DISABLED mountaineer Nigel Lyle says he would have loved to have reached the summit of Everest - but after one of the dead-liest seasons for climbing on the mountain he is just glad to be home alive.
The father-of-three from Dutton Locks, Acton Bridge, was forced to abandon his bid to reach the top at 7,300m after suffering chest problems caused by the high altitude.
He said: 'I knew it was going to be hard going but the number of fatalities and injuries on the mountain this season was horrific, far more than I could ever have imagined.
'You realise how bad it is when you heard from people who had summited and come down say they felt as though they had been playing Russian Roulette.'
He described how he set out with the first summit team and arrived on the North Col in blustery snowy conditions. But after an awful night he decided not to leave with the others due to the chest infection and dehydrationinduced headache.
Nigel said that at least 20 people had died and countless more had suffered injuries due to frostbite in the last few weeks alone and admitted: 'Emotionally this judgment was influenced and made easier by stories, which we were already hearing, of climbers collapsing and dying, having pushed things too far.'
On his way down the big-hearted mountaineer, who climbs with a prosthetic leg following an accident, made a point of going across to congratulate New Zealand double amputee Mark Inglis on making the summit.
The 53-year-old said: 'It was a tremendous achievement but at such a high price with frostbite to his fingers and stumps. He was suffering, having been lowered and sledged most of the way down. Ironically, the artificial leg, for me, was not an issue, certainly not as significant as advancing years!'
Since arriving home he and his wife Jane have celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary which had to be delayed because of Nigel's climb. He said: 'I was at Advanced Base Camp 6,400m up on our anniversary which meant we could speak to one another via a satellite phone.'
The party also marked the engagement of their son Tony, 25, who proposed to his bride-to-be on the top of a mountain in Spain.
Now Nigel is happy to set his sights on a return to the more modest peaks in his beloved Alps.
'Looking back at Everest, it was horrific at times but also a unique and incredible experience, a fantastic opportunity, and one I would not have missed for the world,' he said.