A Tribute to Hilaree Nelson


By: Mario Molina

Dear Hilaree,

It’s been a bit over a week since you’ve been gone and already, you are transitioning from friend and role model to mythic legend. The anecdotes, stories, and tributes from friends, climb-ski partners, and people worldwide who never had the opportunity to meet you, but who you inspired are everywhere. 

At POW, our sadness is balanced with the global celebration of your life and legacy of excellence. I remember being taken aback by your humility as we worked together to prepare for the World Economic Summit in Davos, “I’m not sure I’m qualified to be on a panel with Christina Figueres and Al Gore!” But of course, you were.

Hilaree Nelson speaking at the 2018 World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, France.

You walked on that stage with calm and poise and spoke with confident eloquence. 

What the world didn’t see on that stage, as you shared your climate story, was how you balanced that work and time in the mountains with being a dedicated mom and loving partner to Jim: “hold on! I’m rushing out the door to pick up (or was it drop off?) the kids and I don’t have a notepad. Can I call you back?”

Your ability to juggle the daily demands of life, while setting your sights on the most ambitious objectives in the mountains continued to amaze me over the five years that I knew you. You would get briefed on climate policy and talking points, then hop into expedition planning for Lhotse or the Arctic. Finding time to cheer your boys on at lacrosse games across the country and also go to Washington, DC to advocate for the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge then hop from the Hill into NatGeo talks to share the wonder of the high peaks. And regardless of who was in the room with you, everyone was awestruck and yet could sense that you were relatable. 

“We will hold your energy close to our hearts. Your presence in our memories will be a reminder to live in the moment, appreciating the wonderful world and the people we share it with.”

-Professional climber and POW Board Member, Conrad Anker

Looking from the outside, sometimes it all seemed superhuman. All it took, however, was a conversation around a campfire or cragging at a POW summit, to see the depth of your humanity. You consistently showed respect, interest, compassion, and empathy for anyone you interacted with; yet you never failed to challenge us to get outside more, climb more, travel more, and ski more. And you demonstrated how it was all possible by your many achievements with Jim in the mountains.

Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison on the summit of Lhotse

🖤 Love you Hilaree,

No words needed to describe this woman. She was a friend, teammate, and one of the most important mentors in my life.

May you fly high and find peace. You’ve touched so many lives 🖤

-Professional runner and POW Trail Team Captain, Stephanie Howe

As for Jim, you would be so proud of him. You once told me, “he is a strong, proud man.” Yep, he’s demonstrated that and more, yet again. I don’t know if any other human being could have led the team that got you off the mountain. He is surrounded with love and we are all here ready to belay him. 

You exemplified the best of human qualities and the vastness of our potential. As your legacy and story join the mythology of mountain legends, I will try to remember what I learned from you: excellence in our pursuits and relationships does not ask us to be superhuman, it demands the highest expression of our humanity. 

Thank you for being a part of the solution. See you on the other side. 

– Mario Molina

Mario Molina

Author: Mario Molina

An avid alpinist, snowboarder, mountain biker, guide, and life adventurer, Molina previously served as international director at The Climate Reality Project, where he designed the organization’s climate leadership trainings and oversaw its post-Paris Agreement international strategy. Prior to his work at Climate Reality, Molina led strategy and programs as deputy director at the Alliance for […]