Hilaree Nelson, easily one of the most decorated female ski mountaineers ever, has reportedly gone missing on Manaslu in the Nepalese Himalayas. She was reported to have been attempting a ski descent of the mountain with her partner, Jim Morrison.
Details are spotty, but according to reports from the Himalayan Times and the Telluride News, where Nelson currently lives in Colorado, Nelson and Morrison were working to complete the descent together. They reported that the North Face athlete took a fall of some 25 meters and rescue efforts are underway to try and locate her, whether that was off a steep face or into a crevasse isn’t entirely clear.
Jiban Ghimire, managing director of Shangri-La Nepal Trek, the company working with Nelson and Morrison told Outside magazine he’d received a call from Morrison. “The duo reached the true summit of Manaslu at 11.30 a.m. local time. And about 15 minute later I got a call from our staff at base camp that her ski blade skidded off and [she] fell off the other side of the peak,” Ghimire said.
She has reportedly not been seen since and bad weather is hampering search and rescue efforts. Nelson and Morrison had been on the mountain preparing for the summit and descent for an extended period and Nelson wasn’t feeling herself. “Back bent and head down,” she wrote on her Instagram page. “I haven’t felt as sure-footed on Manaslu as I have on past adventures into the thin atmosphere of the high Himalaya. These past weeks have tested my resilience in new ways. The constant monsoon with its incessant rain and humidity has made me hopelessly homesick.”
It was a deadly day on Manaslu. According to Explorersweb.com, in a separate incident, at least one climber is dead and 12 others injured near Manaslu’s camp four following an avalanche. The stranded climbers have been unable to descend further because fixed ropes used to ascend and descend were swept away in the intense slide. Some 400 climbers have reportedly obtained permits for the mountain so the crowded conditions have created chaos including a possible helicopter stranding as the machines went in to rescue climbers but were hampered by weather.
In 2018, Nelson, 49, became the first skier, along with Morrison, to descend the 27,940-foot Lhotse. It was a monumental effort and descent that earned her a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award. Nelson is an extremely driven skier and has worked as hard as anyone in the industry to push the level of the sport. She’s also been an inspiration for countless other women.
“I got dropped by my ski sponsor,” Nelson told me at the 2019 EVOLVE Summit, about the early days of professional skiing and trying to make it as a woman. “I took pay cuts other places. I was not my best advocate. I was so unsure how I was going to move forward as a professional ski mountaineer, and be a mom and have kids and do all this juggling. I think that’s what I’ve learned moving forward is that we can do so much. And now that I’m in this position of being a pro skier and climber for 20 years, and I see young women coming up, I’m in this really unique and amazing position to be able to mentor and help these other younger women as they’re coming in…I think things have changed.”
Nelson, who climbed Lhotse and Everest in 2012 in a single 24-hour push, has two sons and has a been a trailblazer when it comes to professional outdoor sports and motherhood. She wrote an essay on the topic for us you can read here.
We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.