A Telluride woman was first to ski from the Lhotse summit. She’s still recovering from “post-traumatic stoke.”
Hilaree Nelson was in the zone, breathing hard in the proverbial death zone. She and her partner, Jim Morrison, had not yet strapped on oxygen masks as they neared the 27,940-foot summit of Lhotse and they’d been crawling up the north face of the Himalayan peak for hours.
Photographer Nick Kalisz broke through the laborious fog and told Nelson she needed to turn around and check out the sunrise. They were six of the world’s top mountaineers alone in Everest’s Western Cwm, with not another soul for miles.
“Just imagine, we had been up walking at 2 a.m. and it was such black dark and it was so cold and scary and the sun just brings this whole feeling of life,” said Nelson, the Telluride mother of two and pioneering ski mountaineer who joined Morrison in September 2018 to become the first people ever to ski from the summit of Lhotse, the world’s fourth-highest peak. “I just remember falling back. It brought tears to my eyes and I remember thinking this is why I do this. This is why I take five weeks away from my kids, and this is why I love these mountains so much.”
It’s those small moments that pay the biggest rewards for Nelson, whose unrivaled ascent and ski descent of Lhotse marked one of skiing’s most heralded moments.
“We went to Lhotse to climb it and ski it, so we had that expectation and we prepared ourselves for that success — or that failure,” she said in an interview with The Colorado Sun that will be included in this season’s Next Level Skiing podcast. “But you don’t prepare yourself for all those little things along the way, and that’s what really makes the adventure. That’s what really makes it so worthwhile and really sets the tone for the joy of being successful. I had someone tell me ‘Oh after you skied Lhotse you must be so bored and it must not be that fun to come home and ski Telluride.’ And I was like ‘Oh my gosh you are totally missing the point.’ I just love skiing and I love being in the mountains and it’s because of those little moments.”
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