Book Title: From Snow to Ash – Solitude, soul-searching and survival on Australia’s toughest hiking trail
Author: Anthony Sharwood
Promotional Blurb: The incredible, inspiring story of a solo journey through Australia’s toughest and most beautiful hiking trail – the Australian Alps Walking Track – for fans of Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer or Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and anyone who dreams of iconic wilderness walks.
At the start of the hellish, fiery Australian summer of 2019/20, Walkley Award-winning journalist and suburban dad Anthony Sharwood set off on a journey. Abandoning his post on a busy news website to clear his mind, he solo-trekked the Australian Alps Walking Track, Australia’s most gruelling and breathtakingly beautiful mainland hiking trail, which traverses the entirety of the legendary High Country from Gippsland in Victoria to the outskirts of Canberra.
The journey started in a blizzard and ended in a blaze. Along the way, this lifelong lover of the mountains came to realise that nothing would ever be the same – either for him or for the imperilled Australian Alps, a landscape as fragile and sensitive to the changing climate as the Great Barrier Reef. Source
My Thoughts: My apologies if my reading material has become a little mundane of late i.e. repeat stories about long walks in the bush, slogging up mountains, equipment malfunctions and endless navel gazing.
This book is not like that at all. Well, maybe heavy on the first few things, but relatively light on tortuous self-analysis and it is a pleasant change. Not saying that I don’t empathise with people as they unpack their emotional baggage. Sometimes it is just nice to read a story about someone who is passionate about the wilderness and doesn’t mind a long walk.
Sharwood can write, which is probably a good thing as he does come from a lengthy career in journalism. He also doesn’t take himself too seriously and is happy to poke fun at his own misadventure. This is a refreshing change to the serious-minded earnestness of many other walker-writers in this genre.
“You build resilience after a long stretch in your own company. You watch chaos building around you and realise you are powerless to stop it….People throw the word resilience around these days like stale bread to pigeons, to the point where the word has become meaningless. Isolation on the trail recharges your resilience. It gives you composure and perspective. It crystallises the things you can change, the things you can’t. And the one thing you can always change is your outlook.”
This is an easy and interesting read peppered with humour and quirky asides. Yes, he is using the walk to give himself some time and space to think about his future, but he also uses that time and space to closely examine the environment he is walking through and the serious consequences of climate change.
I think this is the aspect of the book I enjoyed the most – light on ego and heavy on reflection about what he was seeing and experiencing out in the bush. Sharwood is obviously a student of the mountains and a history-lover with a genuine interest in the people who put their stamp on the Australian High Country, from graziers and mountain-men and women, to passionate explorers and skiers.
He has a lot to say about the negative impacts of the wild brumbies on the fragile Alpine flora and fauna, but also considers their historic role and the emotion they evoke among many Australians. After seeing the damaged ponds, crushed plants and ruined water sources, he leans heavily towards the dramatic reduction and/or complete removal of these feral horses from our National Parks. I tend to agree with him.
The whole book is written against the backdrop of freak snow blizzards at the start of his trek, to an aborted finish due to our worst fire season in recorded history. It gives his ruminations about climate change great relevancy and immediacy.
“Live Bravely. That’s what outdoors adventure is all about. And the outdoors kicks back. It empowers you. Live bravely on the trail and you live bravely back home.”
An enjoyable and inspiring read, revealing a little known Australian trail that I suspect will only grow in popularity and ‘epicness’. I gave the book 7/10.
Author bio: Anthony Sharwood is a Walkley Award-winning journalist specialising in sports, the outdoors, weather and climate. He has spent the last 10 years as a writer and editor on leading Australian news websites, and has also presented television shows, radio programs and a podcast.
A skier, hiker and lifelong lover of Australia’s High Country, Ant’s brain was pretty much fried after a decade of digital journalism. The Australian Alps Walking Track was a chance to escape, to cleanse, to reset. From Snow to Ash documents that trek. Ant lives with his wife and two teenagers in a Sydney suburb nobody has ever heard of. Source.
Author blog or website: Not found. He is on Facebook.
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Available from: Book Depository
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