A RETAINED firefighter has achieved his dream of making it to Everest base camp despite a tragedy on the mountain putting the trip in jeopardy.

Nelson welder Stephen Holden chose to celebrate his 40th birthday with a trek to part of the world’s highest mountain.

Father-of-one Mr Holden’s ambition was almost put on ice, however, after an avalanche killed 16 sherpas and other mountain workers shortly before he was due to start.

But his wife Paula said he was desperate to make it and had now achieved his goal.

She said: “I spoke to the expedition company because of everything that has gone on and I was told everything was fine and that all trips to base camp were going ahead.

“He arrived at base camp on Saturday. I have just got goosebumps thinking about it.

“I have spoken to him and he said it was absolutely mindblowing, completely out of this world.

“He sounded so happy and relaxed.”

Mrs Holden said her husband was due to watch the sun rise on the mountain on Sunday, before starting the seven-day trek back down from 14,500ft. She said three members of the seven-strong team have been airlifted off the mountain due to severe sickness.

She added that Mr Holden was no stranger to such challenges.

Mrs Holden said: “Before we had our little boy, Theo, who is seven now, he climbed up Mount Kilimanjaro.

“He will basically do anything that could kill him!

“Last October, he slipped a disk in his back and for a little while we didn’t know if he would be able to walk again.

“Since then he has got himself in as good shape as he can.”