A second Mount Everest climber has died in 2016, this time a 34-year-old woman from Melbourne, Australia, has lost her life, according to ABC.
Dr. Maria Strydom died due to suspected altitude sickness while descending from Mount Everest. She was making her way from Camp 4 to Camp 3 when she became sick, Pasang Phurba Sherpa, a board director at Seven Summit Treks, said.
“After reaching the summit yesterday she said she was feeling very weak and suffering from a loss of energy … signs of altitude sickness,” the Sherpa said.
What is more devastating about the second climber Mount Everest has claimed this year is that her family found out over the internet. Dr. Strydom’s sister, Aletta Newman, said she discovered her sister died by searching for her name online. Her sister was named in the online newspaper The Himalayan Times. The family have been receiving conflicting reports about the cause of death over the past few hours.
The Himalayan Times wrote that “Dr Maria Elizabeth Strydom lost her life after she suffered from snow blindness followed by [a] stroke, according to Shiva Bahadur Sapkota, a liaison officer deputed by the Department of Tourism at the Everest base camp.”
No one contacted the family of the climber that died, and Ms. Newman does not know how her sister died or if her sister’s husband is OK. There are reports that Strydom’s body has been moved down to Camp 2 but this has not yet been confirmed.
“We haven’t had anyone from that company talking to myself directly, they haven’t called us to inform us of anything,” Ms. Newman said.
“A number of family members have tried to call around and get information. We’ve even read in newspapers and online different accounts of what actually had happened.”
The family became concerned for Strydom and her husband, Robert Gropel, who was hiking Everest with her when they stopped receiving pings from the GPS device she was carrying on Friday, according to the Daily Mail.
“We all knew that it came with a degree of risks, we looked up statistics and saw that there was about a three per cent fatality rate,” Ms. Newman said.
“So every time we had contact with her we thought `You know this could potentially be the last time’, but you don’t really think you’re going to be that three per cent,” she said.
“She was very giving, very caring, always interested in family and always there to support her friends and family,” Ms. Newman said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs did contact the family to confirm the tragic news and the family wants to know why. Her mother, Maritha, said via Facebook post that she was “too devastated to communicate” upon hearing about the death of her daughter.
Dr. Strydom and her husband knew of the risks in climbing Mount Everest, and all the mountains they climbed, but took on the challenge to prove that “vegans can do anything.”
Dr. Strydom said 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 Monash University, where she worked just weeks before her death.
Dr. Strydom and her husband were attempting to climb the highest mountain on every content when she succumbed to suspected altitude sickness and died. Dr. Strydom had already climbed Denali in Alaska, Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount Ararat in Turkey, and Kilimanjaro in her continent of birth, Africa.
Before she left to climb Mount Everest, Dr. Strydom said despite the life-threatening risks of climbing the mountain, she felt well-prepared.
“There are certain aspects of the mountain which will be out of our control, such as avalanches and icefalls which have plagued the previous two seasons on Everest,” she said.
“We can’t worry about this aspect of the climb and the odds are still very small of being caught up in it.”
Strydom. was a finance lecturer at Monash University in Melbourne, and the prestigious university has given a statement. They described Strydom as having an “unparalleled zest for life and the outdoors” and said everyone who knew her was “amazed at her discipline and enthusiasm.”
“Maria will be greatly missed — but very fondly remembered — by her many generations of students and colleagues at Monash business school and the broader academic community throughout Australasia,” Professor Gray said.
Strydom is the second climber to lose their life on Mount Everest in 2016, and was in the same climbing group as Dutch climber Eric Arnold, who died on Friday.
Arnold had told his teammates after returning from the summit “my body has no energy left,” he apparently died in his sleep.
Over 330 climbers have successfully scaled Mount Everest this season, including Alyssa Azar, who is the youngest Australian to do so at 19-years-old. On average, eight to 10 climbers die on the mountain each season.
[Photo via Monash Business School]