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Pyrenean Traverse -- Logistics
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Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Pyrenean Traverse -- Logistics on 05/30/2013 15:27:00 MDT Print View

HRP Véron/HRP Joosten/GR10/GR11

I was intending just to follow Joosten. I was thinking in terms of a month long walk (not accounting for side trips)...though I do have extra time if I need it. Now, I have had a chance to read up on the GR10/GR11 and Véron. I probably do want to bag a few of the classic summits. I haven't decided whether to do this during the walk or go back and do them after I finish the walk.

I intend to "bivy" in my little tent most nights. I would like to avoid a diet of refuge food...I do not think this is consistent with good health or good performance...especially as I am a vegan (who shuns oil and refined foods). I have nothing against sleeping in the refuges except that it is usually hard for me to get a good sleep...and I was recently physically harassed by the guardien at a CAF refuge (this incident does need a separate post!). Hotels on route are fine in my book. Wheels of any sort are NOT! Maybe to resupply and return to the point I left off...but that just doesn't feel good.

So resupply will be an issue. I don't want it to be the overriding issue of my walk though. It would also be nice to have the option of not carrying all gear the whole way through. I do not see how a "bounce box" could possibly be feasible while maintaining continuity of this walk. I would love to hear any ideas for this!

Any thoughts about the ideal combination of these routes/paths and where one might send boxes other than Poste Restante (which is fine where readily available (18km down a road from a village does not meet this requirement)...which doesn't seem to be often). I have a pretty good idea from reading trip reports and the various guides where the food is and what is available.

Shelter. I do not intend to use a minimalist shelter. I am wondering if a lightly used (by me) Hubba HP is up for a month plus in the Pyrenees or whether I should make the splurge on a little Hilleberg. I do not want to be putzing around with my shelter in the High Pyrenees. I carry no excess body weight so I will allow myself a couple extra pounds for my shelter! I need to be warm and dry!

Edited by backpackerchick on 05/30/2013 15:46:48 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Pyrenean Traverse -- Logistics on 05/30/2013 16:08:32 MDT Print View

Hi hartley

The Veron route is difficult without a car (and driver) for support. He says so himself.
The Joostens route needs a tent for some of the nights. The Cicerone book lists all the food sources, and we have also bought some food for taking away from the Refuges. Post Restante at the villages and also at some hotles can work - but why bother? We didn't.

What we missed with the tent are the hot showers ... :-)

Shelter. The Hubba HP 2-man pop-up might be OK for one person provided you always have shelter from the wind. Our experience in the Pyrenees is that you do NOT always have this, and the best views are high up! You could take the risk and get away with it HALF the time I am sure. The 1-man Hubba pop-up tent might be OK provided you do always have shelter, but those sides are going to push in when there is wind. In both cases there is really just one long pole holding the tent up, and it is not strong. Very chancy.

You know my biases, I am sure. I would look at a small tunnel tent. We have used those across the Pyrenees several times, with great success. The H Nallo 2 is 2.4 kg but rather expensive. It would be very comfortable. But also have a look at the Vango Tempest 2000: heavier at about 2.8 kg but much less expensive, and the Vango Sabre 2000: similar and also inexpensive. I'd favour the Tempest myself. They are made for the UK conditions, which are a LOT harsher than America. And they are simple enough to pitch.

Cheers

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Unna on 05/30/2013 17:44:22 MDT Print View

Hi Roger: Thanks for your insight. I am traveling solo and I am a small person. I DO like the idea of tunnel tents in general.

I am considering the Hilleberg Unna. I have always wanted a tent without a vestibule! It IS heavy! Many love the Akto for such trips. The simplicity of the Unna is very attractive to me! (I am bracing for some abuse talking about such heavy shelter here!) Most of my long walks have been in the Alps. And yes, I realize the high Pyrenees (and the high Alps for that matter) are NOT the Sierras in summer!

I think I will choose between Akto and Unna...I feel that they are up to the job. Are the obvious advantages of the Unna worth the extra weight...hmmm. By the way, they are making these tents in tan now...though they don't have them on the website yet...just a bit of trivia.

I am not set on following one prescribed route/path the entire distance. I am looking at the intersections as decision points. There are a few of those peaks I am set on. It may be better to do the traverse and travel back and take these on with more appropriate gear. (I have not looked at the snow reports yet.)

I know you have done such a traverse. What route? (Yes, I will google it!)

I don't think Véron has updated for a while ;) though there are plenty of trip reports at http://www.randonner-leger.org

Edited by backpackerchick on 05/30/2013 18:01:52 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Unna on 05/30/2013 22:44:20 MDT Print View

Hi Hartley

Unna - it's a pop-up without a vestibule. Yeah, simple, but up above the tree line in bad weather ... I've seen people have some problems with other tents looking like that. OK below the tree line if you can manage it. At least it has 2 poles, but they are very long and bendy.

Akto - who came first? Hilleberg or Tarptent? Dunno. That single central pole ... is OK in the forest, but well above the tree line in a storm ... dunno. I would be nervous. Poles like that can buckle under wind.

Yeah, I'm biased.

We have walked the ridge line in places with some amusement. Fog and wind on the French side; sunny weather on the Spanish side. You see, there's a decompression effect as the wind crosses the ridge which turns a mild (Spanish) breeze into bad wet weather on the French side. So ... if the weather is a bit filthy on the French side, hop over the ridge to the Spanish side. Easy to say, but it can at times be a bit too risky in itself!

We did both the GR10 and GR11 before the Joostens book came out. We played with parts of the Veron route while doing the 10 & 11, but some Veron bits needed car support for food supplies and some of his bits needed more climbing gear than we had - and more time too. So we wandered back and forth a bit. With a full-on winter tunnel tent, which we used hard in places.

Snow: we got to Merens one year a bit too early, looked at the range in front of us, and went and did something else. If the snow is still there, my recommendation would be just don't bother. OK, a patch of neve in a gully is not much of a problem, but wider cover ... oops!

Cheers

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Unna on 05/30/2013 23:45:16 MDT Print View

Doing the route without wheels and then also trying to stay vegan... that is asking a lot. Too much in my opinion.

I did the GR10 last summer, with some jaunts up to the high ridges. It is hard walking (much harder than the Tour de Mont Blanc I did in 2007), because of all the ups and downs (would have been easier to stay up on the Haute Route). One of my main issues, as a diabetic, was getting the right food, and I found that it was hard not eat the local, sausage-cheese-and-bread-heavy fare. I could have cut down on the bread a little, but then I would have had a hard time carrying food that lasted more than two days. The food at the refuges I found to be excellent in most cases, with mostly fresh ingredients and lots of vegetables (it was France after all, where people really value their food). Relying on the mountain villages to get a full spectrum of healthy food was hit and miss; sometimes they had great stock, at other times just the very basics of packaged food. In those cases being able to hop on a bus or flag a car to get to the bigger towns below for proper re-supply was necessary. There was no way I could have walked those distances and still kept up the flow of the trail walk. The Pyrenees are not a single, straight line across the Iberian Peninsula... the foothills weave in and out and there are valleys everywhere. You'll wear yourself out trying to walk the ups and downs trying to get to a certain location. That's why I would say, if you're bent on not relying on the refuges, that using wheels is probably a smart move.

Last summer a huge heat wave hit the entire Pyrenees area. And this on the French side, which is usually considered the cooler, "wet" side. Some days the temperature got up to 42ºC. It is a lot hotter and drier on the Spanish side. If you are not used to high heat and how to deal with it, it can bring your walk to a halt. I know I wasn't prepared for it, even though I am used to walking in the high humidity/ heat of Japan. I hadn't realized just how fast high dry heat will suck the water out of you. My trip slowed down a lot because of needing to acclimatize and keep from getting heat stroke.

Tent camping works great if you can find a proper place to pitch your shelter. Up high on the Haute Route there were lots of places to camp, but on the ups and downs of the GR10 there were often places where all day I couldn't find a flat surface, or a lot of the land I was passing through was private land. Asking the owners to camp sometimes worked, sometimes didn't. In general I found people to be friendly and accommodating.

But I also found that the refuge and d'etape social experience added a lot to the experience of the walk. I met all kinds of people who either helped dissipate the loneliness of walking alone, or else had fantastic information for the trail ahead, things I would not have known on my own. I'd definitely recommend at least some time in the refuges just to get a better idea of the area, but also to make friends.

I encountered lots of very powerful thunder and lightning storms along the way, and one afternoon on the Petit Vignale I thought I was going to die. I got caught near the summit and had to decide to walk toward the storm to get to the refuge a half hour away, or turn back and walk 5 hours down to the valley below. I had tried setting up my shelter on a grassy knoll, but the lightning strikes were far too close for comfort, and in an utter panic I ripped up all my stakes, stuffed away the shelter, and decided to hold my breath and make for refuge, being far too tired to walk all the way back down the mountain. Stepping into the refuge, after being drenched and terrified, was one of the most welcoming moments of my life. Especially with all those people who helped me get my pack off and asked if I was all right. The hot vegetable soup that followed was one of the best meals I've ever eaten. And the bed in the stillness of the dorm room was a hundred times better than lying quaking under a thin fabric with the wind howling and thunder clapping above me.

I'd say that all in all the Pyrenees are wilder than the Alps, though not as high. Towns and villages are not as frequent. Ups and downs are a lot steeper. Keep this in mind as you plan for the journey.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
THANK YOU! on 05/31/2013 03:22:06 MDT Print View

Thanks Miguel for taking the time to address these matters. I have seen some of your posts and gorgeous photos elsewhere.

Oh yes, it's a "big ask"! I have used refuges and gites d'etape very extensively in the past. I am going to have to admit that this has generally been my modus operandi. For all I know, I'll end up sending the tent home. Clearly, one can sleep under a roof each night on the HRP (Joosten) if one walks at a reasonable pace (which is much easier with 4 kilos on your back!). So yes, the initial post was very idealized. I will set my mind to doing this walk and do the best I can with food. I am glad you found plenty of fresh veggies at the refuges. (I stop for vegetables!) I am going alone; I can be very flexible! If I find someone I want to walk with a few days who is doing a little different route then I have planned, I have no problem changing itinerary. I am not really "bent" on anything specifically. I mention preferences!

I very much appreciate the social experience of the refuges and gites d'etape. I do not like the snoring though. They are not always so pleasant when populated by large school groups mid summer or large climbing groups up in the wee hours throwing around their gear!

Do you mind if I ask what you used as a shelter? You may have a trip report. I will search for it!

As for the difficulty, I think I can handle it. Of course, as you point out, weather can change everything! I will probably try to have a well paced go at GR 20 (which I haven't done) as a warmup first. And I think I have a window to do it it in the coming weeks. I haven't checked Meteo yet!

Just out of curiosity, as a person with a medical background, I would be interested to hear what sort of insulin regimen you use for this kind of effort and what changes in monitoring are needed. Were you first diagnosed as a child? (This might make an interesting thread.) It must take a lot of discipline to safely deal with the effort and uncertainty of such walks. I think I have read a little from you on this. I will snoop around again. I'm not really a regular.

Did you incorporate any of the classic peaks into your traverse? I may leave time to do these after the traverse. I am comfortable with extensive snow travel...however I do not want to carry the necessary gear from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean!

Thank you again for your comments!

Edited by backpackerchick on 05/31/2013 03:36:41 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Unna and Nallo 2 in Wind on 05/31/2013 04:06:37 MDT Print View

Unna in wind:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yrz6NzBsoOk

Nallo 2 in wind:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73KKZDhoj_0

The Nallo does this weird wiggle thing!

The Unna really does have a certain simplicity about it.

Edited by backpackerchick on 05/31/2013 04:20:48 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Unna and Nallo 2 in Wind on 05/31/2013 05:05:56 MDT Print View

Well, I think it is a bit unfair to compare the two videos. The Nallo is badly pitched (not tight, with loose guylines) plus the fabric is wet, so it is naturally going to be more stretched. The Unna is much better pitched and in a dry wind. I think both shelters are great shelters and will do what you want from them. I do think the Nallo, when pitched head into wind, will withstand much bigger winds than the Unna would. The Unna might be a more comfortable interior, but without a vestibule.

I used a Tarptent Notch for my trip. It was a great shelter and one of the most stable in the wind that I've used (if you properly guy out the apex points at the top of both hiking poles). The only thing I didn't like about it was the narrowness of the inner tent. Every night I struggled with my inflatable mat pushing around on the floor and my belonging being shoved around the space. I liked the front and back doors, but would have liked one side of the inner tent to have reach right up to the rear door so that I would have had more space.

I don't yet have a complete trip report yet. I'm actually working on it right now. My main obstacle has been the huge number of photos I have to process.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Itinerary on 05/31/2013 16:34:18 MDT Print View

Yes, the videos are silly ;)

I just found a BA Fly Creek UL-1 that I got on sale at backcountry.com a few months ago (for a different purpose) and thought I had sent it back (it can still go back). It is a glorified bivy, I guess.

This isn't the wilderness. There IS potential for VERY serious exposure in which case I will be hauling ass (day or night) not pitching a tent. The ambient temperature is unlikely to be brutally cold in summer. There is a roof available every night on the HRP and a paved road is crossed daily if you time it right...and no, this doesn't require crazy long days. I have no problem using refuges. It is probably possible to get a new tent within a day at almost any point on the walk...yes, this could require a very long day and would no doubt require a ride.

Miguel, thanks for the scoop on the Tarptent! Interestingly, the manufacturer claims a one minute set up. I do use hiking sticks when I backpack. I now prefer the break apart ones but I don't see any reason why I couldn't go back to the telescoping variety (they alway seem to shorten on me). I will consider such shelter for the future when I have time to experiment. Any extra daylight, I should be out running an extra hour in the hills near my home or bouldering, not playing with tents so late in the game. For this walk, it would seem fitness and knowledge of the various routes and options would increase safety and comfort much more than having the "perfect tent" which does not exist anyway.

So, I really don't think this is a walk where it is all that important to dwell on the merits of various shelters. The difference between a 2+ lb and 5+ lb shelter is probably gonna be over 30% of my base weight. I'm not a "gram weenie" but that's a lot of weight!

I think my time might be better used trying to figure out how to be down off exposed ridges before the early afternoon.

So back to the perfect itinerary for such a traverse...and the peaks!

Edited by backpackerchick on 05/31/2013 16:37:55 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Unna and Nallo 2 in Wind on 05/31/2013 18:18:06 MDT Print View

> Unna in wind:
A couple of faults there. I will assume that pitching in that position was deliberate, as a demo. (It HAD to be!)
First off, the Unna is not really meant to handle those conditions. Wrong tent.
Second, the guy lines are barely tight, so the poles can flex around a bit. Very dangerous with the long poles of a pop-up.
Third, the way the fabric at the sides was flapping shows that the windward feet of the poles had crept across the ground a bit. This happens with a pop-up, and is dangerous.
Fortunately the fabric is fairly tough and could take that. A higher wind might have been a different story.

> Nallo 2 in wind:
Very poorly pitched, and yet it survived. The tension in the fabric along the tent (from rear to front) is woefully inadequate. That is why the fabric is belling and flapping. The two ends should be at least 50 mm further apart imho, especially for those conditions. Yes, that means a tunnel tent (any tunnel) should be pitched so the fabric is a bit like a drum.
Doesn't help that the rear end, into the wind, is a bit too long and tapered. A shorter design there is stronger: better support for the pole.
But - it coped, despite all that.

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Itinerary on 05/31/2013 18:24:32 MDT Print View

Hi Hartley

> It is probably possible to get a new tent within a day at almost any point on the walk.
Ahhhh ... Not sure about that one. Yes, you could get clothing, day packs, trekking poles, joggers and boots, and climbing gear in many places you actually pass through or near. I had to replace some too-light joggers at one stage: not enough grip in the mud and snow!

But when we checked (out of curiosity) in any gear shops we saw, we found that overnight gear was usually missing. No sleeping bags, no tents, no air mats. The reason was simple - most people there do day walks, and those out overnight use the Refuges.
Even Au Vieux Campeur in Paris listed many tents as being only 'available to order'.

Cheers

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Itinerary! on 05/31/2013 18:26:53 MDT Print View

OK Roger, I will take full blame for diverting this thread! Yes, the videos are silly. And it is a moot point as I would be either hauling ass to a refugio or enjoying a beer at the refugio. Anyway, you don't really even need a shelter to do the walk in the first place if you go light, have a reasonable level of fitness and plan well.

If you can get to a "gear shop", provided there is vehicular access to the gear shop, you can get to a larger metropolitan area and get a frickin tent if you need one! Alternatively, one can make alternative lodging arrangements for a night or two and meet up with a FedEx'd tent in a day or so. This ain't the Outback ;)

Edited by backpackerchick on 05/31/2013 21:58:30 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Itinerary! on 06/01/2013 15:40:31 MDT Print View

Hi Hartley

No worries. Good luck!

Cheers

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
LOL on 06/01/2013 17:11:36 MDT Print View

LOL, luck helps!

I would prefer a night in a refuge...or moving...to a night in either of the tents featured in the videos. It would be highly unlikely on a walk like this that I would be hunkering down in either of those tents.

Edited by backpackerchick on 06/01/2013 17:18:56 MDT.

Mark Fowler
(KramRelwof) - MLife

Locale: Namadgi
Snow pack this year? on 06/01/2013 21:53:09 MDT Print View

I am sorry if I am hijacking this thread but hopefully will help the op as well. I am also walking the HRP (Garvanie to the Med) starting 28 June. I did Hendaye to Garvanie a couple of years ago. I have noticed that Europe has had a lot of late snow this year. Any local knowledge of the current state of play on the central Pyrennees passes?

As to the shelter question I am taking my Hexamid and net inner. If it looks really bad I will head for the nearest refuge. If I get caught I just wrap myself up in it and spend an uncomfortable night.

Edited by KramRelwof on 06/01/2013 22:06:04 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Welcome Mark! on 06/01/2013 23:22:29 MDT Print View

"As to the shelter question I am taking my Hexamid and net inner. If it looks really bad I will head for the nearest refuge. If I get caught I just wrap myself up in it and spend an uncomfortable night." AMEN!

Welcome Mark! Let's get on to the important stuff!

Snowpack? Meteo for starters. http://france.meteofrance.com/france/montagne (Sorry to offend if you've already been here!) I also look forward to first hand reports. Thanks for bringing it up!

Mark Fowler
(KramRelwof) - MLife

Locale: Namadgi
Thanks on 06/02/2013 00:34:30 MDT Print View

Thanks for that link Hartley. I knew about the meteofrance site for weather reports but had never come across the snowline section - really useful.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Snow pack this year? on 06/02/2013 00:47:28 MDT Print View

Hi mark

> starting 28 June
Um - that's fairly early. The Refuges usually don't open until 15-June. There could be some snow around still.

Cheers

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
SNOW?! on 06/02/2013 01:57:14 MDT Print View

Snow...Isn't that what the red button on my SPOT locator is for?

Yes, I am expecting snow! The white stuff!

I do not expect avalanche danger on the HRP to be unusually high mid summer to early fall.

Yes, there is some equipment I may want on parts of the walk that I don't want to carry from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. This is surmountable.

Yes, there is a possibility that I will choose to alter my route based on snow conditions.

What if the Pyrenees are just SO socked in with snow in August that all the roads are closed and nothing is open? I will get on a bus or train and go walk somewhere else!

What if...

SNOW? SO!

Edited by backpackerchick on 06/02/2013 02:02:25 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
An Excellent Planning Map on 06/02/2013 02:27:41 MDT Print View

Mark, will you be following Joosten, Veron, or making your own high route?

This is brilliant. I mention it because I have not seen it mentioned in the various guidebooks and blogs.

http://www.amazon.com/Pyrenees-Andorra-Adventure-Map-Numbered/dp/1566955408/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1370156143&sr=8-4&keywords=pyrenees

I am wondering if the 4 relevant FFRP books will suffice in terms of maps. I have never used these books but I have seen them in many refuges. I don't think I can do all the elaborate cutting and pasting of the Joosten recommended maps and end up with anything useful.

What have you guys used for walking maps?