Maria StrydomMOUNT EVEREST – A woman from Australia who said she was climbing Mount Everest to prove that “vegans can do anything” died on the mountain on Saturday after developing altitude sickness.

Maria Strydom, 34, was a finance lecturer at Monash University living on a vegan diet. She posted on the university’s blog that she and her husband were climbing Mount Everest to prove a point.

“It seems that people have this warped idea of vegans being malnourished and weak,” Strydom said. “By climbing the seven summits we want to prove that vegans can do anything and more.”

Strydom was climbing towards the summit on Friday when she became ill and had to turn back to camp. The rest of the group, including her husband, continued on and are believed to have reached the summit.

After spending the night at the camp, Strydom’s condition deteriorated and she died before a rescue team could reach her. Her husband, who also became sick, was taken to a lower camp and then to a Nepal hospital where he is expected to recover.

“Physically he’s OK, we think,” his father said. “Mentally he is a mess. He’s just lost his wife. These guys were not amateurs, they were experienced climbers.” He wasn’t joking. The couple had already climbed Denali in Alaska, Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount Ararat in Turkey and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Three other people died on Everest in the last week, including a 36-year-old man who was part of the couple’s climbing party. About 30 more climbers become sick, frostbitten or both near the summit. The foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, said the deaths are tragic, and travellers need to understand the risks they were taking in trying to climb Everest.

Strydom’s family hope to remove her body from the mountain, but there’s a chance it could remain there like the many others who have died while attempting to reach the summit.

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