It was on a grey winter’s day in my parents’ house outside Glasgow, watching storm clouds gather and sparrows dive for shelter in the garden, that I first suggested Mont Blanc in summer. After what had happened, I knew I should make more effort to spend time with my 74-year-old dad, but what I was proposing at his age was a risk. A 10-day hike around one of Europe’s highest mountains seemed a little extreme.
“Old age doesn’t come alone,” he replied, implying the aches and pains, arthritic hands and memory loss from a recent life-threatening stroke couldn’t be ignored.
He glanced at me with a fatherly look, suggesting he knew better. I wondered if he could make it. In his youth, unquestionably; but now I wasn’t so sure. Perhaps a trip hiking Mont Blanc’s steep-faced valleys, following a hut-to-hut trail through France, Italy and Switzerland, was already past him.
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Now a grandfather, he had spent his best years in the Alps – summer after summer, in fact – and to take him along this pathway in search of a route to his past, to stir memory in long-forgotten footprints, seemed like the right thing to do.