Hilaree Nelson: Mountaineer Swept By Avalanche While Skiing Down Manaslu

Hilaree Nelson Foreword

Hilaree Nelson was an American ski mountaineer who made history in mountaineering by climbing two 8000-meter mountains in a matter of only 24 hours in 2012. The summit really shocked everyone in the world. She was able to accomplish this victory in the tallest mountain in the world and the fourth tallest mountain in the world, namely, Mount Everest and Mount Lhotse, respectively. With this, she was also given the title “The 25 Most Adventurous Women of the Past 25 Years” by Men’s Journal and also recognized as National Geographic’s 2018 Adventurers of the Year.

Hilaree Nelson also made the first ski descent of the Lhotse Couloir from the summit, otherwise known as the “Dream Line,” alongside her partner Jim Morisson. This simply added to her victories, which may also have been the reason for her finally getting the aforementioned prestigious titles from the world’s most renowned institutions. Nelson has had a brief yet extremely acknowledgable time as a mountaineer. Despite her passing away, adventurers and mountaineers worldwide still know her for her bravery and all she has achieved in her life.

There are just so many interesting facts about Hilaree Nelson. If you want to know more about her, read until the end of this article. We have summed up everything that you may want to know about Nelson in this article!

American Skii Mountaineer Hilaree Nelson

hilaree nelson heading to manaslu base camp
Hilaree Nelson heading to Manaslu Base Camp

Hilaree Nelson was born on December 13, 1972, in America. She had been renowned as a ski mountaineer not just in her country but also all around the world. Much of the credit for the recognition she got among people and tabloids has to be her admirable victory at being the first woman to ever climb two of the world’s tallest mountains within only 24 hours. It is almost impossible for a lot of people to even make it out alive from a single peak. But in the case of Hilaree, giving up just was not an option. She kept going and made a history. Hilaree’s legacy still remains and will for sure remain in the days to come.

She has not only been renowned for her work as a mountaineer solely but also as a ski mountaineer who marked another history by descending the Dream Line by skiing for the very first time. Before her and her partner Jim Morisson, there wasn’t anyone who had been brave enough to descend the rather difficult and deadly couloir. It really wouldn’t even be wrong to say that as a mountaineer, Nelson really was a force to be reckoned with!

Hilaree Nelson Death

Skier Hilaree Nelson gets a traditional Nepalese funeral
Skier Hilaree Nelson gets a traditional Nepalese funeral

Hilaree Nelson, despite having a prestigious career in her life, had to die an awful death in the year 2022. She was skiing with her partner Jim Morrison even then when she became a victim of an avalanche. The duo was on their way to Skii from one of the tallest and most important mountains in Nepal, Mount Manaslu. The autumn day of September 26th really did not forecast what would happen next when the two of them were on their way to make another victorious record. The fatal accident was caused when Nelson fell from a height of more than 1,800 meters (5,900 ft) from the mountain. Once Hilary Nelson had gone missing, a rescue team was sent in search of her.

The earlier attempts to save the mountaineer failed due to the bad weather. However, two days later, on the 28th of September, the rescue team was able to locate her body. She was found on the south face of Manaslu, a little above the Thulagi glacier. The body was then brought to the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu. Hilaree never made it back home, and the funeral did not happen in America. She was cremated with Nepali rites in Kathmandu itself on October 2, 2022.

Hilaree Nelson Career


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A post shared by Hilaree Nelson (@hilareenelson)

Nelson had always had a very close relationship with mountaineering. She loved what she worked for, and that was mountaineering. Nelson started her career as the global athletic team captain of The North Face. The 2012 Montana State University Everest Education Expedition also saw her as a team member. She had been a part of National Geographic Explorers as well.

Furthermore, she had always been active in her work as a mountaineer and had been a part of 40 expeditions till the time she passed away in Manaslu in an unfortunate attempt to ski from the mountain during an avalanche. While she earned her name all around the world by climbing two of the world’s tallest mountains, Mount Everest and Mount Lhotse, which are the first and the fourth tallest mountains in the world, within just 24 hours, there are many successes she has had in her lifetime.

In Nepal, she further earned recognition by skiing down the Dream Line. But, she has also been the first woman to ever make ski descents of Baffin and South Georgia Islands, Argentina, Kamchatka, Russia, and the Tetons. Regardless of her short life and career, she has created a name for herself with the most extraordinary achievements that a lot of mountaineers can only dream of.

She is also the author of several writings that have been published by some of the most famous publication houses in the world, like Outside Journal, The Ski Journal, and National Geographic Adventure.

Hilaree Nelson’s Early Life

Remembering Seattle-born top ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson

Hilaree Nelson has always been an enthusiast when it comes to mountaineering. Born in Seattle, Washington, The United States of America, on December 13, 1972, she has always been into mountaineering. One of the most spectacular facts about her early life is that she started ski mountaineering at the mere age of 3. She first skied from Stevens Pass. Ever since her love for skiing and mountaineering never really stopped. And she started her career as a ski mountaineer from an early age in her life. It remained so till the end of her life.

Nelson’s career truly took off when she went to Chamonix, France. She graduated from the Colorado College in the 1990s. In France, she was able to practice difficult technical climbing and started sharpening her skills accordingly. Her stubborn will to be able to conquer even the most complicated and larger goals of skiing and mountaineering pushed her to become better. Hilaree landed a sponsorship with world famous company North Face in 1999. The company offered her to go on the world’s biggest and most difficult expeditions.

Friend and mountaineer Emily Harrington also defined her as stubborn and strong-willed as she always made sure to accomplish what she had set as goals for herself. In the words of Harrington, “Hilaree was stubborn as hell. She fought so hard for everything, and she desperately wanted to be strong and successful. She was so passionate. I don’t think she could really handle normal life without having that other side, being on the edge. And you could tell that she just loved it. That’s where she was at peace: when we were out on an expedition doing something really complicated and dangerous that required a lot of mountain experience. That was where she thrived.”

Emily Harrington and Mountaineer friends about Hilaree Nelson

My Friend, Hilaree Nelson Emily Harrington Remembers the Legendary Ski mountaineer hilaree nelson

Emily Harrington is an adventurer who crossed paths with Nelson when she was also sponsored by North Face. The two formed a really warm bond when they were sent to a 3 month long Mount Everest Expedition in the year 2012. One of the main reasons they got close to one another was that they were the only two women in the entire expedition team. While Harrington was not able to quite make it to both the summits, Mount Everest, and neighboring Lhotse with Nelson, Hilaree became the first woman in the history of the world to accomplish this victory. On top of this, Nelson made it happen in only 24 hours.

Similarly, her larger-than-life character really inspired another mountaineer friend Mark Synnott. Synnott paid a tribute after her death that said,

“Her accomplishments made her a larger-than-life character, but she never bought into the hype. She wore the mantle of being one of the world’s preeminent ski mountaineers (male or female) with grace and genuine humility.”

Throughout her life, she not only made a name for herself as a mountaineer who had always been focused on getting to her goals but also was a reliable and very relatable friend. While she has, without a doubt, made a legacy for herself, she has also earned the love and admiration of the people she has associated with throughout her career. Emily made sure to talk about her strong willpower, determination to get to her goal, and always staying stubborn like a force while also being able to balance this characteristic out with a sense of tenderness. Nelson had always been one to show humility, passion, and love towards people around her especially those women who were younger than herself. Her kind and nurturing nature had been an aspect that always gravitated people towards her.

Moreover, while there weren’t many mountaineers who, despite having children made expeditions, she was one who tested the odds and became what she did in her career as a ski mountaineer, this, also remains one of her accomplishments that her mountaineer friends have always appreciated about her.

Additionally, an occasional climbing partner and a very close friend Conrad Anker even went on to say that Nelson had broken the gender roles and stereotypes. He even compared the fearless mountaineer to her own husband and mentioned her being as strong, capable, and fierce as any other male mountaineer. For Hilaree, gender perceptions never really existed.

Hilaree Nelson – Adventurous Mother of Two Sons

Hilaree Nelson Children

Hilaree Nelson has two sons, Grayden and Quinn, who have been living with her in Telluride, Colorado. Both the sons belong to her marriage with ex-husband Brian O’Neill. Having children did not stop Nelson from pursuing her dreams. Though she was quite emotional when she was asked about her choice over her children and her career, she admitted to never having any regret about what she had done. In fact, there was no such thing as a choice for Hilaree. She was just as great of a mother as she was an adventurer.

While Nelson felt like her mountaineering journey made her feel safe and at home, she made sure never to leave the hold of the mountains. However, this never meant that she neglected her children either; she made sure to make her children her home and passionately was there when they needed her all the time. There was no such thing as compromising when it came to Hilaree’s career and her children, and she never made either choice.

Hilaree Nelson’s Death On Manaslu

Hilaree Nelson Death On Manaslu

Nelson had really had the best career in ski mountaineering. Sadly, things did not end well for the courageous adventurer when she went to Mount Manaslu in Nepal during an avalanche on September 26th, 2022. Hilaree and her partner Jim Morisson went together, but only Jim returned to the camp safely. The avalanche was not probable at the time they started their journey up the mountain. The weather started getting bad, and the avalanche conditions worsened when the duo were already up there.

Morisson made it out safely, and he could not really make himself bring his partner out safely as he saw no hope. The late mountaineer knocked her feet in the avalanche and fell from more than 5,000 feet below the southern part of Manaslu. There was almost not even the slightest possibility that she would make it out of the mountain alive. After losing all hopes of saving his partner, Jim could only come up with the wise conclusion of leaving her behind at the given time. After just two days, Morisson and a team of rescuers, went to find her body and finally spotted her dead in the mountain.

Hilaree Nelson’s funeral took place in Kathmandu, Nepal, after she was flown there from the mountain. She never returned home, and her body was cremated in the capital city of Nepal itself. While Hilaree’s life had been an extraordinary rollercoaster ride of successes and adventures, it ended in an adventurous way by doing what she had always loved. This, in turn, worked for the late mountaineer in setting a legacy for herself in the eyes of mountaineers all around the world.

Hilaree Nelson Jim Morrison Relationship

Hilaree Nelson Jim Morrison Relationship

Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison were not just climbing partners but also life partners. The two of them got together after Nelson divorced her ex-husband Brian O’Neil. After he witnessed his partner fall from the deadly mountain, Morrison had to come back to safety in the camp. However, he made sure to fetch her body along with a team two days later and brought her back to Kathmandu for her funeral.

Unfortunately, Jim had a hard time recovering from his partner’s death. He paid tribute to her after she passed away through his Instagram account. In the post, he mentioned Nelson as his “my life partner, my lover, my best friend, and my mountain partner.” Likewise, a picture of him hugging a friend while watching his partner’s body being taken off a helicopter started resurfacing the internet soon after it was taken.

The mountaineering partners met one another during one of their adventurous journeys and the duo has been inseparable ever since. Morrison had tried his best to locate her the day he saw her fall off the mountain by being swept away in an avalanche. Despite his efforts, he could not do much, and it took two days of continuous search to finally find Nelson’s body. Jim was very expressive of his emotions at the time he witnessed his lover’s body, as well as when he had to reminisce her in several instances. He even mentioned in a public post that he really hoped and felt that he could find her alive and be able to spend the rest of their lives together.

Hilaree Nelson Family Life

Hilaree Nelson Family Life

After her divorce from her former husband Brian O’Neil, Nelson and her sons started living in their Colorado home. Besides her two teenage sons, Nelson was survived by her parents, siblings, and her life partner Jim Morrison. Though Jim and Hilaree were not married to one another, they did almost everything together, and her partner was even with her at the time she was swept by an avalanche and passed away. Similarly, there aren’t many details that have yet been revealed to the tabloids about her family.

Noteworthy accomplishments of Hilaree Nelson

Hilaree Nelson has always been very keen on achieving her dreams, and she has been an adventurer by heart. Her journey in mountain skiing started early on in her life. She had always been daring and fearless in anything that she pursued, and that led her to accomplish some of the biggest and most prestigious accomplishments in her life which are;

  • First ski descent of the Dream Line from the Lhotse summit, Lhotse Couloir, in 2018
  • First ski descent of Papsura, India, in 2017
  • First female descent of Makalu La Couloir, Nepal, in 2015
  • First mountaineer to ski all five “Holy Peaks,” Mongolian Altai
  • First female to climb Everest and Lhotse in 24 hours in Nepal on May 25, 2012
  • Skied from the summit of Cho Oyu in Tibet on September 22, 2005
  • Skied from the summit of Denali, Messner Couloir in the USA on June 16, 2011
  • First female descent of Bubble Fun Couloir in Tetons, USA
  • European Women’s Extreme Skiing Champion in 1996

What did Hilaree Nelson advocate for?

Hilaree Nelson had a tough exterior of an adventurer and a mountain skier who would always outpower her male counterparts. However, she had always had a soft side to her that would make her one of the kindest women to be around. Not only did she show her side to people around her, but she also advocated for a cause. Nelson was a part of the “She Moves Mountains” campaign conducted jointly by The North Face and Girl Scouts of the USA. She dearly supported women in conquering mountains and succeeding in adventurous journeys that had otherwise been limited and stereotyped towards only men.

Hilaree Nelson Filmography

Hilaree Nelson has been an important part of several filmography, namely; Lhotse, Down to Nothing, The Denali Experiment, Fine Lines, and K2: The Impossible Descent.

Hilaree Nelson’s social media

Hilaree was quite active on her Instagram account where she posted pictures from her adventurous accounts. The account is still available for anyone who wants to find about how her life had been before the terrible Manaslu accident. She described herself as “Skier, Storyteller, Mom and lover of wild places.” on her Instagram bio. Likewise, she did not only post about her professional but also personal life. And, her followers have seemingly increased with time despite her passing away. Likewise, you can also find the brands and corporations she was associated with on her Instagram including thenorthface, blizzardskis, yeti, tecnica sports, blackdiamond, protectourwinters, and publiclandsshop.

Frequently Asked Questions

Was Hilaree Nelson ever found?

Hilaree Nelson was found two days after she fell from the summit of Manaslu after an avalanche swept her away. It took her partner around two days and a team to locate her body. Though Jim Morrison, her partner, attempted his best to locate her as soon as the accident took place, he was not able to do so on the same day as the accident.

Who is the father of Hilaree Nelsons kids?

Hilaree Nelson’s ex-husband Brian O’Neil is the father of Hilaree Nelson’s kids.

Where did Hilaree Nelson go to college?

Hilaree Nelson went to Colorado College in Colorado, the United States of America.

Is Hilaree Nelson alive?

She passed away on September 26, 2022 in Manaslu, Nepal.

Did Hilaree Nelson climb Everest?

In 2012, Nelson climbed both Everest and Lhotse within 24 hours. This made her the first woman to ever do so in the history of the world.

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Kishor Shahi

Kishor is an accomplished writer specializing in Technical, Travel, and Affiliate blogging. With a strong foundation in On-Page and Off-Page SEO, he excels in optimizing content for maximum visibility and impact. Furthermore, Kishor is proficient Google Ads and SEM, known for creating audience driving campaigns. His expertise extends to Google Analytics and HubSpot, enabling data-driven decisions and effective content strategies.

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