Haute Route Pyrenees, Atlantic to Mediterranean, Summer 2010
Jul 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm #2005567Willem FoxSpectator
Thank you very much for posting!!
Most helpfull info for my trip.
Willem/ AmsterdamMay 9, 2014 at 6:30 am #2100761Sally DykhuisMember
Such great info on the HRP! Thank you so much for sharing. Your post was the key impetus in my decision to take the trek this August, 2014. I am about to buy the Rando maps online, but wondered if anyone might like to sell theirs instead. If so, feel free to contact me at sallydykhuis at yahoo dot com.May 9, 2014 at 8:45 am #2100799– –BPL Member
–Jun 25, 2014 at 9:43 pm #2114739Adam KilpatrickBPL Member
@oystersLocale: South Australia
WOW great trip report!
I have a question; you make a few mentions about the spikey grasses. Did you wear gaiters/do other hikers there use gaiters? They are pretty par for the course bushwalking here in Australia, by the sounds of it they might be useful there. Is this grass also around on the GR10 route, or is it more higher up?
Cheers!Jun 26, 2014 at 4:04 am #2114780Roger CaffinBPL Member
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
What they call 'spikey grass' in the Pyrenees, and what we call spikey grass in Central Australia (ie spinifex), really bear no relationship to each other at all. I found spinifex went straight through my gaiters on the Larapinta Trail. I learnt to avoid it.
CheersFeb 16, 2016 at 12:32 pm #3382382
Sadly I can’t edit my original post to update with a better online map of our trip.
I’ve recently put our HRP data into a CalTopo.com map, where you can change the map source and you can download the gpx/kml data. There are three folders of data in the map and you can show/hide each folder.Feb 16, 2016 at 12:57 pm #3382386
I got a PM from somebody asking about maps for the HRP. I’ll share my response here in case it is useful to other people.
I think we still have a set of paper maps, but I don’t have an extra set to sell. Instead, I just spent time making a map of our route at CalTopo.com
CalTopo has excellent tools for printing map sets.
In the upper right corner at CalTopo you can change the map background to the one you like most, probably OpenCycleMap will work best for the HRP. Unfortunately, you can not set the map background to IGN which is far superior to OpenCycleMap. However, I found at least two websites that displays the IGN maps.
Perhaps one of those sites will let you import route information, or if not maybe you can find a site that will let you import a gpx or kml file and display it on an IGN map. If so, as a last resort you could snap screen captures of the sections and print those screen captures.
I know you said that you don’t use gps, but I’m going to make the plug anyway. If you have a smart phone (iPhone or Android) you should strongly consider getting the iPhiGeNie app and learning how to use it. I have only evaluated that app at my desk, and found it impressive. Recently Alan Dixon used it in Corsica and reported that it is at least as good and in some ways better than Gaia GPS. There is nothing to compare to having the detailed real French IGN and Spanish national maps with you, and iPhiGenie is a cheap way to achieve that.
You can download our route in gpx or kml format from the CalTopo map using the Export button in the upper left. Use the downloaded file with iPhiGeNie or other apps.
The HRP is one of our all-time favorite hikes, and I’m sure you will have a terrific trip.Feb 22, 2016 at 10:28 am #3383761
Following up on prior post, as of now the best map layer in CalTopo for the HRP would be “TF Outdoors”.
[boy do I dislike the recent BPL change that prevents me from editing prior posts. I’d really like to fix the original trip report to include the CalTopo link. Too bad.]Feb 22, 2016 at 2:51 pm #3383846Roger CaffinBPL Member
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
[boy do I dislike the recent BPL change that prevents me from editing prior posts. I’d really like to fix the original trip report to include the CalTopo link. Too bad.]
That’s a limitation of the Forum SW curently in use on the new web site. But Ryan is looking to change it soon to something hopefully better.
Do you want me to add the link? If so, send me the exact inclusion.
CheersSep 27, 2016 at 11:50 am #3428314
Sorry, I had some additional information for a later season traverse of the route but I am finding that the post is adding a lot of spurious HTML tags that I don’t have time to edit out. I will try again another time!Oct 26, 2016 at 9:15 am #3432909
First of all thanks to Amy for posting this information, which was largely responsible for my resolution to move from doing the route in sections to going for a complete traverse. I finally had the opportunity to do this in late August to mid September this year and thought some additional notes for a “late season” traverse might be useful to some.
I prefer late August and September for most of the mountains in Europe (and the US for that matter) for the lack of mosquitos and generally more settled conditions as the temperatures begin to fall (fewer thunderstorms). The downsides for Europe is that facilities begin to shut down in stages from the beginning of September making resupply a bit more tricky.
I have taken Amy’s list and added my amends and observations for a traverse undertaken outside the July/August peak season.
• Dates: 25 days hiking, August 26 to September 19.
• Routing: I followed the route as described in Tom Joosten’s 2016 Cicerone Press Guide ( a minor revision of the 2009 version) and didn’t use his lower altitude alternates.
• Accommodations: One night paid camping in a commercial campground in Lescun. 5 nights in towns (Candanchu, Gavarnie, Salardu, L’Hospitalet, Bolquere); 1 night in unstaffed mountain refuge; 18 nights wild camping. I’ve never had any issues with wild camping in the Pyrenees on this or previous trips.
• Weather: I had four days with enough rain during daylight hours to use a raincoat and one nighttime thunderstorm. Strong winds were uncommon until the last section post L’Hospitalet. The wind was strong enough in this section to cause difficulties maintaining balance on occasion. I walked in significant fog/mist for 2 days, and it hampered navigation once or twice. Temperatures over 30º C on the first couple of days but then very comfortable until the middle of September when it cooled abruptly. Ice overnight on only two nights. The weather overall was excellent and I consider myself lucky to have avoided any snow as previous trips to the Pyrenees spanning this period have had at least one fall.
• Bugs: No mosquitos at all but horse flies were annoying in the Basque area. After that non-biting flies were the only annoyance. The lack of biting insects is one of the main reasons why I like late August and September for these trips.
• Re-supply: I shopped at six stores en-route (highlighted below):
o Day 0: Hendaye: before starting; several adequate grocery stores are available.
o Day 2: Arizkun: two small stores but closed when I passed through
o Day 3: Les Aldudes: closed when I passed through.
o Day 5: Col Bargargui (Irati): closed when I passed through.
o Day 5: Lescun: a well-stocked medium sized market. Resupplied for section to Gavarnie
o Day 6: Candanchu: tiny Supermercado El Bozo, closed for season.
o Day 9: Gavarnie: I thought this was a well-stocked grocery: Resupplied for section to Salardu
o Day 15: Salardu: The market here seems to get bad reviews and was closed for the season in any case. Used a bus to travel to Vielha to restock for section to L’Hospitalet. This was easy and cheap but time consuming.
o Day 19: l’Hospitalet-pres-l’Andorre: from previous experience this is a poor small market and was closed when I passed through. I should have added an extra day’s supplies at Vielha to get me to Bolquere
o Day 21: Bolquere: excellent market and great deli. Couple of day’s supplies to get to Arles.
o Day 23: Arles-sur-Tech: good Spar supermarket but closed between 1230 and 1500. Bought supplies for rest of trip here.
o Day 24: Le Perthus: wasn’t desperate enough to stop here!
• Restaurants and Refuge food: I ate at only one staffed refuge Refuge de Soula, which was good. It is noticeable that staffing levels and availability of food is reduced in September and I got turned down at 2 or 3 other refuges when I enquired about food. If you are there for meal times then these will probably work but not as flexible outside those times as they are during the peak season so if your schedule doesn’t exactly match you will need to wait or go without…
• Water: Water was frequently available, particularly within the main mountain areas but I made it a habit to use a Sawyer filter for all collected water as the quantity of animal droppings in practically all locations is quite startling!
I also used the 1:50,000 scale maps recommended in the Cicerone Guide. I photocopied onto A4 waterproof paper and then highlighted the route on the map. I mostly used the maps on my phone but the paper maps were better for checking which valley/col was next and as backup in case of phone issues.
I used the Viewranger app with French and Spanish IGN 1:25,000 mapping. The French maps are good, the Spanish (and Andorran) maps less so. If there appears to be a conflict between the Cicerone guide and the Spanish maps over the location and route of a path, my advice would be to go with the guide! I had a couple of hours trying to follow the route of the GRP1 in Andorra as indicated on the IGN maps, which was laughably(!) incorrect. If I had referred to the guide more thoroughly this would have saved time and scratches…..
Opinions and impressions:
• Scenery: Agree with Amy on this. Overall an excellent route and even the areas outside the high mountains are interesting with very few “transit” sections.
• Up and Down: No additional comments beyond agreeing that there is a lot of it!
• How much time? Joosten 2016 now suggests 45 days for the route (compared with 42 in the 2003 guide). The additional time seems to be accounted for a new section introduced to avoid the Arcalis ski area and splitting a couple of days to reduce them below the 10 hour mark. I allowed 29 days for the route and completed in 25 with both the first and last day being short (travelled from the UK on the first day and finished at midday in Banyuls on the last).
• Technical difficulties: Ice axe and crampons were definitely not required at this time of year. It is debatable whether snow in some areas would actually ease the route as in their absence there is a lot of loose material and more areas of large boulders to be traversed. The only remaining snow patches were around the Cols Literole and Mulere and these were easier than the boulders before and after.
• Fantastic Campsites: Agree with Amy’s comments here. My experience on this trip and all previous ones is that the Pyrenees have great opportunities for wild camping and most sites I found were excellent.
• Navigation Agree that navigation was relatively straightforward. I used Joosten’s guidebook, 1:50,000 French and Spanish topo maps (paper), 1:25,000 topo maps on phone, and an altimeter. A compass was carried as back-up but not used.
I also found Joosten’s book adequate but frustrating. Amy speculates that this was not the quality of the original text, but poor translation from the original Dutch into English. I spoke to a Dutch lady who I met on the approach to Lescun about this. She was also hiking the HRP and had the Cicerone guide in English (the Dutch version having not been updated from the original) and had also seen this opinion expressed. Her view was that this was unlikely, as Dutch and English have a similar grammar structure, and she laid the blame for ambiguous descriptions with Joosten rather than the unnamed translator!
I find written guidebooks a bit painful at the best of times and my view is that this is a bad example. Too many blocks of text without sufficient breaks, poor indication of timescales between points in the text (too many references to “soon” varying between 1 minutes and >30 minutes) and relatively poor diagrams. There are also big sections where there is a lot of detailed description but no mention of the fact that there are waymarks. Having said that most of the time the guide doesn’t need to be followed too carefully once you have translated it onto the route on the map. See my comments re: Spanish mapping though….
• Grazing: As Amy says there are lots of cows, sheep and horses throughout the Pyrenees. I didn’t find the bells a problem even at night but bear in mind that they impact on water quality practically everywhere.
• Food/Fuel: I did carry a stove (Trail Designs Ti Sidewinder for the 0.9L Evernew pot) and any doubts as to whether this was the right decision for me were resolved on Day 3 with a large cup of tea after several hours of rain! I used just under 1L of alcohol over the 19 days camping and generally heated around 2L per day.
• Crowded? Much busier in the section from Lescun to Gavarnie than elsewhere (this is the only area of National Park on the French side of the border. In the other sections it wasn’t uncommon to go for several hours without meeting anyone, especially after 16:00…….
Overall a great route and experience. Recommended.Oct 29, 2016 at 5:09 pm #3433422
John, Thank you so much for taking the time organize this information about your HRP trip. It is hands-down the most useful information we’ve received in a comment to one of our posts. We’re glad you enjoyed the trip as much as we did. It remains on my top-ten list! Amy (and James too)Nov 2, 2016 at 10:23 pm #3433992Adam KilpatrickBPL Member
@oystersLocale: South Australia
This is still one of the best trip report threads on BPL.
HRP/Pyrenees routes still right up there on my bucket list :-)Nov 3, 2016 at 3:27 pm #3434050Stuart RBPL Member
Useful information, thanks for that, but 25 days implies quite some pace.
Did you have time constraints or some other reason that prevented a more relaxed schedule?Nov 8, 2016 at 12:17 pm #3434710
Sorry for the delay in responding, I’ve been enjoying the autumnal weather up north……
Thanks Amy and Adam,
I agree, this is a great thread and proved to me more useful, and inspirational, for my trip than the guidebook!
Stuart, well it was actually only 24 days walking time ;-)
Seriously it came down to time off work. I could take 4 weeks and I looked at other trips I had done and thought 28 days was doable but in the event I just found that I wanted to walk from dawn to dusk and it just turned into a 25 day trip. Gave me time at the end to rent a bike and cycle some of the cols in the Ariege region for a few days…..
The Pyrenees are a great range of hills and I’m already planning another traverse with some friends in the next 2-3 years, which will likely be a more measured affair.Jun 18, 2017 at 5:33 pm #3473900
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