From Hendaye to Pic d’Anie, the GR10 crosses the entire Pyrenees-Atlantiques. More spectacular than the GR8, which sticks to the foothills, I took the GR10 to explore the inland mountains.
Col des Trois Croix
In Ainhoa, the Col des Trois Croix affords a verdant panorama of the Nivelle and the valley it forms as it runs its course between the hills. From a distance, I get my last glimpse of the Basque coast and the Atlantic Ocean. Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Hendaye, Sare… The first stages of the GR10 are already behind me. Vultures glide overhead, graves dot along the mountaintops, and the wind whispers in the trees... time seems to stand still. But I have to push on. The Col des Veaux, on the border between France and Spain, is still far-off, and the Urdangarin family at the Esteben Borda farm and inn are expecting me for dinner. I'll be stuffed!
Since I set off on my walk, every stage starts with a steep climb that leaves my legs like jelly. I tighten my straps, adjust my rucksack so that it’s held close to my body, and start the ascent up a red carpet of dead bracken. With every step, it disappears into the clouds. After an hour of walking, the only sound is silence, and nothingness the only view. Cut off from the world, I feel free and unencumbered. Walking along a cliff-edge has never been so easy.
I spent three days at the Kaskoleta chalet, waiting for the rain to stop. At long last I set off along the trail which, above the 800m contour, is covered in a coat of fresh, powdery snow. The ground crunches gently beneath my feet, and reveals the tracks of animals – rabbits, stoats, foxes? – who got a head start on me. On the other side of the mountain, the landscape paints a monochrome view. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to set off in winter...
In the snow, progress is slow. I avoid the cols and the altitude that goes with them. My route will now follow the Cascades trail, where the GR10 is in places no more than a muddy stream. At the bottom of Olhadubi canyon, I hear the rushing water of the rapids. The Passerelle d’Hozarte, 150m above the void, has something of a rope bridge about it. It isn’t as high as the tops, but it’s no less spectacular!
The GR10 is a demanding trail, with lots of ascent and descent, and some long stages. To get the best out of your hike, leave the camping gear at home and travel light. You’ll find guest houses and refuges open to you all along the trail.