After a personal tragedy, an American couple entered the history of skiing • cbsnews.com

Imagine climbing to the summit of a summit of more than five miles, an altitude mountaineer called the "zone of death". The air contains about a third of the oxygen that it contains at sea level and the human body literally begins to close.

Now, think about skiing all the way down. This may seem impossible, but a couple has entered the records by doing just that.

The adventurers Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison are two of the most prestigious skiers in the world. They both overcame incredible challenges – physical and emotional – to reach the pinnacle of their sport.

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Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison

CBS

Jan Crawford, correspondent for CBS News, met them on the San Juan Mountain peaks, among the highest in America, at 12,000 feet, where Nelson and Morrison showed their training grounds for the # 39; s impossible. Their goal was on the other side of the world: the 28,000-foot Lhotse in the Himalayas.

Last fall, after three years of preparation, they not only climbed, but they also skied.

At 7,000 feet above sea level, they faced vertical drops in unexplored and unimaginable conditions. What Nelson describes as "one of the most variable, difficult and challenging situations for death I know" left no room for error.

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North Face / Nick Kalisz and Dutch Simpson

"The smallest thing that goes wrong with your plan can mean a big difference between your eventual success or your failure," said Morrison.

Or even life and death.

What is driving people like Nelson and Morrison to push their limits? Nelson grew up in the sport before skiing became his passion.

"I think it's very powerful to be persistent in something," Nelson said. "And I think it's really important to live outside this box that we create all around us and tell us what you can and can not do."

Now the mother of two boys, she also sees in her career a lesson in life.

"More than anything, they understand that the lesson to be learned is that it's really hard to take that first step," Nelson said. "Just try and you may not be able to do it, but at least you tried, and then you know where: until you can push yourself a little further next time."

Continuing their journey, Lhotse came with his share of suffering. But for Morrison, the physical pain on the mountain was nothing compared to the emotional trauma he had experienced seven years ago, a trauma that led him to climb the highest peaks in the world.

"I lost my wife and children in a plane crash in 2011. And my world ended in an instant," Morrison said.

"Have you ever thought you could not continue?" Crawford asked him.

"Yes," Morrison replied.

"How are you doing?"

"I've found a way out of the mountain and doing something that interests me and doing something that excites me and doing physical activity that helps me with my loss," he said. Morrison.

Four years after the tragedy, while he was climbing to Nepal, Morrison met Nelson, who had been through a painful divorce. Six months later, they started a romantic relationship.

"I would give anything in the world for not having passed through what you went through … But … not having this ability to take away those things made us who we are "said Nelson.

Morrison's healing path was wrapped up last spring while he was on a summit next to Lhotse, Mount Everest.

"I spent about 45 minutes climbing alone in this place where I was totally connected with my kids," Morrison said. "And I felt like I was closer to them than I had been in years."

He said that he spoke to them and to himself. "I laughed and laughed and was totally alone at 28,000 feet," Morrison said.

"Like you're so close to paradise," said Crawford.

"It was like I was on the edge of paradise," Morrison said.

A few months later, Morrison was back on the roof of the world on Lhotse. This time, his companion was the woman who defines the next chapters of his life.

"We had a lot of life to live before we found each other and to find our bond, and a lot of good things happened and a lot of bad things happened for both of us, things that we share and understand now. We are probably better partners for climbing and skiing, for this reason, "said Morrison.

"I think we have lived enough experiences so that we really appreciate the present moment," Nelson said.

And those moments – now shared together, whether on Lhotse or in their Rocky Mountain backyard – are pretty spectacular.

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