Information on Hiking Trails
N° 10 hiking trail
If you count an average of 7 to 8 hours walk a day, you will need one and a half month to two months to go from Hendaye to Banyuls. The GR 10, a true mountainous trail - you will go up and down a lot -, however mostly remains at the foot of the highest summits and is not technically very difficult, with the exception of the permanent snow fields which you will find in altitude early in the season. Identified by white and red markers, the GR 10 is meant for anyone in good physical condition; it is therefore walked by a great number of people, in particular in the central and eastern part of the Pyrenees. All along it, you will find about sixty rest houses, Rando-Plume and refuges, which will welcome you for your nightly stops. Summer or fall seem to be the nicest periods for walking it. Indeed, in spring, snow still covers a great part of the highland, which forces the hiker to be consequently equipped.
The hike is divided into 4 sections and you always can, if you want so, just walk a part of it.
1st section: from Hendaye to Arrens - in the western Pyrenees
Spreading from the Atlantic Ocean to the Bigorre country, this section leads you for almost a fortnight through the Basque Country and along the high valleys of Bearn: Aspe and Osau.
2nd section: from Arrens to Melles - in the central Pyrenees
This section represents a 12 days hike which will take you to the most renowned sites in the Pyrenees (mountains of Cauterets Gavarnie, massif of Néouvielle, Mountains of Luchon).
3rd section: from Melles to Mérens - in the Ariège region of the Pyrenees
This is a 15 days hike, probably the most difficult one, through not very much known but magnificent mountains.
4th section: from Mérens to Banyuls - in the Pyrenees-Orientales
Only about 10 days left to reach the sea. Open views and distant horizons, and a great quality of light.
The hike itinerary is described in four guide books published by the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre (French Hiking Federation): Pyrenees Occidentales (Western), Pyrenees Centrales (Central) , Ariège, Pyrenees-Orientales (Eastern); whereas the trail is shown on 10 1:50 000 hiking maps published by Rando Editions: Pays basque ouest, Pays basque est, Béarn, Bigorre, Luchon, Couserans, Haute-Ariège, Cerdagne-Capcir, Canigou, Roussillon.
High montain hiking in the Pyrenees
his hike offers 800 km hike in high mountain from Atlantic to the Mediterranean in 41 legs. Located mostly in high altitudes, it is meant for experimented hikers, as it requires some technical knowledge, such as perfectly knowing how to read a map, or how to use a compass or an altimeter. It is borderless as it crosses through Spain and Andorra. It mostly follows drawn trails, but some parts of it are also off-trail. The trail is not marked out. It just has some sections in common with the GR10 and the GR11, which are marked out in red and white. T
he itinerary is divided into 5 big sections
:1section: from the Pays basque to the pic d'Anie
From the Atlantic ocean to the pic d'Orhy, you can hardly describe it as a mountain chain, but only as a series of hills, facing one way or another. A low altitude added to a very nice climate are responsible for an often thick vegetation, which sometimes obliges the hiker to look for his way. The massif of the pic d'Anie is a fantastic limestone area, which can be a problem for the hiker as he needs to walk across numerous grykes. It is recommended to try walking through this zone, where there is no water or shelter, only in good weather. It will take you 9 days of between 6 and 9 hours walk to hike this first western quarter of the Pyrenees.
2nd section: Crossing the Pyrenees National Park
You will find there the most famous massifs of the chain: Ossau, Balaïtous, Vignemale, Gavarnie. The snow cover is often rather important until the beginning of July, and above 2 300 m the snow often covers the trail. Ice picks are mandatory! You will walk this section in 8 days of 5 h 30 to 8 hours walk a day. In this part, you will find around 15 refuges with warden (hot meals a cert !).
3rd section: from the Pyrenees National park to the Val d'Aran
The region does not have as many refuges as the previous one. As the way is rather difficult, the wise thing to do is to walk often in the Spanish mountain, magnificent and very wild. Fresh supplies are harder to find and backpacks become heavier. This central part can be walked in 7 legs of 5 h 30 to 8 hours walk a day.
4th section: from Garonne to Puymorens
This part is mainly located in Spain and will take you 8 days, if you except the main by-pass, which allows you to visit the Pyrenees ariégeoises and comprises several hard and tricky legs, such as the one from Salau to La Hillette through the Crusous pass. Moreover, the ariégeois side offers very important differences of level; crossing the Ariège by the H.R.P. is therefore, even in good weather, meant only for very experienced mountain dwellers.
5th section: the Pyrenees-Orientales
The Catalonian Pyrenees can be crossed in 9 days, in legs of 5 to 9 hours walk for the longest. This part is much easier again and the 3 last legs are just a formality for the H.R.P. hikers. The only problem here is that of heat, which, in the middle of the summer, is often overwhelming.
The complete H.R.P. is described in the book by G. Véron published by Rando Editions, which is absolutely essential for this crossing. Its layout is reported on the 1:50 000 maps, published by Rando Editions: Pays basque ouest, Pays basque est, Béarn, Bigorre, Luchon, Couserans, Haute-Ariège, Cerdagne-Capcir, Canigou, Roussillon.
The Cathar trail
he Cathar trail invites you to travel through time, from the sea to Berga in Spain, through Foix, on rocky paths paced in the olden days by the "bonshommes". It will have you visit the celebrated vertiginous citadels (Quéribus, Peyrepertuse, Puivert, Montségur, Roquefixade...), Mecca of the resistance put up by the Occitan lords against Simon de Montfort's crusaders. It will finally have you discover a very special aspect of the sun-burnt Corbières, a fragment of history, a petrified legend, which will nurture your quest.
From Port-la-Nouvelle to Berga by way of Foix and Montségur, the cathar trail takes you through Aude and Ariège into Spain, in a 15 days
walk from one rest house to another. The trail is marked out in yellow and red
, except when it meets the GR trail, which is marked out in white and red. You can start this hike at any stage. For horse riders, there is also an equestrian by-pass. Because of the sea in the eastern part, you may encounter violent winds, which may blow on the whole trail from June to December. As for the western part (Hautes-Corbières - Pyrenees), you will have to take into account the possibility of a snow cover from December to April. You should also note that it is unadvisable to hike in a blazing sun in summer in the eastern part.
In conclusion, spring and autumn seem the nicest seasons for hiking on this trail.
For the French part, the trail is described in the guide book called " Le Sentier cathare de la mer à Montségur et Foix ", published by Rando Editions, a good part of which is about the history of the Cathar religion.
The ways to Santiago De Compostela
ince the nineteenth century, Christian tradition attributes to apostle James the Great the tomb discovered near Santiago de Compostela (Galicia, Spain).
For more than 1000 years, James the Great, a symbol of the gathering of all Christian peoples and continental unity, brings in numbers men, pilgrims or onlookers in search of a cultural identity, toward this land of Finisterre, at the outermost of Europe, Santiago de Compostela.
In France, gathering land before the crossing of the Pyrenees, four main routes have been created, the Tours route, the Vezelay route, the le Puy route and the Arles route.
BETWEEN MEDITERRENEAN AND ATLANTIC, THE WAY OF THE PYRENEAN PIEDMONT
Among the many ways leading to Compostela all through Europe, there is one, in itself a route, linking Mediterranean to Atlantic : the way of the Mediterranean Piedmont.
The way of the Piedmont offers different possibilities for the crossing of the Pyrenean passes. This communication route bears witness to a symbolic flow, made of exchanges and sharing of ideas, arts and traditions.
Century after century, pedlars and merchants, crusaders and warriors, troubadours, shepherds and pilgrims, and later the Resistance fighters walked it, weaving there invisible threads.
In the Pyrenees, moving naturally implies crossing problems. Travelers, faced with this difficulty, have looked for and used the passes and through valleys leading them to the Spanish cities and sanctuaries (Compostela or Monserrat).
When moving on the Pyrenean Piedmont, they just had to walk the few valleys leading them to passes and shelters, which lined the passages toward Iberia.
Crossing the Pyrenean passes and ports sumptuously appeared as as many meeting points for the Eastern-Western relationships, basis of so many cultural exchanges between Muslim and Western Christian worlds.
A symbol open-mindedness, this route reminds us that a border is only a human creation and that "you always have to push borders away to make adventure go on forever" (Michel Maffesoli, sociologist).
Thanks to its geographical and cultural qualities, this route really takes on a character of " European cultural route ".