High and Low by Keith Foskett

Discussion in 'Media Links' started by Robin, Apr 6, 2018.

  1. Robin

    Robin Moderator Staff Member


    I was going to buy this book anyway, but Keith contacted me to see whether I’d like a complimentary copy. One of his previous books “The Last Englishman” about his epic PCT walk is one of my favourite books, so I was looking forward to reading High and Low. It certainly doesn’t disappont and is a great read. So much so, that I read it in two days. I had to pace myself a bit as I could easily have read it in a day.

    High and Low is a bit different from Keith’s previous books in that it’s not just an account of a long walk but there’s a subplot of his growing realisation that his mood swings and low feelings are down to depression. This is not a book of endless introspection and self analysis, but there are occasional asides and clues as to the causes of his drift into a depressive state. Most of the book is an entertaining account of his walk from Cape Wrath to Bellingham, taking in the Cape Wrath Trail and the West Highland Way along the way.

    The genesis of the walk was his aborted CDT attempt where he caught pneumonia and had to bail, fearing he was suffering a heart attack. After recuperating for a couple of weeks, Keith had the idea of walking from the north of Scotland to the English border and maybe tacking on the Pennine Way and bit more at the end.

    The Cape Wrath Trail is notoriously hard and, for Keith, the weather (and midges) made it even more of a challenge. In contrast to the long US trails, route finding is more difficult and the paths often sketchy or non-existent. Not only that, most of time, unlike the PCT or AT, you’re walking on your own with little prospect of company.

    Walking solo is great, but if your mind is in the wrong place, it can be a curse as it gives you time to dwell on negative things. In a more minor way, that was my experience in the first few days of last year’s TGO Challenge. Chuck in some bad weather, problems with food resupply and losing his trekking poles (vital for his tent setup) and it was not surprising to see the start of a negative spiral developing.

    Having finally overcome the obstacles of the CWT and made it to Fort William, it should have been plain sailing. Indeed, at the start of the WHW, he met a lady, Elina, with whom he strikes up a friendship and they walk together for the first two days. Elina had suffered from depression and in a series of conversations, which become pivotal to his understanding of what’s happening to him, she explains her journey and recovery from depression. Unexpectedly, she has to cut her walk short. Their parting is quite emotional and she writes him a lovely note.

    After completing the WHW, the rest of the trip has some rays of sunshine but both the weather and Keith’s mood become increasingly troubled, culminating with a decision to end the walk and go home. Dealing with the aftermath of the walk, a lack of purpose in life and a family tragedy pile on further pressures, not helped by a dependency on nicotine and alcohol. Finally, Keith admits he has a problem and seeks help, finding a way out of the mire of depression.

    The struggle with depression gives a greater emotional depth than his previous books. This must have been a difficult book to write but Keith avoids the temptation to try to garner sympathy or dwell too long on his problems. However, his honesty and openess are admirable. Although I’ve not suffered from depression, I can empathise and have had similar, less intense feelings, over the past couple of years, especially after the death of my mother.

    Not that Keith’s previous books are badly written, but this book is definitely a step up in his craft as a writer with excellent pacing, variety and interest. It would be nice if it garnered a wider audience than just the hiking crowd as it not just another trail book, but one that explores what it is to live with the challenge of depression. Highly recommended.

    (Copied from my blog)
    Taz38, JKM, tom and 8 others like this.
  2. Max

    Max Ultralighter

    Will check for it on Kindle.
    Robin likes this.
  3. fluffkitten

    fluffkitten Moderator Staff Member

    Keith is a good writer and this time he's also brought in a very good editor in Alex Roddie and produced an extremely interesting book. I bought High and Low as soon as it was available on Kindle and I'm very pleased that I did.
    Robin likes this.
  4. Robin

    Robin Moderator Staff Member

    You can tell it’s been professionally edited. I hope it sells well.
    fluffkitten likes this.
  5. Enzo

    Enzo Thru Hiker

    I got a pre release copy to proof read but my kindle app ate it. Bought a hard copy when they came out.
    Robin likes this.
  6. Max

    Max Ultralighter

    Enjoyable read, well worth the money.
    Robin likes this.
  7. Foxster

    Foxster Section Hiker

    I'm just working my way through the original three books.

    Not my usual sort of reading matter - hardly any spaceships at all - and I don't know how to feel about it all.

    Partly I'm jealous for an experience I haven't had, but then I was busy doing pretty fun stuff (a lot of miles on motorbikes) at the same age as he was in his first book that I wouldn't swap even an El Camino trip for. Partly I have a nagging feeling that his trips were self-absorbed and led to him feeling unhappy in the long term. And partly I am just interested in the areas visited, to the point of planning a little wander around northern Spain this summer to check out a section or two of the El Camino.
    Robin likes this.
  8. Enzo

    Enzo Thru Hiker

    I listened to his two part interview on backpacking lite and he said part of the motivation was always getting away from problems to give him a chance to mull things over.
    I too spent those years messing about on bikes, still have my nitrous bike in the garage, and every year i Say I'll get it out and every year I don't!
  9. Max

    Max Ultralighter

    Small world, I've been into bikes had lots of different ones and still have a 600 that I built from a box of bits. Also walked all the major Camino's going into Santiago.
    Enzo likes this.
  10. SafetyThird

    SafetyThird Section Hiker

    Maybe we need a bike thread :)

    Enzo likes this.
  11. Enzo

    Enzo Thru Hiker

    I'll look like the bushcrafter of the bike world though...1371 bandit
    SafetyThird likes this.
  12. Foxster

    Foxster Section Hiker

    HD Fat Bob and Honda FMX650.
    Enzo likes this.

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