Top critical review
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I felt like flinging this guidebook into a ravine
on 29 November 2012
At 300g this is quite a substantial weight to carry on your back across all those Pyrenean cols and valleys so it really needed to earn its keep - and I am sorry to say it failed miserably. Think: 300g is the weight of a compact camera or two iPhones. The most serious fault with this guide is the poor concept and unintelligent way in which Paul Lucia put it together. Here is a random example of his pitiful instructions:
"Go down the road a few minutes . . . Soon ignore a track to the left, then a path to the left. Do not continue down to the farm on the clear track. Turn left, NE, and at a junction ignore a path left and another on the right, but take the path by a fence that leads to a track".
What is wrong with this? It is imprecise, confusing and unscientific for one thing. For another it uses up valuable space (and your reading time) telling you what NOT to do. It is more of a hindrance than a help. If you are carrying maps then the maps will provide you with all the navigational information you need (although the GR10 is so well marked and signed - in most places - that detailed maps are barely necessary). A walker needs to know concisely only WHAT to do, not what NOT to do! Unfortunately the entire Paul Lucia GR10 guidebook is crammed full of infuriating text like this. When you are tired and your heart is pounding in your chest from strenuous exertions the last thing you want to do is to decipher Paul Lucia's gobbledygook. What on earth was he thinking? Why didn't the editor interpose and suggest root and branch redaction? Suffice to say there were many occasions when I felt like flinging this guidebook into a ravine or mire. A randonneur does not walk along carrying a guidebook in his or her hands: he or she will consult the guidebook before setting off, or, in extremis, when lost. What is needed therefore are broad GENERAL instructions about what to expect in the day ahead: advice and warnings about what is to come rather than waffle about what NOT to do. Another essential element that is absent in this guide is factual information about geology, culture, history, vegetation and fauna. Instead of mad waffle we could have had some substantial information that would have enhanced our appreciation of the region. The TopoGuides provide some of this (if your French is up to it). Having said that there are some valuable features which this guidebook has the advantage over the TopoGuides (the French GR10 guidebook equivalent), namely, the 'Profile - Day' graph which shows the km distance as well as the meter elevation for the stage: my French companions were impressed with this. I spotted a glaring error on Days 12 and 13: on all seven pages the village of Etsaut is misspelled Estaut, even on the maps! This indicates slack proofreading and copy editing by the publisher, Cicerone.
My advice: buy 1:50,000 maps as you go along the route. If your command of French is up to it use the GR10 TopoGuides: these contain usable contoured route maps which the Cicerone guidebook lacks. All can be found in tabacs and supermarkets along the route.