Le Chemin des Bonhommes – GR107 – French side

The following is my 6 day trek on the GR107, roughly 100kms, quite technical sometimes, I do suggest trekking poles, It was done in the second week of October 2019. I tried to add the photos in the right order. Next time, next year 2020 I’ll be doing the Spanish side.

Day 1
From Montgailhard to Roquefixade

It had rained in the night, but not a lot and had stopped just before breakfast

From the B&B in Montgaillard ‘Le Chalet du Pic’ which was not only pretty but dammed good, cheap, clean, comfortable and with a great breakfast. Also it’s only a 100m from the start of the GR107 (for info, the start is now in Montgailhard and no longer in Foix, unless it changes back) this is for the GR107 and also the GR367

I took the wrong path at first just after the B&B, following a small path uphill, but doubled back after 500m and all went well after. From the start just follow the road until a crossing, and then hit the path on the opposite side of the road, it’s clearly signposted.

As always I use my Garmin 5x and my Garmin 64s to record tracks, The 64s I also use to follow the GPX track that I had previously downloaded to it. Sadly the Garmin Fénix 5x didn’t want to track the walk, it kept stopping, luckily I had the Garmin 64s recording as well so at least I knew the distance I was walking.

In some places walking was hard work, as it’s very stony and they were slippery from last night’s rain, luckily I had bought some Leki Micro Stick Carbon trekking poles, I was glad that I had them, especially as I was recovering from a previous broken ankle and both ankles were telling me that I shouldn’t have run the 13 km trail the week before.

The path is fairly well marked, so you can’t get lost, and I had the gpx track on the 64s, this is pretty much so of all the 100 kms that I did

I lunched at Leychat at the church, as there’s a water tap there and a place to eat out of the wind and rain, my first warmed up lyophilisé meal, pretty iffish, also I couldn’t find the coffee, doh…, I also ate a protein bar as well.

Gas canister 110gms, Amicus stove and a Toaks 750ml pan, only 4 mins to warm up about 400ml of water, at the church you are protected from the wind as the weather wasn’t brilliant, not cold, slightly damp and a little wind. I timed the cooking as wanted to try and calculate how long a 110gm gas canister would last.

When arriving in Roquefixade I took the gite there, as didn’t see anywhere that I could bivouac. Not being a real bivouac person I am unused to this way of sleeping for the moment.

First time in my life that I’d slept in a gite, I took the option with evening meal and breakfast, the shower iwas small but nice and hot, the bed OK, there’s just a quilt and a pillow, no covers, so I used my ‘sac a viande’ (sleeping bag sheet) and my pillow. food was really good, as good as my wife’s, and lots to eat and drink. Breakfast just as good, all that for only 46 euros

Day1 photos

Day 2
Started off from Roquefixade at 9h15

From Roquefixadee to Montsegur, the paths were really muddy and sometimes quite technical and very slippery, I’m glad that I had bought these trekking poles

Like yesterday the Fénix 5x was playing up, took hours to suss out the problem, I had auto-pause as always on, the problem was I was walking so slow in some technical sections or up and down sections that it was paused all the time, I needed to set it custom 1.6km speed auto pause speed and the problem was solved, normally the auto-pause is 5km on a standard setup, this is fine when you run or bike, but here the paths were already technical, and with some biggish up and downs, so custom setting to the lowest setting possible 1.6km solved the problem.

A lot of the paths were in the forest, so little sun, I arrived at Montsegur, the camping was closed for the season, that I knew in advance.
I had already decided to bivouac, and as it was early I thought that I advance on Friday’s étape, the problem was that other than in town there is no réseau téléphonique what so ever, and was worried that Sophie my wife would worry not having any news from me, so I continued until she got a message from me saying all OK, then I could bivouac. Should have done that earlier as I added about another 5 kms walking, and in some really muddy parts of the forest.

The Bivouac although OK, but it was in the middle of nowhere, a small clearing in the forest, I was worried about animals. This was my second bivouac ever, so I didn’t sleep to well, all for nothing as didn’t see or hear anything (hearing… as I’m deaf, I would hear much anyway ….)

Day2 photos

Day 3
From Hameau de Pelail to Comus
Up around 7am, had breakfast while awaiting the sun to rise over the hilltops, started from a very damp and chilly morning in the forest. Of course, the water point that I knew was near but didn’t want to try and finf it last night was only about 600 meters furter on. It would have been perfect for bivouacking as there’s a picnic spot there and plenty of room to pitch a tent, Hameau de Pelail

Today’s walk started with about 2.5 kms on a dead-end road. Then the path, totally different from the forest tracks yesterday, takes you into the Gorges de Frau, the last two days walk was mud and forests, today stones and loads of wind between massive cliffs, pretty neat, enjoyed it thoroughly, but kept an eye on the cliffs and rocks, as fallen rocks were everywhere.

As I’d done about a third of the path last night only had about 10k do and arrived at Comus at 12am A lovely place in the hills, it was now sunny, so took the camping with a gîte (there are several) for dîner and breakfast which was perfect, and with a sun at 24 degrees washed and dried the clothes that I’d been wearing for three days, which meant, pants, socks, t-shirt and trousers.

The owner, said that yesterday’s morning was minus 4.
It wasn’t that cold last night in the forest but I was lower at around 650m and protected by the surrounding forest, so tonight it could be fun, as here it’s 1160m and no protection, so might freeze my balls off. For info as ultralight trekking, I had left my very warm sleeping bag at home and brought my less warm quilt, also smaller, taking up almost half the room of the quilt. size

Finally, it wasn’t that cold, though slept in long-sleeved T-Shirt and long-legged undies, both merinos, the flysheet was wet from the dew, the sun came out earlier as it was a nice day so just managed to dry it out before leaving after breakfast

Day3 photos

Day 4
From Comus to Sorgeat,

The gîte a Comus, was expensive, more of an upper-class Gîte, nothing to complain about, sanitaires very clean, food good but rather than pasta it was slices of duck, nice but ill-adapted for sport, I had camped as they have both options, but it was the same price as Roquefixe, where I had a bed and wine (lots) with a better more adapted meal for persons doing sports

The walk starts nicely from Comus flat for a change and mostly grassy until the town Prades, loads of fountains in Prades to fill up with water and then uphill again to 1669m Col de Balagues.

Here at the top, I had a hard job finding the path see as the signs have disappeared, so I wasted time trying to find the right way, after a while. (basically just continue over the top in the same direction for another 150/300 m and then, left downwards towards the big peak, La dent d’Orlu after a while you see maybe some cows and a sort of fencing in the distance, you walk towards that, you’ll then arrive a large path/road (just before you arrive on the road I had to walk through and near some cows, normally this doesn’t worry me, but my trekking poles are bright red, so hid them a little under my arms, you never know, hah hah)
Following the road this that leads you to the refuge de Chioula, though just before it you turn left and the refuge is on the right, I lunched here with a lovely view of what I had just walked, you can actually see the Col de Balagues from where I had just walked, though over an hour ago. After this a more uphill to the Col d’Ijou then a long long very long, small single-track downhill walk until Sorgeat , at 1050 m

I had planned on using the camping municipal a Sorgeat tonight, the camping was meant to be open, they had confirmed me by mail, but there was nobody except yearly pitched caravans, but loads of spaces so I pitched the tent and even used the showers and electricity to charge all my devices up, and all free of charge.

Day4 photos

Day 5
Sorgeat to Mérens

This was a hard day, Sorgeat to Ascou then downhill to Orgeix, a long, steep and technical path with rocks everywhere, at the bottom Orgeix is a pretty village with a river running through it. stopped for 10 mins and ate a protein bar
From here an uphill that lasted 3h30, until the refuge (Col de Joux) that I had previously planned to stay at. Shame is that a long long stretch of this walk is a road/path where véhicules can use, though only 4*4 and so pretty boring. Though the end is nice and grassy, I arrived at the refuge Col de Joux but it was early to stop for the night, which I had planed, so I ate lunch in the sun and headed on to Mérens les Vals, and yet again another big downhill that took well over an hour to complete. For info the refuge sleeps about three to six people, I don’t remember how many exactly, two in the main room, with a fireplace double mattress and about three maybe four in the other room, though it needs a good spring cleaning and TBH doesn’t really look inviting, you could place a tent in front of the refuge as well, drinking water apparently is about 100 m away, a fountain, but I had plenty of water so didn’t go hunting for it.

I arrived around 16h30 at the Gîte de Mérens only to find it closed, luckily there was a young man in front who was staying there and he said the owners would be back later, so chatted with him, until the owners came back, there is big dortoir for about 15 people there was plenty of room for me, but we were only two, they weren’t doing dinner but we were allowed to use a small kitchen to cook for ourselves they were doing breakfast though, A lovely place and the bed, showers plus breakfast only cost 21 euros. This was the only place since I’d started that I didn’t see any fountains for drinking water.

Day5 photos

Day 6
Mérens to l’Hospitalet près d’Andorre

Last day as have decided to stop for now as the weather was meant to change in a day or two also it was very first trek and also the Spanis part starts in the mountains, Next time I’ll do the Spanish section

The walk from Mérens to l’Hospitalet was fairly easy about 2h30, following quite often the train line, only takes about 2 hours, what I did notice was that the camping that was closed, which is at the very end of Merens, I could have easily bivouacked there, as the gates were open

At Hospitalet près d’Andorre I stayed at the only hotel, good food, room Ok, and then took the night train back to Paris

So after 6 days walking, over 100 kms and about 6000m de dénivelé. Ankles OK better than I thought they would be, knees hurting, but only a little, the up and downs are tiring and sometimes there are some pretty technical parts, am really glad I had the trekking pôles, as I wouldn’t have managed otherwise

Most of my equipment was up to scratch,
I’m going to change the tent for a Tarptent StratoSpire1, basically same weight than the Nemo Hornet 2P just a 4 season tent
It’ll have more room for the rucksack and odds and ends under the flysheet but less room inside, but for a one only sleeper that’s fine and I think a little warmer as its a 4 season rather than a 3 season tent
some slight clothes changes, but mostly all was OK , even though I say it myself, I had planned my equipment and food well. You can see all my other post https://minty95.wordpress.com/2019/09/24/going-ultra-lightweight-trekking/

Note that there is plenty of water fountains around, so water is not a problem except Merens where it was indicated as not tested and so maybe not drinkable, though if boiled I would think it’s not a problem, I saw no shops open anywhere during my 6 days hike, but as I had enough dried food this was not a concern, but please take this into account, the villages that you go through are small and most have no shops.

Day6 photos

Please feel free to ask me any questions, or leave any comments, as usual I muddle up my English with French words here and there, don’t hesitate to tell me so that I can correct them.

Going ‘ultralight’ or at least very lightweight trekking

A couple of years ago, around 2017, I thought I would do some hiking/trekking here in France where I have now lived since 1984 ish

Sadly breaking an ankle with complications and also losing my hearing, put a halt to these ideas before they even started, except I had already started buy equipment

September 2019 I’m basically back to health again, even if the left ankle is still a bit iffish.
As to my hearing, well I’m now totally deaf in the right ear, I’m now sporting with a cochlear implant, so I can understand people talking to me if close up and with no ambient or little sound except them.
I’m 60% deaf in the left ear. I can hear sounds with it, but am unable to understand and comprehend spoken words.

I’d bought some equipment in 2017, basically, anything that struck me as good, a tent, a rucksack, sleeping bag, cooking stove, sleeping mat, etc. I had no idea about the weights of these items , just bought what looked good to me, To be honest, all was good stuff, just not ultralight or even light, as you will see while reading on, maybe you are in the same boat as me.

About July of this year 2019 with all the equipment, I tried two different one-day hikes, well I was hoping for two days hikes but just didn’t make it….

Here is some of the equipment I had at the time and tried out :
Rucksack : Osprey AG65
Tent : Nemo Hornet 2P + Footprint
Sleeping mat : Thermarest Neo Air Light Down Pillow, Thermarest
Stove JetBoil Minimo
Sleeping Bag : Valandre swing 700
Water bag 3L
Spoon & Fork, Plastic, cup & plate
Frontal lamp Petzl
Sheath Knife
Pocket Tool Leatherman Ti
Torch
Lamp
Food for three days, Dried lyophilise
Spare clothes
Telephone
GPS
Compass
Kindle
and loads of other stuff that I’ve already forgotten, in all over 15 kilos

The first hike 25 kms, managed to get the tent up in a field mode bivouac, but the next morning, had no water left, so no breakfast and after walking another 10 kms, and not finding any water on the way and with 15 kms to go still, I gave up and hitchhiked home, my thighs were killing me, I felt like I had just finished a marathon, like in 2015 when I actually ran one.

About a month later, My second hike, walked further than I expected to do, walking about 35 kms, to get to a campsite, so water this time OK, but the next morning blisters on my feet meant that I grabbed a taxi to go home as couldn’t walk

So after these two rather hopeless attempts I decided I’d better read up a little and learn a little more about trekking, as obviously it wasn’t as easy as it seemed, and as I wanted to do a trek that was about +220 kms long, or rather a choice of treks, at the time there were three here in France that looked fun and appealed to me.
Old man with boy’s ideas….

These are the three that interest me for the moment
GR107 Chemin des Bonhommes, Foix à Berga en Espagne
GR367 Chemins de Cathare, Port la Nouvelle à Foix
GR70 Le Stevenson

I started reading up on hiking/trekking, as usual for me on the internet, especially Reddit, I came across several Reddit groups noticeably Ultralight, which I immediately jumped in the deep end and started asking question. After several suggestions and many critics (Reddit’s do tend to slag you), I understood that I was carrying far too much and most of it too heavy
I was asked several times to ‘fill in’ a LighterPack page on the web and post the results. Again after asking questions I found out what was this was as started using it. It’s a bit like an Excel sheet but on the web, where you note everything down, and I mean everything, even down to the toilet paper and especially the weight of each item.
Here is mine, it gets modified as I go along, though at this date 25/09/2019 it’s now mostly finished, at the start was completely different with all the above-mentioned items plus some…..
https://lighterpack.com/r/tvvhar

I change and update Lighterpack continually, so since writing this post there may be changes, New rain vest and tent arriving for instance

So now a couple of months later, middle of September 2019, almost a thousand euros less, don’t tell my wife, I have a decent and mostly ultralight setup, thanks to my Reddit questions, the answers, the suggestions, the critics and the slagging that I received (Nothing nasty, just goodish humoured slagging) all seems pretty dammed good to me.

Since the two previous attempts I have changed (just about everything ….) the rucksack to a slightly smaller one, an Osprey Exos 48, its one of the lightest around here in France, its half the weight of the AG68, a lighter sleeping pad/mattress, a lighter but less warm quilt instead of a sleeping bag. A Quilt basically only covers you, like your quilt at home, as the sleeping pad is meant to keep you warm underneath, a sleeping bag actually doesn’t keep you warm when compressed so the bottom part doesn’t do much at all, all technical stuff, that I didn’t even know about until a month ago, all of it lighter, more expensive, not as warm …..

When I say everything, probably the only lightweight product that I got right the first time around was the Nemo Hornet 2P tent, this weighs in at just about 1 kilo, it’s great for one person even though it says two. To be honest two would be a squeeze. All the critics are great for this tent, so phew don’t need to change that.


For sleeping I’d like to mix bivouac and camping, this is the old man trying to be like Mike Horn I suppose, I have added camping sites (when open, as many are closed at this time of the year) and some mountain refuges that I have never even seen in my life, let alone sleeping in one, so don’t know how that will go, also some gites, basically I need gites or camping sites, so that I can charge the batteries, Garmin, phones, frontal, ebook etc etc and maybe if the weather is too bad.

I get slagged every time on Reddit for my Garmin 64s, weighing in at 266 gms, (just use the phone, they all say, as I have one as well, but for me its too expensive, need to protect it, take care of it etc), the Garmin 64s is built for this and I love using when walking, it’s sturdy just hangs from my belt so that I can see at a glance where I am what’s around me, where I have planned to go, water points so that I can fill the CamelBak bag. Where I think I’ll sleep, or camping sites for example, so this though heavy I’m keeping.

I actually have to take two phones, my main phone a Pixel 3, big screen, this is used for mails, and chats as I mainly chat with everyone because I’m deaf and for its camera, as the camera is top-notch for a phone, so I’ll be using it mainly for that.
The second phone a shitty Apple SE (I hate Apple stuff), the only reason I have it is that it can stream telephone calls directly into my Implant Cochlear, which means I can understand some of the conversation, though not all of it and so in an emergency, I can make a call. With the Android phone, making calls needs a small Bluetooth device which I can’t be bothered with.

I said earlier not as warm :
Why not so warm_1: well the lighter sleeping mat ( Thermarest NeoAir UberLite) weighs 340 gms
In comparison against the first model that I bought (Thermarest Neo Air Xlite), that I still have at 460 gms
The Uberlight has an R-Value rating of 2 and the Xlite model rating is 3.5, this means that the insulating factor between you and the ground is less, but I’m not too worried, we haven’t had any freezing weather yet in France so the ground is not that cold, so hopefully that won’t be a problem
Also, the Uberlite packs less than half the size of the Neo Air as you can see in the photo

Uberlite is half the packed size

Why not so warm_2: Concerning the Quilt and the Sleeping bag, well that’s a little worrying as the ‘Vesper 20’ quilt has a comfort zone temp of 0°C but the ‘Valandre swing 700’ is -5°C so that’s a big difference if it’s cold, also while sleeping under a quilt there can be drafts from the sides as it doesn’t wrap under you
The problem is that the Valandre is it’s double the weight at 1241 gms and the packing size of the Vesper 615 gms, and almost three times the size (when compressed)
In Reddit, they all suggest that you sleep in your clothes with a quilt if cold
I can sleep in a t-shirt OK, but trousers and jumper…. I’m not that willing, crazy or experienced as yet….

Again in the photo, you can see the difference in size.

Sleeping bag Vs Quilt, both in their stuff sacs

Other things that I changed were, for example, the cooking items, I had bought a Jetboil Stove, model Minimo, this worked fine for my previous two outings, heating water for the lyophilisé food which I find fun. Just heat water and add it to the packet. but I found out after that a Toaks 750ml Pot, (a titanium casserole) and a super dinky small stove Amicus with stealth lighter, which with a 200 gm gas canister and the stove fits neatly in the Toaks, weight : stove and pot 191 gms against 415 gms for the Jetboil and smaller as well, and just as easy to use and setup

The Toaks pan, a good third smaller, same countenance, and with everything stashed inside the pan

In the pan, you can store the gas, the Amicus stove and even a Bic Mini lighter, that I don’t need for cooking, it’s just there in case, and the other photo where you can see everything fits in the pan just great

I changed my Frontal lamp, a Pretzl Reactik+ weighing 110 gms to a Nitecore-nu20-rechargeable only 52 gms, Just a good, basically only need it for reading in ‘bed’ or going to the loo in the middle of the night etc. Half the weight & size as can be seen in the photos.

I also started changing some of my clothes, old rain jacket for a running rain jacket at half the weight, a down vest, at under 200gms from my original one at 450gms, for the second pair of trousers cheap ones from Decathlon 300 gms, my Salomon are 450gms (though better quality)

I dropped loads of stuff thanks again to Reddit’s suggestions : all were being carried for nothing 😦
Sheath knife, (shame it was made for me, its a one of model),
Pocket Tool Leatherman Ti (changed it for a Swiss army knife S14),
Plate (I eat out of the packets or in the pot)
Torch & lamp (after all I’ve a frontal, so don’t need three light sources) Compass (got one on phone & the Garmin)
The Kindle I changed for an old Kobo Mini that I managed to find, second hand, half the weight and size of the Kindle

So that’s about all the changes. All the equipment weighs under 13 kilos which is still a lot and some will say still not Ultralight. But this is with 5 days of lyophilisé food, breakfast, lunch & dinner, About 3.7 kilos, food and 1 litre of water.

So here I am, ready to do my first trek, with all the new equipment.

https://minty95.wordpress.com/2019/11/01/le-chemin-des-bonhommes-gr107/

Hope this is a helpful post if you are trying to go trekking and need to be lighter, If you have any questions, please ask