The 2016 climbing season has already gotten off to a difficult start.
Mount Everest is challenging and unforgiving, which is why so many people train for years to try and reach its 29,035-foot peak. Between the cold, the altitude, and the sheer physical challenge, there are many who don’t make it off the mountain alive. The climbing season, which usually begins in May (with the first groups arriving in April to give enough time to acclimate to the environment), has unfortunately already seen four confirmed deaths, with three other climbers currently missing or critically ill. The first was 36-year-old Dutch triathlete Eric Arnold, who made it to the top of Everest but died on the way back down, possibly of a heart attack, on May 20.
The following day, Australian finance professor Dr. Maria Strydom fell ill while at Camp IV, the last camp before the summit, reportedly with altitude sickness. She died on Sunday, May 22. Strydom was on Everest alongside her husband, Robert Gropel, a veterinarian. Before their trek, the couple told reporters in Australia that one reason they’d gotten into mountain climbing (they’d already summited Denali and Mt. Kilimanjaro) wanted to show people that vegans could be as healthy and strong as anyone else.