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The body of pioneering ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson was located on Manaslu by her partner Jim Morrison and a rescue team on Wednesday morning.
Nelson was reported missing on Monday after she, along with Morrison, summited the eighth highest mountain in what Morrison described as ‘tough conditions’. Initial reports suggested that she had fallen into a crevasse whilst descending from the summit on skis. Morrison confirmed yesterday that Nelson had been swept off her feet and carried down a narrow snow slope by a small avalanche that was triggered as she followed him down the mountain.
Rescue efforts were initially hampered by bad weather, but Morrison and Mingma Tenzi Sherpa were dropped off by helicopter yesterday morning and Nelson’s body was found at around 6,700m on the south face of the 8,163m peak.
During her career, Nelson was a member of over 40 expeditions to 16 different countries and completed multiple first ski descents on Baffin and South Georgia Islands, Argentina, Kamchatka, Russia, and the Tetons. In 2012, Nelson became the first woman to summit both Everest and Lhotse within 24 hours, made the first female descent of Makalu Couloir in 2015, and in 2018 was awarded the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award for the first ski descent of the Lhotse Couloir, accompanied by Morrison. That same year, the North Face named her the captain of its athlete team.
Hilaree Nelson and partner Jim Morrison.
the most prolific ski mountaineer of her generation
In his post on Instagram, Morrison said:
‘There are no words to describe the love for this woman, my life partner, my lover, my best friend, and my mountain partner.
My loss is indescribable and I am focused on her children and their steps forward. Hilaree is the most inspiring person in life and now her energy will guide our collective souls. Peace be with us all. Pray for her family and community which is broadly stretched across our planet.
I’m devastated by the loss of her.’
Members of the mountaineering community have paid tribute to the 49 year-old mother of two, whose inspirational career spanned two decades. The North Face described Nelson as ‘the most prolific ski mountaineer of her generation’, with ‘a spirit as big as the places she led us to’.
Nelson was a resident of Telluride, Colorado, where she lived with her two sons from a previous marriage. She often spoke openly about her decision to pursue high-altitude ski-mountaineering objectives as a mother. Nelson was widely respected for her stance in a society where mothers are often disproportionately criticised for continuing to participate adventure sports compared to fathers who do the same. A well-known, respected and loved member of the mountaineering community, she was widely regarded not only for her resilience and drive, but as an inspiration for future generations of women mountaineers, and for her empathy and thoughtfulness.
‘Despite her many super-hero accomplishments, friends recall her as a thoughtful presence and quiet leader, someone who never sought the limelight. For younger generations of female mountain athletes, her loss is particularly painful.’
Nelson went missing on the same day another unrelated avalanche occurred between camps 3 and 4 on the mountain, killing 34 year-old climber Anup Rai and injuring at least 12 others. Nelson’s body has now been transported to Kathmandu.
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