Wandering & Pondering in the Australian Alps

Book Title: From Snow to Ash – Solitude, soul-searching and survival on Australia’s toughest hiking trail

Author: Anthony Sharwood

Cover of book - From Snow to Ash - published by Hachette

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

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Day 1 Via Francigena, Great Saint Bernard Pass to Aosta, 31km

Date: Wednesday 8 August
Distance to Rome: 31/1027km
Terrain: down-bloody-hill all the way
Overnight: La Belle Epoque,€48
Feeling: absolutely knackered!

20180807223729_IMG_2571_1Well, I can honestly say that I waaaaaaaay underestimated the via Francigena. I had heard about the Swiss alps and seen pictures of course, but I never knew the buggers were so big.

In my naivety I thought 30km in the crisp mountain air would be challenging, but doable. Ohh how wrong could I be?

20180808155835_IMG_2596_1I started walking just after 6 am and all-but crawled into Aosta at nearly 4.30 p.m. with absolutely nothing left in the tank and every muscle screaming blue murder.

A normal person would pay attention to the guide/map makers who recommend that this stage be split over two days, but me being the eternal optimist thought that one day would be fine.

Over the 10 hours I descended 1852 metres and my knees and leg muscles knew everyone of those metres intimately. It was a day to doubt my sanity, but when I took a moment to look up instead of where my feet were going, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. I could not believe the pockets of snow still nestled at the mountain tops and the lushness of the forests, the fields of cows and obligatory cowbells.

20180808164326_IMG_2597_1I also could not believe the amount of people out walking on the same path. People of all ages, young and old, all out for a hike. Obviously they breed them tough over here. One additional challenge is for me to know whether to greet them with ‘bonjour’ or ‘buon giorno’ as French and Italian are spoken equally in this part of Italy.

For a good part of the day the path followed an extensive water canal construction that provided irrigation water for the many farmers and their pastures. Even though Europeans are screaming about the drought it just seems to be endless water here in the north of Italy.

20180808171050_IMG_2601_1A memorable day for all the wrong, and quite a few right, reasons!

Tip of the day: buy yourself a good set of walking poles and bring them!!