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Descent into Zubiri

ELHS220

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Norte - (2019)
The final stretch from Alto de Erro down to Zubiri is a NIGHTMARE. In my opinion treacherous and downright dangerous. Evidently excess rain and melting snow have washed away much of the earth leaving the path with nothing but jagged rocks sticking up like stalagmites in a cave. It seems to go on forever. I travel with only a day pack and two poles and had a very difficult time. I was afraid of falling with every step. I can’t imagine doing this section without poles AND a heavy pack. Had I known this in advance, I would never have attempted to walk it. BEWARE!!!!
 
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I really must attempt this part again, from Alto de Erro. It was part of my first day, on my first camino. Or was it day 2? I began in Roncesvalles, and it took three days to Pamplona. 2006. A lifetime ago.
What I recall is the heat. And steps, down along near a cement factory. I do not recall the terrible descent many speak of. Was that the steps? My clearest memory of those steps: Catherine and Claude, a French couple we matched almost step for step, and in every albergue to Santiago! Catherine, a recorder of many details in her sketchbook... they used to pass us out fairly early on, with their towels hanging and swinging from the backpacks.
As for Alto de Perdón, up and down, I love it! No accounting for tastes...
Over the years, I have learned this: my belief in what I can do comes from something I cannot capture. It is somewhere in my silly brain. Not my feet. If I decide I can't, that's it! If I allow a tiny doubt, of maybe yes - the world is my oyster!
 

mspath

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Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
I really must attempt this part again, from Alto de Erro. It was part of my first day, on my first camino. Or was it day 2? I began in Roncesvalles, and it took three days to Pamplona. 2006. A lifetime ago.
What I recall is the heat. And steps, down along near a cement factory. I do not recall the terrible descent many speak of. Was that the steps? My clearest memory of those steps: Catherine and Claude, a French couple we matched almost step for step, and in every albergue to Santiago! Catherine, a recorder of many details in her sketchbook... they used to pass us out fairly early on, with their towels hanging and swinging from the backpacks.
As for Alto de Perdón, up and down, I love it! No accounting for tastes...
Over the years, I have learned this: my belief in what I can do comes from something I cannot capture. It is somewhere in my silly brain. Not my feet. If I decide I can't, that's it! If I allow a tiny doubt, of maybe yes - the world is my oyster!
Kirkie,
Lucky you when your "tiny doubt, of maybe yes" develops into a pearl of possibility!
 

biarritzdon

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The worst parts are the jagged sheets of slate under foot which is espcially slippery when wet, it calls for taking ones time and side steeping in a crab walk for about 30 minutes or so. The alternative of walking on the road is even more dangerous because of the speed of the vehicular traffic and the guard rails along narrow verge set so close to the pavement.
 
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Pilgrim9

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The final stretch from Alto de Erro down to Zubiri is a NIGHTMARE.
Thank you for this hazard alert. I will be there soon and have added a caution note to my route map.
 

DoughnutANZ

I would rather be fishing
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2023
The final stretch from Alto de Erro down to Zubiri is a NIGHTMARE. In my opinion treacherous and downright dangerous. Evidently excess rain and melting snow have washed away much of the earth leaving the path with nothing but jagged rocks sticking up like stalagmites in a cave. It seems to go on forever. I travel with only a day pack and two poles and had a very difficult time. I was afraid of falling with every step. I can’t imagine doing this section without poles AND a heavy pack. Had I known this in advance, I would never have attempted to walk it. BEWARE!!!!
The day that I walked that part of the way it was raining hard and had been all night, I jogged down, at 66 years old. My strategy was to walk where the water was flowing and puddling the deepest. Generally the centre of the path.

The people that I saw having difficulties were the ones who were zigzagging across the track to find the driest or "easiest" path.

I guess that I was helped by having previous experience hiking in the mountains and good soles on my trail running shoes.
 

biarritzdon

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The descent from Alto Perdon isn't much better with all the rolly-polly rocks under foot. I have seen more people slip there than going down to Zubiri.
 
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I didn't find it so terrible as people had said - I've seen far worse. As @DoughnutANZ says, it's navigated most easily if you've had experience on rough terrain. If you haven't, maybe go find some rocky tracks at home before you do the camino, learning the art of being nimble.

That said, I hated the back side of Alto de Perdon the first time I walked it. The time after that it didn't seem so difficult, perhaps because I was prepared for it to be awful.
 

Marbe2

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The alternative of walking on the road is even more dangerous because of the speed of the vehicular traffic and the guard rails along narrow verge set so close to the pavement.
We have done both road and path. I do agree that the guard rails are close to the roads in certain spots. But they usually don’t last long. Itis possible to anticipate the traffic and walk slower or speed up so that one does not get caught between the rail and the vehicles.

Lots of times the road-shortens the route. But as as I recall, in this case the wide turns walking down took more time.
 
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I didn't find it so terrible as people had said - I've seen far worse. As @DoughnutANZ says, it's navigated most easily if you've had experience on rough terrain. If you haven't, maybe go find some rocky tracks at home before you do the camino, learning the art of being nimble.

That said, I hated the back side of Alto de Perdon the first time I walked it. The time after that it didn't seem so difficult, perhaps because I was prepared for it to be awful.
Isn't it interesting how our views change. I "hated" the downhill into El Acebo the first time. My feet were killing me and I barely made it into town. The next time it was no problem at all. I was prepped mentally for the worst but somehow it wasn't. The same with the downhill from Alte de Perdon. However I will skip it this time ( leaving for Pamplona in a week ) and taxi down because my husband is joining me and he has neuropathy in both his feet . So having no feeling in his feet its too dangerous to do those rocky slopes. We will do most regular paths and he will skip the more challenging sections but will still be able to enjoy the Camino experience.
 

Richard A Stead

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The final stretch from Alto de Erro down to Zubiri is a NIGHTMARE. In my opinion treacherous and downright dangerous. Evidently excess rain and melting snow have washed away much of the earth leaving the path with nothing but jagged rocks sticking up like stalagmites in a cave. It seems to go on forever. I travel with only a day pack and two poles and had a very difficult time. I was afraid of falling with every step. I can’t imagine doing this section without poles AND a heavy pack. Had I known this in advance, I would never have attempted to walk it. BEWARE!!!!
But you did it and you’ll remember it. Incidentally I got chased by an escaped bull running down there.
 

isobelmtl

New Member
I was not prepared for this either. It was drizzling and had been raining. I was befriended by two Irish women who were Camino veterans. They wore blue ponchos and reminded me of the fairies in the Disney Cinderella. I resorted to plunging into the bushes at two points and tore my poncho to shreds on the brambles. This was last year. I was 72 years old and managed it. However I had bad pain in my knee following this in Pamplona. Around the corner from the Alberge Jesus y Maria is a hemp shop where they sold me some cream for 45 Euros! It did the trick and I was able to go on after a days rest. I doled out that stuff to others with good effect all during my Camino. I have heard the descent to Zubiri called "dragons' teeth"
 

mspath

Veteran Member
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I didn't find it so terrible as people had said - I've seen far worse. As @DoughnutANZ says, it's navigated most easily if you've had experience on rough terrain. If you haven't, maybe go find some rocky tracks at home before you do the camino, learning the art of being nimble.

That said, I hated the back side of Alto de Perdon the first time I walked it. The time after that it didn't seem so difficult, perhaps because I was prepared for it to be awful.
The first time I climbed Alto de Perdon I didn't know that it might be treacherous nor that I might see a vision.
 
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The final stretch from Alto de Erro down to Zubiri is a NIGHTMARE. In my opinion treacherous and downright dangerous. Evidently excess rain and melting snow have washed away much of the earth leaving the path with nothing but jagged rocks sticking up like stalagmites in a cave. It seems to go on forever. I travel with only a day pack and two poles and had a very difficult time. I was afraid of falling with every step. I can’t imagine doing this section without poles AND a heavy pack. Had I known this in advance, I would never have attempted to walk it. BEWARE!!!!
I have bilateral knee replacements, Parkinson's, and neuropathy in my feet. I rather hated the descents to Zubiri, from Alto de Perdon, and into Molinaseca. I had to go so slow. I made it but was not having any fun or thinking any good thoughts.
 
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globetrotter

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2013, 2014
The final stretch from Alto de Erro down to Zubiri is a NIGHTMARE. In my opinion treacherous and downright dangerous. Evidently excess rain and melting snow have washed away much of the earth leaving the path with nothing but jagged rocks sticking up like stalagmites in a cave. It seems to go on forever. I travel with only a day pack and two poles and had a very difficult time. I was afraid of falling with every step. I can’t imagine doing this section without poles AND a heavy pack. Had I known this in advance, I would never have attempted to walk it. BEWARE!!!!
My wife and I walked to Zubiri in April. We are in mid 70's and my wife twice fell during that couple of miles. While there are other sections before Burgos, our destination, that were also washed out, nothing compared to the last mile or two into Zubiri. I think at the very least there should be a cautionary sign and I think some thought should be given to closing that section. We walked this last in 2013 and 2014 and while we remember it being rough, it was nothing as dangerous as it is today. Do beware!!!
 

ELHS220

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You might want to skip the descent from Alto de Perdón too.
I did both in 2015 and 2017. I remember Alto de Perdón as being lots of loose rocks. I have ZERO memory of Zubiri, so something definitely has changed. It was AWFUL. And much longer than the A de P.
 

ELHS220

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My wife and I walked to Zubiri in April. We are in mid 70's and my wife twice fell during that couple of miles. While there are other sections before Burgos, our destination, that were also washed out, nothing compared to the last mile or two into Zubiri. I think at the very least there should be a cautionary sign and I think some thought should be given to closing that section. We walked this last in 2013 and 2014 and while we remember it being rough, it was nothing as dangerous as it is today. Do beware!!!
Exactly!!
 

david g

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In 2015 as we were descending that section we kept hearing a helicopter close by. We figured it was doing selective logging but nope, it was airlifting out a pilgrim who had fallen and broken his leg. Turns out it was the second broken leg rescue of the day. Yes, it can be treacherous but the key is to take your time, go slow and use walking sticks if you have them.
 

MichelleElynHogan

Veteran Member
Path upgrades must be very expensive and I am sure must be generated by Volunteers. So, it takes time for any section to be repaired. Perhaps the final 6 or 7 km down to Zubiri will eventually be paved with wide steps like the upper half, down to Rio de Erro.
 
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Rowena

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2022
I agree completely with @ELHS220. I walked to Zubiri in March 2022, and found it really treacherous. I don’t remember it being like that in 2015. I made it down, slowly, without mishap but I really had to pick my way over the teeth, very thankful that I had poles and that the rock was dry. To my surprise, a group on bikes hurtled past me without warning part way down. I was lucky to be on stable footing when that happened.
Later on in April another pilgrim had a news article on her phone about a Danish pilgrim who died coming down from Zubiri. Does anyone have information about this?
Caution signs would be a good idea, and perhaps the cyclists should be routed down the road as they are in a few other places. I found the Alto del Perdon and Molinaseca descents were easier than Zubiri.
 

RENSHAW

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2003 CF Roncesvalles to Santiago
2/4 weeks on the CF frequently.
Hospitalero San Anton June 2016.
This is a beneficial post. It highlights what a plethora of people walk the Camino and their thresholds. I have only walked this route a half dozen times but it was never easy for me🙈 I once took a taxi to get out of a snowy nightmare. Take it easy on Alto, all will be okay. If you do have fears, there is a place to stay just before the steep downhill - make sue you have a staff or ski poles to aid you.
 

Shazenalan

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CF 2018
I have not read this entire thread - but I am 64, not great on downhills, use poles always. I was fearful about this stretch on 6th May, especially as I was tired after St Jean. BUT as it was dry it was okay as long as I took my time. I wear Meindl boots with good grip, that allow room for my toes to move without hitting my boots on a downhill. This is subjective I know - but I was glad I tried it on dry ground, I sm sure it is treacherous after rain.
 

Yoyo

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The walk down into Zubiri is not an easy one, especially in heavy rain.
What adds to it is the fact that the legs of all those who started in SJPP may not have recovered from the long downhill walk into Roncesvalles the day before.
That was my case anyway when I walked that section in 2017.
 

Tincatinker

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2012
Path upgrades must be very expensive and I am sure must be generated by Volunteers. So, it takes time for any section to be repaired. Perhaps the final 6 or 7 km down to Zubiri will eventually be paved with wide steps like the upper half, down to Rio de Erro.
Oh please all you gods of rock and water, wind and air never let this be so. A Peregrino Auto-pista. Safe, comfortable, replete with rest-stops and Orientation Boards.
If you don’t fancy the rocky way just follow the road or call a taxi. It’s just a path down a hill. Take your eyes off the future and pay attention to your present
 
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I didn't remember any trouble at all so I asked Peg her memories of the descend on that very rainy day. She remembers slipping on a rock and landing on her butt (not unusual for her) but she loved the trail through the woods. Her words: "Compared to the White Mountains [of New Hampshire, our favorite stomping ground] it was nothing."
 

Pilgrim9

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My map shows, at approximate location 42.94745° N, 1.46740° W, just north of Erroko Gaina / Alto Erro, an intersection of the CF with a line marked "GR 225" which I speculate to be a recognized hiking trail. The GR 225 line goes west to a village called Saigots. From Saigots there is a road south to Zubiri.

I theorize that to avoid "The Teeth of Heck" described above, one could walk west on GR 225 to Saigots and then south on the road into Zubiri.

I have no idea if this would be better or worse than carefully picking one's way through The Teeth.

Has anyone done this? Any other comments?
 

Tincatinker

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The GR 225 will take you through and over ground not dissimilar to the Camino though perhaps a little less eroded. The "safe" route is to follow the N-135 to Zubiri. There are buses at roughly 9:00, 10:00 & 11:00 in the morning
 

Robo

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The worst parts are the jagged sheets of slate under foot which is espcially slippery when wet, it calls for taking ones time and side steeping in a crab walk for about 30 minutes or so. The alternative of walking on the road is even more dangerous because of the speed of the vehicular traffic and the guard rails along narrow verge set so close to the pavement.

Absolutely @biarritzdon . A very dangerous alternative. At one stage walking it, I thought a Police car was going to stop and haul me off for my own safety.

As I tried to negotiate that road route in 2015, I understand @biarritzdon you almost ran me down. :cool:

Actually he was going to give me lift but couldn't stop, or I looked like a bedraggled homeless person in the rain....or something. :rolleyes:

The last time we did that direct descent down into Zubiri (2018) we were lucky and it was dry.
It wasn't any problem at all.
In the wet I would thing it is quite treacherous.
But of course the path may be a lot worse now........
 

Robo

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The GR 225 will take you through and over ground not dissimilar to the Camino though perhaps a little less eroded. The "safe" route is to follow the N-135 to Zubiri. There are buses at roughly 9:00, 10:00 & 11:00 in the morning

I'm sorry, but I would have to disagree with you there @Tincatinker
Unless the N-135 has been upgraded in recent years......in which case my apologies.

I walked that road route back in 2015 and feared for my life a number of times.

There is no shoulder to speak of and many hairpin bends where oncoming cars only see you at the last minute.

At every bend I would listen for a car before proceeding and on many occasions had to jump behind the safety barrier as one appeared.

Sometimes that wasn't possible due to the steep drop offs behind the barrier. (pic below)

I was very glad to reach Zubiri I can tell you........

Again, based on the Caveat, that the road has not been upgraded since 2015, I would say 'Do not take the road route'. Take your time and be very careful on the direct route. At least you won't get run over.....

From the views on Google maps below........the road is the same as when I walked it.
In bad weather, rain, poor visibility..........No Way.
In dry / clear weather maybe.
Just be fit enough to jump the barriers if you need to!

1653825680668.png
1653825816402.png
 
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mspath

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Ditto for me. Like Tincatinker the times I took the road, February 2007, January 2008, 2009, and 2010 were times it was covered in snow and vertually without traffic except for snow plows close to Zubiri.
 
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Kathar1na

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I walked the descent from Zubiri several years ago. I wore proper hiking shoes with a good grip, had prior experience with hiking on rocky ground and had a good sense of balance, all of which can make a difference, as someone has pointed out already. Also, later on, I literally skipped down the Alto del Perdon, ie I descended at speed the way I had learnt and practiced in similar steep terrain with loose gravel on it and as someone else has already described it in this thread.

I remember nothing of note about the quality of the trail from Roncesvalles to Zubiri except for one short passage shortly before leaving the forest and reaching a road to Zubiri: Fairly steep, fairly large smooth thick sheets or blocks of rock with significantly eroded soil around them. I crossed this part slowly and carefully. I still remember vividly that I was thinking at the time: Who on earth designed this trail because it felt artificially created and not as a trail that had naturally developed over time, and why, given that it is meant for a broad variety of Camino walkers of all ages and abilities, have they not taken measures to secure this part, either by fashioning steps into the rock or securing the trail with timber beams; and also thinking that this can become rather treacherous when wet.

So this is a well-known problematic spot I think.
 

biarritzdon

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Robo, tu as raison. Letting you get into my car that day would have been like picking up a sopping wet stray dog!
 

biarritzdon

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In 2019 I walked from le Puy and the descent into Conques makes the descents on the CF look like child's play. I spent more times than I can count picking myself up off my back side slip sliding on wet leaves.
 
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MichelleElynHogan

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Oh please all you gods of rock and water, wind and air never let this be so. A Peregrino Auto-pista. Safe, comfortable, replete with rest-stops and Orientation Boards.
If you don’t fancy the rocky way just follow the road or call a taxi. It’s just a path down a hill. Take your eyes off the future and pay attention to your present
In future, it may be more accepted to find positive rather than fault, (honey rather than vinegar). I have never met anyone who enjoys being dismissed for simply outlining procedure, possibly policy too.

And at the bottom of the climb down to Rio Erro, there actually IS an Orientation Board, which provided me with much needed shade, the day I was there. Here it is courtesy of Google Maps.
 

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Kathar1na

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actually IS an Orientation Board
Erm ... not sure what this is supposed to tell us about the physical state of the trail of the Camino Francés just before Zubiri?

The board in the photo is an announcement about EU funds in the context of the long running EAFRD program (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) and here specifically about funds used for measures for the improvement of the local infrastructure for ganadores - which means keepers and breeders of livestock, probably sheep in this case. As usual, these projects are co-financed by EU funds earmarked for specific action and by funds from the regional government, hence the logos at the bottom. It is sometimes mandatory to announce this publicly in the vicinity of the works planned and/or done.

PS: No, I can't read all of the text on the photo above in this thread but I found a better photo of the same board on Wikiloc that clearly shows the text. It merely confirmed what I guessed anyway as soon as I saw the EU logo on the board. The only difference was that I had thought that the funds come from the FEDER program but they come from the EAFRD program 2014-2020.

FWIW, a high resolution photo of this board:

EAFRD Erro.jpg

 
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Sherpa47

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2008 and 2017
The final stretch from Alto de Erro down to Zubiri is a NIGHTMARE. In my opinion treacherous and downright dangerous. Evidently excess rain and melting snow have washed away much of the earth leaving the path with nothing but jagged rocks sticking up like stalagmites in a cave. It seems to go on forever. I travel with only a day pack and two poles and had a very difficult time. I was afraid of falling with every step. I can’t imagine doing this section without poles AND a heavy pack. Had I known this in advance, I would never have attempted to walk it. BEWARE!!!!
I don’t think this stretch has ever been any different! When we walked down in 2017 it was hellish and we had a nice sunny dry day! We also carried our heavy packs!
 

Tincatinker

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Staff member
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2012
S’funny innit. I don’t remember, over several encounters, this infamous stretch as being any more of a “scary bit” than other down, ups, or sideways that had or will be in the way on the road to his bones.

I do remember that one time that I slid and slurried my way to the road junction and rationally concluded that getting whacked by an 8 tonne truck was preferable to a broken leg in the back-end of nowhere with the likelihood of a passing qualified first responder clutching a decent whack of morphine in their spare hand was slim.
That time I took the road
 

ELHS220

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I don’t think this stretch has ever been any different! When we walked down in 2017 it was hellish and we had a nice sunny dry day! We also carried our heavy packs!
I walked it on my first Camino in 2015 and again in 2017 and had ZERO memory of anything like I saw last week. On the other hand, Alto de Perdón was EXACTLY as I recall it from before - loose rocks all the way down. There was no surprise. The owner of the albergue just across the bridge was out painting her metal fencing and I engaged her in conversation. She very CLEARLY stated that things had changed for the worse due to severe erosion from recent heavy rains and melting snow. Other pilgrims much younger than I - I am 75 - also agreed that it was hell on wheels. I would venture that most pilgrims are NOT experienced hikers or mountaineers and should be made aware that this section is not like any other “up and down” on the Camino. It would be interesting to hear the opinion of any others who have done it this year.
 
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I have no recent experience, but just want to amplify what @ELHS220 just said.
Slowly, slowly. Take care out there, everyone.
It's clearly worse than we remember.
I walked it on my first Camino in 2015 and again in 2017 and had ZERO memory of anything like I saw last week.
this section is not like any other “up and down” on the Camino.
 
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I walked it on my first Camino in 2015 and again in 2017 and had ZERO memory of anything like I saw last week.
That’s good to have that explanation. Thank you. I have walked that path three times - 2011, 2013 and 2014 - and also had no recollection of any great difficulty. Was starting to question my memory. But like you, remembered the descent from Alto del Perdon as being tricky.
 

Katherine Radeka

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Francés (2022 after failed attempt in 2018)
My husband and I are experienced hikers from the Pacific Northwest, where trails are often rocky with occasional scree slopes or boulder fields. That descent into Zubriri was challenging for us a few weeks ago, with our well-fitting boots.

We were wondering if it was always like that, or if it was a recent change from severe weather.
 

MichelleElynHogan

Veteran Member
Erm ... not sure what this is supposed to tell us about the physical state of the trail of the Camino Francés just before Zubiri?

The board in the photo is an announcement about EU funds in the context of the long running EAFRD program (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) and here specifically about funds used for measures for the improvement of the local infrastructure for ganadores - which means keepers and breeders of livestock, probably sheep in this case. As usual, these projects are co-financed by EU funds earmarked for specific action and by funds from the regional government, hence the logos at the bottom. It is sometimes mandatory to announce this publicly in the vicinity of the works planned and/or done.

PS: No, I can't read all of the text on the photo above in this thread but I found a better photo of the same board on Wikiloc that clearly shows the text. It merely confirmed what I guessed anyway as soon as I saw the EU logo on the board. The only difference was that I had thought that the funds come from the FEDER program but they come from the EAFRD program 2014-2020.

FWIW, a high resolution photo of this board:

View attachment 126602

I provided the pic of the Board as back up to what I was saying, that it did exist and that it provided some much needed shade when I needed it. My version came from a Google maps screenshot so, yes, I did not see its context...but it is, maybe in a stretch, still an orientation board.
 

Kathar1na

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it is, maybe in a stretch, still an orientation board.
Sure.

If you have an eye for it, you will see these information notices about EU funding in the context of one of their standard development programmes for the poorer regions of the European Union further along the Camino Francés, too, and not just in Navarre. I remember that I saw several of them in the region of Castilla y Leon and I wasn't even looking.

Usually it is not such a huge board as in this case but just a small notice in some corner of a building or elsewhere. I don't think that these funds can be or are used for the Camino de Santiago trail as such to repair, maintain or improve the trail. Which, of course, is the question here: Who could be contacted and could do something about the current conditions of the descent to Zubiri?
 
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Rick M

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April ('16,'18, '19, 22)
Sept 21
Funny how memory functions, or in some cases, dysfunctions. The first time I did the descent in Zubiri in 2016 in a steady rain, one section was particularly slippery and hazardous. As I described it later, someone went to a lot of trouble to lay fairly smooth flagstones, presumably to guard against erosion, on a fairly short but very steep patch. I didn't fall, but I saw two others slip on it in the ten minutes I was there. A few years later, the sun was shining, and it was a walk in the park....because it wasn't slippery.

Last month, the rain was back, and I was dreading the "flagstone stretch", as the descent continued. I was quite surprised when it never materialized. What DID materialize was a very heavily eroded stretch that I didn't recall, presumably from last winter's catastrophic rainfall in the area. I'll swear that during Covid, the flagstones were removed from that stretch, likely as a safety precaution. Now is just really eroded....since the flagstones aren't there anymore.
 
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I'll swear that during Covid, the flagstones were removed from that stretch, likely as a safety precaution. Now is just really eroded....since the flagst
My memory is that those weren't flagstones - just natural shale. But as you say...memory is a tricky thing. It actually doesn't matter, because now the bottom line is all that is gone.

Which, of course, is the question here: Who could be contacted and could do something about the current conditions of the descent to Zubiri?
Very good question.
Anyone know where to start? @Rebekah Scott , any ideas?
 
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This has been an interesting thread to follow, and I've been waiting in vain for someone to post a recent picture. I have not been on the descent to Zubiri, (I took the road), but I do know that the track has the misfortune to be underlain by the flysch. If that means nothing to you google Zumaia beach, where it outcrops in all its glory. Worse still, the flysch beds happen to be vertical here, and even worse the track is following the strike - alignment. This means that the softer shale layers easily erode away into narrow channels, particularly on the downslopes, leaving projecting slabs of intervening, harder rock which eventually break off and litter the track. The whole process is inevitable, and can only be rectified by concreting over it.
Screen Shot 2022-05-30 at 12.17.40 am.jpeg Flysch on Zumaia beach.
 

Kathar1na

Member
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This means that the softer shale layers easily erode away into narrow channels, particularly on the downslopes, leaving projecting slabs of intervening, harder rock which eventually break off and litter the track. The whole process is inevitable, and can only be rectified by concreting over it.
Thank you, @Peregrinopaul for chiming in !!! We know that you know a rock when you see one ☺️. And also thank you, @Rick M, for your astute observations and comparison. When I initially read about "jagged rocks sticking up like stalagmites in a cave" in the first post I could not reconcile this description with my own memories. It all makes a lot more sense to me now.

In fact, but I cannot say whether my memory functions or disfunctions when I say this because it was several years ago but when I wondered about who on earth had designed this one treacherous spot on the trail just before Zubiri, I may have wondered who on earth had the idea of pouring slabs of concrete there ... We need high resolution photos of now and then, that's what we need. ☺️
 

Rowena

Member
Past OR future Camino
2022
When I walked it in March this year I wanted to take a picture of the teeth shaped rocks but honestly, the footing was too tenuous to put my poles down, get out the camera, pick the poles up again and maintain my balance. That’s how bad it was!
Again, did anyone else hear about a death sometime in April on the descent to Zubiri? I was told that the pilgrim was Danish. I couldn’t find any news article about it.
Rowena
 
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Kathar1na

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And further, but now related to another treacherous part of the trail, the Alto del Perdon. While I myself had no difficulties and even enjoyed my fast descent a lot, I wrote an email in 2016 after a similar discussion to this one. I have kept the reply that I received. It informed me that it is the Environmental Department that annually does the maintenance and the signposting of the Way to Santiago in Navarra - both Zubiri and the Sierra del Perdon are in Navarra. They also informed that a suggestion that I had made, namely to make the trail longer and thereby decrease the inclination, would be very expensive and it would involve the expropriation of land to undertake the works.

So, in short, there are local factors involved of which we who walk through there are not aware of.
 

ELHS220

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You might want to skip the descent from Alto de Perdón too.
I did that without issue, slowly and carefully. It was exactly what I remember from 2015 and 2017. Zubiri…………not so much…….AWFUL.
 

Ali@59

Alison
Past OR future Camino
2022
I can't exactly remember how the path was when I walked April 2018, but I think poles are very advisable on a lot of downhill paths because if there's been rain they can be treacherous and while it may be okay for young people with no fear of breaking bones and the more agile folks it can be really dangerous
 

Kathar1na

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This has been an interesting thread to follow, and I've been waiting in vain for someone to post a recent picture. I have not been on the descent to Zubiri, (I took the road), but I do know that the track has the misfortune to be underlain by the flysch
@Peregrinopaul, not recent pictures but pictures of the descent to Zubiri from recent years can be seen below. The first one shows perhaps this "flysch" formation? The second one shows perhaps what I myself remember: smooth steep surfaces. I often don't have a particular memory of rocky terrain along the Camino Francés, only whether, at the time, I was wearing the right kind of shoes for the terrain (Meindl hiking shoes) or the wrong kind (Hoka One One trainers). As to Zubiri, what I personally regard as treacherous is the steep upper section in the second photo. Not any naturally rocky parts (which certainly were there, they just did not pose a particular problem to me).

Zuburi 2019.jpg
 
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MichelleElynHogan

Veteran Member
Erm ... not sure what this is supposed to tell us about the physical state of the trail of the Camino Francés just before Zubiri?

The board in the photo is an announcement about EU funds in the context of the long running EAFRD program (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) and here specifically about funds used for measures for the improvement of the local infrastructure for ganadores - which means keepers and breeders of livestock, probably sheep in this case. As usual, these projects are co-financed by EU funds earmarked for specific action and by funds from the regional government, hence the logos at the bottom. It is sometimes mandatory to announce this publicly in the vicinity of the works planned and/or done.

PS: No, I can't read all of the text on the photo above in this thread but I found a better photo of the same board on Wikiloc that clearly shows the text. It merely confirmed what I guessed anyway as soon as I saw the EU logo on the board. The only difference was that I had thought that the funds come from the FEDER program but they come from the EAFRD program 2014-2020.

FWIW, a high resolution photo of this board:

View attachment 126602

When I encountered this board, it was just after contemplating what I was going to be able to do after blowing out my left leg IT Band climbing down to the Rio Erro. I sat by the water for a time. Then, once I was able to get started, that sign appeared, offering the only shade available anywhere around. See where the shade is? That is where I was, having absolutely no interest in what the sign said, at the time.
 

Kathar1na

Member
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To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
that sign appeared, offering the only shade available anywhere around
@MichelleElynHogan, it is good to learn that this board appeared for you and provided you with shade and comfort when you needed it.

However, I am puzzled by this board's continued appearance in this thread about the geology and current condition of the Camino trail down to Zubiri. Your screenshot shows the coordinates of this board: I double checked in Google Earth just now: the board is on a roundabout on the N-135 road just before the small villages of Viscarret-Guerendiain and Lintzoain and this is long before the ascent to the Alto de Erro, let alone the descent from there down to Zubiri. I suggest that it is time for this board about EU funding for agriculture in Navarra to have a rest, wouldn't you agree? ☺️
 
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legless

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances March-April 2022.
I've just been looking to see if had taken any photos in March but of course I. hadn't because I was too bloody scared and very busy concentrating! When I mentioned this bit in my "live from the camino" I got the idea that I was alone in being. worried so it's reassuring to see that people know the path has deteriorated over time and that at the moment it's quite tough. For me it's not about whether an individual can do it, but more that people should know what the path is like and therefore be able to make an informed choice as to whether to attempt it.
 
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...not recent pictures but pictures of the descent to Zubiri from recent years can be seen below. The first one shows perhaps this "flysch" formation? The second one shows perhaps what I myself remember: smooth steep surfaces.
This is a screenshot from a Youtube video I watched. Didn't note the date.
Flysch pre Zubiri  %22Wall%22 (1).jpeg
Lovely :)
 

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If only there were some current "Live..." threads in this area, we could commision a photo!
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances; Aragones; VdlP; Madrid-Invierno; Levante
I only walked this way once, on my first camino in 2015. I remember the steep slope and loose stones behind the Alto del Perdon, but do not recall the walk down to Zubiri discussed here. There is a possible alternative for walkers: to begin one's pilgrimage by the climb up to Somport and on to the Aragones, as I did the following year. I do not recall any dangerous sections on that climb.The trail leads to Puente la Reina, where it joins with the better-known branch of the Frances to proceed on to Santiago. But I love it too much to encourage all of you to follow it in future.
 

Kathar1na

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This is a screenshot from a Youtube video I watched. Didn't note the date. View attachment 126760 Lovely :)
I agree 🙂. I so regret that I had not been aware of it when I was walking through or over a Flysch formation between Roncesvalles and Zubiri. As I said, I don't recall this at all, sadly, and when we are talking of a dangerous part of the Camino trail to Zubiri on the forum, a number of people mention the danger of slipping when it is wet so I guess that cannot be this wildly stone-rich short section but another and different short section later on.

This photo is dated: 2 October 2020. I do hope that they do not ever concrete this over and leave it as it is!!! The blogger who took the photo writes that they did enjoy every step of the way from Roncesvalles to Zubiri. :)

IMG_0992.jpeg
 

Kathar1na

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Since 2006, a local half-marathon takes place on the first Sunday of October from Roncesvalles to Zubiri along the trail of the Camino Francés. In 2018, the organisers had specific advice for their participants and I think that their advice applies to walkers, too: Slow down, be careful, especially during the last 2 km. Of course, for numerous pilgrims this is the end of a physically exhausting day and often the second exhausting day in a row after their start in SJPP.

Translation (note that this refers to the month of October so quite some time after winter!)

We would like to inform you that this year [2018] there is an area of particular danger which is the descent from the Alto de Erro towards the finishing line in Zubiri; the last 2 kilometres are particularly treacherous.
Under normal circumstances, this is a difficult area because it is a fairly steep descent with steep slopes, but this year the whole area is particularly dangerous due to this winter's heavy rains which had the result that the water has washed away the soil etc. and the stones have been completely exposed and are separated from each other so that this descent has become a hazard that requires maximum care by the runner.
Our organisation has tried to find out whether there was any possibility of improvement but it is impossible, nature exerts its power and we can only exert maximum care on the way down.
Remember that it is much better to arrive late than to be stranded and badly injured by an accident.
 
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Kathar1na

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You may remember forum posts in April 2018 when there was a day of unusual and severe flooding in this part of the Pyrenees. So those of us who have walked before 2018 may not remember any "stalagmites" and "dragon teeths" because they weren't there or less pronounced and may only remember the flat and steep slippery slabs on the descent into Zubiri.
 

koknesis

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..... Had I known this in advance, I would never have attempted to walk it. BEWARE!!!!
Perhaps that is not what a pilgrim would usually expect, but then again you can be proud you made it :)
On the other hand, before diving into the trail walking adventures, mastering some simple descending techniques might be helpful:
 

Albertagirl

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I cannot see that the slope above Zubiri, which is apparently flysch, has any significant comparison to scree or that walkers could benefit from the descent procedures usable on scree.
 
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Kathar1na

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I cannot see that the slope above Zubiri, which is apparently flysch, has any significant comparison to scree or could benefit from the descent procedures usable on scree.
I think the video is meant more as an illustration that there are other ways of descending a steep slope on a nature trail than staggering downwards on 4 supports, namely on two feet and two poles.

You are right, there are no scree fields between Roncesvalles and Zubiri and there are no scree fields along the Camino Francés. The only short steep section with loose gravel that I remember is the upper part of the descent from the Alto del Perdon. Some time ago, someone posted a video where one single solid pole was used in a similar way as in the video for ascending and descending steep slopes but one would need to practice this first. Also, I think that in some locations it may be better for pilgrims to pack their two poles, or at least one of them, away.
 

MichelleElynHogan

Veteran Member
@MichelleElynHogan, it is good to learn that this board appeared for you and provided you with shade and comfort when you needed it.

However, I am puzzled by this board's continued appearance in this thread about the geology and current condition of the Camino trail down to Zubiri. Your screenshot shows the coordinates of this board: I double checked in Google Earth just now: the board is on a roundabout on the N-135 road just before the small villages of Viscarret-Guerendiain and Lintzoain and this is long before the ascent to the Alto de Erro, let alone the descent from there down to Zubiri. I suggest that it is time for this board about EU funding for agriculture in Navarra to have a rest, wouldn't you agree? ☺️
 
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LesR

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The final stretch from Alto de Erro down to Zubiri is a NIGHTMARE. In my opinion treacherous and downright dangerous. Evidently excess rain and melting snow have washed away much of the earth leaving the path with nothing but jagged rocks sticking up like stalagmites in a cave. It seems to go on forever. I travel with only a day pack and two poles and had a very difficult time. I was afraid of falling with every step. I can’t imagine doing this section without poles AND a heavy pack. Had I known this in advance, I would never have attempted to walk it. BEWARE!!!!
Nightmare? maybe a little of an exaggeration...

I recall noting in 2017 that a fall on the descent into Zubiri would be quite uncomfortable but I didn't feel in mortal danger. In 2018, I didn't even notice it...

Yes, if one is uncertain of their footing, a fall is a possibility, but with due care and attention to foot placement (and maybe poles), a fall is not an inevitability!
 
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ELHS220

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Nightmare? maybe a little of an exaggeration...

I recall noting in 2017 that a fall on the descent into Zubiri would be quite uncomfortable but I didn't feel in mortal danger. In 2018, I didn't even notice it...

Yes, if one is uncertain of their footing, a fall is a possibility, but with due care and attention to foot placement (and maybe poles), a fall is not an inevitability!
Ahem……..

This is 2022. I did it in 2015 and 2017 and have no memory of anything like I experienced on MAY 26, 2022. Everyone I’ve mentioned it to, and there have been MANY, seem to agree that it was HORRIBLE.
 

Little TT

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I walked it on my first Camino in 2015 and again in 2017 and had ZERO memory of anything like I saw last week. On the other hand, Alto de Perdón was EXACTLY as I recall it from before - loose rocks all the way down. There was no surprise. The owner of the albergue just across the bridge was out painting her metal fencing and I engaged her in conversation. She very CLEARLY stated that things had changed for the worse due to severe erosion from recent heavy rains and melting snow. Other pilgrims much younger than I - I am 75 - also agreed that it was hell on wheels. I would venture that most pilgrims are NOT experienced hikers or mountaineers and should be made aware that this section is not like any other “up and down” on the Camino. It would be interesting to hear the opinion of any others who have done it this year.
We walked it on 6th May this year, we are seasoned walkers from England ,most of our walks are on the fells of The Lake District, the Scottish Highlands or Snowdonia National Park and so we are used to steep descents. We found it really tough, the path was in terrible condition, in fact i have never seen anything quite like it. So although I have never seen what condition it was in years ago I would have to agree with you ELHS220 it was awful.
 

ELHS220

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We walked it on 6th May this year, we are seasoned walkers from England ,most of our walks are on the fells of The Lake District, the Scottish Highlands or Snowdonia National Park and so we are used to steep descents. We found it really tough, the path was in terrible condition, in fact i have never seen anything quite like it. So although I have never seen what condition it was in years ago I would have to agree with you ELHS220 it was awful.
We walked it on 6th May this year, we are seasoned walkers from England ,most of our walks are on the fells of The Lake District, the Scottish Highlands or Snowdonia National Park and so we are used to steep descents. We found it really tough, the path was in terrible condition, in fact i have never seen anything quite like it. So although I have never seen what condition it was in years ago I would have to agree with you ELHS220 it was awful.
Thank you.
I rest my case.
 
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Pilgrim9

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I walked the stretch from Alto de Erro to Zubiri yesterday 2022-June-06.

There are several sections with long slots in the rock, about 3 metres or more long x 10 to 15 cm deep, that are parallel to the trail and are almost exactly the width of a booted foot, maybe just a bit wider.

Getting one's foot trapped in one of the slots, and then losing one's balance and accidentally twisting, could IMO cause a bad spiral fracture of the leg. Evacuating an injured person from this stretch could be difficult, and the treacherous footing might put the rescue team itself at risk.

I walked carefully atop the narrow ridges beside the deep slots. The difficulty in balancing on the ridges in combination with fatigue required me to give full attention to my steps, hence, no photos.

IMO this section is dangerous.
 

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