Posts Tagged ‘GR 10’

Global warning from the Pyrenees

Saturday, September 1st, 2018
The Ossoue glacier (on the East side of Vignemale) is melting rapidly

The Ossoue glacier (on the East side of Vignemale) is melting rapidly. Click to enlarge photo.


I climbed the Pique longue du Vignemale (3298m) and its little brother, Petit Vignemale (3032m), with two friends this week. When I arrived home, I compared the pictures taken from the Petit Vignemale with those I took 13 years ago when I was walking the GR10. The Ossoue glacier is melting rapidly and is now a hundred metres shorter (click on photo to enlarge).

The top photo was taken in July 2005, with the arrow showing a group of walkers just about to descend the tongue of the glacier (grey). The second photo was taken on 29 August 2018. There is more snow after the hard winter of 2017/2018 but the glacier has gone.

Another view of the Ossoue glacier, taken the next day from the Lac des Gentianes. The Bayssellance hostel, where we stayed for two nights, is below the pass, slightly to the right. The Petit Vignemale is the white rock behind the lake; the Pique longue is the highest summit behind it.

When Anne Lister climbed the Grande Vignemale in 1838, the first ‘outsider’ to do so, she would have seen the glacier stretching right down into the valley.

Access to Canigó to be restricted?

Saturday, November 18th, 2017
Canigó summit: often crowded

Canigó summit: often crowded


The authorities are considering limiting access to Catalonia’s favourite mountain. This has practical implications (details below) but it also heralds the start of a new chapter in the way we perceive Canigó and the Pyrenees in general.

Initially remote, wild and dangerous, Canigó has become a Catalan emblem – frequently nicknamed la montagne sacrée [sacred mountain] des Catalans. It has been exploited for minerals and wood, and narrowly escaped some of the worst ravages of mass tourism. Now it seems to be heading for a quieter life.



A new way of walking in the Pyrenees. On the Senda de Camille

Sunday, August 20th, 2017
Lescun with Pic d'Ansabère in the background

Lescun with Pic d’Ansabère in the background


Do you prefer walking in a straight line or going round in circles? Until recently most of the long-distance treks in the Pyrenees were linear. The big three, the Pyrenean Way (GR10), the Spanish Senda Pirenaica (GR11) and the Pyrenean Haute Route (HRP), which have been around for over 30 years, all stretch from coast to coast. Then came other trails like the Cathar Trail and the Chemin des Bonshommes. All linear trails, at least in principle.

But if you wanted to walk in circles, ending up where you started, you more-or-less had to plan it yourself. In recent years this has changed. The FFRP (French Ramblers Association) has brought out a guide to circular cross-frontier walks in the eastern Pyrenees (Ariège, Pyrénées-Orientales). And Brian Johnson is working on a guide to circular walks for Cicerone.

But perhaps the most interesting initiatives have come from Spain.

They are all circular walks with nights in staffed hostels. Most importantly they offer central booking facilities. You also get a dedicated map (1:25,000) and a souvenir tee-shirt.

I’ve just come back from walking the Senda de Camille with two friends. It was great!


My Senda de Camille. Click to see on Wikiloc

My Senda de Camille. Click to see on Wikiloc


Diversions on the GR 10 near Superbagnères and Le Perthus

Monday, November 7th, 2016
Diversion of the GR 10 west of Superbagnères

Diversion of the GR 10 west of Superbagnères


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.


Diversion of the GR 10 east of Le Perthus

Diversion of the GR 10 east of Le Perthus


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.

Meeting Maurice

Friday, October 21st, 2016
Refuge Tomy

Refuge Tomy

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.


My sleeping bag on the bench

My sleeping bag on the bench


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!


The François Grand spring, named after a friend.

The François Grand spring, named after a friend.


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.

21st-century Pyrenees (iv): Farming methods

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

It seems to me that selling direct to the consumer, which has developed enormously in Britain in the last few years, has yet to have a significant impact in the Pyrenees. But there are changes to be seen.


If the cows won’t go to the milking shed then the shed will have to go to them

If the cows won’t go to the milking shed then the shed will have to go to them


I came across this mobile milking shed near the Col de Pause in Ariège. The farmer explained that, as the season advances, the cows move higher up the hill in search of fresh grass. Instead of bringing them all the way down to the farm for milking, he moves the milking shed progressively higher.


GR10 and GR11: Joining up the dots

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016
Paths linking the GR10 and GR11

Paths linking the GR10 and GR11

In case of bad weather, for variety, to see if the grass is greener on the other side… the passes over the Pyrenees provide many opportunities for those who are looking for something different. See my page on Crossing the Pyrenees on

Mountains of Freedom – a four-day circular trek in the Pyrenees (Ariège and Catalonia)

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015
Cascade-d'Ars near to Aulus-les-Bains

Cascade-d’Ars near to Aulus-les-Bains


Official site of the Mountains of Freedom walk.

This circular walk in the central Pyrenees takes in rugged high mountain passes, pristine lakes and peaceful farmland. But behind all the beauty lies another story, intimately linked to the history of the 20th century and its refugees. Just like those who cross the Mediterranean today, many failed to arrive at their destination. Today, climbing up to the passes is a pleasure but the interpretive panels tell a different story.

We took four days, staying in staffed hostels each night.

Aulus to Bidous (Gîte de l’Escolan) 5h30

There is a restaurant half way along this section at 1700m, the Chalet de Beauregard; at the end, the gîte d’étape “l’Escolan” run by Pauline and Jean-Charles provides a warm welcome.


Gîte de l’Escolan at Bidous

Gîte de l’Escolan at Bidous


Pic de Crabère

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Pic de Crabère is steep but not dangerous. Just off the Pyrenean Way (GR10), it can be reached in a day, but most walkers stay in the Araing hostel overnight and tackle the final 700m of climbing in the cool of the next morning.


helicopter at the refuge d'Araing

Day one: accidents will happen

Thankfully, serious accidents don’t happen often.


What are the restrictions on dogs in the Pyrenees?

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
Walking and dogs in national and natural parks

What are the restrictions on dog walking in the Pyrenees?

In general there are few restrictions on dog walking in the Pyrenees, except in National Parks, Natural Parks and Reserves (see below for details). In some of these areas dogs must be kept on a lead; in others they are prohibited. Even when there are no specific rules, dog owners need to be aware that stray dogs are the second most important cause of death for sheep in the Pyrenees (after sickness). A shepherd has the right to kill any dog which menaces his flock.

The only dogs which are allowed to roam freely are the patous, specially trained sheep guard dogs. If your dog approaches a flock guarded by a patou it will attack.

Patou des Pyrénées

Patous are the only dogs which can be left alone with sheep


map of GR10

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