In 2018, Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison completed the first ski descent of the 8,516-metre Lhotse, the fourth-highest mountain in the world. Nelson and Morrison weren’t the first to ski on the mountain, in 2007 Jamie Laidlaw partially skied Lhotse, but not from the summit.

With a slope angle of 60 degrees a lot of objective hazards, their entrance into the 800-metre Lhotse Couloir followed a high-altitude face with a lot of exposure.

The two Americans were no rookies in the world of big mountain skiing, Nelson had skied Cho Oyu in 2005 with no supplemental oxygen or assistance and was the first woman to ski the Makalu La Couloir on Makalu, the fifth highest mountain in the world. Her and Morrison were the first Americans to ski ascent and descent India’s Papsura Peak. This past spring, they skied the Messner Couloir on Denali.

In 2018, Nelson was named the second-ever captain of The North Face’s Global Athlete Team, a role held for the past 26 years by seasoned climber Conrad Anker. In 2012, she became the first woman to climb two 8,000-meter peaks—Everest and Lhotse—in 24 hours.

To descend Lhotse, they used skis, boots and poles, but never had to use a rope to rappel. The pinch of the couloir was hardly wider than their skis, but the two of them were able to shimmy back and forth to get through the three-metre choke.

“Your whole view in the couloir is this huge wall,” said Nelson. “You’re looking right at Everest. It’s dark and cold. As you come out of it, the whole aspect shifts to the west and you go from this narrow couloir to this massive face—it must be a half-mile wide. It was totally in the sun.”

“At that point, the sun had gone away. That was the steepest part of the descent and it had refrozen.” Watch their historic descent in this October 2019 film.

Lhotse Ski

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