The Double Winter Traverse of the Pyrenees
There and back again in the Wintertime Pyrenees
I turned 40 and I had an idea. You could call it a « crisis », « madness » or a « psychological disorder » but personally I prefer the word « dream ». Before it's too late. The dream of going on a wild adventure by walking out of my front door here in the Pyrenean village of Geu (between Argelès-Gazost and Lourdes, at the foot of the French Pyrenees). The discovery of the exceptionally varied Pyrenean universe. A solitary journey to the extremities of my local range of mountains and in search of my own personal limits. In winter, equipped with my snowshoes, my tent, and my determination. For me, proper adventure doesn't necessarily consist in going to far-off places, but should always test you physically and change you mentally. My trip will go from Geu (near to Argelès-Gazost) to the Mediterranean Sea along the French side of the Pyrenees ; from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean along the Spanish side ; then back to Geu via the Basque Country and Béarn. A journey of approximately 93 days, 1687km and 93.500m of positive height gain. Sleeping in shepherd's huts and in my tent, but also in hotels and hostels down in the villages in the valleys.
From the huge waves of the Basque coast to the roaring Tramontana winds in Catalonia. From the green, sheep-studded hills in the West to the Mediterranean scrubland in the East. From Hendaye to Banyuls, and from Cap de Creus to Cabo Higuer. From the proud summits of the High Pyrenees and Ariège to the immense beauty of Navarra and Aragon. From garbure béarnaise to crema catalana. From the damp French foothills to the dry Spanish ones. An amazing cultural heritage, from Romanesque monasteries to ancient hermitages. From the Basque language to the Catalan language, via French, Spanish, Bearnese, Gascon, Occitan, Aragonese and Aranese.
Fraying my way through the bears and the Pyrenean « isards », I have tried to plan the safest possible route, which is not easy to do in winter given the constantly changing weather and snow conditions. I have had to avoid travelling through many well-known areas due to potential avalanche risk, preferring gentler slope-angles and wooded areas. I will also need to be extremely flexible and use my experience to continually assess the situation. Originally, I wanted to do the trip all in one go, but I have since realised that this would be too much for me and I have therefore divided it up into 8 segments of more or less 2 weeks, always taking place in the month of January (which is when I get the least work anyway).
Lastly, I would like to write something. Describe reality through observation, or search inspiration for telling stories. Or maybe both at the same time – stories based on a foundation of Pyrenean reality, on places, and on experiences. Something more than just a simple acount of my journey from one end of the Pyrenees to the other. More like a kind of travel diary that allows the imagination to travel with it. Beacause without a bit of imagination....travelling makes less sense.
You can follow my progress every year on my Facebook page, but also by clicking on the 8 trip segments listed below :