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Google employee killed in avalanche was 'adventure activist,' friends say

Google executive was an adventurer who had tried to climb Everest once before

Dan Fredinburg's friends described him as superhuman. Standing 6-foot-4, the athletic adventurer scaled mountains, swam with sharks and, after conquering Mt. Everest, had plans to kite surf across Antarctica.

At Google, where he was an executive on the tech giant’s privacy team, the 33-year-old was a high achiever who, according to his best friend Dr. Mike North, was “screaming to the top.”

When news broke that he was among at least 17 people killed in Nepal after an avalanche devastated the region on Saturday, few could believe it.

“Everyone’s reaction was, ‘No, not Dan,'” said North, who was among the first to learn of the incident and also co-founded with Fredinburg Save The Ice, an “adventure activism” organization that aims to raise awareness of climate change through expeditions. “There was nothing that could stop this man.”

Fredinburg had been climbing Mt. Everest with a team that included fellow Google employees Michele Battelli and Flo Nagl. The climbing team was close-knit, according to Fredinburg’s girlfriend, Ashley Arenson, and had a long history of climbing together.

His fellow Googlers survived the avalanche on Mt. Everest. Fredinburg died after suffering a head injury.

“They were able to be with Dan and hold him when he passed,” Arenson said.

According to Arenson and North, Fredinburg was prepared for the climb and was thrilled to finally be on Everest. He had attempted a similar climb a year before, but it was called off after the area was struck by another avalanche.

North, who spoke with Fredinburg in San Francisco shortly before he left for Nepal, said the Google exec was in peak physical, mental and emotional shape, and had been training since the previous year’s attempt at Everest. Arenson described him as a “modern-day superhero.”

“I got to speak with him almost every day [while he was on Everest], and he would send me emails and text messages with pictures of him with this huge smile on his face on top of these massive glaciers,” Arenson said.

Working on Google’s privacy team, his friends and family said, he couldn’t share much of his work with them, but he was known for leading trips to remote regions, including Mt. Everest, to gather images for use on the “street view” function of Google Maps.

When he climbed mountains, he often brought fellow tech executives and other influential people as part of Save The Ice’s mission to raise awareness of climate change. On his last climb, Fredinburg was raising awareness in support of two Nepalese orphanages. His friends have since launched a fundraising campaign for the children affected by the avalanche in his honor.

“The impact he had on people was contagious,” Arenson said. “I hope it continues on."

Twitter: @traceylien

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