Steve Pennells: 'Kathmandu is not a place built for grief'

Kathmandu is not a place built for grief.

In the rabbit warren of the Thamel district, bars pulse with lights and pictures of the young "dancing girls" supposedly inside, trapping backpackers like flies.

Every second shop sells mountaineering gear knock-offs. (Yes sir, it says "North Face". No sir, it's not waterproof).

And every third sells "genuine" Gurkha knives. (No sir, don't worry about customs, I know someone who can get it into Australia.)

The airs hangs heavy with incense and possibility.

It's a place to get lost in. Not a place to grieve.

Maria and Rob dreamt of summiting Everest together

Last week, as he waited for his wife's body to be brought down from Mt Everest, Robert Gropel was grieving quietly amid the chaos.

In a small hotel, he sat quietly on a sofa behind his parents, Heinz and Patricia, as they spoke to Sunday Night about their loss.

"It (the grief) comes in waves," Heinz said.

They had told their son not to blame himself for what happened.

DONATE: Maria's friends have set up a fund to help pay for her family to bring her body home.

"Eventually, hopefully, he'll come to accept the situation," Patricia said.

"It must be almost every death that someone says 'what if we'd done this or done that or crossed the road a second earlier or a second later.' People left behind all have those thoughts."

"The grief comes in waves" Rob said in his emotional interview

Heinz turned his head slightly to where his son was sitting: "Eventually he'll understand that hindsight is a wonderful thing."

After his parents had finished, Robert held tight onto a note he had written - a statement he wanted to make about Marisa.

He put it aside and said he wanted to talk. He said he felt responsible for what happened. I told him no-one blamed him.

"I know, I know but it's a mental game I have got to play with myself," he replied.

The same mountain that made Kathmandu a magnet for adventurers is also, in the words of Mr Gropel's father, Heinz, a mountain that "kills people".

In this month alone, seven people have either died or gone missing while attempting to reach the summit.

They call it being "lost to the mountain".

Every year on the mountain - bar 1977, when only two people reached the summit - climbers have died.

It took 13 sherpas to bring Marisa's body on the dangerous journey back down. The body was airlifted to Kathmandu on Friday and is expected to flown back to Australia May 30.

The bodies of another 200 climbers and sherpas have never made it down the mountain and still remain on Everest, a macabre reminder of a mountain as deadly as it is magnificent.

A place that can bring grief as easily as triumph.

And Kathmandu is not a place built for grief.

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