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.

Preparation

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.

Equipment

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.

Resupply Points

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.

Impressions

Maybe another point in time…

Tracks

Click on arbitrary Day to show corresponding map.

Day 0

Distance 6.64km (140m 98m)

Day 1

Distance 17.95km (895m 747m)

Day 2

Distance 40.85km (1770m 1467m)

Day 3

Distance 37.66km (1694m 1360m)

Day 4

Distance 35.04km (2023m 1279m)

Day 5

Distance 22.23km (1183m 933m)

Day 6

Distance 35.81km (1638m 2103m)

Day 7

Distance 21.49km (1674m 901m)

Day 8

Distance 26.96km (2042m 1905m)

Day 9

Distance 22.31km (1470m 1927m)

Day 10

Distance 11.68km (225m 694m)

Day 11

Distance 38.35km (2642m 2319m)

Day 12

Distance 32.71km (1792m 1413m)

Day 13

Distance 18.11km (1697m 1213m)

Day 14

Distance 18.93km (950m 1338m)

Day 15

Distance 16.99km (1571m 1495m)

Day 16

Distance 30.01km (1341m 1812m)

Day 17

Distance 20.54km (1098m 1548m)

Day 18

Distance 19.90km (1398m 1404m)

Day 19

Distance 26.02km (1699m 1044m)

Day 20

Distance 25.50km (2176m 1707m)

Day 21

Distance 24.19km (1239m 2287m)

Day 22

Distance 24.67km (1932m 1171m)

Day 23

Distance 25.82km (787m 802m)

Day 24

Distance 41.88km (2174m 2121m)

Day 25

Distance 36.50km (1094m 2879m)

Day 26

Distance 25.61km (1693m 1414m)

Day 27

Distance 25.38km (1203m 910m)

Day 28

Distance 16.27km (355m 1370m)


  1. This is usually the values you find in literature, my GPS tracks indicate only 700km and 40km of elevation. ^