Let’s just say that I might’ve prepared differently under different circumstances. As it is, in a couple weeks I’ll be starting on a two month-long trek, without having done much by way of planning or preparation. I bought my flight just a few days ago and a train pass this morning (it should come by next week…). A fair bit of gear — shoes and trekking poles, for example — has yet to arrive. I was more fit a month ago, but I’ve let myself slack lately. I’m only just working out how far I’ll hike and where I plan to be each night, and I don’t actually have a place to live yet once I finish the trip.
Some of you will probably consider me more than a bit foolish in light of all this, and I’m half a mind to agree. On the other hand, it’s hard to really feel ready for a trip like this the first time around. There are too many variables, not enough time. I wish I could do a few week-long trips for the experience, but a few day trips will have to suffice. When it comes right down to it, you have to just trust that it can be done and then go out and hike.
I do have a great guidebook, Trekking the GR5 Trail — Through the Alps from Lake Geneva to Nice, and that provides a detailed guide of the trail and its several variants. I’ve also downloaded maps for the entire region, including trails and topography. I’m working out a schedule for each day, and marking out where I want to camp each night. Planning that is pretty difficult though, since the distance I cover each day is dependent on my own (untested) strength, along with weather and trail conditions. I’m including some flex days spaced throughout the trip to allow some leeway. My conservative estimate is 49 hiking days from Thann to Menton, and I’ve got 53 days to work with (plus a few extra if things really call for it).
Resources to consider if you want to do the GR5
Since I don’t have much experience myself, I’ve been relying on a few websites and blogs from other hikers for information and encouragement. Antti Rantanen did the Alpine GR5 in just under four weeks, and made a couple videos to document his trek. Ravi walked the entire GR5, from Hoek van Holland to Nice, in some four months. Australians Jenny and Keith have done just about every major hike in France except the GR5, but offer a mature perspective on the experience of walking a great distance. Rebecca and Barry are walking in Spain right nowalong the GR1, have done walks in France in the past, write insightful essays of life on the trail, and have a good gear list for long hikes. GR-Infos is a really great resource for all the GR routes in France and has downloadable GPX data for each trail. The GR5 itself has a dedicated website maintained by David May that provides really invaluable information and advice. Though it’s in French, Geoportail provides highly detailed maps for all of France, including topographic maps. Finally, Move Your Alps has detailed guides of the route, accommodations along the way, difficulty ratings, and elevation profiles.
All things considered, I’m in good company and feeling pretty good.