The Atlantic Ocean at Hendaye beach.. starting point for the HRP. Those are my footprints, in 2010
I thought I would quickly summarise the state of play, with just over a week to go before leaving for France:
I'm very happy with my gear now. Everything has been selected, tested, and shown to work. Before I finally pack everything, I will renew all plastic bags (I use loads of ziploc bags) batteries, and make sure the rechargeable ones are full. I would like to do some detailed gear reviews (I'm a great fan of Zpacks for example, who supplied my tent, my backpack, and sleeping bag) but it seems sensible to wait until I get home - at least they will have been fully tested by then!
I do have one problem, which is that last time I tried I couldn't fit everything into my backpack! It is not a weight issue, but volume. The sleeping bag in particular is lighter but more voluminous than its predecessor. I am not unduly concerned, I think it will fit when I pack it better and if I have to I can strap something, the tent maybe, on the outside of the pack. Overall the pack should weigh about 15kg fully loaded including food & water.
Phone calls, texts, updates like these, and internet access generally are an increasing part of doing long walks these days. In some ways that's progress.. it's wonderful to be able to look at your phone and see a detailed map with a blob showing your position, and to know you can phone up a manned refuge or hostel and book a bed and a meal at any time. It is not the same as "the old days" when you set off into the wild with just a map and compass and nobody knew where you were, including you yourself quite often, and on the whole I prefer things as they are now. Having a working mobile should not be relied on but nevertheless can be a real safety feature.
Foreign mobile roaming and internet access charges can be fierce - two months in the Pyrenees can easily cost you £200 or more. Having looked into matters I have moved my mobile contract to the 3 network. They have a wonderful perk called "Feel at Home" which means that in France, Spain and about 20 other countries I can phone or text the UK and download data for absolutely no extra charge. Magic.
Because the phone is such an important item now - I have saved a whole 1.5kg by putting all the maps and guidebooks onto it - I have decided to take a backup phone with me. 3 network have very kindly sent me a spare sim card, so if anything should happen to my beautiful new Samsung S5 I will be able to carry on regardless. I would be quite miffed though - they aren't cheap!
Food, or walking fuel as I tend to think of it, is absolutely crucial. You have to shovel it in at every opportunity, and carry lots - this has been a difficult area for me in the past as food and water are both quite heavy and I have tended to skimp rather. Also, things like dried pasta and noodles tend to feature heavily in walking supplies and I am not too keen on them.
A lot of people solve the problem by resupply, which means posting parcels of food to yourself for collection en route. I am not keen on that either, there is rather a shortage of post offices on the HRP and if I can I would prefer to live of locally sourced food. I have decided that the solution is rice - I like rice, and rice plus a stock cube makes a palatable meal, with a baguette and perhaps a bit of cheese.. all I need to do is to make sure I have enough to get to the next shop, or source of supply such as a camping site. This can mean carrying more than a week's food in some areas.
Health & Fitness
I'm feeling pretty fit. I was really pleased with how I felt finishing the Pennine Way last September.. just galloping along! And I coped quite well with my training forays, Hebden Bridge etc. My left knee swelled up a bit but that is normal and didn't interfere with walking. I have a rather nasty inflamed patch on my leg but I have some steroid cream that controls (though not cures) it. That shouldn't affect walking either. And my back has been good lately
So overall I'm feeling pretty positive in this department. I could be much fitter, but after a week or so in the Pyrenees, that should sort itself out too!
Maps & Route Planning
OK so I have made some progress here.. I have a route plan that was sent to me by my good friend Hans Rohrbach, and I also have a couple of route diaries from others who have followed the hrp. I would still like to turn them into a route plan of my own, It is so useful to have a note of where all the water points, food sources, refuges and so forth are located.
My lovely daughter Charlotte and two equally lovely grandchildren have come to stay, from Qatar. They have kindly arrived a few days earlier than originally planned, and I have put my departure back a week as well, so I will have some time with them before I go. That will also give me a little more time to build up my route plan.
I'm feeling quite well prepared and ready to go. I have not looked at any weather forecasts - but I'm told temperatures in the area are sky-high and rising.. there is talk of 40degC + weather next week. Oh well, at least it seems the snow isn't going to be an issue this year!
Not expecting to do any more updates now, until I'm in France. Future ones will be done on the phone and may be brief and error-laden. Can't wait to get started!
Cold & wet, in 2010. It sounds as if it won't be like that this time, at least to start with
The Barrage de Barroude, around the half way point, as far as I reached in 2011
2013 on the Col d'Anaye. Sunny but just too much snow..