Vegan Arrogance: Maritha Strydom
This story has been driving me up a wall. Vegan blogs and social media are coming out in non-fact based defense of Maritha Strydom’s attempted climb. An amazingly lucky and absurdly well conditioned Atanas Skatov was already the first vegan to summit Everest, so there was no reason for Maritha Strydom summit Everest in the name of veganism in the first place. This was an arrogant vanity project from the very beginning. There was no flag to carry.
Unless she was eating foods fortified with B12, Maritha would have combined a B12 shortage with only non-heme iron which dramatically compromises her body’s ability to produce hemoglobin to transport oxygen. She had a stroke despite having supplemental oxygen with her. Denying the possibility that her diet had an impact on her death is lunacy. We also know that the absorption of non-heme iron is impacted by a variety of factors and some people struggle absorbing it at all. We have no idea what Maritha Strydom’s red blood cell/hemoglobin count were at her death, but we do know that she made dietary choices that compromised peak human efficiency for oxygen transport and had a stroke despite having oxygen at hand.
As far as I could find, she had never summitted a peak higher than Denali which means she bypassed the 198 higher summits to go after Everest. She skipped 8,793 feet. That’s about the elevation change for the thousands of people who develop acute mountain sickness from going from sea level to base area of Colorado ski resorts. She was not an experienced alpinist. She was not an experienced high altitude mountaineer. She skipped 198 higher summits for Everest. She had no idea how her body would operate above 7,000m much less 8,000m. As a scholar, she should have known better than to take such a huge risk without data about her own body at differing altitudes.
What’s worse is that she and her husband are being presented in the media as medical doctors by calling them both Dr. Strydom. She has a Ph.D. in finance. He’s a veterinarian. These two were absurdly green alpinists pursuing the most oxygen deprived summit in the world. Less technically challenging than many peaks lower than it, Everest still presents the most extreme environment of any summit.
The very pursuit of Everest itself has been studied repeatedly, and Maritha Strydom’s arrogant selfish pursuit continues the long tradition of under-prepared people pursuing an achievement they did not yet earn.