A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon



Oct 10, 2017

Hayden Kennedy, Leading American Climber, Dies at 27

The American climber Hayden Kennedy, one of the most talented all-around climbers of his generation, died on Sunday, October 8, according to one of his sponsors, Black Diamond Equipment.


Michael Levy

Kennedy and his girlfriend, Inge Perkins were skiing in the Imp Peak vicinity in Montana’s Madison Range, on Saturday, October 7, when Perkins, 23, was killed by an avalanche. Black Diamond’s social media account reports that Kennedy committed suicide the next day: “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. #haydenkennedyforever.”

To read Black Diamond’s full statement, click on the Instagram post below, as the statement continues into the comments:

View this post on Instagram

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. ⠀ ⠀ …Continued in comments…

A post shared by Black Diamond Equipment (@blackdiamond) on


Kennedy excelled at virtually all the climbing disciplines, from sport climbing to big-walling to cutting edge alpinism. His most well-known exploit was in 2012, when he and partner Jason Kruk made the first fair-means ascent of the Southeast Ridge of Cerro Torre, in Patagonia. On their descent, the duo chopped over a hundred bolts from Italian alpinist Cesare Maestri’s first ascent of the Compressor Route, a 1970 line up the spire. Maestri received considerable criticism in the decades after the ascent for his indiscriminate use of bolts on the route, and though Kennedy and Kruk received their own fair share of flack for their decision to chop the bolts in 2012, they also received a strong show of support from many in the climbing community.

In 2013, with the late Kyle Dempster, Kennedy won a Piolet D’or, alpinism’s highest honor, for an ascent of Ogre 1, in Pakistan.

The Carbondale-based climber also made the first ascent of Carbondale Shortbus, a 5.14- traditional line in Indian Creek and a contender for the area’s hardest single pitch. Other ticks on his list included a ten-hour free ascent of Hallucinogen Wall (5.13+ R) in Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison; first ascents in China’s Keketuohai National Park on an expedition with Tommy Caldwell; a first ascent on K7, in Pakistan; and many others.

Hayden Kennedy. Photo: Mikey Schaefer.

Inge Perkins was also a talented climber, skier and all-around athlete. Rock and Ice reports that among the feathers in Perkins’ cap were a ski descent of the Grand Teton, a traverse of the Taylor Hilgard Unit in the Madison Range, and first place finishes in a deep water soloing competition in West Virginia and the Montana Bouldering Championships.

Just a week-and-a-half before his death, Kennedy published an essay called “The Day We Sent Logical Progression,” on climber-author Andrew Bisharat’s Evening Sends blog, recounting an impromptu climbing trip he took with friends Chris Kalous (of The Enormocast podcast fame), Kyle Dempster and Justin Griffin to climb El Gigante, a big wall in Mexico. They route they chose was Logical Progression, one of the longest sport climbs in the world. In the years since that trip, before Kennedy’s death, two of the foursome had already died in the mountains: Griffin died in 2015 descending from the summit of Tawoche in Nepal, and Dempster died on a 2016 climbing expedition on Ogre II, in Pakistan.

In the piece, Kennedy ruminated on the ephemerality of not just climbing, but the relationships that go along with a mountain-based life:

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.

As the news spread across on the internet on Tuesday, October 10, climbers expressed feelings of shock and sorrow at the community’s loss. On a SuperTopo forum thread, Jim Donini, a past president of the American Alpine Club and storied alpinist, wrote, “Truly tragic….after Kyle Dempster’s death Hayden had decided to [ratchet] back from cutting edge alpinism. Life has so many unfathomable twists and turns that can seem unfair….my son died tragically when he was only twenty.” On the same thread John Long, a legendary Yosemite climber and author from the Stone Masters era, described Kennedy as “a great, gracious human being” with a “fantastic medley of skills.”

Hayden Kennedy is survived by his parents, Michael and Julie. Michael Kennedy was the longtime editor-in-chief of Climbing magazine, and later the editor-in-chief of Alpinist magazine following a successful climbing career of his own. In a Facebook post, Michael Kennedy remembered his son “as an uncensored soul whose accomplishments as a mountaineer were always secondary to his deep friendships and mindfulness.”

Hayden was 27 years old.

Hayden Kennedy. Photo. Mikey Schaefer.

Feature Image: Hayden Kennedy. Photo. Mikey Schaefer.

Continue Reading



Jul 10, 2018

The 2018 Whitewater Awards: Nouria Newman and Benny Marr take the spoils.

The Whitewater Awards is a gathering of the world’s best kayakers to show off the biggest and best things that have happened in the sport over the past year.



Brooke Hess

 To be considered for an award, athletes, photographers, and filmmakers submit media taken over the past year that they believe showcases the best progression in the sport.  

There are sixteen different categories for submission, including separate male and female categories within the “Best of” kayaking categories. Categories include Photographer of the Year, Film of the Year, Expedition of the Year, Best Trick, Best Line, River Stewardship, Grom of the Year, Rider of the Year, along with several others.  Awards are decided upon by a voting process done by the Association of Whitewater Professionals.

This year’s Whitewater Awards was held in the Egyptian Theater in downtown Boise, Idaho. It was hosted on June 14th, the same weekend as the North Fork Championships, which takes place on the North Fork of the Payette River just outside of Boise.  The North Fork Championship is regarded as one of the hardest kayaking races in the world.

The race takes place on Jacob’s Ladder rapid, which is a rapid so difficult and consequential that most kayakers feel accomplished simply by surviving the rapid, much less racing the rapid. Nouria Newman, a 3-time NFC racer and winner of this year’s Whitewater Awards Female Rider of the Year describes it well,

“The NFC is the hardest race in whitewater kayaking. [Jacob’s Ladder] is a scary, consequential rapid. Running it is challenging, and it only gets harder to race it and make the gates.”

In order to minimize the risk involved in the race, event organizers have developed a strict qualification process for racers. 30 racers will qualify to race Jacob’s Ladder. Ten of them are pre-qualified from placing top ten at the event the year before. Those ten then read numerous athlete applications and vote on the next ten racers who will join them.  The last ten racers are decided through a qualification race on S-Turn rapid, another one of the North Fork’s infamous class V rapids.

Every year on this same weekend in June, kayakers, photographers, and filmmakers from around the world flock to Idaho to celebrate quality whitewater, progression of the sport, and the community that surrounds it. Both the North Fork Championship and the Whitewater Awards had great turnouts of athletes and spectators this year.

John Webster

The finalists of each category in the Whitewater Awards were presented in film format at the Egyptian Theater for the entire audience to view, with the winner being announced live. Winners were presented with an award and expected to give a short speech at the event. The big winners of the night were Nouria Newman and Benny Marr, who were awarded with Line of the Year and Rider of the Year in the female and male categories. Nouria says that voting for the “best” in each category is a challenging process, “…voting is always tricky, (look at both French and U.S. presidents, not too sure if they are really the best available option). And it is also very hard to compare lines and rapids. What’s bigger? What’s harder? I got voted Best Line of the Year with a good line down Parque Jurassic, a long technical rapid, but Rata’s line down Graceland, which is a huge slide, was equally as good, if not better.”

No matter how tricky the voting process can be, Nouria agrees that the Whitewater Awards plays a large role in the progression of the sport, “I think it’s super cool to see what people can do in their kayak, how they push the limit of the sport and how they open new possibilities.”

For more information about the Whitewater Awards, you can visit whitewaterawards.com, you can also follow them on Facebook and on Instagram.

You can follow Nouria on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You can follow Benny on Facebook and Instagram.

Cover photo courtesy of Ari Walker

loadContinue readingLess Reading

Recent Articles

“Frack”-tured Community: Colorado Plans to Alter the Future of Natural Gas Drilling

The grassroots initiative, which Boulder voters will see on the ballot come November, would mandate a state-wide, half-mile “buffer zone” of fracking wells from occupied buildings.

Stoking the Flames: Climate Change driving the West’s Devastating Wildfires

Anthropogenic climate change contributed to California’s record-breaking wildfires. The future of fighting these fires grows increasingly perilous.

An Introduction to Olympic Surfing, with New Zealand’s Paige Hareb

Learn about surfing's induction into the Olympics, and how New Zealand's top surfer, Paige Hareb, is preparing for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

Privacy Preference Center