Iconic mountain athlete Hilaree Nelson has died
The American skier and climber passed away following a tragic accident in the Himalayas
The body of legendary alpinist, and backcountry skier Hilaree Nelson was found today after an accident had been reported earlier this week while the American athlete was skiing down Mount Manaslu in the Himalayas with her partner Jim Morrison.
The couple were skiing down the world’s eighth highest peak, when, according to a BBC report, Nelson, 49, “slipped and appeared to fall into a 2,000ft (600m) gap in the ice, known as a crevasse, only 15 minutes after reaching the summit of the 26,781ft peak.”
Bad weather on the mountain hampered search efforts earlier in the week. There was also an avalanche at a lower elevation the same day.
In 2019, an avalanche on the same mountain killed nine climbers. In 1972, 16 climbers were killed there in an avalanche.
Nelson and her partner are amongst the most accomplished mountain athletes on the planet tackling some of the highest peaks together, including in 2018 when they registered the first descent down Mount Lhotse — the world’s fourth highest peak. An event that was captured on film for The North Face, and has been viewed by more than 4.7 million times on YouTube.
Nelson posted to her Instagram account six days ago from Manaslu, when she wrote that the adventure has “tested my resilience in new ways,” and that she was “hopelessly homesick.” Followed by recounting an uplifting ski down the mountain to base camp.
“As soon as I made the first turn in the sticky hot pow, in a total white out, all the weight and seriousness that had been plaguing me this whole trip faded to the background,” she wrote.
Nelson, who is sponsored by The North Face, is the first woman to climb both Mount Everest and Mount Lhotse in a single 24-hour period.
Morrison made it back to camp after the tragic accident. He posted a heartfelt message earlier today in which he describes Nelson as "the beacon of light in my life day in and day out."
He recounts the accident, stating that Nelson got swept up in a small avalanche that began when she started to ski down the mountain.
There have been many touching tributes on social media since word of the tragedy.
Athlete Hilary Matheson posted a portrait she photographed of Nelson in March 2020 after a day skiing in the backcountry together.
“We were the only two women on the crew and I was there to photograph the outing, and I remember skinning up the mountain (feeling extremely proud of myself for just barely keeping up) with her, having some thoughtful conversations around women in extreme sports and her perspective on it,” she wrote. “The thing that stuck with me most was her approach to being both an elite athlete and a mother. ‘What kind of role model would I be for my kids,’ she mused, ‘if I DIDN’T keep doing these things to show them what’s possible for them.”
According to her, The North Face bio, Nelson is also the first American to ski Papsura Peak in India. In 2018, she was named the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.
"Today we lost our hero, mentor, and our friend,” wrote The North Face, in a statement.
“Hilaree Nelson held a spirit as big as the places she led us to. She embodied possibility. Her adventures made us feel at home in the vastness of the world.”
RIP Hilaree Nelson.