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DANGER ! Alternative route into Leon.

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MickMac

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013
Frances 2016
Frances 2017
Frances 2018
Frances 2018
Ponferrada-Santiago
July 2019
Pilgrims should be warned of the alternative route into Leon.

It is a very dangerous route with the pedestrian bridge still closed.
It adds a couple of kilometres and turns into a wet hazardous decent not for the faint hearted.
May I suggest you bus or taxi in to the city if you can.
You have been warned !!!
 
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TonyC

Geriatric
Camino(s) past & future
(2014) Frances Pt1
(2015) Frances Pt2
(2016) Portuguese, from Lisbon
(2108) Frances in Sep/Oct
I would imagine that, after any decent rain, the descent from the radio tower area will be the mud equivalent of an Olympic ski jump slope. It was bad enough this autumn when the ground was dry. I would have thought that a more reasonable alternative route could have been found.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
Is there any problem with the regular route?
Major road buildings works lasting from something like April 2018 until December 2018 are the reason why the pedestrian bridge is closed and pilgrims have to use this detour. The detour has a section that appears to have been created by a bulldozer that drove straight up the steep hill on soil that turns to slippery mud when wet.
 

MickMac

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013
Frances 2016
Frances 2017
Frances 2018
Frances 2018
Ponferrada-Santiago
July 2019
Agree totally Tony, it was like Innsbruck, footbridge closed and sealed off it looks as if Juncta must have just drove large digger and ploughed through, no stones laid very haphazard approach, be careful pilgrims
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
Here's an article from earlier this year that explains the background for the current detour. It was actually the local pilgrims association that opted for this solution in cooperation with the other stakeholders as another proposal for a detour would have made the walk into Leon much longer.

Pilgrims, says the newspaper, differ in their opinions. "The descent is a bit difficult, especially for people of a certain age. The worst is the loose soil with so much slope", explains an Andalusian pilgrim, to which he adds, "although in return the views there are spectacular."

From my own experience this year, I must say that the sight of the Leon Cathedral in the distance, once one had survived the descent unharmed, was great. But I had less friendly thoughts about those that had designed this part of the road. And yes, it was a rainy day.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2013....2014....2015.......2017...2018...2019
Pilgrims should be warned of the alternative route into Leon.

It is a very dangerous route with the pedestrian bridge still closed.
It adds a couple of kilometres and turns into a wet hazardous decent not for the faint hearted.
May I suggest you bus or taxi in to the city if you can.
You have been warned !!!
Having Decended this slope (and complained about it on the forum) in the heat and dryness of September,I would consider it suicidal to attempt it in the current wet condition.
 

twh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances May/June, 2018
Porto-Muxia-Finisterre Oct (2019)
I walked this in June 2018, the detour was a pleasant walk on a paved road along a ridge line after leaving the busy highway spot where the blue metal footbridge is located. It was a dry day and the first part of the descent on the dirt path was steep but I don't remember it as being rocky unlike most of the steep and difficult sections of the camino. So a fall in slippery muddy conditions might be fun but a bit messy. It is a short section and then it becomes less steep. Nothing to fear or avoid from my perspective but it could be dicey if you are a bit fragile or if it has changed drastically from erosion since I walked it. I attached a few shots below of the detour including shot of Leon while on ridge line paved road, half way down looking back up, half way down looking toward Leon and some beautiful patches of purple flowers.
detour1 out.png detour2 close.png detour3 view Leon.jpg detour4 looking up.jpg detour5 view down.png detour6flower.png
 
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MickMac

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013
Frances 2016
Frances 2017
Frances 2018
Frances 2018
Ponferrada-Santiago
July 2019
I walked this in June 2018, the detour was a pleasant walk on a paved road along a ridge line after leaving the busy highway spot where the blue metal footbridge is located. It was a dry day and the first part of the descent on the dirt path was steep but I don't remember it as being rocky unlike most of the steep and difficult sections of the camino. So a fall in slippery muddy conditions might be fun but a bit messy. It is a short section and then it becomes less steep. Nothing to fear or avoid from my perspective but it could be dicey if you are a bit fragile or if it has changed drastically from erosion since I walked it. I attached a few shots below of the detour including shot of Leon while on ridge line paved road, half way down looking back up, half way down looking toward Leon and some beautiful patches of purple flowers.
View attachment 48218View attachment 48219View attachment 48220View attachment 48221View attachment 48222View attachment 48223
Sorry I have to strongly disagree
with this picturesque misleading report this is highly dangerous short section and a threat to life and limb "currently", (nice pics though).
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
So a fall in slippery muddy conditions might be fun but a bit messy. It is a short section and then it becomes less steep.
I have to strongly agree with @MickMac. The photos show a path that is bone dry and they don't really show the steep section at the beginning. I walked it on a day when it had rained on and off, and of the whole CF, this is the only part where I was afraid that I would slip and fall and break a wrist or a hip (not on the steep descent through the wood to Roncesvalles, not on the descent to Zubiri, not when I skipped down from the Alto del Perdon, and certainly not after the Cruz de Ferro). I dread to think what it's like right now with all the rain and even some snow.

Appreciate the photos. The sun did shine when I caught sight of the cathedral. Then it started to pour down again.
 
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twh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances May/June, 2018
Porto-Muxia-Finisterre Oct (2019)
The last thing I want to do is mislead anyone especially when it involves personal safety so thank you to MickMac and Kathar1na for extending this conversation.

My goal is to provide good, objective information and I'm sure MickMac and Kathar1na have the same motivations. Pictures can help with objectivity but only up to a certain point. I did not photograph the short steep section because it was unremarkable to me. I did photograph the steep rocky sections past Alto del Perdon and into Zubiri just because they were remarkable to me regarding the potential danger of a fall on those steep, dry but slippery trails due to the “roller” rocks. I think MickMac and Kathar1na could contribute additional value to the conversation if they could share/speculate their opinions on the degree of difficulty or danger navigating this trail in dry conditions. Would it be better to walk on the edge of the highway instead if you arrived at this steep dirt trail in dry or wet conditions?

Everyone has their own opinion based on their own health, age, fitness, experience, fatigue etc…so any one person’s opinion (including mine of course) on any subject regarding the Camino is always very subjective.

Perhaps the biggest variable in this situation is trail condition, wet and slippery or dry. I remember the first part of the descent being quite steep but the footing was good (all 3 of us 60ish walkers had poles and wore hiking boots with aggressive soles) and the trail was absent of the (biggest threats to me) angular embedded rocks and the loose round “roller” rocks that I was familiar with on my way down from Alto del Perdon. I was very alert and cautious on those rocky sections of El Pedon and would not have been able to “skip” down the toughest sections without falling and injuring myself. So if Kathar1na thought the descents of Alto del Perdon and Zubiri and Cruz de Ferro were easy compared to this short steep section, then one should pay attention to her observations since her experience is more recent than mine and she has calibrated the difficulty by comparing it to other sections we all know and have experienced. The current trail conditions due to wetness and mud and perhaps major erosion are unfamiliar to me. My experience and memories were exactly the opposite of hers on all trail sections just mentioned...keeping in mind this Leon dirt trail was dry when I did it and muddy when she did it so conflicting opinions regarding difficulty should be expected.

I have navigated short but VERY steep and slippery muddy sections and short but steep icy and slippery sections of glaciers that no one could walk down without special equipment. Instead I had to glissade, (squat down and slide on my feet) for as long as I could balance that way but eventually I always ended up on my butt for the last part of the ride. In the mud it really was “fun but messy” and free of injuries when rocks and sticks in the mud were not present. With this technique, it is not possible to fall down because you are down when you start. If there are no rocks, trees, boulders or other hikers to slide into, there is really very little to no chance of injury during a short distance glissade.

For future Camino hikers perhaps the take away from this thread is to give some special consideration to how YOU will handle this section if you arrive there on a rainy day. If you get to the precipice and decide it is too risky, you then need to evaluate the risk of going back to the footbridge and walking the shoulder on the highway for .75 miles or 1.25 km. Personally I think both alternatives are pretty safe based on what I have seen “driving on my computer” the highway route in Google Earth and having done the dirt trail albeit in ideal conditions. But I lean toward the option where I personally have the most control of the situation and the option where I have the least likelihood of major injury if something goes wrong. For me, I’ll take my risks on the dirt or mud trail any day (unless the trail I walked in June 2018 is significantly different now). If this talk is scaring anyone or you are losing sleep thinking about how you will handle it, just get a cab from the footbridge into Leon if it’s a wet rainy day.

I modified one of the screen shots from my earlier post to show the route (blue dashes – 20 minute walk downhill max) walking on the right (with traffic) shoulder of the highway. There are also a few screen shots from Google Earth (because pictures are worth a 1000 words) showing the width of the shoulder on the road at the start, in the middle and near the exit. Walk past the first exit which is a looping circular affair but take the second opportunity to exit on the straight off ramp and you intersect the Camino detour route.

** seriously - Per Kathar1na in a new post below, the whole reason for the Camino detour is major road construction going on in this area. The current construction could eliminate the possibility of walking on the shoulder of the road N-601. The first 2 on-road view images below from Google earth are dated 2012 and the last one 2017 so things might look a lot different now. Do your own research and get up to date info on this area when making your plans.

humorously - if that steep dirt path continues to degrade there may be a business opportunity awaiting. Set up a few fixed ropes with harnesses and belay Pilgrims down the cliff...at 1 Euro a pop. During the busy season you might be making a thousand euro per day. For 5 euro plus a little infrastructure (attaching a cable to one of those antennae towers) take the zip line to the bottom of the hill.🧗‍♂️🤓

detourA close.png detourBstart.png detourCmiddle.png detourDexit.png
 
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Helen1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
Personally I think both alternatives are pretty safe based on what I have seen “driving” the highway route in Google Earth and having done the dirt trail albeit in ideal conditions.
Is that the road you would come into Leon on a road bike, if so, during busy period that's a terrifying bit of road on a bike, when you hit the roundabout at the end you're into seriously fast moving traffic trying to get onto the autopista. Maybe you can cross as a pedestrian but I confess I was too busy praying to stay alive that I didn't look around much! I cycle in central London so have a fairly high tolerance for traffic but that bit of road, with the traffic, diversions and road works, really was something else.
 

twh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances May/June, 2018
Porto-Muxia-Finisterre Oct (2019)
I don't know if this road is part of the official or preferred cycling route into Leon.

I do know on this 1.25 km stretch (to detour around the dirt path) there are no roundabouts. As we all know, traffic conditions (volume and speed) change during the day due to all sorts of variables.

As I stated earlier, if the worst should happen, I'd prefer a short duration slide down a muddy hill than be run over from behind by a distracted driver.
 

Helen1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
I do know on this 1.25 km stretch (to detour around the dirt path) there are no roundabouts.
You;re right, the way you suggest takes you up a slip road and then over a bridge so you avoid the roundabout at the end which is the *really* dangerous bit. Some of those shoulders were being used for diversions in the summer. I know it's not very camino like but I think I would I take the bus if I was at all worried about the off road route.
 

twh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances May/June, 2018
Porto-Muxia-Finisterre Oct (2019)
I had been warned about the terribly boring and tedious walk into Leon by others who had done the Camino in previous years. My walking pals and I tried to get a bus that morning after breakfast for Leon but because it was Sunday, I think there were only two offerings and both late in the day so that didn't work.

I thought the walk to Leon was interesting because it showed a part of Spain the rest of the Camino does not. Real, middle class neighborhoods and business zones and city people going about their normal day... a slice of real life suburban Spain. I think that can also be had when entering Burgos but I did the detour around the airport and then the beautiful river walk.

That final green space (dirt trail) was actually a highlight for the 3 of us, a short beautiful buffer zone between the pavement of the outlying suburbs and the uninterrupted concrete roads of Leon. We definitely experienced it under ideal conditions.
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
I think the authorities wanted to move pedestrians off the roads. My memory is that sidewalks are available for the last several kilometers. It hardly seems worth taking a dangerous detour to avoid street intersections.
I guess you are not taking the current apparently massive roadworks into consideration - see below. I marked the normal camino trail and the detour trail as dotted purple lines in these two sketches and I also marked the footbridge in the first sketch where it crosses the N-601. I very much doubt that you can currently walk into Leon along the N-601. The N-601 has no sidewalks from the location where the detour starts until you reach the first buildings on the N-601 and the start of the built-up area. If you pick the right hand side, it would be sheer and utter madness to walk on the emergency lanes or in the narrow cement ditch of the N-601, provided it is even allowed to do so. And provided you are not blocked by the roadworks. If you pick the left hand side where there is a separate footpath you don't know what awaits you once you reach the roadworks - in all likelihood, you will be blocked.

It's currently either the bus or the detour for foot pilgrims. I understand that a lot of people take the bus into Leon anyway so they never have to deal with the situation described at the beginning of this thread.

Roadworks are marked in yellow (two stages):
Imagen-descarga-0.jpg

Imagen-descarga-1.jpg
 
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mspath

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Even when it was possible to use the recent blue metal pedestrian bridge it was not always easy. When I got there in 2010 the wind was so terrific that at first I could NOT MOVE! Seeking help but seeing no other pilgrim I backed down the ramp and calmly walked into a nearby car showroom. After I explained that I needed assistance to cross the slightly astonished but very elegant manager put on his coat and took my arm. Eventually we both made it across, wind-blown and breathless! With a casual 'Adios' he further added that he had never walked the Camino and if it was all like this crossing he certainly never would!
 
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twh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances May/June, 2018
Porto-Muxia-Finisterre Oct (2019)
I was previously oblivious regarding the reasons for the camino path detour. Per Kathar1na's last post with aerial photos of the construction plans, I agree with her 100% that trying to walk the N-601 to avoid the camino path detour is not possible. So just take a bus into Leon or bring some climbing gear or a toboggan if you attempt it on a rainy day.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
I have navigated short but VERY steep and slippery muddy sections and short but steep icy and slippery sections of glaciers that no one could walk down without special equipment. Instead I had to glissade, (squat down and slide on my feet) for as long as I could balance that way but eventually I always ended up on my butt for the last part of the ride. In the mud it really was “fun but messy” and free of injuries when rocks and sticks in the mud were not present.
@twh, that's an interesting concept, I had not considered it 🤔. I once went on one of the easiest 4000 m peaks in the Alps with a guide, and when we descended, the guide sat on his backpack and slid down the glacier slope but it looked too adventurous to me and I declined his invitation to follow suit and stuck to my crampons and walked it.

On the Leon detour, I didn't have a pole with me and was wearing trailrunners so that was far from ideal in view of the condition of the muddy path. I eventually decided to leave the path and picked my way through the low forest vegetation. My bones were more precious to me than any concerns about erosion. It was time consuming but less slippery. On the Alto del Perdon, I wore solid walking shoes, didn't use my pole (was on the backpack) and as I said, I sort of skipped down, faster than walking, a bit like you do when you descent in scree but also zig zagging. I found it really easy and fun. I know that I can (still) balance really well, just don't like gliding I guess. I obviously prefer rocks to mud. Interesting exchange, thanks.
 
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Eugene Carroll

New Member
Pilgrims should be warned of the alternative route into Leon.

It is a very dangerous route with the pedestrian bridge still closed.
It adds a couple of kilometres and turns into a wet hazardous decent not for the faint hearted.
May I suggest you bus or taxi in to the city if you can.
You have been warned !!!
Thanks for this warning...I plan to walk into Leon at the end of November so, I will think of an alternative
 

Dancing Rain

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015)
Camino Salvado (2017)
Camino Frances (2018)
We walked this route in April this year. Was curious about the deserted buildings with boarded windows.

We enjoyed the peace, but were very clear this would have been very challenging if it was wet!!!!!
 

twh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances May/June, 2018
Porto-Muxia-Finisterre Oct (2019)
Was curious about the deserted buildings with boarded windows.
I too was curious about this. The multi level buildings (apartments) were new construction, very nice looking with exterior walls and roofs completed before construction stopped. Many of the door and window openings were boarded up and others were bricked in. I assumed these projects were victims of the economy but I also wondered if the project had been condemned due to construction faults?

Throughout the Camino, I saw a lot of "se vende" signs on what appeared to be abandoned homes and buildings. I hope the economy improves for the Spaniards.
 

SFGfan

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
‘13 Ponferrada-Finnesteri via Santiago
‘15 SJP-Burgos
‘18 Burgos-Ponferrada
I walked this steep descent into Leon this past Friday. It had dried out for the most part. But with a walking stick, patience, looking at every step I made it without much difficulty at all.
The key was going slow and picking your steps individually..

Buen Camino
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
The walk into Léon from eastwards has always been among the more depressing sections of the Francès (I find it worse than the section into Burgos alongside that busy dual carriageway), but I'd never skip it personally.

The lack of food shops or places of beverage until one is right at the bridge into the city centre is a particular annoyance.

Oh and FWIW, the walk out of Léon eastward towards France is somehow far less unpleasant.
 
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JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Camino(s) past & future
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
Do you even see Leon Cathedral from afar when you walk on the normal Camino Frances path into Leon that it currently closed for pedestrians?
Oh, from top of the hill, certainly -- albeit from quite a distance.

The traditional route in must have been fantastic before all of that tarmac and urbanisation ...

BTW mixed up east and west in the original LOL (corrected)
 

mmmmartin

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santander-SdC bici '14
Plata bici '17
1/2 Plata bici '18
Frances a pie '18
(Porto a pie '19)
the Brierley guide talks about using the bus into Leon, which I did for €1.70 for a 45 minute journey. It also talks about using the bus to get out of Leon to virgen del camino, which I did at €1.70 for a 20 minute journey. Saved at least a day of tedious tarmac walking near a busy road. I understand people want to walk every inch of the way - I used the time saved to see Finisterre. To my mind,a good trade-off.
 

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