We get photos sent to us daily on our Instagram page.
A few months ago we received a couple amazing photos of climbing Everest from an Instagram user known as @GritandRock. After a few back and forths, we learned that @GritandRock aka Masha Gordon was an insanely talented adventure seeker looking to break the women’s Explorers Grand Slam World Record.
In case you aren’t familiar with the Explorers Grand Slam, check out this video:
We recently interviewed her and asked her a bunch of questions that we were dying to know.
What do you think, did she break the record?
Read on to find out!
[MM]Can you give us a brief introduction to who Masha Gordon is and a background to the challenge you are undertaking (Explorers Grand Slam World Record)?
[MG] I am a Londoner and a mother of two.
I spent some 20 years of my life behind a desk and some 7 years ago accidentally fell into the passion of climbing.
I fell for the adventure of waking up at 2am in a refuge and walking in wee hours of the morning on a glacier towards the summit. When I moved to a portfolio career of board directorships some 2 years ago, I made more time for climbing.
I have embarked on the Explorers Grand Slam record challenge late in 2015. The challenge involved climbing highest peaks on every continent and skiing to the two poles.
[MM]What is motivating you to do this?
[MG] I was a girl who could not run 5k and was thrown out of PE class at the age 11.
I took up mountaineering as a pastime and passion at the age of 35 and have managed now to enter the Guinness Book of Records for an endurance challenge.
I hope that my journey motivates women to tap into the power of their mental endurance. I hope also to inspire girls to take up mountaineering as an excellent way of developing grit and perseverance, qualities that are hugely helpful in all areas of life.
[MM]Did you beat the world record?
[MG] Yes, in fact, I beat three women’s speed records:
the Explorers Grand Slam in 7 months 19 days
the Seven Summits record that will enter the Guinness Book of Records (239 days)
the Three Pole challenge (skiing to the two poles and climbing Everest in record 5 months)
[MM]You just completed a successful Everest summit, was it harder, or easier than expected?
[MG] Emotionally much harder.
You are very dependent on the weather and the wait for the right window is excruciating. Physically, I was prepared having done alpinism in Chamonix and the French Alps for over 7 years and having climbed pretty much not stop in the previous 12 months.
[MM]Did you have any close calls on Everest? If so, tell us about them.
[MG] Weather is the least stable component of the climb. Weather forecasting is not great, even today with all the modern technology.
In Camp 4, the night before the Everest ascent, the forecast had 50 MPH winds, otherwise, known as unclimbable weather. By then we have already tapped into the oxygen supply and have had a few grueling days of climbing. It was
It was heart-wrenching to think that we may have to turn back.
It would have meant no summit this season. Fortunately, I and my climbing partner, much more experienced Lydia Bradey, the first woman to summit Everest without oxygen in 1988, decided to take a chance on the weather.
We agreed that we would turn back at any signs of deterioration. So until we reached Hilary Step, I was unsure whether I would have a crack at summiting. We were very lucky that the wind storm came in some 12 hours after it was forecasted to.
[MM]What type of food do you eat while on Everest?
[MG] The food at the base camp is amazing.
You get fresh organic vegetables from the sherpa villages and the very best meal you can have, in my view, is dhal bhat – a traditional Nepali rice dish with lentils and sautéed vegetables.
Up on the mountain, it’s a different story.
Your appetite wanes and it may you an hour plus to eat a bowl of pasta. In high camps, you eat astronaut meals – rehydrated freeze-dried food. For snacks, given how cold it is, you take gels and chews.
You can easily break your teeth on a frozen Cliff bar. So that’s an avoid for me.
[MM]Can you explain the preparations you had to make in order to get your mind and body right to climb Everest?
[MG] I love backcountry skiing and I think that that low-intensity endurance training provides the best preparation for climbing high altitude peaks.
You need to develop that Zone 2 resilience to be able to do stupidly long days on the mountain and to push through the mental and physical pain of being in hostile elements for 10-16 hours a day.
[MM]You were able to share your Everest experience through your Instagram account. How were you able to do that while on the mountain?
[MG] Yes, I did. I used IridiumGo, a sat phone Wi-Fi unit, to transmit images to a friend in London who then posted them on my behalf.
[MM]Can you tell us a little bit about the sherpas?
[MG] Amazing people with an extraordinary sense of right and wrong.
Sherpas care about harmony within a climbing group and a relationship. They have very good sense of how things could go horribly wrong.
One of the most moving things I have done was to do a puja – Nepalese blessing ceremony – with my climbing sherpas. It was a way of showing respect to their set of values and way of living.
[MM]Did you watch the recent Everest movie? Did they do a good job showing what it’s really like on the mountain?
[MG] I think they did.
In fact, my Everest climb was facilitated by Adventure Consultants, the guiding group featured in the movie.
Guy Cotter and his crew are good friends and are one of the most competent outfits in the business. Everest is just a harsh environment where humans find themselves very vulnerable indeed.
We are not meant to be that high up and accidents occur in large because of that human element.
[MM]What was your most favorite experience of summiting Everest?
[MG] Walking up the base camp up the very storied Khumbu Valley past the stupa monuments to the fallen alpinists.
That made you feel you belonged to this amazing history of a Man trying to conquer the Mountain. It was poignant and very moving.
[MM]What was your worst?
[MG] When I was going up for an early summit attempt on May 11th, just 2 weeks after arriving at the base camp, we encountered an accident with a fallen ladder in Khumbu icefall.
We had to wait in freezing darkness for some 4 hours for the ice doctors to arrive. That wait in cold combined with still not perfect acclimatization weakened my body and my spirit. I chose to stay at the Camp 2 and acclimatize further before attempting to summit a week later. That was the right strategy, but there and then it was a very scary date with my own fragility.
That was the right strategy, but there and then it was a very scary date with my own fragility.
[MM]How does Masha Gordon overcome fear and doubt?
[MG] Having a good night sleep. That always help.
When you are tired you can’t reason.
Breaking down a problem into bite-sized pieces.
When I first set out to climb Everest, the problem seemed scary and insurmountable. I broke it down into altitude, ice work and endurance. And bit by bit I have mastered all three. That helped take away an irrational fear of climbing an 8000m (26,000ft.) peak.
[MM]From all the mountains you have attempted, which has been your favorite and why?
[MG] Cassin ridge on Denali. Hands down.
The most complex climb for me to date. Single biggest mountain wall in North America with 39 pitches.
I was with two amazing climbing partners who have shown me how a partnership could and should work on a single shared dream. To get to the bottom of the wall we had to travel via a treacherous Valley of Death,
[MM]During your Explorers Grand Slam journey this year, where did you face your toughest moment, and how did you overcome?
[MG] On Elbrus in Russia, we had a guide that could not keep up with our skiing speed and who has turned back without telling me or my partner.
It wouldn’t have been a problem as I have climbed the mountain before, apart from a small detail that he had my rope!
It was a winter ascent of the highest mountain in Europe and we had to carry on without having a rope for putting up protection. We had two ice tools each and had to rely on those in the event of having to climb down on ice.
On the last day on the Cassin ridge, we ran out of food as the snow conditions made our progress lower down the mountain slower than anticipated. We had to climb for some 8 hours to the summit having just 2 Cliff bars and 2 gels between the three of us.
We made it, I guess, by tapping into our mental endurance resources and continuing to hydrate.
[MM]Where can the MTNMOB community go to follow Masha and all of the exciting things you have in store?