Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

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Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Sat 13 Apr, 2013 7:19 pm

Hi everyone, I just thought I'd put a bit of a feeder out there for advice and experiences :)

During this (Australian) winter I'm heading off to Europe for several (up to 5) months. While it isn't strictly speaking a 'hiking' holiday, I'm planning to do several big walks/hikes while I'm over there, starting with Turkey's Lycian Way with an Aussie mate, then the Austrian Alps with a friend from Innsbruck, then Finnish Lapland with family, a full Haute Pyrénées Randonnée solo and finally the Picos de Europa with a friend from north-west Spain.

I'm planning to take a full, lightweight kit (enough to be self-reliant for a few days with 3+ season weather). Generally I'm comfortable with the info I've got on Turkey, Austria, Finland and the Picos, but I'd love to get some more info on the Pyrenees Traverse... I'm planning to start the walk mid-July and take roughly 35 days, but I don't have a strict schedule so I'm happy to take longer if necessary. I've read some good trip reports here and there but I'd love to get some first hand experiences if any one here has walked it.

- What footware did you use/recommend?
- How much snow did you experience (falling and left over from winter)?
- How much difficulty did you have following the correct trail/what is the standard of waymarking?
- How frequently did you resupply?
- Did you treat water?
- How hard was it? This is probably what I'm most interested in as I've head a lot of different reports... To most of the people I met on the Camino last year, the High Route may as well be Everest, but I suspect to the keen bushwalker it is probably less so. I'm a reasonably experienced walker in Tassie, I've done a bunch of long European trails, and I've been on-track for 130+ days in the last 6 months, so I'm fairly pack-fit - what would you rate it with that in mind?

This is a basic list of what I'm taking...

55lt pack (undecided which one...)
Hilleberg Soulo
MSR Whisperlite
S2S Micro III sleeping bag
MD silk liner
Thermarest
BD Carbon Cork Poles (knees are shagged)
MD Alto GTX jacket
Columbia down jacket
Teva Riva eVent hiking shoes (I took boots last year and regretted it)
2x marino Ts
1x merino long-sleeve top & bottom
1x quick-dry shorts
1x quick-dry pants
Possum-wool gloves
Beanie + Buff thingy
3x Smartwool merino socks
Lotsa undies
Oly EM5 w. three primes and a few filters, batteries and cards
iPad Mini (last time I had no means to connect to wifi and it was endlessly frustrating...)
iPhone


Any other advice would be fantastic!

Cheers, Nick
Last edited by nickthetasmaniac on Sun 14 Apr, 2013 4:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby wayno » Sat 13 Apr, 2013 7:32 pm

cant see a hiking mid layer there? no fleece or synthetic jacket. or is the down the only insulation layer? not bothering about wet weather pants?
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Sat 13 Apr, 2013 9:10 pm

wayno wrote:cant see a hiking mid layer there? no fleece or synthetic jacket. or is the down the only insulation layer? not bothering about wet weather pants?


Hi Wayno - I'm not a fan of waterproof pants and rarely if ever use them in Tasmania. I run pretty hot and prefer just wearing shorts with thermal leggings if necessary (I find body heat dries these quick enough when I stop walking). I didn't have over-pants during last year's early-season trek in Norway's Rondane, and I didn't miss them despite a few days of sleet/snow. I'm not quite sure of what weather to expect on the High Route during summer - if there is the possibility of significant snow I'll take them, if not I won't.

Likewise, I have a fleece that I can take but it depends on the daytime walking temps I should expect.

Cheers for the reply :)
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby JamesMc » Sun 14 Apr, 2013 12:03 am

Having done 5 days in Pyreneese' partly on haute route.
Tracks very steep, eroded, stony, so take solid boots.
Stayed in huts and mostly used their tap water which I don't believe was treated. Otherwise just avoided water from lakes. Didn't treat water and didn't get sick.
Tracks were a maze, many unmarked branches.
No snow in August, perfect weather except for one day. We detoured off the top that day due to navigation worries. A guided party we met did similarly but better - they caught a taxi!
Probably as hard as Western Arthurs.
Must be about the most user friendly major mountain range in the world for walking.

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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Sun 14 Apr, 2013 12:27 am

Thanks James :)

JamesMc wrote:Probably as hard as Western Arthurs.


Really? Have you done the Western Arthurs?
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby wayno » Sun 14 Apr, 2013 6:16 am

if thers a chance of a storm i'd have another layer , microfleece, or synthetic jacket or vest, come in handy as well at the end of the day for extra layering,
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby tigercat » Sun 14 Apr, 2013 8:16 am

Plenty of euros for accommodation, meals and wine in the refuges would come in handy!
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby Mark F » Sun 14 Apr, 2013 12:56 pm

I am part way though walking the HRP. I did Hendaye to Garvanie a couple of years ago and am returning in the end of June to complete the walk.

Footwear
I walked in TNF Hedgehogs (low cut, non waterproof) and they were quite satisfactory. This year I will use Salomon Synapse which I find grip a bit better on loose conditions. I will also take a pair of Dirty Girl gaiters to keep grit and muck out of my shoes.

Snow. I experienced no snow on the path but I expect that the E sections will in the cols. It really depends on the year and how late in the season you are walking. It is the sections beyond Garvanie where the main possibilities of snow appear to be. I expect that for most of it, it will be a well trampled route across drifts that can be handled with care and walking poles just like I experienced on the GR5. I will most probably take the variant around the 4 day E section depending on what I hear from others at the time.

No real navigational difficulties unless you get fog in the Basque country. The GR10 and GR11 sections are well marked. Just keep you wits about you on the other parts.

I recommend carrying a few days supplies to make the most of the route.
The Cicerone guide is on target about supply opportunities although it doesn't mention col du Pourtalet (off route just after Pic du Midi d'Ossau) where you can get just about anything your heart desires - even screw thread gas canisters (but you need to search hard).
I did use a couple of refuges to eke out my supplies I really recommend Arremoulit (what a mountain refuge should be) and Bayssellance. I don't like the big refuges like Wallon and Oulettes de Gaube.

I did treat drinking water as there is a lot of livestock around.

Gear
I am unsure how you will go with the MSR. Fuel is easier to get for gas or metho stoves.
I would swap out one or both merino t shirts and replace with a 100 weight fleece and a wind shirt.
Get 2 pairs of Ex Officio undies (or equivalent) and ditch the rest.
I rinse out my dirty clothes at lunch time and they are almost dry before I set off again.

The walk is hard but not that hard (I am 63). There is a bit over 1,000 metres of ascent on average each day but it sounds as though you should have no troubles at all. I certainly think it is one of the best walks I have ever (partially) done. The main thing is to take it easy and enjoy it. Don't rush from one refuge to the next; there are some wonderful spots to camp and enjoy the country. I find that getting about 1/2 a day out of sync with the guide works really well.
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby Mark F » Sun 14 Apr, 2013 1:03 pm

Wayno - If it rains on the HRP you just move to the Spanish side of the border!
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Sun 14 Apr, 2013 4:26 pm

Hi Mark, thanks a ton for all the info!

Mark F wrote:I am part way though walking the HRP. I did Hendaye to Garvanie a couple of years ago and am returning in the end of June to complete the walk.

Footwear
I walked in TNF Hedgehogs (low cut, non waterproof) and they were quite satisfactory. This year I will use Salomon Synapse which I find grip a bit better on loose conditions. I will also take a pair of Dirty Girl gaiters to keep grit and muck out of my shoes.

This is encouraging... I'm not sold on high-cut boots (after wearing little else for the last 18 months) and after a few scrambly day-trips on Tassie dolerite scree I'm impressed with the Tevas. I think I'll invest in some short gaiters before I leave.

Snow. I experienced no snow on the path but I expect that the E sections will in the cols. It really depends on the year and how late in the season you are walking. It is the sections beyond Garvanie where the main possibilities of snow appear to be. I expect that for most of it, it will be a well trampled route across drifts that can be handled with care and walking poles just like I experienced on the GR5. I will most probably take the variant around the 4 day E section depending on what I hear from others at the time.

This matches what I've heard from others, thanks.

No real navigational difficulties unless you get fog in the Basque country. The GR10 and GR11 sections are well marked. Just keep you wits about you on the other parts.

I recommend carrying a few days supplies to make the most of the route.
The Cicerone guide is on target about supply opportunities although it doesn't mention col du Pourtalet (off route just after Pic du Midi d'Ossau) where you can get just about anything your heart desires - even screw thread gas canisters (but you need to search hard).
I did use a couple of refuges to eke out my supplies I really recommend Arremoulit (what a mountain refuge should be) and Bayssellance. I don't like the big refuges like Wallon and Oulettes de Gaube.

Thanks. After doing the Camino Frances last year I'm pretty keen to avoid the big refuges ...

I did treat drinking water as there is a lot of livestock around.

What did you use to treat? How much did you generally carry

Gear
I am unsure how you will go with the MSR. Fuel is easier to get for gas or metho stoves.

Hmmm the Whisperlite's convenient as a friend already has it in Europe, so I'd just have to pick it up at the start. I was also thinking of getting a Soto OD-1BS or OD-1R gas-stove so perhaps this is the way to go...

I would swap out one or both merino t shirts and replace with a 100 weight fleece and a wind shirt.
Get 2 pairs of Ex Officio undies (or equivalent) and ditch the rest.
I rinse out my dirty clothes at lunch time and they are almost dry before I set off again.

Thanks for the undies tip - I think I'll go down this route :)

The walk is hard but not that hard (I am 63). There is a bit over 1,000 metres of ascent on average each day but it sounds as though you should have no troubles at all. I certainly think it is one of the best walks I have ever (partially) done. The main thing is to take it easy and enjoy it. Don't rush from one refuge to the next; there are some wonderful spots to camp and enjoy the country. I find that getting about 1/2 a day out of sync with the guide works really well.

Thanks, I definitely plan to make the most of it :D


FOR EVERYONE

PACKS - I'm seriously struggling with pack choices at the moment... Currently I use a OP Stiletto, which is fantastic but too heavy, too big and significant overkill with a ExactFit harness.

I've looked through all the options available to test in Northern Tassie (Osprey, Berghaus, MD, Deuter, MacPac, Kathmandu & OP) and the only one that really fits what I want is the OP Shadow 60L, which I fear is still going to be overkill. Thoughts?

STOVE - For those that have walked in Spain/France, would you recommend going with gas (Soto OD-1BS/1R or fuel (Whisperlite)? From the reports I've read, overnight temps don't get particularly cold at the time of year I'm going, so I'm really just concerned with fuel availability, rather than performance.
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby wayno » Sun 14 Apr, 2013 5:09 pm

thats not a bad weight for a 60 litre pack, you'd probably have to go into a lightweight pack to get lighter
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Sun 14 Apr, 2013 6:25 pm

wayno wrote:thats not a bad weight for a 60 litre pack, you'd probably have to go into a lightweight pack to get lighter


Yeah I'm thinking it looks pretty solid. Industry rates through work don't hurt either :)
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby wayno » Sun 14 Apr, 2013 6:29 pm

lighter packs can struggle to compete on comfort, especially frameless packs, packing them is a real art to avoid discomfort
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby JamesMc » Sun 14 Apr, 2013 6:43 pm

nickthetasmaniac wrote:Thanks James :)

JamesMc wrote:Probably as hard as Western Arthurs.


Really? Have you done the Western Arthurs?


Yes, but l should qualify. I only did a small part of the Haute route so there may be harder parts, and l was in Spain.

Also WRT fuel. Easiest to get seemed to be the French Campingaz cans with a clip on attachment, not screw on.

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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby Hallu » Sun 14 Apr, 2013 7:13 pm

First of all some clarification : will you be hiking the GR10 (classic traverse hike, in France) or the HRP (Haute Randonné Pyrénéenne, which only follow the crests and involve less elevation gain but more difficult unmarked tracks, crossing the border to Spain several times) ? Because "Hautes Pyrénées" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hautes-Pyr%C3%A9n%C3%A9es ) is actually a department (a type of administrative division) in France so your title actually means "hiking in the HP", it's confusing, while HRP means "high altitude hiking in the Pyrénées". So I don't know if you'll be just hiking in that region, or doing the full HRP traverse.

For the water, most villages use untreated water. So you could stay there for a while and check the surroundings, prepare yourself etc... and get used to the water. You can get diarrhea at first, but it passes quickly once your stomach's got the right bacterias. Be careful about stream water on the tracks, the Pyrénées have quite a bit of sheep farming, and their droppings can contaminate the streams. France isn't as maniac on water quality signs as Australia, so it can be a gamble. Although for the HRP I doubt you'd see much sheep.
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Sun 14 Apr, 2013 7:39 pm

Hallu wrote:First of all some clarification : will you be hiking the GR10 (classic traverse hike, in France) or the HRP (Haute Randonné Pyrénéenne, which only follow the crests and involve less elevation gain but more difficult unmarked tracks, crossing the border to Spain several times) ? Because "Hautes Pyrénées" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hautes-Pyr%C3%A9n%C3%A9es ) is actually a department (a type of administrative division) in France so your title actually means "hiking in the HP", it's confusing, while HRP means "high altitude hiking in the Pyrénées". So I don't know if you'll be just hiking in that region, or doing the full HRP traverse.

For the water, most villages use untreated water. So you could stay there for a while and check the surroundings, prepare yourself etc... and get used to the water. You can get diarrhea at first, but it passes quickly once your stomach's got the right bacterias. Be careful about stream water on the tracks, the Pyrénées have quite a bit of sheep farming, and their droppings can contaminate the streams. France isn't as maniac on water quality signs as Australia, so it can be a gamble. Although for the HRP I doubt you'd see much sheep.


Hey mate, I'm planning to do the full high-traverse from Hendaye to Banyuls-der-Mer, following for the most part Joosten's 'Pyrenean Haute Route' guide.

Thanks for the info on water quality!
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby MariaG » Tue 16 Apr, 2013 12:04 am

Hi,
I have walked in the Spanish Pyrenees and in the Picos de Europa.
For Picos, check this page:
http://www.topwalks.net/en/picos_de_europa.htm
and for Pyrenees this page:
http://www.topwalks.net/en/aragon.htm
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby wayno » Sat 29 Jun, 2013 5:41 am

from the land of the long white clouds...
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Thu 01 Aug, 2013 4:01 am

Hi everyone, just a quick update for those interested. I've sorted my gear (except my poles, discussed in another thread) and I'm basically ready to go. I'm starting in Hendaye on the 5th or 6th and I expect that I'll take around 40 days for the full traverse, although I've no commitments at the end so I can take longer if the weather or body dictate. I'll be taking notes along the way so if anyone finds this thread in the future and you're interested in the route send me a PM and hopefully I'll be able to give you some tips :)

Expect a photo or two in a couple of months!
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby Mark F » Fri 02 Aug, 2013 6:20 pm

I am just back from walking the Banyuls-sur-Mer to Hospitalet-pres-d'Andorre section of the HRP. Be very thankful that you are starting now rather than earlier. The Ariege has been heavily snowed in requiring ice axe and crampons with many abandoning walks there on the GR10 and HRP. It should be clear by the time you get to it. Have a great trip.

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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Fri 30 Aug, 2013 3:24 am

There's a small selection of photos from the trip so far up in the Galleries :)

viewtopic.php?f=9&t=14686&p=194702#p194702
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Re: Haute Pyrénées Randonnée

Postby nickthetasmaniac » Fri 14 Feb, 2014 5:48 pm

Hi everyone, for those interested I ended up completing the HRP in 44 days, sticking more or less to Joostens route, with a couple of 'modifications' along more interesting paths :)

I've started uploading the gallery to flickr, and I'll be writing up the full story between OT trips.

Long story short, absolutely mindblowing...

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicktheta ... 944379555/

Image
High-camp above the Port de la Peyre-Saint-Martin - 2500m or thereabouts... Day 13

Image
Ibòn del Escalar bivvy, about an hour before getting smashed by the most violent thunderstorm of my life - around 10-15sec between strikes and no gap between strikes and thunder. Day 11
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