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Just how difficult is it getting over The Pyrenees..

amybell

New Member
I am starting the Camino on 22nd May. Up untill now I have felt quite positive about my ability to be able to walk over the pyrenees, untill I read and I quote ' It is brutal, harsh and at times death would seem a better option'!!!!!!!!!!! Please someone tell me its not that bad!!!! or indeed if it is that bad then equally please tell me !!! thankyou
 
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peregrina2000

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Staff member
Hi, amybell,

The difficulty of the Pyrenees crossing depends on two things -- your fitness level and the weather. Here are the elevation numbers, as provided a few years ago by Johnnie Walker:

St Jean Pied de Port - Roncesvalles Altitude at departure: 180m/594ft.

On the way Orisson stands at 1095m/3614ft, then further on Col Lepoeder stands at 1430m/4719ft - this is the highest point on this route. There is then the descent to Puerto de Ibaneta and Roncesvalles.

Altitude at arrival: 920m/3036ft.

The toughest part is from St. Jean to Orisson because of the short distance -- 3100 feet elevation gain over about 8 miles.

So you can see that the total elevation gain is 4100 feet or about 1300 meters. If you compare that to walks/hikes you've taken you can get some idea about whether it's in your range or not.

Good luck and buen camino. Laurie
 

jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Amybell:

Tens of thousands of Pilgrims walk this route every year. That said, fitness level and weather (as Laurie said) contribute to the individual experience.

The Camino is not a walk in the park. That said, almost anyone can do it. I recommend you split the first day into two. Make a reservation at Orisson. This also allows you to ease your body into walking shape. You will be walking around a half marathon a day for a month.

Listen to your body, take care of your feet and the Camino will take care of the rest.

Ultreya,
Joe
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
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Don't assume that you have to walk from SJPP to Roncesvalles in one day. There is the option to do it over two days on both Route Napoleon and Route Valcarlos. I didn't do that, but wished that I had.

There are other factors to consider, particularly the weather and available daylight hours. When I crossed, the advice in SJPP was not to use Route Napoleon, so I walked Route Valcarlos. This took about 10 hours (admittedly because I got lost for an hour or so) and I arrived just after six pm. The last hour or so was in the dark. But there were still pilgrims who had set out at about the same time as me on Route Napoleon coming in at 10pm, having struggled through the snow at the top of the pass. They had spent several hours walking in the dark.

Its clearly achievable to do it in one day, but don't dismiss the other options to make it easier and safer.

Regards,
 

grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
Yes
It is difficult for most people .... But very doable as most people do not turn back

The weather changes the experience. Obviously winter can make the route Napoleon a poor choice.

The main difficulty is that it is the first day and many (most?) pilgrims are overpacked with heavy packs. Start early with a proper pack weight and you will make it.
The real benefit is the sense of accomplishment that will stay with you for the rest of the way.
You will feel like a veteran after the first day! :shock:
 
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SuperSix

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
(2014)
peregrina2000 said:
Hi, amybell,

The difficulty of the Pyrenees crossing depends on two things -- your fitness level and the weather. Here are the elevation numbers, as provided a few years ago by Johnnie Walker:

St Jean Pied de Port - Roncesvalles Altitude at departure: 180m/594ft.

On the way Orisson stands at 1095m/3614ft, then further on Col Lepoeder stands at 1430m/4719ft - this is the highest point on this route. There is then the descent to Puerto de Ibaneta and Roncesvalles.

Altitude at arrival: 920m/3036ft.

The toughest part is from St. Jean to Orisson because of the short distance -- 3100 feet elevation gain over about 8 miles.

So you can see that the total elevation gain is 4100 feet or about 1300 meters. If you compare that to walks/hikes you've taken you can get some idea about whether it's in your range or not.

Good luck and buen camino. Laurie
Sounds to me like Orisson would be a GREAT place to spend the night! :)
 

amybell

New Member
thank you so much or all of your replies..... I am relatively fit and planning on getting fitter before i leave. Just how much preparation should one do before this? I have read books and researched but i still like I am out on a limb so to speak!!!!! I have no idea about altitude at all?????? or howthat will effect me?? Any any advice will be so gratefully received!!!! ishould point out that I am very excited and looking forward to it!!!!
 

grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
Yes
amybell said:
thank you so much or all of your replies..... I am relatively fit and planning on getting fitter before i leave. Just how much preparation should one do before this? I have read books and researched but i still like I am out on a limb so to speak!!!!! I have no idea about altitude at all?????? or howthat will effect me?? Any any advice will be so gratefully received!!!! ishould point out that I am very excited and looking forward to it!!!!


The altitude should not have any effect....the uphill climb is the challenge.
It is difficult to train for this unless you live in an area with some pretty substantial climbs to practice on.
The very best thing to train for is carrying the pack weight you will have on the 1st day of the Camino...for the distance you will walk over the mountain. Either Orrison or Roncesvalles.

What time of year are you going? It does not sound like you will have any more problem than everyone else. :wink:
 

amybell

New Member
Thank you for the reassurance. I am stating the walk 0n 22nd May... Should I start walking with my pack weight now? Also any thing other than the obvious that you can suggest to take? x
 

CatherineAnn

CF summer 2016
Year of past OR future Camino
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Camino Frances (2016)
Listen to your intuition. Train with your pack everyday, or every other day, or what feels right for you. The more you train the easier your walk will be. It was the everyday walking, with the pack, with no rest and my feet turned into one big hot spot after 3 days. When I go again, I will plan a rest day after 3 or 4 days to rest my feet. I did not train with my pack everyday as I had planned and it showed.

As someone else has pointed out stopping in Orrison if lodging is available would be great.
 
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Phillypilgrim

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
C F Sept.(2013) Camino de Madrid & Finisterre/Muxia Sept. (2014)
Finisterre/Muia June (2017).
I too have read the Pyrenees crossing is both, "a complete nightmare" and "so many do it, you can too!" I am considering sending my pack by Taxi on day one to Orrison (if I can book the night). Is this a possibility?
 

Stlrms

New Member
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July (2013)
I have no advice, but am gaining information as I try to decide where to begin in July. Great information!!
 

biarritzdon

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The first time I went over I was totally unprepared. When I got to the top and was finally able to breathe normally about 3 in the afternoon, I started the way down throught the woods which is a living hell for someone who hadn't walked great distances up or down mountains like me. The next day I walked with some other pilgrims and we compared the first 27km to an allegory about life. You spend your life pushing and pushing yourself up a hill which at times is steep and at times seemingly level, then when you reach the top "of your career/life" you learn after accomplishing that feat that you still face difficulties in your life; i.e. it's not an easy, breezy glide going downhill after succeeding retirement. Take heart, I almost gave up on the first day climbing that first few kilometer after leaving St. Jean Pied de Port, it's a killer so don't let it get you down. Savor every kilometer of the Camino and the pilgrims you meet along your route. Buen Camino!
 

amybell

New Member
Sending pack by taxi sounds like a great idea.... I am thinking we will book to stay in Orrison overnight, I didnt realise it was possible to book. So many things still to learn and all in just over 3 weeks!!!!!!!!!!!
 

jburr3708

James on The Way
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2014 Frances SJPDP
2016 Portugues (with wife)
2017 VDLP
2018 Portugues (with daughter)
I came over April 24. It took 6 hours of hard uphill against a strong wind, then about an hour on the very steep descent to Roncevalles. There was snow at the top. About 100 people came over that day. I had not been able to train for anything comparable in length, altitude or conditions but I made it fine and am 70 years old. Admittedly it was one of the hardest days of my life bit the achievement was wel worth the pain. The Camino brought me to me knees, but that is part of the experience. Now on day 6 of our pilgrimage and love every minute of the experience.
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
amybell said:
I am starting the Camino on 22nd May. Up untill now I have felt quite positive about my ability to be able to walk over the pyrenees, untill I read and I quote ' It is brutal, harsh and at times death would seem a better option'!!!!!!!!!!! Please someone tell me its not that bad!!!! or indeed if it is that bad then equally please tell me !!! thankyou

Okay ... its not that bad.

thank you so much or all of your replies..... I am relatively fit and planning on getting fitter before i leave. Just how much preparation should one do before this? I have read books and researched but i still like I am out on a limb so to speak!!!!! I have no idea about altitude at all?????? or howthat will effect me?? Any any advice will be so gratefully received!!!! ishould point out that I am very excited and looking forward to it!!!!

Altitude is not an issue below 3000 meters. Maximum altitude for the Napoleon route is 1430 meters ... well below the level where potential problems with altitude need to be considered.

There is nothing technically difficult about the route. Most of it is a road that you would not have problems with driving your car on.

The only hard part is that the day is a long one ... 25km ... and there are few places to stop and rest. The weather is a factor ... again because there is no shelter ... you are in it. Further, the psychology of it is that its your first day so you will likely have difficulty holding back when you should be pacing yourself.

The fitter you are the better off you will be ... particularly on day 3 when the fatigue will be felt.

Bring enough water ... I'd suggest two liters ... for if it is a hot day and you run short of water it becomes "brutal, harsh and at times death would seem a better option".

Enjoy the view ... the Napoleon Route is one of the more spectacular sections.
 
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I disagree about carrying two liters of water. That is way too much weight and there is no reason. You can fill up at Orisso and again at the fountain at the top. I never carry more than one 8 ounce bottle and simply refill it. There is also the 'welcome wagon' at the top where you can buy a drink.
 

RJEyoung

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
May-June 2013
Thanks Anniesantiago! That makes good sense. I see the fountains in the guide books. Good confirmation. Leaving SJPP on May 19th hoping and fully expecting at this point to go "over the top" to Roncesvalles for the night!
 

Pieces

Veteran Member
honestly, if you are fairly able bodied it is NOT all that difficult...

yes, it is steep in some places, yes, once in a while one needs to take a break, but then one has all day...

I was actually pleasantly surprise after reading all the horror stories...

as I was injured the year before, i had absolutely no previous training, am a smoker, and had been sat minding my bad back and sciatica pains for about a year, and I still made it, so did all my later to be friends, some of them were fairly overweight (changed though before we parted ways :) )...

actually the absolute worst part was not the uphill, slow and steady does it on that part, the real trouble was going downhill, but maybe that is just me...
 
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dougfitz

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Anniesantiago said:
I disagree about carrying two liters of water. That is way too much weight and there is no reason. You can fill up at Orisso and again at the fountain at the top. I never carry more than one 8 ounce bottle and simply refill it. There is also the 'welcome wagon' at the top where you can buy a drink.
That sounds like 750ml of water across the course of a fairly active day, well short of the daily intake of 2 1/2 to 3 litre recommended even for normal consumption. That sounds too close to becoming badly dehydrated for my liking.

I think the advice to carry two litres is reasonable. My personal preference is to carry more except when I know that I can easily replenish from potable sources. My own experience did not support the general optimism that potable water is readily available, although from SJPP there appear to be places to get water on both routes that would make carrying as little as a litre an acceptable risk.
 

Starsky

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
15 July 2013
Ive just joined and looking to journey from July this year can't wait. Already learned a lot from this site . Good luck and I hope the Pyrenees goes well. I also hope it isn't too bad. But what's the best way to get to saint jean?
 
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I agree Doug, everyone is different and must act accordingly. How much water a person should drink seems to change with the wind along with how many eggs, how much salt, and whether caffeine is good or bad. Its all theory. Hopefully, people know their own bodies and needs.

I doubt I drink two liters of water in a day unless it is exceptionally hot. And I have made it 61 years. Even if a person did drink that much, you can fill up at Orisson and at the fountain on the top of the hill (check at the pilgrims office to be sure it is flowing) and you'd only have to carry less than half the weight.

But to each his/her own. :p
 

fraluchi

RIP 2019
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One every year since 2007
amybell said:
Up untill now I have felt quite positive about my ability to be able to walk over the pyrenees, untill I read and I quote ' It is brutal, harsh and at times death would seem a better option'!
Well, it's not that bad after all. The problem with mountains, however, is that the weather is unpredictable. Sometimes even by locals. The best advice is to get knowledgable information on the conditions once you are in SJPP. The locals are used to the circumstances, assessing the conditions of ..... the pilgrims ( :p ) and suggesting the best ways to cope for the individual with the crossing to Roncesvalles. Don't be pessimistic, but be prepared to sit out possible adverse weather.
Ultreya! :)
 

dougfitz

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Anniesantiago said:
How much water a person should drink seems to change with the wind along with how many eggs, how much salt, and whether caffeine is good or bad. Its all theory.
Actually, I don't think the recommendation on what is an adequate water intake to maintain health has varied all that much, what seems to be unclear is whether this requires additional water. The (US) Institute of Medicine 2004 report on Dietary Reference Intakes for Electrolytes And Water highlights included:
The vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide. (my emphasis) The report did not specify exact requirements for water, but set general recommendations for women at approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water -- from all beverages and foods -- each day, and men an average of approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of total water. The panel did not set an upper level for water.

About 80 percent of people's total water intake comes from drinking water and beverages -- including caffeinated beverages -- and the other 20 percent is derived from food.

Prolonged physical activity and heat exposure will increase water losses and therefore may raise daily fluid needs, although it is important to note that excessive amounts can be life-threatening.
There is also an interesting article on Snopes debunking some of the urban myths about this. It is at http://www.snopes.com/medical/myths/8glasses.asp.
 
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kmrice

Active Member
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Santiago - Fisterra 2008
St. Jean Pied de Port - Santiago 2013
After the climb to Orrison, what's the second toughest climb?

Karl
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
This thread made me confirm my reservation at Refuge Orisson! Thanks, everyone! I thought I was just chickening out. Now I'm comfortable letting caution be my guide. As it has been said here, "Start out like an old man so you can finish like a young man"!
Kathy
PS - Amy, I'll be leaving SJPdP the same day as you, maybe we can meet up?
 

mspath

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kmrice said:
After the climb to Orrison, what's the second toughest climb?

Karl

Karl,

Both Monte Irago west of Rabanal (the highest point on the CF) and O Cebreiro can be difficult, especially in bad weather. Last November 29 going up to O Cebreiro was a 5 hour slog through dense snow and eventual white-out conditions. Luckily I knew the way because you could not see it!

Buen Camino,

Margaret Meredith
 

grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
Yes
For those on their first day of the camino walking over the Route Napoleon, it is critical to consider the weight you are carrying.

When advising people to carry 2 liters of water from SJPdP (water is available at Huntos and Orisson) it is important to also advise them of the weight.

1 liter of water = 1 kg or 2.2 lbs
2 liter of water = 2 kg or 4.4 lbs

2 kg is a substantial percentage of the total weight that it is advised for most people to carry...let alone up the mountain on the first day.

Extreme heat in the summer may make it necessary...but drinking a liter before you leave SJPdP and another at Orisson might be a better idea. :shock: (joke)
 

NicoZ

Veteran Member
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http://www.hartfordmarathon.com/Assets/ ... unning.pdf

Due to individual differences in fluid tolerance- Some individuals cannot comfortably handle the
amounts of fluid to approximate fluid losses during activity. A possible solution to this may be
gradually drinking over time and not having one large amount after a period of time

Runners should be able to recognize the basic signs and symptoms of
the onset of heat illness for which dehydration may be a cause: irritability, and general discomfort,
then headache, weakness, dizziness, cramps, chills, vomiting, nausea, head or neck heat sensations
(e.g. pulsating sensation in the brain), disorientation and decreased performance
 
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biarritzdon

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Everyone's physiology is different but dehydration and rehydration are a serious issue when walking long distances. I am 67 and when I was younger I was in the camp of the 60 year old who never had a problem, until one day when I was walking using Gatorade as my fluid of choice I developed a crippling case gout for a week. Whether it is cold or hot, you are sweating and you must replenish your fluids. Water is the purest form for that and 1.5 liters is the absolute minimum per day. I carry 0.5 liters nearby me at all times when I'm walking distances and replenished it whenever possible and on the days when there is a possibility of no additional supply of water I carry a 1.5 liter bottle in my backpack. Trust me, I have shared that water many times with someone who was in distress and out of water. The other problem we pilgrims bring upon ourselves is at the end of a long day of walking we tend to grab a few beers or glasses of wines, and believe me there is nothing wrong with that, but it only adds to the dehydration of your body.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
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grayland said:
2 kg is a substantial percentage of the total weight that it is advised for most people to carry...let alone up the mountain on the first day.
The advice to target 10% is a pack base weight target, ie without food and water. Water carried is not a percentage of the 'total weight' but an add on to the base weight, along with any food that is added to the pack.

There is the issue that as this is the first day, individuals have not had time to re-assess what is really essential in their pack, and will still be carrying things that they will remove over the next few days and leave behind, send on to Santiago or just send home. Adding to this is always problematic.

grayland said:
but drinking a liter before you leave SJPdP and another at Orisson might be a better idea.
Other than the weight of the container if the water was carried externally rather than internally, what difference will this make? Drinking a litre of water at one time is a physical challenge, and could be quite uncomfortable even on an empty stomach. I don't think it would be possible for the average person to do that on top of breakfast.

I note that the CSJ site planning page recommends carrying at least one litre of water. Given that there is some reliance on this site as the source for the 10% pack weight target, picking and choosing which bits of their advice to follow or not appears remarkably inconsistent. (See http://www.csj.org.uk/planning.htm#take.)

To get back to the point that started this, ie
whariwharangi said:
Bring enough water ... I'd suggest two liters ... for if it is a hot day and you run short of water it becomes "brutal, harsh and at times death would seem a better option".
I stand by my own support for this advice, and suggest that any advice to carry less than a litre is not sound general advice in the face of the recommendations on acceptable water intake.

It may be that individuals have walked with less, and not suffered in the longer term. Knowing this might allow new pilgrims to cut down on the amount of water that start out with, but they also need to know that this might increase their risk if they are closer to the normal in terms of their body's water demands.

Regards
 
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http://news.menshealth.com/overhydratio ... 012/06/09/

Drinking 2 liters if water per day has no scientific basis in fact according to this Stanford University doctor and hydration researcher.

When you're thirsty, drink.
When you're not, don't drink.

There are more than enough opportunities to fill up a bottle on the Frances and no need to carry excess weight.

Again, just like what shoes to wear or when to eat, or whether or not to take supplements, nobody knows your body like you do. Do what feels right for yourself.
 

NicoZ

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2013
The problem with suggesting people skimp on water is that at least a part of the readers won't have much experience. In addition the older you get the less the thirst response works.
 

grayland

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
Yes
There is also a problem of advising people to carry excess weight over the Route Napoleon.
You can get water at Orisson. You do not need more than 1 liter to get you the 7 km to Orisson and then fill up. Orisson to Roncevelles does not require more than 1 liter of water...except in the hottest days in August..but probably not even then.

Walking over the mountan is not a marathon nor does it require anything like a marathon. It simply is not a comparison.

I have done it a couple of times and actually find it to be nothing like the horror scenes that are sometimes described here.
 
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flyswatty

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grayland said:
There is also a problem of advising people to carry excess weight over the Route Napoleon.
You can get water at Orisson. You do not need more than 1 liter to get you the 7 km to Orisson and then fill up. Orisson to Roncevelles does not require more than 1 liter of water...except in the hottest days in August..but probably not even then.

Walking over the mountan is not a marathon nor does it require anything like a marathon. It simply is not a comparison.

I have done it a couple of times and actually find it to be nothing like the horror scenes that are sometimes described here.
Thank you for your comments. . I hike a lot in the Rockies west of Calgary and people I know who have hiked the Camino have told me that if I hike in the Rockies then the Pyrennes will be manageable.
 

NicoZ

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2013
grayland said:
Walking over the mountan is not a marathon nor does it require anything like a marathon. It simply is not a comparison.

I have done it a couple of times and actually find it to be nothing like the horror scenes that are sometimes described here.

I'll try again. Some of the people reading aren't in perfect condition. Not at top fitness levels. Not normally active. They may be older. They may be jet lagged from long flights.

The people at risk are likely the ones most likely to take hydration lightly.


Those marathon runners are active. In fairly reasonable shape. They still end up at risk.
 

cecelia

Wandering for the love and growth of it
Year of past OR future Camino
2013
This may give some perspective; The first time I walked over the Route Napoleon I was 60 and in reasonable shape but nothing unusual (I'd had a sit down job). At the moment I am in the Pilgrims Office in SJPP where incidentally we were unsure whether we would be allowed to walk over because the police had it closed yesterday. But today it is open again. I will walk over (staying at Orisson for the night) with my neighbour. We are seventy this year. Hope that alone helps to alleviate some fears. The mountain can be very dangerous like any mountain. If they tell you in SJPP not to go over then don't tempt the fates to teach you a hard lesson. Apart from that it is a long walk uphill and uphill and uphill. The footing is not dangerous and the path is well marked when the weather is reasonable. It is hard because it's long but it's definitely not mountain climbing; I mean to say you're upright on two feet - no gymnastics are required:)
Buen camino
Cecelia
 

Kanga

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Water is available at Hunto and Orrisson and don't forget the "Fountain de Roland" at the border.
 

dougfitz

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Anniesantiago said:
When you're thirsty, drink.
When you're not, don't drink.
I think this is great advice, and I highlighted the equivalent statement in the Institute of Medicine reports I quoted earlier. It seems pretty clear to me that if you are not carrying enough water on you, you cannot actually heed this advice. Certainly if you carry the very small quantities of water being recommended here, you risk not being able to do this.

grayland said:
You do not need more than 1 liter to get you the 7 km to Orisson and then fill up. Orisson to Roncevelles does not require more than 1 liter of water...except in the hottest days in August..but probably not even then.
This might have been the poster's personal experience, it was not mine. Walking Route Valcarlos in late Mar I refilled a 2li bladder at Arneguy, topped it up at Valcarlos and refilled it at the font at the top of the climb. In my case, only carrying a 250ml bottle would have been both foolhardy and dangerous.
Anniesantiago said:
There are more than enough opportunities to fill up a bottle on the Frances
Again, this was not my experience walking in early spring, particularly on the Mesata where several fonts were dry, including those in some villages. By the time I got to Leon, I had stopped relying on fonts being available, and made sure that I filled up more regularly when I stopped for a coffee or snack.
 
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mikevasey

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Just thought i would add one thing to consider to this thread, if you are only taking a small amount of water make sure the places up ahead are open. At the time of year I went Orisson was shut and they had turned their water tap off. It does not usually close until mid October so most people will be ok.
 

TheTinkerBell

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
SJPP - SdC (2013);
OCebreiro - Fisterra (2019)
Great thread!

Two questions haven't been answered though...

1. How steep is steep (in the SJPP to Orrison sections)?
2. Is the facility there to ship your rucksack on to Orrison or Roncesvalles from SJPP before you start walking?

Thanks in advance!
 

efdoucette

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2011 Camino Frances
Since 2011 - too many to list
My advice:
Book into Orrisson, how often do you get to spend a night in the Pyrenees, and an opportunity to meet some of your travelling family.
Eric
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
TheTinkerBell said:
Great thread!

Two questions haven't been answered though...

1. How steep is steep (in the SJPP to Orrison sections)?
2. Is the facility there to ship your rucksack on to Orrison or Roncesvalles from SJPP before you start walking?

Thanks in advance!

TheTinkerBell,

For information regarding your question 2 see this comprehensive post by fellow Forum member Sillydoll. >> http://amawalker.blogspot.fr/2010/05/lu ... amino.html

Buen Camino,

Margaret Meredith
 
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dkenagy

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
April-June 2009 (Frances) (little bit of bus-riding)
March-May 2012 (Frances) (walked every inch)
April 2017: VDLP: I'll be 75
I applaud recently-posted challenges to the arrogant legion of "aquatheists" who never tire of dictating water requirements, often with warnings about dire consequences of not guzzling the stuff. People ARE different. I, for instance, am a camel: I have done the CF twice, every step from St. Jean to Santiago, and have NEVER carried ANY water. It's heavy, whether in containers or the belly. I do drink coffee and carry wine, which should always be bought by the bottle and stored in a bladder.
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
As a long time hiker ... I can tell you that having an empty water bottle and not knowing exactly how far to the next water source is a psychologically difficult thing, particularly on a long day.

Never drink that last mouthful of water.

Thats over and above the requirements of what you actually might need to prevent dehydration.

I drank tea at Huntos. The tap at Orisson was closed for the winter. There was no welcome wagon at the top. I refilled both 1 liter bottles at the fountain and it was a cool wet day. So check if you are counting on these for resupply here and on other remote sections of the camino ...
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
TheTinkerBell said:
Great thread!

Two questions haven't been answered though...

1. How steep is steep (in the SJPP to Orrison sections)?
2. Is the facility there to ship your rucksack on to Orrison or Roncesvalles from SJPP before you start walking?

Thanks in advance!

1. Class one walking. Using Brierley's maps its relatively steady uphill for 10 km from SJPdp to Auberge Orisson with 600 meters elevation change or 60 meters per kilometer.

2. There is a luggage service to ship rucksacks between any two points on the camino. I don't have personal experience using it but met several people who walked without their packs every day.
 

TheTinkerBell

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
SJPP - SdC (2013);
OCebreiro - Fisterra (2019)
whariwharangi said:
...
1. Class one walking. Using Brierley's maps its relatively steady uphill for 10 km from SJPdp to Auberge Orisson with 600 meters elevation change or 60 meters per kilometer...

I should of course have asked about gradient rather than steepness, but you've answered that for me. Thanks for that!
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
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Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
whariwharangi said:
1. Class one walking. Using Brierley's maps its relatively steady uphill for 10 km from SJPdp to Auberge Orisson with 600 meters elevation change or 60 meters per kilometer.

I tried this in Google Earth, and the identified walking route is 7.5km from the centre of SJPP, with an elevation gain of 717m, and loss of 81m. The average upward slope is shown as 12%, with a maximum of 38.3%. There is an average downward slope of 5%, with a maximum of 20%. I cannot tell how closely the Google Earth route aligns to Route Napoleon.

BTW, what do you mean by 'Class one walking'? There is an Australian standard for describing walks, and it well exceeds most of the Class One/Grade One criteria. Its length fits into the Grade Two criteria, but its steepness would push it into Grade Three or even Grade Four.

Regards,
 
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grayland

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Yes
NicoZ said:
grayland said:
I'll try again. Some of the people reading aren't in perfect condition. Not at top fitness levels. Not normally active. They may be older. They may be jet lagged from long flights.

The people at risk are likely the ones most likely to take hydration lightly.


Those marathon runners are active. In fairly reasonable shape. They still end up at risk.

NicoZ...
What time of year did you walk the Route Napolean which is, of course, what we are discussing? Carrying almost 5 lbs of water on the first day can be a real problem if not needed.
 
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CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
Let me make it simple

ASK at the pilgrim office when you are in SJPP, which is basically a one-street village.

Ask:
1). Is Orisson open so I can get water there?
2). Is the fountain at the top running ?

Then make an informed decision.
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
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Annie, everyone should thank you for your simple explanation. The same is true for the Meseta because no one should start a day there without information regarding the availability of water.
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
dougfitz said:
BTW, what do you mean by 'Class one walking'? There is an Australian standard for describing walks, and it well exceeds most of the Class One/Grade One criteria. Its length fits into the Grade Two criteria, but its steepness would push it into Grade Three or even Grade Four.

Regards,

US rating system:
Class 1 - easy hiking usually on good trail
Class 2 - More difficult hiking that may be off-trail. You may also have to put your hands down occasionally to keep your balance. May include easy snow climbs or hiking on talus/scree.
Class 3 - Scrambling or un-roped climbing. You must use your hands most of the time to hold the terrain or find your route. This may be caused by a combination of steepness and extreme terrain (large rocks or steep snow). Some Class 3 routes are better done with rope.

Source: http://www.14ers.com/classes.html

By the US rating system its class one.
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
dougfitz said:
whariwharangi said:
1. Class one walking. Using Brierley's maps its relatively steady uphill for 10 km from SJPdp to Auberge Orisson with 600 meters elevation change or 60 meters per kilometer.

I tried this in Google Earth, and the identified walking route is 7.5km from the centre of SJPP, with an elevation gain of 717m, and loss of 81m. The average upward slope is shown as 12%, with a maximum of 38.3%. There is an average downward slope of 5%, with a maximum of 20%. I cannot tell how closely the Google Earth route aligns to Route Napoleon.

Regards,

Thats way more accurate than Brierley. Google Earth is a good tool for route reconnaissance.
 
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Pieces

Veteran Member
whariwharangi said:
dougfitz said:
BTW, what do you mean by 'Class one walking'? There is an Australian standard for describing walks, and it well exceeds most of the Class One/Grade One criteria. Its length fits into the Grade Two criteria, but its steepness would push it into Grade Three or even Grade Four.

Regards,

US rating system:
Class 1 - easy hiking usually on good trail
Class 2 - More difficult hiking that may be off-trail. You may also have to put your hands down occasionally to keep your balance. May include easy snow climbs or hiking on talus/scree.
Class 3 - Scrambling or un-roped climbing. You must use your hands most of the time to hold the terrain or find your route. This may be caused by a combination of steepness and extreme terrain (large rocks or steep snow). Some Class 3 routes are better done with rope.

Source: http://www.14ers.com/classes.html

By the US rating system its class one.

well by the European rating system, this wouldn't be considered mountain climbing, so the rating makes no sense...
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
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I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
@Pieces
Couldn't agree more. If someone lives nearby the Alps, this first stage of CF is something like a completely ordinary day in the mountains :wink:
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
whariwharangi said:
By the US rating system its class one.

Thanks for the explanation and the link. I do like the way the system distinguishes between hiking and climbing, ranging from scrambling at the lower level and technical climbing at the highest rating.
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
Pieces said:
well by the European rating system, this wouldn't be considered mountain climbing, so the rating makes no sense...

The question that we are attempting to answer is "How Steep is Steep".

US rating Class One hiking is described 'an easy hike usually on a good trail' ... a description I would apply to the Napolean way.

The point I am trying to get across ... is that its not technically difficult to walk the Napoleon route. Its not steep enough to be considered mountain climbing.

If there is a European (or other) system that says it better ... please post it.
 

dougfitz

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Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
whariwharangi said:
If there is a European (or other) system that says it better ... please post it.
For a summary of different systems, there is a 2007 report by the Victorian Department of Sustainability and the Environment that summarises the Australian systems and a selection from other countries. It is at http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/__data/as...ting_Walking_Trail_Classification_Systems.doc.

The Australian system is about walking tracks (aka trails) and not about technical climbing.
Under the new system, walking trails are graded on a difficulty scale from grades one to five.

Grade One is suitable for the disabled with assistance
Grade Two is suitable for families with young children
Grade Three is recommended for people with some bushwalking experience
Grade Four is recommended for experienced bushwalkers, and
Grade Five is recommended for very experienced bushwalkers
There is an explanation of how to grade tracks under this system at http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/104754/dse_trail_grade_brochure_tagged.pdf. It takes into account distance, slope, track quality, markings and experience required.

Regards,
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
Frances: SJPP-Los Arcos (2011), Logrono-Sahagun (2012), Leon-Santiago (2013)
Good grief. Carry plenty of water. If you find you don't need it and it gets too heavy, POUR IT OUT.

Having run out of water on a brutally hot day between Villamajor de Montjardin and Los Arcos, I would much prefer the extra weight than the thirst. (ETA: My avatar is from that day.)

By the way, whether it's in your stomach on on your back, it still weighs the same, so drinking a liter before you leave is not really any different than filling a liter bottle. And you will be getting rid of it over the course of the day, regardless. :wink:

Also, don't count on getting a place at Orisson without a reservation. Someone (OP? can't recall) mentioned they didn't realize it was possible - it is almost obligatory.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
SJPD-Burgos 2012/13 …. suspended the VdlP in Fuente de Cantos 3/20
Ok, I've been following this excellent forum for some time and let me jump in here. I am not an experienced walker or caminero, but I have walked the route Napoleon twice. Once in September 2011 to find out whether my knees would carry me (I’m 70) and once in April last year in earnest when I allowed myself two weeks off from my current book to get as far as Burgos.

On both occasions I checked with the pilgrim office in San Jean and they were able to tell me that Orisson was fully booked (the second time I had already emailed ahead and so I smugly knew that one of the bookings was mine!).

In September 2011 the weather was fine and settled and I walked up in glorious weather, sunny but not too hot, with only the very occasional light shower.

In April 2012, as we looked up at clear blue skies, the pilgrim office assured me that there was ‘aucune risque’ (no risk) of bad weather. Within a few minutes of leaving the Porte d’Espagne I had to stop to put on my waterproofs, and by the time I reached Hontto I was wearing an extra layer of clothes and a poncho on top of everything else.

The following day we set out from Orisson in light drizzle and by mid-morning we were in a blizzard. The crossing was very difficult, we did not arrive at Roncesvalles until late afternoon, but the sense of achievement was palpable. However we worried about two groups of other walkers who, we found out later, had got lost and arrived late, and another walker was recovered by the French gendarmerie and eventually caught up with us, by road, through the Val Carlos pass.

However, the question is how difficult is the Route Napoleon? Well, on my second attempt I had teamed up with a 74-year old who I had met below Hontto and we made it, BUT the steepest parts are after Orisson and I have the greatest admiration for anyone who makes San Jean to Roncesvalles in one stage, AND (remembering the geography lessons of my youth) the weather in the mountains is very changeable.

Good luck!
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
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peterhore, tu as raison. You are the first post that didn't try to come off like "I did the 27 km with my eyes shut before I ordered my café con leche that morning!" Yes, it is as difficult as it is doable in a day, but one never knows what the weather is going to bring between the base to the top of Col de Lepoeder and then on downhill side to Roncevalles even with the best local advice under your belt.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
That unpredictability of the weather on the first stage accompanied with beautiful views is exactly the charm (even if sometimes dangerous) that puts pilgrims starting from SJPDP "on the track" in my opinion. And as Pieces would add - that is only me :)

I started on 15th of May 2011 in quite foggy and chilly morning. At Huntto I was sweating like a pig in the morning sun. At Orisson I was cold and wet from the rain. At mountain hut after Cruceiro I was trembling in freezing wind and drizzle. At Col de Lepoeder I was sweating again and taking off everything except T-shirt. In Roncesvalles there was beautifull foggy sunset. That's about all the possible range of weather.

Yes, being fit is important, also is weight of your backpack and consumption of water, but in Pyrenees the weather is the main fact that decides.

Nevertheless - pure bauty!!!

Ultreia!
 

Kanga

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Staff member
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Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
1st crossing (early May) snow, whiteout. Went via Valcarlos. Had to call for taxi assistance for one of our party and finished up not walking all the way.
2nd crossing (June) spent first night at Hunto. Route Napoleon views were shimmery as the weather was very, very hot. The flocks of (Griffin?) vultures circled overhead and were considering us for a meal.
3rd crossing (late May) spent first night at Orrisson. Weather was perfect - cool crisp wind but with perfect visibility. There was still snow in a few small patches and on the distant mountaintops.
Even though we break the crossing into two days I find it physically challenging. Internal psychological games to get myself there. It is not that the track is technically difficult in any way, is just that it goes up. And up. And up. And up. And then the descent through the beech woods is slippery and treacherous.
 
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KiwiNomad06

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Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
Kanga said:
And then the descent through the beech woods is slippery and treacherous.
I took the road route to the right at the end- not much further but a lot easier than going down through the woods. The info I got from the Pilgrim Office in SJPP in 2008 recommended that.
Margaret
 

Kanga

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Staff member
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It's the heavy layering of leaves on a quite steep slope that make the path slippery! Even in spring and summer the ground is covered with leaves.
 
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whariwharangi

Guest
KiwiNomad06 said:
Kanga said:
And then the descent through the beech woods is slippery and treacherous.
I took the road route to the right at the end- not much further but a lot easier than going down through the woods. The info I got from the Pilgrim Office in SJPP in 2008 recommended that.
Margaret

There were several at the junction trying to decide on right or left fork. I and several others took the right (because that was the Pilgrim office recommendation) while others went left. Even though the right adds almost a kilometer we arrived before they did.

Its much steeper going down the hill than up it. The right fork is a road but my car would have difficulty with the steepness (though still US class one). After a long day of 'up' its hard for the knees to shift gears, particularly as Roncesvalles and the end of the day comes into view.
 
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Deleted member 12253

Guest
Walked sjpdep to Roncesvalles , Napoleon Route April, 18th. Six hours of bliss, some snow, forest descent perfect, if you fit you haven no problem, if not take the bus, walked to burgos in 11 days, and I am a pensioner.
 

DarrylH

New Member
Hi Amybell
My wife and I are in pamplona after 3 great days on the Camino. I am 60, Kath is 54 - we are both reasonably fit and didn't find the walk to Roncesvalles too difficult. We left SJPP at 8:30 and arrived at Roncesvalles at 4:30 - with a couple of stops on the way. We talked to people that were taking it a little easier and said they had a nice night at Orrison. It depends I think on how much time you have. We just took it steady and we were fine. We have hiked in Nepal and I struggle with altitude - it is not an issue here. Good luck and I think it will be great whatever you decide.
 
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nreyn12

Active Member
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Walked (2005) (2007) (2008) (2009) (2010) (2011) (2012) (2013) (2014) (2015); Guide 2013-2016
Hi, just back to Pamplona after crossing from SJPP - twice with groups in the last two weeks.

Back to the questions of water. From SJPP, the first fountain you come to is at Gite Hunto (5 kms), and the second is at Refuge Orisson (8 kms). Both are outside and available to all as you pass. The gites do not have to be open for you to get water. Then just as you are about to cross into Spain, there is the Fountaine du Roland, which was running both times (and always has been on my previous crossings).

As for how hard it is, this depends on several factors. If you are not in great physical shape, you can expect the climb to be challenging. If you are carrying too much weight in your backpack, you can expect to have a difficult time, and you run the risk of injury which will affect the rest of your Camino. The weather can also complicate things - 30 degrees in direct sunshine, high winds, cold clouds, rain, etc., all add to the difficulty. You just never know what the weather will be on the mountain.

The other consideration that most people miss is that the walk from Roncesvalles to Zubiri (22 kms) can also be quite challenging due to the extensive downhill stretches. After coming down into Roncesvalles, the legs are a bit wobbly, and the knees hurt a bit, if you are not accustomed to walking downhill. That can make those next 22 kms quite difficult.

My conclusion is that each person is responsible for making the right decision for him and herself - whether to cross in one or two days, that's up to you. Take all the information available here, then make the right choice for you.
 

Debs

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
September (2013)
I am loving all of your comments.... thank you, thank you ,thank you........ I am feeling more confident and excited with every post..... more tips please!!!! xxxxxxx
We did the Camino last September, crossing over the Pyrenees on the 9th - a beautiful sunny day - so yes, it can be good weather occasionally :) We walked from St Jean to Roncevalles in the one day, and it is totally do-able. If I can do it, anyone can - seriously! I just wish that I had done more hill/mountain type walking in my pre camino training. Feeling a little jealous of you at the moment, you are in for such an amazing adventure - ENJOY!
 

Hedley49

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SJPdP - Santiago Apr-May "2013" Completed.
SJPdP - Santiago - Finisterre Apr-May "2014" Completed.
Via De La Plata Apr-May 2015 planning at present.
I am starting the Camino on 22nd May. Up untill now I have felt quite positive about my ability to be able to walk over the pyrenees, untill I read and I quote ' It is brutal, harsh and at times death would seem a better option'!!!!!!!!!!! Please someone tell me its not that bad!!!! or indeed if it is that bad then equally please tell me !!! thankyou
It is not that difficult at all but the best option is to break it up by stoping over night at Refuge Orisson, which is a wonderful stop over. By doing this you have a short but fairly steep first day but only 7.5km. The following day is an equally easy 18.5km just take your time. I walked it this way last year and shared the journey with some folk that were not fit or well prepared and they made it without too much effort. The key as always is to walk within your own capabilities and you will get there comfortably.
 

Olivares

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
May 1997 (Leon to Santiago); Sections Camino Frances: May 2011, May 2012, May 2013, October 2013, June-July 2014 (Sahagun to Santiago).
This is the God honest truth: before embarking on the Camino I had never walked more than 5 miles at a time. So, as you might imagine, I was scared out of my wits, but not scared enough not to try to walk SJPDP- Roncesvalles. It turned out to be nowhere near as difficult as I thought. I started at 7:30am and arrived at Roncesvalles around 3:30pm; happy, relaxed, and blister-free! I made it to Orisson around 9am and there is no way I was going to stop that early and feeling well. I did paced myself, took breaks and this day turned out to be one of the best days of my life.

If you are looking for something to worry about ;), then worry about the descent on to Zubiri-- now that was intense!
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
....

If you are looking for something to worry about ;), then worry about the descent on to Zubiri-- now that was intense!

Nevertheless you can always opt to walk from the Alto de Erro down to Zubiri on the road N 135 which crosses the camino at the Alto. On the road there is no slippery shale ; it is the SAFEST way to descend in bad weather.

Margaret Meredith
 
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nathanael

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I am starting the Camino on 22nd May. Up untill now I have felt quite positive about my ability to be able to walk over the pyrenees, untill I read and I quote ' It is brutal, harsh and at times death would seem a better option'!!!!!!!!!!! Please someone tell me its not that bad!!!! or indeed if it is that bad then equally please tell me !!! thankyou
You will be fine take it easy and rest at Orisson for the night. n+
 

pattymo97206

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Walked 360km (2012) Planning 790K May (2014)
I crossed the Pyrenees in Sept, 2012...the first day was sunny and hot. The second day..wind and driving rain ( had to take my glasses off to see where I was going.) I was slow..I’m talking snail pace, going up out of SJPdP and down into Roncesvalles. I’m older than dirt , I have asthma and really bad knees and on the “robust” side. I staggered into Roncesvalles in late afternoon...soaking wet, exhausted and I was happy, felt fully alive! I think what was in my favor is hiking (sierra’s in CA and Cascades and Olympics in PNW) and accustomed to wearing a backpack. Like so many far more experienced than I say... Go at a pace that is comfortable for you, no matter how slow that may be, stop frequently, drink water and eat along the way. It is not a race! I’m really curious about the Valcarlos route, but my friend who is going with me, has not done the Pyrenees, so we will go that route and I am looking forward to the challenge. “Life begins at the edge of my comfort zone”.
 

MaxfromMO

Member
It really all does depend on your fitness level. Stopping in Orisson can be a great thing. We knew we wouldn't enjoy trying to do the SJPDP to Roncesvalles stretch in one day, so we split it up and were glad we did. If I could get my fat tush over the Pyrenees, then it is quite "doable". I heard that word a lot on this forum, and it really is the best way to describe the whole Camino. Half of the challenge, maybe more, is the mental aspect. How much do you WANT to do this. I hyperventilated a bit the first two mornings out of fear, but I REALLY, REALLY, wanted to do this. I got it under control and just kept putting one foot in front of the other, sometimes it wasn't very far in front, but it was forward motion. It did also help that someone on here also mentioned stopping to heave for breath on the way to Orisson about every fifty feet or so, but so were a lot of other people. I found that I too, stopped about every fifty feet on those last few switchbacks up to Orisson. :) but I got there!!! And the next day I got to Roncesvalles and I kept getting to the next town and the next until one day, I stepped out of the woods and into the light and found myself in Santiago. I still can't believe I did it.
 

lynnejohn

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Our dear friends that we met on the first day of our first camino gave us some of these recommendations, and saved us from ourselves. I have used them since. I think the downhill zigzagging is especially useful for those with dodgy knees like mine:

Uphill Hiking Tips

  1. Take small steps going uphill
    Purposely taking shorter steps than usual will reduce the effort per step to push your body and pack weight upwards and will make the ascent easier.

  2. Look several footsteps ahead
    Especially when ascending, look several footsteps ahead to choose the best route i.e. you won’t to avoid large steps up onto big rocks / boulders and choose smaller steps up and around them. This cuts down on the number of lunge-up type steps (and over stretches) and the big one-off energy expenditures that can quickly cause tiredness.

  3. Zigzag up steep ascents
    Taking a zigzag route up reduces the gradient you are hiking and makes it easier. However it has a downside of adding distance, so best kept for steep ascents as required.

  4. Use Trekking Pole uphill technique
    There are several uphill pole techniques that work fantastically and are easy. If you have poles we describe this in the Uphill section of Techniques for Using Trekking Poles.

  5. Use your hands
    Get your hands dirty by using surrounding rocks and boulders to help you stay balanced and secure on steep ascents.

  6. Take energy snacks and water more frequently
    Your body will burn more energy than on any other part of the hike. So supply fuel shortly before reaching the uphill section; such as energy bars, fruit, dried fruit, nuts, etc. Keep some of these handy to snack on during the climb too. Keep hydrated with regular sips of water to replace water lost through perspiration.

Downhill Hiking Tips

  1. Kick your heels in
    When going downhill, slow down by leaning back a little and putting your weight down through your heel on each step.Be particularly careful on very steep descents especially in the wet (eg on grass or boulders) and on loose stones. A useful technique is to stand side on and lower your self down one step at a time. It all depends on the type of terrain you are descending, the main thing is to not rush.

  2. Use zigzag routes to slow the pace down

  3. Use trekking poles to reduce pressure, wear and tiredness of your knees and legs
    Poles also benefit by reducing the tiredness and pressure on your whole body as you progress downhill.

  4. Use Trekking Pole downhill technique
    Poles will give you extra control of your speed and balance. If you have poles we describe this in the Downhill section of Techniques for Using Trekking Poles. (Hiking Tips for Mountain Walking you won't have Heard Before)
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Hi, Lynne, These are very helpful for those of us with knees of a certain age. I find the first tip for downhill hiking to be particularly helpful. It is kind of hard to verbalize, and I would just add that it involves bending the knees more than your "normal" step would be, taking shorter steps, and making sure to center your weight over your feet. You will feel it in your quads after several hundred meters. And you should lengthen your poles, too, to make up for the slope and the fact that the poles will hit at a lower level than when you're walking on level ground. All this talking about hiking technique fills me with longing to get back out there and walk! Buen camino, Laurie
 
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ManyMiles2Go

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2013)
Great tips, LynneJohn!! We didn't have any problems going up (although I didn't think it would end). Downhill was much harder than the uphill.
 

lynnejohn

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances(2005), VDLP(2007), Madrid(2009), Ingles(2009), Sur (2011), VDLP(2011)-partial, VDLP(2014)
Hi, Lynne, These are very helpful for those of us with knees of a certain age. I find the first tip for downhill hiking to be particularly helpful. It is kind of hard to verbalize, and I would just add that it involves bending the knees more than your "normal" step would be, taking shorter steps, and making sure to center your weight over your feet. You will feel it in your quads after several hundred meters. And you should lengthen your poles, too, to make up for the slope and the fact that the poles will hit at a lower level than when you're walking on level ground. All this talking about hiking technique fills me with longing to get back out there and walk! Buen camino, Laurie

I think I kind of do this - it's almost like a semi-squat with every step and actually bending your knees more brings your center of gravity closer to the ground. I had a bad sliding fall on a loose shale downhill on my first camino, and that makes me more cautious every time.
 
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Deleted member 3000

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It really all does depend on your fitness level.
If you are in decent condition, you will be surprised how much physical reserve you have on the first day. Tens of thousands of ordinary people walk from SJPdP to Roncesvalles in one day. Many are exhausted, and pay the price over the next week or two! I think that many of the recommendations you read about stopping at Orisson are based on reflection -- "if I had done it little less that first day, I could have been more comfortable the next couple of weeks."

I am not sure that is true. You are going to wear yourself out over the course of a month, and the first day is just a small component of that grind. More important than a short day the first day is taking care of your feet. Your muscle aches will abate over three to five days; the pain of blisters will be with you for most of the rest of your trip. Whether you stop or go, do everything you can to prevent blisters.

Stopping in Orisson can be a great thing.
That is true. While it may not make a lot of difference over the next month, a lesser goal the first day may reduce anxiety, and get you into a rhythm from the start that keeps you below exhaustion. Knowing you will be walking only two to four hours can be great for your attitude!

Everyone knows how they reacted to the crossing, but only you know how you might react.:) Be as bold or as conservative as you want.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
Nevertheless you can always opt to walk from the Alto de Erro down to Zubiri on the road N 135 which crosses the camino at the Alto. On the road there is no slippery shale ; it is the SAFEST way to descend in bad weather.

Margaret Meredith

Thanks Margaret. I didn't know about that route. Good to know. Is it the same distance?
 
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Francés, Norte, Primitivo, V. Augusta, V. Plata, Vadiniense, Libaniego, S Salvador, Ingles.
Have a light backpack, start early to have time, take your breaks and don't walk to fast. All this after good sleep and a good breakfast and you'll have a great day.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
Blimey, there is nothing between SJPDP and Roncesvalles that would require you to scramble. It's an upward and downward sloping path; I doubt any is as steep as our 16% driveway. The short-cut descent through the beech forest into Roncesvalles can be a bit hairy because of the slippery leaf litter but there is an alternative road. Here is a link to profiles of each stage on the Camino. You can see the steepest section between SJPDP and Roncesvalles is from Hunto to Orrison, and that's on a sealed road.

http://www.aucoeurduchemin.org/spip/IMG/pdf/profil_d_etape_imprim.pdf
 

jstorybook

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
October-November 2013
I cross the Pyrenees--The Napoleon route October 2013. I trained for the Camino--so I prepared and also walked hills in training but hills are not mountains. I was able to conplete the walk between St. Jean and Roncesvalles in one day--but made one mistake by going down the steep trail into Rocesvalles as I did not recognize the turn off to the other route (non-steep) I walked down the steep side and long story short hurt my fight knee--and I had not a knee problem in 30 years. My knee eventually did recover. Make no mistake the Napoleon route is quite strenuous and ask someone where the turn off is to the non-steep route into Roncevalles--by the way I did complete the Camino.
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Thanks Margaret. I didn't know about that route. Good to know. Is it the same distance?

Annie,

As Falcon notes the N 135 road route is slightly longer. However it is MUCH easier than the actual camino. On the road you descend following paved switchbacks and enter Zubiri by the Guardia Civilia barracks; on the camino you descend on mud and shale (HELL in rain) to enter Zubiri exiting the forest and crossing the old bridge. Personally I prefer the road.

MM
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
A note: there is a nice municipal "albergue" at Valcarlos (the "lower route", 11 km from SJPP). It has been recently renovated, have washing machine, microwave, heating, kitchen, etc. There is not a hospitalero, you ask for the key code at city hall or Venta Ardandegia. I spent the night there walked next day to Roncesvalles, and it ended as a pleasant, easy journey. I was mid-Mars, cold, foggy, with occasional light rains.
 
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Ullamae

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Sanabrés 2019
Via dl Plata 2019
Camino Mozárabe 2019
Camino Frances 2016
Camino Frances 2014
It may well be doable for most people, but I have made reservations for Orisson. Since I have a few physical problems (pinched nerves in my feet and tendinosis in one hip) I don't want to start out too hard and risk everything. We all have to try to decide what is best for us and do what we think is best. For me, I think that a SLOW camino will be the very best :)
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
Happy to know the Valcarlos route and its municipal albergue has been reivindicated by so many pilgrims. I, too, believed it was the "uninteresting" or "the highway" option. It was quite pleasant, apart from the short highway section after Valcarlos. And as I have said, I arrived to Roncesvalles in good spirits -actually, I could have even walked a longer distance. Very recommended in bad weather (it is not rain the problem, but fog...), not-so-young people (like me...) or pilgrims that prefer to be cautious the first days.
 
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nalod

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2011, Finnesterre 2011,Le Puy to SJPDP 2011& 2012,Via de la Plata,Sambrasa 2012, Mozarabe 2013, Portugees 2013.PartNorde 2011, VDPL 2014,St-Guilhem 2014.Espalion-Roncesvalles 2014.Levante2015
Where I live the biggest mountain is around 700m. Until 4 years ago I had climbed it twice. In 2011 I walked Camino Frances and crossed the Pyrénees . Since then I have walked many Camino and have traveresed the Pyrénées coast to coast from Irun to Banyuls sur Mer (GR 10). I am in my mid 50s and until I done the Camino Frances had no walking or climbing experience. I think the Pyrénées is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Regards Nalod
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Hopefully leave the states 2nd week of April 2014, Right now i am lost in my existence of living my life and need a cleansing before making my move to Cambodia
That sounds like 750ml of water across the course of a fairly active day, well short of the daily intake of 2 1/2 to 3 litre recommended even for normal consumption. That sounds too close to becoming badly dehydrated for my liking.

I think the advice to carry two litres is reasonable. My personal preference is to carry more except when I know that I can easily replenish from potable sources. My own experience did not support the general optimism that potable water is readily available, although from SJPP there appear to be places to get water on both routes that would make carrying as little as a litre an acceptable risk.
I would have to agree,and every ones metabolism is so different. I live in Arizona and work outside alot its nothing to go through 1.5g a day with out sweating, . My rule is if you have a chance to top up Aqua at any ?able time fill up. Also hiking i always have tabs and a steripen. Once in the Gila wilderness Aldo Leapold National Forrest 8k feet i thought ill be fine got low said well this looks like a nice little spring coming out of the side of a high peak,cold clean GIARDIA not fun 18 miles from anything or anyone, Then once in Vietnam went out with a local to a bar [ Same bar where DeNiro and Watkins played russian roulette] Boy what a night ,but got a little forgetful and had ice in my drinks boy 4 hrs later can you say ERUPTION worst 24hrs ever. Always better to have more then less. Cheers
 
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shefollowsshells

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Several alone and with children
This might have been shared but I likened it to child birth:)
Sure many folks have done it....but doesn't mean it was easy....also within seconds you will forget all of the stress and emotionally be on the highest of highs.

AND almost instantly you are planning to do it again.

I was shocked how difficult it was for me, I felt like I would take a few steps and then pretend I was turning around taking in the view as I gasped for air. Not implying that one must pretend to enjoy that view that is amazing, but more so admitting I was a huge faker trying to disquise my gasps for air as gasps of taking in the beauty....

In another life, just two decades ago i could run twenty miles in an afternoon....the Pyreneese was hard for me.
I was suprised how hard...was it lack of sleep? I don't know...but just being honest when I got to Orisson And had a reservation I felt like I had a golden ticket for Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

I did have a late start out of STJPP , no regrets I loved walking around in the AM there BUT had I had an early start I doubt I would have needed to stay...like I said it's like child birth and seconds later you are all fine again.

With that said drinking on the deck of Orisson can be had by anyone ( if you are a customer there I have been told), but waking up there that crisp morning surrounded by cows with bells and little ponies is one of the hi lights of my Camino.
 

wendelart

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Walked the Camino Francés and way to Finisterre and Muxia. Planning on walking the Camino Ingles.
I've walked the crossing over the pyrenees twice. The first time it was hard as hell and I barely made it. The 2nd time was a piece of cake and I hardly was tired at the end. Why?

The first time I was not very well trained and not an experienced walker, had the wrong shoes, wrong backpack and it was burning hot, middle of June. I started in St.J.PdP at 06.00AM and arrived in Roncesvalles 19.00 PM :-$
The 2nd time I was very well trained, an experienced pilgrim, had excellent shoes and gear and it was mildly cold, halfway April. I started at 08.00AM and arrived in Roncesvalles 14.00... a very big difference!
All those things together make a big difference, it's a mix. So: be trained, well prepared, make sure you have good material and don't start walking in the middle of summer with 35 degrees. And then it's not so hard at all and you'll enjoy the pyrenees very much.
 

Canucks

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino frances, SJPDP to Santiago (2013), Le Puy to SJPDP (2014), Porto to Santiago (2019)
Here's one more opinion......we did it in the rain last September. I cannot imagine stopping in Orrison overnight.....walking 8km and sitting around for the other 3/4 of the day twiddling my thumbs????
However, the people that did that seemed happy.
So was I, that I went on......it is a great feeling of accomplishment given the scare stories of how bad it is.
It would have been beautiful on a sunny day but the rain made the coffee truck guy in the middle of nowhere VERY welcome. Just when I was praying that we would reach the summit, we did and then I was praying for more uphill. The steep, slippery downhill portion was brutal and took out so many knees that day. Very, very bad. Ibuprofen and Voltaren are your friends.
My worst day was the next one going downhill to Larrasoana.
Do the whole thing......when you finish it, nothing else you encounter on the Frances will compare, physically.
Edited to add that this was NOT a negative experience. There were tough parts but the weather made it more miserable. I would never suggest a change to what we did and I believe most people can do it just as easily.
 
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