Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

'Leaving Them Was the Hardest Decision of My Life'

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

'Leaving Them Was the Hardest Decision of My Life'

Article excerpt

Byline: James Johnston

A hero who battled through Arctic conditions in a bid to save three Teesside climbers has paid tribute to the stepdad who saved his life.

Stephen Riddiough, 30, told how he was forced to make the hardest decision of his life when he set off for help, leaving stepfather Colin, and friends Paul Dick, 56, and John Plews, 32, barely alive in a snowhole.

And he said it was thanks to the survival lessons taught by the man he called dad - his stepfather Colin - he was able to survive the raging blizzard which ultimately claimed the lives of his climbing companions.

The three men died last weekend after the group became stranded in the raging blizzard on a Spanish mountain in the Sierra Nevada.

Unable to go any further, the group had dug a snowhole and huddled together under a tarpaulin for protection.

Depite desperately trying not to go to sleep the four drifted off, and when Stephen woke the next day the sight which greeted him filled him with horror.

Tthe tarpaulin had come loose, exposing them to the bitter cold and allowing hypothermia to take its course.

Speaking after his return home Stephen said: "Leaving them there was the hardest decision of my life.

"To see dad there with our friends made me want to crawl into the snow hole with them and let hypothermia take it's course.

"But then I thought of my girlfriend and my mother and sister at home and the families of John and Paul and I knew I had to get back for them. It's what all of them would have wanted me to do."

Stephen covered the group up, secured the tarpaulin then, with visibility down to less than three metres and wearing just one snowshoe, which was frozen so hard to his boot he could not chip it off, he set off down the mountain.

And it was the lessons his stepdad - a former army pt instructor - had taught him which he says saved him. …

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