Race to the Tops

Masha Gordon, F98, summited the highest peaks of all seven continents and skied the last stretch to the North and South poles in record time
Masha Gordon at the South Pole
To reach the South Pole, Masha Gordon pulled her own weight in gear—about 110 pounds—in minus 40 degree Fahrenheit weather. Photo: Courtesy of Masha Gordon
December 16, 2016


Masha Gordon, F98, failed gym class as a girl and never thought of herself as an athlete. But about eight years ago, while on maternity leave from her job as managing director of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, she tried mountaineering in the French Alps and got hooked.

Now the 42-year-old mother of two has set a new women’s world record in a challenge called the Explorers’ Grand Slam. She has summited the highest peaks of all seven continents and skied the final 60 nautical miles to the North and South poles—all in less than eight months.

On the way to Everest. Photo: Courtesy of Masha GordonThe adventure required physical and mental toughness, as well as detailed planning and good luck with the weather. Gordon, who is the vice chair of Fletcher’s Board of Advisors, summited Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America, just a month after breaking her wrist while ice climbing; she took her cast off early.

To reach the South Pole, she pulled her own weight in gear—about 110 pounds—on an unwieldy sled, skiing up to 10 hours a day in minus 40 degree Fahrenheit weather.

She continued up Mount Everest even though the weather forecast called for 50 mile per hour winds, which would have made it unclimbable; she managed to summit and start back before the windstorm arrived.

And for the final mountain, Alaska’s Denali, she chose a difficult route, having climbed the easier way before. She made it, although her team slept for only 15 hours in three days and ran out of food.

“I need the endorphins,” said Masha Gordon. Photo: Courtesy of Masha GordonGordon’s goal now is to share the fun of mountaineering—and the confidence boost it provides—with disadvantaged girls through her new nonprofit, Grit & Rock. In September, she started offering mountaineering training to about 60 urban teens in three locations in the United Kingdom. If the program is successful, she plans to expand. 

She also hopes to head out for more adventures of her own. “I’d like to climb the northern Patagonia ice cap or kite ski across Greenland,” she said. “I need the endorphins.”

Heather Stephenson can be reached at heather.stephenson@tufts.edu.

This article first appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Fletcher Magazine.

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