Thoughts before crossing the Pyrenees by foot

This summer I will be attempting to thru-hike the High Route of the Pyrenees. The HRP is an 800km route from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean following the highest ridges and peaks of the Pyrenees. For those who don’t know what thru-hiking is, it is simply a long walk where you start in one point and then walk till you hit the end point.

This will now be my fifth thru-hike. In the build-up to starting a trail obviously a lot of planning and preparation is required. From sorting out your maps, soring your gear to planning out your diet. However, this time I’m focusing on preparing mentally. Thinking about hiking again gives me butterflies. Thinking about the simple life on the trail, the landscape, and the people. Despite the excitement there is definitely a huge amount of nervousness and fear. It’s easy to romanticise thru-hiking and to forget about its brutality. While I’m excited, I’m also aware that in a few months my body will be hurting and that there will be times when my mind will be struggling. It’s in these scenarios, when my head is no longer in it, when I feel like quitting that I cling to my ‘why’.  

The question of why. Over the miles I’ve hiked, I’ve learnt that understanding why you are doing something is one of the most important things. It’s ultimately the thought you cling onto when you are on the breaking point. The thing that pulls you back from quitting. Which when thru-hiking is something you think about each day. This isn’t only for hiking; I think it’s true for everything in life. Knowing the why is crucial.

I guess I’m treating this article as a chance for me to straighten out my thoughts and to articulate them on paper.

So why am I attempting to hike what is considered to be one of the hardest routes in Europe? The initial thought that comes to mind is because of the adventure. the Pyrenees is a beautiful mountain range, and the opportunity to hike across its entirety is just too appealing. To live amongst its peaks for over a month and to explore its secrets. The HRP isn’t really a trail, it’s more of a route. It involves a blending of different trail as well as off-trail navigation. The total elevation gain for the HRP is 42,350m. No matter how this trip goes, the one certainty is that it will be a crazy one. Ultimately, that’s enough for me. to experience something crazy, that most don’t get to experience.

Ever since my last thru-hike I’ve always felt this moderation or mediocrity. I can’t really phrase it but no matter what I do off-trail I feel this sort of mellowness. I never feel so truly as alive as when I’m on trail, it’s this weird pure form of existence. There’s a saying on trial, ‘The highs are high, and the lows are low’. This extremism is something I’m chasing. To experience everything to the highest degree, good or bad.

The ability to think. To think away from all the noise. In June I will be turning twenty years old. The idea of not being a teenager currently feels very alien to me. This is the beginning of the end of my youth. I want the time to reflect on everything I’ve experienced and to think about what I want my adulthood to look like. The meditation that is thru-hiking is the ideal time to have a quarter-life crisis. To revel in being an angsty teenager for the final time. This year so far has been pretty tough and while trails might not be able to cure heartbreak and other issues, they can do something. I’ve found that they do tend to break you down or break down a part of you and replace that with something else, something better. I’m chasing that final metamorphosis of my teens.

These are some of the thoughts that are motivating me to walk from sea to sea. I will post some sort of post-trail write up afterwards, but for now I hope everyone has a crazy summer.

Featured Image: image by travelsnips on Unsplash

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