Anchorage man was near Everest when fatal avalanche hit

Devin Kelly

On the day an avalanche struck Mount Everest and claimed the lives of at least 13 Nepalese guides, an Anchorage traveler was on a nearby peak.

Just before sunrise on Friday, Douglas Franklin was climbing up the slope of a neighboring mountain called Kala Patthar when his group "heard a couple of tremendous cracks," he wrote later on Facebook. As he soon learned, that was the sound of a chunk of ice breaking off Everest's south face, sending a slide of ice and snow tumbling down into a section of the mountain known as the Khumbu icefall.

After snapping photos of the sunrise, the group trekked back down to Everest base camp, where a grim scene was unfolding.

"It was really tragic. Helis running up and down the mountain slinging bodies," Franklin, 53, wrote in a text to his wife, Joyce Mayer.

"Huge slab broke off and took them," he said in another text. "You could see the scar on the mountain and it is a big mountain."

Under the shadow of the tragedy, which experts described as the deadliest single day on the world's tallest peak, Franklin's group broke camp and headed back down to the village of Gorak Shep. Franklin, who works for the GCI subsidiary Cycle30 and is also a writer, was on a three-week trekking trip around base camp and was not planning to summit Everest, Mayer said.

Mayer first heard about the avalanche from a high school friend Thursday night. She texted her husband but saw from online news reports that the victims appeared to be mostly Sherpa guides.

"That's a tragedy," she said.

As of Saturday night, three guides were still missing.

Reach Devin Kelly at or 257-4314.