Retired teacher Maritha Strydom was following her daughter’s climb up the world’s highest mountain when the expedition took a turn for the worse.
Her daughter, Monash University lecturer Maria Strydom, was climbing the final stage of Mt Everest with her husband Rob Gropel and a group of other climbers.
Though thousands of kilometres away in her home in Brisbane, Maritha followed a website that pinpointed—via Maria’s satellite phone—her daughter’s location as she scaled the mountain.
But when the location “pings” fell ominously silent after the Melbourne pair had reached the final stage of their ascent, Maritha began to fret.
“Her last message to me from her phone said, ‘We are spent,’ ” she tells WHO. “I was a bit worried.”
The next day, Maritha’s worst fears unfolded when Maria, a vegan, succumbed to altitude sickness while trying to descend to the mountain’s Base Camp.
Gropel, 36, who also suffered from altitude sickness and is now recuperating in Kathmandu, is reeling from his loss.
“They were each other’s backbones, it was just beautiful,” says Maria’s devastated mother. “I haven’t seen two people so close.”
For the full story of the Everest tragedy, pick up a copy of WHO on sale now.