When Maria Strydom, also known as Marisa, died on Mount Everest early on Saturday 21st May from altitude sickness, the last thing her mother knew, she was near the summit, along with her husband Robert Gropel.The next morning she found out via the internet that her daughter was dead.

Mother devastated.

She was obviously devastated, even more so as her South African born child, now living in Australia had died and nobody from the mountaineering company even bothered to communicate with the family. It was reported by ITV News that the owner of Arnold Coster Expeditions confirmed that Marisa had become “ill very quickly on the descent,” but nobody was quick to tell the family members.

On 22 May, Marisa’s sister told The New Daily that nobody from the company had contacted them, or talked directly to them at all, even though according to the Sydney Herald, Coster said that “other people” had posted the news to the internet whilst the hiking company as still busy rescuing her husband.” Wikipedia has already updated Arnold Coster’s page with the criticism.

Hard to bear.

Whist danger and even death face all explorers in such harsh environments, it seems that nobody can really prepare for tragedy, and when knowledge of the loss of a loved one comes via the internet, it is even harder to bear. Marisa died about 900m from the summit and there is a possibility that her body may not be recovered, according to the Sydney Herald.

Strydom’s sister does not want to arrange a funeral for her until they know if they can retrieve Marisa. "It just wouldn't feel right leaving herup there alone. It will make it so much harder," she said.

Challenge against stereotyping

Marisa died on a venture to challenge both herself and the perceptions that vegans might be weaker than meat-eaters.

She went ahead with her quest despite a warning from her husband’s uncle, Kurt Gropel. Kurt told 9MSN that he had a bad feeling about their venture, which the pair was not happy to hear. "Everest is a killer," Kurt Gropel said. There are hundreds of dead people who thought they could do the climb.

Too late now

It is too late now for what-might-have been, and the best the family can do now is offer some comfort to the very ill husband of Marisa, still in a hospital in Kathmandu.

It has been reported that Robert is determined not to leave Nepal without the body of his beloved wife.


One small consolation for the family may be that Marisa died doing something she loved. Twitter followers are expressing their sadness over her death, but many of them point out that she loved and lived life to the full. Like Leonardo Di Caprio in the Blood Diamond movie, she may have been “right where” she needed to be.

Coster communicates.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Arnold Coster said, at the moment we are assembling a rescue team to try to retrieve the bodies,” so hopefully, Marisa will be buried where her family can mourn her. In response to his statement, Marisa’s sister Aletta Newman posted up her thanks that Arnold had finally talked to the family on the evening of the 23rd May.