Celebrated American ski mountaineer missing in Nepal's Himalayas

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KATHMANDU – Renowned US ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson has gone missing on Nepal’s Manaslu mountain, on the same day an avalanche killed a Nepali climber on the same peak, expedition organisers and officials said Tuesday.

Ms Nelson was skiing down Manaslu – the world’s eighth-highest mountain – after having successfully summited it with her partner Jim Morrison on Monday.

“She had an accident yesterday as she was descending shortly after her summit. We are trying to get clarity on what happened,” Mr Jiban Ghimire, of Shangri-La Nepal Treks, which organised the expedition, told AFP.

On Monday, an avalanche hit between Camps 3 and 4 on the 8,163m mountain, killing a Nepali climber and injuring a dozen others, the government’s tourism department said. The death was the first confirmed casualty of the autumn climbing season in Nepal.

Constant rain and snow have been a challenge for the 404 paying climbers attempting to reach the summit of Manaslu this year, and bad weather was also hampering rescue efforts, with helicopters unable to fly Monday due to the conditions.

Mr Ghimire said the weather improved Tuesday, and a helicopter was headed to the site of Ms Nelson’s accident.

Mr Morrison safely reached base camp and was accompanying the search and rescue team, Mr Ghimire added.

“I haven’t felt as sure-footed on Manaslu as I have on past adventures into the thin atmosphere of the high Himalaya,” Ms Nelson said in an Instagram post Thursday. “These past weeks have tested my resilience in new ways.”

The 49-year-old has had a career spanning two decades and is described as “the most prolific ski mountaineer of her generation” in a profile on sponsor North Face’s website.

In 2012, she became the first woman to summit the highest mountain in the world, Everest, and its adjacent Lhotse within 24 hours.

Six years later, she returned to Lhotse and made the first ski descent of the mountain, which earned her the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award.

Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks. Foreign climbers that flock to its mountains are a major source of revenue for the country.

The industry was almost completely shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, but the country reopened its peaks to mountaineers last year. AFP

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