A South Yorkshire police sergeant who led about 100 climbers to safety in Nepal’s biggest avalanche has vowed to return to the mountains – despite almost dying in the tragedy which has claimed 39 lives.
Paul Sherridan, aged 49, said he wants the story of his near-death experience in the Annapurna mountains to be used to improve safety for climbers in future.
The amateur climber was on holiday in Nepal last week, climbing in the mountain range, when blizzards and an avalanche struck and conditions deteriorated.
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Sgt Sherridan, a police officer in Doncaster, battled through the whiteout and helped lead others to safety.
He said: “I had been walking in the Himalayas on the Annapurna circuit for about 10 days with a friend and had spent time acclimatising myself and getting used to those conditions.
“As I set off in the snow that morning and began to ascend to the pass, I passed people struggling in the snow. The conditions were making it not only treacherous, but tiring.
“We arrived at the top of the pass, which is about 17,500ft, and on the top there’s a teahouse.
“The wind was so ferocious that the eyelids of the guide I had been associated were frozen. So being in that position I had a sense that if I didn’t move, I would die, or potentially things would get worse.
“The safest thing to do would be to take the safest and the easiest route back down the mountain.
“One of the guides gave the order to move and there was a big group of about 60 people. We started to move together.
“As we moved, and descended, it became apparent we were descending into worsening conditions.
“The sky was white and grey as the ground and everything was featureless.
“The wind was so ferocious I could hardly hear.”
Sgt Sherridan then found a guide and used his altimeter and navigation poles on the mountain to lead people back down to safety – not realising until later he was leading as many as 100 people back down. The father said he wants others to learn from his experience.
He said: “I could easily have died, but I wasn’t ready to. That day is the closest I’ve come to death. I want to make sure the lessons I’ve learnt can go out to other people as a warning.
“People might not be aware they are in an environment that could kill them and has killed people.”
Sgt Sherridan has vowed to return to Nepal despite the tragedy, saying: “It was the trek of a lifetime for me, and it was the trek of a lifetime for a lot of people, but it’s ended up being a tragedy, a tragedy that needn’t have happened.
“I will go back, I’m going to make a point of going back. I never wanted to be the hero. I wanted to go on holiday. I’m just pleased to be home.”
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