Looking out over a bright blue mountain lake with peaks in the background
GR11 Hiking

New Adventure Announcement: Hiking the GR11 in the Pyrenees

Apparently we collectively decided the COVID-19 pandemic to be over, so that can only mean one thing…big travel plans!

(aside from, you know, war in Ukraine, disastrous climate change, record-high inflation and a housing crisis we haven’t seen since….?)

This blog has been dead, DEAD, since our last adventure of cycling across Japan way back in 2018. I didn’t even finish writing the series of posts about this trip so in case you wondered if we ever made it back safely: yes we did! We hung out with deer in Nara and after slowly made our way to Tokyo. One day before reaching the outskirts of the city Antonio’s bike literally fell apart, so we bagged it up and took a train into the city and then spend a week bouncing all over Tokyo eating all of the foods and trying all of the things, including Michelin-star ramen and a robot restaurant.

Cycling around Mt. Fuji, before reaching Tokyo. Also a test to check whether my reflectors were still working.

Cue a pandemic, a sprinkle of burn-out and depression, and we suddenly find ourselves in 2022 with fresh energy, a travel itch and big plans for summer!

Hiking Across the Pyrenees

Last year, in the midst of the pandemic, we managed to sneak in a week-long trip to the Pyrenees between travel restrictions. We hiked the Pass ‘Aran, a five day hike in the high mountains, and I fell in love with both hiking and this mountain range. I had done short day- and weekendhikes before, and the year before I walked some stages of a long-distance path in The Netherlands, but of course that does not compare to a multi-day hike in high alpine terrain. I loved every second of it.

Me, standing with backpack, looking down over a mountain lake with snowy peaks in the background
Happy camper on the Pass ‘Aran, 2021

A small seed was planted, a thought started to form…

…what if I could hike all the way across this mountain range?

Turns out that that’s a thing quite a lot of people do and there are actually three long-distance (or Grande Randonnée, GR) hiking routes across the Pyrenees: the GR10 which runs on the French side, the GR11 which stays on the Spanish side, and the Haute Route de Pyrenees (HRP) which stays at high altitude and hops across the border frequently. They all start (or finish, depending on which direction you walk in) at the Cantabrian sea and finish at the Mediterranean.

I plan to do the GR11 (also known as La ruta Transpirenaica) because my Spanish is much better than my French, it has more high passes, and I think the HRP will be a bit too demanding for a relatively inexperienced hiker. I’ll save that one for another year.

Map of the GR11, courtesy of Steve Cracknell

So the GR11 it is! I’ll write a more detailed blog about the trail in the future, but here are some quick stats:

  • Distance: roughly 840km
  • Elevation gain: 39.000m other sources say 46.000. We’ll see.
  • Time: depends…the commonly used Cicerrone guidebook divides the route in 47 stages but I hope to be a bit faster.
  • Highest altitude: 2780m. There are ten passes over 2500m and even in high summer there can be snow on some of them.
  • Travel partner? Going solo! I will meet Antonio roughly halfway for an extra loop on the Carros de Foc route which we’ll do together, after which I’ll continue to the Mediterranean alone.
  • Date: I start on July 18th 2022 and will hopefully finish somewhere early September.

I’m around 50% excited and 50% terrified. I have lots of experience travelling solo, cycling and camping, but hiking alone in the mountains feels like a whole different beast. I’ll keep you posted about the preparations and adventures on the trail!

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