied that he was “just not really interested in being in the mag. I have nothing against Outside but I would rather just be out of the media in general. I think that it distracts and over hypes everything, for me it’s just not worth it. My passion for climbing is my own experience and doesn’t need to be blow[n] out of portion.”
Hayden was a man with values. He had conviction. Confidence. Sure he was responsible for many first ascents around the world but he didn’t need the social fanfare to acknowledge his accomplishments. He celebrated with friends and family. And with Inge. And that was enough.
We really like this quote of Hayden’s that also appeared in the Outside Online article because it sums up his depth as a person and the dichotomy of his life as a professional climber. “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 was a beautiful gift to the world. And although he would’ve cringed at the thought of all this media attention, we believe that, just this once, a story was warranted.
We’ll miss him.