By Dustin Jones/West Yellowstone Star
Last Saturday, Oct. 7, Inge Perkins, a 23-year-old from Bozeman, perished in an avalanche on Imp Peak, between West Yellowstone and Big Sky, according to a Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office news release. Perkins was ascending Imp Peak with 27-year-old Hayden Kennedy on skis when the avalanche was triggered.
Perkins was completely buried, and Kennedy only partially buried, according to a release from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center. Kennedy was able to free himself, but could not save Perkins. He hiked out of the area and later chose to end his own life, according to a statement made by Kennedy’s family.
“(Kennedy) survived the avalanche, but not the unbearable loss of his partner in life,” the statement read. “He chose to end his life.”
A note was discovered with details about the avalanche and where Perkins’ body could be found, said Captain Jason Jarrett, with GCSO Search and Rescue. The avalanche was triggered Saturday, but rescuers were alerted until the day after.
“They were caught Saturday, we found out Sunday night and we recovered her Monday morning,” Jarrett said.
Eric Knoss, avalanche specialist with the GNFAC, believes this may be the earliest in the year an avalanche has resulted in a fatality. Those familiar with the backcountry are aware of avalanche dangers, but in early October, thoughts of a slide are not typically on peoples’ minds.
“It is pretty rare to have an avalanche this early in the season,” Knoss said.
It may be early fall, but snow has been accumulating in the mountains, creating skiable conditions for outdoor enthusiasts. Knoss believes many backcountry skiers and adventurers are not worried about avalanches this early in the season.
“I think that is one of the factors that resulted – these guys probably weren’t even thinking about avalanches,” Knoss said. “It probably crossed the back of their minds, but they probably weren’t too worried about it.”
The two individuals started at the Taylor Fork trailhead and made their way up Imp Peak to get in some early season skiing. According to Knoss, the best skiing this early in the season is the most dangerous.
“This time of year it is really the slopes that have the most snow are really wind loaded,” he explained. It is kind of a dilemma, the areas that offer the best riding right now are the most prone to avalanches.”
While Perkins and Kennedy were ascending, they triggered an avalanche 150 feet wide and 300 feet long and as deep as 2 feet. Members of the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue teamed up with Madison County Sheriff’s Office to assist with the avalanche recovery.
The avalanche happened Saturday, but rescuers were unable to find Perkins’ body until Monday morning, Oct. 9, according to the GCSO news release.
Knoss and the GNFAC want to remind those exploring the backcountry to be safe and practice avalanche awareness. It may be early October, but if there is enough snow to ride, there is enough to slide, Knoss said.
“It is easy to let your guard down this time of year, he said. “But this is an easy reminder that you can’t.”