Gauteng / 23 May 2016, 07:33am / Reuters and Staff Reporter
Kathmandu/Melbourne - A 34-year-old Australian woman, who was born in South Africa, has died while descending from the summit of Mount Everest, officials in Kathmandu, Nepal, said on Sunday. It was the second death on the world’s highest mountain in as many days.
The death of Maria Strydom on Saturday was confirmed by Monash University in Melbourne, where she worked as a lecturer. Officials in Nepal said efforts were under way to take her body down from the mountain.
Eyewitness News reported that 34-year-old Strydom matriculated from Garsfontein High School in Pretoria and had worked as a finance lecturer at Monash University since 2006.
An experienced climber, she had dreamt of climbing the largest peaks on all the continents.
Over the past eight years she had climbed Denali in Alaska, Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount Ararat in Turkey and Kilimanjaro with her husband Rob Gropel, who, according to reports, was part of the Everest expedition and was with her when she died.
ABC News said Strydom’s mother, Maritha Strydom, had confirmed her daughter’s death on Facebook, saying she was “too devastated to communicate”.
Strydom’s sister, Aletta Newman, told 7 News: “She was superwoman, she could do anything.”
Two Indian climbers went missing on the mountain on Saturday in the high slopes known as “death zone”, said Wangchu Sherpa of the Trekking Camp Nepal company.
“They are out of contact for more than 30 hours now and it is not clear if they had climbed the peak,” Sherpa said, adding that two other Indians were being escorted by sherpa guides to lower camps with injuries and frostbite.
More details were not available because of poor communication with the team.
The death of Strydom was the second on Everest this year and could hit mountaineering in Nepal, where a massive earthquake last year killed at least 18 people at Everest Base Camp.
On Friday, Dutch climber Eric Ary Arnold died after reaching the 8 850m Everest summit.
Strydom, part of the same group as Arnold, developed altitude sickness while descending from Camp Four, located at about 8 000m, the Kathmandu-based company that organised her expedition said.
“We are waiting for the expedition leader and other climbers of the group to come down to base camp,” said Pasang Phurba of Seven Summits Treks.
“We will then discuss (retrieving) her body. It cannot be left to lie as it is there,” he told Reuters.
Dozens of climbers were rescued from the mountain with frostbite and injuries in the past two days, hiking officials said, without giving details.
Last year’s earthquake forced hundreds of climbers to abandon their expeditions. The worst quake in Nepal’s recorded history killed nearly 9 000 people across the Himalayan nation.
More than 350 climbers have reached the top of Everest this month from the Nepali side of the mountain, while several people have climbed from Tibet.
Among them was 19-year-old Alyssa Azar, who on Saturday became the youngest Australian to summit Everest, and Lhakpa Sherpa, who notched a record for woman climbers with her seventh ascent.