HRP Route Notes and Resourcing
This page provides route planning, accommodation and resourcing notes for anyone planning an expedition on the Pyrenees High Route (HRP).
Ton Joosten’s guide to the Pyrenean Haute Route stages the journey conveniently by using gîtes d’étape and mountain refuges. Although the guide suggests that a tent is indispensable, it is short of decent camping advice. Places to bivouac and campsites often seem to be mentioned as an afterthought and sometimes were not where I would choose to pitch up. Also the staging is not always convenient for bivouac.
So the purpose of the compendium is to list the places we stayed or passed by on our 2011 journey from Hendaye Plage to Banyuls sur Mer, places to resupply with food or buy a meal, and sources of water where it might not be obvious. I’ve included the refuges, since we did use them to eat in or camp beside, even if we stayed in just a few.
Joosten’s guide does mention shops, but we found that the shops were better stocked than was suggested, on the whole. We used only shops en route, and I list only those. It would, of course, be possible to take a bus to larger centres if that is your thing, but we wanted our HRP experience to be as pure as possible.
HRP Day 0 – Hendaye
There are plenty of campsites around in Hendaye, but they are not easy to find. We used Camping Dorrondeguy, which charged us only €6 and allowed us all afternoon in the pool. Luxury …
HRP Day 1 – Hendaye to Col d’Ibardin
We felt, and so did many we spoke to who did it, that Joosten’s first day from Hendaye to Col Lizuniaga via La Rhune was too long. The first day of any trek needs to be eased in, and the second day is often more difficult because you’re stiff from the first. We camped just east of Col d’Ibardin and climbed just La Rhune on day 2. I’d recommend anyone to do the same, and not just because I’m old.
Col d’Ibardin itself is a border shopping location and not a place to stay. However, there is a choice of supermarkets selling more stuff than you will find in Hendaye. Good to fill water here, and to grab coffee and snacks.
Following the route to La Rhune to the east of the col, we passed the hunters’ cabin and found a good place to camp on a side track to the right, just to the east of Mugerri (401m)
HRP Day 2 – Col d’Ibardin to Col de Lizuniaga
The summit of La Rhune is worth a visit, again because there are bars selling coffee and snacks. Camping by the bar at Col de Lizuniaga is on perfect grass and the owner was very obliging. In mid-June (16th) the bar / restaurant was closed.
HRP Day 3 – Col de Lizuniaga to Dantxarinea
The guide goes off on a short-cut to Arizkun and in so doing misses a whole section of superb mountains in the first week by taking a direct line south-east from Lizuniaga to Arizkun and Les Aldudes. We think it is an act of criminal negligence to miss the Iparla crest (1044m) and Hautza (1304m), the former being a grand mountain ridge rather like Beinn Eighe in stature. The route to Arizkun seems not to fit the HRP concept at all, being way lower than Iparla.
There is a small venta on Col de Lizarrieta, selling cakes, snacks and drinks. There are no shops at Urdazubi-Urdax, but huge ones at the border shopping town of Dantxarinea, just a short wander from the campsite, where we based.
Camping Xokoan is at the north end of Dantxarinea on the French side of the river. It has comfortable grass pitches, a bar restaurant, showers and electric points (for recharging batteries). The owner was welcoming, and had camping gaz (both c206 and cv270) and some food supplies for sale.
HRP Day 4 – Dantxarinea to Bidarray
There is a small shop in Bidarray selling the uinversal “Casino” brand goods. Walkers will find pasta, rice, soups, canned fish, charcuterie, bread, cereal bars, cakes, crisps etc. Camping gaz was on sale, but only the c206 variety.
We didn’t arrive at the campsite we had pinned, because en route to it we were lured in by the enthusiastic owner of a small bunkhouse establishment Errekaldia, billed as a refuge for “randonneurs et pelerins“. It was a very comfortable pitch, and we were able to use the cooking and toilet facilities in the bunkhouse.
HRP Day 5 – Bidarray to Col d’Elhorrieta
The Iparla ridge is quite long, and has little or no water, so carry at least two to three litres out of Bidarray. South of the ridge we crossed the Col d’Ispéguy, which has a good venta: a bar / restaurant and a well-stocked shop selling most things backpackers will need. This was open on Sunday in mid-June.
Col d’Elhorietta is an idyllic spot for a bivouac / wildcamp, with clear outlooks to both sunset and sunrise in June. Water is available at a stream on the Hautza side of the plateau, and there may be intrusions from horses.
HRP Day 6 – to Les Aldudes
Beyond Hautza, there is little or no water until the valley, so top up well before the climb. In the beech and chestnut woods on the crest, there is a water source about 300m off route. Look out for the sign.
Campers will find Les Aldudes useful only for the shop and bars, as Joosten recommends the gîte d’étape here. The shop is at the petrol station and was open after 3pm on the Monday we went through. Stock here for several days, as there is nothing more until Iraty.
Camping is at Urepel about 3km up the valley and hard to locate – just beyond a big fish farm and tucked away down a little lane to the right. The facilities were usable and had electricity and a small common-room, but the grass was unkempt and the site generally run-down. We were also kept awake until 10pm by a guy using a power saw on the building renovations.
HRP Day 7 – Urepel to Roncesvalles
No shops on route, but there is a farm offering cheese at the Col de Lindux.
Do not, repeat not, take notice of Ton Joosten’s suggestion for camping down near Roncesvalles village. The “nice places to camp near a stream” were overgown, boggy and very unattractive. Instead, follow the route towards Roncesvalles from the col only as far as you need to fill water from the stream, and then head up on tomorrow’s route towards Col de Lepoeder. We dived off into the woods where we found some lovely flat and soft ground to camp. .
HRP Day 8 – Roncesvalles to Egurgui
There are several sections through the Basque country where Joosten appears to take an easier valley or track alternative, rather than stick to the summit ridges e,g, Harpea. Conditions on our day from Roncesvalles to Egurgui did not allow, but I would certainly take a look at it otherwise. Do make use of the Fontaine de Roland for water. It is about 300m off route to the north on the Camino – le Chemin de St. Jacques de Compostelle; you can’t miss it – just follow the pélerins (pilgrims) in ponchos …
Down the stream running from the Col d’Errozate to Egurgui there are loads of fine places to camp, most of them better and more secluded than the area by the old refuge at BF224.
HRP Day 9 – Egurgui to Col Bagargui / Iraty
We avoided the Urculu crest and Occabé for reasons of poor weather. When you’ve spent as much time in British dreich as we have, the inspiration is sometimes lacking … The compensation is a scenically-splendid road north of Egurgui.
Maps and guides everywhere seem to recommend Chalet Pedro at Iraty for lunch on this day – they clearly have done their marketing – but to us it looked overly expensive. Using the old maxim “eat where the locals eat”, then the best choice by far was Le Kayolar, a rustic bar / restauant serving fabulous local dishes in a traditional French setting. I had a magnificent salmis de palombe et frîtes for just €8.
There is no camping at the Iraty complex on Col Bagargui, though you might find somewhere to bivouac early on tomorrow’s route. In poor weather, however, the gîte or a chalet offer good value comfort, including showers and cooking facilities (€12 pp/pn). The shop at the complex was small and had the basics but no gas. The bar / restaurant was very comfortable on a foul night, with an open fire, a good menu and free wifi.
HRP Day 10 – Iraty to Cabane d’Ardané
Fill with water before leaving Iraty; there is very little on the climb over Pic d’Orhy.
The cabane at Ardané is basic, but there are plenty of fine places to pitch nearby and good water from a source. Where the ground is good, I find it almost always preferable to bivouac.
HRP Day 11 – Ardané to Sources du Marmitou
If you have an old version of the guidebook, do not rely on the Refugio Belagua; it is very closed. The 2009 edition does make this clear.
Make sure you are well hydrated when you reach Belagua, and then take two to three litres of water with you up the Col d’Anaye, as there is no water in the limestone landscape, and the ascent is long and arduous.
Camping at the sources du Marmitou is a treat. Note: when Ton says “pass a few rocks” on the way off the col to the springs, he should be saying “pass an enormous chaos of huge boulders the size of office blocks …” He can be a master of understatement (and at times the opposite).
HRP Day 12 – to Lescun
The Camping Municipal le Lauzart at Lescun is a mile or so out of the village, down and across the river. It has a gîte serving meals at €16 and a small but very expensive shop. The site is comfortable and shady, with good facilities. Electricity for charging is available in the gîte.
The village has a good épicerie, not open on Sundays, which stocks everything backpackers will need, including a good range of food, toileteries, batteries and gas – both types of camping gaz and screw-thread Coleman gas in small and large sizes. Coleman gas was available at Gavarnie too, but 50% more expensively, so buy some here …
There are two bars, a restaurant and a gîte, none of which we used. But we did also find a fantastic farm selling rustic cheese.
HRP Day 14 – Lescun to Arlet
We took a coffee break at the Refuge d’Arlet, run by the Parc Nationale Pyrénéenne, and there are good places to bivouac by the lac.
We pushed on to the little Cabane d’Atsout, situated on the descent to Pla de l’Espélungère next to Cabane Grosse. It appeared as if it was being refurbished with appliances, and would have been better for a decent wooden bunk. Nevertheless it had a broom, was clean, warm and watertight.
Day 15 – Arlet to Ayous
Col du Somport is a run down and forlorn border-crossing point. There is a bar / gîte d’étape on the Spanish side, which seemed to be the only one open, for coffee and snacks and which had a small shop selling basics of pasta, biscuits and nuts etc.
Ayous can be walked in a day from Arlet, especially if you push on a few kilometres towards Somport, and we could see abslutely nothing to commend Candanchu; Fellow trekkers who visited Candanchu found nothing open (end June) and had to resort to catching a bus to Canfranc. Astún was similarly very shut. I would suggest not relying on either, especially as Lescun is so well stocked.
Camping on the shore of Lac Gentau below Refuge d’Ayous, overlooking Pic du Midi d’Ossau, was a highlight of the trek and again should not be missed. The guide includes it as a detour, but we would make it priority. Refuge d’Ayous served a regular hut meal for the regulation €14-17.
HRP Day 16 – Ayous to Pombie
It is a shortish day to Pombie from Ayous, so the beautiful camping opportunities at Lac de Peyreget will not be very useful to an HRPer.
Pombie is a CAF (Club Alpin Français) refuge, and served the best bacon omelette we had on the whole trek – omelette ventrâiche. The designated bivouac spots here were a bit slopey and wet in places, but OK.
HRP Day 17 – Pombie to Arrémoulit
Another CAF hut, small, rustic and very characterful in an alpine setting. I would have loved to stay here, but it was full, albeit with only a couple of dozen people. Again the bacon omelettes were brilliant.
Bivouac spots are hardly obvious or ideal, but the situation is superb. Get there early if you are intent on a bivouac.
HRP Day 18 – Arrémoulit to Wallon
En route to Wallon via the southerly variant, we passed Refugio Respomuso, which is a huge modern hut, rather like a mountain “Wetherspoons” and very much in contrast to Arrémoulit. Food here was expensive but we did grab some bacon and eggs – huevos y jamón.
Refuge Wallon is a big hut on an accessible route up the Marcadau from Cauterets, and very busy on the weekend. The biggest problem was revealed in the morning when a thunderstorm hit at breakfast time. Everyone was trying to get fed and sort out gear at the same time, and there is no wetroom or gear store, so the salon was overcrowded and chaotic. I wouldn’t choose to come back here.
Camping by the river, though, was perfect.
HRP Day 19 – Wallon to Oulettes de Gaube
Bivouac in the Parc Nationale is allowed only between 19h and 07h, so when we were caught in heavy rain at Oulettes de Gaube at 15h, things were a little uncomfortable for a while. However by 17h, on advice from the guardiénne de la refuge, we had all pitched up.
The heavy rain showed us why the stone circles had been constructed on the aire de bivouac – they were the only places that stayed dry. Getting to and from the refuge when the river was in spate proved quite tricky …
We ate in the refuge, and it was as usual hearty and filling.
HRP Day 20 – Oulettes de Gaube to Gavarnie
Over the Hourquette d’Ossoue, we passed the Refuge Baysellance, one of the highest serviced refuges in the Pyrenees. In wet weather it was crowded and we bypassed it, but facilities appeared normally welcome.
The camping in Gavarnie is La Bergerie, about 0.5km out of the village towards the Cirque. Randonneurs are usually directed up the steep slopes to small terraces – understandable but a bit of a pain when we were trying to give tired legs a rest from going uphill [snort]. Facilities are all good, but you have to pay €2 for a shower jeton, presumably to deter the thousands of day walkers and donkey-jockeys who pass by en-route to the cirque. Ask at reception to charge batteries.
The épicerie in Gavarnie had a good range of food for backpackers, but only c206-type gas. Coleman gas and CV270 gaz were available in a climbing / outdoor equipment store but at horrible prices; hence my advice to buy in Lescun.
HRP Day 22 – Gavarnie to Héas
Refuge des Espuguettes is passed only a couple of hours after leaving Gavarnie, so is useful for morning coffee. It is newly refurbished and looked delightful. The auberge in Héas was rustic and looked a good spot for camping. We had several reports about the food being most excellent here.
We pushed on beyond Héas to the basic Refuge Aguila, which would have sufficed in a storm but otherwise is a bit scabby and not a shelter of choice. A bivouac outside, however, was very good.
HRP Day 23 – Héas to the Riu Barrosa
Early afternoon took us past the Refuge Barroude, another small and friendly hut serving superb lunchtime omelettes. A bivouac beside the Barroude lakes also appeared as if it would be highly memorable.
Again we pushed on, over the Port de Barroude, down to the bed of the Riu Barrosa on the Spanish side, where we found an ideal bivouac spot before reaching the forests. This choice gave us better staging, enabling us to reach Viados next day, as there was seemingly only a gîte d’étape in Parzan.
HRP Day 24 – Barrosa to Refugio Viados
There is an opportunity to resupply at a petrol station down at Parzan, but since we were well stocked out of Gavarnie we did not need to go down there, and Benasque was only a couple of days ahead.
Refugio Viados was the first and only wardened refuge we used in fine weather; this was by choice as we had been there before and it is superb. Although full on a Friday night with visitors who came up by car from the valley for the magnificent supper, they enthusiastically found space for six of us randonneurs in the winter room. Supper is fantastic here, and I would make a point of sampling it, not just once …
HRP Day 25 – Viados to Benasque
The Puerto Ghistain is an important decision point. The weather forecast was poor at Viados, so we did not take the planned route via La Soula, Portillon and Col des Molières. Instead, we took the variant south of Aneto via Benasque and Coll de Vallibierna to Hospital to Vielha. This should not be considered a second rate alternative; the third day across Coll Vallibierna and through the Anglios region was tough and very beautiful.
The route over the Puerto Ghistain passes Refugio d’Estos midway through the day. This place looked a characterless block compared to many, and we gave it a wide berth.
Benasque is well stocked with all sorts, including climbing gear and supermarkets, so is ideal for a larger resupply. Everything was open on Sunday, and there was a good buzz about the place.
We used Camping Aneto, which has free internet access, a pool, a decent bar / restaurant, and a well-stocked shop. The shop is expensive, but bakes its own fresh bread and did have both c206 and cv270 camping gaz. Reception will charge batteries for €1 a time …
HRP Day 27 – Benasque to Vallibierna
At the end of the dirt road up to Vallibierna is Refugio Coronas, which was one of the more spacious and comfortable cabanes. A bivouac might be quite idyllic here too, but we walked on, past Pleta de Llosas, Joosten’s choice of bivouac place, to the Lagos Vallibierna. We found a great spot (and possibly the only spot) high above the first lake, but the second and higher lake has much more choice.
HRP Day 28 – Vallibierna to Hospital de Vielha
Another perfect cabane is passed by the Anglios lakes today, a wooden construction tied down with steel ropes. Again, though, its location is not convenient. Past the Hospital de Vielha, in the Vall de Conangles en route to the Port de Rius, we found plenty of good spots to camp, tucked away in the trees.
HRP Day 29 – to Refugi dera Restanca
Our plan was to camp today at the Estany deth Cap deth Port. However we stopped at Refugi dera Restanca in foul weather. Unlike Wallon, the refuge here had a large and practical wetroom where all the soaked gear could be stored. The building is a utilitarian structure built for workers at the dam, but is comfortable and served the usual great supper with friendly service.
HRP Day 30 – Restanca to Arties
Salardú appears in the guide as a key stage point, but unless you are staying in gîtes d’étape or hotels, it has little to recommend it. The small food shop near the town hall was adequate but disappointing.
There is a great little campsite in the more attractive village of Arties, where there is a small shop and good places to eat. The campsite Era Yerla in the centre of Arties is just 3km down the valley and is very comfortable with a small shop and bar. Ask at reception to charge batteries. Arties has good places to eat and a small shop / delicatessen selling basics and some speciality charcuterie and cheese.
HRP Day 32 – Arties to Gracia Airoto
The refuge at Gracia Airoto looks like an outsized, classic, bright-orange Vango Force-Ten tent. We opted not to stay here or camp by it, since the idyll was shattered a little by encumbent youth! There are not many places to bivouac, but we did find a reasonable spot close to the Estany d’Airoto.
HRP Day 33 – Airoto to “Joosten’s tiny lake”
Beware Joosten’s route down to Alos d’Isil, which is plainly ridiculous! He says that you “have to improvise” and he is not joking. There is no path on very steep grass, and we thought the route dangerous in the wet. It would be better to simply follow the dirt road, as is suggested earlier on the very same descent.
As far as we could see, there is nothing in Alos d’Isil, so I don’t quite understand why the guidebook stage stops there after just three hours walking. I guess it is because it would be too far to Refugi Enric Pujol, and the author isn’t wanting to camp …
Thanks to Manel, Thomas and Peter for these great additions to the knowledge:
Manel says: “This year there is a new hostel in Alos with a minimarket in the summer. Shower, bed, and kitchen only €15. It has also arranged and marked all the way from Bordes Moredo to Alos.”
Thomas says: “Thanks for the information which came just in time. I’ll try and spend a night there this summer on my way from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Btw, lately there is another option close to Alos. As far as I know Refugi del Fornet was reopened and should now be a bar/restaurant/hostel.”
Peter Forrest says: “Can confirm existence of Refugio d’Alos in Alos de Isil having called in there a few days ago. This would now enable fit walkers to save a day by walking direct from Salardu to Alos, rather than over 2 days via Gracia Airoto and in effect reverting to v1 of Joosten.”
Anyway, he does suggest going on to a tiny lake, three hours into the following day. This is situated up close to the final ascent to Col de la Cornella on Mont Roix, and is indeed a good suggestion, as it allows a one-day crossing of the three cols to Refugi Enric Pujol and to continue on to Graus and Tavascan for supplies.
With one proviso: the tiny lake and its flat is a night-gathering spot for a herd of jangly cattle, who came down very skittish and a bit psychotic, causing me, at least, some alarm. They are big …
HRP Day 34 – to Graus
The refuge Mont Roix, known as “Enric Pujol” is in a spectacular location, and is a heavy-duty metal shed with steel anchors. Inside is lined with wood, and there are nine bunks with mattresses, all very clean and dry and comfortable. This would have been a fantastic place to stay.
Our plan took us beyond, down to Graus and the excellent Camping Bordes de Graus. The gîte here provided a brilliant meal for €15, wine included, and a very enthusiastic host. The campsite facilities were fine, but the experience was spoiled a little by hundreds of Spanish kids on organised camping trips making loads of noise and hogging the showers. If you’re there in July, get there early …
HRP Day 35 – Graus to Pla de Boavi
The campsite at Graus is excellent, as was the meal in the gîte, and contrary to the guide’s statement, Tavascan is not in the least unattractive.Tavascan has numerous bars and a tiny food shop, which again stocked all the basics, including bread, pasta, soups, charcuterie, cereal bars, biscuits, crisps and nuts.
We then took short days up to Pla de Boavi instead of Certascan, and then on to Baborte / Cinquantenari. Several people we spoke to, including hut guardians, suggested that Joosten’s route from Certascan to Pla de Boavi is dangerous and should be avoided. Your call …
Pla de Boavi is a large expanse of wooded grassland at the head of a valley, and provides a great choice of bivouac spots tucked away among the trees next to the river.
HRP Day 36 – Pla de Boavi to Baborte
The refuge at Baborte, Refugio Cinquantenari, is similar to Enric Pujol but smaller and bright orange, occupying a high overlook. We chose to camp beside the beautiful Estany de Baborte.
HRP Day 37 – Baborte to Pla de l’Estany
An hour into the descent to the Vall Ferrer, we passed the Cabana de Bassello, a useful alternative to Cinquantenari. We also took a small detour to partake in breakfast at the Refugi de la Vallferrera, where we got excellent route advice and service from the friendly guardian.
The guide route suggests crossing Port de Baiau to Coma Pedrosa, a wardened hut in Andorra, but we had no need to go there, having resupplied in Tavascan. Having restocked at Tavascan, we had no need to go via Coma Pedrosa and the Col de Baiau. Instead we crossed the Col dels Estanys Forcats into Andorra and the cabane at Pla de l’Éstany, which is on the following day’s route.
Refugi de Baiau (J M Montfort), a refuge identical to Enric Pujol, would make a great alternative below the cols. Pla de l’Estany has an unwardened hut with metal bunks that we used on a cool evening. It was plenty comfortable enough, and we could have made bivouac anywhere on the Pla.
HRP Day 38 – Pla de l’Estany to Llorts
Llorts has a good campsite – Camping Mitxeu. There is no shop, but the vivacious camp guardiènne will order bread for the morning, and batteries can be charged at the electric hookups.
Madame will also place a reservation for you at the most excellent but expensive l’Era de Jaume restaurant, which is not cheap atÂ â‚¬19 for the two-course menu, but the food was delicious. Cheaper places to eat can be found on the road towards El Serrat, but …
There is also a hotel and bar nearby, but it only serves drinks and also recommends people to the restaurant. Lots of economic back-scratching in the village it seems.
HRP Day 39 – Llorts to Vall d’Inclés
Although the camping at Vall d’Inclés is closed, it still makes a valid alternative as neither Refuge Sorteny nor Refugi Coms de Jan was especially salubrious. There is a small picnic area above the previous campsite on the track towards Juclar where bivouac was comfortable, if probably not strictly permitted.
HRP Day 40 – Vall d’Inclés to Hospitalet près l’Andorre
Refugi Juclar, after an hour’s walking, unbeknown to us, is wardened and very pleasant. We took ritual coffee here.
Hospitalet près l’Andorre doesn’t get great promotion, but its campsite, La Porte des Cîmes, is comfortable with showers, washing and drying facilities and wifi. The bar/alimentation next to the railway is run by a Billy Connolly lookalike character and serves great coffee. The shop is expensive but does good bread and had all the basics, including both c206 and cv270 camping gaz, much more in fact than the guidebook hinted. And it was open all day on Sunday.
The Hotel Puymorens is the only place to eat besides the gîte, and has a quaint, 1950s feel about it. The menu at €18 was plentiful and delicious, and was served in a rather austere dining room by a middle-aged, very polite waiter whose elderly mother and aunts appeared to be the chefs de cuisine. Delightful …
A major omission from my original article was the Gîte l’Hospitalité at l’Hospitalet près l’Andorre (Day 40), run by Carole and Alain. Having just stayed overnight there on a return visit I can recommend it thoroughly if camping isn’t your thing.
Peter Forrest also asks:Interested to read about shop at Hospitalet by station. Does it really sell camping gas? When I went there recently there was nothing on display of any value to walkers save a few food items and toiletries.
Ken replies: The shop in Hospitalet certainly sold gas in 2011. I can’t confirm the current situation because it was closed when I stopped by there in May 2015. Which in itself is useful information: the shop in Hospitalet près l’Andorre was shut on Monday and Tuesday in May but open on Sundays.
HRP Day 42 – Hospitalet to Bouillouses
Weather conditions on our day past Refuge des Besines were absolutely foul, so instead of camping at Etang de Lanoux in preparation for an assult on Pic Carlit, we bypassed it and pushed on to Bouillouses. Bivouac beside cabane on the northern end of Etang de Lanoux would have been fine in good weather.
Instead, needing somewhere dry, we pushed on and stayed at Chalet Refuge des Bouillouses, a CAF hut. The place was busy, but not overly so, and the guardians were more than happy for us to cook in the salon. The area around the refuge is none too attractive, with other refuges occupying rather shabby buildings. But the Auberge du Carlit looked a reasonable alternative.
HRP Day 43 – Bouillouses to Eyne
In Bolquère, on the descent down to the Cerdagne, is a superb supermarket / épicerie, with more stock than anywhere since Benasque and Lescun. Do stop here … Eyne has no shops.
The Val d’Eina is a natural reserve, and prohibits camping. However, above the Orri del Baix at 2000m (so the guide says) bivouac is permitted, so we did just that. And there are plenty of lovely pitches by the stream.
HRP Day 44 – Eyne to Ulldeter
Ulldeter has to be one of my favourite refuges, not because we stayed there, but because we got such a great welcome in the afternoon from Xavi and his partner. Coffee and a plat of omelettes and bruschetta went down very nicely, not to mention sharing chocolate gcake for his brithday!
A couple of hundred metres above the refuge, off to the right, is a stream with beautiful pitches for bivouac. Xavi still tried to persuade us to stay and sample his cooking …
HRP Day 45 – Ulldeter to Mariailles
We had intended to stay high at Pla Guilhem, rather than drop to Refuge de Marialles, but a) no water, b) a scabby hut and c) poor visibility led us to follow the guide to Mariailles for a conventional assault on the Canigou. The Refuge de Mariailles was busy it was quiet compared to Cortalets the following day.
We used the Maison Foréstière de Mariailles just uphill from the refuge, which wasn’t the cleanest we found, but was more than adequate as a cabane. It also had a small two-bunk annex that was more attractive and private than the larger main building.
HRP Day 46 – Mariailles to Pinatell via Pic du Canigou
A good plan for Canigou would be to move up to Arago from Mariailles to be well placed for a dawn ascent of the mountain. There are good bivouac places and water here, but be aware that the Cabane d’Arago is in imminent danger of collapse and is closed to all use.
Having descended Canigou to the north, Chalet Refuge de Cortalets is worth a stop for coffee. However, do be prepared for it to be overcrowded, and reservation is apparently essential should you wish to stay.
Rob Jones says: This is a fine website with loads of information supplementing Joosten. My only comment is that rather than climb Canigou I took the brilliant ridge walk along the Serre de Roc Negre, highly recommended. I have to say though that I had visited Canigou / Cortalets on an earlier visit. I also think it fits the HRP ‘ethos’ and is very satisfying to step outside the Guidebook, as you did, to make your own route; Véron’s original guide provides so many possibilities.
Ken replies: Thanks Rob. I agree totally that HRP Is an idea that we can adapt within its core principles. If you have your own web record of your trek, do let me know and I can add a link for you.
Joosten suggests stopping at Mines de Batère on the descent from Canigou to the Tech valley, but for a wilder experience, we used the newly rebuilt Abri du Pinatell , a delightful pine cabin on the Balcon du Canigou about three hours beyond Cortalets. Rebuilt in 2008 it is pristine – lets hope it stays that way. The water source, however, was barely running and may be unreliable, so top up along the Balcon.
There is also a Maison Foréstière l’Estanyol just a couple of km past Pinatell, which looked reasonable.
HRP Day 47 – Pinatell to Arles sur Tech
Arles sur Tech is a pretty town with a good Spar supermarket. Trouble is, it was shut on a Sunday, and so apparently were all the others in both AmÃ©lie and Ceret!! So we stayed at the Camping Riuferrer, which had a rather crazy owner who liked to drive everyone, randonneurs included, to their pitch on a golf cart. The pitches were rough and the facilities basic but more than adequate. The bar on site also serves good affordable meals – merguez et frîtes for €6 – there were not enough places like this on the HRP.
HRP Day 48 – Arles sur Tech to Ermita de las Salinas
There are some gîtes d’étape – Ecogîte la Palette and Montalba d’Amélie – that you may pass on route to Roc de France. However this walk requires carrying plenty of water, as there is almost nothing beyond Montalba.
We chose not to descend to the géte at Las Illas as suggested in the guide, but to camp at the Ermita de las Salinas on the Spanish side of the frontier. There is an open refuge here, and the ermita apparently serves food Thursday to Sunday. We camped on a perfectly flat and lush lawn beside the ermita, and for water there are two elaborate springs set in rather idyllic woodland close by.
HRP Day 49 – Las Salinas to Col l’Ouillat
First thing about today: top up with water in Las Illas. It is a long day and there is no obvious water point before Le Perthus.
Second: get into and out of Le Perthus as quickly as possible. If you’ve been on the HRP for seven weeks, it will disgust you! It does have a supermarket, however, if you need a few bits for lunch. Just take them way out of town and out of earshot of the autoroute before settling down to eat.
There is a water point at St. Martin des Albères on the second half of the walk. The gîte at Col l’Ouillat looks very pleasant, and we might have eaten there had we not wanted to use all of our remaining food on our last night. The service was also a bit off-hand and dismissive … Opposite the gîte is a picnic space in the woods, where it is possible to bivouac discreetly.
HRP Day 50 – to Banyuls sur Mer
By the time you arrive in Banyuls, you’ll be past caring, and all you will want to do is to swim in the Med. The campsite is just out of town by a huge Carrefour, so no worries about buying food. My guess, though, is that you’ll want to find the biggest steak and chips in town, and to wash it with a couple of large glasses of Estrella Damm.
Disclaimer: this is written from my own experience, and of course things may change over time. I make no guarantees whatsoever about its accuracy when you visit.