Helicopter Searches Manaslu for Missing Hilaree Nelson

Despite the chaos and difficult conditions after yesterday’s avalanche, family and friends still hold out hope for missing American skier Hilaree Nelson. A helicopter is searching for the 49-year-old Nelson, who fell during her ski descent on Manaslu yesterday.

The nature of the accident remains unclear. The first reports published yesterday stated that the skier fell into a 25m crevasse. Later, Jiban Ghimire of the skiers’ outfitting company Shangri-La Treks, told the Everest Chronicle that Nelson’s “ski blade skidded off and [she] fell off the other side of the peak”.

Ghimire stated that the avalanche took place below where Nelson fell but eyewitnesses in Camp 3 suggest a slightly different course of events. They have said that it was the avalanche itself that caused Nelson to fall, while Jim Morrison somehow managed to stay on course and avoid the avalanche debris.

Climber Fernanda Maciel, who had turned around just before the avalanche hit, posted that Nelson “was caught by another avalanche just below the summit” and that Morrison is now onboard the rescue helicopter searching for his partner.

Significantly, Nelson was using supplementary oxygen. If she is alive, the gas may help her to resist the cold while rescuers search for her.

Nelson looks down while progressing up in deep snow, her skies strapped to her backpack.

Hilaree Nelson climbs in fresh snow on Manaslu during a rotation last week. Photo: Jim Morrison


Nelson’s sponsor, The North Face, has released an official note stating they are in touch with Nelson’s family and are “supporting search and rescue efforts in every way”.

Hilaree Nelson

Hilaree Nelson’s rangy athleticism became apparent when she was a teenager, Sports Illustrated reported, and her father hoped she would choose basketball. Instead, she left for Europe right after graduating from Colorado College with a biology degree and immediately strapped on the sticks.

She began her career as a competitive skier, winning a European women’s championship event in 1996. But the mountains beckoned, and she followed the call.

Two skiers take a break during a descent in whiteout conditions.

Jim Morrison and Hilaree Nelson on Manaslu last week. Photo: Jim Morrison


In 2002, she made the first ski descent of the Mongolian Altai Mountains’ Five Holy peaks, which centre around a UNESCO World Heritage site and rise above 4,000m. In 2005, she pushed the envelope further, successfully skiing from the summit of Cho Oyu (8,188m). And in 2012, Nelson tagged Everest and Lhotse to become the first woman to summit two 8,000m peaks in less than 24 hours.

But in a lifetime of firsts and female firsts, Nelson’s defining moment came in 2018. That year, she and Morrison completed the first-ever ski descent of Lhotse. The accomplishment earned Nelson the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award.


Hilaree Nelson’s background information by Sam Anderson.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.