Next destination: GR11 – The Spanish Pyrenees

For long it has been clear to me that one day I would find myself standing near the border between France and Spain, at the shore of the Bay of Biscay. But instead of crowded and relatively flat road walk or coastal path towards Santiago de Compostela, my own pilgrimage would head east, to the mountains and towards the distant Mediterranean, facing whatever challenge the Pyrenees can throw against .

GR11_Routemap_overview_01(map from OpenStreetMap.org, edited by me)

But on which side of the border, that has been the main question and the answer changing every now and then. As I don’t like that much walking or scrambling on exposed ridges and summits, I quickly excluded the Haute Randonnée Pyrénees, the high route following the highest walkable route through the mountains. After hiking the GR5, walking on French side along the well-marked GR10 has felt like a safe bet, but also less exciting. At the end of this June, I’ll leave Irún behind along the Spanish GR11, hoping to complete the trek from Irún to Cap de Creus, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

The GR11 is a serious trek. Compared to the GR5 it’s longer and according to the Brian Johnson´s guide, includes in total 46km of ascent, on the drier and hotter Spanish side of the Pyrenees. But the trail offers varied landscape, from green hills to a high granite peaks, famous national parks, a visit to Andorra and most of all, magnificient wild camping opportunities.

As usual, unfortunately, I won’t be blogging while on the trail as I try to immerse myself into trail life, to escape from the digital world for a precious while (this is my personal choice and I respect great deal those who see the effort to post while hiking). I don’t posses required electronic devices either. But I hope to be able to publish something interesting before leaving and especially, afterwards.

GR11_Training_schedule_01

Now, I need to begin my transformation from a “couch potato” to a true, light-footed Alpine Ibex! No fancy tricks, just trying to Walk, Bike and Trailrun (trailrunning gives better workout for the whole legs, strengthens ankles and improves balance better than normal jogging) as much as possible, having weekly Football training and couple of Games, and most importantly, doing of ascent/descent drills at the nearby skiing hill (steep, 50m elevation). I don’t plan my training schedule much ahead but just following the progress by writing down what I’ve done. More to follow!

2016_05_19_KAUNIAINEN_training

14 thoughts on “Next destination: GR11 – The Spanish Pyrenees

  1. currently reading your book, enjoying it a lot.
    I’ve also done major parts of your next journey, it is a great adventure.

    • Hi Michael and thanks for your comment!
      I’m super glad to hear that you’ve liked the book🙂

      Have you climbed Cuello de Tebarray from ref. Respomuso? I might detour that unless it’s complitely free from snow as it sounds a bit uncomfortable…

  2. Hello Antii,
    I hope that you enjoy your six weeks along the big frontier.
    I don’t do PC books….will the GR5 journey be available in paper soon?

    • Hi Roger,

      Thanks, I hope all will go well!
      The book is self-published and unfortunately only in digital format at the moment. I’m considering the same deal as with the Finnish edition, to use print-on-demand publishing. I wanted to hear first if people like it, though, if it’s worth the effort🙂

  3. Hi Antti,
    That pre-hike training is a sound idea. The GR11 is basically ALL hills (up then down, repeat for 45 days….!). The rewards for this effort are nearly always great and every day is varied. Look forward to more blogs about your upcoming adventure.

    Rebevca

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Thanks! Yep, after two long trips to the Alps, I hope the amount of ups and downs won’t be a suprise.. perhaps the difficulty of the boulderfiels etc. I trained in this similar fashion for the GR5 and it really was worth it, although few minor problems occurred. 20 times up and down a 50m steep hill makes already almost a day in the Alps🙂

      I have to read carefully, once more, your GR11 account and list all the possible birds that is possible to spot!🙂
      Happy trails!

  4. Great trek idea , hope it goes well for you , we will be starting the GR5 end of July and your wild camping quite had been very helpful ,🙂 can I ask if water on the GR5 is easy to find without filtering etc🙂
    Thanks
    Allanah

    • Hi Allanah,

      I took water only from “official” sources: village fountains, refuges… These are plentiful on the way and only twice I was suffering of having too little water, I mention these incidents in my book. I was carrying only 1,75 litres which is quite little as well. So basically, shouldn’t be a problem. Natural water would be adviced to treat as cattle can graze amazingly high altitudes.I hope this helps and feel free to ask more🙂
      Happy planning!
      -A

  5. Amazing, I’m planning to go to the French Pyrenees for 5 days by myself. I’m not extremely experienced with hiking so I was wondering if you could give a good starting point (I’m in Barcelona) and any tips/routes?

    • Hi Chloe,

      I haven’t been in the Pyrenees before, so I can’t tell that much. But as you have only 5 days, perhaps a good starting point would be somewhere easily accessed by public transportation (unless you use a car). What comes to routes, the GR11 runs through the Pyrenees on the Spanish side and GR10 on the French side, perhaps some interesting 5 day section on the GR10 could work if you wanted to visit the French side? Here’s an informative website and most of all, quite active comment section with plenty of useful Q&A. http://www.pyreneanway.com/french-pyrenees-gr-10-walk-guide/?lang=en

      Please feel free to ask more and if interested in walking in the Alps, check out my GR5 website and book (Barcelona to Nice and then to North to the mountains) I hope this helps!
      -A

      • Hi A, thanks so much for that information, very helpful! I´m thinking that I will rent a car from Barcelona instead of by public transportation. I will research this more, but do you know any routes or specific places i should visit if i am driving through the pyrenees? Are the GR10 and GR11 walking routes? Thanks!

      • Hi C,
        Yes the GR10 and 11 are walking routes, like the GR5 in the Alps, they’re part of the vast GR long-distance trail network, typically marked with red-and-white waymarks. I’m sorry i can’t really highlight any spesific area as I’ve never been in the Pyrenees myself but in the west are the Basque hills, then comes the central section which seem most dramatic, having also the famous Ordesa canyon, then Andorra, and more to the East it gets lower as the Mediterranean approaches. Check out this for more information: http://traildino.com/trace/continents-Europe/countries-Spain#/Trails;Description

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