New Taylorsville resident has travelled the globe summiting Mt. Everest and other mammoth peaks
Jun 18, 2019 04:20PM
By Carl Fauver
Carol Masheter on the summit Vinson Massif — 16,050 feet elevation, highest peak in Antarctica — January 2012, at age 65 years 2 months. (Courtesy Carol Masheter)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
One of Taylorsville City’s newest residents is also one of its most accomplished in the world of high-altitude mountaineering.
Carol Masheter is one of the first 100 residents at the new and still growing Summit Vista Life Plan Community (3390 West 6200 South). And she could not have picked a more appropriately named home, given her passion for summiting the world’s highest peaks.
“I am currently the oldest woman to have reached the highest summit on all seven continents,” Masheter said. “In fact, I have reached the nine highest peaks on the seven continents, because there is some disagreement in the climbing community regarding which are the accepted seven highest peaks.”
Of course, that includes the two peaks even we valley dwellers are familiar with: Mount Everest (the highest peak in Asia and the world, at 29,029 feet) and Denali (formerly Mount McKinley), at 20,310 feet. In Alaska, it is the highest peak in North American.
And although summiting all of these peaks is undoubtedly Masheter’s most interesting personal story, she has many others. In fact, she could write a book. Oh, wait, she’s written two.
- She and her sister, then ages 6 and 5, were diagnosed with polio and quarantined in a Kansas hospital for two weeks.
- She averaged 100 miles per day on her bicycle for nearly 2,000 miles, riding solo, from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Ventura, California.
- She moved east across the entire continent from California to Connecticut to take a job.
- She moved west across nearly the entire continent from New Jersey to Utah after accepting a job she applied for, primarily because “the University of Utah had a gorgeous picture of the Wasatch mountains at the top of the job posting.”
- She retired from another job in the Salt Lake Valley when a policy change would not allow her to take the necessary unpaid leave to complete her global summiting goal.
“At a young age (while being treated for polio), I decided I did not like being labelled ‘weak,’” Masheter said.
No one is giving her that label now.
Born in Southern California in 1946, Masheter is barreling toward her 73rd birthday without paying it much attention. She continues to plan her next adventures, now from her comfortable Summit Vista apartment home, which she had no plans to move into as early as she did.
“I attended one of their free informational lunches and got on a waiting list to move in a few years from now,” she said. “But last fall they had a cancellation, and I was able to get my place at a bit of a discount. So, I moved up the timeline, and here I am.”
One of the things that sold Masheter on her apartment is the breathtaking view it offers of the Wasatch Mountains.
“I know even when the day comes that I am no longer physically able to get out into my beloved mountains, I will have a wonderful view of them,” she said.
Masheter grew up in Orange County, California, which at that time was the fastest-growing county in America. Graduating from UCLA in 1968 (cum laude, with a chemistry degree), one of her professors helped her secure a research position at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.
“I had never even been east of the Mississippi River before making that move,” Masheter said. “But it seemed like a good opportunity and an adventure.”
Later she would earn a Ph.D. in social science, making her Dr. Carol Masheter. But as the 1990s were dawning, Masheter found herself living in a “crappy apartment in New Jersey.” She had decided Rutgers University was no longer for her. And that’s when blind fate, courtesy of the University of Utah marketing and communication departments, intervened.
“I was attending a professional conference where it was common for job listings to be posted on school letterhead,” she said. “A University of Utah flier had such a beautiful picture of the campus, next to the Wasatch Mountains. I decided to apply for the research and teaching job there and was lucky enough to get it.”
However, seven years later — when she was passed over for tenure — it led to a personal crisis that eventually got her into mountaineering.
“The worst time of my life was 1997 and ’98,” Masheter said. “I was passed over for tenure, ended a long-term relationship with a man and lost my mother. Oh, and I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”
But showing the same determination she had mustered nearly a half-century earlier to not be labelled “weak,” Masheter decided to pursue an interest in high-altitude mountaineering she had first discovered decades earlier but had put on the back burner for her career.
“I first climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro (Africa’s highest peak) but did not reach the summit back in 1972,” Masheter said. “That was part of a five-week African safari trip. But now it was 25 years later, and I wanted to try (high-altitude mountaineering) again. So, I travelled to Bolivia three years in a row to climb several tall mountains.”
Masheter summited seven Bolivian peaks in 1997, four in 1998 and two in 1999, all in the range of 17,000 to 21,000 feet.
“Those trips confirmed, I was pretty good at high altitude climbing, and it was fun,” she said.
Those climbs, along with several here in the Western United States, helped prepare Masheter for her assault on the highest peaks of each continent.
In 2007, she summited the highest peaks in both South America (Aconcagua) and Africa (back to Kilimanjaro, summiting on Christmas Eve.). Everest followed in May 2008.
“When I summited Everest, I was the second-oldest woman to ever do so, at age 61,” Masheter said. “I am now the third-oldest. But even after summiting those three peaks, I had still not yet decided my goal was to climb all seven of them; that came a little later.”
Two years later, by the time Masheter summited Denali in June 2010 she decided she did want to complete them all. In fact, she was so determined, she retired from her job as an epidemiologist at the Utah Department of Health.
“I retired a few years earlier than I wanted, because they changed their policy and would not allow me the unpaid time off I needed, to complete my climbing goals,” Masheter said. “I was sorry to leave, but it was the right decision, and I would do it again.”
Masheter now makes ends meet by selling copies of her book and taking some paid speaking engagements. She also plays a key role in the Summit Vista Life Plan Community marketing campaign, although that is unpaid.
“I love high-altitude mountaineering and will continue to do it as long as my body holds out,” she said. “I still want to do it, and I am putting no one else at unnecessary risk.”
After that, Masheter plans to continue enjoying at least gazing upon the mountains, through the east-facing windows of her Summit Vista apartment home.