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Over the Pyrenees

JLocamino

New Member
Hey THere, This is the second time for my husband and I on the camino. Last year it was the last 180KMs, this year the first 110KMs. Luckily I am good with the feet, the packing, the eating, the sleeping. What I am concerned about is the trek over the Pyrenees.
We have planned to stay in Ourisson, or half way the first day.
My question is... Are the Pyreness harder than the day out of O Cebreio?
Judith
 
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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
The walk from SJPP to Roncevalles is SPECTACULAR.. more so to me than the walk up to O'Cebreiro.
It is mostly on pavement all the way up, so isn't so difficult as it is steep and long.
Think the worst hill in San Francisco for 6 straight hours.

Soooo.. you are SMART to break it up by staying at either Hunto or Orrison, and you are SMART to take snacks and stop every hour, take off your shoes, and rest.

The walk DOWN from the top into Roncevalles is through forest, and this time of year, I imagine it is muddy. You have another option to stick with the road, and some do that. But the walk DOWN for me was worse than up because we did it in one day and I was exhausted.

Take plenty of Compeed.. your heels will rub on the way UP and your toes will rub on the way DOWN.

But don't miss it.. unless it's fogged in.. it is incredibly ethereal.
 

KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
I agree with Annie..... don't miss the climb over the Pyrenees if the weather is good. For me- and I know I was fortunate to get good weather- it was the highlight of my whole walk. It is harder than the climb up O'Cebreiro- but it wasn't anywhere near as hard as I was expecting. (Though I know I was 'walking fit' by this stage, since I had already walked from Le Puy.) Staying at Orisson is a good way to break it up, and we enjoyed resting here and watching the views. We were blessed with a stunning rainbow across the mountains in the evening: I will never forget it- a highlight of my whole life!
As Annie says, much of the walk is on a sealed road surface out of SJPP. And although it mostly does go up, there were a few flatter bits along the way. You are quite high up before you move off the sealed surface. However, a few kms above Orisson, though it does keep going uuuuuup, the slope gets a little easier.
Margaret
 

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cecelia

Wandering for the love and growth of it
Past OR future Camino
2013
And just to repeat from other posts - if you're planning on staying at Orisson be sure to make a reservation well in advance. You can do that from their website. http://www.refuge-orisson.com

They are frequently booked right up. If you stop in at the Pilgrims Office in SJPP they will call up to confirm your reservation. If you can't get in at orisson it is worth it to stay at Huntto. That first few km seems the worst - maybe because that's the part that's on pavement.
Buen camino
Cecelia
 

dislp38

Member
As beautiful as Orrison is, I have to admit if I did it all over again, I would skip that part. Those two days of up and then down almost broke me. I have to say the weather was bad for me. It was April 16, 2009 and they just had a snowstorm there in which a few pilgrims had to be rescued (and apparently two people died.)

Plus, I found the climb really hard and slow (more than any of the other mountains.) And the descent wasn't very fun (but I had ankle deep snow and mud.) I hope you've been practicing your walk/climbing. Yes, it's paved most of the way, it's also quite steep.
 
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jeff001

Active Member
If you have any experience at all hiking in the mountains this is not that difficult a climb. I made it from Orisson to Roncesvalles in just a bit over 4 hours and I was 66 at the time and not in particularly good shape. It is not like the Alps or the high Pyrenees more like the Appalachians in the US.
 

nellpilgrim

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
SDC-Fisterra 08/Camino Frances SJPP to SDC 09/Nuremburg-SDC 11- ongoing
Hi Judith,
It's hard to compare as they are so different.There is a lot of walking on the road up to the Cruceiro and, if you decide not to head down through the woods, on the descent into Roncevalles itself- as a novice I quite liked that fact but now I would be a bit more careful about the impact on my feet and knees.
Though a bit 'wore out' by the time we got to O'Cebreiro we were buoyed up with the knowledge that it was last 'big push' before reaching Santiago. In contrast the Pyrenees were the first 'big push' of our Camino and that seemed to be the case for the majority of pilgrims we met in SJPP. Though even for the veteran pilgrims who had come from Le Puy, Vezelay and beyond the Pyrenees were a significant benchmark on their long routes. As a result there was a powerful undercurrent of excitement/anxiety/joy that seemed to inspire and tug you along-no matter what your fitness level (and you seem to be ahead of the posse in being experienced walkers and fit)
We took the two days to cross in early April 2009. On the first day, which was absolutely spectacular, we got up as far as the Cruceiro. However on the second day the snow was too bad and we had to turn back and take the valley route which got us safely to Roncevalles with some stories to tell and a feeling of 'Good God if we can do this we may make it to Santiago after all'.
The beauty of 'Day 1' makes me hanker to complete a full Route Napoleon- it's in the top 3 of my 'to do' list.
Take two days and go for it!
Nell
 

nellpilgrim

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
SDC-Fisterra 08/Camino Frances SJPP to SDC 09/Nuremburg-SDC 11- ongoing
Sorry to hijack your post Judith but I've been thinking about this today. Perhaps it's because I'm a visual person but even though I know that the Cruz de Ferro is the highest point of the CF and O'Cebreiro is also pretty damn high (heck I climbed up to both in so I do mean 'know' ) the climb up and over the Pyrenees remains the iconic mountain ascent of my CF, they just seem to somehow 'out mountain' any or the other ranges we crossed/viewed.
I'm wondering if it's because they were the first mountain challenge for us and that if we had started in Astorga for example then the Crux de Ferro would have that place in our hearts?
Nell
 

dutchpilgrim

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2002, 2005, 2008, 2012
nellpilgrim said:
I know that the Cruz de Ferro is the highest point of the CF
Nell

To be precise: Alto de Cerezales, just after Manjarin 1508 m.
(Some 4 km after Cruz de Ferro which is only 1495 m.)
:wink:
Ultreya,
Carli Di Bortolo
 

nellpilgrim

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
SDC-Fisterra 08/Camino Frances SJPP to SDC 09/Nuremburg-SDC 11- ongoing
Duly noted Carli....I'm afraid I didn't take the small diverseo to reach that Punto Alto but it was so icy and cold :oops: ...maybe next time :lol:
Nell
 
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benandsam

Member
Im excited by walking the pyrenees , the stories about the beauty whets my appetitie, The climb seems quite gradual, i think the mountains of ireland are smaller but much steeper so the pyrenees are no bother--no fear enjoy the ride people
 

KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
benandsam said:
Im excited by walking the pyrenees , the stories about the beauty whets my appetitie, The climb seems quite gradual, i think the mountains of ireland are smaller but much steeper so the pyrenees are no bother--no fear enjoy the ride people
lol I will second that. I climbed Croagh Patrick and it was way harder than the Napoleon Route over the Pyrenees. Going up the last third on all that slippery scree was rather difficult. :eek: And coming down over the uneven rocks when it had started raining and blowing- I slipped and was blown around on the ground several times, and I am not a small person by any means!!! But still, it was so much fun!!!
Having said that though.... it is a long haul over the Pyrenees.... a much longer day. And you can't ignore the mountain conditions you might meet: people have died in them. Plus, if you are starting out there and not so fit, it makes for a tough start that some people don't easily recover from.
Margaret
 

Cowboy

New Member
I walked from SJPP in May 2008 and really liked the first day's walking (so much that I did not stop in Roncesvalles but pushed on a bit further). I am planning to do the Camino again next year, starting towards the end of April but cannot make up my mind as to starting in SJPP again or crossing the Pyrenees further south at the Somport pass (Camino Aragones). Having already done the former, I suppose it makes sense to to try a new route but I've heard the crossing at Somport is not as scenic. Also wet weather / late snow would be a bigger problem on the Somport? :?
 

elzi

Active Member
Sorry to disagree with the general trend on this thread but I can't help thinking that walking over the Pyrenees on day 1/2 is a silly way to start a long distance walk. Why not start somewhere sensible and ease yourself in gently? I meet so many people limping along because they pushed themselves up or more often ruined their knees on the steep climb down on the first couple of days.
Why not start somewhere a bit flatter, take a few days to acclimatise, get used to having the pack on your back etc before you walk over a massive mountain!?!
Sure there's a section of people that consider it some kind of a rite of passage but I'm of the opinion any camino is just as meaningful wherever you start.
 

Alan Pearce

Veteran Member
Hi Cowboy

The camino Aragones starts at Somport, so if you were going to walk OVER the Pyrenees there you would walk part of the Arles route up to Somport. I did this, starting in Pau, and taking 4 days to reach Somport. I can't tell you if the Aragones is more beautiful, as I have not walked the Frances, but I found it very scenic , and oh so green after the browness of Australia.

As to the weather, who knows? I reached Somport on 6th April, and when I left the next morning I walked on frozen snow for the first kilometre or so before I got below the snow line. It was nearly the end of the ski season, so no more big dumps were expected, but Mother Nature moves to the beat of her own drum.

buen camino

Alan

Be brave. Life is joyous.
 
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Cowboy

New Member
Alan Pearce said:
I found it very scenic , and oh so green after the browness of Australia.

Hmmm, I'm tempted to follow your lead and start in Pau but it does add an additional few days to the journey. Did you walk all the way to Santiago and how long did it take? Regards, EMS
 

Alan Pearce

Veteran Member
Hi Cowboy

I started walking from Pau on April 3rd, and arrived in Compostela on 11th May, with lay days in Burgos and Astorga, so it was 37 days of actual walking. I had a day off in Compostela before a 3 day walk to Finistere. All up it was 1000 km in 4o days on the road, an average of 25 km per day.

Buen camino

Alan

Be brave. Life is joyous.
 

pat.holland

Member
Past OR future Camino
C F 2007-10, Le Puy St. Jean 2011-13, C P 2015 Via F 2016-7
The Pyrenees and O Cebreiro are two parts ofthe C where you will encounter mountain weather and that need a bit of consideration. If you are hill walker then you may consider them a good but not major walk, so long as you dont hit snow or ice. We were a bit surprised to hit several inches of snow at O Cebreiro at Easter. If you are not a hill walker then you need to again consider the weather and your fitness. I agree that in many ways the Pyrenees can be an inspiring start but it would be really better if the 'start' were a few days lower. but then you can start anywhere ! I have heard that many hill walkers run over the Pyrenees and down to Pamplona but within a few days their knees or ankles start complaining.

So bottom line, you can get into real trouble on the mountains if something goes wrong. My brother met a walker who found a south Korean sitting by the track, hypothermic and weak. He had not got over the mountains in one day, had to sleep out, got wet in rain and went down. She managed to get food into him and walk him out eventually. the Pyrenees can be a harsh and untypical introduction for the unfit, overweighted or weather unlucky. It can also be a beautiful experience

by the way Kiwinomad, that bit of Croagh Patrick you mentioned is known as Kamakasi alley as coming down, many young/foolish people run down, trip on the scree, fly through the air as it is so steep and then hit the rocks or some one else. Many of the casualties taken out by MR come from that location.
 

KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
pat.holland said:
by the way Kiwinomad, that bit of Croagh Patrick you mentioned is known as Kamakasi alley as coming down, many young/foolish people run down, trip on the scree, fly through the air as it is so steep and then hit the rocks or some one else. Many of the casualties taken out by MR come from that location.
Kamakasi Alley- that doesn't surprise me! It was actually lower down that I slipped though- on the rockier section, below the cairn that heralds the last steep haul up the scree cone. I had walking shoes that didn't have non-slip soles- and in the wet conditions I slipped. In a very short time, conditions had really deteriorated, and the descent was more than a little nerve-wracking.
Margaret
PS Sorry I know this has veered the thread onto another pilgrimage route....but I did learn a lesson from having soles that were designed for streets rather than slippery mountains!
 

renegadepilgrim

Veteran Pilgrim and Traveler
Past OR future Camino
2010: Camino Frances, 2011: Santo Domingo de la Calzada (Hospitalera), 2012: Camino Portuguese from Porto, 2015: Camino Norte
I know in the Brierley book it has the emergency mountain hut just up past the Cross, before you hit the border. We also noticed that just before the summit of the day, there is another emergency shelter, with actual platform to sleep on, and a fireplace. It was open and we took a look because we underestimated how heavy our packs were and how long the day was already getting to be and for a second thought about spending the night. Anyways, I am still on the Camino, so can't comment about the tail end, but if I did it again, I would split up the day and ease my way into it. I would rather enjoy it than still be dealing with foot problems that started on Day 1. Just my .02.
 
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benandsam

Member
That croagh patrick was so cold at the top when i went up , i went up n down in 2 hours i was amazed to hear some do croagh patrick in under 1 hour.
Im looking forward to pyrenees and O 'Cebeiro
 

Diefenbaker

Member
Past OR future Camino
2010 SJPdP to Finesterre
SJPdP or Hendaye Via Camino Vasco and CF to SdC 2016
Paris to SDC 2018
Hi, I've just finished the camino, walking from St Jean to Finesterre. I crossed the Pyrenees on Mar 30, 2010 and if the weather is likely to be bad I would recommend stopping overnight en route if you can get to St Jean in time. I travelled to St Jean from Biarritz using Caroline's taxi service and so arrived in town by 4 pm, in time to have walked to Orrison but I decided against it.
I must say that if the weather is likely to be bad then anyone should seriously think about stopping at Orrison as despite the Pilgrims Office recommending I used the Napolionic Route, the weather was appalling and dangerous, with gale force winds, rain, hail and snow as the temperature dropped to below zero. Had I stopped en route I would have been over the worst of the hills before the weather had deteriorated.
Incidentally, it would seem that once the French have had your money in St Jean they don't seem to worry about you on the Pyrenees. The hut on the French side was closed and they don't supply any other shelters for the rest of their side nor put any way of knowing where you are if you need to contact the emergency services as were needed on the day I crossed. The Spanish however, have built a shelter and have put up markers which tell the emergency services exactly where you are.
Obviously you won't be as fit when you start as you will be when you reach O'Cebreiro and there is shelter on that route.
 

FatmaG

Active Member
Well, maybe they (the "French") are not as well prepared as the Spanish emergency services, at least on the first view.

But : if inhabitants or the pilgrims office or probably even the police (all these who have experience over there) tell you NOT to go, but then you go despite warnings...
Is it really the responsability of the 'French', their 'nation', if you endanger yourself?
Isn't rather every person first of all responsable for his own actions? (and - to go further - for his risktaking or love of extreme adventure, or stupidity or obstinacy?)

I am pretty sure "the French" would do everything to save a person in danger - it is certainly not their wish to be "in the news" for dead pilgrims in the French pyrenees.
 

Diefenbaker

Member
Past OR future Camino
2010 SJPdP to Finesterre
SJPdP or Hendaye Via Camino Vasco and CF to SdC 2016
Paris to SDC 2018
Sorry FatmaG I obviously didn't make my self clear in the previous post. I asked the pilgrims office if it would be safe to cross via the Napoleonic route and they said it would be wet and windy but it would be safe to cross. If I'd known how bad it was to become then i wouldn't have gone on that route.
My main beef was the lack of any shelters and the lack of any signs to say where you were in an emergency. When i crossed, an Austrian man became seriously ill and a Norwegian lady eventually contacted the emergency services in Bayonne on her cell phone. Once a french speaking pilgrim was found he was unable to say where they were so 2 teams were sent from the French side and 2 from Spain to look for him. Had there been proper signs as there were in Spain then only 1 team would have been needed. The man was ill enough to need to be air-lifted to hospital once he'd been found.
 
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KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
Here is a bit of realism about the mountain conditions you can strike when crossing on the Napoleon Route. http://caminobleu.blogspot.com/2010/05/roncesvalles-may-15-2010.html
Linnea has already walked from Le Puy en Velay and is nearly finished her planned walk. And she got most of the way over the Pyrenees, but where the trail left the road, the track was not visible, and she had to turn back in blizzard conditions. It' s hard to believe how cold it can be in mid-May! And it is a reminder to all of us not to take the Pyrenees crossing too lightly.
Margaret
 

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