We were so impressed with our previous trek in Corsica that we had to try another of the GR long distance paths. So this summer (2001) Alison and I walked a section of the GR11 known as the Senda or "The track" on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. We only had two weeks of holiday available so we picked the section of the GR11 that passed through the western half of the national parks and the scenery did not disappoint us. Our route started at Canfranc and finished in Bagneres de Luchon. We followed the GR11 from Canfranc to Hospital de Viella and then crossed over the mountains using the HRP and other paths back to Luchon in France. We had excellent weather for the first half of the walk and although the second half was cloudy we were not rained on.
The scenery in the national parks is amazing as you can see from the photographs. Every day of the walk was different, some days we would be high in the mountains crossing rocky terrain and other days walking along rough tracks through beautiful woodland. What surprised me was how lush the vegetation was and the profusion of wild flowers. The animal life in the mountains is also unique and quite different to the UK although I am glad to say we didn't come across any bears (there probably aren't any left). Alison was quite taken by the marmots which look at bit like otters crossed with badgers and could be found near many of the high mountain tarns. Butterflies and small lizards were in abundance in addition to cows, sheep and horses.
The outbound journey started at Stanstead where we we caught a Ryan Air flight to Carcassone. We walked from the airport into the city centre, its only a few kilometers and we had plenty of time, however I don't recommend walking as there are no footpaths or means to cross the roads. We then caught a train to Toulose and changed onto another for Pau (pronounced "Po"). That was as far as we could get that day and we stayed at a campsite just the other side of the river but via a 20min walk across the nearest bridge. . From Pau we caught a train to Olorn St Marie. and from there a bus over the border to Canfranc. The bus service connects with the train service from Pau and it is possible to do the journey back to back getting off the train and straight onto the bus. Tickets for the bus are also purchased at the train station. There was plenty of supermarkets that stock food and camping gaz in Canfranc.
The walking was quite straightforward although the marking along the trail wasn't always clear particularly in the villages. Some of the higher mountain passes were quite taxing but this may have been more to do with our fitness and the overall length of the day than their difficulty. Some days required us to walk for over 11 hours and we never really came close to the times quoted in the guide books. Supplies were readily available in the villages along the route and we carried far more food than we needed to although it was all dehydrated. I would recommend carrying 3 to 4 days worth of food at the start topping up along the way. Both guide books listed below give full details of locations where food can be purchased.
The equipment we took was
Jaguar S75 and S65 Rucksacks
We used the following books (click on them to follow a link to Amazon):
Maps can be obtained from Cordee Particularly good value are the Prames maps which contain the entire route on 47 small maps for about £15.