Staying connected in the Pyrenees
Trekking is an exhilarating and healthy activity, but it can sometimes be a lonely, disorienting and even dangerous experience when the weather turns or the tracks all start to look the same. Alpine and mountaineering clubs on both sides of the Pyrenees joined forces to introduce a 21st century twist to this traditional pastime — the internet!
" ENTREPYR has been able to provide internet and reliable energy to isolated mountain shelters on both sides of the Pyrenees. Mountaineers can now easily exchange travel information and make online reservations for both the Spanish and French Pyrenean shelters in their language of choice, which boosts international accessibility. "
Mountain huts are the traditional place of refuge for weary trekkers making their way across the Pyrenees spanning France, Spain and Andorra. These huts usually provide basic shelter and respite from the weather. But the EU-funded ENTREPYR project saw an opportunity to greatly improve services and safety especially for cross-border trekkers.
They developed a multilingual platform to help them plan trips, post tips and updates about the routes and generally learn about the region. This tool is especially useful during the winter, when refuges can be cut off for days on end by fierce weather and snow drifts.
Challenges of geography … and technology
Setting up internet services in isolated high-altitude shelters is complicated and expensive. And geography was only part of the problem that the ENTREPYR had to overcome. The shelters needed to have their own power supply and satellite receivers in order to provide reliable internet connections for hikers to keep informed.
Through the website, the project manages eight shelters (three on the Spanish side and five in France) and provides routes, maps and information connecting them. Hikers can make online reservations in shelters and check occupancy levels in busier months over the spring and summer. According to the project partners, participating shelters have received around 10 % more foreign visitors since the launch of the platform.
Improved collaboration between the French Federation of Mountains and Alpines Clubs (FFCAM) and the Aragonese Mountaineering Federation (FAM) has been a notable outcome of the project, and is set to increase in the future as the number of Pyrenees refuges is expanded to 85, creating a bigger and better-connected network.
According to the project team, having internet in the huts has also made the life of those employed in the shelters much easier, bringing them valuable news about mountain conditions but also about goings on in the outside world to tackle the sense of loneliness and isolation.
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “ENTREPYR” is EUR 160 417, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 104 271 through the “Interreg V-A - Spain-France-Andorra (POCTEFA)” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.