The body of Hilaree Nelson was found Wednesday and taken to a forensic laboratory in Kathmandu for an autopsy after the renowned US ski mountaineer died during an expedition in Nepal, according to Sachindra Kumar Yadav, an official with the tourism department.
The 49-year-old American, who has enjoyed a famed career spanning over two decades, had disappeared below 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 on Wednesday after two days searching for her by helicopter.
“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,” 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,” added Morrison, describing Nelson as “my life partner, my love, my best friend, and my mountain partner.”
The North Face said Nelson “held a spirit as big as the places she led us to,” adding in its statement that “she embodied possibility. Her adventures made us feel at home in the vastness of the world.”
Last week, Nelson wrote an Instagram post about the challenges of the trip along with pictures of the expedition.
“I haven’t felt as sure-footed on Manaslu as I have on past adventure into the thin atmosphere of the high Himalaya,” she wrote, mentioning the bad weather which has plagued climbers in recent days.
“These past 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 bailed from camp 3 and head down, (on skis).”
Nelson was a pioneer in the mountaineering community and a role model to the new generation of climbers.
She had made first descents through more than 40 expeditions across the world 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, and pushed the limits of what is expected in the sport.
Manveena Suri and Ben Church contributed to this report.