Paying the ultimate price on Mount Everest

Wed May 25, 2016 8:11am EDT
 
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By Gopal Sharma and Tommy Wilkes

KATHMANDU/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - On his way down from the top of Mount Everest, Indian mountaineer Nava Kumar Phukon saw the woman sway from side to side - a classic sign of severe mountain sickness - as snow and fog reduced visibility to less than 10 feet (3 meters).

Phukon's sherpa guide later told him the woman was 34-year old Australian Maria Strydom, who died last Saturday on the high slopes of Everest after making a failed push for the summit.

"The sherpa who was trying to help her told me: 'She is going to die'," Phukon said after returning to Kathmandu from his own exhausting but successful summit bid.

"I did not have any extra oxygen, clothes or food, not even water to offer to her," Phukon said. "I was so weak myself."

Reuters could not independently confirm that it was the same woman, although both the sherpa guides worked for the same agency, Seven Summit Treks, and knew each other.

Three deaths in as many days on the world's tallest mountain have renewed safety concerns after eager climbers flocked to the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) summit for the first time since last year when an avalanche triggered by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck Base Camp, and all expeditions ground to a halt.

A Dutch national, also with Seven Summit Treks, died last Friday in the notorious 'death zone' where the air is so thin that only the fittest can survive without bottled oxygen, while an Indian perished on Sunday due to exhaustion. Two other Indian climbers have been missing since Saturday, and are feared dead.

Officials from Seven Summit Treks said Strydom's body was brought to camp 2 at 6,474 meters (21,240 feet) by sherpas on Wednesday. A helicopter will try to take it to Lukla, the gateway to Everest, and then to Kathmandu on Thursday.   Continued...

 
A porter carries goods at camp four at Everest, in this picture taken on May 20, 2016. Phurba Tenjing Sherpa/Handout via REUTERS