Join us in the heart of the Pyrenees Mountains, the Principality of Andorra, for a true mountain running adventure on beautiful trails and rugged peaks. The eight-day trip is led by elite mountain runners Eric Carter and Nick Elson who will guide you through this incredible, alpine country and it's amazing summits. This is one of our 'dream trips' and we want to share it with you in this unique, guided experience.
Andorra is a tiny country situated high in the Pyrenees between France and Spain. Most Europeans know it as a nearly tax-free shopping and ski destination while it is almost unknown to many North Americans. Covering only 180 square miles, and with only 72,000 residents, it is largely rural except for the capital city of Andorra la Vella. A co-principality, it is ruled by two Princes; the leader of France and the Bishop of Urgell. With a standing professional army of only 12 soldiers, it has relied for centuries on its mountainous location for protection, isolating it from the rest of the world. The primary spoken language is Catalan, with Spanish and French also common. We will be based near the town of El Serrat, a 15-minute drive from Andorra La Vella. Our itinerary will take us into the mountains near the ski resorts of Arinsal and Arcalis.
What makes this a ‘Dream Trip’?
At Ridgeline Athletics, we’ve identified a handful of locations throughout the world that are the most exciting locations we have ever seen for trail, mountain, and hut-to-hut running, and we want to share them with you. These are destinations off the beaten path. Andorra is high on the Dream List because of the ease with which you can access mountainous terrain. Roads lead to ~2000m and the land is very sparsely forested. Compared to the Alps, the Pyrenees are slightly less technical, so more terrain can be covered quickly by those with skills but without the need for ropes and extensive climbing equipment. Finally, the people of Andorra are incredibly welcoming and the food is spectacular, a mix of Spanish and Catalonian cuisine with a filling, high mountain style.
+ Your Coaches
Eric Carter and Nick Elson are mountain runners based in Squamish BC. Eric is a PhD Candidate, researching endurance performance at altitude, and Nick is a law student, both at the University of BC. Nick is the 2016 Canadian National Mountain Running Champion with Eric finishing second. Both hold several FKTs for mountain running and ski mountaineering and spend an enormous amount of time running and scrambling around the Coast Mountains and further afield. Eric is also the co-owner of Ridgeline Athletics Coaching.
- Wed Sept 27 – Meet in Barcelona, 8:00am Transfer to Ordino. Afternoon run
- Thurs Sept 28 – Run Arans to Llorts w/ Pic de Percanela (15km, 1530m+)
- Fri Sept 29 – Run Pic de Font Blanca to Refugi de Sorteny (13.5, 1500m+)
- Sat Sept 30 – Run Pic de la Serrera and Pic de l'Estanyo (11km, 1300m+)
- Sun Oct 1 – Rest Day in Andorra la Vella (Caldea Spa, Via Ferrata)
- Mon Oct 2 – Run Passo Entravessada and Pic Comapedrosa (13km, 1700m+)
- Tues Oct 3 – Run Port de Rat from Arinsal (16km, 1800m+)
- Wed Oct 4 – Transfer to Barcelona
The routes above are an example of what is possible. Each day's actual itinerary may change based on weather and route conditions, group ambition, objectives, etc. We will choose the best options for the group and have plenty of choices!
+ What can I expect on this trip?
Our Andorra trip is not a beginner trip, nor is it a ‘retreat’. Not only will we be pushing our limits in terms of endurance, we will also be exploring the vertical realm of mountain running. We will be focusing on visiting summits and connecting them via ridgelines. The end of September is still relatively warm and dry though there is a chance we may encounter some wintery conditions. The trails in Andorra are generally well maintained (although we will venture into some more challenging terrain) but also very steep. We won't be spending much time running flats, rather steep ascents and descents between peaks. For perspective, Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Park (Canada) covers 27km and 1800m+ of ascent. Most of our runs will have a similar amount of elevation gain but over only 13-18km of distance. For the whole week, we expect to cover a total of ~70km and 8000m+. You don't however have to be a super-athelte. The vertical nature of the terrain means we will be doing a LOT of power-hiking. If you are completing 30-40km long runs in training, you are in a good place for this trip. A goal for the trip will be to improve our ability to move smoothly through the mountains with a variety of techniques. High-mountain navigation and route planning along with fueling for performance will be secondary learning goals. Logistics are handled by your coaches but athletes will be expected to take an active part in daily route selection and participate in navigation.
If you are unsure if you are fit enough to participate, reach out and we can help you figure out if it's right for you!
- All athletes wishing to participate must be capable of completing mountain running itineraries of 25-35 kilometers per day and should be comfortable scrambling on moderately challenging class 3 terrain (you have to use your hands here and there). A short running resume must be included with your application.
- Because of the advanced nature of this trip, we will be selecting athletes based on these applications. If you are unsure if you are ready for this trip, don't hesitate to apply. We will follow up and help you decide.
- Alpine rescue insurance is required. See below. Proof of purchase must be provided by the August 25th deadline.
- A visa is not required to visit Europe but your passport should be valid for more than three months after the date of travel. If your passport will expire less than three months following the trip we strongly recommend renewing before departing.
+ What is included
- Transport from Barcelona to Andorra and back, as well as all transport during the trip
- Six nights lodging in Ordino/El Serrat
- One night lodging in mountain refugi hut (includes meals)
- Sunglasses provided by Julbo Eyewear
- Fastpack provided by Ultimate Direction
- Trail Map of Andorra
- USB key with photos from the trip provided by coaching team
- Airfare/Travel to Barcelona Airport
- Any lodging before or after the trip dates (including the night of Tuesday, Sept 26th)
- Rental vehicles before or after trip dates
- Meals will be coordinated as a group and costs shared but we want to leave open the option of dinners cooked on our own vs. eating in refugis or restaurants, depending on the mood of the group. For this reason, we are not including meals in the total cost.
- Rescue/Travel insurance (see below)
- Group Size: Our group will be limited to FIVE athletes and two coaches for a maximum 1:3 guide to athlete ratio. Apply now to reserve your spot.
- Cost: The total cost is $2750 CANADIAN DOLLARS. A 50% deposit will be due when your application is accepted. This will be used to book accommodations and is not refundable. The remainder of the payment will be due by August 25th. Athletes that apply by July 1st will receive a $100 discount on registration.
- Travel: All athletes will be expected to meet at the Barcelona Airport Hotel at 8:00am on Wednesday, September 27th where you will be picked up by a coach. We will have a van for the week to transport all athletes. All athletes will be returned to Barcelona at 8:00 am on October 4th. Airline flights should be booked with these times in mind!
- We strongly recommend booking at least two extra nights in Barcelona at the beginning of the trip - it's a beautiful Spanish city by the ocean. This time also allows you to acclimate to the time change before we start our trip to avoid a jetlagged first few days of running. We also recommend spending Tuesday the 26th in the Barcelona Airport Hotel to facilitate an easy meeting with the group on Wednesday morning.
- Included in your acceptance letter will be details on how to prepare for the trip. Our coaches will work closely to ensure your fitness and skills are up to the level necessary.
+ Gear List
Upon acceptance to the trip, you will be sent a complete, detailed gear list. Gear questions should be sent to the coaching team in advance of departing for Andorra. A pre-trip, discounted gear order can be placed with our shop partner, Capra Running by August 25th. Some mountain gear can be found in Andorra but it should not be left to chance! All athletes should download the WikiLoc smarphone app and the accompanying offline map for Andorra.
- Running clothing
- Cold/wet weather running clothing (gore-tex shell & small puffy jacket)
- Two pairs of shoes
- Running vest that can fit required gear, food, water for day trips
- Running pack for hut overnight (UD Fastpack 25)
- Sleeping bag liner for Hut
- Headlamp w/ spare batteries
- Foil bivouac sack and small personal first aid kit
- Via-ferrata kit
- Winter running shoes (w/ gator)
- Running poles
- Water purification system
Lodging will be dependent on the make-up of our group. Please specify in your application if you are applying with a friend or partner and you preferences for sleeping arrangements (double vs. single). We will try our best to accomodate!
+ Rescue and Trip Insurance
- All athletes are REQUIRED to have purchased alpine rescue insurance in the event of an accident. It is also HIGHLY recommended to have travel and trip cancellation insurance.
- Canadians can purchase through 'TuGo' from the Alpine Club of Canada.
- Americans can purchase through the American Alpine Club or directly from Global Rescue.
- Rescue insurance is an interesting topic. In our travels, and preparing for this trip, we've done quite a bit of research on the best options. Please get in touch if you have any questions!
- Travel insurance is huge. Our fees are non-refundable because we book accomodation and transportation in advance to give you the best possible price. We understand that work and family issues can happen unexpectedly and we understand better than most how easy it is for runners to experience injuries that would prevent attendance. Travel insurance makes this all a non-issue. Please purchase it and save yourself the stress!
- Most North American cell phone plans do not work in Andorra (at all – even ‘worldwide’ plans). A sim card can be purchased but calls and data are not cheap. Wifi is spotty in Andorra and may be unreliable. Coaches will each carry an InReach satellite communication device in case of emergency but individual athletes may opt to carry their own communication device (cell phone, InReach, or SPOT).