Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Pyrenean Traverse -- Logistics
Display Avatars Sort By:
Mark Fowler
(KramRelwof) - MLife

Locale: Namadgi
early on 06/02/2013 02:43:34 MDT Print View

Yes - a bit early to start, but organising 5 weeks off without cutting into teaching periods is always a problem. I may go from Banyuls to Garvanie - I will monitor the snow depth and decide my start point once I reach Toulouse. If it really is still bad I can always head elsewhere possibly the GR20.

Just hoping for a warm and sunny June in the Pyrennees.

I am generally following Joosten, I find Veron is very focussed on refuge to refuge leading to rather distorted stages. I feel Joosten's route is a better line. That said I have no issues about making my own route where necessary.

As to maps I have the 1:50,000 Rando Editions series, 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 10, 11, 21, 22, 23, 24 which cover the full route with the relevant sections photocopied. The four FFRP GR10 guides are not adequate especially when venturing into Spain.

Edited by KramRelwof on 06/02/2013 03:22:20 MDT.

Michael Schwartz
(greenwalk) - MLife

Locale: PA & Ireland
Pyrenean Traverse -- Logistics on 06/02/2013 03:46:17 MDT Print View

Thought I'd chime in cause I did a HRP thru 3 years ago. I posted a bit on another thread too about a year or so ago.

Which route? The HRP (Joosten's) for sure--IF you have experience navigating, as the "route" is often not clear, especially the Basque region (By the way, try to catch a Basque traditional festival--the Basque people were very friendly and welcoming to me, proud of their heritage and really know how to party!). Cicerone has 500 GPS waymarks which would be very handy. The GR10/11 have greater ups and downs to bring you into towns. But that makes the going even harder.

Shelter: I used MLD's Trailstar and was very impressed. A bit big for one, but the I love how the design sheds winds from all directions and the shelter is stable; it performed extremely well through some big storms, and you will get big storms. Carry a shelter for flexibility and safety. I believe MLD now offers a smaller Trailstar which might work well for solo travel. I'd use the Trailstar again. You can also use the cabins--free of charge--of which there are many and are intended for people to use. They range from ancient dirt floor stone shepherd's huts to warm and cosy wooden cabins to purpose-built metal mountain shelters. The cabins and shelters, and the people I met at the shelters, were a highlight of my trip.

Snow: + 1 what Roger said: "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!" The year I was there was a big snow year with lots of snow left in some sections even in mid July. Your best bet for info is the person in charge of the refuge, not just anyone at the refuge. I had to divert off my planned route in a few places and glad I was cause even the diversion was a bit dodgy.

On the HRP you can easily resupply in villages about once per week with very good food choices (see my other post) and supplement with meals at refugios. I used a Bushbuddy and found it perfect in the Pyrenees because of plenty of available fuel which let me make endless brew-ups for myself and others I met on the way. Let me know if you have any other questions. Safe journey.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Snow...what's the big deal? on 06/02/2013 04:16:12 MDT Print View

Is snow depth per se really the issue? If it's all packed out, I don't really care how deep it is. I don't much like sun cups! I don't want to post hole up to the hip. But walk on snow...what is the big deal?

I will probably pick up a light short axe and Katoohla spikes sent ahead. I will wear sneakers that weigh 8oz each and carry a pair goretex socks (I have found one meant for cycling that has good stretch and works well with such shoes and comes up about mid calf with a snug but not too tight band.). My shoes can accommodate this sock over Smartwool PhD light outdoor sock. I usually wear quarter socks and no gaiters as I walk in very lightweight trousers (lululemon studio pant)...always (I hate sunscreen!). I can tuck these pants into the goretex socks to keep snow out. (Yeah, the shoes get wet but dry real fast! Feet stay warm and dry.) I carry stretch waterproof pants as well...and these can be tucked into the goretex sock in deeper wetter snow. I can seal out snow to the waist. Fashion forward, eh?

I may, depending on reports, like to have access to a slightly stiffer soled sturdier pair of shoes (~11 oz each) and a pair of Grivel aluminum strap on crampons designed for sneakers. I already have this gear and have messed with it a bit.

A brand new pair of my go to shoes are highly unlikely to make it from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean...based on previous experience. I will have a second pair sent ahead. (I will do the Skurka suggested reinforcements beforehand.)

I will not be depending on local "gear shops" for my footwear. These shops may have something to my liking if they cater to the ultra crowd but by and large French people wear heavier shoes in the mountains, if not hiking boots or even full on mountaineering boots.

I will save the hands for later ;)

My pack will probably be a Talon 44...I am still messing with it. I am lean and bony through the pelvis and I need a proper pack. (And metal on Exos and the a disaster for me!) I have been very satisfied with the Talon 33 (it seems very large for a 33!) but I don't think it will be big enough. I want everything inside the pack. The 44 fits a bit bigger than the 33 (both in smallest unisex size) and I have just about maxed out the adjustments in terms of length/hip belt/and sternum strap. This pack is going to "give" too. Hmmm.

I may just take the Big Agnes glorified bivy...with some hesitation. Dunno yet. I don't think you need Hilleberg for this. I admire Mark and Miguel's proficiency with the mentioned tents. I'm not there yet! I may decide on shelter at the last minute.

If anyone cares about brands or models, weights. I can report back after I get everything out. I have some very specific preferences. I may be able to answer your merino questions...ha. I like talking about undies too...well, panties and bras.

Mark, I would be interested to hear more about your gear philosophies and choices for the trip. Roger and Miguel too of course!

However, I think this sort of walking is more about strategy than gear!

Edited by backpackerchick on 06/02/2013 05:11:05 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Welcome Micheal! on 06/02/2013 04:20:04 MDT Print View

This is a free for all! Thank you SO much for your insights. I am reading them now.

Mark Fowler
(KramRelwof) - MLife

Locale: Namadgi
Snow slopes on 06/02/2013 05:36:34 MDT Print View

I preface this by saying that I do not have experience in using an ice axe on steep slopes. The issue with snow is that being a younger mountain range the Pyrenees is often much steeper than say the Alps. When I did the GR5 in 2004, several sections, mainly around Chamonix, were snow covered but were relatively easy to handle. However I felt the climb on steep snow slopes into the col de Brevant was pushing my boundaries although any slip would not have had super serious consequences. When I compare this to the passes I have crossed around Vignemale I know they are at the very edge of my skill set if snow covered. The passes further East, based on reading various accounts, are likely to be more "serieuse" as the French say.

I walk relatively slowly and find about 6 - 7 hours of the guide books is about right for a day. I stop a lot to enjoy my surroundings. Walk early to about noon, lunch and have a siesta if it is hot, then wander on till about 7pm. I like to get out of sync with the guide books and camp in relatively remote locations rather than use a refuge.

My style is definitely at the edge of UL. I expect my base weight to be a bit over 4kg and will add in 1kg of nonessential camera and electronics (phone, GPS and SPOT).
Shoes - Salomon Synapse low cut non-waterproof - the comfiest I have ever have worn - with Dirtygirl gaiters.
Pack - Laufbursche Huckepack mainly built in Dyneema X about 40 litres 465g - one of the few packs that can be tailor made in a wide range of fabrics.
Sleeping - Zpacks Hexamid with SMD Serenity inner (used a SMD Gatewood Cape last time), MYOG quilt & Neoair.
Cooking - A hack of a MSR Superfly and Fire Maple 116T for multi-canister adaptability, windscreen and Ti pot.
Food - omnivorous but simple. Lots of couscous and tuna for dinner, cheese, saucisson and dried fruit for lunch, muesli for breakfast.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Gadgets on 06/02/2013 06:25:43 MDT Print View

Thanks so much Mark!

I will take my unlocked iPhone. Recent blogs have suggested that reception tends to pretty good when you are up high. Did you use the phone enough to notice what carrier had the best coverage over the portions you walked.

SPOT...I have people addicted to tracking. Maybe. I've used these for quite sometime but still find my self wasting a lot of time futzing with it and the website. I haven't been as keen on it lately. Hopefully, the web interface has improved!

Dedicated GPS...I have a Garmin 60CSx...purchased some years's not light. I am VERY comfortable and familiar with it...on the fence. I am not a navigation wiz...and a GPS is no substitute of course. What did you have on your GPS in terms of maps. (Oh, do I get the Joosten points? I haven't looked lately. )I wrote him and asked him for a file and never heard back. There has been much written lately about using the iPhone's GPS on such walks. I have played with it on a limited basis.

I will take a Lumix LX5, with wrist strap. I replaced the lens cap with an "automatic" one. $10 from Amazon...highly recommend this tweak!

Do you remember power points in the CAF refuges. I do not expect to charge in cabanes, unmanned huts and other simple shelters! Nice to know what's out there in terms of electricity.

You seem very organized and experienced. I am going to look up some of your gear.

Skills are all relative. I do a lot of things where one little slip would indeed have consequences. Especially on my skis! I am not a technical climber by any means. On foot, It is generally easier to go up treacherous stuff than down I think...I try to keep that in mind. Could I get back down the way I came if there is something I don't want to do ahead? I've gotten in big trouble before, not injury, but a bad position...I learned a lot in an interrogation room in a Swiss police station early on.

Edited by backpackerchick on 06/02/2013 06:29:35 MDT.

Mark Fowler
(KramRelwof) - MLife

Locale: Namadgi
electronics on 06/02/2013 07:21:42 MDT Print View

The phone is mainly for music, books - I have an electronic version of Joosten from Google Books (the way points are scattered through the book) plus scans of the maps, scans of the FFRP GR10 guides - and internet to search out information and book things when in towns etc. I rarely have the phone on when walking. I think phones in the mountains are really not the right thing to rely on for navigation unless you can guarantee power. Don't remember many power points other than in towns as most refuges are off grid and working on solar.

I would really prefer not to use electronics in the mountains but it seems unavoidable on these longer trips. I am going to try a simple solar set up for power that will keep my gps, Steripen Freedom, phone and camera battery charged as I really hate disposable batteries.

I had a French Orange sim last time which worked when I needed it - it was a pain to get set up but I was in France for 3 months. I mainly look for wifi which seems pretty wide spread once in a town - even cheap hotels etc. This time I will use a travel sim that seems to have reasonable data rates.

SPOT is purely for OK messages and hopefully never rescue but that must be it's primary function otherwise there is little reason to carry it. As I want to ensure it always has enough power for this I don't use it for tracking. If I want a track I use my gps but I usually only get the gps out when I am wanting to check my position. I am pondering whether to take my ForeTrex 401 or perhaps rely on the gps in the phone. I haven't had time yet to get into mapping on gps - only recently purchased a Etrex 30 which has this capability. Electronic maps may end up rather expensive as you would need both French and Spanish as they seem to stop once they reach the border.

Camera - Panasonic LX7 as it will take a polarizing filter. Will check out your auto lens cap.

John Frederick Anderson
(fredfoto) - F

Locale: Spain
Pyrenean Traverse -- Logistics on 06/02/2013 07:47:47 MDT Print View

Good luck with your hike, I might see you around, as the Pyrenees are my backyard and I hike there every year.
I use a MLD SoloMid when I'm on my own, or a Shangri-La 3 if the weather calls for it or I am with someone, and camp above tree line. Both shed wind and storms well, and the SL3 is really big and comfy for one on a long hike, think mega vestibule!. I use my trekking poles for support, so if you don't use poles, you will have to carry centre poles for either shelter.
Refugios are great fun every now and then, I use earplugs to sleep, french ones called Quies made of wax, one set lasts a few weeks and they weigh nothing, you can buy them in most french drug stores.
This year winter has stubbornly hung around, and there is plenty of snow still, and the long range forecast is for an unsettled summer.
HRP sections I have done involve much less up and down, but GR sections are fun too, mix and match depending on what you want to do.
I carry only half a litre of water as the higher up you go the water is better, and plentiful, and will be after this wet winter. I go cookless, and eat a hot meal in refugios every now and then, YMMV, but it keeps the weight down and the 'process' of being outside less complicated, which I value. I would think about walking east to west as you would normally be walking into and through bad weather, rather than having it follow you.
It is a fabulous part of the world, enjoy!

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Re: Pyrenean Traverse -- Logistics on 06/02/2013 15:39:19 MDT Print View

Fred - thanks for the tip about the late snow this year. I hike for a few days in the Pyrenees each July and 3 years ago was also a late snow year. It's definitely worth bringing an ice axe for those steep passes.
The other thing about snow is that it covers all the paint marks that normally mark the trails, so you have to take more care with your route finding.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: early on 06/02/2013 15:45:03 MDT Print View

Hi Mark

> I may go from Banyuls to Garvanie
That would avoid the snow.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: SNOW?! on 06/02/2013 15:47:43 MDT Print View

> What if the Pyrenees are just SO socked in with snow in August that all the roads are
> closed and nothing is open?
There would be national rejoicing in most European countries for their ski industry. It might even be declared a genuine miracle.
However, more realistically, ...


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: An Excellent Planning Map on 06/02/2013 15:49:02 MDT Print View

> What have you guys used for walking maps?
Guide books PLUS the relvant topo maps. Rando Editions are good. There are some Spanish ones as well.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Snow...what's the big deal? on 06/02/2013 16:02:37 MDT Print View

> Is snow depth per se really the issue?
> But walk on snow...what is the big deal?
Ahhh ... in some places early in the season you would need crampons, in other places you would need snow shoes. And it can be quite steep, with big runouts - very big.

> I will not be depending on local "gear shops" for my footwear.
My experience was that the local gear shops did carry a very wide range of shoes, including a good range of light joggers. And some of the staff did understand shoes as well. Yes, boots are still popular, but so are joggers.

> A brand new pair of my go to shoes are highly unlikely to make it from the Atlantic
> to the Mediterranean...based on previous experience.
Depends. Some of my more recent reviews of New Balance shoes were based on wearing the one pair for the full 2 months we were over there.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Gadgets on 06/02/2013 16:04:59 MDT Print View

> Do you remember power points in the CAF refuges.
These days the Refuges do seem to have a few power points available for charging. Ask if necessary.


Michael Schwartz
(greenwalk) - MLife

Locale: PA & Ireland
Pyrenean Traverse -- Logistics on 06/02/2013 16:05:04 MDT Print View

@ Stuart: Good point about the paint marks.

@ Mark: If you have time you may want to check out Parque Nacional Ordesa. I missed it when I was there but hope to see it the next time. Also, going there first might buy you some extra time, if you are watching trail conditions.

@ Roger: Good point about starting at the Med to miss snow, but walking to the Med is IMHO the 1st choice, if possible.

Re snow: Having an ice axe and crampons is important, but what is essential is knowing how to use them and having the experience of using these tools, as is having and using THE most important piece of gear.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Good Grief on 06/02/2013 16:37:13 MDT Print View

While I have had a bit (more than a bit to be fair) of formal instruction in mountaineering techniques, using crampons and basic self arrest techniques for this sort of travel is not rocket science. Watch a few videos on youtube (I think BMC has some good ones), read the relevant chapters in FOH and practice arrest a few times next time you encounter suitable conditions...which may be on the HRP. You do not need either ice climbing skills or gear to tackle the HRP in summer. Furthermore, there are numerous alternatives that will allow you to maintain the spirit of the traverse without actually walking every step as prescribed by Joosten (or using wheels!), should this be necessary.

Anyway, confidence in your ability to use techniques and equipment comes when you push yourself out of your current comfort zone. Yeah, it's a delicate balance.

At this point, and this is subject to change, I will have a CAMP Corsa 60 (a 50 would do) and Katoohla Microspikes ( I can use them with minimalist footwear) available when I get to the high mountains. I don't expect to need them on the HRP itself! I do have some interest in the classic peaks en route. I would carry the same axe and might use the Grivel Air Tech Light (new classic) on a slightly stiffer trail runner with a little structure in the toe. I will not waste time on footwear in local gear shops. I know what I want and I can have it delivered or waiting.

I would love to have a bounce box arrangement! I am convinced it would not be worth the effort and would likely end up wasting a lot of time and energy. I will probably be giving away bits of gear en route.

I will take a harness and some additional gear to the Pyrenees but not for this walk!

Edited by backpackerchick on 06/02/2013 17:10:38 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Auto Lens Cap for LX7 on 06/02/2013 19:36:26 MDT Print View


This is the exact auto lens cap I purchased for the LX5:

This would appear to be the same product for the LX7:

Only one left.

Update: I looked at the photos of this product again, the LX7 version appears to be a little different...?slightly different mechanism

It makes this a one handed camera. (I think there are safety implications here.)

Mine (the LX5 version) has worked exactly as advertised. I'm in LA. Lived in Sydney for many years...know the frustration of trying to get silly little things that aren't available locally. If you want one, I'll order it and send it to you in a letter envelope. (Don't worry about the $)

I have an Orange (France) SIM card from last summer that is still valid. It wasn't too bad to set up. I did have to go to a second Orange store around the corner (in Champery, I think) to get the smaller SIM card for the iPhone. I just did pay as you go, voice and data. I bought lots of these little refill tickets with the SIM card as not to have to find them later. The robot only speaks French. There were lots of numbers to enter. I think you had to buy different tickets for voice and data. (I DO have an EU passport but I don't think this was necessary.)

The post office is probably the best place to do it in France. They sell all the carriers' SIM cards and plans in addition to their own and you can get info on coverage.

Edited by backpackerchick on 06/02/2013 21:41:48 MDT.

Wim Depondt
(wim_depondt) - F - MLife

Locale: The low countries
maps on 06/04/2013 14:39:34 MDT Print View

"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?"

I didn't take any topo maps. My strategy:
- Joost's guide book
- gpx-track of the HRP pre loaded on my gps

Worked perfectly. Normally, Joost's maps were sufficient. In the odd situation, the gps bailed me out.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: maps on 06/04/2013 15:47:51 MDT Print View

> What have you guys used for walking maps?"
Guide books PLUS Rando topo maps. More freedom to wander.


Mark Fowler
(KramRelwof) - MLife

Locale: Namadgi
Maps on 06/04/2013 16:55:21 MDT Print View

I have photocopied the Rando Editions maps double sided A3 ensuring I get a much side trail in as possible. Gavarnie - Banyuls is on 11 sheets (110g) about the same weight as a single map. I ocr my guide books and strip out the excess. Print double sided A5 (A5 folds nicely to fit in a pocket) and it becomes about 50 grams. Still have pristine maps and guide for later trips.

I wouldn't trust Joosten's maps - not enough detail.

Edited by KramRelwof on 06/04/2013 16:56:51 MDT.