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Thru-hike the GR11 without experience - possible?
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David Cohen
(codavi3) - F
Thru-hike the GR11 without experience - possible? on 04/18/2012 09:25:21 MDT Print View

First of all, sorry for my English.

Second, I would really appreciate it if you could share your knowledge about this.
Im planning to thru-hike the GR11, from west to east. After reading alot
about this trail, Im planning to use the Cicerone guide book and the Spanish set
of maps ( I pretend to sleep in a tent as much as possible, and take food on my bag, resupplying in the villages whenever possible.

So again, I'm 24 years old, in a pretty good shape, but I dont have a lot of experience, only 5-day backpacking trails once in a while.
And that's why I really want to hear your opinion -
is my plan crazy\stupid etc, or possible, even if hard?
Can I rely mostly in my willpower and determination,
or you think that without the right skills and knowledge its impossible?
(In other words, do this guy know what hes talking about: ?)

Thanks alot for your patience!

PS Im pretending to start from Cabo Higuer in mid June, for I understand its the best time to avoid snow. Am I right? Is there a even beter time?

Edited by codavi3 on 04/18/2012 09:32:48 MDT.

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Re: Thru-hike the GR11 without experience - possible? on 04/18/2012 11:18:34 MDT Print View

tell us more about your background. There's the backpacking part and the mountaineering part. Consider the Pyrenees are rugged mountains and the GR11 is close to mountaineering sometimes. It goes over really steep, rugged terrain in many spots. Nothing technically difficult but if your background is in backpacking in good trails it's better to be aware of this. I'm not sure how much of this is reflected on the literature.

As far as backpacking, the GR11 is not difficult. It takes around a month+ to complete so it's not really what Francis Tapon is talking about in his article which refers more to multi-month trips. Still, what he says is important and deserves attention, it also applies to multi-week trips if you're not used to them. Back to the GR11 from the backpacking perspective, I'd say it's on the easy side: civilization is never too far, supplies are easy to find and the mountain huts (stuffed or not) are usually at hand even in the most "remote" areas. Nothing is really that remote along the GR11.

As an example, I can tell you in Spain backpacking is not too popular, mountaineering is far more common as the default outdoor activity. Most locals who attempt the GR11 are mountaineers. They usually do fine even though they usually take ridiculous amounts of ultra-heavy gear :) as a consequence of their background. On the other hand, backpackers not used to mountaineering may find it difficult, particularly if they expect a well-groomed, easy graded trail which the GR11 is not.

You'll be high in the mountains often, over exposed terrain. In good weather, it's fine but the potential for bad weather is always there and it can get very serious in the high areas.

I'd encourage you to go for it if that's what you really want to do. I'd say you'll be fine if you don't do too stupid things but beware it's easier than it seems to do stupid things, we all do eventually. Be humble in the mountains.

As for season, the easiest is July to September. In June there may still be snow in the passes, it depends on the season. You might still find some in July but that's not as common and it shouldn't be much (but beware! the snow may be easy or very dangerous, it depends a lot on conditions at the very time you go through). August should be snow free but evening thunderstorms are at their worst. September is colder and days are shorter but the weather is usually still stable and there's far less people. July and August get crowded.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Thru-hike the GR11 without experience - possible? on 04/18/2012 13:12:30 MDT Print View


I know it is a different trail than the GR11, but here is link to Amy Lauterbach's VERY detailed trip report on the HRP. Maybe some of the information will be relevant to you:

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Re: Re: Thru-hike the GR11 without experience - possible? on 04/18/2012 14:38:11 MDT Print View

I have only been on a few short trips in the Pyrenees, but I would endorse everything that Inaki has said. Some parts are steep enough that you will need your hands as well as good balance.
In my opinion, "willpower and determination... without the right skills and knowledge" has the potential to get you into dificulty.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Thru-hike the GR11 without experience - possible? on 04/18/2012 16:31:21 MDT Print View

We did it some years ago now. The way-marking was variable in places. Some of the parts were easy, others were hard. We were climbing on steep snow up to one pass. I think starting in June would be too early: end of July would be much safer.

Of course it's possible. But there are risks if you don't have much experience. Be prepared to bail out from high passes in bad weather, and take advice from Hut Wardens.


David Cohen
(codavi3) - F
Thank you guys! on 04/20/2012 08:20:50 MDT Print View

Wow Im really glad for your answers, tips and information! Inaki, thanks for the detailed answer!

If I got you right, there shouldn't be really dangerous parts, unless I put myself in one..
I mean, for example, if I'm walking up a mountain and I notice It's becoming "out of my league" - too steep and with too much snow - I can just go back and find another way, right?

Until June I'm practicing and training for this trek, so any tip regarding how to prepare myself physically is really welcome.

Again, thanks alot!

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Re: Thank you guys! on 04/23/2012 03:13:47 MDT Print View

Knowing when to turn around and when to keep on is probably one of the most difficult skills. It's not that much about technical knowledge but about experience and personal self conscience. We can't always just take the easy way out!

On a more practical level, consider that finding a way around may mean a lot of hiking time, say a whole day or more to get back on track. It may not be an easy option to take, psychologically.

As for training, I'd recommend getting out as much as possible, try to challenge yourself while keeping some security margin... things like trying challenging terrain with the company of someone you can trust. You can try off-trail, talus, scree, steep terrain... the idea is to gain confidence through experience. Confidence helps with good decision making. Try also backpacking alone (in a more controlled environment) so you gain confidence on yourself and a sense of responsibility. Learn to trust yourself, to feel comfortable in the mountains. As for technical skills, I'd practice map reading and navigation, it helps a lot with confidence to know you can trust your navigation skills.

Bad experiences in the outdoors usually come with bad decision making. The thing is it's very easy to take bad decisions under the right (wrong) conditions. We're all subject to that and the idea is to minimize the chances of doing things wrong.