A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Pyrenean Longing

The Pyrenean mountain range stretches for about 270 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, separating France from the Iberian Peninsula. It's a stunning area, largely unspoilt, and wonderful for hiking.

Reading yesterday about Andy Howell's trips to the Pyrenees made me long to go there again. I've been twice before, both times flying from Stansted to Carcassonne and hiring a car at Carcassonne airport. I mixed in some walking with car touring. Next time I'd like to use the car as little as possible - and just walk.

The part I know best is the eastern end: the Couserans, the Ariège (read about a walk I did here) and the Pays de Sault; the valleys of the Tet and the Tech which border the Canigou massif north and south; the Castellane valley which was described so beautifully in Rosemary Bailey's book Life in a Postcard: Escape to the French Pyrenees; the gentler wine-growing hills of the French Albères; the strange volcanic region of the Spanish Garrotxa; and the Mediterranean coast from charming, artistic Collioure in France down to the Aiguamolls nature reserve just east of Castello in northern Catalonia.

I've always yearned to trek one of the Pyrenean long distance trails ever since I read Chris Townsend's account of doing this in his book The Great Backpacking Adventure. There are 3 waymarked end-to-end footpaths: the GR10 on the French side, the GR11 on the Spanish side and the HRP (Pyrenean High Level Route) which sticks as closely as possible to the frontier. (The HRP shares some sections of both the GR10 and the GR11.) Logistically and technically I suppose the HRP is the most demanding; but the GR10 and the GR11 are no pushovers as there are lots of steep-sided valleys to negotiate.

3 books on the Pyrenees I own and would recommend are: Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees written by Kev Reynolds and published by Cicerone; Pyrenees: Car Tours and Walks in the Sunflower Landscapes series; and the excellent Rough Guide to the Pyrenees by Marc Dubin.

My first photo shows the village church of Castillon-en-Couserans; the second is a view from the castle at Foix in the Ariège valley; and the third is of Collioure on the Mediterranean coast.


Barrie Fairhurst said...

Hi there

Picked up your blog via a google alert.

I walked the GR11 earlier this year and kept a blog:


Have a browse if get a moment. I understand your longing to return!


The Solitary Walker said...

Away for weekend but look forward to reading it next week!

Phreerunner said...

For anyone wishing to do the Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne (HRP), Georges Véron's book 'Pyrenees High Level Route' is a 'bible'. Véron created the route. The latest translated edition is a 1991 Gastons-West Col publication. (We managed fine in 2004 with a 1981 edition.) The latest edition is a 2003 RANDO éditions publication, not yet translated.
There's a Cicerone Guide - Pyrenean Haute Route, by Ton Joosten. This is useful but contains inaccuracies and doesn't cover the many variant routes that make Véron's book such a delight to ponder over.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for the info. Would love to walk this route.