2011: Year of the Pyrenees

The seven regions and one principality that have territory covering the Pyrenees have jointly launched 2011 as the Year of the Pyrenees.  Play the video here for some spectacular Pyrenean images.  Pyrenean Odysseys is joining this effort in proposing two traverses of the Pyrenees, one from west to east and the other from south to north.

Four Spanish regions (from west to east: Euskadi, Navarra, Aragon, Catalunya), the principality of Andorra, and three French regions (west to east: Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrenees, Languedoc-Roussillon) jointly make up the Pyrenean work group, which is at the moment presided by Martin Malvy, the president of the Midi-Pyrenees region.

This year of the Pyrenees coincides with Pyrenean Odysseys launching two great traverses of the Pyrenees, one from west to east, and the other from south to north.

The first traverse, from west to east, is the  Pyrenean High Route, the central part of which we have offered for many years.  We have now set ourselves the challenge of offering the entire traverse as guided treks, starting at the Atlantic Ocean and following the spine of the Pyrenees all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.  In 2011 we are proposing the first 4 weeks of trekking: we start at the Atlantic Ocean on the 9th July, finishing with an ascension of Pic Orhh, the first 2000m peak as we come from the west.  The second week, beginning on the 6th August, finishes in the shadows of the spectacular Pic du Midi d’Ossau.  The third and fourth weeks in September are being offered as two continuous weeks covering the wonders of the central Pyrenees, bringing us to the half way point.

The second traverse, from south to north, forms part of the route interested pilgrims took on their return northward from Santiago de Compostella.  Many people walk to Santiago these days, but the return part of the journey is entirely forgotten.  Some pilgrims of course, having completed their obligatory pilgrimage, were in a hurry to arrive home, and took the most direct route.  Those in search of wisdom, learning and marvels however, detoured higher into the Pyrenees on their return journey.  They were searching for the marvels of their time, most often the spectacular Romanesque churches and monasteries where the great artists and tradespeople of their day built their monuments to God and the sacred.  Natural wonders were not appreciated in medieval times, but today the glacial cirques, mountain tops and canyons this walk crosses form part of the modern way of marvelling at the world around us.  For a pilgrim the walk west towards Santiago, and the end of the earth, broke down old barriers and old habits so the pilgrim was liberated from themselves and their worries, ready for rebirth on their arrival in Santiago.  The return journey, forgotten today, allowed for the crucial phase of rebuilding the pilgrim.  Instead of arriving home disorientated and unsure, the long homeward journey allowed pilgrims to regroup and rebuild, reconstructing themselves by taking in as many of the wonders of medieval building and knowledge.

Our trek begins in the monastery of San Juan de la Peña, near Jaca, in the Spanish Pyrenean foothills.  We cross the spine of the Pyrenees between Torla and Gavarnie at the Port de Bucharo before descending through Luz St Sauveur, the modern pilgrimage site of Lourdes and continuing through the French Pyrenean foothills to the monastery of St Bertrand de Comminges.  An itinerary full of historical, religious, cultural and natural wonders, this walk traverses the Mont Perdu World Heritage Area, which is listed for both natural and cultural values.  Click here for a map roughly showing the route.

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