Or more like a day-hike in a tiny part of the Pyrenees. During the road trip from London, England to Malaga, Spain, we stopped by the Pyrenees, naturally (11 to 13 Oct 2016). Though we weren’t the most prepared for hiking at that point (we weren’t familiar with the area and I didn’t have my hiking stuff with me), we couldn’t pass through without doing at least a hike. At a secondhand bookstore in London, I came across a map of the Pyrenees, and without really knowing much about the area, just bought it in case it might be useful. And so it was, for it gave us a direction to head towards – Prades.
The one big feature in the area is Pic du Canigou (Canigou Peak) at 2784m. So naturally, we (I?) were drawn to it. Google search didn’t help much, most of the information was in French and it seemed that it was not possible to do without at least a night in one of the refugios, which we were reluctant to do as we weren’t well-equipped for the cold nights. Nonetheless, we popped by the Tourist Information (which seems to be an outdated thing to do, but they are so nice and helpful!) and asked about it, and it turns out that we could actually do a day trip up Pic du Canigou – a 12-hour day trip. It is considered a sacred mountain by the Catalans, and the day before, we had made the hike up to the Abbaye St-Martin-du-Canigou (Abbey of St Martin du Canigou) which took about 40-50 minutes from the carpark. (Aside: upon arrival at the church, a couple of French were there waiting for the doors to open and spoke animatedly to us in French. We attempted to say je ne parle pas francais, to which the reply was a finger pointed at me with the words, very young, 15? T.T I’ve not quite reached the age where looking a decade younger is a compliment.)
From our campsite in Prades (Plaine du St Martin campsite, €4.50 pppn), we drove to Casteil, and then up a dirt road (which saved us 2 hours of walking). We then walked 40 minutes to Refuge Marseilles. Took us about 3-4 hours to get to Pic du Canigou from there. There was a smaller refuge on the way. I really like the French (and maybe around the region as well?) system of mountain refuges. A bit like Scottish bothies perhaps, though I’ve never stayed in one. These refuges are shelters with bunk beds, though you need your own sleeping bag. And some have cooking facilities and some food in there for emergencies. There are also guarded refuges which have more facilities and cooked dinners.
Getting up to the peak involved some scrambling. Nothing too serious, but if you’ve got vertigo it might not be the best option. The whole trek had not been particularly strenuous, and even the climb up, though steep, winds around a lot which makes it very manageable. In any case, we didn’t dwell too long at the peak. The view was amazing, and a pair of Alpine choughs kept us company. But we headed down just in time, as it had started to drizzle, which then did not abate for a few days. All in all, we took about 8-9 hours, having shaved off some time by driving up the dirt road. The view is amazing, and I really like the Pyrenees. Full of quaint little villages and stunning mountainous backdrops, definitely a place I would like to go back to at some point (which is not something I say very often!).