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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.