- The Washington Times - Monday, May 23, 2016

An Australian woman who intended to prove that “vegans can do anything and more” died Friday while attempting to scale Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth.

Maria Strydom, a 34-year-old Monash Business School finance lecturer, made it roughly 400 meters shy of the summit when she began suffering from altitude sickness and died while attempting to descend.

“She could not resist any more her weakness, and she stopped breathing right there,” said Furtengi Sherpa, the operational manager of Seven Summit Treks.

Strydom previously made it to the top of some of the tallest mountains in the world, including Denali and Kilimanjaro, and she was determined to scale the seven highest summits on Earth, of which Everest ranks first.

In an interview published on March 2 on the Monash Business School website, Strydom said that she and her husband, who both are accomplished climbers who consume neither meat nor dairy, together set their sights on Everest after doubts were raised by skeptics due to possible iron and protein deficiencies caused by their diets.

“It seems that people have this warped idea of vegans being malnourished and weak,” she told the website. “By climbing the seven summits, we want to prove that vegans can do anything and more.”

Her husband, Robert Gropel, also began suffering from high-altitude pulmonary edema while climbing Everest, but he was evacuated by helicopter and is expected to survive.

“Physically he’s OK, we think,” his father, Heinz Gropel, told the Australian. “Mentally, he is a mess. He’s just lost his wife. These guys were not amateurs. They were experienced climbers.”

“She was not a risk taker,” Strydom’s friend, Carly Moulang, told the Sydney Morning Herald. “She was not willing to take unnecessary, risks and she was strongly of the belief that she would return safe, even if it meant that she didn’t summit. In the case that she did not reach the summit, she was prepared to return to Everest for another attempt.”

In addition to Strydom, two other mountain climbers died on Everest last week, including an Indian man and a Dutch man, who was in the same group as Strydom and her husband, before he succumbed to altitude sickness during his descent, The Associated Press reported on Monday. 

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