Author Archives: Eef Berns

About Eef Berns

Since 2000 I'm on a quest for the bordermarkers in the Pyrenees. My project is to find & photograph & document them all. And to connect them with a long-distance trail: the Grande Randonnée Pyrénéenne des Bornes Frontières About me: I was born in 1957, work as a psychiatrice nurse and live in Eindhoven in the Netherlands..

I did all esfr-bordermarkers (twice!)

Today I swam to bm602, the last of the esfr-bordermarkers in a cave on the Mediterranean coast. Accessible only by boat or by swimming.

I trained this summer in open water swimming and after a failed trial a few days ago, I succeeded today in good weather and a calm sea. And thanks to the directions of Corinne Gourgeonnet who made the trip twice with her son Arthur.

With bm602 doing for the second time (first time by boat on 21-5-2011), I have completed my ‘quest’ to do all esfr-bordermarkers twice with at least one year interval. I guess I am the first person on the planet earth who has done this. You might ask: why? I always respond with: ‘why not’. But now it’s enough.

I will return to the Pyrenees nevertheless, there is always a reason to come back to these marvelous mountains and revisit bordermarkers, just for the fun of it.

Bm602 conquered by the Roca-family

Carlos and Conchita Roca (website) are proceeding steadily on their quest to do all esfr-bordermarkers. They started in the eastern Pyrenees years ago; the only marker missing there was bm602. But yesterday bm602 was finally conquered: see their own story.

Bm602 is a special one: in a cave along the Mediterranean coast, it is only accessible by boat or swimming. But recently Carlos managed to hire a boatsman from Llança to bring them to the cave. The entrance to the cave is too narrow for a regular boat so you have to swim or use a canoe for the last part.

And that was what they did on 13 august: Carlos and Conchita in a canoe and their son David and his ‘novia’ Noelia swimming, making it a family experience to cherish. In this picture, they are close to the inlet which gives access to the cave.

And here they are proudly posing before the plaque of bm602.

And then returning to the boat in the same way.

After the boat trip, reason enough to enjoy a paëlla meal.

Thus Carlos and Conchita have now covered all bordermarkers between Andorra and the Mediterranean. They have also done almost all bordermarkers on the other side of the Pyrenees (Basque country, no. 1-272).

See this new webpage to see who has done all bordermarkers or one or two of the three main subdivisions.

 

Bm420bis decapitated

This marker is relatively young. It was placed in 1997 after a Spanish engineer had discovered that the borderline between bm420 and 421 was presented wrongly on the maps and didn’t follow the real watershed. See this page for the whole story.

At my first visit in 2011, bm420bis was still in perfect health after 14 years:

But only 2 years later, the upper half was broken off by brute force. See this blog-post

In 2018 Corinne Gourgeonnet visited bm420bis and found both parts neatly against each other:

Now we are four years later. Corinne Gourgeonnet completed her full range of esfr-bordermarkers last year but can’t forget the esfr-bordermarkers. While walking the 5-days cross-border Pass’Aran-trail , she couldn’t help to revisit bm420bis.

And as you see: the upper half has now disappeared, probably tossed down the mountainside.

A famous quote from a famous dutch poet: anything of value is vulnerable.

New update of my main website: www.grpdesbf.nl

I’m pleased to announce a new update of my website on the bordermarkers of the Pyrenees.
See for the update details: http://www.grpdesbf.nl/esfr-html-miscellania-updatelog.html

Gradually I am approaching the end of my project to visit en document all esfr-bordermarkers. And to design a coast-to-coast hiking trail that connects the bordermarkers: the GRPdesBF.

I have visited almost every bordermarker at least twice while checking access & progress routes. For September a few markers remain for a second visit, the winter is for finally writing my walking guide.

Will that be a farewell to the Pyrenees? Not at all. There will always be a reason – at least for old times’ sake – to travel to these cherished mountains and their bordermarkers.

Bordermarker-bashing in the Basque Country: 3 new cases

The esfr-bordermarkers in the Basque country are not safe. Recently the markers 76 and 100 have disappeared and no. 101 has been broken off:

For Basque nationalists, the esfr-border should be non-existent, cutting in half a region that should be an independent whole. There is an iconic picture of the ‘execution’ of bm098 in which a group of masked nationalists is watching the executioner.

Is this the reason that its bordermarkers are relatively more damaged or have more often disappeared than in other regions? We don’t know. Let’s not forget the temptation of ‘le désir de détruire’ which is of all times.

Anyway: on my latest trip to the Basque country in April 2022, I discovered that bm100 has disappeared:

And its neighbor no. 101 has been broken off:

Carlos Roca (website) inspected the crime scene with a forensic eye. He identified the whitish edge of the fracture area as being the result of a portable grinding saw. Having thus grinded a wedge, it’s easy to break the bm off:

The disappearance of bm076 was reported in july 2021 by Michel Molia (see this post):


Together we visited the spot and searched in vain the valley underneath the ridge, the so-called ‘Gorospil-cemetery

Altogether, we have now 8 cases of the 288 Basque-bordermarkers (nos. 1-272, including submarkers) which have disappeared or have been severely damaged:

– 067: shattered in pieces
– 076: disappeared
– 098: shattered in pieces
– 100: disappeared
– 101: broken off
– 236: disappeared
– 255: disappeared in 2007
– 271bis: disappeared

New update GRPdesBF-site

Pleased to announce a new update of my main site, covering the 11 day trips I did in September 2021. See for the details this page.

A lot of information and pictures, it might be a bit too much. If I may suggest two picks:

– 6 September: my longest day trip ever in terms of time (13 hours)

– 11 September: Corinne Gourgeonnet visiting her very last bordermarker, no. 311

Count your bordermarkers in Excel

In the previous post, I introduced Sébastien Marc and his cousin Jérôme Loubière, the new kids on the block. Sébastien surprised me a bit later with an excel-sheet of how he keeps track of the bordermarkers he has covered so far. Hereunder a picture of his sheet:

(You can download this sheet (his current status) with this link and the same sheet but empty for his data with this link.)

Sébastien likes to make a difference between the markers numbered 1 to 602 and all the extra markers like submarkers, double markers, and the Llivia-markers. I remember that also Carlos and Conchita Roca prefer that distinction. So he included a sub-sheet for these extra markers:

But for me all bordermarkers “are created equal” and – inspired by Sébastien – I made my own excel-template with all markers on one sheet. It looks like this:

(As an example, I have entered in this sheet all the markers I did so far in my ‘second round’. At one point I decided to do all markers at least twice (with at least one year difference). Why? Why not? You can see that I have still to (re)do 69 bordermarkers, all planned for 2022.)

Do you want an empty template to use for yourself? Download it with this link.
You might report your own results as a comment to this post. I’d love to see how far you are in doing all esfr-bordermarkers.

Sébastien and Jérôme: two cousins, two ‘ramborneurs’

I used to receive once in a while pictures of esfr-bordermarkers of Sébastian Marc and I wondered who he was and if he aimed at ‘doing’ all the esfr-bordermarkers. To my surprise, he happened to be not a retired sexagenarian or septuagenarian but a young and athletic man with a passion to find and photograph every esfr-bordermarker.

Sébastien is 44 years old and works in logistics. Being a devoted Pyrenees-walker since long, he started with ultra-trailrunning in the Pyrenees 10 years ago. And then he discovered the esfr-bordermarkers and that became his next goal. He has covered ± 75% of all esfr-bordermarkers and remembers bm542 as being the most difficult to reach, bm510 as the most beautiful, and bm143 as unfindable until now.

But he is not alone: he dragged his cousin Jérôme Loubière into this passion and Jérome started his own project to do them as well.

Jérôme is 45 years old and a mathematics and language teacher. He also mentions the bordermarkers near Coustouges (bm536-524) as being the most difficult and thinks that bm601 is the most beautiful with its view over the Mediterranean. He has done ± 50% of all bordermarkers.

They often go together for one or two days but in order to catch up with Sébastien, Jérôme also makes trips alone or with his family. They call themselves ‘ramborneurs’, I supposed a combination of ‘Rambo’ and ‘borne’ but it happens to be a less testosterone-driven combination as Sébastien pointed out later: ‘les randonneurs qui cherchent des bornes’.

And how far are they? Well, Sébastien is way ahead of Jérôme with 524 bordermarkers covered so far while Jérôme has done 363 markers until now. They both refer to the total number of 602 bordermarkers but in fact, there are a lot more markers. In my definition and counting (see this page), there are 723 markers that fit somehow in the alpha-numerical sequence between no. 1 (Basque country) and 602 (Mediterranean coast). There are 6 markers missing (see this page)
That leaves 717 individual markers to be photographed to enter the list of the ones who did them all (see this post).

And to finish: Sébastien has even baptized a stone pillar on his property as marker 603, to prove his devotion. He is not the only one to have a personal bordermarker in the garden: see Serge Poncet’s bm583bis.

Champagne at the border: Corinne’s final bordermarker

Saturday 11 September 2021: a very special day for Corinne Gourgeonnet. After 6 years, she completed her quest to find and photograph each and every bordermarker along the French-Spanish border.

The last one to do was well chosen: bm311 at Col de Sobe. A touristic train

brought her to Lac d’Artouste which left 2 hours of climbing to bm311. She was however not alone: she brought her son Arthur (see http://blog.grpdesbf.nl/?s=arthur) ánd Michel Molia (see: http://blog.grpdesbf.nl/?s=molia), the famous discoverer of the 408III-IV-submarkers. I joined them halfway on their climb and together we reached bm311.

At the spot we celebrated the event, Corinne opening a large bottle of champagne

and together we toasted to Corinne’s achievement.

Corinne was moved and that is understandable. She has enjoyed so much all her adventures along the border, mostly done as solo-trips which has been an experience in itself. And now it is all finished, as if you have reached the destination of a long, long pilgrimage…

For Michel, it was also a final trip. He is eighty years old and it’s been enough for mountain walking. In a way, he celebrated his own farewell trip with the same champagne.

By completing all esfr-bordermarkers, Corinne enters the Gallery of Honor of men and women who have done them all. She is the third woman who has accomplished this and the first one to do them solo. The list is now:

1. Javier and María-Jesús Sancho-Esnaola
2. Charles and Josette Darrieu
3. Jacques Koleck
4. Myself
5. Michel Molia
6. Alain Gillodes
7. Corinne Gourgeonnet

Was this Corinne’s farewell to the bordermarkers? Well, she confided to me in secret that she thinks of doing a multi-day stretch of my GRPdesBF-trail next year. And Arthur stated casually that he will start ‘doing’ bordermarkers when he is grown up. We will hold him to it 🙂

New update GRPdesBF-site

Pleased to announce a new update of my main site, covering the 8 day trips I did in June this year. See for the details this page.

A lot of information and pictures,  might be a bit too much for some of you. If so, I suggest these two picks:
12 june 2021: together with Carlos and Conchita Roca climbing to bm407 and back

18 june 2021: one of my longest border-hikes ever.