Jennifer Kendall “Kayah” Gaydish died in a 50-foot fall while climbing at Hidden Valley, Virginia on Sunday, December
20. She was a prominent North Carolina climber, conservationist, board member of the Carolina Climbers’ Coalition,
and a single mother of two.
“This really tore our community to the core,” Sean Cobourn, a long-time climber in the area, told Rock and Ice.
Gaydish, 36, reportedly fell while cleaning the anchors of a route at Hidden Valley—a sandstone cliff band, north of Abingdon, Virginia, near the
border of North Carolina. Friends attempted to resuscitate her without success and she was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a statement from
Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman. Further details of the accident have not yet been released.
Gaydish worked as a Linville Gorge Wilderness Ranger for Asheville-based conservation group Wild South, and in October, she was promoted to North Carolina
conservation coordinator, according to the Citizen Times.
She was a recipient of the 2015 American Alpine Club Live Your Dream Grant and was awarded $1,000 to travel to Indian Creek, Utah to hone her crack climbing skills—a place she hadn’t visited in 18 years “with the constraints
of raising two children,” the AAC describes on the grant recipient page.
“…this long awaited return trip [was] a huge dream for Kayah…”
Brian Payst, friend of Gaydish and CCC board member, said in a statement to DPM: “The Southeastern
climbing and conservation community lost one of its best people…She was known for her infectious enthusiasm for wilderness, people and climbing.
She loved to share the wild places in NC with anyone and everyone and worked tirelessly to protect them.
“Kayah loved to climb not because of difficulty or physical challenge, but because of the community of people and the relationships that climbers have
with each other and with the places where we climb.
“She leaves behind a heart-broken community of friends and two [teenage] children whom she loved more than anything.”