Monday, November 26, 2012

Running the Camí dels Bons Homes: Introduction

Running the Camí dels Bons Homes (a.k.a. La Ruta de los Cátaros / Le Chemin des Bonshommes / GR 107):

A joint run report by Alicia and Maria

**Edit:  I decided to reorder these posts to go from first to last chronologically, instead of in reverse order as they appear by default on the blog.  I think it makes it a lot easier to read them this way, but let me know if you think it's worse...

For me, November is usually all about sport climbing in Catalunya.  Or it was, until I stopped doing much climbing over the past two years.  I still planned a trip for this November, but with my friend Dave (my usual Spanish sport climbing partner) injured, my other Spanish climbing partners busy, Divesh having only one week of vacation from work, and me out of shape, it was clearly not going to be the usual type of trip.

"Unusual" worked out okay.  Maria was able to get away from work for 10 days and we made a plan to spend the first week of the trip running in the Pyrenees...somewhere.  It was the "where" part that we weren't exactly sure about, even up to less than a week before the trip.  Luckily, Bryon of irunfar put me in touch with his Catalan friend Xavier, who turned out to be an extremely friendly goldmine of information.  He suggested the Camí dels Bons Homes, a trail that runs north-south from northern Catalunya to southern France.  The idea behind the trail's creation was to follow the route the Cathars took in escaping French persecution in the 13th century.  And although it goes over the Pyrenees, it generally heads over lower passes than some of the other trails in the area, so it was likely to not be snowed under even in November.  It looked good, a little too good--I was too excited to sleep for a few days before we left!

After getting into Barcelona on Saturday morning, Maria and I met my friend Carles in town and bought a guidebook for the trail at a wonderful bookshop called Altair that I could have spent hours in.  All three of us then drove up to Berga, the small town nearest to the start of the trail.  It was mostly dark by the time we got there and it was more than a little unnerving to see the outlines of tall, steep, cloud-shrouded mountains, including the lights of the hermitage where the run started...with the lights being FAR above the town.  

We had a good, if somewhat nervous, dinner at a restaurant in Berga and were treated to our first lesson in why the Catalans are so good at mountain running:  the restaurant was showing ultrarunning on its television!  Can you imagine anywhere in the US where people would value ultrarunning enough to put it on the television of a non-runner-oriented bar or restaurant?

And, on that inspirational note, we were ready to begin the adventure...


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