France

Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne HRP

Having my U.S visa cancelled really cobbled my plans for 2020, as if that wasn’t enough Covid-19 is now the biggest ongoing threat in living memory. I spent much of the early part of 2020 hiding from the general population. I spent much of my spare time jogging in the dark streets of my home town. In August it seemed like the UK was passed the worst of the virus. We had seen as many as 1000 people a day dying from Covid, by August those figures had dropped dramatically. I decided to head out to France to hike the Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne. Back in 2001 I hiked the GR10 which is one of the easier paths across the Pyrenees. The HRP is quite a lot tougher with an overall altitude loss/gain of around 47,000m. I decided not to use my large Nikon Z camera for this trip and instead relied on a cell phone. I have a video here

For anyone thinking of hiking the HRP I thought I’d offer some advice regarding the logistics of the hike.

Equipment choices

Navigation:
In 2001 when I hiked the GR10 I used a series of 1:50,000 scale maps. I needed 9 maps. These days almost nobody uses the old maps it’s much more convenient to use GPS. There are really two options here; a standalone GPS or a regular smartphone. I used to use the Garmin 60csx, now however, I go with the masses and use a cell phone. You really can’t beat the accuracy of a designated handheld GPS. They rarely let you down even in thick fog or with a canopy of trees over your head but a cell phone is good enough. I use a cheap Chinese RealmeX2 which has a large battery and plenty of internal memory. I installed the app OsmAnd which is more than adequate. I downloaded the route using Wikiloc this is a great resource library for hiking trails. You simply need to search for the hike, then download the track. OsmAnd requires a GPX track. There are a number of sites on the internet showing how to set this up. I actually went one step further and created a set of satellite maps for my app. This was nice to have but probably over-kill for a hike like the HRP.

Charging electronics:
I used a RAV 16W solar panel to charge my Anker 10,000mah power bank. In hindsight this was probably overkill, I think I could have coped with a smaller panel (perhaps 10W) and likely a 3200mah power bank. It’s worth noting that many power banks are cheap Chinese rubbish, take my advice and get a good one. Before I left for this trip I sewed snap buckles to the backpack and panel. This allowed me to fit and remove the panel with ease. 

Tent / Sleeping Bag / sleeping pad
I used my 24 year old MacPac Microlight tent. It’s a tent that’s clearly stood the test of time. In all honesty though, it was a bit of over-kill for the HRP. It’s a tent that is more suited to the wet climate of New Zealand. I would have preferred my Henry Shires Tarptent, this tent requires a trekking pole as the main upright pole for the tent. I could not bring trekking poles with me without paying extra to put them in the hold of the plane. I decided against paying £80 for hold luggage.
My Marmot Hydrogen is rated at -1C/30f, it was perfectly suited for this trip. I also used a Thermarest Z. I prefer to cut this down to about 70% of its original size. The matt fits nicely rolled up inside my pack. I keep it open as it makes a big open tube within the backpack. This makes it really easy to access everything within the backpack and keeps the contents protected within the matt. 

Footwear etc:
If I made any mistakes it was with footwear. I used a pair of Salomon trail shoes for my hike. I suffered terribly from blisters. In hindsight I wish I’d bought shoes that were capable of taking two pairs of insoles without crushing my toes together. With only one insole my feet gave me a lot of pain.

 

 

Here’s a few images, remember they’re only from a cell phone

 

The HRP has plenty of refuges, you can either stop by for a snack or if you choose it’s possible to stay half board.

 

 

The trail is easy enough to follow
Aigüestortes National Park
A welcome surprise as I cross a pass
Ancient villages on the Spanish Pyrénéenne
Who doesn’t want to be above the clouds
Trail magic
Cowbells (they can get irritating)
A misty forest scene
A chamois goat (not bad from a cell phone)

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