'Devastated' climber 'physically OK'

Expedition leader Arnold Coster has detailed what happened during the trek in a Facebook post.
Expedition leader Arnold Coster has detailed what happened during the trek in a Facebook post.

Melbourne vet Robert Gropel is physically okay but emotionally devastated after being discharged from a hospital in Kathmandu just days after his wife died while descending Mt Everest.

Gropel will now focus on retrieving the body of his wife, Melbourne University lecturer Marisa Strydom, from the mountain. His parents, Heinz and Patricia, are in Nepal after flying from Melbourne. He has been discharged from hospital and still has some minor residual [altitude sickness]," Patricia Gropel said by email. "But he is physically okay."

Since last Thursday, four people have died on the peak, including a Sherpa. Rescue efforts are ongoing for two other missing climbers. "Everest is a mountain of extremes," Jon Kedrowski - a geographer and climber who summited Mt Everest in 2012 when 10 climbers died - told CNN. "At altitude, the body deteriorates on a certain level."

Gropel, who is too distressed to talk to news outlets, suffered from fluid in the lungs and swelling of the brain during the fatal expedition that claimed the life of his 34-year-old wife as well as Dutch climber Eric Arnold.

Gropel was evacuated by helicopter.

Expedition leader Arnold Coster has detailed what happened during the trek in a Facebook post.

"On May 20 our apparently perfect-looking summit push turned into disaster," he wrote of the expedition organised by Seven Summit Treks.

Everyone summited except Strydom who decided to turn around just above the South Summit at 8am because of fatigue.

She and [Eric] Arnold both died during the descent, Coster said.

"At the moment we are assembling a rescue team to try to retrieve the bodies.

"These tragic events numbed the whole team and our thoughts are with their family and friends."

- AAP

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