Avalanche hits Mt Everest Base Camp, 19 dead incl Google exec

Since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay summitted the world’s highest mountain almost 62 years ago, this once inconceivable challenge has been achieved by thousands more. Visiting Mt Everest Base Camp is even an occasional option for students of Wharton Business School Leadership Professor and mountaineer Mike Useem. But every now and then we’re reminded never to take nature for granted. Last week the biggest earth tremor to hit Nepal in eight decades killed more than 3 200. It also triggered the deadliest ever avalanches to hit Mt Everest’s Base Camp. Among the confirmed dead was Dan Fredinburg, head of product management for Google’s Privacy team and founder of Google Adventure .  – Alec Hogg  
By Abhishek Shanker and Adi Narayan

(Bloomberg) — At least 19 people including a Google Inc. executive died and more than 60 others were injured after Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal triggered avalanches on the Mt. Everest. Scores of climbers are still waiting to be evacuated after fresh aftershocks hampered rescue efforts.

A man carries a framed portrait of a relative, which he recovered from the rubble of his house, following Saturday's earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal April 27, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
A man carries a framed portrait of a relative, which he recovered from the rubble of his house, following Saturday’s earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal April 27, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Nineteen bodies have been recovered from the base camp at the Everest, Sitanshu Kar, a spokesman for India’s Defense Ministry said on Twitter. With communication networks badly damaged and access to Everest camps hampered by the avalanches, information was sketchy with the Press Trust of India putting the toll at 22, including five deaths below the base camp.

The injured and survivors are being airlifted to Kathmandu, according to Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. A lot of climbers were still stranded in two camps above the base camp, said Zimba Zangbu Sherpa, who is a former president of the association.

“In my memory this is the worst tragedy at base camp caused by avalanches following an earthquake,” he said.

Daniel Fredinburg, a self-described “adventurer/engineer” with Google’s privacy team, died of a head injury on Mount Everest, his sister wrote on the social media site Instagram. He was traveling with the U.K.-based expedition company Jagged Globe, which said in a statement on its website that Sherpa guides and team members other than Fredinburg were safe, including two with non-life-threatening injuries.

Three other company employees in the same group are safe, Lawrence You, Google’s director of privacy, said on Google Plus. “We are working to get them home quickly,” he said.

American trekker David Arvan, another Google employee, said in a WhatsApp message that he had narrowly escaped being buried by a glacier by taking shelter behind a boulder.

He said he had been hearing that the climbing paths above the base camp “were completely wiped out.”

Ankur Bahl, who was at ‘Camp 2’ of the Everest with a team of 11 others when the quake struck, was not reachable on his Satellite phone on Sunday, his brother Anuj said.

The most powerful temblor to hit Nepal in eight decades killed more than 2,200 in the Himalayan nation, and set off strong tremors as far as central India and northern Bangladesh. Across Asia perhaps 100 million people felt the quake, reported the U.S. Geological Survey, which displays more than 30 subsequent tremors in central Nepal. More than 60 people died and several others were injured in India, the National Disaster Response Force said in e-mailed statement on Sunday.

Just Seconds

About 30 mountaineers from the Indian army had been scaling the mountain when the quake struck. The men are safe and are participating in the rescue operations, said the Defense Ministry, as reports pour in of climbers buried under avalanches.

A man looks into his damaged house to recover belongings following Saturday's earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal April 27, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
A man looks into his damaged house to recover belongings following Saturday’s earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal April 27, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

The piles of rock, snow and ice travel at a high speed, often giving climbers mere seconds to release themselves from rope lines and shelter behind boulders or even hide in crevasses.

Those who hid behind rocks or ice banks escaped unharmed while those that took refuge in tents just a few feet away “turned out to be the unlucky ones,” climber Jon Kedrowski wrote on his blog on Sunday.

“Many of the injuries were similar to ones you might see in the Midwest when a tornado hits, with contusions and lacerations from flying debris,” he wrote. “The lucky ones here that are unharmed and have plenty of supplies it is up to us to stay for awhile and lend a hand.”

Climbers’ Mecca

Nepal’s reputation as a climbers’ Mecca lures almost 1 million foreign visitors a year, and according to a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council generated about 4 percent of its gross domestic product in 2013.

About 350 climbers were awaiting their turn at the base camp as bad weather delayed their plans, while many were already on their way up, said Zimba Sherpa.

Last April, an avalanche on Mount Everest claimed the lives of as many as 16 Sherpas.

A blizzard in October triggered an avalanche in the Annapurna mountain range, killing at least 28, among them citizens of Israel, Canada, Vietnam and India.

Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude quake was centered 77 kilometers (48 miles) northwest of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, and was followed by aftershocks as strong as 6.7 magnitude. It was the country’s most powerful earthquake since 1934. – Bloomberg

Fredinburg was wanting to “raise awareness about climate change”

By Brian Womack
Dan Fredinburg
A photo appearing on Dan Fredinburg’s Instagram profile just three days ago.

(Bloomberg) — Google Inc. executive Dan Fredinburg was pursuing his latest environmental passion — and a challenge from the late author Jack Kerouac — when he lost his life in an earthquake on Mount Everest.

Fredinburg had quoted Kerouac, whose works in the 1950s and 1960s instilled wanderlust in a generation of young explorers, on his Google+ page last year while planning an excursion to the world’s highest peak: “Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”

Fredinburg was at camp on Everest with three other Google workers when the quake struck Nepal at midday Saturday, triggering an avalanche. More than 2,200 people in the region were killed. The other Google employees survived, according to a post on the company’s social service.

“2015 Everest Expedition fully underway,” Fredinburg wrote on Instagram in March. “Gear is ready. I am ready. Now spending some time thinking about how this year’s climb can be as impactful as possible!”

Fredinburg joined the Web giant in 2007 and was most recently the head of privacy for Google X, the research unit making longterm bets on driverless cars and high-altitude balloons to deliver Internet access. He ran the product management team for Google’s privacy group, according to his LinkedIn profile, and had worked on data-protection infrastructure. He previously was a software engineer at Boeing Co. and was educated at the University of California at Irvine and Stanford University. His age wasn’t immediately available.

Posts on Fredinburg’s social media accounts displayed concern for the environment, social issues and for orphans, amid world travels that had taken him to Latvia, other parts of the Baltics, and the Maldives. One of his final posts on Instagram spoke of concern about environmental change on Everest: “Saving ice on top of Kala Patthar. Everest Basecamp in the background is a climate change hotspot.”

Climate Change

As co-founder of Save the Ice, Fredinburg aimed to raise awareness about climate change through adventure and activism. He also was behind The Laundry, an effort to help social impact startups accelerate their businesses.

A new Crowdrise effort, “Celebrating Dan” has raised more than $8,000 in support for two Nepalese orphans who already were the inspiration for Fredinburg’s climb, according to the site. Google.org is committing $1 million to the response for the quake and said it would have a gift-matching available soon, according to the Google+ post.

Fredinburg’s final Instagram post showed him drinking coffee during the excursion. The next entry came from his sister, Megan, announcing his death on Mount Everest.

“We appreciate all of the love that has been sent our way thus far and know his soul and his spirit will live on in so many of us,” Megan wrote. “All our love and thanks to those who shared this life with our favorite hilarious strong willed man. He was and is everything to us.”

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