Louis-Philippe Loncke: The Monster Pack Man Takes on the Pyrenees

Louis-Philippe Loncke, is aiming to become the first person to cross the Pyrenees unsupported. The 43-year old, self-styled “Mad Belgian” started on July 26 from Hendaye, France and hopes to complete the 800km journey in 40 to 50 days. However, he admits that “many ways to fail”.

Loncke will follow the Pyrenees High Route trail across the spine of the French-Spanish border. Many people complete this trek every year, but no one has done it unsupported because of the weight of the pack required. With no resupplies, “unless I find berries before the bears”, Loncke started with a 48kg backpack.

Loncke tries on the 48kg monster. Photo: Louis-Philippe-Loncke


Loncke is no stranger to mega-packs. On his recent unsupported crossing of Tasmania in winter, he carried a staggering 62kg. His unsupported treks across West Macdonnell National Park, Fraser Island  and the Simpson Desert (all Australia), Iceland and the largest two salt flats in Bolivia were similarly the opposite of ultralight.

Drying gear after a rainstorm. Photo: Louis-Philippe Loncke


The trek didn’t begin well. On his first full day in the Pyrenees, he lost his way, fell into brambles and twisted his ankle; only prickly plants stopped him falling into a ravine. He had to stop multiple times for long breaks to cool down and keep his back dry. “A wet back with the backpack is a lot of friction,” he says. “It is just too painful and impossible with that weight.”

As he has progressed, he has eaten his way down to a still heavy but reasonable pack. By day 20, it weighed just 33kg, which allowed him to walk at a much faster pace.

Camping in the Pyrenees. Photo: Louis-Philippe Loncke


By day 23, the halfway point of his trek, wet-sock friction from heavy rain during a steep descent ravaged his feet, but two days later, he still managed to summit Pico Aneto, the highest point in the Pyrenees. From here, it is all downhill to the sea.

His InReach shows his progress here.