World-class alpinist Hayden Kennedy and his partner, Inge Perkins, were skiing in Montana on Saturday when an early-season avalanche on Imp Peak near Bozeman took the couple by surprise at 10,000 feet, reports the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. The slide buried Perkins, 23, and partially covered Kennedy, 27. He searched in vain but never found Perkins. Then Kennedy headed home and took his own life, Outside reports; his family says Kennedy was unable to deal with the "unbearable loss." Kennedy didn't call 911 but left "incredibly clear directions for where to find her," Doug Chabot of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center tells Outside. Perkins, also an accomplished climber, was wearing a beacon that could have led rescuers to her, but it was turned off, Chabot says. Her body was recovered Monday morning under 3 feet of snow, per the Post Independent.
The couple had moved to Bozeman so Perkins could pursue a degree in math and education at Montana State University. Kennedy, hailed in 2014 as maybe "the best young climber on the planet," was studying for an EMT certification. He wrote recently of the pain of seeing "too many friends go to the mountains only to never return … Climbing is either a beautiful gift or a curse." As tributes flowed to the pair, Kennedy's family says they "sorrowfully" respect his final decision and remembered "an uncensored soul whose accomplishments as a mountaineer were always secondary to his deep friendships and mindfulness." (Another climber survived one avalanche on Everest, but perished on his second ascent.)