Hilaree Nelson, a pioneering ski mountaineer renowned for completing creative spins in unlikely locations and hundreds of first descents from atop big and lesser-known summits, perished in an avalanche while skiing from the Himalayan summit of Manaslu, the eighth-highest mountain in the world, on Monday. She was 49 years old.
Jim Morrison, her life and climbing partner who accompanied her to Nepal, reported on Wednesday that her corpse was discovered near the peak, well below where she had fallen.
Ms. Nelson was the first female captain of the North Face athlete team, a worldwide group of funded adventurers who engage in mountaineering, climbing, backcountry skiing, and other activities. In 2018, she was selected National Geographic’s “explorer of the year.” In 2019, Outside magazine referred to her as “her generation’s most successful female ski pioneer.”
She was equally competent at ascending and descending. In 2012, she became the first woman to simultaneously summit Mount Everest and adjacent Lhotse, the world’s fourth-highest mountain, within 24 hours.
In September 2018, she returned to Lhotse’s 8,516-meter (27,940-foot) peak so she and Mr. Morrison could ski down the renowned Lhotse Couloir.
Conrad Anker, an occasional expedition companion, said in a phone interview on Wednesday that the Lhotse expedition was the most significant climbing achievement of the last decade. While Ms. Nelson was regarded as a pioneer for women in extreme sports, he said that her accomplishments did not need a gender qualification.
The descent of Lhotse solidified Ms. Nelson’s standing in the largely unrecognised realm of ski mountaineering, where activities are undertaken in isolated, high-altitude locations under hazardous and changeable circumstances.
Cody Townsend, another top ski mountaineer who sometimes shared excursions with Ms. Nelson, said by phone, “People had been attempting it for decades, but she and Jim did it.” And they made it seem very simple, which was Hilaree’s trademark.
Mr. Townsend said that Ms. Nelson has a reputation for both creativity and perseverance. She had several ideas in mind for many years, awaiting the ideal moment to finish them.
Mr. Townsend said, “She was a climber who didn’t push it simply to push it; she was there to grab it when it was ideal and get it done.” Because of this, she had a 20-year record of successes.
But repercussions were always a slip or stumble away. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Morrison ascended the 8,163-meter (26,781-foot) corniced and serrated top of Manaslu on a very chilly and windy morning in Nepal on Monday. Mr. Morrison said that after putting on the skis they had brought to the summit, the couple went downward.
A little avalanche quickly knocked Ms. Nelson off her feet. Mr. Morrison was not impacted by the advancing avalanche, but he felt powerless as he watched Ms. Nelson go down the mountain.
Mr. Morrison and his Sherpa guides were unsuccessful in their first searches. Due to the terrible weather, a complete search-and-rescue operation was postponed until the next morning.
Mr. Morrison and Mingma Tenzi Sherpa discovered Ms. Nelson’s corpse during a two-day helicopter search of the peak. According to Sachindra Yadav, an expedition liaison officer from the Gorkha district, which encompasses Manaslu, an avalanche allegedly blew her from a cliff and into the mountain’s south face. The deceased was sent to Kathmandu.
Mr. Morrison stated on Instagram, “My sorrow is unimaginable, and I am focused on her children and their steps ahead.” Hilaree Nelson is the most inspirational person in existence, and her energy will now direct our collective spirits.
Ms. Nelson was a longstanding resident of Telluride, Colorado, where she routinely trained in the adjacent San Juan Mountains and waited tables for years. Most of her greatest experiences occurred after she gave birth to her two sons.
Hilaree Nelson was born on December 13, 1972, parents Stanley and Robin Nelson in Seattle, where she grew up. On weekends, she and her siblings would take a bus to ski at Stevens Pass in the Cascades. However, the family’s concentration was on water. Her mother refurbished wooden boats, and her father, who managed a family-owned auto business, took the family on multiweek sailing excursions.
A few years ago, Ms. Nelson said, “At age 5, we had a great deal of freedom.” This was a significant aspect of learning to be independent, which is a surprisingly important aspect of climbing.
In addition to Mr. Morrison, she is survived by her parents, Graydon and Quinn, now adolescents, from her failed marriage to Brian O’Neill, and her siblings.
After completing Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Ms. Nelson travelled to Chamonix, France for five winters to perfect her skiing and climbing talents.
She quickly obtained sponsorships, most notably from The North Face, whose roster of outdoor athletes includes climber Alex Honnold and explorer and filmmaker Jimmy Chin.