It’s a brave journalist who – after winning Walkleys for his work – decides to quit his job and throw it all in for five weeks of hiking in the Australian wilderness. But former sports journalist Anthony Sharwood was completely burnt out after years in a frenetic digital journalism career. His detox needed to be dramatic.
In the resulting book, his first, From Snow to Ash, Sharwood describes what drove him to take on Australia’s toughest hiking trail, the Australian Alps Walking Track, and what parts of himself he rediscovered along the way.
What follows is an incredible solo journey along a 660-kilometre course through one of the wildest summers that Australia has seen – the 2019-2020 bushfire season. There are moments of terror and humour, poignant encounters with kind strangers, as well as the heart-wrenching failures and rewards related to survival tools and trail snacks that only seasoned campers will understand. (Just imagine the ecstasy of sipping an out-of-date can of Coca-Cola Sharwood finds half-buried in the bush, after weeks of physical effort carrying only bare necessities for survival.)
The pace of the book follows that of a solid multi-day hiking trip: slow at first, with some rushing moments, and a searing end that sees Sharwood rescued from bushfires. There are stream-of-consciousness sections that, at times, distract from the drama of the physical journey. But this is also uniquely reflective of the mental ebbs and flows hikers ride to survive their gruelling tests.
Those who dream of empty trails, shattering physical efforts, and the utter solitude that comes with solo hiking will devour this book. Those who opt for more luxe holiday experiences may find it difficult to appreciate. But most readers will be hooked to read Sharwood’s experience of a mind-altering survival challenge that few will ever come close to attempting.