The mother of a vegan who died trying to climb Mount Everest is demanding answers—about whether the climb was conducted safely and why, for days, no one informed her that her daughter was dead. Speaking from Australia, Maritha Strydom tells CNN she was following satellite "pings" of daughter Maria Strydom's climb last Saturday when the signal blanked out. "I was worried when the pings stopped, and we started calling but no one could give us any answers," says Maritha. "So my other daughter ... Googled and found in the Himalayan Times that my daughter had passed away." What's more, Maritha and her daughter heard "not a word" about the tragedy—one of four Everest deaths over a four-day span—until they received a call on Tuesday.
Maritha also says guides let Maria and husband Robert Gropel stay too long in the so-called "death zone," an oxygen-poor area around 26,200 feet where altitude sickness and frostbite are common dangers. Maria "felt weak and decided to turn around," her mom says, but when Maria got medication and tried climbing back down, "she suddenly collapsed." Now Maritha is trying retrieve her daughter's body from the mountain, where survivors are often rescued and victims get left behind (here's the fundraising page to pay for her return to Australia). Seems Maria and her husband each paid $34,500 for the climb in a pretty sketchy, unregulated market: "You [can] have a circumstance of unskilled people leading other unskilled people in the most dangerous mountain environment you can get," veteran climber Andrew Lock tells the Australian. (Maria was trying to prove that a Vegan could climb Everest.)