Hiking the Pyrenees Solo and Staying in Mountain Huts
Lugging a tent, sleeping bag, all your cookware, and enough dehydrated food for a multi-day excursion can be a grueling trial. I was thrilled to discover that Europeans have found a civilized
way around this dilemma: backcountry mountain huts.
Mountain huts, or refuges, are spartan trailside accommodations that offer lodging and meals to trekkers, and the Pyrenees contain an abundant number of huts thoughtfully spaced within a few hours or a days’ walk
from one another along established hiking routes. You can walk from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean coast if you have the time and tenacity, but the park trails are good places to start. The trails are generally well-marked by paint
or rock cairns, and when I did stray I got back on track after consulting my map or another hiker.
Refuges are a friendly, welcoming option for solo travelers. Meals are served family-style at assigned tables, so no one has to nurse their blisters or sore muscles in stoic silence. Dinnertime gives everyone the chance
to swap stories and route advice, and to meet other trekkers—mostly Europeans. It can often be a challenge to find a common language.
Hut sleeping quarters tend toward coziness—many of the unisex dormitories resemble rack-like storage space for humans—but you only need to bring a sleep sheet to tuck yourself in between the futon and warm
wool blankets provided. The majority of refuges have potable water and basic bathrooms, and some have showers and hot water.
At €11-€15 per night, staying the night in a hut is relatively inexpensive. But food can be more costly than you’d expect. Depending on the hut’s location, supplies arrive by helicopter, 4-wheel
drive vehicle or on the backs of the hard-working staff. Dinners cost between €13-€15, and consist of three or four filling courses. You can also buy extra treats like wine, candy bars, and hot chocolate. When I make reservations
at a refuge, I always let them know that I’m vegetarian, and I have never had any problems getting good meatless alternatives. Continental breakfasts with deep bowls of coffee fuel you up at daybreak and generally run €5. And
if you want a picnic lunch for the trail, you can request a lovely bagged sandwich with assorted goodies for €5-€8.