Trekking in the Pyrenees

I spent most of the month of September in Europe, hence my lack of postings. Most of the trip was spent with family, but we did sneak in a three-day trek in the French Pyrenees.

Map of trekWe did a typical European mountain trek – walking from hut to hut, along well-marked trails. The huts are not little shacks, but rather well-appointed hostels with most amenitied. The stays at each hut included four-course meals. Slightly different from your average Canadian trip.

Mt. Vignemale - north faceWe hiked a part of the GR10 in the Parc National des Pyrénées – from Pont d’Espagne to Gavarnie. While the park is still quite spectacular, with some amazing moutain walls, it was interesting to observe the differences with our Canadian park system. Most surprisingly, there are no entrance fees. It saves one money of course, but as a result, the average visitor doesn’t even know there is a national park. Apparently, general awareness of the park is very low. Interestingly also was that sheep and cows continued to graze throughout the park, even in the core zones. As a result most grassy slopes looked heavily grazed if not over grazed. Of course, people have been grazing their cattle here for thousands of years, but one’d expect a few core areas to be cattle-free.

Valley west of GavarnieOn the other hand, the hut system worked well. It keeps most people on the main trails, and allows people who don’t want to carry a heavy pack with tent and food to enjoy the back country. But of course they also attract additional hikers, and so put an additional strain in on the environment.

The dearth of huts in the Rockies puts many people off doing treks here, although there now are a few huts (both from the Alpine Club and high-end lodges). A few hut-based treks in Canada could certainly attract additional European visitors. One wouldn’t want to turn all the trails in the Rockies into hut-based treks, though!