A female climber who made it her mission to prove vegans were capable of extreme physical challenges has died near the summit of Everest.
Maria Strydom, a 34-year-old South African academic, succumbed to altitude sickness after having to turn back on the final leg of the intrepid trek.
She set out to prove “vegans can do anything” by climbing the the world’s most iconic mountain, but she died on Saturday after suffering the symptoms of a high-altitude pulmonary edema.
She was among 30 climbers, including her husband, to fall ill or suffer frostbite climbing the world’s tallest peak over the weekend.
She is also the third mountaineer to die in the first Everest climbing season since an earthquake in Nepal last year.
On Friday Dutchman Eric Arnold died in his sleep near the mountain’s summit after telling team-mates “my body has no energy left”.
Dr Strydom, a lecturer at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, was an experienced climber who had scaled peaks including Mount Ararat in Turkey.
With her husband Robert Gropel, also an experienced mountaineer, she was undertaking a bid mount the seven summits – the seven highest mountains in the world’s seven continents – in an effort to disprove claims vegans struggle with extreme activities.
In a post on her university’s website in March, 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.”
Following Dr Strydom’s death – on the 1,300 foot push to Everest’s summit – her mother Maritha posted on Facebook: “My beautiful girl. Just [too] devastated to communicate.”
Two Indian climbers are also missing within the mountain’s “death zone” above 26,000 feet – as hundreds flock to Everest to make the most of the eight-week spring climbing season.
Another Indian climber died overnight in the third fatality on Everest in recent days.