Body of missing American ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson found below Nepal peak

By Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) - The body of top American mountaineer Hilaree Nelson was found on Wednesday near a 26,700-foot (8,138-meter) mountain peak in Nepal where she went missing earlier this week.

Nelson, 49, was blown off Manaslu, the world's eighth-highest mountain, by a small avalanche on Monday morning Nepal time as she and her partner, Jim Morrison, skiied down from the summit, according to Morrison and her sponsor, The North Face.

"She was swept off her feet and carried down a narrow snow slope down the south side (opposite from climbing route) of the mountain," Morrison said.

Search and rescue teams were unable to find Nelson's body until Wednesday, when Morrison and a sherpa were airlifted to a spot 22,000 feet up the mountain.

"I'm in Kathmandu with her and her spirit," Morrison said in an Instagram post. "My loss is indescribable and I am focused on her children and their steps forward."

Nelson, who grew up in Seattle, was considered one of the top women ski mountaineers in the world. At the time of her death she was living in Telluride, Colorado, with her two sons.

"Today we lost our hero, mentor and our friend," The North Face wrote in a post Twitter. "Hilaree Nelson held a spirit as big as the places she led us to."

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Sandra Maler)