book review – Dances With Marmots

Dances with MarmotsKiwi George Spearing is a fireman who decided to hike the PCT long before the book WILD became a hit with the general public.

It’s charmingly amateurish. George is a hiker, not a writer.

Still … I feel most hikers will enjoy this lightweight read. :-)

Pacific Crest Trail veteran John Manning:

… The element of challenge was greater simply because fewer people had managed a thru’ hike; the information available for planning wasn’t so easy available; and lightweight gear hadn’t evolved to the same extent (George hiked with a 60lb pack on some stages) as it has today. Therefore, it’s true to
say that when George hiked the PCT there was a logistical challenge that today might seem to be on the wane.

Yet there’s no chest beating here. George recounts his PCT odyssey with humour, self-deprecating glee and a real feel for the camaraderie of the trail, even though he encountered only a handful of characters route (compare that to the hundreds I met in ‘04). As I read this book I was able to imagine myself back among the forests, scaling passes, crossing rivers and relishing George’s company and his sardonic Antipodean style of humour along the way.

Some of  the tales herein will be familiar to many hikers – the bear encounters, the occasional “temporary displacement”, the varied battles with the weather – but in a way they’re all the richer for the matter-of-fact way they’re recounted.

Dances isn’t intended to be a blockbuster; it was written for personal reasons and George was talked into publication by friends clamouring for copies. The layout takes a little getting used to – every sentence starts on a new line but the only indentations come where a fresh paragraph would normally begin; the text therefore seems to have a stop-start nature – but persevere and you’ll be glad you did. What do you want, waymarking?


NOT The West Highland Way, Scotland

Not the West Highland Way

by Ronald Turnbull
Cicerone Press

NOT the West Highland WayThe West Highland Way is one of the UK’s finest long distance walks, but the path runs close to a busy main road and avoids the mountain tops. NOT The West Highland Way describes alternative routes over mountains, smaller hills or high passes to all but one of the Way’s nine stages. With add-on day trips over Ben Lomond or Beinn Dorain.

Here at besthike we are NOT recommending the West Highland Way. There are plenty of better alternatives

Turnbull’s book details many of those alternatives close to the old trail.

Check it out for sure before deciding on the WHW.

related – Planning a West Highland Way walk

best treks western Indian Himalayas

September in Leh, Ladakh I found an excellent hiking guidebook by Depi Chaudhry in a bookstore.

Trekking Guide to the Western Himalayas

Collins (2009)


It includes 43 treks in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. A quick summary of each along with good maps, altitude charts, colour photos, etc.

Depi has hiked 70% of the routes in the book; the rest put together with information collated from other trekkers. Having completed the best of the bunch already – Markha Valley – I’m finding it a good starting point for deciding where to head next.

So far I’m leaning towards hiking out of Dharmsala and Manali on my next Indian adventure. :-)

related – Depi each season guides a section of a Trans Himalaya Trek.

Italy – Gran Paradiso: step into Paradise!

Guest post by mountain guide Roberto Calcagno:

I have been hiking Gran Paradiso National Park since I was 3yrs-old. My parents brought me there 3 months each season, my favourite time of the year. In Gran Paradiso I discovered my passion for the mountains and for nature in general.

After 30 years traveling around the world, exploring many other amazing destinations – including the Himalayas, Andes, Pamir, Andaman Sea – I had to conclude there is no place like home.  Gran Paradiso National Park is my favourite place in the world.

Gran Paradiso was the first National Park in Italy and is today the largest. Cogne village is near the heart of this magnificent region. From Cogne there are hundreds of hikes and climbs. The mountains are rugged. Though there are many trails, most of the mountain valley crossings are challenging. Hikers need alpine experience.

Gran Paradiso National Park is two hours far from Turin and 3 hours from Milan, in the top north west corner of Italy.

Gran Pariso

The mountain environment is stunning with glaciers, alpine lakes and plenty of wildlife including ibexes, chamois, marmot and golden eagles.

Chamois DSC03142 DSC02412

Accommodation of all kinds are available: campsites to 4 star hotels. Food here is heavy but amazing with mountain cheese and typical rice and polenta dishes. Delicious food is just one of hundreds of reasons to come to visit this gorgeous park.

gran paradiso trek DSC00914


Roberto Calcagno was born in Turin, Italy. He is 30 years old, formerly a Telecommunication Engineer who studied and lived in both Chile and Thailand. He’s always loved Nature, especially the Alps. Roberto switched jobs some years ago to follow his passion and become a hiking guide. Today he’s the owner of Contact Roberto via that link if you are interested in hiking these mountains.