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RIP Hayden Kennedy


TheBirdman Friedman · · Eldorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 65

I'm writing this selfishly because this news has rattled me to my core and for some reason, writing this down seems to help...

I didn't know Hayden well. He soloed past me in Eldo a handful of times and I had a few passing conversations with him in Rifle and he was always exactly what everyone described; humble, friendly, and incredibly psyched on climbing regardless of grade, aesthetics, or anything else. I did want to share one story about him though that made a profound impact on me. 

I always like to think of myself as a somewhat ego-less climber (kind of an ironic statement there). I have said for a long time I enjoy climbing because it allows me to support those I do it with and still enjoy the thrill of competition by competing with myself. I never measure myself against anyone else's accomplishments, only what I believe I should be able to achieve. 

However, about 2 summers ago I was trying to get very fast at doing the First Flatiron (which I later learned from Hayden was "the best route in Boulder"). I wasn't going to break any of the Satan's Minions speed records but I was getting pretty damn fast. Other than the speed demons in the Satan's minions there weren't a whole lot of people able to keep up with me when I was at my peak. One evening, I decided to do a lap and was going to shoot for my personal best. I had found that when I was moving the most efficiently and fastest, I was never trying too hard or out of breath, but just kept a perfectly consistent pace. When I reached the top of the first pitch, I looked behind me and I noticed a climber just beginning to start up the route.

In my own egotistical head I thought to myself, "See you later sucka, I'll be on the downclimb before you finish the first pitch." When I arrived at the top of the second pitch however, the unknown climber had gained on me. This lit a fire under me and I began trying hard; sweating, breathing hard, etc. Despite my efforts, he continued to close on me more and more each pitch up the First Flatiron until the summit, at which time, the unknown climber was probably only 25 feet behind me. At this point, I decided to abandon my speed ascent and wait to see who this climber was, because surely, in my own egotistical world it must be either some superhuman climber or incredibly fast triathlete/ultrarunner in order to keep up with me. 

As a hand reached over the lip, I prepared for a chest puffing competition about strategies for shaving seconds off the time, approach shoe choices, and excuses about why either him/her or I hadn't been faster on that particular day. To my surprise, Hayden pulled over the lip with a big, goofy grin on his face. My preparations for a passive aggressive pissing contest about speed and climbing ability were immediately put to waste when Hayden simply looked at me and said, "Thanks dude!"

Surprised about what the hell one of the leading alpinists and all around best climbers in the world could possibly be thanking me for and still clinging to my pre-prepared, ego-driven boasts, all I could respond with was, "What for?" He simply said, "You moving so fast got me psyched! Definitely made me move quicker! Nothing better than a good run up the best climb in Boulder!" Again, I didn't know Hayden personally but he must have recognized me because he continued, "You going to hang out up here for a bit?" I simply nodded still reeling from the fact that Hayden had just torpedoed my entire egotistical approach to climbing the First in one, beautifully innocent moment. He continued, "Cool. Enjoy the sunset. See you in Rifle, or Eldo, or somewhere!" and began down the downclimb.

I sat on the summit for a while reflecting on what had just transpired. Here I was, an egotistical jackass thinking I was cool for being able to solo 5.4 quickly and competing with people, unbeknownst to them, in a feeble attempt to cling to my self-proclaimed, petty title of "Fastest Guy on the First Flatiron at that Particular Moment in Time If Nobody Faster than Me also Happens to be On it." Pretty pathetic in hindsight. 

And then, literally one of the best climbers in the world, who would have been completely justified in being an egotistical jackass and putting me in my respective place, sincerely thanked me for sharing the experience on the First. There wasn't a hint of condescension or arrogance in his voice; he was simply psyched someone else was psyched and shared that climb with him that evening. It's strange to think such an unspectacular moment for Hayden, because I truly believe this is how he always was, had such a profound effect on me. It made me look inward and reevalaute why I was up there, how I approach climbing, and that the end goal pales in comparison to the experience and who you share those experiences with. I never got to tell you thanks for that Hayden, but you touched my life without even knowing it. 

I wish I could've been there to pay you back for this experience. I can't imagine what searching for Inge, alone, and knowing she was gone must've been like. While selfishly, I wish you hadn't taken the course of action you did, I don't judge you. I can't pretend to even begin to understand the devastating emotions you were left with trying to reconcile by yourself. Rest easy Hayden and I hope you found Inge somewhere. 

I had never met Inge, but I have no doubt she was every bit Hayden's equal.

Nothing like crying at work on a Wednesday...

ebethreegs · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 0
Jon Frisby · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 100

Thanks for your words Birdman. I only met them twice but everything you're saying is so true. Hayden inspired me to try hard without taking shit so seriously. One of the afternoons I spent around him, he climbed most of the Arsenal at Rifle while cracking beers between 12+ and 13 sends. 

grog m aka Greg McKee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 70

My favorite HK video. Very inspirational to me .

ebethreegs · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 0

<- this also offers some insight

wankel7 · · Indiana · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 10

I saw a blurb on an article that said her beacon was in her pack and turned off. Any word on this?

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530
wankel7 wrote:

I saw a blurb on an article that said her beacon was in her pack and turned off. Any word on this?

Word on what? Why was it off or whether this is true? If the former, I can only imagine that we'll never know. If the latter, according to the article I read, it is true. 

Jimmy Downhillinthesnow · · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 10
wankel7 wrote:

I saw a blurb on an article that said her beacon was in her pack and turned off. Any word on this?

I read the same... but does it really matter? They were both infinitely more familiar with the mountains that you, me, or almost anyone on this forum. If I were touring in early October, I might mumble something about terrain anchoring and not turn it on. 

Finding "mistakes" that the dead have made mostly serves as a coping mechanism for the living. So yeah, turn your beacon on at the car and off at the bar... but we are all human and prone to the same errors.

wankel7 · · Indiana · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 10
Jimmy Downhillinthesnow wrote:

I read the same... but does it really matter? They were both infinitely more familiar with the mountains that you, me, or almost anyone on this forum. If I were touring in early October, I might mumble something about terrain anchoring and not turn it on. 

Finding "mistakes" that the dead have made mostly serves as a coping mechanism for the living. So yeah, turn your beacon on at the car and off at the bar... but we are all human and prone to the same errors.

I doesn't. I was just curious. 

I disagree with your finding mistakes comment. It is best to learn from mistakes made in the past. I don't read airplane accident reports from the NTSB to cope with the crashes. I read them to learn about the human factors and mechanical factors that can lead to tragedy and hope not to repeat them. 

Jimmy Downhillinthesnow · · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 10
wankel7 wrote:

I disagree with your finding mistakes comment. It is best to learn from mistakes made in the past. I don't read airplane accident reports from the NTSB to cope with the crashes. I read them to learn about the human factors and mechanical factors that can lead to tragedy and hope not to repeat them. 

You definitely have a point. Mine was that so much of safety in the mountains really comes down to chance. We all make mistakes, regardless of skill or experience. Most of the time, they go un- or lightly punished. Sometimes they don't. Humans have a difficult time processing the fickleness of chance. 

Anyway, let's not drift too much and focus on the good words earlier in the thread.

J.C.P. · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 0
wankel7 wrote:

I doesn't. I was just curious. 

I disagree with your finding mistakes comment. It is best to learn from mistakes made in the past. I don't read airplane accident reports from the NTSB to cope with the crashes. I read them to learn about the human factors and mechanical factors that can lead to tragedy and hope not to repeat them. 

Nothing wrong with wanting to learn from tragedies, and I used to think the same when reading these types of threads.  However, I am now firmly in the camp that tribute threads are not the appropriate place for that discussion, start a new thread.  I say this because this story hits incredible close to home for me having lost my partner in life to a tragic accident a little more than a year ago, and I have thought and wished countless times that if I had been there I could have saved her, or that I should have been there with her in her last moments on this earth, but reading this story while still in the grips of grief, it is affirming that perhaps things happen for a reason because I think if I had been with her in that moment, my loved ones would be reading a similar article about me.  Not to make this about me, just that Hayden's and Inge's loved ones, who are in the rawest depths of grief at this time, will likely see this thread and there is simply no need to add any layers to that pain. Rather, let them read about how Hayden and Inge touched and added beauty to this world.  My thoughts and prayers go to all of Hayden's and Inge's family and friends. I am truly sorry for your loss.      

wankel7 · · Indiana · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 10
J.C.P. wrote:

Nothing wrong with wanting to learn from tragedies, and I used to think the same when reading these types of threads.  However, I am now firmly in the camp that tribute threads are not the appropriate place for that discussion, start a new thread.  I say this because this story hits incredible close to home for me having lost my partner in life to a tragic accident a little more than a year ago, and I have thought and wished countless times that if I had been there I could have saved her, or that I should have been there with her in her last moments on this earth, but reading this story while still in the grips of grief, it is affirming that perhaps things happen for a reason because I think if I had been with her in that moment, my loved ones would be reading a similar article about me.  Not to make this about me, just that Hayden's and Inge's loved ones, who are in the rawest depths of grief at this time, will likely see this thread and there is simply no need to add any layers to that pain. Rather, let them read about how Hayden and Inge touched and added beauty to this world.  My thoughts and prayers go to all of Hayden's and Inge's family and friends. I am truly sorry for your loss.      

I agree. If I was a mod I would move this thread to the Memorial forum and out of the Injuries and Accidents forum. And then split off the posts that discuss what happened. 

Bryan Gartland · · Helena, MT · Joined Jan 2002 · Points: 634
AGFW · · Durango, CO · Joined Nov 2008 · Points: 0

I wasn't friends w HK but obviously knew of his accomplishments, athleticism, and stoke for just getting out.  One brush I had with him:

I was doing the Power of Four Aspen skimo race in 2015.  Racers had gathered at a park and ride lot at maybe 0530-0600 to be bused up to the start line at Snowmass.  It was cold, dark, and there was definitely a quiet vibe of "what the hell are we all doing here?" going on.  A lot of fit people with lots of expensive gear, kind of a scene - skinny skis w race bindings, carbon boots, skin suits on some, fancy skimo packs, etc...  The bus was almost full and ready to go.

I was at the back, and I look down the aisle and see HK walking down the aisle with a huge grin on his face.  Most notably though, he's wearing big baggy ski pants, fat powder skis that were probably 105mm underfoot, big 4 buckle heavy boots, and he's got a hawaiian shirt on.  He sits down next to me and looks around and says "whoa! there's a lot of skinny skis on this bus, I wonder if I'll do ok with these skis?"  He commented that he decided to do the race at the last minute just to try it out.

On the first climb up Snowmass, I noticed him off to the side messing w his binding risers, I didn't see him for awhile after that.

About halfway through the race though, I was waiting for my partner and eating something when HK and his partner blew past me on a downhill.  I later learned that they finished w a respectable time, beating many of the skinny ski carbon fiber folks, but also that he reportedly pulled over on the final run into the finish line to strip down to his underwear and came flying across the finish hooting and hollering, arms in the air.  (I didn't see this so can't confirm.)

A remarkable mountain athlete.  My condolences to the Kennedy family.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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