Hilaree Nelson, famed US mountaineer, missing on Nepal’s Manaslu peak

The Guardian
The Guardian
Ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson has gone missing on Manaslu mountain in Nepal.

The renowned US big-mountain skier Hilaree Nelson has gone missing on a trek in the Himalayas after apparently falling into a 2,000ft crevasse.

Nelson and her partner, Jim Morrison, had scaled the 26,781ft peak of Manaslu mountain on Monday morning. Jiban Ghimire of Shangri-La Nepal Treks, which organised the expedition, told Outside Magazine that the pair reached the summit at 11:30am local time.

“About 15 minutes later, I got a call from our staff at base camp that her ski blade skidded off and [she] fell off the other side of the peak,” he said.

Nelson appeared to fall into a 2,000-foot crevasse as she and Morrison, along with their three Sherpa guides, skied down from the peak. Ghimire told the New York Times that weather delayed search efforts and “it takes three days to reach the incident site from base camp”.

Also on Monday, an avalanche in a lower portion of the mountain killed one climber and injured a dozen others.

A Nepali tourism department official told the Times that the effort to rescue Nelson may be unsuccessful.

“Based on the briefings and difficult terrain, it’s really hard to say whether we will be able to rescue her alive,” the official said.

North Face, a sponsor of Nelson, said in a statement on Monday that the company was “in touch with Hilaree’s family and [is] support[ing] search and rescue efforts in every way we can”.

On Thursday, Nelson wrote on Instagram of the challenging conditions she and Morrison were facing on Manaslu, with heavy rain and humidity making the climbing difficult.

“I haven’t felt as sure-footed on Manaslu as I have on past adventures into the thin atmosphere of the high Himalaya,” she wrote. “These past weeks have tested my resilience in new ways.”
Mount Manaslu, Nepal. Photograph: Amit Machamasi/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Manaslu, the eighth-tallest mountain in the world, has seen a busy climbing season in its high peaks. The Nepali government issued 404 climbing permits for the fall so far, up from 150 last year, according to Outside Magazine. While the mountain is considered one of the easier high peaks to climb, its massive avalanches have proved deadly: in 2012, an avalanche killed eight climbers.

Nelson, 49, who has two children, is one of the highest-profile mountaineers, with a career spanning two decades. North Face describes her as “the most prolific ski mountaineer of her generation” on its website. In 2012, she became the first woman to climb both the summit of Everest and the peak of adjacent mountain Lhotse within 24 hours.

In 2018, the resident of Telluride, Colorado, was awarded the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award after making the first ski down Lhotse that year.

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