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Hiking the Gr10

Green valleys, peaks of over 3000 meter, glaciers, waterfalls, forests, mountain lakes, wildlife, stunning views.
When you walk down this path you will feel like you are in a country that is purposely designed for hikers.


About the GR10 route

The GR10 is a hiking trail that runs through the stunning mountains of the Pyrenees from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The mountain range covers 491km from end to end, but the trail length is around 850km long.


The best time for walking the GR10 is from mid-July until mid-September. During this period there is less snow in the mountains and lots of sun.


How to follow the GR10 trail?

Red and white paint strokes will lead you through the valleys. They indicate which way you need to turn and where not to go. Most parts of the trail are adequately marked, but sometimes markings might be difficult to spot. If you are in doubt, return to the last point where you've seen a mark and look whether you missed a turn.


Standard paths are dirt roads that are quite narrow. They will bring you from the lower grass fields to higher ridges until you are close to the mountains. Markings can be found everywhere along the way and you will be able to find your way easily.


Make sure that you have waterproof hiking boots. Water runs through the rocks very frequently and lots of streams will cross the path; sometimes you are literally walking through a river.


When you walk through the forest you will find that most markings are on the side of a tree on eye height. These paths are easy to follow.


If you follow the path through a green meadow, than look for sign posts or markings on a rock. Sometimes this is tricky as small rocks can be used, reaching no higher than your knee. Mix in a little mist and you will find this a difficult terrain to navigate. It's therefore important to check your position regularly.


Crossing the mountain tops is always different. There can be lots of snow, sudden mist, a glacier, a lake to walk around, sharp big rocks that can disorientate you... This is the hardest part of the trip, be sure to keep your eyes open and check your map and compass continually.

Markings are usually found on the rocks. At some mountain tops there are concrete poles that are higher than the average snow fall, marking the way. Note that sometimes it can be safer to walk around the snowfields while you can still see the poles in the distance, rather than following them directly.


Where to rest and sleep on the Gr10?

The trail is organized so that accommodation can be found at the end of every walking day. If you buy a guide up front, you will notice that the whole trail is divided in daily sections. Most guides cover 48 to 52 days of hiking.

During your hike, you will walk past lots of small villages. Some of them have a B&B or a gîte. Most gîtes have only one big room, filled with bunk beds.

When hiking higher towards the mountain tops, there are no villages anymore, but you will notice plenty of refuges along the way. These are actually back-to-basics hotels above the 2000m line.


Waking up with your head above or in the clouds is no exception here. Please note that these refuges work with limited resources. Food and supplies are brought up each year with a helicopter. Solar power is used for the lamps and the warm water boiler. If it's a cloudy day, you can expect a cold shower.

Before you jump in bed you can warm up with some hot cocoa in front of the fire place.


The more adventurous can bring their own tent. You will be able to find a pitching place close to any gîte or a refuge. Always inform the owners that you are out there. You can still go inside to buy a meal or use the facilities for a small compensation.



Getting water along the GR10 trail

There is regular access to water in the villages. You can buy a bottle in a shop or ask one of the friendly inhabitants to fill up your bottle. There are sections, however, where you will be forced to take fresh water from the stream. Please note that this should be filtered at all time. However pure the water looks, you never know how clean it is.

There might be a dead animal lying somewhere upstream. Sometimes there is a "natural" spring in the villages. This water needs to be filtered as well.


Where and what to eat?

Never skip a meal when hiking the GR10, because you will need the calories. Even when eating big portions regularly, I lost more than 4kg during my GR10 experience.


Personnel at gîtes and refuges are used to cooking real power meals. You start with a thick tasty soup, followed by a hearty meal, ending with a tasty desert like chocolate pie or a cheese platter. Most accommodations also offer vegetarian meals.

All gîtes also offer packed lunches. These are mostly very basic and contain bread, cheese and sausage.

Not all villages have a store, so check your guide to see where you can find your food supplies.


Landscape

Just: Whow! The landscape is truly stunning.

I could post thousands of pictures here, but you really have to see it yourself. You can not even imagine how many different views you get along the way.


Difficulty of the GR10

The difficulty of the hike changes constantly. Be sure that you train your legs before you take on the adventure. Hiking sticks will help you to find balance if you walk through a rock field. And crampons will provide you with grip on the glaciers and snow fields.


If you check one of the available hiking guide, you will notice that the daily walking distance is drastically shorter when you have to pass steep terrain, glaciers or huge rock fields. Never try to cover too much terrain in one day. It's important to be at the gîte or refuge in the late afternoon or at least before the night falls. Its extremely difficult to find your way in the dark.


Wildlife

If you see a group of farm animals, then try to go around them. Goats tend to be aggressive and, believe it or not, every year people die because they are attacked by a cow. Large groups of sheep are always accompanied by dogs that are trained to protect them. They are supper friendly if they pass by but will attack when they feel threatened.


You will also see some other animals, such as cute marmots, wild boars, chamois, salamanders, small snakes, ... and bears.


What?!? Bears! Don't worry, there are around 20 bears in this area but they are rarely seen. And with more than 600.000 tasty sheep in the area, they are not interested in you or your food. Bears are usually very shy and there have been no reports on bear attacks since many years.


Safety

Keep it safe and let people know where you are. Some people call the next refuge or gîte before they leave in the morning. If something goes wrong along the way, they will be able to narrow down the searching area and find you more quickly. I've seen a refuge owner go outside to look for people after sunset. He hiked down the trail towards the other refuge, found them and lead them safely through the pitch black night. Refuge owners are dedicated and absolutely love the mountains.


Mobile reception can be lost for maximum 2 days in a row. Some people carry an emergency beacon that alarms the authorities via satellite in case of an accident.


Weather in the mountains

The weather is mainly sunny, but sudden changes happen almost daily.

Very sunny periods during the day can be turned quickly into dense mist. On the higher parts it can even snow in August.


Keep in mind that a rainstorm will pass by almost every day. This typically happens around 5 in the afternoon.


Summary

Walking the GR10 route is a must do!

You don't need to be a distinguished mountaineer to cross the mountains. You just need to be in good physical condition, have basic map reading skills and you should know how to handle a change in weather conditions. 

It is recommended not to set out alone. If you take on the challenge alone, keep it safe and let people know where you are.


Don't forget to enjoy the nature around you. Try to sit down for a break every once in a while and watch the clouds flow through the mountain tops.



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