Big-mountain skiers Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison’s first turns on the summit of Lhotse, the fourth-highest mountain in the world, took commitment. The snow on the 27,940-foot Himalayan summit was waist-deep and sugary, sloughing off a rocky pyramid at the top of the mountain. With a slope angle of 60 degrees and plenty of high-altitude exposure, this triangular cliff was their entrance into the Lhotse Couloir, the iconic 2,000-foot north-facing line that makes this descent so coveted by skiers.
At 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 30, both Nelson and Morrison clicked into their ski bindings on the summit and became the first people to ski the Lhotse Couloir. Morrison dropped into the right side and made hop turns from the top. “There was just enough snow to make it possible,” says Morrison.
Nelson arm-wrapped a rope and shimmied to get around the cliff. Then both skiers made calculated, careful turns into the fold of the couloir.
The rest of the 7,000-foot descent was direct and uncomplicated, save for the fact that they were skiing at such a high elevation and the snow conditions were ever changing. Morrison described the conditions as a “mixed bag of tricks” that varied from “relatively good snow, to ice, to breakable crust, to windboard.”
“Half our skis would be on this slippery wind slab and the other half would be buried in sugar,” says Nelson.