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Napoleon route now

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t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
After 1 April, the Pilgrim Office, #39 Rue de la Citadell, provides up to date conditions and forecasts. It is possible to encounter snow through the end of May.

Several years ago, after a spate of very serious rescues of unprepared and under-trained pilgrims on the mountain, local authorities imposed a blanket seasonal closing until 1 April. I do not recall what the starting date for the closure is.

All pilgrims should check in there to receive their first sello, and a current status briefing on the Napoleon Pass and onward...
 

jozero

Been there, going again...
Camino(s) past & future
CF
After 1 April, the Pilgrim Office, #39 Rue de la Citadell, provides up to date conditions and forecasts. It is possible to encounter snow through the end of May.

Several years ago, after a spate of very serious rescues of unprepared and under-trained pilgrims on the mountain, local authorities imposed a blanket seasonal closing until 1 April. I do not recall what the starting date for the closure is.

All pilgrims should check in there to receive their first sello, and a current status briefing on the Napoleon Pass and onward...
I'm pretty sure the closure begins 1 November each year.
 

alhartman

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2005 2007 Frances
2016 Leon to Santiago
April 26, 2005 walked on about 3 feet of packed snow at the pass.
May 28, 2013 (memory???) pass was closed. Several small groups in trouble from ignoring the warnings.
Please follow t2andreo advice to check in SJPdP and FOLLOW THEIR RECOMMENDATION.
 

jozero

Been there, going again...
Camino(s) past & future
CF
Thank to all for usefull information. Crossed the route on April 6 in 2014. Will start on March 27 this year, but not in the footsteps of Napoleon.
The Valcarlos route is not a consolation prize... It is a beautiful walk up the valley with some stunning mountain trails. Plus it is easy to break into two stages by staying in Valcarlos if you choose. Enjoy!
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
I have heard that, too and it makes sense. One would not march an army up a higher route when a lower one is available.

The Napoleonic war 1808/1814 in Iberia which is known as the Peninsular War had an impact on the Camino Frances near Roncesvalles and Pamplona.
Although Napoleon Bonaparte himself never was on this route the French troops were successful at the Battle of Roncesvalles 25 July 1813 against the British. Read more here of this event in the Peninsular war and check out the map of the battle.

Roncesvalles, Uppper Canada or Ontario, was named after the battle of Roncesvalles.
Colonel Walter O'Hara, who fought with the British in the battle, would after emigrating to Upper Canada mid-century name Roncesvalles Avenue in Toronto after the battle. The present neighborhood of Roncesvalles in turn gained its name from the street.
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
I have heard that, too and it makes sense. One would not march an army up a higher route when a lower one is available.
It's actually the other way round. Until a new road was built in the Valcarlos valley around 1880, the higher route was the only one where coaches could travel and artillery (canons) could be transported during the time of Napoleon because sections of the old Valcarlos road were too steep for them. The higher road was in fact called Camino de la artillería o de Napoleón.

Napoleon's army used it while he himself travelled by coach to Spain, though neither on the lower road nor the higher road from SJPP but much further to the west. I think there's a map of his journey somewhere in a thread on this forum. So no walking in his footsteps ...
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
Until a new road was built in the Valcarlos valley around 1880, the higher route was the only one where coaches could travel and artillery (canons) could be transported during the time of Napoleon because sections of the old Valcarlos road were too steep for them.
"Steep sided valleys aren't great places to march armies during times of war" should have said Roland.
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances x 2 , Norte x 2 , Le Puy x 3 , Portuguese x 2,
Mont St Michel , Primitivo .
Thank to all for usefull information. Crossed the route on April 6 in 2014. Will start on March 27 this year, but not in the footsteps of Napoleon.
As Felipe said , take the advice given
Your pocket will be emptied of euros for the lack of respect.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking.
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
The Valcarlos route is not a consolation prize... It is a beautiful walk up the valley with some stunning mountain trails. Plus it is easy to break into two stages by staying in Valcarlos if you choose. Enjoy!
Totally agree! I love the Valcarlos route for the same reasons you mention!
 
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VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
The Valcarlos route is not a consolation prize... It is a beautiful walk up the valley with some stunning mountain trails. Plus it is easy to break into two stages by staying in Valcarlos if you choose. Enjoy!
It is gorgeous.
But it's hard to compete with Hollywood.
 

ranthr

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C Frances 2005, 2007
Le Puy en Velay -SdC 2009
Via de la Plata 2011
gr 653 from Oloron to Puente la Reina 2012
Gr65 from le Puy to Figeac 2013
Irun to Santander 2013
Porto to SdC 2014
Astorga to SdC 2015
April 26, 2005 walked on about 3 feet of packed snow at the pass.
May 28, 2013 (memory???) pass was closed. Several small groups in trouble from ignoring the warnings.
Please follow t2andreo advice to check in SJPdP and FOLLOW THEIR RECOMMENDATION.
Remember well these days,in 2013, on the Camino Norte. Terrible weather for a couple of weeks, rain , wind and low temperature. Read reports from the Pyrenees about snow and wind.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
It kind of makes sense... if customers can’t get to Refuge Orisson, why would they be open?

Mona works at the Pilgrim Office in SJPDP. She is the resident expert on all things related to that part of the Camino.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
If it is closed then one cannot stay at Orisson?
You can stay at Refuge Orisson during all of their season. Their season lasts from early April until middle to late October.

To clear up some common misunderstandings or misinterpretations:

There is a section of the Route Napoleon where it is against Spanish law to walk during all of the months of November, December, January, February, and March. There are heavy fines in place in relation to this law. It's the same every year. There is no way around it. From 1 November until 31 March you need to walk via Valcarlos.​

Refuge Orisson opens in early April and closes in late October. Their opening times are a commercial decision and depend on the weather and the conditions on the whole trail of the Route Napoleon. Hence opening day in April and closing day in October varies from year to year.​

There is no official closing and opening of the Route Napoleon during April-October. However, the weather can be such that it is not advised, or even life- and limb-threatening dangerous for you, to go. You need to seek advice.​

As a courtesy, the staff at Refuge Orisson may drive you back to SJPP if you stayed at Orisson for the night and the weather on the morning of your departure is very bad.

Distance between Orisson and SJPP: about 8 km.
Distance between Orisson and Spanish territory where Spanish law applies: about 10 km.
Orisson is in France.

Buen camino!
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
To clear up some common misunderstandings or misinterpretations:

There is a section of the Route Napoleon where it is against Spanish law to walk during all of the months of November, December, January, February, and March. There are heavy fines in place in relation to this law. It's the same every year. There is no way around it. From 1 November until 31 March you need to walk via Valcarlos.
Thanks for this post @Kathar1na but let me add to the above what you usually do but forgot this time. Not only will you be fined but if the Burgette firefighters are sent to rescue you there will be high costs to pay.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
As we are approaching the end of March and the start of the "pilgrim season" that lasts from April to October, I felt it is important to point out that the Route Napoleon is not a trail in a National Park. There are no National Park authorities, no Camino authorities, no Pyrenees authorities that declare the trail open or closed on a specific day during April to October when weather or trail conditions may be bad or dangerous. Some forum messages here and there suggest this but it is not so.
 
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zrexer

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014, 15,16 & 19 Camino Frances
2017 Camino Portuguese
2018 Camino Primitivo
Closed until April 1st, weather dependent after that. In April 2016 it was closed still on April 8th at my start. We walked via the Valcarlos route and enjoyed it very much. We still walked in ankle deep snow the last 2 hours into Roncesvalles even on this route.
Personally I think many pilgrims are way too hung up on the Napoleon route. It is one day out of 33. Don't let whether you walk the Napoleon route define your Camino. There are many more equally awesome days to be had the Francis route.
I will probably start my next full walk of the Francis in the future in the fall to lessen the chance of weather being an issue. Depending on the spring weather, the Napoleon on any given day in the spring may or may not be open well into mid May and possibly beyond that. Truly the luck of the draw.
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
See signature
Wihat is it people don’t understand??? IT IS NOT SAFE to walk in the Winter.
No-one ever thought of closing the road until some idiot walkers who didn’t know ( and didn’t listen) still thought it was ok to walk, whatever the locals said. DOH.
Hence lots of expensive and risky rescue operations.
Really annoys me. So unnecessary.
Rant over.
Deep breath :)
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
Wihat is it people don’t understand??? IT IS NOT SAFE to walk in the Winter.
[...]
Really annoys me. So unnecessary.
Rant over.
Deep breath :)
@domigee, are you sure you posted this into the appropriate thread? In this thread, I just see people who talk calmly about what they know and what they experienced in the way of weather in late April and May - not exactly winter months ...

The OP's question was a genuine one. He said thank you "to all for useful information. Crossed the route on April 6 in 2014. Will start on March 27 this year, but not in the footsteps of Napoleon". And that people react to the initial question without reading subsequent answers and the same is said over and over again ought to be nothing new to long-term members of this forum. It doesn't faze me anymore. 🙃
 
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trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
As we are approaching the end of March and the start of the "pilgrim season" that lasts from April to October, I felt it is important to point out that the Route Napoleon is not a trail in a National Park. There are no National Park authorities, no Camino authorities, no Pyrenees authorities that declare the trail open or closed on a specific day during April to October when weather or trail conditions may be bad or dangerous. Some forum messages here and there suggest this but it is not so.
But didn't you suggest that there is some kind of authority in your previous post??
There is a section of the Route Napoleon where it is against Spanish law to walk during all of the months of November, December, January, February, and March. There are heavy fines in place in relation to this law. It's the same every year. There is no way around it. From 1 November until 31 March you need to walk via Valcarlos.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
@trecile, I must not have expressed myself clearly.

Edited to add:
1 November to 31 March: Closure
1 April to 31 October: No closure. Seek advice. Follow advice.
 
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MichelleElynHogan

Veteran Member
The Napoleonic war 1808/1814 in Iberia which is known as the Peninsular War had an impact on the Camino Frances near Roncesvalles and Pamplona.
Although Napoleon Bonaparte himself never was on this route the French troops were successful at the Battle of Roncesvalles 25 July 1813 against the British. Read more here of this event in the Peninsular war and check out the map of the battle.

Roncesvalles, Uppper Canada or Ontario, was named after the battle of Roncesvalles.
Colonel Walter O'Hara, who fought with the British in the battle, would after emigrating to Upper Canada mid-century name Roncesvalles Avenue in Toronto after the battle. The present neighborhood of Roncesvalles in turn gained its name from the street.
However, pronunciation varies depending on country, sadly.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
Yes, I understand that, but is Orisson on the way to the alternate route, or must one soldier on all the way to Roncesvalles should the Napoleon route be closed. I have a reservation at Orisson 14 April.
My guess is that in all probability, law of averages wise, the Napoleon route will be open on 14 April. In the event it is not you will either have to take the Valcarlos route, or just not walk that day and wait for better weather.
If you walk the Valcarlos you can either stop and stay in the albergue or other accommodation in Valcarlos (about 10 km from Saint Jean I think) or you can walk all the way to Roncesvalles.
 

NorthernLight

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
Yes, I understand that, but is Orisson on the way to the alternate route, or must one soldier on all the way to Roncesvalles should the Napoleon route be closed. I have a reservation at Orisson 14 April.
Orrison is on the Napoleon route. The trail split to Napoleon route or to Valcarlos route occurs before you leave SJPDP.

Go to your reserved bed on April 14. IF weather prevents you continuing on that route the next day, you and all the others staying there will talk with the hospitalero and sort a plan. Don't worry about it until it happens.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
is Orisson on the way to the alternate route
As others have said, no. The split is at the bottom of the hill as you're leaving SJPP.

I think many pilgrims are way too hung up on the Napoleon route.
Amen. And (also as others have said), the Valcarlos is actually the older route. It's not the the 'alternate route' except in modern Hollywood-driven mythology - nor is it a consolation prize for those who can't walk the 'real' way, but a glorious walk in its own right.
 

BKEpps

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portuguese (2014 and 2017) Camino Frances (2016, 2017, 2019)
Yes, I understand that, but is Orisson on the way to the alternate route, or must one soldier on all the way to Roncesvalles should the Napoleon route be closed. I have a reservation at Orisson 14 April.
Orisson is 7kms into the route that may be closed. If so, you'll have to take the Valcarlos route, which is lovely in its own way. You can break up the walk to Roncesvalles by stopping in Valcarlos on that route. If the Napoleon route is open, your night in Orisson is on that route. Just check with the pilgrim office in SJPDP.
 

Thornley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances x 2 , Norte x 2 , Le Puy x 3 , Portuguese x 2,
Mont St Michel , Primitivo .
nor is it a consolation prize for those who can't walk the 'real' way, but a glorious walk in its own right.
Firstly ......Wonderful accommodation , wonderful choice of restaurants , wonderful small Basque village in the hills
Secondly..... if weather permitting a beautiful [ not to easy] walk on the forrest floor the next day to Burguette.
 
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Monasp

I'm a manager of pilgrims office in SJPP
Camino(s) past & future
Camino in 2008.
Yes, I understand that, but is Orisson on the way to the alternate route, or must one soldier on all the way to Roncesvalles should the Napoleon route be closed. I have a reservation at Orisson 14 April.
ORISSON is at 10 km from SJPP on Napoleon Route but 14 April Orisson will be open. When you arrive you have to go to the pilgrims office the volunteers will give you all advices you need
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking.
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019

Bobcat77

CF March-May 2019
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés 2019
FYI I walked Valcarlos route yesterday.
1. There's snow on the mountain top overhead. We had lovely weather on the lower path.
2. As to, 'consolation prize': SJPdP to Valcarlos is lovely easy walk. It fooled me. Valcarlos to Roncesvalles is no easy walk, especially the last 5k, which is solidly and relentlessly uphill. Really hard for a gentleman of a certain age! 🤠
Taking an easy, resting day today. No apology.
 

CWBuff

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
in Planning stage: Frances (SJPdP --> SdC) & Finisterre "2021"
I have heard that, too and it makes sense. One would not march an army up a higher route when a lower one is available.
That depends on which 'sense' we are talking about. Perhaps in a 'normal' (if you will) sense - sure.
However, 'military' sense is quite different and in so many ways it plays off the 'normal' sense which says - NAH...SURELY they won't DO this, because..... and that is how we surprise our enemies...doing exactly the opposite of what is 'normal'
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
That depends on which 'sense' we are talking about. Perhaps in a 'normal' (if you will) sense - sure.
However, 'military' sense is quite different and in so many ways it plays off the 'normal' sense which says - NAH...SURELY they won't DO this, because..... and that is how we surprise our enemies...doing exactly the opposite of what is 'normal'
Well I thought that if one were moving large numbers of soldiers and equipment whilst under non-combat conditions, or in a no threat area it would make sense to take the low road, but these troops and equipment was doing so under combat. So it makes total sense to take the high road/high ground. I did not realize that at first until I read the historical record of the campaign in that area that was attached to another post on here.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
From With Wellington in the Pyrenees, being an account of the operations between the allied army and the French from July 25 to August 2, 1813, by Brigadier-General F. C. Beatson, published London 1914:

[This] point was in 1813 known as the col or puerto de Ibaneta. At that date the [in 1914] existing road through the Val Carlos had not been made. From St. Jean Pied de Port to Pamplona the line of communication [ascended] almost due south from the town of St. Jean Pied de Port to the plateau of Orisson, the road, known locally as the chemin d'artillerie, ran along towards the crest of the heights by the col de Bentarte and the Altobiscar to the col de Ibaneta, and from there descended by Roncevaux to the upland land surrounding the village of Burguete.​
What is described as chemin d'artillerie is exactly what we know today as Route Napoleon with the variant "not going down through the forest".
Besides the chemin d'artillerie, two other tracks led from St. Jean over the port. One by the Adarca peak [...] The other led up through the Val Carlos. Both were steep, and bad going, especially the latter, which was little used.
 
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Bobcat77

CF March-May 2019
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés 2019
History is great, but don't we need two SEPARATE threads here???
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
History is great, but don't we need two SEPARATE threads here???
When the main question has been answered [Question: Is the Napoleon route from St. Jean to Roncesvalles open now? - Answer: No.], we are allowed some leeway by the PTB. 🤓
 

NorthernLight

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
Bernard Cornwall's stories of soldier Sharpe traipsing about, serving in Wellington's army in various parts of Spain and Portugal are great fun, if you like that kind of thing.
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
Moderator note: The breadth and depth of knowledge available from members of this forum is a joy to behold. The OP's question was indeed answered quickly. Explanation was then provided to expand on the initial response. And then we got into the real joy of it....

Mods are sensitive to the difference between a thread going off-track and a thread that remains firmly on track in an ever changing landscape :)

ps: la chemin d'artillerie aka Route Napoleon is closed, it is not open for the walking, ferme, interdit, shut. Just in case anyone had got confused by history. Of course, if you are 5ft 2ins of megalomaniac with a significant army and associated baggage train feel free to give it a go. Just bear in mind that the authorities in Navarre may impose a significant fine and costs should you require rescuing ;)
 

CWBuff

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
in Planning stage: Frances (SJPdP --> SdC) & Finisterre "2021"
Well I thought that if one were moving large numbers of soldiers and equipment whilst under non-combat conditions, or in a no threat area it would make sense to take the low road, but these troops and equipment was doing so under combat. So it makes total sense to take the high road/high ground. I did not realize that at first until I read the historical record of the campaign in that area that was attached to another post on here.
And he is obviously not first to do so. Think of Hannibal crossing the Alps in218 AD and Suvorov doing the same in 1799. Napoleon himself will cross the Alps in 1800 so technically crossing the Pyrenees 13 years later is a 'piece of cake' (I know i am pushing it here :))
I am sure that if we dig into history we will find many examples. The flanking maneuver at Thermopylae and Khyber Pass come to my mind OTOH😂
 

CWBuff

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
in Planning stage: Frances (SJPdP --> SdC) & Finisterre "2021"
Bernard Cornwall's stories of soldier Sharpe traipsing about, serving in Wellington's army in various parts of Spain and Portugal are great fun, if you like that kind of thing.
🎶 Over the Hills and O'er the Main,
To Flanders, Portugal and Spain,
King George commands and we'll obey
Over the Hills and far away.
🎶
 

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