Footprints on the mountains: the news from the Pyrenees
A new book on the Spanish Pyrenees, published in May 2016.
Review by backpacking blogger Andy Howell
“This book will no doubt become a firm favourite amongst lovers of the Pyrenees.” — Full review here
Extracts from Andy Howell’s trekking and backpacking blog “Must be this Way” (my emphasis). See also his Pyrenees pages
Like his previous book, Footprints on the Mountains sets out to be more than an extended trail journal… [Steve] savours the journey, takes great pleasure in the company he keeps on the trail and is genuinely interested in the local cultures he encounters along the way…
As Steve suggests in the book the Pyrenees are really a land all of their own, a non-state place that exists on both sides of the border with a shared economy, shared culture and even shared languages, based on the Basque cultures of the West and the Catalan cultures in the East. Take your time. Look and learn. Let it all sink in…
Steve has developed his writing style a lot since [his last book] If You Only Walk Long Enough. In many ways the new book reminds me a lot of Chris Townsend’s recent work… There is so much to know about and to explore here. There are old and ancient communities, deserted settlements, man-made interventions such as reservoirs and hydro schemes. In the West there is the struggle for the survival and development of the Basque culture. In the East there are memories of the civil war and the fight again racism. There is nature too, the attempt to rebuild the community of Pyrenean Ibex and the more controversial campaign to re-introduce the brown bear… The wolf seems to be re-introducing itself, by all accounts migrating across France from Italy. And in the middle there is Andorra, that weird anomaly of history that has resulted in a whole nation — economy, culture and all — completely devoted to the art of shopping.
This book will no doubt become a firm favourite amongst lovers of the Pyrenees.
Review by David le Vay, author of the Hairy Hikers: A coast to coast trek along the French Pyrenees.
Having read this wonderful book I wanted to haul on my ancient walking boots and head out for hills. Cracknell’s narrative gives a real sense of the process of long-distance hiking; the highs and lows, the creaking knees, exploding rucksacks and the beautiful simplicity of putting one foot in front of another and being out on the trail and at one with nature. It is both humorous and serious, poignant in parts, as Cracknell meets an array of fellow hikers along the way, all with a story to tell. Bears, marmots, witches…it’s all here. A great book about a great walk.
Review by TGO magazine September 2016
His deep knowledge is obvious and a valuable addition to the book, as he talks to locals about reintroducing bears and ibex, and explores the history of the mountains from the Basque culture to the effects of the Spanish Civil War.
- Kindle edition $3.99/£2.81
- Paperback edition ISBN 978-1530523450. 262 pages, map and 29 photos. $13.99/£9.88 from Amazon and all good booksellers.
- Sol y Sombra
- Paths crossing
- Water, ice, snow
- A walk in the Park
- The heart of the matter
- Under the yoke
- A whole country for shopping
- The remembered past
- Into the fire
From the back cover
The Pyrenees are by turns beautifully natural and bleakly austere; shaped by centuries of labour… and scarred by human suffering. In Footprints on the Mountains, Steve Cracknell returns to them – on the Spanish high-level Senda – to see how they are changing. It is the story of an ageing hiker and a long and sometimes dangerous walk.
In the valleys he talks to locals and meets an eccentric cast of hikers. But on the heights he is alone with marmottes and sarrios. He listens to both sides of the argument over the reintroduction of bears. And goes searching for ibex imported as part of a rewilding programme.
Bear festivals, witch trials, and refugees are as much part of the tale as the spectacular scenery; the World Heritage Ordesa canyon and the twisted waters of the Aguas Tuertas are part of the backdrop.
More than just a footnote on the place of the ancient wild in the modern world, this is the book to read if ever you dream of escaping to the hills.
Steve Cracknell has also written If You Only Walk Long Enough: Exploring the Pyrenees an account of his first trek from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, in France. ‘A very humorous tale of adventure.’ The French Paper Book of the Month February 2010. ‘A superb and unique addition to books about the Pyrenees.’ Strider Magazine (Long Distance Walkers’ Association).
The French edition is published by éditions Cairn. More reviews in English and in French.