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'Trailblazer and role model': Fellow mountaineer reflects on Hilaree Nelson's legacy

Hilaree Nelson went missing on Monday while skiing down the world's eighth-highest mountain in Nepal. Her body was recovered on Wednesday.

SEATTLE — Seattle-born extreme skier Hilaree Nelson will be remembered by the mountaineering community as a fearless athlete and an inspiration to many.

Nelson, 49, went missing Monday while skiing down from the 8,163-meter (26,775-foot) summit of Mount Manaslu, the world’s eighth-highest mountain, with her partner, Jim Morrison. Her body was recovered on Wednesday.

Alison Levine is a fellow mountaineer. She said Nelson's death is a huge loss for the people who love her and the sport of extreme skiing.

"She was someone that, for more than two decades, has really gotten out there and broken boundaries and pushed her limits with multiple firsts," Levine said.

Levine said Nelson changed the sport for women. She said in 2012, Nelson was the first woman to summit Everest in 24 hours. 

"She really became a well-known name in the industry, one of the most accomplished adventurers in the sport," Levine said. "Not just one of the most accomplished women in the sport, one of the most accomplished human beings in the sport."

Levine said that for over two decades, Nelson was known for pushing boundaries.

"I think she mentioned her success rate was about 50/50 because she tried really hard things and she wanted to do things that no one else had done. She wanted to break barriers," Levine said.

Levine said that not only was Nelson an accomplished climber, but she was responsible and smart.

"She was an incredibly responsible climber and ski mountaineer. She was a mother of two, but sometimes there are risks and things that happen that are completely out of our control and this is one of those situations," Levine said. "I have so much respect and admiration for her and I know she was a smart climber and was always responsible when it came to taking risks. I think that's important for people to know."

The list of Nelson's accomplishments and the records she broke is a long one. Levine said she was one of the most well-respected and admired in the sport.

"When so many people see her doing these incredible things, that inspires them to get out of their comfort zone and try things as well," Levine said. "And I think that her legacy will be a strong one and she will be remembered for years and years and years to come."

The North Face, which sponsored Nelson, sent KING 5 a statement, which read in part:                                       

“Today we lost our hero, mentor, and our friend. Hilaree Nelson held a spirit as big as the places she led us to. She embodied possibility. Her adventures made us feel at home in the vastness of the world."

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