HRP: the High Level Route of the Pyrenees

Sharing with both the GR10 of France and the GR11 of Spain, the HRP stays closer to the frontier

On Sept 5th 2002, we finally set out to trek the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean by the HRP. Finally? Yes, some years of discussion & indecision, followed by many months of preparation & planning. We were in fact five days late for the appointment, & conscious of winter onset which might deny us access to the higher stages, if not completion. Weather was not the only factor which might deny us passage; failure of equipment, health, or even morale could not be reckoned out!

HRP & the Pyrenees: karstic country

'We' are Lee Wood & Karen Cooksey, a husband & wife team whose differential abilities would by turns complement & frustrate each other; would the trek create greater stress in our relationship than city life, or would it draw us together? The HRP is the High Route of the Pyrenees which shares sections of both the GR10 in France & the GR11 in Spain. Compared to the GR10 or GR11, the HRP loses & regains less height & travels less distance, but presents greater challenge in load carrying, technical difficulty, logistics & navigation. That makes for quite a few things to get right, & limitless scope for discussion & even dispute!

HRP & the Pyrenees: autumn colours

On Oct 25th 2002 we completed the HRP after 43 days of trekking, two days in retreat & six days resting. Of course we were glad to complete, but that is a fleeting pleasure compared to the satisfaction of travelling to a fresh daily destination carrying only essential posessions on your back. Though faced with many trials, our lasting conclusion was that this mode of living presents less stress than urban life. Routine working life presents a multiplicity of responsibilities, relationships & hazards, whereas the trek narrowed scope down to the basics; survival!

There were of course some days when things went badly wrong; I recall the day Karen threatened to beat me with her trekking poles, the day when we halted a scree-run in zero visibility just above a precipice, or the day when I led us off-route to descend the wrong valley! There were also some days which were just plain boring, or when inclement weather tormented us miserably. To counterbalance, there were days filled with interest from incredible scenery, discoveries of miraculous nature, or warming human encounter.

On Nov 25th 2003 the documentation of our trek was finally completed, a composite of words & photographs presented for browser access on any modern computer. The narrative is enriched by researched information on human & natural history, geography & geology, along with logistical data. Commensurate months of plotting yet again, much discussion, & opportunistic effort squeezed into serendipitous voids free from other life responsibilities. This work is targeted at trekkers, nature lovers & all who like a good story.

The presentation will facilitate any who intend travel in the high Pyrenees, it will form a sound basis for personal discovery of flora & fauna, or it may simply provide a 'good read' to armchair travellers. It would please me to think it may also inspire others to embark on the HRP; a last word of advice for them. Get fit & try to plan every detail possible; then be ready to adapt, because 101 things will conspire to change your plans. You wouldn't want it any other way in fact, for that would not then be adventure!

HRP & the Pyrenees: peak experience

Site Index, all trek stages

Starred ratings for all stages

Ascent, duration & other stats

Read other HRP trek recounts

Useful links

JAN 2015: Trek photos now available on Flickr !!
HRP Photos on Flickr

FEB 2015: hrp-essential goes ad free - nothing gained from google; the bookstore has also gone - thanks to those who clicked through but due to the way Amazon works I never profited 1 penny.

June 2008: Traversed Pic du Cagire (1912m) from Col de Menthé passing via Pic d'Escalettes and Sommet de Pique Poque.

  Fine sunny weather with just the odd cloud around. Its not uncommon to see Griffon vultures up there, but for the first time I observed Bearded vultures - a pair surveilling the high crags. This is remarquable for, in 42 days trekking the Pyrenees, we saw single Lammergeiers on just 2 occasions.

Pic du Cagire is an outlyer from the main Pyrenean chain in the Midi-Pyrenees region. It offers fine views southwards towards the frontier peaks, including Pic d'Aneto and the Maladeta massif.