An Australian woman who set out to climb Mount Everest to prove that “vegans can do anything” died Saturday after developing altitude sickness.
Maria Strydom, 34, had reached the final camp from the summit before she and her husband, Robert Gropel, both began suffering from high-altitude pulmonary edema, which caused fluid to build up in Strydom’s brain, the Washington Post reports.
Her husband survived and was taken to a Nepal hospital for treatment, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “Physically he’s OK, we think,” Heinz Gropel, Robert’s father, told the Australian. “Mentally he is a mess. He’s just lost his wife. These guys were not amateurs, they were experienced climbers.”
Strydom had sought out to prove that she could scale the mountain while on a vegan diet, the Monash University lecturer told the university’s blog. “It seems that people have this warped idea of vegans being malnourished and weak,” Strydom said. “By climbing the seven summits we want to prove that vegans can do anything and more.”
Two other people died on Everest, including 36-year-old Eric Arnold, who was part of the couple’s climbing party, and 25-year-old Phurba Sherpa, according to CNN. About 30 more climbers have become sick, frostbitten or both near the summit, the Associated Press reports.