Sea to Sea on the HRP
The High Route of the Pyrenees
This summer I will be attempting to thru-hike the High Route of the Pyrenees. The HRP is a 800km route starting at the Atlantic and finishing in the Mediterranean Sea. It is a largely unmarked route that follows the highest ridges and peaks of the Pyrenees. Whilst it isn’t my first thru-hike, it is my first high route so I’m pretty psyched. In a few days I will swim in the Atlantic Sea at Hendaye and then take the first steps of this journey.
I find the build-up to a thru-hike to be a strange process. You are frantically planning and preparing everything, all your gear, food, and maps. You spend hours dreaming what the trip will be like. But now just before leaving, I can’t really picture what it is going to be like. I think that’s the beauty of thru-hiking. Even though every time you are just walking, you still have no idea of what is to come. The great blind abyss of possibility that is thru-hiking.
My rough gear list for the HRP
In the build-up to this thru-hike I’ve been focusing on preparing mentally. In the past I’ve found it easy to romanticise thru-hiking and to sometimes forget about its brutality. Thoughts of the simple life on trail, the people and the landscapes give me butterflies. But at the same time, I know that in a few weeks my feet will be blistered, my body hurting, and my mind struggling.
In light of this I’ve tried to focus on the question of why. Over the miles I’ve hiked I’ve learned the importance of the “why.” It’s ultimately the thing you cling to when you come close to your breaking point. Undoubtedly when my body wants me to quit, I will think of my “why.”
So why am I hiking the HRP. The initial thought that comes to mind is because of the adventure. The Pyrenees is a beautiful mountain range, and the opportunity to hike across its entirety is just too appealing. To live amongst its peaks for over a month. I’ve never hiked in high alpine conditions, so this is the first time I’m having to carry an ice axe and other snow gear, so I’m excited for this new challenge. No matter how the trip goes, the one certainty is that it will be a crazy adventure. Ultimately, that’s enough for me. To experience something crazy that most don’t get to.
Ever since my last thru-hike, I often feel this mellowness. Everything in normal life can feel so mundane. To experience everything that the trail brings is another reason. The simplicity and the extremism of life while thru-hiking. You exist and feel differently when thru-hiking. The highs and the lows that really make you feel alive, nothing in the middle. That’s what I’m chasing.
The ability to think. To think away from all the noise. The escapism that can be achieved by thru-hiking. Where time exists in abundance. I’m starting the trail as a 19-year-old but by the end I will be 20. The thought of not being a teenager currently feels very alien to me and scares me to some degree. The beginning of the end of my youth. The meditation that is thru-hiking is the ideal time to have a quarter-life crisis. I’d like the time to reflect on everything I’ve experienced till now before attempting to be an adult.
This year has been a pretty tough year and I’m hoping that this trail will help with that. A chance to feel a lust for life again. I’ve found that thru-hiking tends to break you down or breaks down a part of you and then replaces that with something else, something better. I’m chasing that final metamorphosis of my teens.
I now feel ready for this trail. To go from sea to sea. My gear is dialed in, and my mind feels good. I’ve now just got to get on with it. I will try to publish an update every week or so on here. So please do follow along and subscribe on here and on my Instagram @buckyyrussell.
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