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missteps hiking the Pyrenees

Posted Sep 28 2009 10:37pm

Trip Report by site editor Rick McCharles

Driven from Scotland by midges, I flew to sunny Spain.

But where to hike in the Pyrenees?

My first thought was … Pyranean Haute Route, using the guidebook by Kev Reynolds.

Unfortunately Kev calls that adventure one of the 3 toughest treks in Europe. It would be too dangerous for me to do solo.

Instead I decided on The Pyrean Traverse, an easier, lower, parallel trail on the Spanish side of the border. I used Lonely Planet Walking in Spain as guidebook, starting at the beginning of the 23day, 305km track.

The official start is at Canillo in Andorra. Forget that. Much better is to bus to the day 2 trailhead, the ski resort at Arinsal. That’s where the trail climbs up and away from the road.

I sat down by the creek for lunch. And a start-me-up pot of coffee.



The gas cartridge stove fuel canister I had purchased that morning in Andorra la Vella was the European “puncture” system, not the screw on type we use in North America. (Both systems are widely available in Europe.)

I had to pack up. Catch the bus back to town. And try (unsuccessfully) to swap canisters. Instead I had to purchase a new threaded one.

The Pyrenees look much friendlier than the Alps. I saw no glaciers. Looked to me my days would be much more leisurely than I had had in Switzerland.

The trail was very busy as far as Refugi Josep Montfort.


I decided to push on and cross the first high pass. (It’s great to be able to start with a descent in the morning.)

Trails in the Pyrenees are not particularly well signed nor blazed. It was a wild route finding scramble to get over the Port de Baiau, at 2756m just as high as the passes in the Alps. The treacherous scramble down was the toughest I had all summer.

Turns out that hiking in the Pyrenees is no easier than in the Alps. It merely looks easier in the photos.

I had to set up the tent in the dark.


Next morning dawned pretty.


The next section I saw almost no hikers … except for the masses headed up Pica d’Estats, Catalunya’s highest peak 3143m.


It was a long descending walk into increasingly rural scenes.


I camped at Planell de Boavi, the only tent in the huge riverside meadows. The highlight was a fox that came sniffing around my tent at dusk. He dragged off my cook pot at some point during the night.

Next morning I wandered down into the village of Tavascan 1116m, assured by my guidebook that I could resupply with food.

… Unfortunately the woman who runs the “shop” out of her house was gone for the day. The only food available in town was at a restaurant. Instantly I sat down for lunch, Menú del Día (Menu of the Day).

As always, it came with wine.

Once I had splashed down 3 large glasses, my hike was over. I was drunk. Checked into the hotel and passed out had a siesta.

The owner of the hotel put down my name for the Menú del Día dinner (more wine). By the end of that I asked him to book me a car out of the mountains, next morning at 5AM.

That driver overcharged me (30€ instead of the agreed 20€) and promptly hit a deer on the way out of town.

All in all, not my finest hike.

But I loved the Pyrenees. Certainly I will return one day, but for the High Route.

see the rest of my photos from 3 days in the Pyrenees

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