The body of Hilaree Nelson was found Wednesday and taken to a forensic laboratory in Kathmandu for an autopsy after the famous American ski mountaineer died during an expedition in Nepal, according to Sachindra Kumar Yadav, a tourism department official.
The 49-year-old American, who has had an illustrious career spanning two decades, had disappeared beneath the summit of Nepal’s Mount Manaslu – the world’s eighth highest mountain.
Nelson was a mother of two, and her partner is also an experienced ski mountaineer, Jim Morrison, according to The North Face, which sponsors the American.
On Wednesday, Morrison said in an Instagram post that he and Nelson were skiing down from the summit of Manaslu to rejoin their Sherpa team when the 49-year-old “started a small avalanche.”
She was swept off her feet and carried down a narrow snow slope, Morrison added in the post, and he located her body Wednesday after two days of searching for her by helicopter.
“I did everything I could to find her but was unable to face down as I hoped to find her alive and live my life with her,” he wrote, calling Nelson “the most inspiring person in life.”
“My loss is indescribable and I am focused on her children and their steps forward,” Morrison added, describing Nelson as “my life partner, my love, my best friend and my mountain partner.”
Last week, Nelson wrote an Instagram post about the challenges of the trip along with photos of the expedition.
“I have not felt as confident at Manaslu as I have on previous adventures in the thin atmosphere of the high Himalayas,” she wrote, citing the bad weather that has plagued climbers in recent days.
“The past few weeks have tested my resilience in new ways.”
Morrison also posted on Instagram last week, saying: “We went up high and tried hard but the mountain said no. Tails between our legs we rescue from camp 3 and head down, (on skis).
Nelson was a pioneer in the mountaineering community and a role model for the new generation of climbers.
She had made first descents through more than 40 expeditions worldwide and was named captain of The North Face Athlete Team in 2018.
In 2012, she became the first woman known to climb the world’s highest peak, Everest, and also the adjacent mountain, Lhotse, in 24 hours.
She had continued to explore the world’s mountains, often with Morrison, pushing the boundaries of what is expected in the sport.