KATHMANDU, Nepal -- The body of top US ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson was retrieved from the Himalayas by a search team on Wednesday, two days after she disappeared on the slopes of Nepal's Manaslu peak.
Nelson slipped and went missing while skiing down the world's eighth-highest mountain after a successful summit with her partner Jim Morrison on Monday.
Morrison led the search operations and found her body Wednesday morning, after landing at an elevation of around 6,700 metres (22,000 feet) on a helicopter.
"I skied first and after a few turns Hilaree followed and started a small avalanche. She was swept off her feet and carried down a narrow snow slope down the south side (opposite from climbing route) of the mountain," Morrison posted on his Instagram, describing what happened after their summit.
Morrison was able to reach the base camp safely, but bad weather hampered the desperate search operation on Monday and Tuesday.
"I'm in Kathmandu with her and her spirit. My loss is indescribable and I am focused on her children and their steps forward. @hilareenelson is the most inspiring person in life and now her energy will guide our collective souls," he wrote.
"I'm devastated by the loss of her."
Nelson, 49, is described by her sponsor, The North Face, as "the most prolific ski mountaineer of her generation".
A decade ago, she became the first woman to summit both the highest mountain in the world, Everest, and the adjacent Lhotse peak within the span of 24 hours.
She returned to Lhotse and made the first ski descent of the mountain in 2018, which earned her the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award.
In an Instagram post last week, Nelson said her latest climb had been deeply challenging because of "incessant rain" and dangerous conditions.
"I haven't felt as sure-footed on Manaslu as I have on past adventure into the thin atmosphere of the high Himalaya," Nelson wrote in a post on Thursday.
"These past weeks have tested my resilience in new ways."
-'Her legacy' -
Mountaineers and well-wishers have shared heartfelt messages for Nelson since she went missing.
"Let's pray for Hilaree," fellow The North Face athlete Fernanda Maciel, currently at the Manaslu base camp, wrote on Instagram on Tuesday.
Mountain guide Caroline George thanked Nelson for inspiring her own adventures.
"She is a beacon... I have infinite gratitude for her journey on this planet and for the legacy she leaves," she wrote.
Constant rain and snow have been a challenge for the 404 paying climbers attempting to reach the summit of Manaslu this year.
On the same day as Nelson's accident, an avalanche hit between Camps 3 and 4 on the 8,163-metre (26,781-foot) mountain, killing Nepali climber Anup Rai and injuring a dozen others who were later rescued.
The deaths of Nelson and Rai are the first confirmed casualties of the autumn climbing season in Nepal.
Nepal is home to eight of the world's 14 highest peaks and foreign climbers who flock to its mountains are a major source of revenue for the country.
The industry was almost completely shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, but the country reopened its peaks to mountaineers last year.
© Agence France-Presse