Millie Mason returns to the Peak District playground of her youth and discovers the life lessons learned from climbing with her father...
I once stumbled across a photo of me as a baby; I was asleep in a carry-case next to a boulder. On that boulder, with chalk-dusted fingers, my dad: a sign of what was to come. My dad, the climber, wanted to share his passion and with that came the Peak District.
'That little girl – determined, passionate, hopeful – is still there. Some days, she is harder to find, but one trip to the Peak and she is laughing and running and singing through the heather again.'
Lovely piece of writing. Though it primarily intends to be a love letter to the peak district, what shines through to me is the relationship with your Dad. Perhaps it's a love letter to him also?
Like you, I've been blessed with a great dad that spent many hours introducing me to the delights of the great outdoors. Primarily this was through hill-walking in Scotland, though I did do a small amount of rock climbing with him when I was a youngster. At that age and stage, my Dad seemed to me to be immortal, leading the way over rock, hill, and glen. I think a constituent part of what you called the "quarter life crisis" for me has been the dawning realisation that this is not the case. My Dad is finite like everyone else.
This became concrete for me when I did Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach with him in October 2019. On the exposed ridge before the summit of the former, I realised that the dynamic of responsibility had subtly shifted. No longer was my Dad the leader. Instead, I was now in charge. As I watched him totter along, working harder than he once did to maintain his balance, it occurred to me that there will, sadly, be a final day in the hills that I share with my Dad.
Before that day, it's a privilege, though a painful one, to be able to be the leader on our hill days together, the one that carries the bigger bag. It seems to me to be an apposite way to repay the favour that he payed me in introducing me to the outdoors. I guess what I'm saying is rather simple - I love my Dad and from your essay I believe you love your's too. Thanks for putting that into words.