An Australian woman who was out to prove "vegans can do anything" was one of four climbers who died trying to scale Mount Everest in one of the mountain's deadliest weekends.
Maria Strydom, 34, a lecturer at Australia's Monash University, set out with husband Robert Gropel to climb the Earth's highest mountain on the second-to-last weekend of May, prime climbing season for Everest, according to CNN.
They were joined by Eric Arnold, a 36-year-old from the Netherlands who was on the same climbing team. Arnold died on May 20 after apparently having a heart attack, according to a guide who spoke to CNN.
The team had reached Everest's final camp before the summit on May 21 when Strydom and Gropel both fell ill with altitude sickness, a condition that arises from being unable to get enough oxygen. In that area, known as the death zone, climbers can also succumb to exhaustion and extreme cold. The death zone is between 26,000 and 29,000 feet above sea level.
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The team tried to make it down to Camp III, the next lowest camp on the mountain, but Strydom collapsed and died before they could reach camp, reports CNN.
In addition to Arnold and Strydom, two others died that same weekend. On May 20, 25-year-old Phurba Sherpa fell to his death while trying to repair a trail near the summit. On May 22, 44-year-old Subash Paul died after falling ill with altitude sickness, the manager of Trekking Camp Nepal told CNN. Two other climbers from that expedition were still missing on May 23 after they were separated from their group in harsh weather conditions.
In an interview with a local TV station earlier in 2016, Arnold said he was aware of the danger, but told the interviewer that climbing Everest was a childhood dream of his.
"Two-thirds of the accidents happen on the way down," Arnold said, according to The Associated Press. "If you get euphoric and think 'I have reached my goal,' the most dangerous part is still ahead of you."
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More than 200 corpses are scattered on the slopes of the mountain because the altitude and danger make it difficult or impossible to recover the bodies of climbers who die on Everest.
"Everest is a mountain of extremes," geologist and climber Jon Kedrowski told CNN.
Strydom's family told The Guardian they hope to recover her body. In the meantime, they said that while they were grieving Strydom, they were thankful that Gropel had survived.
“He’s probably the person who can give us the most answers in terms of what really happened because he was there," Strydom's sister, Aletta Newman, told The Guardian.