I have walked sections of both; challenging terrain on either side really - and lots of variants so you can avoid sections if you wish, or make up alternates. I have always found the French trails pretty easy to follow....except when you get into towns. You will need a bit more navigation on the GR11, but the maps sets are pretty good.
The French have 'traditionally' been hut-to-hutters - no bad thing and makes food less of an issue....the Spanish side is less like that.
Given the choice I would go for the GR11 myself - I like the idea of drier weather and also enjoy the laid-back attitude of the Spanish (even though I speak relatively fluent French).
Matt will be along soon to disagree with me I expect
Very very occasionally on the bits I have done - the paths are pretty obvious - have a look on Google Earth.
If you get lost - blame him
You won't get OS quality I am afraid - the Editorial Alpina maps are pretty good too.
For some nice web-based mapping for the Spanish side take a look at:
I did a crossing fom Atlantic to Med mainly on the GR11 but I started and finished on the GR10 because I wanted to paddle. I also diverted to the GR10 around Cauteret since I knew the Odessa area well and I wanted to visit the Neouvielle Lakes. The GR11 waymarking is fine and navigation is relatively straight forward. I only lost the track twice, once in the Basque country heading for Ochogavia when the mist came down and I had a choice of tracks , most made by sheep and one the GR11. Just took a compass bearing and all ok. Other time was climbing to the col from La Guingueta. No idea where the path went, but having been warned by the guide book I just headed for the 'trees' and eventually the GR 11 cared to join me again. I don't recall any nasty ledges to fall off.
I chose the GR11 mainly for the same reasons as you specified, drier weather, wild camping but also wine included with meals in restaurants. I do not regret it. Whilst on the GR10 I only met one couple doing the whole thing and none on the GR11 side. I did however twice meet germans doing the GR11 east to west since that is the way the german guide book speciifes the direction of travel.
If doing the GR11 the best map set is:
I only had to carry food for two nights maximum , no big issue. I understand that on the GR10 in the Ariege you have to load up for quite a few nights.
If you message me I can send you photos.
I'd go for the GR 11 too as I find the GR10 too well travelled and waymarked especially the central section which is why there are often people lost on it as they have no maps. Also if you intend staying in refuges occasionally it's a lot more relaxed on the spanish side. I've often ended up chatting to like minded people over a beer before dinner whereas on the french side they're often a bit uptight and serious.
If you're doing the whole shebang then Hondarribia is a great starting point as it is a real traditional basque village. Although if you want to start from the actual beginning it will entail a few extra km to start at the lighthouse.
Regarding maps the GR11 guide mentioned by Pedro is good. Editorial Alpina maps are OK if you are used to them but they have no topographic details and sometimes show paths that don't exist or don't show paths that do. This is a problem with a lot of Spanish maps which is why I often have 2 or 3 different maps for each region I go to. The IGN maps on sigpac are good but do not have the long distance paths marked. The Rando-Editions at 1:50 000 are good as they show the GR11, GR10 and HRP so you can chop and change between the 3 if you wish.
clare H wrote (see)
Train to Paris, dinner in Paris, sleeper train to Hendaye and then weeks up there and out there with the birds at dusk.
The overnight train from Paris to Hendaye disappears from all timetables after the 10th April. After extensive research to find out why I drew a blank so asked the railway guru: www.seat61.com
His response was:
This is happening all too often. Due to engineering works, trains are 'closed for sale' without explanation and just disappear from the systems when the train should run daily. 95% of the time they reopen for sale once the French infrastructure operator has sorted itself out. Occasionally they are cancelled. But of course, looking at the online systems, poor passengers have no idea which will happen! This train should be daily all year, but could be cancelled.
Best of luck !
Not sure why you haven't enquired about the HRP. In my (admittedly) limited experience, the HRP can be an excellent option, has lots of wild camping as well as refuges and would certainly provide some wilderness but is not all as scary as it may sound. As you will have seen the GRs involve a lot of up and down as the valleys run north-south while you're walking west-east. With the HRP you tend to go up and stay up, well I generalise!
On the eastern edge of the Pyrenees around Canigou, HRP is miles better than either GR (imho!)
Andy Howell's excellent website (Must be this way) has great info on the HRP in its central part.
Also, great to see you using trains and boats. I've done this over the last couple of years, all positive.
PS do your research about refugios in Spain, many are simply rotting hulks stinking of p*** with no facilities.
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