A woman who died of altitude sickness while climbing Mount Everest took on the challenge to prove that ‘vegans can do anything’.
Maria Strydom died on Saturday afternoon after having to turn back from the final leg of the expedition because she felt unwell. She returned to Camp 4, the last camp before the mountain’s summit, on Friday where she spent the night but died from lack of oxygen the following day.
The 34-year-old South African national taught at Monash University in Melbourne and was an experienced climber. Her husband Robert Gropel is injured but, according to trip organisers, ‘100 per cent safe’.
Weeks before her death Dr Strydom told how she and her husband wanted to dispel the belief that vegans were ‘weak’ or ‘malnourished’ by taking on the climb. ‘It seems that people have this warped idea of vegans being malnourished and weak. ‘By climbing the seven summits we want to prove that vegans can do anything and more,’ she said in an interview with the university where she worked.
She also told of the dangers most climbers feared when taking on the mountain. ‘We’ve all heard stories of frostbite and having to turn around from excessive waiting times due to inexperienced people blocking routes. ‘This can lead to life threatening situations and death where Sherpas and other climbers have to risk their lives to attempt rescues.’
Dr Strydom had begun climbing from Camp 4, the highest camp before the summit, on Friday but was forced to turn back when she felt unwell.
She returned to the camp site at 26,085ft with a sherpa while others in her group carried on. Her husband is thought to have reached the summit. On Saturday, after spending the night at Camp 4, her condition deteriorated. She ‘stopped breathing’ due to a lack of oxygen that afternoon, said a spokesman for Seven Summit Treks.