A heartbroken husband has blamed himself for his wife’s death on Everest after leaving her alone on the mountain while he continued climbing the summit.
Australian couple Robert Gropel and his wife Maria Strydom were on a joint trip to ascend the mountain when she became ill near the peak.
He asked if she would mind waiting while he carried on, not realising that she had developed altitude sickness which would claim her life within hours.
“I asked: ‘Do you mind if I go on,’ and she said: ‘Yes, you go on, I’ll wait for you here’,” he said in a tearful interview describing her death.
When I made it to the summit of Everest it wasn’t special to me, because I didn’t have her there. I just ran up and down and it didn’t mean anything to me because we do everything together. – ROBERT GROPEL
Mr Gropel, a vet, broke down as he admitted to his feeling of guilt in an interview with the Sunday Night show on the Australian Channel seven.
He and his wife, a college lecturer, had been climbing in the higher reaches of the mountains known as the “death zone” when Ms Strydom become unwell.
Both thought she she was simply exhausted, not recognising her symptoms as signs of the potentially fatal condition altitude sickness.
It was only after he returned to her that they realised the seriousness of the situation.
Ms Strydom began hallucinating as they stumbled back to the camp, but by the time they reached help she could not be saved and died the next day.
Mr Gropel, who also became ill and suffered fluid in his lungs and swelling of the brain, said he still struggles to comprehend his wife’s death.
I am her husband, it's my job, it's my job to protect my wife and get her home. It's just natural for me to blame myself. – ROBERT GROPEL
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