Hiking the Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne
The Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne is an 800km hike from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean trying to cross the Pyrenees along the French-Spanish border at high altitude. This translates to a total elevation gain of 50km.1 There is no official trail, but a range of books and internet blogs giving outlines of a varying route (see Resources). I started becoming interested in hiking the HRP in early 2017 and luckily had 4 weeks of free time to complete it in August.
There are a lot of blogs that are easily accessible. I searched for blogs in German, French and English and that was enough information to prepare. Mostly, these resources are useful to get an overview, but in the end you do not really need much of it: Look for cheap transportation to the start and end point (Hendaye/Banyuls sur Mer) and download a few GPS tracks and maps or track descriptions. That’s all you need.
You need most of the standard equipment for those hikes: Clothing, shelter, sleeping mat and sleeping bag. Given that there is a lot of elevation involved and the terrain can be very rough and steep, keep the weight as low as possible. I’ve seen a few other hikers doing the trail and they had up to 25kg on their backs. In the prior months I had changed most of my equipment to get down to a backpack weight of 4.5kg and overall I think this should suffice. A few things that I changed before this trip:
- There is a lot of sun shine, so a small solar panel is feasible. I used a DIN A5 sized panel imported from China (120g) for 20 Euro. A 5000mAh battery is sufficient for camera and mobile phone. If you are a heavy user, you will need to recharge in a town every 10 days.
- Sleeping bag should be rated 0$^\circ$C for August. Mine was rated for 5$^\circ$C and was slightly too thin given that there was frost on higher altitudes. Then again, it will be even hotter at lower altitudes.
- A cheap tarp from China does its job flawlessly even in heavy wind and rain.
- Instead of paper maps and guid book, go mobile phone only. I used to have paper maps as backup before, but changed to mobile phone only. You can bring a backup phone if you fear it breaking. Load a GPS app with open source maps and scan your print material.
I think this is the most important point for planning. I only wrote down the shops that I passed. If you have the money, there are a considerable amount of restaurants along the way. Watch out that days are marked with respect to my hiking speed. Ratings are based on relevant produce selection and price.
Hendaye (Day 0)
Multiple shops, everything you need. Regular supermarket chains. Only buy snacks for the day as there is an equally nice opportunity at the next stop.
Col d’Ibardin (Day 1)
Multiple shops, everything you need. Regular supermarket chains and some restaurants.
Ariscun (Day 2)
Small shop where you can buy good bread and cheese. I think there was also a more dedicated Queseria around.
Aldudes (Day 2)
Nice little shop at the gas station. Has a lot of what you might need.
Iraty (Day 4)
Restaurant has a small shop. Selection is bad and prices are very high. No cheese nor fresh bread. I still recommend trying to stock up here though if you didn’t have a chance earlier on as this is the last option to Lescun.
Lescun (Day 6)
Nice little shop with most you need including fresh bread and cheese. They also make you a fresh sandwich. Saw a restaurant nearby.
Gavarnie (Day 10)
Has small shops and a lot of tourist traps if you are in search of a restaurant. You restock on good cheese and bread here. Also has ATMs if you did not dispense enough before. This is also were I spent my only night in a bed, nice hostel. Use the chance to resupply, next shop will take a couple days. However, there are a lot of chances to get a warm meal from huts, restaurants (and a small kiosk) in between.
Salardu (Day 16)
I read before that this shop’s selection was small, but I really could not complain: Has fresh produce, bread and cheese.
Tavascan (Day 19)
Small shop with a nice shop owner. Definitely has good cheese, but baguette was improvised (and a bit burned). Enough choices of chips and cookies. Note that this stop is not on the standard HRP route.
L’Hospitalet pres l’Andorre (Day 21)
Kiosk with shop that seems to have most of what you need. Just came in before closing, so I could not take a closer look around.
Bolquere (Day 23)
Very nice shop advertised as butcher shop. Has everything you need.
Perthus (Day 27)
Very charmless town next to the highway, which is drowned with tourists for some reason. An unpleasant reminder that the HRP is nearly over. Has everything you need.
Banyuls (Day 28)
Has everything you need to treat yourself.
Maybe another point in time…
Click on arbitrary Day to show corresponding map.
This is usually the values you find in literature, my GPS tracks indicate only 700km and 40km of elevation. ↩︎