Km 4777 to km 4906, Arinsal (Andorra) to Benasque (Spain).
21/09/2022 – 23km
I met an English couple today hiking the HRP in the other direction and I enjoyed stopping to chat. They gave me some information and advice on the upcoming section. During our conversation they mentioned an old school hiker called Paul Merrill. He said of a long walk, that the first thousand miles you’re getting into it and building up your strength. The second thousand miles you’re performing at your best. For the third thousand miles your body starts to deteriorate. It’s been quite accurate for me this hike.
I arrived in Arinsal late in the morning, my last stop in Andorra, where I did some food shopping and ate a big greasy burger (I swear I’m going back to being vegetarian after the hike). It’s going to be a good 5 or so days until I’m in the next town. Not because the distance are that great, but the terrain is very rugged.
I arrived at my planned destination for the day at about 4:30pm after a long climb. I could have pushed on, but my bag full of food is very heavy, and the refuge I stopped at is very comfortable, with foam mattresses and blankets.
22/09/2022 – 30km
Today was tough but beautiful. Many incredible lakes and views, but the way was often steep and loosely marked, which meant slower progress.
Towards the end of the day I started to feel pretty tired, and my knee and ankle started aching, which I haven’t felt this whole trip. Fingers crossed for tomorrow.
23/09/2022 – 21km
I woke up feeling somewhat weak, but luckily I felt better as the day went on. I still decided to stay in a manned refuge with food, just to be on the safe side.
The trail was very faint for most of the way, and I was mostly traversing from cairn to cairn over rocky ground.
24/09/2022 – 29km
Lots of different kinds of trail today. Some bits were very easy and fast. For other sections I was traversing boulder fields at a snails pace.
It was cloudy and rainy, so very few big open views. Also I couldn’t find a good campsite at the end of the day. Oh well, a stoic challenge.
On the plus side I felt much fitter today, which is fortunate, because my 29km took me over 10 hours.
25/09/2022 – 22km
I woke up last night to find my tent covered in snow. By the morning rain had melted most of it, but it remained very cold for most of the day.
One of the things I love about snow is how quiet it can make things. Only when there’s silence do you realise that there’s usually lots of little noises.
There was some blue sky for 30 minutes and I was almost able to dry out my tent. This is more to stop it smelling than anything else, as I’ll be sleeping inside somewhere for at least the next two nights.
I’m happy to be in a refuge tonight, as it’s still bitterly cold. There are blankets here, so perhaps I’ll need to make some sort of hibernation den.
26/09/2022 – 10km
Only 10km until I reached a trailhead and hitched into town, but it was an incredibly beautiful, wild and adventurous 10km.
When I left the refuge I could see that all the rocks were covered with frost, so I was careful with my footing. It was steep up to the col, the final stretch being a decent scramble.
Once on the ridge, I could see that the other side held a lot more snow and ice. I picked my way slowly up to Molières peak at 3000m, and then started making my way down into the valley. Most of the rock was grippy under the snow, but some had a thin film of ice, so I had to tentatively test each step. I think the first 3km took more than 3 hours.
After I’d descended far enough, the way got a bit easier and I could enjoy the alpine meadows.
Great photos, hope you can enjoy the scenery and are going 👍
you are now in the wildest and most beautiful part of your traverse, everything you did before might
seem tame by contrast!
I am keen to hear about your experience of the stage between Rioumajou and Barroude, which used to be the classical route of the original HRP when I first did it in the 1980s, but I think very few people still do it now because it is completely off-trail
Yes, I just did this yesterday. The markings certainly looked old. It was nice, despite being in cloud and snow a lot of the time. I think this was the only day of my trip where I didn’t see another person.
And yes, the last few days (especially with the snow) have made most of the trail seem quite tame by comparison.