For me, a simple mountain guide, the Haute Route Pyrenees is something special. There are treks in this world, lines drawn out by man over mountain ranges, that bring us as humans to our knees in respect. The Pyrenees high route is one of them. From coast to coast, it takes us by foot from an ocean to a sea. It draws a line between two major European countries and marks the meeting point of two tectonic plates. These are ideas so huge that sometimes it’s hard to comprehend them on our small human scale. It not click and download. It’s weeks of hard trekking in one of Europe’s last surviving wildernesses to bring us back to our natural state. That’s to say our human state.
“Nature can be as spectacular as a right hook delivered by Mike Tyson to the jaw.”
What really strikes me though is not the geographical experience but the human experience. I’ve walked this route many times and know it well. Each time I learn a little more about the intimacy of the route. What I’ve learnt is that nature is awesome. Nature can be as spectacular as a right hook delivered by Mike Tyson to the jaw. Nature is always amazing. What makes the experience of nature human is the people we experience it with. As a guide I have the chance to be able to experience the HRP with all sorts of people. Some people make the trip feel like work. The sort of work work where you look at the clock every five minutes in a desperate hope to make the time move faster and be able to go home. Some people make time stand still however. Many of the people I’ve lead across the mountain range have made me feel like I’m in an alternate reality where all that matters is the mountains and the joy they bring us.
If I was to try and describe the HRP step by step, refuge by refuge, I would need a book, so I’m not going o try. In fact I would need more than a book. A good bottle of whisky and warm fire a long winters night is what I would need. No there’s no discribing treks like the HRP step by step. There are simply too many. Each one adds to the narrative like a painters brush to a canvas. The HRP is my canvas. It’s everyone’s who embarks on its arduous paths.
“Tomorrow will be a big day.”
Generally with my groups they ask what the day ahead will bring. I generally reply as simply and honestly as possible. ” a big up, followed by a big down, followed by a big up then a long down.” Tomorrow will be a big day. I cannot attempt to describe the trek because tomorrow is not here and yesterday is gone. If ever there was a world where you live in the now, it was in this one. In the world of the Pyrenees High Route. In the world of mountain treks. And it’s not a fleeting moment in the now like we get when we are on a snowboard or surfboard. It is a long in the now. Sometimes too long for some. Being with yourself, alone, with only the beauty of nature and your footsteps can be a difficult transition for people. Here we live at a 3kph speed. A human pace. A pace we were designed to be at. Moving, like we were designed to do, forward, one step at a time.
“It’s an experience that makes us human again, if only for a short while. “
It is an experience that is worked towards. One can’t just turn off the computer on a Friday and hope to skip along the HRP the Saturday. One needs to train. One needs to walk. One needs to move. When this is done a door opens to people. A door that leads to humbleness and a peaceful mind. Sure some people resist. Some can’t wait to get back to the smart phones, Internet and tv. But for those who are able, it’s an experience that we never forget. It’s an experience that rejuvenates us. It’s an experience that makes us human again, if only for a short while.
I’m lucky enough to be able to embark upon this voyage every year with new people. Embark on this journey to discover new experiences. Experiences that are as genuine as they get. This fortune is brought to me thanks to my work. Thanks to my credentials. Maybe it could be an experience waiting for you. The mountains are patient. They will outlive us. They will wait. One day we want it and the next on your own mountain adventure.