American mountaineer Hilaree Nelson found dead after fall from Nepal’s Manaslu

The professional skier and climber went missing on Monday after descending the peak, which is the eight-highest in the world

Hilaree Nelson on an expedition to Papsura, India, in 2017.
Hilaree Nelson on an expedition to Papsura, India, in 2017.Chris Figenshau

The body of American mountaineer Hilaree Nelson has been found by rescue teams in the Nepalese Himalayas. The alpine skier had been missing since Monday after falling from Nepal’s Manaslu (8,163 meters), the eighth-highest mountain in the world. She had reached the peak with her partner, Jim Morrison, but fell while making her descent. Shangri-La Nepal Trek, the organizers of the expedition, announced Wednesday morning that her body had been found by search and rescue workers.

Nelson “the most prolific ski mountaineer of her generation”

Weather conditions prevented helicopters from flying over the area on Monday, and by the following day, they had still found no trace of the mountaineer. The search resumed on Wednesday, this time with Morrison on board, reported Jiban Ghimire of Shangri-La Nepal Trek. Nelson, 49, is “the most prolific ski mountaineer of her generation,” according to outdoor recreation company The North Face, who has sponsored her since 1999. On the same day of Nelson’s disappearance, an avalanche on Manaslu killed a Nepalese mountaineer and injured 12 others.

Shortly after reaching the summit, Nelson and Morrison strapped on their skis and began their descent. The two were aiming to follow in the footsteps of Adrian Ballinger, who in 2011 became the first person to make a ski descent of Manaslu from its peak. The time was 11.30am. Less than an hour a later, a witness claimed to have seen Nelson fall to the bottom of a 25-meter-deep crevasse.

Morrison reached base camp after the incident and called for help. The North Face issued a brief statement on Monday confirming the disappearance of Nelson and stated a search effort was underway. Nelson began her career in alpine skiing but later switched disciplines to mountaineering. She and Morrison were the first to make a ski descent of Lhotse (8,516 m) in 2018. Nelson also became the first woman to scale two 8,000-meter peaks in a 24-hour period, when she climbed Everest and Lhotse in 2012.

Heavy snowfall in Mansiri Himal caused treacherous conditions

Last week, heavy snowfall in the Mansiri Himal range where Manaslu is located led to several scheduled summit attempts being called off. The weather conditions also caused another tragedy on Monday when a series of avalanches between Camps 3 and 4 on Manaslu left one climber dead and four in critical condition, although the extent of the damage caused in the crowded high-altitude camps remains unknown. Those climbers who were able to be evacuated by helicopter reported that the avalanches had taken down part of the fixed rope system on the mountain’s upper reaches, which presents a serious problem for the numerous climbers who contracted agencies to support their summit attempts. Fixed ropes are set up by sherpas working for the climbing agencies before the season begins and not all mountaineers are able to safely descend without this vital umbilical cord.

Manaslu, which was first summitted by a Japanese expedition in 1956, has recently become popular among the mountaineering fraternity for a simple reason: a few months ago, a report carried out by the Himalayan Database – the most authoritative record of mountaineering in the Nepalese Himalayas in existence – revealed that of the 44 people in history who have climbed all 14 of the eight-thousanders, only six had reached Manaslu’s true summit.


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