Body of ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson recovered from Manaslu

Rescuers have recovered the body of missing mountaineer Hilaree Nelson on the southern slope of 8163-metre Manaslu in Nepal

On Monday 26 September, big mountain skiers Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison summited Nepal’s 8163-metre Manaslu. Shortly after they started the descent, Nelson, 49, was swept off her feet by a small avalanche and was carried down a narrow slope to the south side over 1,500m.

Helicopter search attempts were unsuccessful, hampered by bad weather. Two days later a rescue team, including her partner Jim Morrison, found the body and returned with it to base camp.

Jim Morrison writes:

“I spent the last two days searching from the air in a helicopter. Today with the help of [Captain Surendra Patel] an incredibly skilled pilot we were able to land at 22,000 feet and search for her,” Morrison wrote. “[Nirmal Purja] was instrumental in helping organise the best team and resources possible and I found her body with the aid of Mingma Tenzi Sherpa today at 10:30 am. I’m in Kathmandu with her and her spirit.”


Nelson was among the most accomplished ski mountaineers and alpinists on the planet. She leaves an impressive record of first descents as a woman.

“We can throw down just as hard as the men”, in her words.

In 2002 she completed the first ski descent of five peaks in Mongolia’s Altai mountain range. In 2012 Nelson became the first woman to link two 8,000-meter peaks – Mount Everest and Lhotse – in 24-hours. (With a few more accomplishments between) 2018 saw Nelson and Morrison become the first to ski down Lhotse (world’s fourth highest peak at 8516 metres on the border between Tibet and Nepal). This earned her the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award.

In 2018 she was named captain of The North Face’s athlete team – the first woman to hold the role.


North Face skier Hilaree Nelson is missing on 8163m Manaslu after skiing from the summit

The 49-year-old mountaineer reportedly fell into a crevasse below the summit while descending on skis. Elsewhere on the mountain on Monday an avalanche killed one climber, injuring a dozen more climbers and sherpas.

North Face skier Hilaree Nelson was skiing with her partner and big-mountain skier Jim Morrison when the accident occurred (11.30am Nepali time). This was shortly after they had reached the mountain’s summit.

The Himalayan Times has quoted an eyewitness stating that she fell approximately 80 feet into a vertical crevasse. Harsh weather conditions grounded helicopter rescue attempts on Monday afternoon. The newspaper reports Morrison was skiing down to Camp 3 on Monday afternoon.

On Friday, Nelson posted an update to social media about an abandoned summit attempt in whiteout weather. She wrote:

Back bent and head down. I haven’t felt as sure-footed on Manaslu as I have on past adventure 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. I am challenged to find the peace and inspiration from the mountain when it’s been constantly shrouded in mist. Yesterday we ended our summit bid when we decided it was too dangerous to move from C3 to C4.

This has been the busiest autumn climbing season on Manalsu, with 404 climbing permits issued (compared to 150 the year before).

The weather has created harsh conditions. “It had snowed unceasingly for 15 days,” Yukta Gurung told the Kathmandu Post. Gurung helps maintain the ropes to the summit.

“The area was covered in at least five to six feet of snow – the piled-up snow ultimately gave way triggering the avalanche,” Gurung said from the mountain’s Base Camp.

In 2012 Nelson became the first woman to summit Everest and its adjacent Lhotse within 24 hours. In 2018 Nelson and Morrison became the first to descend Lhotse on skis, earning Nelson the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award. Other accomplishments include:

  • First ski descent of Papsura Peak, India, 2017
  • Double summit of Denali, June 2017 (Messner couloir ski descent, climb of Cassin Ridge)
  • First female ski of Makalu La Couloir, Nepal, 2015
  • Everest and Lhotse in one push, 2012

“With a career spanning two decades that includes dozens of first descents through more than 40 expeditions to 16 different countries, Hilaree Nelson is the most prolific ski mountaineer of her generation”

North Face writes

Nelson lives in Telluride, Colorado with her two children.

mountaineer, alpinist
North Face image | Hilaree Nelson