Top 10 Expeditions of 2018: #6 : Skiing the Dream Line on Lhotse

Over the last 12 months, ExplorersWeb has documented incredible adventures in climbing, cycling, running, walking, skiing and anything involving force of will and dedication to a dream in the outdoors. As this year comes to a close, we present our countdown of the Top 10 Expeditions of 2018.


Lhotse Ski

Descending Lhotse. Photo: Hillaree Nelson

The upper couloir looks like death on a stick: perilously steep, icy and prone to rockfall. Add in the altitude, the numerous failed attempts, and the need to climb the world’s fourth highest peak just to get to the starting point, and Jim Morrison’s and Hilaree Nelson’s first ski descent down the Dream Line on Lhotse must rank as one of the boldest runs of all time.

Dream Line couloir on Lhotse

The Dream Line on Lhotse.

The pair summited 8,156m Lhotse on September 30, together with two other climbers and Sherpas. They had hoped to complete the climb without O2 but changed their minds at 8,200m, due to crusty, slow snow that took great effort to posthole through. “Otherwise, we would had not made it in time,” Nelson recalled. Once on top, everyone else started the long walk down, while Nelson and Morrison locked into their skis and schussed down the couloir, dubbed the Dream Line. They did not rope up and completed the descent to Camp 2 without removing their skis.

An estimated 25 people have skied the Lhotse Face, from Camp 4 or Camp 3 down to its base. The couloir itself, however, had stubbornly resisted all previous ski attempts. From the summit, the narrow, steep and rocky chute drops 700m at an average incline of 45 to 50 degrees, into an open face of around 1,400m that finishes at the head of the Western Cwm.

This Dream Line is guarded by steep and sustained “no fall” terrain, which requires strenuous jump turns — incredibly difficult to sustain at that altitude. After skiing the Lhotse Face in 2011, Chris Davenport told ExWeb, “The problem is that after 20 turns or so, you are about to pass out from oxygen deprivation.”

The skiers went in the post-monsoon season, with no other teams on the mountain. Both Morrison and Nelson had previously skied Denali and Cho Oyu together.

Past coverage:

Skiing the Dream Line

Will the Dream Line Finally be Skied?