The sub-title of Following Our Fathers is Two Journeys Among Mountains, but there are at least five journeys in this short work. It is indeed a little gem; packaged to fit in the pocket, or the rucksack, but big in so many ways. Delight in maps and sketches. Pick up the rhythm of the walker on the move, in two-time, then three-time; and watch for the pattern of the crampon.
Linda undertakes a walking trip in Norway, a tribute to a friend’s late father. Sven-Pappa had taken to the hills after escaping from the Germans during the war, and walked to Sweden, and safety. A small group of friends and family had set out, unwrapping the very shoes in which Pappa had set off. There was joy in a family remembering; and sadness in the dawning that there would be no one in her own footsteps in the years to come. Only two of the group made it to the end. Linda was one who had to drop out.
That was another journey, down from the heights to find medical assistance, a flight to hospital, and another home.
But it was the start of another quest; the inner journey, and the physical one in her own father’s footsteps. Richard Cracknell had died of cancer when Linda was barely walking at all, far less tackling the Alps with ice axe and crampons. But that is where he led her, to a peak he had attempted at half her age.
The summit was unreachable for Linda and her two pals, roped together on ice the rising sun would turn dangerous, and down they went, back to the mountain hut and respectful nods to others that had been out on the mountain. The slopes had been marked by death in 1952, one of Richard’s companions hit by a falling boulder.
Then there was Richard’s own death, brought to mind with the rustle of plastic bags in the hut; the same plastic that may have given rise to the carcinogens that took a young scientist’s life, at the cutting edge of developing today’s indispensable, and left a toddler bereft of her father.
And there was a puzzle, for Linda could not quite tie in records of her father’s climb with the crags and crevasses from which she had returned. It turned out to have been the wrong summit, but very much the right journey.
The climbers descended to Grindelwald, and I am immediately taken back 40 years, to hear the sound of the snow-melt enhanced burn gushing under the bridge by the church. And I had my own quest in sourcing the book, for the usual search engines may not be successful. It is published by Best Foot Books, an imprint set up by the author herself, intent on a series related to walking. But I knew it would be stocked in Biggar, and I was not disappointed. Far from it.
Best Foot Books – watch out for more, from the author and the publisher.