We all have a secret, or not so secret, bucket list of those walks which fire our imagination and fill our dreams – the Camino, the Tour of Mont Blanc, the Cinque Terre. Here are some books you should be able to find in your local library to help you create your list, or refill when you suddenly find you've walked them all. Depressingly, most of these books seem to include 'before you die', so apologies for any morbid note.
Barry Stone's 1001 Walks You Must Experience Before You Die seems rather daunting when you're already in your sixties, but fortunately many of these walks are very short. The walks are arranged by theme: overland, urban, mountain, heritage and coastal and shoreline. Each walk is briefly described on one page with a photograph and stating distance, time and grade. There is an index of walks by country at the beginning, with Australia coming second after the USA for the largest number of walks per country. It's certainly worth a browse, and would be very useful if you're travelling and want to build in a few walks.
The BBC's Unforgettable Walks to Take Before You Die by Steve Watkins and Clare Jones is a glorious book because of the photographs. It's well spread geographically and includes our own Great Ocean Walk, which is its only Australian entry. Actual detail of the walks is a bit scanty, but is usually sufficient to get a sense of the walk's difficulty and any support available.
Classic Hikes of the World: 23 Breathtaking Treks, with detailed routes and maps for expeditions on six continents, by Peter Potterfield is an American publication and half of the walks presented are in North America. There are some very serious walks, like Shackleton Crossing in the Antarctic. Also with good pictures, the route guides and maps are detailed and each walk has a both a physical and a psychological challenge rating out of 5. Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Baltoro Glacier to K2 Base Camp in Pakistan, and Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal all score 5 for both types of challenge.
Chris Santella's Fifty Place to Hike Before You Die: Outdoor Experts Share the World's Greatest Destinations is a small format book with a good variety of walks but fewer pictures than others. Each walk is recommended, and possibly written, by a different 'expert', leading to an eclectic and interesting mixture. It's heavily biased towards North America, and there is insufficient information about distance and difficulty.
Claes Grundsten's Trek! the Best Trekking in the World is another beautiful coffee-table sized book with great photographs and global variety. At the back of the book, there are brief route guides for all the walks, including distance, accommodation, difficulty and best time, which provide a good overview. One of the best of these bucket books.
The surprising thing about all these books is that they each present different walks, so that you'd need several lifetimes to do them all. A few walks are in most of them, and so you have to assume they really are the ones you must do before you die. They are the Routeburn Track, the West Highland Way, the Grand Canyon, Everest Base Camp, The Inca Trail, The Lycian Way (Turkey), the Dolomites (Italy), the Rocky Mountains and Mount Kilimanjaro.
Irene McG, The Geelong Walker, July 2016