Trans Pyrenea August 2018 (HRP/GR10/GR11)

*Disclaimer: This article is not a description on how you should hike the HRP, it is just a personal reflection of the hike I did.*

I just completed a hike from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea crossing the Pyrenees, a hike I wanted to do for a long time and finally could be realised. I mainly used one of the HRP (Haute Route Pyrenea) routes which are running between the GR10 on the French side and the GR11 on Spanish territory. The HRP is kind of more direct line which runs mostly over higher grounds than the two GRs. However the HRP is not a fixed, marked route, there are infact many options you can choose from and different guidebooks describe different HRP versions. One thing I loved about this hike! You look at the map, make sure that the weather will be ok for the route that looks appealing to you and than you go for it. The HRP routes are not marked as such, sometimes it uses existing trails, sometimes there are no trails but what I found is that there are a good amount of cairns to follow even this makes not always sense. The guidebook (Cicerone) speaks of somewhat like 45 days for the full crossing without off days. I kind of squeezed the trip in between two working appointments, so I hiked it in 20 days without rest days. This is a pace that most people would not enjoy and it took me around 12 hours (some days more) of hiking and a fair bit of running each day to make it in that frame which did not leave me any time for sidetrips. I am not a big peakbagger anyway, but there is a lot to explore out there, so plan in some extra days if you can. However I was focused on the crossing from Ocean to Sea primarily and liked the rhythm of having to hike all day every day to achieve that. There was not a single day on the whole crossing which I did not like, this is some splendid terrain, I tell you. But the views and scenery are hard to earn in long steep climbs and downs, be prepared and go as light as you can! Most people carry way too much and heavy stuff up and down these passes.

I really really enjoyed this route, the theme of it crossing from Ocean to Seathrough a very beautiful mountain range, no permits, not a lot of restrictions, reasonable amount of people, resupply options, the cultural aspects, no mosquitos, first class campsites, there was really no downer for me on this hike. I can recommend it to anyone who is seeking for a challenging hike and if you are not sure about the HRP, do a section hike or one of the GRs. They are great!  Need to go back!

Stats
The HRP is somewhere between 800 to 850 kilometers in length and climbs about 50.000 meters in ascent. I averaged about 42 kilometes a day with about 2500m of climbing over 20 days without restdays. My shortest day was 30 km, my longest about 65 km. I slept about 13 nights under my tarp, 2 under the stars and the rest indoors.

Terrain
Living and training in the Austrian Alps the HRP did not hold any surprises when it comes to terrain, overall speaking the HRP has some very technical and steep in both uphill and downhill parts. You have loose fields of scree, large and long boulderfields and occasional snow to traverse. I walked W to E which is the direction also the Cicerone guide is written and the direction I would recommend for various reasons. First the Basque Country is somewhat like rolling hills which are not technical, the other direction is harder I would say to beginn with. The sun. Starting W you are facing the morning sun which is nicer than to stare all day long into the evening sun which happends if you  start E and go W.

Water
Water is everywhere, so are sheep, cows, horses, goats and other animals. Therefore it is absolutely necessary to have some kind of water treatment. Speaking of animals, there are also herding dogs, which might bark at you. I never felt harmed by one. Stand your ground and talk calmly to them. Sheep herders are normally never far away from the dogs. I used the Katadyn BeFree and the fact that I did not get sick shows that it works. However the Hydrapak bottle started leaking but I could fix that via ducttape. I did not carry  any chemical treatment. I never carried more than 1 liter of water.

Resupply
Fairly easy I would say, I did the route without a stove, so I mostly ate bread, tortillas, cheese, crackers, chips, gummis, fresh fruit & vegetables, nuts and all kinds and forms of chocolate. Every now and then I visited a refuge for a beer, coffee & omlette. Going my pace I never carried more than 2.5 days of food.I did not send any boxes. Prices in refuges: Cheese Sandwich €4, Beer €3, Omlette €7, Snickers €2;
The towns along the HRP mostly have small markets where you can get the resupply. All I carried as „kitchen“ is one mini plastic fork.
I always charged my electronic devices while having a meal somewhere. Some refugios have outlets some do not.

Navigation
I did the whole route with the Gaia Pro App on my iphone 5. The pro version allows you to save the offline IGN Maps of Spain and France + I added the gpx tracks of the GR10/11 and several HRP routes in addtion. Worked perfect. Fog, Rain, Forest..never a problem. I also had the HRP pocket guide (google it, thanks Paul for putting it together) on the phone which I sometimes read but never really used for navigation. The GR trails are very well marked by a white and red stripe painted to rocks or trees.

Gear

Palante Simple Pack, Cumulus Quilt 150, TAR Neo Air R, SMD Gatewood Cape Tarp, Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket, La Sportiva Hail Rainjacket, Montane Windpants, Merino Gloves, Fleece Hat, BeFree Waterfilter;

Anything else? Feel free to ask me Qs in the comments!

Pictures
All pictures can be found ->here<-
My camera broke on day one so I had only my smartphone to take pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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