FKT: Mario Hipleh - GR 11, Travesía Pirenaica (Spain) - 2021-09-06

Route variation
Standard route
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Start date
Finish date
Total time
16d 6h 59m 15s

Day 1: The warm up

Irun --> Elizondo / 62 km / elev. 3109 m / travel 11 hours 45

The title underexaggerates todays stretch a bit. It has been a tough comeback. All that stair- and trailrunning for training was out of the window after 7 hours - but i still had been another 20 k to go.

The weather has been pretty foggy all day and me and the pack are damp to the bone. But theres always sunshine after the rain: i'm sitting in a local Elizondo bar drinking a big lemonade and the old gentlemen next to me scream at each other in spanish while playing cards.

It's about time to get food and set up camp outside of town.


Day 2: Mordor

Elizondo --> Hiriberri / 55 k / ca. 2900 m alt. / 11:45

The day started pretty easy with sunshine stroking my ego but turned into a fogsoup soon after. Because of that it wasn't too easy following the signs and swamps I had to cross didn't cheer me up much. The cattle and horses along the way ran off as soon as they noticed me and it would just fitted perfectly in the picture if a mislead ork from "Lord of the Rings" would had shown up aaking for directions to mordor.

Later on that day I'd met 3 cool gr11 hikers going east. They filled me in about the days to come and pinpointed me to a nice and flat spot to camp out above Hiriberri. This is where i'm at right now enjoying a quiet sunset.


Day 3: A magic number

Hiriberri --> Izaba / 42 km / ca. 1570 m alt. / 8:45h

The working title for today had been "Stormy Ridge". Mainly because i wanted to tell the world what a badass i had been this morning walking along a foggy ridge on 1400 meters for hours.

But half an hour outside the town of Otsagabia i met a thruhiker called Julio whom was kind enough to explain to me that there wouldn't bee any water for the next 17 k. Since it was a hot noon in Spain and I had less than 1 liter left I started to get thirsty pretty soon after. Now the title changed to "A Kingdom for an ice cold Coke". Around the next corner was Guillermo cutting a tree with his chainsaw. Call me lucky but this kind guy offered me 1.5 liters of ice cold water. Thanks Guillermo!

Soon after my energy went sour. I knew it would happen. On day 3 for sure. I experienced it during other occasions. But what I didn't expect was my stomache going All In on the situation. An upset stomach always sucks. It got better after eating some real food instead of another Snickers and off I went. Now you know the story about the title of the story.

I've just had vegetable soup and a solomillo de tenerra at restaurante Tapia in Izaba and it was in-cre-dible! You should try it out when you pass through. Heading out now to tackle one last 2000 meter mountain to keep the story going.


Day 4: I need some sleep

Camping at Argibiela --> Candachù / 60.2 k / Elev. 2834 m / 13 hours 20

Kept walking a little after Izaba and camped out. Took a shower and had second dinner. 2 hamburgers with fries. Not like we are used to from McDonald's but classic spanish camping diner style. Walked a what seems forever today and now hunkering down in a local albuerga because it started to rain. G-nite.


Day 5: Running out of resources

It had been a long day and people predicted everything from severe rain to heavy thunderstorms. But quiet the opposite happened. I'd enjoyed a sunset on top of a Spanish mountain 2800 meters above sea level. Then I'd descended all the way down into the valley - and into the night.


Day 6: Rocking it

Baños de Panticosa  --> Rifugio de Góriz / 45.5 k / alt. 2338 m  / 12 hours 55

The day started like it always does: it just went up and up. The path got heavily rocky after a while. Thrown in the mix with the ever updown-yoyo-leftright-rollercoaster layout made this a wild ride. Injured one knee last night, will keep going but going easy on it. Long story short: found my way to refugio de Góriz and had a feisty dinner. It's past 10 pm - time to hit the schlafsack and dream of tomorrow.


Day 7: Running hot

Rifugio de Góriz --> Parzan / 34.3 k / alt. 1943 m  / 12 hours

Got up early to crawl up and down the most brutal part of the trail. Not much water around but friendly trailcompagnions like Alastaire from Great Brittain - moans uphill and needs a tan. Has been superhot in the afternoon and the final 10 k roadwalk seemed to take forever. Popped my trailcherry having a beer and smashed a three course dinner. Well done.


Day 8: The  Bubble

Parzan  --> Cabaña de Santa Ana / 38.24 k / alt. 2781 m  / 11 hours 17

It's 10:15 and I'm standing at the Repsol gas station in Parzan eating a crips sandwich when a guy approaches my instabuddy Alastair and me. Small world! I recognize him even wearing a facemask from a youtube video about the gr11 which seems to surprise him. A lot. His name is Chase Mountains and Alastair and me just talked about his knee-pain-routine-clip. 5 minutes later we are introduced to his friend Karim and learn a lot about how to eliminate knee pain.

More mentionable facts: The weather is great. Climbed 2 mountains today (again). It's Saturday which means I staked up on food. My home for the night is an empty shelter that is pretty ... and warm ... and has a lot of worms eating the wooden structure while I'm typing these words.


Day 9: Easy Does It

Cabaña de Santa Ana --> Refugi de la Restanca / 41.72 k / alt. 3327 m  / 12 hours 26

As soon as i'd opened the door to my refuge, sunday hikers showed up and took a big interest in what turned out to be a little tourist attraction. But first things first. Did my newly learned knee exercise right after waking up amd felt: great - compared to the night before. Still wanted to tone it down a notch and made the plan to just walk through the sunday. Which had been easy because of hopping through rock fields almost all day.

Made it to refugi de congales at around 20:00 and decided after a refreshment to go one shelter further to refugi de la restanca. Arrived around midnight while my headlamp was running on fumes.


Day 10: Halfway done

Refugi de la Restanca --> Hotel Cases / 35.98 k / alt. 1852 m  / 11 hours 59

One could argue that today has been an under average day. But it still took a long time to get to the noble establishment I'm currently staying. Last night has not been the most relaxing which made me look like a drunken panda this morning. But none the less I've managed to get on top of 3 more mountains while climbing part times through a moon landscape. Had a late lunch in Espot and then headed over to the friendly people of hotel Cases while the sky started to turn dark. Whatever happens tomorrow - i'm safe for the night and look forward to a good rest.

P.s Have past the halfway marker of those 840 coast-2-coast kilometers today. But when taking the altitude and ruggedness of the trail into the equation then that marker had been past around day 8. Rest assured, I'm just in time.


Day 11: Not your average Groundhog day

Hotel Cases --> Àreu / 40.16 k / alt. 3857 m  / 12 hours 45

Do you know that feeling? You commute to work or do other everyday things and it's like always, but then - all of a sudden - you sense there's something different. Is it the birds? The people? You don't know but there's definitely something in the air. That's what happened to me when I walked up yet another mountain today. The vegetation seemed to had change a little, all of a sudden crickets where chirping and the breeze was more gentle than before. Maybe it was because I crossed from Aragon into Catalonia, maybe it was because the mediteranean climate startet to push through - but it gave an uplifting feeling and made me run the extra kilometer.


Day 12: fear of a flat planet

Àreu -->  Encamp / 44.78 k / alt. 3773 m  / 12 hours 48

Is the name of my favorite 1992 snowboardmovie where someone pulls an endless big fs 720 in the backcountry - I recon. What I'd found out today is: the title doesn't apply to my world view. Little did I know yesterday but there had been another 2800 m mountain to climb. With an almost w perpendicular part in the final section. What followed where another 2 very very steep mountains. Stirred together with cold rain and a thunderstorm. That cut my planned big day with lots of kilometers into a long day with little kilometers. At least I'd made it to Andorra. My body hurts. Also: I'm hungry. It's a cruel world.


Day 13: Flatness!

Encamp --> Puigcerdà / 43.92 k / alt. 2653 m  / 12 hours 45

The day started with yet another climb. Followed by a downhill and another one up. Right when things started to feel like a copy of a copy - the landscape opened up a little, than a little more - and all of a sudden there was this hypercool and perfectly flat valley in front of me. The sun was shining down there and soft and little cumulus clouds made cute shadow patches. All while behind me where steelgray monsterclouds ready to unroll their arsenal of rain and thunder. I haven't been that happy to look at a scenery like this in a long time, but i guess 13 days staring at rock faces changed that perception for the length of that magical moment.


Day 14: Believe the hype

Puigcerdà --> Cabana de Tirapits / 51.5 k / alt. 2561 m  / 14 hours 58

Hold on to that thought. As long as you can. Then peek up the mountain in disbelief. That's at least what happened to me. Day 14 has been a constant uphill walk - only interrupted by a slight downhill medley. After having a chinese all-you-can-eat buffet last night, I had to chew a lot on that endless climb. Then it rained, hailed and the region got hot by two thunderstorms.

Had a blind date lunch with a dutch hiker in a random shelter. Found a bar that offered pizza at that trainstation in Sant Gil. When it became clear that the thunderstorm went east I took my chances and crossed Pic de Noucreus and then Pic Inferior de la Vaca around 9 pm. Believe it or not: there had been a herd of cows enjoying friday night on the peak at 2800 meters. I'm at an igloo like shelter a stones throw below right now, resting my bones for the night.


Day 15: Run the line

Cabana de Tirapits --> Can Nou / 60.48 k / alt. 3297 m / 16 hours 21

Apparantly my inflatable sleeping pad somehow got pierced. But i'd magically found the main hole and fixed it. That gave me a window of two hours to sleep - until the air was gone. but little did I know about the other inhabitants of the shelter. Yeah. Rats. They enjoyed my company and partied until dawn. Around me. On top of me. But what annoyed me the most had been the noises they made.

I crawled out of the shelter right into the most beautiful sunrise and made my way down to a hut for a poor breakfast. Then kept on running the line all day long. It went up and down all day long and thus kind of a blur – but I enjoyed the fresh scent of other hikers very much. The fine detergent their clothes got washed with made me smell my own bad odor even more. Wearing the same shirt and pants for 15 days left it's marks i guess.

Never lost the trail. It's almost like you magically know where to go and switch to autopilot.


Day 16: dog day afternoon

Can Nou --> Portel de les Creus / 66.3 k / alt. 2250 m / 16 hours

Underestimated the trail at night. Came down from the mountains - and dropped right into a jungle of humidity. The trail was full of leaves, loose rocks, gravel and some nasty pits from wild boar. Got to the shelter at Can Nou late. Slept heavenly all by myself.

Tried to get up around 3:30 a.m. but snoozed for about an hour. Made my way to the east in a good paste but ran low on water. Had an early lunch at Restaurante "Moli d'en Robert" and left with an extra Bocadillo in the heat of highnoon. It felt like the gates of hell just opened for the first time and i was happy to sit down at a pizzaplace along the highway at la Jonquera.

Set out to another last climb and got lost at night right before Portel de les Creus. This is when i decided to follow my gps in a good old "as the crow flies" fashion. Well done. I'd got trapped in between mean cedar trees within seconds and came out on the other side pretty scratched up.

Shouted at the wild boar that roamed the scene. Set up camp on trail for one hour. Got all my gear damp and proceded to the final stretch around 11:30 p.m.


Day 17: the final countdown

Portel de les Creus --> Cap de Creus / 58.2 k / alt 1250 m / 14 hours 58

The night started perfectly. There had been a cool and moist breeze as I walked quietly down the mountain, heading straight for the ocean. I'd found out about 20 minutes after Should had turned to the left that I had been running downhill in the wrong direction (have a look at the map :)). That's when i backed up and soon after developed a rash between my thighs. Luckily I'd saved up some vaseline and put it to use. Soon after the headlamp broke down which made me tape it together with the power bank to my backpack. Now I had to look at the shadows from my moving arms for hours which eventually made me hallucinate.

Found a concrete block on the roadside at Llanca shortly before dawn and took a 16 minute nap. Felt perfectly fresh afterwords and enjoyed the final sunrise above port de Selva.

Got myself some fresh water and a lemonade in port de Selva for the final 15 k. Which turned out to be a delightful but soulcrushing experience. The trail showed itself from it's rugged side one more time and had some twists and turns built in. But the main hustle where the desertish conditions along the way. The water was gone soon and I'd dehydrated quickly as I slowly made my way to the lighthouse.

From there it was just another descent over razor sharp rock to the eastern monument of the gr 11. I'd tagged it, layed down for a moment and jumped into the mediterranean ocean for a rejuvenative swim.

Then I'd sat into the bar at the lighthouse and had a big coke, water, pineapplejuice, beer and another beer – relaxed after being on the run for 16 days 6 hours 59 minutes & 15 seconds.


Properly enjoyed reading this write up man! Well done on a sterling effort! Im Interested if you have done the HRP or GR10 routes to offer a comparison? Based on some of your descriptions this definitely sounds like the harder of the “three routes”. Cheers