American skier Hilaree Nelson went missing on Manaslu during a ski descent from the true summit earlier this week. This morning, a helicopter search and rescue crew spotted Nelson’s body on the south face.
Capt. Surendra Poudel of Simrik Air told The Washington Post that “rescuers found her body about 6,200 feet (1,900m) from the summit.” Morrison and two others were dropped off by a helicopter around 50 metres away from where Nelson was found. It took over an hour to dig Nelson out from the snow; she was then transported to Kathmandu.
“On September 26th at 10:42 am, we reached the true summit of Manaslu in tough conditions,” Morrison said on Instagram. “We quickly transitioned from climbing to skiing in cold and wind with a plan to ski around the corner and regroup with our Sherpa team. I skied first, and after a few turns, Hilaree followed and started a small avalanche. She was swept off her feet and carried down a narrow snow slope down the south side (opposite from climbing route)…I did everything I could to locate her but was unable to go down the face as I hoped to find her alive and live my life with her.”
A few days before the accident, Nelson shared a message on Instagram: “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.”
Nelson and Morrison had attempted to summit and ski Manaslu earlier in their trip. “We went up high and tried hard but the mountain said no,” Morrison wrote on Instagram. “Tails between our legs we bailed from camp 3 and headed down.” On Monday of this week, an avalanche on Manaslu killed Sherpa Anup Rai of Sankhuwasabha, Nepal, and injured several climbers. It was a separate avalanche from the one Nelson was involved in.
Nelson was based in Colorado and was the captain of The North Face athlete team. She’s considered one of the most accomplished big mountain skiers ever. Some of her achievements include the first ski descent of Lhotse Couloir in 2018, the first ski descent of Papsura Peak in India in 2017, a double summit of Denali in June 2017 with a ski descent of Messner Couloir and a climb of Cassin Ridge, and an enchainment of Everest and Lhotse in 2012.
Our condolences go out to Nelson’s friends, family and mountain communities.