A California man who described himself as an "inventor" and "adventurer" and was a longtime member of Google’s privacy team died while climbing Mt. Everest after a powerful earthquake in Nepal triggered an avalanche, his colleagues and family confirmed.
Bay Area resident Dan Fredinburg, a Google X project manager, died early Saturday morning after suffering “a major head injury,” Fredinburg’s sister posted on his Instagram account.
“All our love and thanks to those who shared this life with our favorite hilarious strong willed man,” his sister Megan wrote. “He was and is everything to us. Thank you.”
Fredinburg was with three other Google employees at Everest; they are safe, according to a public post from Google's director of privacy, Lawrence You. “We are working to get them home quickly,” he wrote.
In an online statement, mountaineering company Jagged Globe also confirmed the death of Fredinburg, whom the company called “one of our Everest team members.” Two other members of the team were being treated for injuries suffered in the avalanche, the statement said. It was unclear whether the team members were among the three Google employees.
The devastating Nepal earthquake set off an avalanche above Mt. Everest base camp at the height of climbing season, killing at least 17 people and stranding others at the perilous Khumbu Icefall, Nepalese officials and climbers reported.
The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 7.8, struck just before noon local time, toppling historic buildings and fracturing highways. Authorities have placed the death toll at 1,805, with the number expected to rise.
Fredinburg’s various social media accounts paint a portrait of a man at the height of life. His LinkedIn profile lists degrees from top universities, including USC, Stanford and UC Berkeley. The profile shows him climbing the ladder from farm hand and apprentice Carpenter to IT consultant and software engineer.
At Google, Fredinburg’s profile says he led an “adventure team” on expeditions into the “wild … bringing back stunning imagery from the planet's most remote regions.” He also led multiple trips to gather imagery of a region around Mt. Everest, for use on the “street view” function of Google Maps.
Many of the photos posted to his Instagram and Google+ accounts depict Fredinburg in a helmet or shrouded by a jacket with rocks or mountainous terrain in the background. A photo posted Friday captured Fredinburg gulping down coffee during what appears to be a quick climbing break.
Fredinburg’s sister posted a photo on Instagram alongside the death notice. In it, Fredinburg appears to be scaling a snowy mountain, a wide grin radiating below his glacier glasses.
Bear Kittay, 29, of San Francisco, met Fredinburg about three years ago at a New Year’s gathering in Cabo San Lucas. He described his friend as “an iconoclast … who bridged the world in a really unique way.”
“He was strikingly handsome, very brilliant and confident,” Kittay said. “He was able to inspire a lot of very success-oriented people. He wouldn’t let people get away.”
Fredinburg, originally from Missouri, was the sort of early-30s “wild man” who went sailing in the Maldives with Kittay and other friends to document an adventure in one of the world’s climate-change hot spots.
Asked to share specific memories, Kittay joked, “I can’t tell you about most of them.”
Fredinburg earned degrees from USC, Stanford and UC Berkeley and worked his way up from a farmhand and apprentice carpenter to IT consultant and software engineer, according to his social media accounts.
Photos from earlier days of his Everest attempt capture Fredinburg lounging shirtless in a tent and gulping down coffee during what appears to be a quick climbing break. One features a yak standing outside an apparent porta-potty.
“Day 13: Always a long line of yaks at the toilet,” Fredinburg wrote.
Fredinburg first talked Google into supporting an ascent of Everest last year, on the condition that the tech giant could record the trek, Kittay said. Fredinburg and his group made it part of the way, before an avalanche cascaded down the mountain, killing more than a dozen other climbers just behind them, Kittay said.
“He was an engineer. He definitely took calculated and responsible risks,” Kittay said. “He wasn’t expecting an earthquake.”
Kittay said he wasn’t surprised his friend decided to try again, despite having seen the dangers firsthand.
“The only thing that surprises me is that he didn’t survive,” Kittay said. “He’s smirking up there, because that’s what he does.”
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