I’ve now walked the length of the Pyrenees three times on different routes. 2700km, Atlantic to Mediterranean: 164 days hiking. I’ve been asked which route I liked best. Is it the Pyrenean Way (GR 10) in France, the Senda Pirenaica (GR 11) in Spain and Andorra, or this year’s trek, the Pyrenean Haute Route [guide] (Haute Route Pyrénéenne, HRP, in French; Alta Ruta Pirenaica in Spanish) which flits across the border every second day?
Like all the other walkers in the Orreaga/Roncevaux Pilgrim’s hostel we were woken by the sound of monks singing. But unlike them the four of us were the only ones heading north, still on the Camino, but in the wrong direction. Once we had climbed up to the ridge we were in France – but only just – passing by frontier markers 200 to 204. This is where the Pyrenees really start, although they are still clothed in grass. We saw very few other walkers.
If you don’t have a tent, you still need a roof. I had chosen Egurguy on the basis of the excellent Pyrenees Refuges and Cabanes site. It lived up to expectations, which weren’t very high. I slept in huts about once a week. Continue reading Pyrenean Haute Route 2016. Days 7-13 Orreaga to Somport
The official route of the Senda Pirenaica (Spanish GR11) is being changed in order to conform to new safety standards. Although it is true that the passage in France to the west of Candanchú is often damaged by avalanches, the new route has other failings. It drops down into the Canfranc valley creating a long detour in a valley blighted by road traffic. See Aragon Mountaineering Club‘s page on the subject.
I knew I could never walk the Haute Route (HRP) – too high, too technical, and above all I would need to carry a tent and all the extra kit that implies. But then, in the dog days of February, I came across TransPyr, a guide which claimed a tent wasn’t necessary. I looked at other guides to the Pyrenean Haute Route.
- Le Trek des Pyrénées by Céline and Sébastian Dupont
- Pyrenean Haute Route by Ton Joosten
- Souvenirs d’un Pyrénéiste by Georges Véron (account of his 1968 reconnaissance, out of print)
Each one proposes a different trek. The walk, it seems, is not a itinerary at all, more of an idea!
Goiat, the Slovenian bear released near Isil in Pallars Sobirà on 6 June has been travelling fast. He has already crossed into France and by-passed the town of Bagnères-de-Luchon to be seen by a gardener in Cazaux-Leyrisse 45km NW of Isil. That’s 45 km as the vulture flys but he will have avoided contact so his trek will have been much longer.
Meanwhile a bear has been captured on video in Bonac-Irazein, Ariège with an unusually large litter of three cubs born last winter. Two other bears are known to have had cubs this year – detected on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. Source: Brown Bear Network
A brown bear has just been released in Pallars Sobirà as part of the 2011 Pyrenean Strategy for Biodiversity Enhancement agreed by the French, Spanish and Andorran governments.
After 40 years of neglect the famous (infamous?) railway line from Pau to Canfranc is being renovated. At present the trains all stop at Oloron and a bus takes passengers across the border to Canfranc. But the French SNCF is in the process of testing the line as far as Bedous and a regular service will be inaugurated on 3 July 2016 (SNCF reservations are now possible).
Source: Vue sur les Pyrénées
The Senda Pirenaica crosses the Camino at the western end of the Pyrenees. I am returning there this year, staying in the Roncevaux/Orreaga Pilgrims’ Hostel so I have been reading about the ‘other’ trek.
Ever since ibex were reintroduced into the Pyrenees in 2014 I have been hoping to spot one on the horizon. Last year I contacted the Jordi Estèbe from the Parc naturel régional des Pyrénées Ariégioses and went with him to search for one. Despite knowing where the ibex was holed up, and despite both GPS and radio technology we failed to find him.
But yesterday on holiday in Andalusia (Spain) walking above Lentegí (Almuñécar) there they were, standing on a promontory thirty metres away looking at me: a female and two kids. The female disappeared immediately but the kids stayed, until their mother ibex called them with a birdlike squawk. They stationed themselves a little further down the slope just long enough for me to grab another photo. Wonderful surprise.
It is not clear what is happening to Catalonia’s rewilding project. Despite decreasing damage to livestock, the farmers’ union is becoming increasingly agitated.
The Unió de pagesos is demanding “urgent and effective measures to reduce the damage caused to mountain flocks by bears and wild animals. We need to find equilibrium between livestock farming and biodiversity.”
Last Thursday (5 May 2016), the union organised a demonstration in Vielha (Val d’Aran) complaining about the current situation. According to official figures, which the union does not contest, there were 290 attacks on flocks between 1996 and 2011. But since 2005 increased vigilance and keeping the sheep together in flocks has reduced losses caused by bears from 25 to 10 per year. 94% of the attacks concern sheep.
It is the same with vultures. There were 50 vulture colonies in 1999 growing to 158 in 2009. Between 2011 and 2014, livestock owners claimed compensation for 233 attacks but only 12 were considered to be clearly the work of the birds. In 2014 there were only 24 claims; 6 were compensated.
Yet despite the trends, the union is demanding more preventive measures and a moratorium on reintroductions until the current problems have been solved.