A review by Emma and Nick Streeton
Anthony Sharwood grew up with a view of the Brindabella Mountains, which lie to the west of Canberra. In the evening when the light catches them, they take on this beautiful glow. His attraction to this landscape undoubtedly goes back to his gazing out the window growing up. Sharwood travels from snow to ash through this landscape.
This draw to the mountains, the solitude, escape and the challenge it presents is a theme that runs strong through this book. Let’s be clear: this is not a guidebook. Whilst there are some extremely useful references and experiences (gear addicts will love the fact he talks about the equipment used on the trail in detail), this is a story about escape from modern life. It is a reflection of the fragility of nature in the high country.
From snow to ash: hike of a lifetime
Anthony starts his solo walk in the historic village of Walhalla, a historic mining village tucked in the base of the Baw Baw plateau. The end goal is Canberra, a lazy 660km away along the Australian Alps Walking Track. A walk that takes him through those mountains he gazed at as a kid. He’d left his family behind in Sydney and you get the sense after years in the journalism rat race it was his attempt at recharging the soul.
It doesn’t take long for the challenge of life of on the trail to arise. Actually it happens almost as soon as he leaves the ‘comfort’ of western civilization. Relentless climbing, relentless descending, heat, dehydration and gross haematuria (you can look that one up, it ain’t pretty). Through Anthony’s narration you can truly sense the strenuous nature of the task he has set himself. It clearly hurts, at times badly, but his adventure is also told with great humor, a trait that certainly carries him through his toughest days on the trail.
Anthropogenic impacts now extend to the wildest wilderness on earth and the Australian Alps is no exception. Eventually the challenge becomes insurmountable due to forces beyond those of one man or woman on the trail. Then the author is forced to flee without reaching his destination. But if life is a journey, not a destination, the same goes for his experience on the trail. Whilst the book cumulates in the brutal realization that his special place is changing for the worse, it is intertwined with fantastic stories of hikers, bushmen and mountain families. All people who are, like Anthony, deeply connected to this landscape.
This book was easy to read and engaging, regardless of whether you can see the mountains from your bedroom window. It captures the best in people with a good dose of humor. It highlights the stark rugged beauty and fragility of the Australian Alps. I thought it was a wonderful read and it comes highly recommended.
Emma’s husband devoured From Snow to Ash. This review is based on his opinion and perspectives. In a nutshell, Nick loved this book and highly recommends it.
(Review updated to correct the geography: Emma said the Brindabellas are east of Canberra and I didn’t check. I thought they were to the west but decided I must be wrong, not being a local and all. I bet Nick gave Emma a telling off, lol!)
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Imprint: Hachette Australia