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Hilaree Nelson Death: What A Shocking News!
This week has been difficult for me in the aftermath of Hilaree Nelson’s death in Manaslu in Nepal on September 26. My internal compass is in motion. There’s a hackneyed Proust quotation that says, “Never meet the people you adore; you’ll be disappointed.”
That’s crap since Hilaree is one of the individuals I’ve admired since the first time I met her. She was a role model for many of us. Hilaree was proud of their successes yet humble in their presentation.
She was tenacious in her pursuits but kind to newcomers. She made the most of every moment spent outside in nature while simultaneously making time for a two-hour phone chat with a friend. She was a hero who led by following her internal compass.
Those of us who spend our lives in the mountains understand that death is a part of the game. This is still incredible. Hil felt like one of the unbeatables. She had been pushing her limits for the previous 25 years, making great descents long after most of her contemporaries had given up.
At 49, I can’t think of many men or women skiing at her level. Who carried on with that drive, who explored what they were capable of for so long? Still, the customary problems arise: how can we help those in her immediate circle who have suffered the greatest loss? How can we come to terms with the fact that we can’t call or laugh with someone who seemed like a big sister to us? How can we continue to live in the mountains while remaining alive?
Despite my extensive experience with loss and trauma, I feel like a beginner all over again. I wanted to contact her as soon as I received the news. I desired Hilaree’s ideas and guidance even after she died.
Fortunately, I kept it in our texts from when I lost my boyfriend, Austrian alpinist David Lama, in an avalanche in 2019. She taught many of us a lot, including how to live without her. I’d like to share some of her words with you right now.
“I adore you.” Hilaree clearly loved because of the manner she lived. She enjoyed skiing. She adored her coworker Jim Morrison. She adored her pals. She adored sausages and fine wine. But no one loved her more than her two boys, Quinn and Grayden.
She included them as much as she could into her life, bringing them to The North Face athlete summits, planning her travels around time with them, taking them to basecamps, and gushing over them whenever she could.
Her decision to live a risky life did not imply she was unconcerned about her responsibilities as a mother. She realized that being a parent and an athlete didn’t have to be mutually exclusive, and instead she lived completely as both.
“Be patient and take one step at a time.” Hold on tight. I’ve been thinking a lot about that term lately since the previous five years have been difficult for me. My recently dead father would say that frequently. Slowing things down gives it a whole new meaning.
We only have to be bold enough to go through them. Hilaree was notorious for urging people to toughen up when they needed to, and I remembered that as the wave generated by her absence crashed. Hold on to the wave, it will pass.
“I also understand how it feels to discover that individual.” You are unique, and he was your perfect match, and he adored you.” Jim was Hilaree’s guy. They were sincerely and passionately in love with each other. My first encounter with them as a pair was during a Protect Our Winters athlete summit.
While seated at a meeting table or waiting for a chairlift, Jim’s hands were always wrapped around Hilaree. They were touching each other and making out like adolescents. They were, however, in their forties.
Jim and Hilaree are such a good example of a couple. Love as though you’re 18 Help your spouse achieve their goals. Jim was constantly encouraging and supporting Hilaree’s desire to spend time in the mountains.
He encouraged her leadership and spirit of adventure. Hilaree would glow as brightly after a day of skiing as she would after a day spent close to Jim. “I’m not sure how you adapt to life without that person and that future today.”
Despite spending time in locations few people can visit, Hilaree was equally adept at surviving in the valleys. She was so anchored in everyday life. This came across in her straightforward manner.
She was a mentor to most of the individuals she met, but not the sort that pretended to have all the answers. Instead, she was the type of person who was willing to go through the motions with you. “I know you have a whole network of people who love you and want to support and help you get through this.”
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