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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Hero boy leads father to safety
Sem and Geoff Slaven
Sem Slaven began mountain climbing aged three
A seven-year-old boy saved his father's life by guiding him down Britain's highest mountain after he was partially blinded during a climb.

Geoff Slaven, 54, an experienced mountaineer, fell ill during a difficult holiday climb on the Scottish peak of Ben Nevis with son Sem.

An attack of glaucoma in one eye left Mr Slaven helpless near The Saddle on the famous mountain.

Acting as his father's eyes, Sem led him down the mountain side over rough terrain to safety.

I had to trust Sem with my life and he was absolutely brilliant
Geoff Slaven

Mr Slaven said he had no option but to turn to his young son, who responded with bravery and maturity.

He said: "It was remarkable, he responded positively to everything I asked of him and no adult could have done any more than he did.

"It was a remarkable insight into his character."

The ordeal continued after the eight-hour descent from the mountain as the pair then had an arduous journey back to base.

However, Sem remains modest about his actions.

He said: "I just led him down the mountain and he followed me."

Having started climbing on Scottish mountains at the age of three, Sem said that he was able to use all of his father's training to guide him to safety.

Mr Slaven, a joiner from Retford in Nottinghamshire, told The Times newspaper that he was unable to get a signal on his mobile phone to call for help.

"I had to trust Sem with my life and he was absolutely brilliant," he said.

Sem Slaven
The schoolboy remains modest
"The sight in my left eye went suddenly. I felt sick, I was dizzy and I became weak. I have been climbing since I was a child but I felt helpless.

"If Sem hadn't been with me I dread to think what might have happened.

"It's a pretty steep slope down, but I know what his capabilities are and he has a very adult way of dealing with things.

"I have never felt so ill before. I was exhausted and as well as guiding me down, Sem gave me moral support and kept me going, saying things like, 'It won't be long dad, we'll be okay'."

Mr Slaven had to have emergency laser surgery on his eye at Aberdeen Royal Hospital to restore his sight.

Glaucoma, which can strike without warning, is a disease that can affect the optic nerve and result in blindness.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"The only option was to turn to his young companion Sem...who led him to safety"



SEE ALSO:
Ben Nevis 'murder' inquiry over
13 Mar 03  |  Scotland
Ben Nevis death 'murder' claim
24 Feb 03  |  Scotland
Appeal to tidy up Ben Nevis
10 Oct 02  |  Scotland
Essex man in mountain trouble
02 Jul 02  |  Scotland
Climbers rescued from Ben Nevis
16 Mar 02  |  Scotland
Climber in Nevis plunge
03 Mar 02  |  Scotland


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