Hilaree skiing on Baffin Island


Hilaree Nelson

The Chosen Path: Hilaree Nelson 1972-2022

Once upon a time, there was a world where even a skilled woman was very rarely included on a mountain expedition team. One could argue that this era lasted for most of the 20th century. After that came a time when the rare woman of a certain caliber was invited, but was often tokenized, her presence rarely, if ever, equal to that of her male counterparts. Then, of course, there was the calendar of life, when a female athlete became a mother and people postulated that her place was no longer in the hills.

We humans operate in these stories told, systems learned and myths pondered. The defining facet of Hilaree Nelson’s life, however, is that she absorbed those same inputs, then created a new world entirely.

I first met Hilaree in April 1999 as we folded our laundry on the outdoor tables at la laverie in Argentiere, France. We’d just returned from separate missions, our first international ski expeditions. Hilaree had gone to India, I’d gone to Siberia, yet both were linked with The North Face teams. I saw the dedication and joy Hilaree had for her chosen career path as a professional in the mountains, on skis. I was one step behind her on the path of believing I could do the same. She led with conviction…

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