Mother, partner, teammate, captain
With a career encompassing dozens of first descents through more than 40 expeditions to 16 different countries, Hilaree Nelson is regarded as the most prolific ski mountaineer of her generation. The mother of two was the first female to link two 8000m peaks, Everest and Lhotse, in one 24 hour push. In the fall of 2018, she returned to 27,940-foot Lhotse a second time to ski from the summit, linking turns down one of the most prized un-skied lines in the world.
Hilaree grew up in Seattle, skiing on the weekends at Stevens Pass in Washington’s Cascades. After college, Hilaree booked a one-way ticket to Chamonix, France that would change the course of her life. That first season, she learned the ins and outs of ski mountaineering (and won a world extreme skiing contest). One winter turned into five. Hilaree discovered she had the engine for climbing, and after her first TNF expedition to India, she was hooked.
In 2014, she received a National Geographic Explorers grant to lead an audacious expedition to a little known peak in the far northern reaches of Myanmar, Hkakabo Razi. Ultimately unsuccessful, the story of human and physical drama that unfolded was documented in the award-winning 2015 film Down to Nothing and earned her a spot on the National Geographic Live Speaker series through which she shared her stories to audiences across the country. In 2017 Men’s Journal named her one of the most adventurous women of the last 25 years.
In 2017, together with partner Jim Morrison, Hilaree summited 21,165 foot Papsura, a.k.a. The Peak of Evil, just 12 days after arriving in India, cementing the first American ascent of the mountain. After an icy, 3,000-foot, 60-degree virgin ski descent with almost no visibility, she realized a dream almost two decades in the making. Her perseverance with this objective and her ultimate success earned her recognition as a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for 2018. Two weeks later, Hilaree and Jim headed to Denali in Alaska, where they climbed the Cassin Ridge and skied the Messner couloir. It was a breakthrough year.
In 2018, she was named captain of The North Face Athlete Team, a title only one other athlete has held: Conrad Anker.
Hilaree Nelson held a spirit as big as the places she led us to. She embodied possibility. Her adventures made us feel at home in the vastness of the world.