Utah woman oldest to climb seven continents' highest peaks
Carol Masheter, at age 65, says she is now the oldest woman to have reached the top of the tallest mountains in all seven continents, a feat completed in four years: Denali, Aconcagua, Elbrus, Kilimanjaro, Vinson Massif, Everest and Kosciuszko.
It's likely she will keep the record, because those who issue permits for Everest in Tibet have since decided no one over 60 can attempt the climb.
Masheter, who arrived home in Salt Lake City from Australia Wednesday morning, said that attitude makes no sense when held up to death-rate statistics for big mountain climbs. Older people have better survival rates, she said, likely because they have better endurance and judgment.
"Each climber needs to be evaluated on their own merits," she said.
Masheter's merits can be traced to her childhood in Orange County, Calif., where her parents loaded chores onto her and her siblings and didn't pay them any allowance, but did pay them for chores her mother and father normally took on. Her parents required the kids to tithe to their church.
Masheter says she has saved 10 percent of her income for herself since age 8; by the time she was a freshman in high school, she was considered so responsible and organized that her neighbors would have her take care of their homes while they were away.
So you could say Masheter was in training all her life. But it wasn't until she was 50, when life dealt her multiple blows over a period of about 18 months, her sister became ill, Masheter lost her job as a university professor, her mother died and the man she loved left for someone else that she started climbing.
That was in 1997, in South America. "I was discovering my talents rather late in life," she said. And they weren't knitting or playing bridge.
"Mountaineering," Masheter said moments after getting off her plane and hugging a gaggle of welcoming Wasatch Mountain Club friends at the airport, "saved my life."
Most recently, on March 17, she stood atop Australia's 7,300-foot Mt. Kosciuszko and let rip what she calls her "silver fox howl," a cry of triumph she cheerfully demonstrated at the airport terminal baggage area.
She had been aiming for the 16,000-foot Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, considered by many in the mountaineering community to be the actual seventh summit. But her Indonesian guides couldn't get her to where she needed to be in time.
So when an Australian climbing friend offered her a spot in a group climbing Kosciouszko the Australian continent's tallest mountain she jumped at it. Almost literally, as she was in Sydney and had less than two days to pull herself together and deal with a balky Australian Internet service that made every email an ordeal.
As she trotted down the stairs to the baggage area, one of her friends, Vicky McDaniel, shouted out, "Carol, are you through yet?"
"No," Masheter called back. "Never stop."
When people asked her what's next, she said, "Carstensz Pyramid."
Masheter paid for her expeditions herself, out of her savings and investment proceeds. She only recently retired from her position as an epidemiologist for the Utah Health Department. She managed all her training and expeditions as a working person with fewer than three weeks of annual vacation time. She lives well below her means, always has, forgoing the frivolous for the serious and meaningful.
"This is a 10-year-old shirt," she said, plucking the bright red fabric.
As an older person, she said, "It is a rush. I'm continually learning. What I'm able to do is a moving target. It changes every year."
She only runs three times a week now, though she sustains at least a 9-minute mile. She needs more recovery time and has learned to embrace logistical flexibility. Doors close, but others open.
"In climbing," Masheter said, "we learn sometimes your best move is behind you. You have to keep your joy about you and sometimes have a good swear."
Carol Masheter breaks mountaineering record at 65
Salt Lake City resident and retired epidemiologist Carol Masheter on March 17 completed a four-year quest to climb the highest mountain on all seven continents.
She has written and published a book, No Magic Helicopter, about her climb of Mount Everest four years ago.
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