BOZEMAN, Mont. – Faced with the incredible sorrow of losing his girlfriend in an avalanche in Montana, renowned mountaineer Hayden Kennedy "chose to end his life" the following day, his family said Tuesday.
Gallatin County sheriff's officials say Kennedy, 27, and Inge Perkins, 23, were skiing on Imp Peak in the southern Madison Range on Saturday when they triggered an avalanche in a steep, narrow gulley at about 10,000 feet above sea level.
Perkins, also an accomplished mountain climber, was buried by the 150-foot-wide slide. Kennedy, who was partially buried, pulled himself free and hiked out for help after he couldn't find his girlfriend.
The area had received a foot of snow since Oct. 1, which was on top of 3 to 4 feet of dense snow that had fallen over the previous two weeks, according to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center.
Kennedy, who had recently moved to Bozeman, was found dead in his home Sunday as search teams prepared to recover Perkins' body.
"Hayden survived the avalanche but not the unbearable loss of his partner in life," his parents wrote in a statement released Tuesday.
They described their son as "an uncensored soul whose accomplishments as a mountaineer were always secondary to his deep friendships and mindfulness."
Kennedy, a Colorado native, had been working on his EMT certification while Perkins completed her bachelor's degree in mathematics and education at Montana State University.
Just two weeks before his death, he wrote on the climbing blog "Evening Sends" that he had watched too many friends die in the mountains over the last few years.
"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," he wrote. "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."