Top wild camps on the Haute Route Pyrenees

I camped every night during my 2019 thru-hike of the Haute Route Pyrenees, and 23 of those camps were ‘wild’ camps. In no particular order, here are a few I enjoyed the most.

Read more about my adventures in the Pyrenees here

25 July

(Image above)

I’d diverted from the main route of the HRP due to a forecast for thunderstorms. The guidebook mentioned great spots to camp near the lake, but a few hikers had already staked their claims by sitting on rucksacks. It soon turned out that there were great spots on the far shore too. The first thunderstorm broke with gusto. Another hiker and I waited for it to pass, sitting there in our waterproofs feeling cold in the sluicing rain, poles left a short distance away. After the fireworks were over, beautiful golden light caressed the mountains.

23 July

Mountain Laurel Designs cuben Solomid

The trail had been busy, and I took my time looking for a suitable place to camp. After loading up with water at the stream I ended up hiking uphill for 15 minutes to find a perfect grassy knoll with a good view of the nearby cirque. As I lay in the grass watching the sky, dozens of cockchafers droned overhead, some of them colliding with my shelter and ricocheting off into the warm evening.

14 August

Mountain Laurel Designs cuben Solomid

Beneath Pic Carlit there’s a vast wilderness of shattered rock and scree, but also a few exquisite places to pitch a tent. This tarn was home to small, ghost-like fish that glided through the waters and occasionally broke the surface to gulp at a midge. As I contemplated the silence around me, Pic Carlit glowed in the evening light show and I traced the route of the climb I’d tackle the next morning.

24 July

Mountain Laurel Designs cuben Solomid

After crossing the first 2,200m pass on the HRP – a boulder-strewn shoulder beneath Pic du Midi d’Ossau, a splendidly shapely mountain in the Western Pyrenees – I decided to camp at the Refuge de Pombie bivouac area. The exceptional views in all directions more than made up for the lack of solitude.

16 August

Mountain Laurel Designs cuben Solomid

The best camp of the trip was only a few days from the end. With only one 2,000m peak left to climb, and limited time left in the high mountains, I found myself traversing a long ridge that connected together a series of flat grassy plateaus. I could pitch my tent almost anywhere, and the open spaces made for a pleasant change after weeks of more confined views in steeper terrain. After enjoying a vivid sunset and extensive starfields overnight, I woke in time to photograph the most colourful dawn I’d seen on the trail, with the moon shining down above the Belt of Venus.

Gear used

You can see a complete gear list here. My shelter was a Solomid from Mountain Laurel Designs (in cuben / DCF) at 352g for the flysheet, coupled with an MLD Superlight bivy (220g) and polycro groundsheet (65g). I used a selection of pegs – mostly thin titanium pins, great for hard ground, although I also carried MSR Groundhogs and occasionally found them useful in loose soil. Overall, this setup was close to ideal for the conditions I encountered in the Pyrenees: ultralight yet more than capable of protecting me from high winds and heavy rain.

All images © Alex Roddie. All Rights Reserved. Please don’t reproduce these images without permission.

5 Comments

Lovely Alex. I’m on the HRP right now. I’ve hiked in the Pyrenees throughout the seasons and I reckon this time of year through to early November is my favourite.. Clear skies, fresh breeze, fewer thunderstorms, not too muggy, more solitude. The Pyrenees offer wild camping heaven, more so than the Alps IMHO. I’m interested to hear how you got on navigation-wise relying on technology. The weight of the maps for a thru-hike (not just the HRP, but future hikes through the Alps) are burdensome, but then again, I love maps! The Casio ProTrek F30 caught my eye, but I’ve plumped for a Suunto Core Graphite after my ancient Suunto Vector finally failed. Great photos Alex, and I’m so happy your HRP hike exceeded your expectations. I must admit I preferred my C2C crossing on the GR10, I’m currently on the HRP, but definitely want to come back and thru hike the GR11. I’m sure you’ve got Cicerone’s bible The Pyrenees by Kev Reynolds? I’ve managed to explore a whole bunch of walks/valleys/wildcamps away from the main routes with the help of that book. Trust me Alex when I say that the HRP was just an introduction for you, and you’ll be back!

Hi Jay, nice to hear from you – the Pyrenees in autumn sounds divine! You are quite right that this won’t be my last foray into those mountains. In fact, I’m already thinking about a return.

Going all-digital with navigation was ok – I didn’t get lost, but I didn’t feel as safe, even with a backup Garmin GPS, and to be honest I wouldn’t do it this way again. (In fact, I am considering an experiment going back to traditional nav techniques for a year, to see how my heavy use of digital mapping has changed my skills.) Hike well!

Really interesting Alex re nav. I’m sort of in agreement with Chris Townsend’s blog post where he said he preferred maps and guidebooks. But I’m still tempted by the digital options. And I still remember a very experienced MIC leader saying he doesn’t even bother with an altimeter. Just map, compass, knowing his pacing/timing. Old school, and thats usually my way. Hope you have a great reunion with the Pyrenees soon! (Snowshoeing?)

So great; we camped at exactly the same spots (at least the spots you camped at 24 & 25th of July). It were very great pitches, the best wild camping I’ve done so far to be honest.

The Pyrenees are full of great camping spots.

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