U.S. Ski Mountaineer Hilaree Nelson Found Dead After Going Missing in Nepal
The mountaineering community is mourning the loss of a trailblazer.
The body of American ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson was found Sept. 28 on Nepal's Mount Manaslu, two days after the elite climber went missing, Sachindra Yadav, an expedition liaison office, told The New York Times. She was 49.
Jim Morrison, Nelson's romantic and climbing partner, noted that after reaching the summit of 26,781-foot Mount Manaslu—which is the eighth-highest peak in the world—the pair were skiing down when disaster struck.
"On September 26th at 10:42 am we reached the true summit of Manaslu in tough conditions," he wrote on Instagram Sept. 28, after Nepalese authorities confirmed Nelson's body was found. "We quickly transitioned from climbing to skiing in cold and wind with a plan to ski around the corner and regroup with our Sherpa team. I skied first and after a few turns Hilaree followed and started a small avalanche. She was swept off her feet and carried down a narrow snow slope down the south side (opposite from climbing route) of the mountain over 5000'."
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Morrison skied to base camp for help, but poor weather conditions delayed a helicopter survey and rescue mission until the morning of Sept. 27, The New York Times reported.
"I did everything I could to locate her but was unable to go down the face as I hoped to find her alive and live my life with her," he continued in his Instagram message. "I spent the last two days searching from the air in a helicopter. Today with the help of @capt_surendra an incredibly skilled pilot we were able to land at 22,000 feet and search for her. @nimsdai was instrumental in helping organize the best team and resources possible and I found her body with the aid of @mt.sherpa today at 10:30 am."
Yadav told The New York Times that the avalanche apparently blew Nelson off a cliff onto the south face of the mountain, opposite of the couple's intended route of descent. Guides on their expedition said they believed she fell into a crevasse, the newspaper said. Yadav said her body was brought to Kathmandu for autopsy.
In his tribute, Morrison noted that he is "in Kathmandu with her and her spirit." Along with his statement, the mountaineer included photos of the two during their travels.
"There are no words to describe the love for this woman, my life partner, my lover, my best friend, and my mountain partner," he wrote. "She has been the beacon of light in my life day in and day out."
Nelson, a National Geographic Explorer, made first descents through more than 40 expeditions around the world—including one in 2012 when she became the first female climber to cross from the world's highest peak, Everest, to the top of the adjacent Lhotse, the fourth-tallest mountain, in less than 24 hours, earning the Guinness World Record for "fastest double-header of the higher eightthousanders by a woman."
In 2018, Nelson was named captain of the North Face Global Athlete Team, becoming a lead spokesmodel for the outdoor apparel brand, one of her sponsors.
In addition to Morrison, Nelson is also survived by her two teenage sons, Graydon and Quinn, from a previous marriage.
In his post, Morrison called his loss "indescribable" and said he is "focused on her children and their steps forward." He added, "@hilareenelson 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."
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