CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – They would have been the youngest to ever summit Western Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc.

A Cambridge father and his children, 11-year-old Shannon and 9-year-old Patrick, were a few thousand feet from their goal, and a couple of days into their trip two weeks ago.

When they hit a rough spot, “We were 11,000 feet up,” explains Patrick Sweeney.

“The locals call it the ‘Couloir de Mort’, or the ‘Corridor of Death’,” said Sweeney. The family then heard a hissing noise.

“My daughter said, ‘Dad it sounds like snakes,’ and I said, ‘Shannon it’s a lot worse than snakes.’”

It was an avalanche.

“The snow was like cement,” said Sweeney.

He caught the whole experience on a GoPro camera, as his kids slid 50 yards down, stopped by the safety rope they were tied to, which was attached to him.

“My kids started screaming. They said, ‘Dad we need help. Dad help, help,” he told WBZ-TV.

He says their months of training and experience kicked in. They used ice axes to get up from piles of snow, and decided to forget the summit. They descended back down the mountain to safety.

Sweeney has attracted critics online, but he thinks otherwise.

“It’s a heck of a lot better than having them sit at home wasting time playing Minecraft, video games, or watching TV,” he said.

“If they can learn this lesson of courage while they’re young, then I’ve done an awesome job as a father.”




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