Who do you call a good friend?
I have been wrestling with my feelings about Inge and Hayden’s deaths over the past week.
I never considered Inge or Hayden to be close friends of mine.
I met Inge in the spring of 2013. We both happened to be climbing at Shelf Road, Colorado (which is not an area I would recommend as a climbing destination, by the way). I was there with a few friends, one of whom was Scott Whitcomb, and he happened to know Inge.
The climbing at Shelf was pretty mediocre and the food we cooked was terrible (my fault). Diva kept trying to eat the cacti, leaving me to pick the barbs out of her mouth. The heavens dumped snowed on us and we watched a lot of Community in Scott’s car. I stepped on multiple cacti in the middle of the night.
While I had no plans for a return trip to Shelf, I would have loved to hang out with the band again. I had an amazing time with that mish-mash of people. It was a good scene.
You know those people you can be apart from for years and when you meet again it’s like nothing ever changed? You can just pick back up where you left off?
I think we all have people like that in our lives. People you really enjoy the company of, but for whatever reason you’re not able to spend a lot of time with. What title do those folks have in your mind, and how do you quantify your grief when you lose them?
This summer Matt and I were sitting in the parking lot of the Carbondale City Market ‘enjoying’ a pint of fake ice cream, when Hayden knocked on the door. He saw the Vermont plates and had come over to say hi.
This was only my second time meeting Hayden, but he already spoke to me as if we’d been friends for years. He was so genuine and so kind. He and Matt spoke about their messed up shoulders, and Hayden casually mentioned that he still couldn’t feel his upper arm. Despite this, he didn’t seem too put out. He was planning on hiking some obscure almost-14er with a friend the following day. His injuries were small potatoes – he was determined to have a good time.
As we parted ways, we agreed to hit each other up the following day for drinks. We never did.
I spent the summer of 2014 driving around Wyoming. It seemed like Inge had a similar plan, as we often ran into each other at the City Park in Lander and the old road in Ten Sleep.
Near the end of the summer we ended up camped together in Ten Sleep with a few other friends. Some days Inge would get up early in the morning to do a massive alpine run, then go to the crag and crush her project. She was a machine. Except machines don’t emote, and Inge did. Inge was full of smiles and laughter and endless positive energy.
Inge had a bit of a sweet tooth, and had learned to satisfy hers with minimal resources. She taught me how to make brownies in a pan, and we spent many nights sharing said brownies around the campfire. It was an amazing summer.
Time passes, acquaintances come and go, and old friends start to drift away. Everyone has their own path to follow, and mine took me back to Ontario on a more full-time basis. It’s hard to stay close over long distances and time periods, and I lost touch with most of my travelling climber friends.
In January 2017, Scott took his life. We hadn’t spoken in over a year, and he had begun to withdraw from the greater climbing community even before that. It’s hard to know what exactly was going on, and it’s so easy for us to blame ourselves for not reaching out. I wish we hadn’t lost touch.
When the circumstances surrounding Hayden’s death became clear, it changed the nature of my sadness. Inge’s death was a tragic accident, and Hayden’s was a devastating realization. He was passionate. He felt things so deeply. He must have been struggling. Inge was his everything. I wish we had tried harder to meet up with him that afternoon.
It was back in August 2016 when Matt and I were wandering up the road in Rifle and we ran into Inge and Hayden. Matt had never met Inge, and I had never met Hayden. We chatted together in the middle of the road, and I remember thinking how well they seemed to fit together. I was so happy for Inge that she’d found this man who shared her passions, her positivity, and her love for life.
Some may say if they had never met, maybe they’d still be with us. But even knowing the circumstances, I can’t help but be glad that they found each other.
So who do you call a good friend?
I never considered Inge or Hayden to be close friends of mine, but there is no doubt they were good friends.
Good friends eat burnt and scrambled brownies with you on your camp stove after a long day of climbing. Good friends knock on your car door in the parking lot just to say hey, even after years apart. Good friends lift you up when you’re feeling down, and they help you see the big picture.
Life is short. Seize the day. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
… And don’t forget to pack some chocolate.