Imp Peak Avalanche Claims Two
On Saturday, 27 year-old Hayden Kennedy and 23 year-old Inge Perkins hiked 6 miles from the Upper Taylor Fork trailhead to the north couloir of Imp Peak in the southern Madison Range, approximately 20 miles south of Big Sky. Near the bottom of the couloir (10,000’), they triggered an avalanche while ascending on skis with skins. The avalanche was 1-2’ deep at the crown, approximately 150’ wide, and 300’ long. The slope where the avalanche released was 38-45° steep with a north-northeast aspect Both skiers were caught, one was partially buried and one was fully buried. Skier 1 searched for his partner, was unable to locate her, and then hiked alone out from the area. On Monday, October 9, Gallatin County Search and Rescue recovered the body of Skier 2 who was 3’ deep. Personnel located her with avalanche probes.
Following the retrieval of Perkins body, It has been reported that Kennedy committed suicide. In a statement from Kennedy’s parents, they said the loss of Perkins was too much for Kennedy to bear. ” Hayden survived the avalanche but not the unbearable loss of his partner in life. He chose to end his life. Myself and his mother Julie sorrowfully respect his decision.
The pair were experienced skiers and had both taken a Level 2 avalanche class. They intended to ski the north couloir on Imp Peak, a known ski route described by author Thomas Turiano in Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone: A Mountaineering Guide and History:
“The mountain’s most distinctive features are a pair of steep and wide couloirs that drop from the broad saddle between the summits over 1,000 feet down both the north and south sides of the mountain… These weaknesses provide the easiest routes to the summit when filled with snow in winter or spring. They each are about 40 degrees steep near the top and ease to about 30 degrees at the bottom.”
The pair left the trailhead (7,250’) at 0600 on Saturday for a 6 mile approach to the peak. Hiking on a dirt trail, carrying their equipment, they likely transitioned to ski gear at snowline around 9,200’. Near 10,000’ at the bottom of the couloir, they were ascending on skis with skins when they triggered the avalanche. Both were caught, Skier 1 was buried to his mid-chest and back of neck, and Skier 2 was fully buried. Skier 1 had an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe. Skier 2 had a shovel, probe, and an avalanche beacon that was turned off in her backpack. We have no knowledge about Skier 1’s beacon prior to the search.
Skier 1 dug himself out of the debris. He turned his beacon to “search” and scanned the debris for Skier 2, but did not get a signal. They had not done a previous beacon check. He attempted to locate her by probing and shoveling through the debris. After three hours of searching, Skier 1 was unable to find Skier 2 and walked out alone.
On Sunday evening, Gallatin County Search and Rescue (GCSAR) was notified of the avalanche and location of Skier 2. They were told the debris was marked with Skier 1’s probe. On the morning of October 9, Rescuers from GCSAR, Big Sky Search and Rescue (BSSAR), and forecasters Alex Marienthal and Doug Chabot from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center (GNFAC) flew by helicopter to locate the avalanche and find Skier 2. Team 1 of rescuers consisted of Chabot plus two GCSAR members and one search dog. They were picked up from GCSAR Valley Base around 0915 and flown to the coordinates given for Imp Peak. At 1020 they were dropped off at the site after sighting the avalanche debris and Skier 1’s probe. Incident Command (IC) set up at the Taylor Fork road at Wapiti Creek Trailhead. Marienthal and members from BSSAR and GCSAR staged there to meet the helicopter. Team 2 consisted of Marienthal, two rescuers and a second search dog. They were flown to the avalanche site at 1100. Three more rescuers (team 3) were dropped off at the avalanche site at 1110.
Rescuers did a beacon search, Recco search, spot probed likely burial areas, and search dogs worked the debris. At 1122, Chabot confirmed a solid probe strike and Skier 2 was excavated and packaged for transport. Skier 2 was long lined by helicopter to I.C. at 1144 and transported to Big Sky hospital. The helicopter transported team 3 and team 2 back to I.C. at 1228, and team 1 was picked up and returned to GCSAR Valley Base at 1302.
From reports GCSAR