After four years in a row visiting North America, this summer the hiking’s coming home. It’ll be not a little bit less exciting while I’ll be tackling a solo traverse of the Pyrenees, sea to sea over the Haute Randonnée Pyrenéenne, the wildest and most rugged of the three routes that cover the distance from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. 4 weeks and a strong will to finish but above all a stronger will to have a good time so no marathons here… I’ll try my best but the goal is in the trip itself, not on the finish line.

So much hiking to do

I’ll be travelling lightweight, as light as my experience level allows so I can fly over the ragged landscape without compromising my security. This will be my first solo of this distance and my first attempt at ultralight hiking for such a long stretch. I could go even lighter by taking advantage of the stuffed huts but I’ll deliberately avoid using them as much as I see can, if at all. I’ll be free to roam the mountains and end my day when and where I like.

I’ll be starting at the western end in Hendaye on 23rd July and hope to reach Banyuls-sur-mer by 21st August. It’s officially 800 kms. but the guidebook I’m following (Ton Joosten’s, published by Cicerone) describes the route in 42 stages of which most cover (and I’ve tried some on the field in the past) a good day’s walk so I’ll probably have to try my best. The HRP is ragged, partly trail-less and over mountaineering routes (rather than real trails) on long stretches. If conditions are good (not many bad weather delays), I hope I’ll make it. If I don’t, c’est la vie… ou, c’est sera la vie…

My usual partner for the long distance hikes won’t be walking with me for the whole route but I’ll have her joining me for a few days somewhere along the route. This will slow me down (never hike with a professional photographer if your schedule is tight!) but I’ll have something more than my crappy shots and a the best company I can ever hope for to share the trail wonders. She’ll be so much welcome.

I’ll be hitting civilization 4 times along the route and the longest section will be around 6 days. Civilization of some kind will be very close many other times but I’ll stick to the mountains as much as I can. The stuffed huts are full accomodation little (or not so little) basic “hotels” in the mountains but I’ll pass by without using them unless in an emergency (or in case of self-indulgence… no dogma!). I’ll be ressuplying the basic things along the way and most probably doing mail drops for the harder to find stuff.

I’ve always been weight conscious but I had never been so anal about weight as this time. I’ve eventually sorted out my so far dissorganized gear list and made of it the great tool it is for cutting weight down. So far, this is my gear list. It’s not definitive but There’ll be little variation from this one:

Item
Qty.
Weight (gr.)
Item subtotal
Clothing
   
Insulation: MEC Northern Lite 2 pullover
1
300
300
Weather proof: O2 Rain Shield jacket
1
150
150
Windshirt: Montane FeatherLite Smock
1
80
80
Pants: Francitel nylon supplex convertibles (short)
1
230
230
Pants: Franciltel convertibles (legs)
1
119
119
1
23
23
Shirt: Millet Carline 150 Polartec Power Dry long sleve
1
190
190
Shirt: Lowe Alpine Dryflo zone short sleve
1
117
117
Underwear: Vaude polyester briefs (grey)
1
38
38
Underwear (spare) Vaude polyester briefs (black)
1
60
60
Socks: Smartwool light hiker (pair)
1
70
70
Socks (spare): Bridgedale trail runner
1
50
50

Accesory clothing
Spontex (wicking towel)
1
23
23
Wide brim Columbia sun hat
1
85
85
Fleece cap Quechua
1
50
50
Plastic gloves (of the supermarket fruit picking kind;
pair)
1
2
2
Buff
1
40
40

Shoes
Vasque Velocity trail runners (pair)
1
810
810

Shelter and sleeping system
MSR Groundhog aluminium stake
4
17
68
BMW titanium hook stake
6
7
42
Gossamer Gear polycro ground cloth
1
38
38
Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter
1
303
303
Nunatak Arc-Special down sleeping quilt
1
430
430
Artiach closed cell foam pad 185 x 55 x 1.2 cm
1
135
135

Packing
Granite Gear Virga 3200 ci pack
1
635
635
1
50
50

Miscellany
Leki Makalu ultralite titanium hiking poles
2
250
540
First aid kit (long distance standard)
1
100
100
Black Diamond Ion head lamp (with battery)
1
32
32
Montbell ultralight umbrella, stripped
1
140
140
Recta DS 40 compass
1
47
47
Golite XS silnylon stuff sack
1
13
13
Golite M silnylon stuff sack
1
14
14
1
18
18
Silva map case
1
66
66
Tooth brush
1
3
3
Sunscreen
1
15
15
Lip sunscreen
1
5
5
Alcohol gel (for hand disinfection)
1
15
15
Whistle
1
7
7
Pen
1
5
5
Duct tape
1
15
15
Mini-carabiner
1
6
6
Thread, needle, (4) safety pins
1
4
4
Toilet paper or equivalent
1
5
5
Guidebook
1
403
403
Maps
1
270
270

Kitchen; water bladders and treatment
Coleman F1 Ultralight gas stove
1
77
77
Gas canister (mid size) (only the canister!)
1
160
160
Gas
1
220
220
MSR Titan kettle pot (0.85 l.) (without lid)
1
90
90
Lexan spoon
1
10
10
Wenger knife (plus tweezers and scissors)
1
22
22
Lighter
1
12
12
Matches (emergency)
1
2
2
Platypus 2 l. bladder
1
37
37
Contenedor Platypus 1 l.
1
27
27
Lifesystems chlorine tablets (150 tablet case)
1
15
15
Insulating cozy for ziplock bag
1
15
15
Windscreen for gas stove
1
1
5
1
8
8
Food and assorted bags
1
800
800

Electronics
Pentax Optio S50 camera (with 2 AA batteries)
1
165
165
GPS Garmin Geko 201 (with 2 AAA batteries)
1
95
95
Avocet Vertech II Alpin altimeter watch
1
45
45

Total (from skin out)
7657
Worn
1945
Consumables
1748
Base weight
3962

Comments:

Consumables include food, water, gas (but only the gas, not the canister!) plus maps and guidebook. It seems questionable to me to include these last two here but that’s the standard. I won’t be throwing the used ones away (I love my maps!) but I’ll be surely sending them back home and probably mailing the new ones ahead of me so, yeah, they’re kind of consumable.

The list has absolutely every bit of thing I’ll be carrying, except the water (but it has the containers). The food weight is estimated as 800 gr. per day (including bags and packaging) and included in the list as an illustration for just one day (I expect to carry up to 6 days worth of food). It affects the total weight but not the base weight.

The gas canister has not been considered a consumable item. The gas itself is but not the canister. My strategy (not completely decided yet, but almost) will be to carry a mid size (220 gr. of gas) canister from the beginning and stretch it to make it last for the whole trip by just boiling water for dinner and using everything in my hand to cut on fuel. According to my calculations of fuel needs, it’s just barely possible but I’ll take my tiny home-made alcohol burner (only 8 gr.) in case I run out of fuel too early, alcohol should be easy to find. Since I plan on carrying the gas canister for the whole trip, I don’t consider it a consumable.

I’ve linked from the list some of my home-made items. Easy to make little things but I’m proud of my little achievements nonetheless. Unfortunately, most of the descriptions are not yet in english but it’s my website and I do what I want with my links :)

The umbrella has been stripped by accident actually as the handle broke in a bad fall (I fell, not the umbrella) but it just turned out it broke at the exact place where I had cut it if I’d had the guts to risk spoiling a good piece of ultralightweight gear. Now I use a hiking pole section as the handle. How’s that for multifunction?

Items worn include only the bare minimum in a normal situation, mid-day with average (read, good) weather: long sleeve shirt, shorts, underwear bottoms, shoes, socks, the wrist watch and the hiking poles. I don’t include items in pockets or hanging around (even though some items will be permanently in pockets or hanging around), in my view that’s screwing things up a bit. I prefer to feel my numbers are real rather than good looking.

All the weights I have got myself on a 5 gr. resolution device. Sometimes they agree with manufacturer specs. (when there are any), sometimes not but I’m sure that’s what I’m actually carrying.