A 34-year-old Australian woman who attempted to climb Mount Everest to prove that vegans are not ‘malnourished and weak’ has died.


University lecturer Maria Strydom perished from a lack of oxygen in Nepal on Saturday afternoon after having to turn back from the final leg of her expedition because she felt unwell.

She, along with her husband Robert Gropel, challenged themselves to overcome Everest to show that ‘vegans can do anything’.

Dr Strydom had said that climbing Everest while adhering to a strict vegan diet was their ‘own personal Everest.’

According to The Washington Post, on an university blog she said: ‘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.’

Dr Strydom, who worked at Monash University, decided to turned back from her attempt to reach the summit and was assisted down to the South Col by Mr Gropel.

After spending the night there, shewalked out of her tent to continue the descent, only to collapse on the Geneva Spur, two hours from Camp 3 where helicopter evacuations are possible.

The expedition leader said Mr Gropel, who himself suffered high altitude pulmonary oedema on the descent, tried unsuccessfully to carry his wife’s body down the mountain.

He was taken by helicopter to Kathmandu on Monday. For the past two years the mountain has been untouched by climbers because avalanches and safety fears.

But the couple used that time to climb several peaks including Denali in Alaska, Mount Ararat in Turkey and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

May is one of the most popular months to scale Everest before the peak is shrouded by rain, cold and cloud brought on by the monsoon in June.

The Melbourne woman’s sister, Aletta Newman, said she found out the experienced climber had perished on the mountain after looking her name up online and finding a news article revealing her identity in the Himalayan Times.

Her family were very aware of the risk she was taking by climbing Everest and kept track of her movements via GPS.

They became concerned when they stopped receiving ‘pings’ from the device she was carrying on Friday, but did not think the worst until coming across the news article.

‘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,‘ she 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,’ she said.

A total of four people have now died in the past week attempting to climb Mount Everest.

Subash Paul, 43, from India, who climbed the 29,035 feet on Saturday, perished the next day due to exhaustion.

Hiking officials and climbing veterans say the deaths raise questions about the preparations and safety standards of some climbing operators, with cut-price local companies competing for business as international outfits scale back operations.

Expedition organisers were assembling a rescue team on Monday to retrieve the bodies of Dr Strydom and Dutch climber Eric Ary Arnold.

At least 18 people died a year ago when an earthquake sent a massive snow slide careening into Base Camp, while an avalanche in the treacherous Khumbu Icefall killed 16 guides in 2014.

‘It is a difficult and challenging climb and many people have died,’ Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters in Brisbane, adding that the government was assisting with the repatriation of Strydom’s body.

Arnold Coster, the owner of Arnold Coster Expeditions which led the group containing both Strydom and Eric Ary Arnold, said both climbers became ill very quickly on the descent.

The Dutch climber was assisted down to the South Col camp,the final camp before the summit, where he was given oxygen and medicine but ‘unexpectedly passed away that evening in his tent,’ Mr Coster said in a Facebook post.

The first of the four to die was Phurba Sherpa, 25, who fell to his death on Thursday, according to CNN.

He had been working to fix a route for climbers about 150 metres from the summit.