Category Archives: HRP

Rewilding in Catalonia: sheep and bears, the official version

Sheep from the Boldis-Àreu flock now back in the valley.
Sheep from the Boldis-Àreu flock now back in the valley. In summer they can be seen on the GR11 near the pass between these two villages.

Source: Press release Department for the environment and sustainability, Generalitat de Catalunya, in conjunction with PirosLife and EU Life program, 31 October 2018, with additions based on interviews with one of the shepherds involved.

After five months in the high pastures the 36 sheep farms working with the PirosLife project have brought their 5600 sheep and goats back from the mountains. While in the mountains the animals were grouped into six flocks and various measures taken to protect them from bear attacks. The cost is borne by the PirosLife project.

Continue reading Rewilding in Catalonia: sheep and bears, the official version

Are Catalans better than French in dealing with bears?

On the Catalonia-France frontier above Núria
On the Catalonia-France frontier above Núria on the HRP/GR11

According to the authorities, the measures taken to protect livestock, principally sheep, from wild animals can be seen to work in Catalonia. The government gives compensation to farmers when their herds are attacked by protected animals (bears, wolves, etc). In 2009 it paid out 97,000€ but by 2015, the last year for which statistics are available, this figure had been reduced to 2,700€! If there is nothing hidden benind these figures it is a remarkable achievement. Continue reading Are Catalans better than French in dealing with bears?

Pyrenean Haute Route 2016. Days 50-57 Pla Guilhem to Banyuls

France

Day 50. Pla Guilhem hut at sunrise.
Day 50. Pla Guilhem hut at sunrise.

Normally, climbing Canigou (2784m) is an essential part of the HRP but I have climbed it many times from all sides and know the Mariailles and Cortalets hostels well. But I hadn’t stayed in the new Saint Guilhem hostel, nor at Batère with its hot tub!

Day 51. The Batère hostel used to provide accommodation for miners.
Day 51. The Batère hostel used to provide accommodation for miners.

Amélie-les-Bains is the only significant town on the HRP.

Day 52. Amélie-les-Bains, a spa town.
Day 52. Amélie-les-Bains, a spa town.

Hot day, no rush, cool swim.

Day 53. An isolated pool just for me, near Montalbà.
Day 53. An isolated pool just for me, near Montalbà.

After Amélie I stayed at the Moulin de la Palete which is also a stage on the Pyrenean Way. After it, both the Pyrenean Way and the HRP go to Las Illas but the shortest route crosses into Spain and only the HRP follows it.

Spain

Day 54. Mas Coll de Lli.
Day 54. Mas Coll de Lli.

The Mas Coll de LLi was the last staging post before the border and escape from the approaching fascist armies at the end of the Spanish civil war in 1939.

France

Day 55. Fire salamander on the track above Las Illas.
Day 55. Fire salamander on the track above Las Illas.

The HRP follows the Pyrenean Way from Las Illas to the sea but I wanted to try some new paths and also see the trees planted by Manel.

Day 55. Sequoia planted by the shepherd Manel in the mid-19th century.
Day 55. Sequoia planted by the shepherd Manel in the mid-19th century.

Spain

Requesens is essentially a farm. But the family runs a restaurant (open at mid-day only) and a secret hostel. I discovered the restaurant when I walked the Senda two years ago. But that night I slept in the Forn de Calç hut. There are no signs, absolutely nothing to indicate a hostel, but if you ask nicely you will be admitted into another world, dated c 1960, with one or two anachronisms: a microwave and a posh gas stove. Luxury.

Day 55. Requesens castle from the hamlet.
Day 55. Requesens castle from the hamlet.

France

I had always promised myself I would spend my last night on the HRP at the Refuge Tomy although I could have easily reached Banyuls. The shelter is tucked under the Pic de Sallfort (960m). The overhanging rocks make standing up impossible and it can accommodate a maximum of three people. But every aspect of the construction has been carefully thought. There is a gas stove (please make a contribution to the costs) and water. And a view over Banyuls and the Mediterranean to take your breath away. When the sun emerges, gasping, from the Mediterranean, you know you have arrived.

Day 56. Refuge Tomy on the Pic de Sailfort, within sight of Banyuls.
Day 56. Refuge Tomy on the Pic de Sailfort, within sight of Banyuls.

The sunrise was disappointing but on the way down I had the luck to meet a Pyrenean legend. Maurice Parxes, easily recognisable from his red and black bonnet . Maurice not only created and maintains the Refuge Tomy, bringing fresh water from the spring 130m below every week in summer, but had also competed in the Championnat du Canigou for the last 34 years. He is now 74. This year the race – 34 km, 2180m ascent – took him 5h47. He was first in his category, V4. 250 younger competitors took longer.

Day 57. Banyuls, 10 September. Drinking a Triple Sec on the rocks to celebrate my third crossing of the Pyrenees, GR10, GR11, and HRP.
Day 57. Banyuls, 10 September. Drinking a Triple Sec on the rocks to celebrate my third crossing of the Pyrenees, GR10, GR11, and HRP.

I crossed international borders 23 times without ever being asked for my papers.

Pyrenean Haute Route 2016. Days 45-49 L’Hospitalet to Pla Guilhem

France

The earliest train back arrived at 13:20 so, although the Bésines hostel  was only three hours away, it was later in the day than I would have liked. Inevitably this was one of only two days on the Haute Route that I got caught in a thunderstorm.

Day 45. Before the storm in the Guerboulouse forest.
Day 45. Before the storm in the Guerboulouse forest.

Continue reading Pyrenean Haute Route 2016. Days 45-49 L’Hospitalet to Pla Guilhem

Pyrenean Haute Route 2016. Days 41-44 Fourcat hostel to L’Hospitalet près l’Andorre

Day 41. Pyrenean iris.
Day 41. Pyrenean iris.

France

I had originally planned to walk along the frontier, just in France, heading for the Rulhe hostel but the more I investigated, the more difficult it seemed. So I crossed into Andorra to El Serrat, a village almost entirely made up of hotels and holiday apartments.

Andorra

The Andorran meteorologists forecast thunderstorms every afternoon so I re-planned for shorter days. After El Serrat (Hotel Bringué), staying at the new Sorteny hostel, the Cabaña Sorda hut, and the Juclar hostel. In the event there were no storms at all. On the other hand the claim that even the unmanned huts had mobile phone coverage turned out to be true. Not far from Sorteny, a botanical garden is very useful for identifying the plants seen in the mountains.

Day 41. Sculpture near the botanical gardens above El Serrat.
Day 41. Sculpture near the botanical gardens above El Serrat.

Although there is plenty of water at the Cabanya Sorda, the outflow from the reservoir was dry. A filter or water purifying tablets are a must.

Day 42. Estany de la Cabanya Sorda
Day 42. Estany de la Cabanya Sorda
Day 43. Juclar hostel: crocs and shop-bought logs!
Day 43. Juclar hostel: crocs and shop-bought logs!

France

Day 44. Head of the Morguillou valley.
Day 44. Head of the Morguillou valley.

I had chosen this route to avoid Pas de la Case, one of Andorra’s many towns in this country “dedicated to shopping” as the tourist leaflets proudly proclaim.

From L’Hospitalet près l’Andorre I went home for a week’s rest.

Pyrenean Haute Route 2016. Days 28–34 Bagnères-de-Luchon to Alós d’Isil

France

Returning to Bagnères-de-Luchon, I hitched to the car park at the head of the Lys valley. The afternoon’s walk took me up to the Maupas hostel, 1300m above. Again this was my personal variant: it was my first time at Maupas.

Day 28. The view of the Luchon valley from Maupas hostel.
Day 28. The view of the Luchon valley from Maupas hostel.

I arrived in cloud. Only when the skies cleared after dinner did I realise quite how vertiginous the site is. Continue reading Pyrenean Haute Route 2016. Days 28–34 Bagnères-de-Luchon to Alós d’Isil

Pyrenean Haute Route 2016. Days 20–27 Gavarnie to Bagnères-de-Luchon

France

Louis went home from Gavarnie. I would be on my own for the rest of the hike.

Day 20. Cirque de Gavarnie with the Brèche de Roland, seen from the Espuguettes hostel.
Day 20. Cirque de Gavarnie with the Brèche de Roland, seen from the Espuguettes hostel.

The HRP heads over a pass to the Cirque d’Estaubé and then to the lower reaches of the Cirque de Troumouse, two lesser-known cirques. Continue reading Pyrenean Haute Route 2016. Days 20–27 Gavarnie to Bagnères-de-Luchon