After losing my father, there was only one place I could confront my grief

Abigail with her father

When my two brothers and I were children, we spent every holiday in the wuthering Welsh hills, where the narrow lanes have a mohican of grass, trees are jack-knifed by the wind, and the landscape appears to have been hastily covered in a green baize cloth. The colours are spinach green and pencil grey, and the standing stones accentuate the wilderness like exclamation marks.

Our hillwalking was powered by my father’s force-of-nature enthusiasm and slabs of Kendal mint cake. John Hole, my dad, loved many things: theatre, writing, people, chocolate Hobnobs, and the enveloping, exhilarating splendour of the mountains.

My father died in February of pneumonia. So it was in his honour that we found ourselves, on our first fatherless Father’s Day, climbing a Welsh mountain. He would have loved it, and one of the most painful things en route was not to receive his regular phone calls as we made the trip, telling us how chuffed he was.

Abigail with her brothers Ben (left) and Joe

Grief is still a thing I drag around. It sometimes catches on things and stops me in my tracks, winding me. It’s a lonely road, despite the crowds stumbling along beside you. My grief is knotty, an unrescuable tangle, like a lump of string you find at the back of a drawer. We were close; we were distant. My parents divorced when I was a teenager and my dad moved to Scotland with his second wife, but he used to see us as often as he could.

Then, the pandemic trapped us apart like insects paralysed in amber. He was in hospital during the period when visitors were forbidden. That I couldn’t visit, that he died alone, haunts me. Of this, he would not approve: “Concentrate on the living,” he would say. It’s hard to comprehend that he is gone. I have been catapulted back into being a child, and feel somehow lost.

But I find solace in the places he loved. Aged 19, my dad had been part of a joyous month-long scientific expedition around the Shiants Isles (off the coast of Lewis). He saw the Northern Lights (he wrote in his diary, “the sky looks like an under-developed scratched negative”); and communicated with the mainland via crackly radio. Post was dropped by an RAF Hercules. He was in charge of Morse code, signalling when the group needed supplies (“USE ANTS” was the gnomic Baden Powell-based response when they asked for sugar).

He was hooked on our great outdoors: he loved the Lake District, Scotland, and, most of all, North Wales. I remember the feeling of travelling there at night in the back of the car, my dad driving, seeing the dark bulk of the star-lit mountains, feeling very small and very safe.

We usually headed to my uncle’s holiday home, Cyfannedd Fach – an exposed yet sheltered cottage that my grandparents and uncle discovered as a ruin and the family rebuilt. It’s several turns of the road further than you think anyone may go, and dates from the medieval period, with its metre-thick walls. There are eight gates – used to divide sheep – between Cyfannedd and Dolgellau, a stolid grey-stone town we used to visit to peruse the mountaineering shop, and trail around with Dad as he stocked up on lightbulbs and string at the old ironmongery, TH Roberts. The shop retained all its Victorian shopfittings and the service was never speedy – each item was brought out tantalisingly slowly from a specific polished wooden drawer. Sadly, TH Roberts closed down, but the interior has been preserved in what is now Dolgellau’s most popular café, serving slabs of cake.

Above the town, Cader Idris broods, a perpetual reminder of our ant-like insignificance. Legend has Idris as a giant, with “cader” meaning “seat”, and it is said that if you sleep there the night you’ll end up either mad or a poet. The large boulders on the lower slopes are said to be the debris of stone-throwing battles between Idris and other giants. The rock here is volcanic, pillow lava, and the cliffs still bear traces of glaciers. There are blanket bogs, wild angelica, foxgloves, hare’s tail cottongrass, and glass-clear lakes of cold, metallic blue.

Abigail’s father loved spending time in the great outdoors of North Wales – Getty

I don’t remember ever questioning the need to climb or walk the area as a child. Mornings were spent perusing Ordnance Survey maps that billowed out over the toast crumbs as my dad pondered where we should go. His kit comprised a compass, carabinas, brown dubbin-polished walking boots with red laces, and, in the early days, plus fours. I knew our preferred local routes: for Cader, up the Pony Track and down the Fox’s Path – the latter a steep scree slide.

After climbing Cader, we would go to the George III (, an inn and sometime railway station reflected in the coot-dotted mirror of the Mawddach Estuary. The inn has a poem in its visitor’s book by Gerard Manley Hopkins: “The Mawddach, how she trips! Through throttled/If floodtide teeming thrills her full,/And mazy sands all water-wattled.”

At the time, I was only vaguely aware of the wide flat sandy beach at Barmouth. Crossing the 19th-century estuary toll bridge usually meant heading for Precipice Walk or New Precipice Walk, and only when the drizzle was too profound to attempt a mountain. Both these trails are fairly flat, but have views over the snaking estuary, backed by the billowing watercolour greys of Cader Idris. The last time I walked here with him, Dad led the way, Gore-Tex-clad, only his glasses exposed to the rain, while my boyfriend and I followed, drenched and hysterically laughing at the contrast in our preparedness.

Further north, we would often camp in leaky tinker tents in a farmer’s field in order to climb Tryfan, the most cartoonishly pointed of all the Welsh mountains, glowering above us. You have to scramble, using your hands, all the way to the top. This was also the launchpad for the Snowdon Horseshoe, and Dad would drive the six hours from London to walk the seven-hour route alone. He would start with the serrated knife edge of Crib Goch, where precipices drop away on either side. As a teenager, he told us, he had once walked along it with his hands in pockets, then the next day, after trading gung-ho tales of mountain accidents, crawled the same route on hands and knees.

But it was Snowdon that my brothers and I decided to climb in his memory. As we so often travel to mid Wales, we felt we should go further north for this commemorative walk – to return to a place that we hadn’t been for decades. We met, still caught in the headlights of grief, on a clear evening in June, at Betws-y-Coed, amid the Alpine, tree-knitted splendour of Snowdonia. We wandered through the town, slipping into well-worn sibling roles as we wandered over the town’s Pont-y-Pair (“bridge of the cauldron”), waterfalls foaming beneath it. We clambered across the rocks beneath the bridge, and sat overlooking the bubbling pools and crashing water as other visitors took selfies and the sun smeared the sky pink. By comparison, we felt oddly nervous for the next day.

We opted to walk the Pyg Track – an acronym of Pen-y-Grwd – because it begins beside another favourite place of Dad’s, the ivy-wrapped hotel ( that hosted those training for the 1953 ascent of Everest. We used to sit here for the essential post-walk pint, next to a roaring fire and in the wood-panelled bar where there are the signatures of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on the ceiling.

Snowdon – Getty

My brother, Ben, picked up three stones at the bottom. “For the cairn at the top,” he said.

“I didn’t realise that was a thing,” remarked Joe, our younger brother.

“It’s a Dad thing,” Ben replied.

We pocketed the rocks and started to walk. It was hard going, and steep. My brothers, fitter than me, powered ahead. I contemplated that I could die. My bag was heavy. I had packed far too many jumpers.

It was only when the incline subsided, and the views opened like a book, that I was hit by the memory of how things were. This was what made climbing a mountain so pleasurable; the rhythm of the walk, the haul and then the pause to survey the sweep of the land from the top of the world. We looked down on the Prussian-blue lake, the grey stone streaked with marble like lightning bolts. There were small puffs of sheep’s wool caught on the heather, like snowdrops.

For a fleeting, wonderful moment, I had found my dad. He was in the ground beneath our feet, in the ground that he had walked. He was in the views over the silvering Mawddach Estuary where we planted a tree to him in the summer, while tragi-comically dodging a trillion gnats.

He was in the memories of maps and boots, and back-of-envelope lists. He was in the rocky spine of Crib Goch, which he sauntered over long before I was born.

Reaching the ridge, the number of people climbing alongside us began to build. Gaggles were joining the path to the top from the other route, beside the mountain railway line. It felt good to be toiling towards the same end as these others – an arguing couple, an elderly man with walking poles, a runner in shorts, a stream of unlikely pilgrims. Reaching the chill wind of the summit, we put our stones on the pillar that marks it, and then added them to the cairn. And we agreed to climb again next year. Every year.

It felt like balm for my wounds; the wild openness, the permanence of the landscape, and the memory of trudging uphill with Dad at my side, advising me: “Don’t look at the mountain yet to climb, just the little bit ahead.” In the apex of our grief, we had searched for some peace, and found it in the place that our father loved.

News Related


'The Great Wedding of Munnes' an adventure for Abhishek Banerjee

© IANS Abhishek Banerjee Mumbai, Jan 22 (IANS) Actor and casting director Abhishek Banerjee, who will be seen soon in the upcoming web series ‘The Great Wedding of Munnes’, has ... Read more »

Ban on election rallies extended till 31 Jan; EC relaxes curbs for phase 1, 2

© Provided by Firstpost Ban on election rallies extended till 31 Jan; EC relaxes curbs for phase 1, 2 The ban on road shows and physical rallies for next month’s ... Read more »

Budget 2022: How India's process differs from other countries

© Provided by CNBCTV18 A government budget is the forecast of a nation’s financials. The budget details estimated expenditures and revenues for the course of the upcoming fiscal. But apart ... Read more »

Krithi Shetty plays eye doc to Sudheer Babu's filmmaker

© IANS Krithi Shetty plays an eye doctor in Aa Ammayi Gurunchi Meeku Cheppali. Chennai, Jan 22 (IANS) Sudheer Babu plays a filmmaker and Krithi Shetty an eye doctor in ... Read more »

Afghan woman in hiding speaks with Hillary Clinton, talks about what changed after Taliban takeover

© Provided by WION The Taliban takeover in August has plunged Afghanistan into a humanitarian crisis. Not only poverty and starvation are rampant, but millions of women have also lost ... Read more »

'We're British but we could lose our citizenships because our parents weren't born here'

Londoners who were born in the UK or came to the country as children say they feel they are being treated “less British”, and “dread waking up to having their ... Read more »

Hotter Aston Martin DBX Takes Shape In Latest Teaser

© Aston Martin DBX S Side Teaser It’s billed as the ‘world’s most powerful luxury SUV.’ Aston Martin is about to introduce a hotter version of the DBX. Supposedly ... Read more »

Luxurious Mercedes Sprinter Has Big Screen And PlayStation 5

© Klassen Mercedes-Benz Sprinter VIP 2022 You can’t get these toys in a Maybach. A van has utility in mind, but the space it offers inside makes it ripe ... Read more »

7 cruise ship packing mistakes you want to avoid at all costs

MSN has partnered with The Points Guy for our coverage of credit card products. MSN and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers. Packing for a cruise ... Read more »

This Microwave Popcorn Popper Is the Fastest Route to My Favorite Snack

This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to what people in the food industry are obsessed with eating, drinking, and buying right now. Whether I’m satisfying a midday craving, serving ... Read more »

Germany: Party picks conservative leader for post-Merkel era

On Location: January 21, 2022 Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.The Associated Press FRANKFURT, Germany — Delegates from the party of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel endorsed prominent ... Read more »

How to access 5G for AT&T and Verizon customers

© David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images A customer holds a new Apple Inc. iPhone 12 Pro at an Apple Inc. store in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. ... Read more »

Stray bullet kills English astrophysicist visiting Atlanta

On Location: January 21, 2022 Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.The Associated Press BROOKHAVEN, Ga. — A stray bullet struck and killed an English astrophysicist while he was ... Read more »

United Airlines flight to Israel turns back to US mid-flight after 2 passengers who assigned themselves seats in business class started a 'riot,' reports say

© ayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images A United Airlines airplane is seen at the Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, United States. ayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty ... Read more »

B.C. disasters, extreme weather underscore need for climate-resilient agriculture

VANCOUVER — Wildfires, sweltering heat and extensive flooding in British Columbia last year have underscored the importance of strengthening the agricultural sector’s resilience to the effects of climate change and ... Read more »

COVID-19: African scientists say 'mild omicron' could end pandemic

© Provided by DW Many African countries seem to have ‘accepted’ that COVID is here to stay As of Friday, January 21, the coronavirus pandemic had claimed the lives of ... Read more »

Man Utd vs West Ham - Premier League: Live score, lineups and updates

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo Manchester United host West Ham at Old Trafford in crucial top four clash  Ralf Rangnick’s side won 3-1 at Brentford in midweek and ... Read more »

Tax on parking: UK cities to impose levy on cars in bid to cut pollution

Councils across the UK are using radical strategies to cut the number of polluting vehicles on their streets in response to the climate emergency. Leicester city council hopes a new ... Read more »

(VIDEO) Lelaki tendang gelandangan diburu polis

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Video tular menunjukkan seorang lelaki mengasari gelandangan dengan menendang mangsa yang ketika itu cuba menghalang kotak dan barangnya diambil, dalam kejadian di luar pusat ... Read more »

Lakers hoch im Kurs: Das sind die besten Schweizer Transfers der Liga

© Marc Schumacher/freshfocus Das sind die besten Schweizer Transfers der Liga 1. Denis Malgin (25, ZSC Lions, von Lausanne) Ein typischer Transfer von Sven Leuenberger. Er holte nach Hollenstein, Bodenmann ... Read more »

Allererster britscher Sieg im Ski-Weltcup

Fast alle Schweizer scheitern am Ganslernhang – immerhin schaffen es zwei in die Top 10. Sieger Dave Ryding lernte auf Plastikmatten Skifahren. © Bild: Keystone Mit 35 Jahren zum ersten ... Read more »

Lucas Digne struck by bottle during Aston Villa celebrations upon return to Everton

Aston Villa left-back Lucas Digne was struck by a bottle thrown from the Goodison Park faithful upon his first return to Everton, since leaving less than two weeks ago. The ... Read more »

Covid-19: 10,600 cases, 836 in hospital and 78 in ICU

© Leon Farrell Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan file photo HEALTH OFFICIALS HAVE reported an additional 10,600 positive cases of Covid-19 in Ireland today. As of 8am this ... Read more »

BBC makes 'woke cuts' to archives, including Dad's Army

© Provided by The Telegraph Television Dad’s Army The BBC has purged mentions of disgraced stars Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris along with a number of racist and misogynistic jokes ... Read more »

Investors trying to navigate tech volatility should focus on the 'ABCs' - AI, big data, and cybersecurity, says UBS

© Morsa Images/Getty Images Morsa Images/Getty Images Tech volatility should prompt investors to focus on the ABCs of the sector – AI, big data and cybersecurity stocks, says UBS.  Those ... Read more »

Medvedev wins over Aussie crowd in win over Dutch opponent

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — As Daniil Medvedev sat courtside trying to re-hydrate during a changeover, an image of nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic flashed up in the stadium behind ... Read more »

Ex-CBC journalist reveals why ‘woke' media is broken — and how to fix it

Tara Henley warns that the “groupthink” she saw at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (inset) undermines journalism in the US, too. And that without diverse viewpoints, audiences are tuning out. NY ... Read more »

Kerala logs 45,136 new COVID-19 cases

Kerala continued to record steep rise in COVID-19 cases with 45,136 new positive cases being reported on Saturday, taking the tally to 55,74,702. Kerala had on Friday logged 41,668 fresh ... Read more »

Subway diary: Decay and depravity underground as system struggles to recover

The Post traveled roughly 100 miles along 12 different lines to form a diary of the current subway system. J.C. Rice In the wake of the horrific subway shoving death ... Read more »

'Code Red' Heat: The climate emergency is sending more kids of color to the emergency room

Climate change: Heat waves become more intense See more videos What to watch next Brian Laundrie admitted to killing Gabby Petito, FBI says The FBI announced Friday that Gabby Petito’s ... Read more »

Michael Flynn and Rudy Giuliani had their University of Rhode Island honorary degrees revoked

© AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, Fie Left: Michael Flynn; Right: Rudy Giuliani. AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, Fie Rudy Giuliani and Michael Flynn had their University of Rhode Island honorary degrees ... Read more »

Two Month Long IPL 2022 Likely To Begin On March 27, Mumbai Frontrunner to Host Games

© Provided by News18 Two Month Long IPL 2022 Likely To Begin On March 27, Mumbai Frontrunner to Host Games The 2022 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) will ... Read more »

Dozens killed in Yemen raids, detention center hit

Dozens, including children, were killed in air strikes in Yemen on Friday (January 21), according to charity Save The Children. Rescue workers pulled bodies out of rubble hours after a ... Read more »

GM Threatens To Cut New EV Allocation For Dealers Applying Markups

© Copyright 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV RST Automaker says it will take action against dealers that apply markups and use brokers who promote new GM vehicle allocation. General Motors ... Read more »

Two LeT terrorists killed in Shopian encounter

© Provided by WION Two terrorists belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba outfit have been killed in an encounter in South Kashmir’s Kilbal area of Shopian district. The identification of the terrorists ... Read more »

Self-proclaimed godman in Dombivli booked for looting family of Rs31L

© Provided by Hindustan Times A self-proclaimed godman in Dombivli has been booked for looting a family of Rs31L on the pretext of removing negative energy from the family. Police ... Read more »

Chris Boardman: Olympic champion to lead new walking and cycling body Active Travel

A former Olympic cycling champion will lead the government’s new active travel body responsible for improving walking and cycling infrastructure across England. Chris Boardman, who won gold at the 1992 ... Read more »

Australia delivers water, medicine and telecoms aid to tsunami-hit Tonga

Three flights from Australia carrying food, water, medical supplies and telecommunications equipment have landed in Tonga as the Pacific nation grapples with the aftermath of an underwater volcanic eruption and ... Read more »

Anti-abortion protesters optimistic at March for Life in DC

On Location: January 21, 2022 Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.The Associated Press WASHINGTON — The annual anti-abortion rally in the nation’s capital sounded more like a victory ... Read more »

FFP2-Masken im Preisvergleich: Hochsicherheitsschutz für Mund und Nase boomt wegen Omikron

Eine Umfrage von Blick zeigt: Kundinnen und Kunden fragen im Detailhandel verstärkt nach FFP2-Masken. Auch wenn diese mehrheitlich aus China kommen, gehen sie weg wie warme Weggli. Die Preise sind ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic