Kevin was climbing with several friends on the moderate final pitch of a route, when a loose block gave way, causing him to fall approximately 50 feet and strike a ledge. His partner and two friends were able to get to him quickly, but Kevin was already gone. He was wearing a helmet. Search and Rescue was called and they were able to retrieve Kevin's body from the canyon late that night.
Kevin had been a member of Black Diamond's Quality Assurance team at the company's Salt Lake City headquarters for the past year and a half. He spent years living in Bozeman, Montana and climbing in Gallatin Canyon before moving to Salt Lake City to work at Black Diamond and be closer to his favorite climbing area, Indian Creek. Kevin was always smiling, always willing to help out and always…ALWAYS psyched to climb. The tag line from his personal blog reads "I LOVE to climb…everything," and it was true—from rock and ice all across the Western US and alpine routes in Alaska, to local bouldering and training at the gym—Kevin was a climber, and shared his positive energy with everyone, whether they tied in with him or not. Kevin leaves behind a wife, sisters, parents, and a huge community of friends who were positively affected by his never-ending passion for the climbing life. We will miss his infectious smile, his super-stoked attitude, and even his sizable collection of wolf T-shirts.
A memorial fund has been set up in Kevin's name and will be donated to a climbing-related cause that Kevin would be proud to be remembered by.
To donate, click here: Kevin Volkening Memorial Fund
Below is a collection of photos and short memories from Kevin's friends and co-workers here at Black Diamond, a small tribute to his bright and vibrant spirit.
Kevin really was one of the good ones and his positive presence will be a huge loss for our tribe. Hopefully, once shock and sadness subside, we can take this terrible loss as an opportunity to reflect on how we are as individuals and learn from the stoke and good nature Kevin gave us while he was here. Kevin will be missed.
The spirit shirt tribute reminded me of when we were driving to the Winds and stopped for dinner at Wally's, a classic greasy burger joint in Evanston. The girl at the register was in awe of K-bone's shirt: "Oh my god, I LOVE your shirt!" The shirt was standard K-bone fare, a wolf howling in front of the moon, but it seemed to make her day. While this might just suggest an overall lack of stimuli in Evanston, it's just another example of how he could light up someone's day with his unique personal style and overall friendly stoke.
Kevin (and Marge too) were always super friendly and stoked to hang out with the girls, especially Amara - I remember a night after work (before the spirit shirt Fridays had even caught on) we were having beers at Millcreek Bar and Grill, Amara spent the whole night talking with them and was so stoked on K-Bone’s tattoos and spirit shirt that I was inspired to get pick up a spirit shirt that fit her ‘spirit’ (her favorite animal by far is a kitty). Even though it’s about 3 sizes to big she loves it wears it all the time. For a couple days after that she wanted to hang out with them more and kept saying, “where’d K-Bone go?” A question that just got WAY harder to answer for her.
As brief as our time overlapped, I am honored and consider myself lucky to have known Kevin. Most people at BD consider themselves climbers, that is, until they meet K-Bone. Climbing was everything to Kevin, second only to his lovely Wife (perhaps 1A and 1B). Whether asleep, at work, or in his spare time, K-Bone lived climbing. He did it well, was humble, and was more stoked when a buddy sent a route than when he did. Coworker, Climber, and most of all, Friend. K-Bone is as irreplaceable as they come.
K-Bone was again headed to the Creek, willing to endure 5.5 hours of monotonous driving for 2 days of slaying crack. As always, he had pushed the 2nd day of climbing late. He would drive well into the night just to make it back to work on Monday dirty, covered in Creek Fairy Dust, and nursing open wounds on his hands from pushing the limits of what is humanly capable on some parallel sided crack. He made it in early, busted his balls to produce the best work possible, and then was ready to leave by 5. After asking “what are you up to tonight”, I assumed he would respond with ‘washing clothes and un-packing’ as the rest of us would do every Monday night. However, K-Bone could not accept the sedentary life of being a grown up or doing the chores of civil life, and responded as he always would: “I’m going climbing!”
May his spirit live on in all of us, and persuade us to get out on the rock again, even after being beat up from the long weekend of climbing rocks. Climb on, man. Climb on.
A few weeks ago we went up to the Choss Cave and we talked about him showing me Indian Creek since I haven’t been yet. And likewise, we talked about me showing him around the splitter cracks and roofs in my old stomping grounds of Tennessee. He seemed psyched at the idea but probably just because it involved the word climbing.
I can’t stop thinking about our QA Department trip to City of Rocks this spring. Kevin thought that our department needed to do something fun together, and obviously the most fun thing to do in the world in is climbing, so he made it happen. There were some issues with the camping reservations and some minor run-ins with the park authorities, but he put a ton of effort into getting us out together to do some climbing. He didn’t care if people were climbing 5.4 or 5.14 as long as they were climbing and psyched about it. We had a great weekend climbing and camping and talking about climbing and it never would have happened without Kevin. He brought a ton of fun to everything he did and I always had fun when he was around, even if things didn’t go exactly as planned. I can’t think of a time I spent with Kevin that doesn’t make me smile or laugh. Miss you buddy!
Email chains in our department often spawn into extensive threads of only semi-work-related tangents among the QA Engineers, and K-Bone would often contribute to the threads, drawing on any one of his varied areas of expertise. K-Bone was a passionate engineer and scientist. He could geek out on chemistry and chemical engineering with the best of them. Sometimes the Chemical Engineering concepts, lingo, and references in Kevin’s emails would go straight over my head. With a similar level of authority and knowledge, K-bone could make obscure cultural references and allusions to the latest pop trends that would be completely lost on me.
Recently, on one such email chain, K-bone responded with something particularly cryptic and I was not able to grasp his intended meaning. I replied: “ I don’t even know what this means…”
Well played K-Bone, well played…
Kevin made many people laugh and scratch their heads in a similar way every day. His many and varied contributions to everyone’s lives will be sorely missed. Blessed are those who were wise enough to spend as much time as possible with him during the brief time that he graced this world.