178: Hilaree Nelson is a world class adventurer, mountaineer & high altitude ski who has been the first woman to climb Mt Everest + Lhotse within 24 hours

November 20, 2020

Hilaree Nelson

Hilaree Nelson talks about her hometown of Seattle and how it informed her appreciation of being outdoors. “Ironically, it took me leaving Seattle to find my way as a mountaineer and really discover what that was, and a sky mountaineer at that. I skied from a super young age at Stevens Pass in Washington. I skied at Crystal and I skied a few times at Baker. There are amazing mountain ranges surrounding Seattle, and a lot of people I know who discovered mountains have moved to Seattle for that reason.”

On this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, we talk with Hilaree Nelson, Professional Ski Mountaineer for North Face, National Geographic Live Speaker, and TNF Athlete Team Captain about how she fell in love with climbing mountains. “I ended up leaving to go to Colorado to go to university. I think it was there that I first started going uphill with my skis instead of just downhill and really fell in love with it. But, I would say my real connection to wanting to do this for the rest of my life was after living in Cheminée in France, and experiencing the Alps and the history that they have. 

What You Will Learn:

How has Hilaree Nelson transformed mountaineering from a passionate hobby into a successful career? “When I first started down this path I didn’t think it would actually be a career. I was working three different jobs. I was also a Hally Ski Guide. I was doing everything I could to make ends meet and really just following a passion, a love, something that I found myself to be really good at.”

Where has Hilaree’s motivation for mountain climbing come from? “I wanted to see how far that could take me I guess, where I go, and sort of learning my physical and mental boundaries within the sport of ski mountaineering. As I progressed I had a lot of doors open for me, partly because I was a female in a fairly male-dminated world, the world of mountaineering in general.”

How long did it take Hilaree Nelson to start going pro? “It probably wasn’t until I was 5, 6, 7, years into this path, I had a sponsorship from North Face that I started focusing solely on being a pro athlete in that regard and letting go of some of the other jobs and starting to make some money enough to support what I wanted to do, what I love to do.” 

What have been the elements of mountaineering that have excited Hilaree Nelson? “I found myself really drawn to really remote places. I have a really mathematical brain. So, places that really required a lot of logistical planning, places that despite the logistical planning things often were a mystery. Things would totally go awry and it was all about thinking on your feet. It was all about adjusting, adversity, all things that really go back to that initial experiential passion of knowing my boundaries, blasting through them. How can I do better? How can I be more? How can I do more? Ironically, a lot of those things weren’t even on the mountain. They were traveling to get to the mountain or traveling to get back.”

How has she developed her strong, unflappable mindset? “I grew up in a very family-orientated way, a very protected sheltered home. I was the youngest. I had the big brother that looked out for me all of the time. I had the same group of friends that I played basketball with. That was a huge part of my life as a kid was playing basketball. I played basketball with the same group of girls from the age of 8 to 18. So, for me to step away from that and go out on my own to a state that I had never been to and didn’t know anyone there, and I immediately found friends that got me into rock climbing and ski touring. I think that the question mark that I always had about myself growing up was, I can do all of these things with all of this help and all of this familiarity. But, I want to see who I am when I am by myself and I am forging my own path.”  

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

“No matter where you live, if you can just take 10 minutes in a day and find a park or find a way to walk around the block and be outside. It has always been my go-to place to scream at the top of my lungs or to let out whatever type of frustrations I have in life. Again, I am really fortunate to live here. But, gosh, I hope everyone can just find that space wherever you live to just manage the things that we are going through and just life in general.”

Common Mistakes

During this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, Hilaree Nelson mentions the most typical mistake that she notices amateur climbers making. “Part of these lines of people when you are trying to summit Everest with these groups is that you are in a line. The most common mistake that inexperienced climbers make is they take that jumar and they ram it right into the knots at the top of a line. If you do that, you can’t get the jumar off of the line. So, then everyone is just standing there waiting. Us being pro climbers, we would just take our jumar off and just climb without a rope.”

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