KATHMANDU, Nepal – American extreme skiers who overcame threatening weather conditions and equipment problems to successfully ski down from the summit of the world’s fourth-highest peak returned safely from the mountain on Thursday.
James Morrison of Tahoe, California, and Hilaree Nelson of Telluride arrived in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, looking forward to a break after becoming the first people to ski down from Mount Lhotse’s 27,940-foot summit.
They were the only team in the Mount Everest-Lhotse region during the autumn season, which is less popular with climbers than the spring season because of poorer weather. Lhotse is a sister peak of Everest and the two mountains share most of the same climbing route.
The skiers said they faced problems and delays but were able to complete their mission over the weekend.
“There were a few times when it was more difficult than I thought it was going to be and I thought we might not make it, but not because I was going to die but just because I was going to give up,” Nelson said.
They said the snow conditions were difficult because it was right after the monsoon season, which brings rain to the rest of the country but large amounts of snow in the mountains. They also knew high winds were headed their way and they needed to finish before the winds arrived.
Nelson said they tried to climb the mountain without using oxygen tanks, but the last part was very difficult and they were forced to use supplemental oxygen.
Other climbers have skied down Everest but this is the first time anyone has done it on Lhotse. Nelson said she decided to try it when she climbed both Everest and Lhotse in 2012.
“I was scared but I like to be a little scared,” she said about the moment she strapped on her skis and began descending the 60 degree slope.
Morrison said they had planned to begin in early September but it was pushed back due to delays in getting equipment to the mountain.
“I always had doubts but I was pretty determined to make it work. I had pretty good confidence,” he said. “The weather was an issue, our equipment was an issue, the weather in Kathmandu and getting our equipment flown up there was an issue. I was always fearful but we just kept on pushing.”
Their team, which included two other climbers and some Nepalese Sherpa guides, was the only one at the base camp and had to climb on its own. The base camp is normally crowded with hundreds of climbers and guides during the popular spring season who help place ropes and ladders along the path to the summit.