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Reading Material

Sat 13 Mar 2010 00:10 » Jon

I dropped into Stanfords earlier this evening, hoping to find a copy of the new guidebook I’m going to take to the mountains, and left about an hour later and over £120 worse off!

Last time we were in the Pyrenees we took the original guidebook written by Georges Veron when he came up with the idea of the HRP back in the late 1960s. In the intervening 14 years I’ve mislaid that, so decided to try the “other” guide – Ton Joosten‘s “Pyrenean Haute Route“. The second edition of this was only published last year, so hopefully it’s going to be up-to-date with any changes on the ground.

The guide seems pretty comprehensive, with the usual advice on weather, kit, how hard each day is and so on, but I’m a little put off by the advice not to walk any of the route on your own! Although there are obviously additional risks to doing something like the HRP on your own, I don’t think it should just be dismissed – as long as the risks are taken into account then walking solo can be hugely rewarding.

The other slightly alarming piece of advice is regarding the best months to go. Based on rainfall, I’d decided June/July/August would all be much the same but I hadn’t thought too much about the snow left over from the winter. Joosten advises setting off at the beginning of July to minimise the likelihood of snow – I’m planning to start walking at the beginning of June, so will have to hope for a warm spring.

Crampons and ice axes aren’t required for most of the main route but there are ascents of “10 Classic Summits”, in addition to the main route, where they’re recommended. Some of those ascents involve glacier crossings, so I think I’ll probably have to give those a miss unless I’m with friends at those points – crossing a glacier without a rope is not a great idea. Still, the more I think about it, the more inclined I am to take crampons and an axe.

The guide also contains a list of recommended maps  so I’ve also picked up as many of them as I could find though, worryingly, some appear to be out of print! I remember thinking the European maps were poor on our previous attempt. Some of the French ones have been updated and now have a decent grid with markings on, but the others, and all of the Spanish ones, are pretty rubbish compared with the maps we’re used to in the UK. It makes me realise how lucky we are with the OS maps.

I’ve also invested in my first ever Moleskine notebook, for use when there isn’t enough sun to keep the iPhone going.

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