HRP – Pyreneen Haute Route Tour Summary

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I hiked the HRP eastbound from Hendaye to Banyuls-sur-Mer between the 17. July and 10. August 2019. I did about 840km in distance and roughly 100.000 meters in elevation. Since I only had limited time I hiked between 12 and 14 hours every day and with being a rather fast hiker I made it to Banyuls in 23 days (and 3 hours). So much to the hard facts.

The HRP has been an amazing hike! For me it was the first time in the Pyrenees. And what can I say. I had no clue how beautiful they are! I was really surprised by the amazing mountain landscape. I really loved the rough alpine terrain above the tree line. I have to admit that I am a big fan of the higher and rougher alpine areas and I do love long and steep uphill climbs. So the Pyrenees with mostly very grey and bright granite combined with the sparse vegetation were amazing in that sense already. But especially the very steep and long ascents made me very happy. Very often you just get 1.000 or 1.300m of straight uphill sections which are usually pretty steep. Exactly my cup of tea. Just to put this a bit into the right perspective – I have done a few other long-distance-trails like the Te Araroa in New Zealand, the PCT and quite a few hikes in Canada, the Alps and South America. So I do have seen quite a few mountain areas already but the Pyrenees made it to the very top of the list. I will definitely come back to do more hikes here.

 

HRP Weather

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I hiked between 17. July and 10. August and I guess it has been another very hot summer. I started in a heat wave with over 40C on sea level. I woke up at 6 o’clock at Source de Marmitou with still 23C. So it’s probably (hopefully) not a representative year. I had really hot days with mid 30s in the valley along the way. I had two days of rain between Gavarnie and Parzan. But besides this I had quite a few days in the clouds with a few showers in between but mainly hot and sunny days. I was hit by four small thunderstorm or rather cells but they all hit me during the night which was not a problem. I think the coldest night I had was at Lac de Caillauas (2.160m) just before I crossed Col Inférieur de Literole and that was around 4C in the morning.

Because of the warm weather I never really hat the need for warm clothes. I always walked in my Speedo swim-shorts and a t-shirt. I did put my merino-wool sweater on once in a while early in the morning or when I was in the clouds. But my small puffy stayed in the bad the entire trip and also my +6C sleeping bag was only zipped up four or five times. The other nights I only used it as a blanket.

 

HRP Resupply points

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I started out from Hendaye with way too much food – probably for almost 5 days. But I wanted to see what “limited resupply” actually meant. Looking back I can only say that when “limited resupply possibility” was quoted I found more than enough to find enough for the next stretch. Maybe you don’t find your favourite brand or flavour and sometimes you might have to get creative but you won’t starve and will be fine. I also used may resupply points to just get extra meals and calorie boosters. I knew that I would never be able to keep a balance with my calories. So if there was a shop on the way I made sure to get two cans of coke, fruits, bread, olives, coffee, chips, yogurt and whatever I could get and I was too lazy to carry as a snack.

So my resupply and food points were:

Day 1. Resupply: Henaye

Day 2. Resupply: Les Aldudes (great shop): just a few things to stock up

Day 4. Calorie booster: Col Bagargui – had yogurt, milk, fresh fruit and they even had dehydrated meals.

Day 6. Resupply and 2. Breakfast: Lescun (all you need), great coffee

Day 7. Calorie booster: Candanchu supermarket & cafe

Day 9. Calorie booster: Oulettes de Gaube

Day 9. Resupply: Gavarnie

Day 10. Dinner: Heas

Day 11. Resupply: Parzan

Day 13. Dinner: Hospital de Benasque

Day 15. Resupply and Lunch: Salardu / Vielha

Day 17. Lunch: Refugio de Certascan

Day 19. Resupply & breakfast: l’Hospitalet-près-l’Andorre

Day 21. Resupply & breakfast: Bolquere

Day 23. Resupply and Lunch: Amelie les Bains

Day 24. Resupply and 2. Breakfast: Le Perthus

 

HRP Clothes & Equipment

Here you will find my complete equipment list of the trip (soon): HRP gear list.

In the mean-time you can just check out the gear page. The gear list from the TMB is very close to the final HRP gear list. But the update will come soon.

Even though it was a very hot summer I would be totally fine to take the same equipment with much colder weather.

 

Planning the HRP

When I started planning the HRP tour I found the following sources very helpful:

Great and short notes for the hike, good description of alternates and GPS files. Really helpful once you get into the real preparation phase of the tour: Whiteburn’s Wanderings

I also used Chris’ blog as point of reference for my stages. He pretty much hiked the same speed and distance. So it was very helpful to have his stages to see where I would end up at the end of the day or what was possible. Chris

And of course Tom Martens Facebook group is an amazing source: HRP

Besides this I only used the iOS App maps.me with the GPS files from Whiteburn and Google maps in towns. Sometimes I used the mountain weather forecast when I needed updates for the peaks.

I also carried paper maps (just the pieces I needed) and the short notes from Whiteburn. I do like the paper maps when I am alone. I had a situation already where my phone died on me in a river and I was glad I had maps to get out. 1:50.000 maps do not really work for navigation if the trail is not clear. But to have an overview and to plan the next day it was always helpful and saved a lot of battery power.

 

Best sections of the HRP

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I really liked the entire section between Lescun and Canigou. Of course there were a few more and less stunnig sections but overall it was amazing all the way. From Lescun the really high mountains were building up, then you were in the really high section for a long time but also coming out again at then end looking at the high stuff behind and the rolling hills again was great. Pic Carlit and the ridgewalk afterwards were surprising highlights of the trip!

 

Worst section of the HRP

Two sections I would not do again anymore:

The valley after Refugio de Certascan – it was dangerous and completely unnecessary since there is also a good trail in the neighbour-valley. See the detailed post from Day 17.

+++ Update  +++

Thanks Paul for the hint. Here is a screen shot of the map and the alternate after Refugio de Certascan to avoid the horrible descent:

+++ Update +++

 

Also the entire section around Airoto and down to Alos d’Isil was just horrible. No trails, very tyring overgrown boulder fields and steep bushwacking down to Alos d’Isil. I would try to find a work-around next time. See Day 16.

 

Fun facts

I did not sleep in a refugio a single night but always in my tent. I camped on an official campsite in Gavarnie because of the expected thunderstorm and next to the Refugio in Heas, Wallon and Sorteny for various reasons.

 

I cooked every night with my Jetboil stove besides 4 nights were I got food in town, a refugio or carried prepared food out on the first day. I carried a 230gr gas cartridge which was still 1/3 full when I arrived in Banyuls. Unfortunately I did not find the small 100gr version in Hendaye. I would have preferred to buy a new one half way.

I managed to not take a single shower on the trip. I dipped into rivers and lakes though but of course always without using soap out there. Leave No Trace (LNT)!

 

Hiking the HRP day by day

Here you can find the detailed day by day HRP articles. I tried to put points of reference, refugios or stages from the Cicerone guide into the start and end of a day so it is easier to find them on the map. The exact start and end point of the day can be found in the article. Hope this makes it easier finding the spots.

Day 1: Hendaye to Col-d’Inzola

Day 2: Col d’Inzola to Les Aldudes

Day 3: Les Aldudes to Harpea Cave Valley (below Errotzate)

Day 4: Harpea Cave Valey to Pic d’Ory 

Day 5: Pic d’Ory to Source de Marmitou

Day 6: Source de Marmitou to Pla d’Espelunguere

Day 7: Pla d’Espelunguere to Valle Darrious

Day 8: Valle Darrious to Refuge Wallon

Day 9: Refuge Wallon to Gavarnie

Day 10: Gavarnie to Heas

Day 11: Heas to Parzan

Day 12: Parzan to Lac de Caillauas

Day 13: Lac de Callauas to Basurta

Day 14: Basurta to Lac de Mar

Day 15: Lac de Mar to Estany de Baix de Baciver (close to Salardu / Baqueira)

Day 16: Estany de Baix de Baciver (Salardu / Baqueira) to Estany de la Llavera

Day 17: Estany de la Llavera to Cabana de Basello (close to Estany de Baborte)

Day 18: Cabana de Basello to Refugi de Sorteny

Day 19: Refugi de Sorteny to l’Hospitalet-près-l’Andorre

Day 20: L’Hospitalet-près-l’Andorre to Estany de la Pradella (close to Auberge du Carlit)

Day 21: Estany de la Pradella to Refuge de la Porteille Rojta

Day 22: Refuge de la Porteille Rojta to Refuge de Batere

Day 23: Refuge de Batère to Las Illas

Day 24: Las Illias to Banyuls-sur-Mer