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French Pyrenees

Hiking the GR10

all seasons in one day 20 °C
View NateAnouk Sabbatical 2007 on Nate99's travel map.

In June, after everyone had departed back to their normal lives in Australia, Anouk and I started on a long-distance hiking route through the French Pyrenees. The whole route traverses the Pyrenean mountain range from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and takes about 50 days of continuous walking. I love the concept of it, but to do it in one hit, as some people we met were doing, would be a challenging undertaking.

The whole route is called the GR10 (Grande Randonnee number 10), a French long-distance hiking route that basically tracks along the French side of the Pyrenean mountain chain from coast to coast. The route essentially involves hiking from village or refuge (mountain hut), over some high pass, and down into the adjacent valley to the next village or refuge, with each day averaging around 6-8 hours of walking.

Our first attempt at the hike involved entering the Pyrenees at a point approx one-third of the way into the long distance route. The day we entered Lescun was a beautiful day that highlighted the dramatic scenery of the surrounding mountains and dwarfed the picturesque village. This didn't last though, and after setting up the tent, the clouds fell upon us and the rain began.

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After completing day one of the GR10 through unrelenting rain, which turned to sleet, then snow, then back to rain as we traversed the mountain pass, we descended into Estaut with both of us feeling the effects of a day walking in challenging conditions. The biggest concern for us was the fact that we were snowed on over the 1600m pass, yet the next stage of the hike, should we choose to attempt it, involved a 2200m pass. The continuing predicted wet weather, with extreme conditions on the high passes, and us having sent our waterproof pants home, convinced us that we should relocate our hiking to a more pleasant climate - the Eastern Pyrenees.

So, having relocated ourselves to the Eastern Pyrenees, we once again pushed into the high mountains, this time attempting to complete the final one-quarter of the whole route, rather than the more ambitious one-half from the Central Pyrenees. Like a wet dog, the weather chased us for the first two days, and once again tested our seriousness. If it wasn't for the homely warmth and three-course meals of the mountain gites (hostals) at the end of those first few days, we might've chucked it in.

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The photo below is the look Anouk has when she sincerely wishes she went holidaying in the Maldives, rather with an eccentric who loves being in the mountains.

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But, as with most things in life, the rewards have to be earn't, and the magical Pyrenees finally offered up her treasures in the following two weeks.

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Our section of the route took us 15-days, starting in the high mountains of the Eastern end with snowy passes of approximately 2400m, down to the warm embrace of the Mediterranean coast.

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At such a wonderful end point to this hike, there is nothing more rewarding than taking it easy on the gravel pile... aah, I mean beach.

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Posted by Nate99 11:42 Archived in France

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