This blog describes my 24-day traverse of the Pyrenees from Atlantic to Mediterranean, July 2011.
The Pyrenean Haute Route is around 800km with 42,000 metres of ascent.

Map of the route | Schedule

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hendaye to Hospital de Benasque

My HRP hike began at about 6pm on Friday 1st July at Hendaye beach, shortly after stepping off the bus into searing heat, and feeling a bit of an idiot carrying an ice axe whilst mingling with surfers in swimwear.

Day 1 - Hendaye to Col d´Ibardin (almost)
My first day was a 3 hour evening hike out of Hendaye, and getting a bit lost, but eventually finding my way up onto the ridge just before Col d´Ibardin, where I bivvied near some horses.

Day 2 - Col d´Ibardin to Col Basabar
This was the only day so far I´ve met any other HRP hikers, and I was caught by both of them. A French guy called Claude, who was aiming for an 18 day traverse, and a Dutchman called Robin who had a more conservative schedule.

Day 3 - Col Basabar to Azpegi Cabane
Starting raining late in the day, so dived down off the HRP to find the Azpegi Cabane. A very large clean bothy that I had to myself.

Day 4 - Azpegi Cabane to Port de Larrau
Super sore feet today. Tremendous hike over Pic d´Orhly in the evening.

Day 5 - Port de Larrau to Source de Marmitou
Another day of mind-boggling foot pain. Super tough afternoon section through karst country with no water.

Day 6 - Source de Marmitou to Col du Somport
A good long day, where I felt like I was covering the ground a bit better. Dropped down to Lescun for food and coffee, before long climb up to super ridge walk above the clouds. Got lost near the end and had to hike up the road to Col du Somport where I met Trevor and Nicki for a much needed meal.

Day 7 - Col du Somport to Refuge Arremoulit
Trevor came out with me for the first couple of hours before heading back. I then had a great hike around the Pic Midi d´Ossau to Refuge Pombie. On the descent to the road, I stupidly dropped my map, but luckily realised in time, so only need to sprint back up for 5 minutes to retrieve. A fun evening at Refuge Arremoulit with a bunch of young Spanish hikers.

Day 8 - Refuge Arremoulit to Oulettes de Gaube
Some tremendous scenery today. Hiked over to Respomuso, then over Col du Grand Fache to Refuge Wallon, before another huge flog up and over to Oulettes de Gaube to bivvy below the Vignemale.

Day 9 - Oulettes de Gaube to Heas
I was hiking at 6.10am, since I knew this would be a long day. It was cold and windy heading over the Hourquette de Oulettes, then very busy on the trail down to Gavarnie. At Garvanie the heat was stifling and it took a while to get sorted for the 1100m climb to Hourquette d´Alans. The descent on the other side seemed to go on for ever just to reach the barage, and then there was another long road section to reach Heas. I can´t remember ever being so tired and then end of a hike. Luckily I found the wonderful Refuge d´Auberge and had a really comfortable night´s sleep.

Day 10 - Heas to Paso de los Caballos
The 10 hour hike to Parzan was a piece of cake compared with yesterday´s hike. I arrived at the Parzan petrol station in time to get a meal and watch the end of Stage 9 of Tour de France. After chatting with an English hiker called Ian, I hiked up the GR11 trail towards Paso de los Caballos, and bivvied just below the col.

Day 11 - Paso de los Caballos to Lac des Isclots
This was a moderately tough hike. GR11 down to Biados, then some pretty wild country to get to Refuge de la Soula. I stopped for a coke before continuing up a wild rocky trail to Lac du Isclots at 2400m, where I was surprised to see another tent.

Day 12 - Lac des Isclots to Hospital de Benasque
Definitely the roughest toughest stage so far. I teamed up with the French hiker to cross the high passes to Lac du Portillon, but then was on my own for the Col Literole Infernale, the highest on the route with a steep snowy scary descent on the far side. I was very glad of my ice axe now. The hike out to Hospital de Benasque was unbelievably rough and tortuous, and rain and hail storm hit for the final hour, so I was pretty we when I arrived. 

This morning I had breakfast at 6am and planned to continue over the 2928m Coll de Mulleres to Hospital de Vielha, but it was pouring down with low cloud and forecast to rain all day. I didn´t fancy wasting a good stage by hiking in cloud and rain all day, so decided somewhat reluctantly to take the day off and fester in Benasque. I´m hoping that recharging the batteries for a day may have a beneficial effect in that I´ll feel a bit fresher when I set off tomorrow.


Niall said...

You make it sound so easy...

Klara said...

Hi Chris, here Klara of the Czech Rep. How did you finished the route? We followed you the day of Hospital de Benasque, but after several tries to find Col de Moliere in the fog and gaethering some lost people, we spent the night under it by the highest lake. Did you past? We had a beautiful trip after but didn't come to Andorra. For next time, perhaps.


Chris said...

Hi Klara. Good to hear from you. I finished the route yesterday at Banyuls-sur-Mer and am now back in Glasgow. That's too bad you couldn't find the col that day. I think I was lucky that the mist cleared just for a few moments to allow me to find it. The section through to Andorra was pretty tough after Salardu, but a great adventure. Do you have some good recommendations for hiking in Eastern Europe?

Klara said...

Glad to see you are OK:) Chris, we've already hiked through Romania (many good areas) as well as Ukrajine (not so high but natural), Bulgaria is higher and rocky (Rila and Pirin) and Montenegro with Durmitor,Komovi... You must know that there are not refuges as in the Pyrennees it's not civilised enough. But wunderful:)
So see you one day in eastern europe!
Klára and the others