Weekend Warm-Up: Lhotse

Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison are professional ski mountaineers who (as with all great tales) intertwine their escapades with a romantic side story. The couple have been together for three years, after first meeting on Everest. They’re shown their combined strengths on numerous expeditions.

In 2017, they skied Denali. That same year, they tackled 6,451m Mt. Papsura, in India. But there is perhaps no greater accomplishment than being the first to ski Lhotse, the fourth highest peak in the world.

Jim Morrison and Hilaree Nelson, returning from their pioneering ski descent of Lhotse.


Lhotse is sometimes known as “the other Everest”. Not quite as high, but more technical. To reach its summit is hard enough; to ski it is a whole different ballgame.

Hilaree Nelson also happens to be one of those women who juggle two jobs: busy mum and athlete. Clearly, she’s accustomed to a hard grind, not just in the mountains.

After an alpine start, Jim Morrison and Hilaree Nelson continue as the darkness lifts.


Nelson was a late starter to ski mountaineering. At first, she wanted to become a marine biologist. At that time, Nelson lived on a Caribbean island. One day, she took a leisurely hike up a small mountain. There, the idea of being above the clouds, rather than beneath the ocean, couldn’t escape her. It’s clear that her real passion comes from exploring –- whether underwater or above earth –- and endurance.

Morrison, on the other hand, describes himself as a good planner. He brings the strength of logistics to their partnership.

Jim Morrison skiing down Lhotse. Photo: Nick Kalisz


One of the hardest elements of Lhotse is that upper zone where it impossible to recover from the hard work, even from the effort of breathing. Nelson describes how her endurance lets her keep her power versus her body’s breakdown at an enviably even keel.

In the film, the pair recount their ascent, including the crossroads they faced just 300m from the top, when they had to dig deeper than ever before to keep going.

In the years before Nelson’s success with Morrison on Papsura, she’d experienced several failures and carried with her that niggling feeling of defeat that she wanted to overcome. Morrison’s motivation was entirely different. He learnt what true loss felt like when his wife and children were killed in an airplane crash.

So as the pair sank into snow up to their hips, they had to decide between reaching the summit without oxygen or skiing down. Their ambition was the ski element, so they chose to continue that final stretch with oxygen.

No doubt the script has not been written for this pair. But for now, September 30, 2018 marked the time that two humans first skied Lhotse.