Port Vendres is at the very end of the Pyrenees. Walkers on the GR10 normally dip their feet in the Mediterranean at Banyuls but Cap Béar just to the north is worth a visit. Read the rest of this entry »
Bearded vultures (Gypaetus barbatus, also known as the lammergeier vulture) are coming back to France helped by an initiative of the Ligue pour la protection des oiseaux (LPO, the French equivalent of the RSPB). Read the rest of this entry »
Recently, I was struggling to keep up with a friend striding down a hill; when I looked carefully I realised she was walking differently. It’s Trekking 2.0, she explained. It was new to me, and to judge by what I saw in the Pyrenees this summer, will be new to many people. I learnt the technique in a couple of hours and practised it over the following weeks. As a result I no longer have problems with my knees. 800km of testing seems pretty conclusive to me. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve only just noticed. Trekking – hiking, rambling, walking, call it what you will – has been changing over the last few years. An accumulation of little things, which together add up to a quiet revolution: Trekking 2.0.
Yet Trekking 2.0 is not just about electronic gadgetry. It includes what we wear, what we carry, and even what we do with and to our bodies. Read the rest of this entry »
Coming back home for a rest from the exertions of the Pyrenean Haute Route (HRP), via a leg of the GR10, I got lost. Despite a big, clearly labelled arrow, I walked round in a circle. From the Col de la Coume de Bourg (2271m) to Superbagnères, instead of skirting along the hillside, the route now drops into the valley and then climbs out again on a freshly-made path.
A rather older diversion further east is also worth noting. Immediately after passing under the motorway at Le Perthus the GR 10 now climbs back into the forest (passing absent-mindedly into Spain) before re-joining St-Martin-d’Albère. A great improvement: previously it followed the road for many kilometres.
After many years of wondering who he was, I have finally met Maurice, on my last day walking the Pyrenean Haute Route. I had slept the previous night in ‘his’ Refuge Tomy and was slowly descending to Banyuls when I bumped into a man wearing a red bonnet climbing up, carrying an empty container. It must be him!
There were no grapes to be harvested, he told me, so he was on his way to take water up to the shelter close to the summit of the Pic de Sallfort. What dedication!
The shelter is named after his poodle Tomy, who was also a runner. He used to follow his master up the slopes but he aged more quickly than Maurice so he was left to rest under an overhanging rock. This led Maurice to think of making a shelter for hikers as well. He started work in 2003 or thereabouts.
Miniscule is the word for it. From the outside it looks like a little greenhouse, half hidden 100m NW of the point where the GR10 drops over the ridge. Inside there is everything a walker could need: benches which convert into a bed for three, mattresses, a gas stove, pans, and most importantly containers full of water. The nearest water is 20 minutes’ walk away. Maurice brings it up from the spring at least once a week in summer. He has had it analysed; it is drinkable.
We talk about the other springs at this end of the GR10, about walking, and I learn about Maurice’s friend François Grand who helped him build the shelter. But it is only when I arrive home that I discover I have been talking to a Pyrenean legend. Maurice Parxes has competed in the Course du Canigou 34 times. This year he yomped through the 34 km and 2180m ascent in 5h47. He is 74!
A note on the spring. The first time I saw it I thought it was almost dry but I had misunderstood how it works. The spring is only a trickle at the best of times. So Maurice has installed a cistern with a tap low down on the right (not easy to see). The overflow drips at the same rate that the water arrives, but there is always a supply of water.
Reg wrote this report on his 2105 charity walk. Thanks for sharing, Reg.
I was 70 when I hiked the GR10. I found it to be varied in what it offered. Lots of mountains to cross, I do not remember many ridges to follow, just mostly up and downs. On some days I had lots of fierce sun, some fog and obviously rain but little or no wind. Except for the Ariège region, where I did not see another human being for three days, I found the towns, villages, hamlets, individual refuges, campsites and so on all well spaced out. Most needed a good walking effort to get from one to the other, unlike the Tour du Mon Blanc where such facilities seemed to be available every few kilometers. Read the rest of this entry »
Bears filmed recently in the commune of Melles where the first Slovenian bears were released in 1996
Although there are many aspects to the debate, one of the main issues separating the pro- and anti-bear camps is the importance to be given to the number of sheep killed by bears. Is it a significant figure or not?
Goodreads is giving away of six copies of my new book on the Pyrenees. Click here to enter.