If you want to plan your own Pyrenees trek or just take one from the comfort of your own home – here are the books that have inspired and helped me prepare for the journey. I realize that most of the books are in French – learn a foreign language – it’s a journey!
This is the “official” guide to the HRP en français. It has been updated since its original publication in 1968. This edition is from 2007. I know that there is an English language version by a Dutchman called Ton Joosten published by Cicerone. From what I’ve read – it deviates from the Véron guide. I haven’t looked at it, but the Anglophone world seems to use this as the HRP reference guide.
Veron, George & Jérôme Bonneaux. Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne : Edition 2007. Rando Editions, 13th revised ed., 2011.
The first volume of this series I picked up by happenstance at Emmaüs just outside of Strasbourg. It had been discarded by the Lingolsheim library and eventually ended up in on a dusty pile of used kids books for sale. The cover of the book initially caught my eye – a woman with a small child hiking up a steep mountainside with a donkey in tow.
It’s a beautiful memoir of an 18-month voyage around France by Marie-Claude Papigny and her husband and two children with a donkey called Grisou. I relished in her descriptions of the Pyrenees mountains and laughed at her descriptions of changing diapers and finding lodging with shepherds in 1970s France. She recounted the difficulties she and her husband faced with the officials and locals.
Papigny, Marie-Claude. La Randonnée fantastique: Tome I. Subervie Rodez, 1981.
The second volume is a continuation of the first – the children are older and maybe she’s a bit wiser. It’s a wonderful first-hand account of the French countryside and a disappearing way of life.
Papigny, Marie-Claude. La Randonnée fantastique: Tome II. Subervie Rodez, 1981.
A Field Guide to Getting Lost was another lucky find. The husband found it at an amazing Leftist/Art/Architecture book shop in Berlin this May. He thought it appropriate for a wanderer like myself. The book turned out to be a bit of memoir and a bit of philosophy. It was a great introduction to the writer Rebecca Solnit. Her broad and focused (I know it’s contradictory) treatment of “lost-ness” opened my eyes to a more profound meaning of the spaces that surround us or that we move through.
Solnit, Rebecca. A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Penguin Books, 2006.
I found a blurb for Wanderlust: A History of Walking on the last page of A Field Guide to Getting Lost. I ordered it from Amazon and began devouring it the moment it arrived. Each chapter treats an aspect of walking: the pilgrimage, theories of bipedalism, the peripatetic school of philosophy, etc. Rebecca Solnit may be my new favorite contemporary writer…
Solnit, Rebecca. Wanderlust: A History of Walking. Verso, 2002.
You don’t always need a map for your journey – you choose.