The leader who led a team to the summit of Mt Everest on the weekend, only to have two climbers die on the descent, has issued a chilling account of the tragic events on the mountain.
Australian academic Dr Maria “Marisa” Strydom, 34, finance lecturer at Melbourne’s Monash University died from suspected altitude sickness near Camp 4 – just below the area known as the “death zone” – having reached the summit on her fifth attempt.
She was climbing with her husband, Robert Gropel, who was by her side and also fell, and was evacuated to Kathmandu hospital but has since been released.
Another climber on the Seven Summit Treks expedition, Eric Arnold from Holland, also died from altitude sickness, while an Indian climber with another group died while descending on Sunday and two climbers with him are also missing.
Arnold Coster, who led Strydom’s ill-fated summit attempt, took to Facebook to explain what happened between May 19 and 22, and says he’s attempting to retrieve her body from the mountain.
Here’s what he said:
On 20 May our apparently perfect looking summit push turned into disaster. On 19 May the whole team left the South Col and everybody summited the next day, except Marisa who decided to turn around just above the the South Summit at 8am in the morning, due to fatigue. All went according to plan, but on the descent two of our members got sick, which resulted in the loss in two off our friends Eric & Marisa. Our team members & staff are totally beaten by our rescue attempts, but arrived back in Base Camp at 23 May.
Eric summited Mount Everest on 20 May 8am and fulfilled his childhood dream. During the ascent he was doing well, but after the South Summit he was struggling a bit. Descending from the summit he became slower and slower and it became clear that something was wrong.
His Sherpa who was climbing with him from the beginning requested to send an additional Sherpa up with more supplementary Oxygen to help him down.
After this we managed to bring him down to the South Col in a reasonable time; he looked beaten, but mentally fine. We brought him to his tent, gave him more Oxygen, lots off drinks and food and it looked like he was recovering. Unexpectedly Eric passed away that evening in his tent accompanied by a Member and Sherpa in his tent.
Marisa was doing well until the “Balcony”, but became very slow after this and decided to turn around on the South Summit at 8am in the morning. Normally this would give her enough time to descent safely, but her condition deteriorated rapidly.
Halfway between the South Summit and Balcony she was hardly able to move and became very confused. Her Husband and several Sherpa’s struggled all night to bring her down and miraculously she made it back to the South Col 2am that night, after spending 31 hours above the camp.
We managed to stabilize her that night with Medicine & Oxygen and Marisa was able to walk out off the tent herself the next morning. Helicopter rescue is only possible from Camp 3, so we continued our descent the next morning.
Marisa was able to walk herself, but 2 hours out off camp she collapsed on the “Geneva Spur”. Her Husband tried to retrieve her, but this was not possible anymore. Rob was evacuated by helicopter from Camp 2 the next day and is in Kathmandu now.
At the moment we are assembling a rescue team to try to retrieve the bodies.
These tragic events numbed the whole team and our thoughts are with their family and friends. May they rest in peace.
But Strydom’s grieving mother Maritha took Coster and the climbing company to task for failing to inform her family their daughter had died.
Maritha Strydom said Coster’s post was the first and only contact she’d had from the company, despite several attempts to contact those involved.
“Why weren’t her family informed. I’m her mother and it’s the first word from anyone from any of your companies. We saw through the Himalayan a times post that my daughter died. Pemba Sherpa was called several times, he didn’t want to help at all,” she wrote.
“Your satellite phone and Maya’s phones were off too. Why wasn’t the emergency evacuation ever contacted for Marisa?
“Global rescue spend numerous hours locating all reported emergencies and evacuees. Marisa was not amongst them. We never had any, but any contact from anyone from your company, now, almost 48 hours after my daughters death. I want her body back.”
Coster explained that they were still rescuing Robert Gropel and others posted the news before they had a chance to descend to Camp 2 and inform the family member.
His full post is here:
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