Over the years, many people have attempted to reach the famous peak of Mount Everest, though not many have been able to do this while boasting a strictly vegan diet. Melbourne native Maria Strydom, proud vegan and lecturer at Monash Business School, wanted to encourage other vegans to celebrate the fact that they could still do anything that they wanted because to Strydom, veganism was never a handicap. Despite this positive message, Strydom became one of four confirmed dead on Mount Everest this morning. Strydom and her husband both suffered from high-altitude pulmonary edema, also known as altitude sickness.
The Vegan Challenge
Strydom and her husband, Robert Gropel, both stuck to a strict vegan diet that normally consisted of meat substitutes and any other food item free of any animal products. On their blog, they tracked their progress on their pursuit in climbing all seven summits – referring to the highest peaks on each continent. They trained for this ultimate feat by scaling other peaks like Denali in Alaska, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Ararat in Turkey. The couple claimed to feel like mastering these feats would prepare them enough for the final trek – Mount Everest.
While Strydom is confirmed dead, her husband’s condition is stable. The other climber, Subhash Paul, had fallen sick and was being helped down the mountain by Sherpa guides when he passed away. The two other members of Paul’s team, Goutam Ghosh and Paresh Nath are still missing. Seasoned climber Eric Arnold, also a member of this team, perished on the mountain. After attempting the climb for four years, he was finally able to reach his dream summit. He was even able to snap a selfie on the top. It was during the descent that he began suffering from altitude sickness that eventually led to his death.
The trek began with a group of ten, along with the couple. During the course, the couple used a GPS tracking system to locate where they were along the course to keep their family, friends, and followers updated on their progress. Family members grew concerned when they hadn’t from the couple during the toughest part of the course.
Strydom and her husband, along with Arnold, were able to reach Camp 4, the final camp, before suffering from altitude sickness. The 34-year-old had to turn back before making the final summit because she felt unwell. In that camp, it was reported that she had trouble breathing due to a lack of oxygen. It was after that final journey that Strydom perished.
According to Strydom’s sister, she did not learn of her death until reading it on an online news site.
“I have just read online that my sister Maria died on Everest. Why can’t you contact the family before we have to find out this way?” she said.
While the family is shocked and saddened by this loss, they admit to having feelings of foreboding before the couple took off for the trip.
If there is one thing that can be taken away from this, it’s that Mount Everest has a mind of it’s own – and anyone and everyone is subject to it’s every whim. While Strydom, her husband and their group of accompanying climbers were incredibly experienced, they were no match for this perilous trek. It is estimated that nearly 4,000 people have climbed Mount Everest, and of those 4,000 about 300 people have died in pursuit of conquering this beast.
This recent string of deaths brings about the important question of whether or not it is really worth it to climb Mount Everest. Among the list of dead and often neglected are the Sherpa guides that make it possible for people like Strydom to conquer their dreams and aspirations on this mountain. These guides live in a seemingly never-ending state of danger and harsh conditions – and they get paid almost nothing for it. In fact, it is reported that they get paid less than miners and fisherman who go through conditions that are not even close to that of Mount Everest.
Still, it’s not likely that stories like Strydom’s will change the mind of like-minded climbers with something to prove. Though Strydom wanted to climb the mountain to prove that vegans are just as strong, if not stronger, than those sporting other eating habits, it’s still clear to see that she didn’t have anything to prove – she will still do down in history as one of the only vegans to climb Mount Everest.
Photo Source: Facebook