This week we honor the legacy of Hilaree Nelson, 49, Pioneer Ski Mountaineer, and all-around badass. Why do we love her? She knew who she was and was brilliant at it.
She became the first woman to summit two 8000-meter peaks in one 24-hour push on May 25, 2012. Outside Magazine acknowledged her as being among “the most accomplished ski mountaineers and alpinists on the planet.” In 2018, her sponsor, The North Face Company, named her Captain of the athletic team for The North Face.
Unfortunately, Hilaree lost her life this past week in an avalanche accident during one of her ski endeavors, just 2 months shy of her 50th birthday. We will never know what other inspiring feats she might have conquered in her midlife years.
Here are a few quotes from Hilaree and an indication of how she thought about women taking the forefront in a competitive, extreme sports industry mostly dominated by men.
On midlife identity: “My mom was a full-time mom, and when I was the last kid to leave, she didn’t know who she was. She spent quite a few years being really lost. I just feel strongly about keeping my identity while being a mom. It’s very possible to do.”
On passion: “It’s truly a necessity to have a passion as a compass in life.”
On undertaking big goals: “There is so much value in saying “yes”. Hilaree’s advice on attempting big goals was “just try”. If you look at a slope, or a hill, or a stairclimber and think “that’s impossible; its too much”, you’ll never try. Her message seems to be that, instead of throwing in the towel, just TRY.
Hilaree will be missed in the world of mountaineering as she was truly a pioneer. A woman, unafraid to tackle the unachievable.
Rest in peace Hilaree, your legacy will inspire women around the world for years to come.