Renowned Mountaineer, Extreme Skier, Devoted Mother

Hilaree Nelson ’95, an accomplished mountaineer and avid adventure-seeker, died in a ski mountaineering accident while descending from the 26,781-foot Mount Manaslu in Nepal on Sept. 26. Nelson’s body was recovered by a search and rescue team led by her partner, Jim Morrison, on Sept. 28, 2022.

Photo courtesy the North Face by Clayton Boyd

During her lifetime, Nelson embarked on more than 40 expeditions in 16 countries. She was the first woman to summit two 8,000-meter peaks, Mount Everest and Mount Lhotse, within 24 hours, and the first woman to descend from the summit of Lhotse on skis. Additionally, she was the first female captain of the North Face Athlete Team, a National Geographic Society grantee, and a 2018 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award winner.

Nelson lived in Telluride, Colorado, and was a loving mother to two sons, Quinn and Grayden O’Neill. Morrison, her partner in life, was also her partner in adventure, accompanying her on many expeditions.

A biology major at CC, Nelson ran and climbed frequently at Garden of the Gods and skied as often as possible. Pikes Peak was a favorite backcountry destination. At CC she strengthened her love for the mountains, and upon graduation she moved to France’s Chamonix Valley to pursue big-mountain skiing.

As an alumna, Nelson served on the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund Advisory Committee, providing guidance on program direction and allocation of funds to CC students to imagine, explore, challenge, and grow in their pursuit of outdoor adventure and education.

Nelson was known for her strength, resilience, and drive to push beyond her comfort zone, and also for her empathy, soulfulness, and love of learning. She lived an adventurous, inspiring, and meaningful life.

“What Hilaree stood for is seizing the moment and rejecting limitations in the pursuit of your dreams,” says Kishen Mangat ’96, former Colorado College Board of Trustees member, and a close friend of Nelson’s who served with her on the Ritt Kellogg Advisory Committee.

“She was gracious to all and stood tall, normally leading from the front,” Mangat says. “Hilaree’s greatness as a ski mountaineer transcends gender. We should not view her as the greatest female ski mountaineer, but simply an all-time great.

She has opened the door for women in the male dominated world of mountaineering, which will be a big part of her legacy.

For those of us who were lucky enough to climb, ski (and party — she was a hell of a good time) with Hilaree… she was taking advantage of her prodigious skill and potential, while being beautiful, goofy, loving, and humble.”

A memorial was held in Telluride Town Park on Oct. 15, with hundreds of friends, family, and fans in attendance who were inspired by her adventures.