Lecturer faces new heights

Dr Maria Strydom on a recent climb of North America's highest peak Denali in Alaska last July.

Dr Maria Strydom on a recent climb of the highest peak in North America, Denali in Alaska last July.

Finance lecturer Dr Maria Strydom will swap the highs and lows of finance for the perilous peaks of mountain climbing when she tackles Mount Everest next month.

The world’s highest and arguably most dangerous mountain, which saw 22 people die at the Base Camp avalanche last year, is a natural progression for Dr Strydom, who over the past eight years has climbed Denali in Alaska, Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey, and Kilimanjaro in her continent of birth, Africa, among other peaks.

She and her husband will join 10 other climbers from around the world on a seven-week expedition run by experienced Dutch mountaineer Arnold Coster when she jets off to Nepal on 9 April.

“I guess everyone who gets into high altitude mountain climbing casts a fleeting thought towards Mount Everest,” Dr Strydom said. “Once we decided to climb the seven summits we knew we would have to confront Mount Everest at some point.”

Dr Strydom and her husband are not only experienced climbers, they are also both vegan. She said they were inspired to climb the seven summits after receiving numerous questions about their iron and protein deficiencies.

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

Dr Strydom said she supported Nepal's plans to introduce regulations banning inexperienced climbers from Mount Everest after witnessing several climbers at Base Camp being taught mountain basics such as crampon and ice climbing techniques.

“We've all heard stories of frostbite and having to turn around from excessive waiting times due to inexperienced people blocking routes. This can lead to life threatening situations and death where Sherpas and other climbers have to risk their lives to attempt rescues,” she said.

Dr Strydom said despite the risks, she felt well-prepared for the climb.

“There are certain aspects of the mountain which will be out of our control, such as avalanches and icefalls which have plagued the previous two seasons on Everest. We can't worry about this aspect of the climb and the odds are still very small of being caught up in it,” she said.

“A very experienced guide in Alaska once told us that of all the things you can regret once you are on the mountain, you will never regret over-training. It is also important to get experience spending long periods on a mountain.”

The first thing Dr Strydom plans to do when she comes down the mountain is to have a hot shower.

“And then, depending whether we reach the summit (where success rate is only 30%), I am sure my mind will turn to the next adventure, being either a repeat of Everest or a trip to Mount Vinson in Antarctica.”