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Camino Frances

JS1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
May/June 2017
Hello Fellow Pilgrims! Has anyone ever walked from Orisson to Road D128 past La Vierge d'Orisson, to Valcarlos and then from Valcarlos to Roncesvalles? On my last Camino I found it very difficult walking from Orisson to Roncesvalles (I live on a tropical island at 2.9 ft elevation and never wear shoes. Training is difficult). I am wondering if this is a good alternate route? Thank you for your help as I plan my next Camino.
 
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mspath

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
The Valcarlos alternate Camino Frances route was the original PASS through the mountains to Roncesvalles; it rose from the Cols des Cize/Urhart-Cize on the east to Ibaneta on the west.

In the 12th c. the expanding village at the eastern base of this route would be named Saint Jean Pied de Port ie. Saint John Foot of the Pass.

Similarly the village of Valcarlos/Luzaide would be named in honor of Carlos ie. Charlemagne who fought and lost an 8th c. battle in the area.

Most important;
If you do follow the Valcarlos alternate CF route up to Roncesvalles do be aware that between Valcarlos and Roncesvalles there is no place to buy food nor is there potable water. Be prepared.
 
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JS1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
May/June 2017
Hello Fellow Pilgrims! Has anyone ever walked from Orisson to Road D128 past La Vierge d'Orisson, to Valcarlos and then from Valcarlos to Roncesvalles? On my last Camino I found it very difficult walking from Orisson to Roncesvalles (I live on a tropical island at 2.9 ft elevation and never wear shoes. Training is difficult). I am wondering if this is a good alternate route? Thank you for your help as I plan my next Camino.

That is a very roundabout route. If starting in St. Jean Pied de Port then pilgrims who don't want to walk the Napoleon route usually follow Pl. Floquet out of SJPdP to Valcarlos direct, thus saving a considerable climb.

See screenshot, red route
View attachment 109725
Thank you but I am not wanting to do that route. I am interested in Road D128.
 
Past OR future Camino
cf (2), de la plata, cp. (2003 -2018)
The Valcarlos alternate Camino Frances route was the original PASS through the mountains to Roncesvalles; it rose from the Cols des Cize/Urhart-Cize on the east to Ibaneta on the west.

In the 12th c. the expanding village at the eastern base of this route would be named Saint Jean Pied de Port ie. Saint John Foot of the Pass.

Similarly the village of Valcarlos/Luzaide would be named in honor of Carlos ie. Charlemagne who fought and lost an 8th c. battle in the area.

Most important;
If you do follow the Valcarlos alternate CF route up to Roncesvalles do be aware that between Valcarlos and Roncesvalles there is no place to buy food nor is there potable water. Be prepared.
have often thought of doing it this way myself BUT feel the steep second half of the trip from Valcarlos outdoes the leg from Orison to Roncesvalles. Am building another hip belt hiking trolley to carry food and water and save my old bones from the weight of rucksacks! Have never got round to forwarding my luggage yet and my mochila has threatened me if I even THINK about it.
Good luck whatever you decide and please keep posting as I would be very interested to see what you decide and WHY. :)

Samarkand.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
Has anyone ever walked from Orisson to Road D128 past La Vierge d'Orisson, to Valcarlos and then from Valcarlos to Roncesvalles? On my last Camino I found it very difficult walking from Orisson to Roncesvalles (I live on a tropical island at 2.9 ft elevation and never wear shoes. Training is difficult). I am wondering if this is a good alternate route?
My spontaneous answer would be: Why would you want to do this? On the other hand, you can of course walk any combination of loops and circles to Santiago if that's what you want to do.

So you want to start in SJPP, walk on the D428 to Orisson and then past Orisson, then turn right into the D128 and loose all the altitude gain and go down to Valcarlos in the valley to join the trail that runs parallel to the N-135 to then go up to the Ibañeta pass and down again to Roncesvalles.

Have you figured out the kilometres, the altitude profile of the ups and downs, and the time it is likely to take you to walk this or would you like help with the calculations?

This was discussed a while back. What I can tell you right away: Don't go by the sketch in the Brierley guidebook. The Brierley maps are sketches. They can be seriously misleading about distances, and they are indeed seriously misleading about the connection between the D428 and the N-135! The maps' main purpose consists of providing you with useful information for the prescribed Camino de Santiago trails, nothing else.
 
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Stroller

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Norte (2015), Frances (2016)
That's a lot of height gain, in effect you would be almost crossing the pyrenees twice. I live in a low flat area and have difficulty training on hills but walk 15 - 20kM daily . Doing the climb once over 2 days was enough for me. Don't underestimate the climb. Having said that if you make Valcarlos you can review you route from there. No harm or shame in a bus or taxi to Roncevalles if needed.

The climb from Valcarlos gets harder and steeper as the day goes on whereas that from Orrison gets easier, concave and convex slopes.
 
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JS1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
May/June 2017

JS1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
May/June 2017
have often thought of doing it this way myself BUT feel the steep second half of the trip from Valcarlos outdoes the leg from Orison to Roncesvalles. Am building another hip belt hiking trolley to carry food and water and save my old bones from the weight of rucksacks! Have never got round to forwarding my luggage yet and my mochila has threatened me if I even THINK about it.
Good luck whatever you decide and please keep posting as I would be very interested to see what you decide and WHY. :)

Samarkand.
Thank you
 

JS1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
May/June 2017
That's a lot of height gain, in effect you would be almost crossing the pyrenees twice. I live in a low flat area and have difficulty training on hills but walk 15 - 20kM daily . Doing the climb once over 2 days was enough for me. Don't underestimate the climb. Having said that if you make Valcarlos you can review you route from there. No harm or shame in a bus or taxi to Roncevalles if needed.

The climb from Valcarlos gets harder and steeper as the day goes on whereas that from Orrison gets easier, concave and convex slopes.
Thank you
 

Corned Beef

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
VDLP 4/2022

JS1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
May/June 2017
Check with Express Bouricott in SJPP. They run a minibus up to the top for those that prefer downhill - though the downhill can be more strenuous that the climb. (Edit: They used to in 2019) View attachment 109745

Thank you
 
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mai

Member
Past OR future Camino
CF
Pamplona-S 4/18
SJPP-S-F/M 4/19
SJPP-S. (4/21)
I took the Napoleon route in 2019. From the experiences of myself and other pilgrims taking Valcarlos route, both routes are not easy, but you could have many pilgrims around to talk, check or help you if needed. If you take D-128, the main issue is that you may find no one around you in case any danger happen. The main priority on the camino is: be safe.
 

JS1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
May/June 2017
I took the Napoleon route in 2019. From the experiences of myself and other pilgrims taking Valcarlos route, both routes are not easy, but you could have many pilgrims around to talk, check or help you if needed. If you take D-128, the main issue is that you may find no one around you in case any danger happen. The main priority on the camino is: be safe.
Thank you
 
Past OR future Camino
Camino Francés, Oct 2020
That's a lot of height gain, in effect you would be almost crossing the pyrenees twice. I live in a low flat area and have difficulty training on hills but walk 15 - 20kM daily . Doing the climb once over 2 days was enough for me. Don't underestimate the climb. Having said that if you make Valcarlos you can review you route from there. No harm or shame in a bus or taxi to Roncevalles if needed.

The climb from Valcarlos gets harder and steeper as the day goes on whereas that from Orrison gets easier, concave and convex slopes.
If it is the steepness that is worrying you, then from my recollection, the route up to Orisson is steeper than the longer section into Roncevalles, though the descent is also pretty steep in places. I cannot comment on the other route.
 
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Christine Leneghan

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2018) and Portuguese Coastal Camino (2019)
Hello Fellow Pilgrims! Has anyone ever walked from Orisson to Road D128 past La Vierge d'Orisson, to Valcarlos and then from Valcarlos to Roncesvalles? On my last Camino I found it very difficult walking from Orisson to Roncesvalles (I live on a tropical island at 2.9 ft elevation and never wear shoes. Training is difficult). I am wondering if this is a good alternate route? Thank you for your help as I plan my next Camino.
My daughters and I did the Valcarlos route during our first Camino. There is still some ups and downs but not much. We probably should have stayed overnight in Valcarlos and then continued to Roncesvalles the next day because it was still long and we weren’t used to it. Going through the woods was amazing!
 

JS1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
May/June 2017
If it is the steepness that is worrying you, then from my recollection, the route up to Orisson is steeper than the longer section into Roncevalles, though the descent is also pretty steep in places. I cannot comment on the other route.
Thank you
My daughters and I did the Valcarlos route during our first Camino. There is still some ups and downs but not much. We probably should have stayed overnight in Valcarlos and then continued to Roncesvalles the next day because it was still long and we weren’t used to it. Going through the woods was amazing!
 

JS1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
May/June 2017
My daughters and I did the Valcarlos route during our first Camino. There is still some ups and downs but not much. We probably should have stayed overnight in Valcarlos and then continued to Roncesvalles the next day because it was still long and we weren’t used to it. Going through the woods was amazing!
Thank you
 

Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
Distances and altitude profiles for walking from SJPP to Roncesvalles:
  • trail through Valcarlos
  • trail called Route Napoleon
  • Napoleon trail until Virgin statue - D128 - Valcarlos trail
    (total is about 10-11 km longer than the other two)

SJJP-Roncesvalles.jpg
 
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JS1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
May/June 2017
Hello Fellow Pilgrims! Has anyone ever walked from Orisson to Road D128 past La Vierge d'Orisson, to Valcarlos and then from Valcarlos to Roncesvalles? On my last Camino I found it very difficult walking from Orisson to Roncesvalles (I live on a tropical island at 2.9 ft elevation and never wear shoes. Training is difficult). I am wondering if this is a good alternate route? Thank you for your help as I plan my next Camino.

Distances and altitude profiles for walking from SJPP to Roncesvalles:
  • trail through Valcarlos
  • trail called Route Napoleon
  • Napoleon trail until Virgin statue - D128 - Valcarlos trail
    (total is about 10-11 km longer than the other two)
View attachment 109757
Thank you
 
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Doughnut NZ

From Aotearoa New Zealand
Past OR future Camino
2022
Thank you but I am not wanting to do that route. I am interested in Road D128.
Thank you for this clarification.

In your original post you posed this question "I am wondering if this is a good alternate route?"

Various people have since asked you for your reasons for wanting to walk this route. Based on your original post I had assumed that you wanted to find an alternative route to Roncesvalles that didn't involve walking over the top of the Napoleon route.

I now understand that my assumption is incomplete and that what you want to do is to walk up the Napoleon route as far as Orisson and from there to Roncesvalles without walking over the Napoleon route pass.

There are two obvious ways of doing this and many other non obvious ways. The two obvious ways are to walk further up the Napoleon route until you reach D128, then walk down to Valcarlos and then back up to Roncesvalles. The other obvious way is to turn around after reaching Orisson and walk back down the same route to SJPdP and then from there to Roncesvalles via Valcarlos.

Of these two options, you have already seem to have identified the "best" and if you are seeking validation of that from this forum that D128 is the best of these two then I am happy to tell you that I agree with you.

As @Tincatinker has already said, it is highly unlikely that anyone on this forum has ever walked this route for the reasons that @Kathar1na has so eloquently illustrated and so I suspect that you won't get any better advice.

As for answering your original question about D128 being a "good alternative" I think that the vast majority of Pilgrims have voted with their feet and are saying that they don't think that it is a good alternative. It is a big world though and it is possible that somewhere there is someone else that may agree that D128 represents a good alternative way to get from Orisson to Roncesvalles.

I wish you a pleasant walk when you walk this route and invite you to report back with your opinion on its value as an alternative route. Kiaora.
 

jimmyc

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2015
We walked the Valcarlos route in 2015. We intended to stay the night in Valcarlos and walk the second half of the journey the next day. However, it was 11am when we arrived in Valcarlos so we decided to complete the journey in one day. A big mistake as I was 76 years old and it was exhausting.
If you decide to take this route I would suggest that you split the journey and stay overnight in Valcarlos. The ascent after Valcarlos is very steep.
 
Past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
I concur with most here, it makes no sense to go down D128 for the reason you gave.

I have not done the D128 route you suggest but I have played with GPS tracks of this before. I think this may be a good alternative to do in reverse, i.e. Valcarlos to the ridge in the case of lighting on day one and on day two when in Valcarlos the weather clears. I don't have my tracks and profiles handy but @Kathar1na has just posted something like what I have found.

Also, @Kathar1na's profiles don't clearly show the little ups and downs encountered from Valcarlos to Roncesvalles that add up to extra uphill walking. I do have some information on that at

What I have marked as "Road junction" on the Napoleon profile is the top point of the D128 and what is marked as "Decision point" on the Valcarlos route is the point on the D128 closest to Valcarlos. Why would you want to lose 850 meters of elevation gain? If you walk the D128 down all the way then I think you end up in Arneguy, which is perhaps just a two hours walk from SJPdP on the Valcarlos route.
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
Here is a copy from one of my earlier posts about this.

The topographic map on the left shows the actual trace (marked in blue) of the D128 connecting the Napoleon trail with the Valcarlos trail. You read it as any proper map, i.e. you would walk from right to left in this case, ending in Valcarlos on the upper left. Valcarlos is not shown in this map as it is a French IGN map and Valcarlos is on the other side of the border in Spain. The dotted orange trail on the right is the Route Napoleon, btw.

The Brierley sketch on the right gives you only a vague idea of the connection (also marked in blue) between Napoleon trail and Valcarlos trail. It looks deceivingly short and deceivingly flat!!! Since Brierley draws his maps in the direction of your walking on the main Camino trail, the map's orientation is different and Valcarlos is shown on the right-hand side while the dotted orange trail on the left is the Route Napoleon.

(Click to enlarge)
Topographic vs Brierley.jpg
 
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walkinglover

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, '16 and '18; Portuguese '17; Ingles - 19
Hello Fellow Pilgrims! Has anyone ever walked from Orisson to Road D128 past La Vierge d'Orisson, to Valcarlos and then from Valcarlos to Roncesvalles? On my last Camino I found it very difficult walking from Orisson to Roncesvalles (I live on a tropical island at 2.9 ft elevation and never wear shoes. Training is difficult). I am wondering if this is a good alternate route? Thank you for your help as I plan my next Camino.
My husband walked from SJPP to R yesterday, his third time. He said there is now an alternate route through the woods and down the mountain. He said it was very scenic and easier.
 
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JS1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
May/June 2017
Thank you for this clarification.

In your original post you posed this question "I am wondering if this is a good alternate route?"

Various people have since asked you for your reasons for wanting to walk this route. Based on your original post I had assumed that you wanted to find an alternative route to Roncesvalles that didn't involve walking over the top of the Napoleon route.

I now understand that my assumption is incomplete and that what you want to do is to walk up the Napoleon route as far as Orisson and from there to Roncesvalles without walking over the Napoleon route pass.

There are two obvious ways of doing this and many other non obvious ways. The two obvious ways are to walk further up the Napoleon route until you reach D128, then walk down to Valcarlos and then back up to Roncesvalles. The other obvious way is to turn around after reaching Orisson and walk back down the same route to SJPdP and then from there to Roncesvalles via Valcarlos.

Of these two options, you have already seem to have identified the "best" and if you are seeking validation of that from this forum that D128 is the best of these two then I am happy to tell you that I agree with you.

As @Tincatinker has already said, it is highly unlikely that anyone on this forum has ever walked this route for the reasons that @Kathar1na has so eloquently illustrated and so I suspect that you won't get any better advice.

As for answering your original question about D128 being a "good alternative" I think that the vast majority of Pilgrims have voted with their feet and are saying that they don't think that it is a good alternative. It is a big world though and it is possible that somewhere there is someone else that may agree that D128 represents a good alternative way to get from Orisson to Roncesvalles.

I wish you a pleasant walk when you walk this route and invite you to report back with your opinion on its value as an alternative route. Kiaora.
Thank you
 

chinacat

Veteran Member
We walked the Valcarlos route in 2015. We intended to stay the night in Valcarlos and walk the second half of the journey the next day. However, it was 11am when we arrived in Valcarlos so we decided to complete the journey in one day. A big mistake as I was 76 years old and it was exhausting.
If you decide to take this route I would suggest that you split the journey and stay overnight in Valcarlos. The ascent after Valcarlos is very steep.

When I read the OP’s post, for some reason I assumed she intended staying overnight in Valcarlos.

I imagined that she wanted to stay at Orisson and thereafter have two shorter days (fewer kms in distance, notwithstanding Naismith’s rule).

It is one way of splitting the long walk between Orisson and Roncevalles.

I have looked at the possibility myself, but I had no idea of the loss in height it would entail or of the distance between the Napoleon and Valcarlos routes, via the D128. (thank you @Kathar1na )
It also avoids the descent through the forest, though we did that by taking the road (which is longer in kms walked 😉).
 

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