Just stuff about walking across the Pyrenees Haute Route


This is all about personal preferences, mine. Having done two full crossings, one in either direction and countless multi-day trips, I now have some opinions. Taken with a healthy pinch of salt they may even be relevant to someone.

The Route.
All three routes, GR10 GR11 and HRP, are great adventures, however I love the high mountains and the solitude they can still provide, sometimes, so for me it has to be the Pyrenean Haute Route. Herein begins another dilemma, which HRP? Most common for the English speakers is to follow Ton Joosten's Cicerone guide, however far better is the Georges Veron guide, if you can find one, which will keep you higher if you have the supplies and weather with you. Above all don't get bogged down in an only one way mentality, there are many variants from which to choose your crossing and every year is different depending on the previous winter, spring conditions and current weather cycles.

Planning a Pyrenees walk
Which Way?
Firstly travelling East is the direction the two main HRP guidebooks have been written which makes them easier to follow especially when tired, but there are other factors. The Basque country is generally cooler than the Mediterranean and provides a longer and more gentle introduction to get those limbs match fit. For me I love walking into the sunrise, the first steep ascent of the day tends to be in the shade and the views from that first col are why I'm there.

Heading down to Refuge Pombie for breakfast

How Long?
Both guide books describe the route in 45 stages, which I think would be pretty luxurious. Mid 30s with a lightish load, reasonable weather and the ability to adapt the route if required should be fine for those not relying on Refuges. More time allows you to wait out poor weather to keep to your intended path or fit in additional side trips of which there are many tempting options.

Early starts and late finishes

This can be frustrating in some of the smaller communities as advertised opening times are often just a maybe and lunch closures can be very long. That said I have found the shops at Aldudes, Lescun, Candanchu, Gavarnie, Salardu and Arles sur Tech to be good and fairly reliable. There is a great shop in Bolquere but is closed for 3 or 4 hours around lunch and the shop in Hospitalet has been unreliable and limited. The border shopping at Ibardin, Dancharia, Parzan and Perthus are less useful as they tend to cater for cheap bulk purchases, whole hams and a gallon of olive oil may slow you down a bit but with a bit of hunting something can always be found in these shops, just don't expect to enjoy the experience.

Banyuls the land of  plenty.

And would we, will we do it all again one day?................ Absolutely!

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