Hilaree Nelson Given a Sherpa Cremation

The ski mountaineer died in a Sept. 26 fall
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2022 11:23 AM CDT
Hilaree Nelson Given a Sherpa Cremation
Partner Jim Morrison, left, performs rituals during the funeral of famed American extreme skier Hilaree Nelson in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Hilaree Nelson died on Sept. 26 after falling thousands of feet when a small avalanche struck as she skied down the 26,781-foot Manaslu in Nepal. On Sunday, she received a traditional funeral at a Sherpa cremation ground in that country. The AP reports family, friends, mountaineers, and government officials gathered at the funeral pyre in Kathmandu, where the 49-year-old's body was placed on wood and topped with flowers and scarves. Buddhist monks then lit the pyre and filled the air with music and chanted prayers as those present lit incense. Outside Online separately takes a look at what made Nelson such a "giant in her field," presenting a piece that's half CV, half personal story.

It details her start: a youth spent skiing in the West, but a turning point when she moved to Chamonix, France, after college. It was there that her technical climbing skills matured, and where she "began pursuing bigger and more complicated objectives on her skis." Her standout accomplishments were many, among them a 2012 feat in which she summited Everest and Lhotse within 24 hours, making her the first woman to notch two 8,000-meter peaks in one day. The BBC adds that in 2018, she and partner Jim Morrison became the first to ski down Lhotse. In all, she completed 40-plus expeditions in 16 countries.

In that same year, she was appointed captain of the North Face global athlete team, taking over from Conrad Anker, who'd been in that slot for three decades. And yet she wasn't just a preeminent ski mountaineer: She was also a mother to two boys, a fact that attracted criticism. As climber Emily Harrington puts it, per Outside: "She knew that she was taking a different path than most women. She chose to become a mother at a time when you had to choose between your athletic career and being a mother, and she refused to choose." (Read more Mount Manaslu stories.)

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