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Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca

oilbhen

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Myself and a friend are planning to walk from Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca as one of our legs of the Camino. From what I have read this is the highest point of the Camino and a difficult walk. Could anyone give us any insight into duration of this walk/ fitness level required?
 
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Grousedoctor

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2023
I don’t think that you’ll find this the steepest or longest climb on the CF. Although a good uphill climb out of Rabanal, the elevation change up to Foncebadón is only about 300 meters. In fact, the climb from La Herrerías to O Cebreiro is longer and steeper. So, I don’t think you’ll find the climb out of Rabanal more than you can handle after the amount of time you’ll have already spent on the Camino. An option, which is what I did, is to go from Astorga to Foncebadón. Get most of the climbing out of the way the day before. That will also allow you to easily get up to Cruz de Ferro for sunrise if that is important to you. Plus, Foncebadón is a wonderful hamlet in which to spend the night.
 

David with new Kit!

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2019, 2021, 2022
Hello @oilbhen
My wife and did it last year and it will take you a full day. Going up is hard, but straightforward.

Going down is an absolute pig, I would recommend walking poles to help steady yourself as there is a lot of loose stones and rough terrain.

As for fitness, if you have walked that far your fitness is not in doubt.

The best advice is to not rush the downhill section or it will bite you.

On the plus side the downhill side of the mountain is very much sunnier (and hotter)

Molinisaca us a beautiful place to end the day.
 

NVonlanthen

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Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (completed 2016)
Portuguese (2017)
Myself and a friend are planning to walk from Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca as one of our legs of the Camino. From what I have read this is the highest point of the Camino and a difficult walk. Could anyone give us any insight into duration of this walk/ fitness level required?
I did this leg twice (I actually broke my leg the first time walking down into Molinaseca because of a freak accident). It's not that bad. Anybody with a moderate fitness level will have no issues. Take it at your own pace, rest when you need to. It's absolutely worth it...do not be intimidated or skip over it. It took about 5 hours. And it's not the most difficult leg by a long shot! Buen Camino!
 
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estorildon

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I will only add, it depends on the weather. I have done it 3 times and stopped in El Acebo twice. The rocky path down hill is daunting withourt poles and one time I tried it during a heavy rain storm and the path turned into a river of rain water. I was tempted to move over to the road but it is just as treacherous with the odd truck or car buzzing by.
 

irishrock

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (1st three stages in 2016 and finished in 2017)
Myself and a friend are planning to walk from Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca as one of our legs of the Camino. From what I have read this is the highest point of the Camino and a difficult walk. Could anyone give us any insight into duration of this walk/ fitness level required?
I'd strongly suggest getting to Foncebadon...it is a really cool village, higher in altitude (so you'll see and experience some interesting weather) and is just an all around great place. Okay...I'll say it! Without a doubt it was my favorite small village on the entire Camino. So get to Foncebadon.

I hiked from Astorga to el Acebo. El Acebo has the best albuergue on the entire Camino...you have to go all the way to the end of town to reach it. Great rooms and facilities along with a pool. Their pilgram meal is also great. But it's a hike of 37km. I was worn out at the end (I'd typically do 40km's a day...although "only" 37km...I was whipped at the end of it)

This is some great Camino terrain you are getting ready to experience...don't think of it as bad...think of it as great and a wonderful challenge. I'm jealous
 

Rick M

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April ('16,'18, '19, 22)
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For some people, this is the most difficult stage of the Camino. As others have said, the climb up to Cruz de Ferro is very doable, and for most this is not a noteworthy challenge. It's the road down that is the issue. If you find going down hill hard on your knees, I suggest walking to El Acebo, and taking a taxi to Molinaseca. The trail is rocky, treacherous, and steep. As others have said, quite hideous in the rain. For most its a question of going slow and being careful. For those with knee issues, its a recipe for three days with an ice bag. You can sample the trail on the way to El Acebo. Once you get there, you've covered about a third of the ugly parts, and there is plenty more where that came from, all the way to the bottom.
 
How to avoid failure "be prepared"
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I don’t think that you’ll find this the steepest or longest climb on the CF. Although a good uphill climb out of Rabanal, the elevation change up to Foncebadón is only about 300 meters. In fact, the climb from La Herrerías to O Cebreiro is longer and steeper. So, I don’t think you’ll find the climb out of Rabanal more than you can handle after the amount of time you’ll have already spent on the Camino. An option, which is what I did, is to go from Astorga to Foncebadón. Get most of the climbing out of the way the day before. That will also allow you to easily get up to Cruz de Ferro for sunrise if that is important to you. Plus, Foncebadón is a wonderful hamlet in which to spend the night.
Agree on Foncebadon! One of my favourite stops. Going back a few years I think I indulged in mucho Orujo, con ierbes! Who cares about the spelling, the effects were wonderful :)

Buen Camino.

Samarkand.
 

dougfitz

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Time of past OR future Camino
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
I haven't walked from Rabanal, but did walk from Foncebadon to Ponferrada on my first Camino. When I walked with my wife a few years later, we did much shorter stages, typically around 15 km a day and stayed in Foncebadon and then Riego de Ambios. Its not the ascent that I found difficult, but the steep, rocky and uneven descent. I recall that there are still sections where greater care is required pretty much all the way into Molinaseca. I don't think it is a much about fitness as about taking care with your foot placement and balance. Walking poles really come into their own here helping with that.
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF: 2001, 02, 04, 14. Ourense to Santiago 2019.
Twice, I walked Rabanal to Ponferrada.

Once Rabanal to El Acebo.

Very doable. You’ll be fine.

However, for me, this stage has always been tougher than Pyrenees or both routes to O’Cebreiro.

Enjoy.

Remember to stop at Cruz de Ferro place a rock as proxy for burdens.

Buen camino.
 

Gumba

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2022
Can I ask people's thoughts on walking along the road - particularly after Cruz de Ferro? Will be walking this part in January and there will be nothing open between Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca to break up the days. Last time we ended up getting a taxi from El Acebo as we were quite broken by the time we arrived!! There was no way we could walk down on that track!
 

mspath

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Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Can I ask people's thoughts on walking along the road - particularly after Cruz de Ferro? Will be walking this part in January and there will be nothing open between Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca to break up the days. Last time we ended up getting a taxi from El Acebo as we were quite broken by the time we arrived!! There was no way we could walk down on that track!
Gumba,
In late autumn and winter I have always walked down on the road LE-142. Never had a problem except with pelotons of bikers in good weather on weekends. Prior to the Cruz I would sleep at Foncebadon and walk the CF path to the Cruz and then follow the road down to El Acebo . Would stop again at El Acebo the next night and then continue down the road to Molinaseca.
 
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Gumba

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2022
Gumba,
In late autumn and winter I have always walked down on the road LE-142. Never had a problem except with pelotons of bikers in good weather on weekends. Prior to the Cruz I would sleep at Foncebadon and walk the CF path to the Cruz and then follow the road down to El Acebo . Would stop again at El Acebo the next night and then continue down the road to Molinaseca.

Thanks mspath. Will be walking in January; last time we walked there was nothing open between Rabinal - Molinaseca (the Hospitaleros were very clear about this). Booking.com tells me that next Jan we will have options in both places. Who knows. Fingers crossed though. An overnight in either of those towns would be rather spectacular!!
 

Gumba

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2022
I found the the walk up easy. This is what the path down from Acebo to Molineseca on the way looks like. You pick your way down slowly, slowly. The tar seal road is a good option instead.
yeah, thanks. That's a hard pass!!!! Definitely will take the road option!!
 
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I found the the walk up easy. This is what the path down from Acebo to Molineseca on the way looks like. You pick your way down slowly, slowly. The tar seal road is a good option instead.
@Anamiri, can you pinpoint exactly where this photo was taken? I was on the road, on a bike so I missed this. It’s a fabulous bit of geology, although you would obviously have had other priorities!
 

DyanTX

DyanTX
Time of past OR future Camino
CF Sept 22 - Nov 3, 2016
The uphill is easily manageable. The downhill is a bear. Slippery footing and 1000 meter drop over that distance. We broke it up at El Acebo to give our knees a rest. Still needed to watch footing and use poles. Thankfully it was dry.
 
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TaijiPilgrim

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Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2011), Camino Frances (2015), Camino Ingles (2017), Camino Muxia (2017), LePuy(2019)
The first time I did the downhill into Molineseca, I found it challenging because it was hot, dry, dusty, lots of loose pebbles and scree, and, of course, steep. It was such a memorable descent that I decided, if I did it again, I would opt for the road. The second time I did walk the road, and though there was traffic, usually there was a wide enough shoulder to protect walkers. Make sure to walk single file and facing towards the traffic. Bright colored clothing also helps!
 

Marian Patricia

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2017
Myself and a friend are planning to walk from Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca as one of our legs of the Camino. From what I have read this is the highest point of the Camino and a difficult walk. Could anyone give us any insight into duration of this walk/ fitness level required?
At age 66 my husband and I did this stretch. It is well worth doing on the trail - just be forewarned that there is considerable ascent and descent. With proper planning relative to your fitness level you should allow time to enjoy it. We did not find it to be a problem. The most difficult portion was Riego de Ambrose to Molinaseca - a rocky descent with loose stones; you have to watch your feet. We did not have poles but they would have been helpful in this section (as well as at Cruz de Ferro if climbing up to the cross - coming down on the loose stones was an adventure!) and I would avoid doing it in rain as it could get slippery on the hard slabs of rock. Rabanal, El Acebo and Molinaseca are all lovely towns to stay in. It is a wonderful section of the Camino and I would not have missed the trail for anything. I did not find the climb to O Cebreiro as challenging as the descent to Molinaseca at all. Just take it at a comfortable pace.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
I will only add, it depends on the weather. I have done it 3 times and stopped in El Acebo twice. The rocky path down hill is daunting withourt poles and one time I tried it during a heavy rain storm and the path turned into a river of rain water. I was tempted to move over to the road but it is just as treacherous with the odd truck or car buzzing by.
Another vote for Acebo, if only to enjoy the view for two days instead of one! Better to tackle the rocky trail down to Molinaseca with fresh and rested legs the next day - after it is light.
Last November was my third time down the hill to Molinaseca. I slept in Rabinal the night before and I always have a pretty intense experience when I am at Cruz de Ferro. It represents something very important to me. This time I wanted to have a short day so I stayed at Albergue Meson El Acebo. It was a great decision. Very nice albergue with lovely views. Also as others have said this walk pales in comparison to the day going up to O'Cebreiro or that famous day from SJPP. Walking downhill it is best to zig zag going down and when possible walk on the road. It makes things much easier.
 

irishrock

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (1st three stages in 2016 and finished in 2017)
Another vote for Acebo, if only to enjoy the view for two days instead of one! Better to tackle the rocky trail down to Molinaseca with fresh and rested legs the next day - after it is light.
I was in el Acebo on July 9th (2017) and the sunset from el Acebo looking west was amazing. It got dark late at night, like past 10:00pm, but your post is 1000% accurate
 
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KimR

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Norte ‘21
Hello @oilbhen
My wife and did it last year and it will take you a full day. Going up is hard, but straightforward.

Going down is an absolute pig, I would recommend walking poles to help steady yourself as there is a lot of loose stones and rough terrain.

As for fitness, if you have walked that far your fitness is not in doubt.

The best advice is to not rush the downhill section or it will bite you.

On the plus side the downhill side of the mountain is very much sunnier (and hotter)

Molinisaca us a beautiful place to end the day.
Would agree. It’s the descent that is the challenge. Knees and shins beware ! Slow, steady and preferably with trekking poles. I saw some folks descending by the road which brings a traffic hazard.
Molinaseca is a beautiful place and worth the overnight stay.
 

Sherpa47

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2008 and 2017
I don’t think that you’ll find this the steepest or longest climb on the CF. Although a good uphill climb out of Rabanal, the elevation change up to Foncebadón is only about 300 meters. In fact, the climb from La Herrerías to O Cebreiro is longer and steeper. So, I don’t think you’ll find the climb out of Rabanal more than you can handle after the amount of time you’ll have already spent on the Camino. An option, which is what I did, is to go from Astorga to Foncebadón. Get most of the climbing out of the way the day before. That will also allow you to easily get up to Cruz de Ferro for sunrise if that is important to you. Plus, Foncebadón is a wonderful hamlet in which to spend the night.
I have stayed in Foncebadon on two Caminos. A wonderful and isolated village.
 

koknesis

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CF 2014
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CP 2018
CM 2019
My vote goes for Rabanal. Refugio Gaucelmo still is one of the brightest memories from my first Camino.
 

Marbe2

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2015-2019 walked all or more than half of CF 7 times... CP recently cancelled by Covid 19!
For some people, this is the most difficult stage of the Camino. As others have said, the climb up to Cruz de Ferro is very doable, and for most this is not a noteworthy challenge. It's the road down that is the issue. If you find going down hill hard on your knees, I suggest walking to El Acebo, and taking a taxi to Molinaseca. The trail is rocky, treacherous, and steep. As others have said, quite hideous in the rain. For most its a question of going slow and being careful. For those with knee issues, its a recipe for three days with an ice bag. You can sample the trail on the way to El Acebo. Once you get there, you've covered about a third of the ugly parts, and there is plenty more where that came from, all the way to the bottom.
We are slow. We split the route as follows:

Astorga to Rabanal del Camino 20km

Rabanal to El Acebo. 18-20km

El Acebo to Ponferrada. 17km.

It can be treacherous on the path down from El Acebo!
 
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estorildon

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My vote goes for Rabanal. Refugio Gaucelmo still is one of the brightest memories from my first Camino.
I enjoyed vespers at the chapel, a one of a kind experience!
 
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Anamiri

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2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
@Anamiri, can you pinpoint exactly where this photo was taken? I was on the road, on a bike so I missed this. It’s a fabulous bit of geology, although you would obviously have had other priorities!
It was probably a few kms before Molineseca - it could have anywhere on that stretch after Acebo. I had been walking on track like that for ages, and was meeting up with my sister later who was biking. I thought "if I dont take a photo of this she would never believe me".
You spend your whole time watching out for your footing.
Now I take the road.
And she was duly impressed.
 

Yoyo

Ambulo, ergo sum.
Time of past OR future Camino
2023, hopefully.
@Anamiri, can you pinpoint exactly where this photo was taken? I was on the road, on a bike so I missed this. It’s a fabulous bit of geology, although you would obviously have had other priorities!

@Peregrinopaul, I took a picture on that route similar to @Anamiri's. It was taken just after leaving Riego de Ambros.

IMG_4293.jpeg

You might also be interested in the following little video. It was taken further on, where one gets a first glimpse of Molinaseca down below and Ponferrada in the distance. The (geologically) interesting bit starts after about 35 seconds where it switches to slow motion. Edit: I just noticed the slow motion function does not work on the upload.

View attachment Untitled 2.mov
 
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Shalaw

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Camino Frances Sept/Oct 2015
Portuguese is next!
It’s funny how certain things stand out in your mind, and this stage is one of them. 0AEA4552-0BCA-4E59-860A-17E78CED8122.jpeg The ‘down’ into Molinaseca was particularly brutal and slow going. Very steep and ridged, so you just have to pick your way down slowly, and with your hiking poles. It also helps to zig zag your way down which saves your knees.
 
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Robo

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I'd strongly suggest getting to Foncebadon...it is a really cool village, higher in altitude (so you'll see and experience some interesting weather) and is just an all around great place. Okay...I'll say it! Without a doubt it was my favorite small village on the entire Camino. So get to Foncebadon.

I hiked from Astorga to el Acebo. El Acebo has the best albuergue on the entire Camino...you have to go all the way to the end of town to reach it. Great rooms and facilities along with a pool. Their pilgram meal is also great. But it's a hike of 37km. I was worn out at the end (I'd typically do 40km's a day...although "only" 37km...I was whipped at the end of it)

This is some great Camino terrain you are getting ready to experience...don't think of it as bad...think of it as great and a wonderful challenge. I'm jealous

I was amused to read this. I had thought of staying in it next time I pass through, as it looked good on their website.

Then I read appalling reviews of it, saying it was nothing more that a sterile 'money grab' kind of place with vending machines LOL

Just goes to show that not only do we all have vastly different expectations, but we all 'see' things and experience things in very different ways.

Maybe I will try it after all......... though the online reviews of the Donativo have me favouring that currently.
 

J Willhaus

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Last year Phil stayed at the donativo in Foncebadon. Due to the Spanish holiday in early October it was the only place with a bed. Many tour buses. The donativo was at half capacity and no open kitchen due to Covid, but the volunteer was wonderful. Only one very small shower stall which was trashed by the time it would have been his turn so he delayed bathing until the next evening at a more spacious bathroom.
 

irishrock

Member
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Frances (1st three stages in 2016 and finished in 2017)
I was amused to read this. I had thought of staying in it next time I pass through, as it looked good on their website.

Then I read appalling reviews of it, saying it was nothing more that a sterile 'money grab' kind of place with vending machines LOL

Just goes to show that not only do we all have vastly different expectations, but we all 'see' things and experience things in very different ways.

Maybe I will try it after all......... though the online reviews of the Donativo have me favouring that currently.
vending machines? I did not see that. I had a wonderful meal there. I did the Camino in 2017 so things may have changed, but I doubt it. Someone invested some serious money in the location and the facility and so I'm guessing they would keep it up to date and nice.
 

Marbe2

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2015-2019 walked all or more than half of CF 7 times... CP recently cancelled by Covid 19!
vending machines? I did not see that. I had a wonderful meal there. I did the Camino in 2017 so things may have changed, but I doubt it. Someone invested some serious money in the location and the facility and so I'm guessing they would keep it up to date and nice.
The Albergue Irish Rock i referring to at theendof El Acebo is a stunning location. I didn’t see vending machines either, but I stayed n a private room. The view, alone, at dinner and breakfast is well worth the price. If you go when the pool is open and the weather is good,it is an extra definite plus.
 
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