The Temperamental (but friendly) Pyrenees

February 23, 2001

Some unique features of hiking in the French Pyrenees (with a British walking company) were apparent in the very interesting account given by Chuck Reul of his two-week trip taken with wife Sandra. The two weeks were programmed differently. The first week’s hikes were all “base camped” from one town. These hikes were with a group of eight and a guide. The second week’s hikes were “do it yourself” inn-to-inn hikes. For these latter, complete maps and trail guide-books were supplied as well as pre-hike briefings.

The lunches supplied were definitely not your typical brown-bagger — 3-star at least! The French apparently disdain the lowly sandwich; the main course was a casserole! It’s not surprising, of course, that every meal time was a gastronomic delight. It behooves one to burn up some calories.

The latter was no problem — the hikes took from three to seven hours and always involved appreciable elevation gain. One of the more strenuous, for example, started at 5500 ft. elevation for a 3000-ft, gain. There are hundreds of miles of well marked, so-called “Grand Route” trails (some difficult stream crossings were experienced). At strategic points there are manned refuges with food and telephone available. Fresh bread is flown in weekly by helicopter! We can only say (in the vernacular) for this Gaelic flavored hiking—“Vive le difference!”

But Mother nature lets you know who is really in charge. Extremely variable weather, as experienced by the Reuls (in June) is characteristic of the Pyrenees. Daytime temperatures varied from 51° to 96°. At one high trailhead the temperature was 32°. A 30 mi/hr. wind, an obscuring mist, and torrential rains were experienced; also a heavy snowfall, that then completely disappeared in a couple of days. So, be prepared.

Having taken ten “walking” trips with British companies, Chuck highly recommends this way to go, and will gladly field any questions (485-0301 or A book, “The Pyrenees” by Gibbons and Davies (1990), is informative and beautifully illustrated.

Bep Fontana

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