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SJPP to Roncesvalles - your personal experience

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J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
We walked to Orrison for the first night then onto Roncesvalles. I underestimated my personal level of fitness and the health of my joints--primarily the knees. Going up was tough. Going down was a killer on the knees even on the "less steep" variant. I cried real tearswhen I got to Roncesvalles while standing in line waiting for check in simply because I was so glad to get there and end the torture. I went to bed at 9 p.m. that night. After that for the next 45 days of walking my legs and knees kept me from sleeping well even with anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants. I don't know if I had started at Roncevalles if it would have been different? I am seriously overweight and I know that losing 20 or more pounds would reduce the impact on my joints. Always easier to "know" that than to actually drop the weight though.
 

CAJohn

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances Sept/Oct 2019
I climbed to the Vierge de Biakorri on the first day. I was still pretty jet lagged and it was pure torture. I was so happy to get to the Vierge and wait for Express Bourricot. If I do this again, I will definitely add another day at the beginning to get over jet lag before climbing.

The next day, I was dropped off at the Vierge and walked to Roncesvalles without much difficulty.

When climbing up, there are "shortcuts" off the road before you get to Orrison, but they are extremely steep. If I had to do it over again, I would have skipped those and stayed on the road. It would have been longer, but I probably would have made fewer stops and it would have been better on me mentally and physically.

The same is true coming down from the top to Roncesvalles. I took the less steep way and there were all sorts of short cuts between the twists of the winding road. But these shortcuts were very uneven on your footing which was challenging since I was tired, and I eventually gave up on those and stayed on the road for a longer, but more surefooted way to the bottom.
 

jeanineonthecamino

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances 2021, Norte/Primitivo 2022, VF 2023
I stopped in Orisson and am glad I did. I might have been able to make it on one day - but SJPDP to Orisson was hard. And Orisson to Roncesvalles was hard. Even broken up over 2 days. I feel like it is better to start slower and ease into the longer km days than to start off with a long hard fist day. This way - you are less likely to end up with injuries at the beginning of your Camino.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
The tag "sjpp to roncesvalles" has been added at the top of the thread under the title. Click on it to read about both the logistics and experiences of other members.

This new thread is good, though, as it is always interesting to get a fresh collection of comments.

My own experience is two trips in late October. My first time, being inexperienced and in my mid 60s, I planned to take two days and walk via Valcarlos. However, at the albergue in SJPP, I decided to join my new friends and walk over the Napoleon in a single day. (Orisson had just closed for the season.) I unloaded much of my backpack and sent it by transport, and set off with a half-empty backpack. The day went well - as long as I didn't try to chat or keep up with others (very important), the steep climb was do-able. Descending into Roncesvalles on the steep slope on rubbery knees required care, and walking poles. But it all was a satisfying day - the weather was perfect and I was adequately prepared.

The second time, I chose to stop in Orisson, as I would do if I walked it again. Again the weather was good and the walk went well, but people with heavy packs or without warm gloves for the morning chill, were less comfortable.

My experience on the Napoleon pass was memorable, but mostly because it was Day 1 of a Camino. The scenery is lovely on a clear day, but not so spectacular that you should consider it a major loss if you cannot experience it!
 
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mspath

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
To Roncesvales I have always followed the Valcarlos route which is the oldest way through the mountain pass

I first walked in 2004 when 65 and for the last time in 2015. It was never easy. The first time was then the most exhausting day in my adult life.

During those easier, happier years I walked the route 10 times often alone in late autumn/winter and always carrying my pack. In winter I walked the verges of the route N135 in order to avoid the snow covered path through the wood. For many reasons my 2009 winter climb was the most memorable.

Now at 83 I am no longer able to hike long distance except in memory. Thus in retrospect I am most thankful that once I had the necessary strength and tenacity.
 
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Richard of York

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2021/22 Francés
2022 Inglés
2022 San Sal+Primitivo
I blame the Route Napoléon for stopping me walking at Estella and having to rest for a week. I also blame myself for not drinking enough water. The day itself didn't feel hard, like a nice long walk in the Yorkshire Dales, but there was no break after. If I do it again I'll do the Valcarlos route. The views are stunning, btw.
 

Suzanne A

Peregrina desde 2015
Time of past OR future Camino
2015 CF, 2016 CP, 2018 Le Puy, 2019 CF,
2022 Prim
I walked the Napoleon route 3x straight to Roncevalles at 59, 62, and 63. I had jet lag the first time but had so much adrenaline in my system from excitement I don’t remember any major problems. The second time my Camino included 3 days of walking in France so No jet lag. The third time it was at the end of Le Puy route with only a day pack and it was just a long day. If you have all the ingredients: training under your belt, light backpack, and decent weather consider it- it is amazing.
 

stuartwalker121

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2017 September - October) Camino Norte (2018 September - October)
Hi everyone,
i would like to know your personal experience for the first day of the classical French way. Did you do it at once, did you make a stop over? How did you like it?
Yeah its a very special journey.
It's not too bad if you're fit. About 6/7hours to Roncesvalles from St Jean.
Orrisson is too close to StJean (for me) to stop but its supposed to be a fantastic Albergue there. I walked down the steep track to Roncesvalles through the woods, it's not so bad. The hostel at Roncesvalles is top, and if there's no room, they will arrange transport to nearby places for you (they did this when I was there) all in all, a great experience going over Napoleon but it can rain amd be windy up top. Be careful and prepared. If you leave at 07:00 you should be at or approaching Roncesvalles by 2:30pm
 

Rex

One Step at a Time
Time of past OR future Camino
2023 VF 2nd Half
For distance runners this is not a long leg, but the elevation changes make it a challenge. The climb is difficult, but only in the first 8KM, after that it is relatively gentle in pitch. It went from a partly cloudy late September day to cold fog and rain between Orisson and the top of the pass. The mud was six to eight inches deep in places across the top, almost topping my hiking boots in a couple of places. The trail route to the bottom is much like mountain running, where there are alternating steep slick pitches and short little low areas where the pitch is a bit uphill. In September, in the rain, there were slick patches of leaves in places. Made it down, literally by jogging slowly and hopping around to avoid the slickest areas. From the Pilgrim Office at SJPDP, it was 5'15" to the albergue in Roncevalles. I took it easy the next day as steep downhill pitches are the hardest terrain on one's quads and knees when mountain running or hiking. Now, 10 years later, at 67, I'd probably use poles on the downhill pitch, but we didn't do that in the world of trail running back then. Live and learn. Had no trouble sleeping that night, as I was only one day removed from the Pacific TIme Zone and jet-lag caught up with me after a pasta and red wine meal at the inn. The start of a very meaningful journey. Buen Camino.
 
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USSusan

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Fall 2021, Fall 2023
Hi everyone,
i would like to know your personal experience for the first day of the classical French way. Did you do it at once, did you make a stop over? How did you like it?
I stopped at Orrison and the next day walked to Roncesvalles. The first day was by far the hardest of the whole Camino Frances….probably because I was so excited and started way too fast. Still, I will take 2 days when I do it again.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino's Frances, Fisterre, Portuges. Over 180 day
I have walked both the Napoleon and Valcarlos routes. I am no super athlete and not a young man anymore but I had no problems walking all the way to Roncesvalles on either route. Never stopped at Orisson for the night. Did stop at Valcarlos once for the night and did so because I didn't leave St Jean until after 12.
On either route it is a long walk and does require at least some level of healthy fitness and also requires planning to some degree in terms of water for hydration and food for calories.
 

brault-singh

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF Sept/Oct 2015
CP Sept/Oct 2022
We walked in Sept 2015, stopping in Orisson. We were capable of going further that day but not to Roncevalles. We very much enjoyed the afternoon and evening we spent meeting new friends in Orisson. It was a windy evening and people were hunkered down with wine and beers flowing. I doubt any of us knew, when we left in the morning to even stronger winds that our climb was aggravating by remnants of hurricane Henri passing through. Hardest day of my life walking through 85 km/hr winds, but we lived to tell the tale!
 
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Dani7

Stop wishing, start doing.
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances
When the time is right
My planned 2023 Camino Frances may be my only chance to walk a pilgrimage and since I have no time constraints as I'm taking 2.5 months off work, I'll work up my Camino legs by walking the Chemin de La Nive from Bayonne to SJPP in order to get my body acclimated to the time change, walking with my pack and tweaking whatever needs to be tweaked as far as how my pack is packed etc...
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Future Camino Frances (2022)
I stopped in Orisson and am glad I did. I might have been able to make it on one day - but SJPDP to Orisson was hard. And Orisson to Roncesvalles was hard. Even broken up over 2 days. I feel like it is better to start slower and ease into the longer km days than to start off with a long hard fist day. This way - you are less likely to end up with injuries at the beginning of your Camino.
I am doing the 2-day split via Orisson. Do I need to plan to carry some food/snacks for the Orisson-Roncesvalles section?
 

truenorthpilgrim

Camino Mermaid 🧜🏻‍♀️
Time of past OR future Camino
CF 2016, 2019. LePuy 2019, CF February 2023
First Camino stopped at Orisson and the next day I thought I was going to fall apart. The walk down was excruciating (I wasn't in the best of shape). By the time I got to Roncesvalles I was a blubbering mess, thought my hips were going to fall out of their sockets at mass that evening. But the scenery was pristine and gorgeous. And Orisson is really a fabulous place.

My next camino I took the Valcarlos route and loved it. I was also in much better shape as I had already been walking for a month from Le Puy. I couldn't handle all the new pilgrim energy of Orisson so opted for more dialed down, quieter walk and didn't regret it.
 
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isobelmtl

Member
I walked last September at the age of 73. On the advice of the owner of the alberge in St. J. PdeP I set off in pouring rain. He assured me that the next day would be brilliant and he was right. I believed him The climb up in pouring rain was a challenge but not completely awful. Mind, I had trained by climbing up a steep but low hill in our local park (toboggan hill) ten times a day for months and doing track walking laps.- slept in Orisson - awoke to dried out shoes and continued on over the mountain and down to Ronscesvalles. I walked down by the "road" because I had been warned that the walk through the famous beech forrest was very difficult. Although it is called a "road" there is no traffic and you can see the vistas, enjoy the wild horses and not trip over a tree root and require a second hip replacement. It was an unforgettable day. My arrival at Roncescvalles was spoiled a bit by a check-in lady who insisted I had not paid or reserved (I had) . I paid a second time and when I got the wifi sorted showed her the reciept at which point she sulkily gave me a refund. I also asked her to switch my bed from an upper bunk which she did to a lovely pod on another floor. The first two days of my Camino will forever be in my memory. After that things get dicey too - the descent into Zubiri is awful but no one seems to talk about that. Enjoy and embrace your adventures. I am going on the Portuguese Camino this fall.
 
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longwalker60

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
09/2018
Hi everyone,
i would like to know your personal experience for the first day of the classical French way. Did you do it at once, did you make a stop over? How did you like it?
That first day was the hardest for me. The climb to Orisson was tough, but on to Roncesvalles was even tougher. I agree with the others, the downhill hike destroyed my legs, I also ran out of water the It last 5 miles, and I was really hurting. Hindsight being what it is, If I had to do this over, I would have broken it into 2 stages=SPPJ to Orisson and Orisson to Roncesvalles. I felt bad for many, because Roncesvalles was full, and many had to walk an additional six miles to get to their alburgue. As difficult as the walk was, it was also one of the most rewarding.
 

jeanineonthecamino

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances 2021, Norte/Primitivo 2022, VF 2023
I am doing the 2-day split via Orisson. Do I need to plan to carry some food/snacks for the Orisson-Roncesvalles section?
yes - you will only find water beyond Orisson. In the past there was a food truck - but there was not one when I crossed. At Orisson - you can pay 4 or 5 Euros and they will prepare a sandwich for you. Or you can buy snacks in St Jean. Or do both! Just don't add too much weight as these will be your hardest days for the first half of the Camino.
 

bhemphill

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
(2016)
My planned 2023 Camino Frances may be my only chance to walk a pilgrimage and since I have no time constraints as I'm taking 2.5 months off work, I'll work up my Camino legs by walking the Chemin de La Nive from Bayonne to SJPP in order to get my body acclimated to the time change, walking with my pack and tweaking whatever needs to be tweaked as far as how my pack is packed etc...
I also am planning a 2023 Camino. I am already trying to prepare, even at this early date!
 

dfox

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2017
Hi everyone,
i would like to know your personal experience for the first day of the classical French way. Did you do it at once, did you make a stop over? How did you like it?
It was April 30, 2017.

Started the hike around 7:30 am, arrived in the Albergue about 5:30 pm. I got the last ticket for a meal in one of the restaurants, which had a grilled fresh trout that evening, I believe the trout was just out of a river!

My pace was at snail speed. I also took breaks every 10 meters at many parts of the route. My greetings to pilgrims passing were "I'm a snail on the trail."

I enjoyed the scenery, comardiare, and challenges which the route provided. It was a wonderful experience.

My guiding principle is "one step at a time" and appreciate what the "journey" offers.

P.S. I had my backpack transported, just carrying the day pack.
 
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MarkP

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2018
Hi everyone,
i would like to know your personal experience for the first day of the classical French way. Did you do it at once, did you make a stop over? How did you like it?
We've walked the Route Napoleon twice. In 2018 we arrived at SJPP, spent the night, and started up the next morning. Although challenging at times, especially the rocky path down to Roncesvalles, we found it well within our mid-60s capabilities. The surprise was (despite assurances to the contrary at the Pilgrim Office) that all beds in town were taken so we had to continue on to Burguete (and, as so often on the Camino, an unexpectedly wonderful evening that was well worth the temporary anxiety). In 2021, covid concerns led us to abandon plans to take the Norte and revert to a second CF. We arrived in the late afternoon at SJPP and walked the first, steep 5K to Honto, where we stayed at the delightful Ferme Ithurburia. The view and the French dinner were excellent, and the climb the next morning was much easier with that initial stage already behind us. The "staggered" start also aided our plan to stay in different towns on this second CF. I highly recommend staying at the Ferme Ithurburia as an alternative to Orisson for those who would rather not travel the Route Napoleon in one go.
 
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lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
The first question is how old you are and what kind of shape you are in. I can tell you the first time I walked I was 59 and trained like crazy on mountains and hills around my home. I thought I would die when I got to Roncesvalles. I was exhausted when I got to Orisson and the last 5k on the regular Camino was a killer. The second time I walked I was 61 but I started in Le Puy. When I got to SJPP we stayed an extra day because the weather was miserable and was raining hard in SJPP and we heard had sleet up the mountain with high winds. In late afternoon the weather was wonderful. We bought a box of awesome pastries which we ate the next day walking up to Orisson. It was a beautiful warm day and when we got to Orisson I was hardly breaking a sweat needed to rest to digest all the pastries. We had a beer and then bought some baguettes and headed out. We got to Roncesvalles without a problem. I learned that the camino pain depends on where not when you start. The first 10 days or so out of Le Puy gave me more than enough pain and suffering to be able to get to SJPP and have a cakewalk up the mountain.
 

svanada

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (planned)
I walked last September at the age of 73. On the advice of the owner of the alberge in St. J. PdeP I set off in pouring rain. He assured me that the next day would be brilliant and he was right. I believed him The climb up in pouring rain was a challenge but not completely awful. Mind, I had trained by climbing up a steep but low hill in our local park (toboggan hill) ten times a day for months and doing track walking laps.- slept in Orisson - awoke to dried out shoes and continued on over the mountain and down to Ronscesvalles. I walked down by the "road" because I had been warned that the walk through the famous beech forrest was very difficult. Although it is called a "road" there is no traffic and you can see the vistas, enjoy the wild horses and not trip over a tree root and require a second hip replacement. It was an unforgettable day. My arrival at Roncescvalles was spoiled a bit by a check-in lady who insisted I had not paid or reserved (I had) . I paid a second time and when I got the wifi sorted showed her the reciept at which point she sulkily gave me a refund. I also asked her to switch my bed from an upper bunk which she did to a lovely pod on another floor. The first two days of my Camino will forever be in my memory. After that things get dicey too - the descent into Zubiri is awful but no one seems to talk about that. Enjoy and embrace your adventures. I am going on the Portuguese Camino this fall
How is the descent to Zubiri awful?
 
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steve 217

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino frances planning via del la plata
Done the Napoleon route 3 times (sucker for punishment) not technically difficult in good weather, but long and lots of climbing and steep downhill last 2 km as i got older did get harder.on each occasion i did wonder what on earth i was doing but rewarded with fabulous views on a clear day and how many times will you walk through History by crossing the border at the fountain of Roland? Each time i was glad to see the Monastery, physically always the toughest day but id do it again tomorrow .
 

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
How is the descent to Zubiri awful?
It is a steep down with a lot of loose rocks. Another pilgrim on the forum fell and fractured her wrist on that descent a few weeks ago and had to end her Camino in a cast later when she finally sought treatment for what she thought was initially a bad sprain.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Yearly and Various 2014-2019
Via Monastica 2022
At 60, without much preparation and only residual fitness, I walked the Valcarlos route in one day, in about 8 hours with a few short stops. The first part felt pretty laid-back; the part after Valcarlos was much more gnarly.
 

camino.ninja

RIP 2022
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances 5 6,16,17,18,19,20
Primiti+Salvador 19
Portug. 17,18,20
Catalan 17
Norte 17
Plata 18
I once met a healer from Hawaii and a russian girl. They met on the first day over the Pyrenees. They decided it was not worth carrying their backpacks and ditched them. They also decided their heavy boots were too heavy and left them. And money was always a problem. So they burned them and walked barefoot all the way to Santiago with just the clothes they were wearing.

There is as many ways to walk the camino as there is pilgrims.

Buen Camino
 

Buz Radican

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances May / Jun 2015
Camino Frances Oct / Nov 2016
Camino Frances May-Jun 2018
CF 2020?
I have completed four CF's, starting the first at Roncesvalles, the second from St. Jean going via Valcarlos, and the last two (most recently Oct / Nov of last year) via Orisson. Could I have made it from St. Jean to Roncevalles without stopping at Orisson? Yes. But I chose not to wanting what I call the Orisson experience. Yes, I had other communal or family dinners on all four Casinos, but none quite matched up to the ones at Orisson. What really made them special was the mix of first time pilgrims and those of us who had walked The Way before. The first time pilgrims were full of anxiety, concerns, some times fears, and above all else, expectations. The sharing was special. That set the tone for the rest of the walk to Santiago. Sitting on the deck in front of the Albergue relaxing after a somewhat challenging hike from St. Jean was also special. On my four Caminos I met any number of pilgrims that walked straight through to Roncesvalles, but I never understood their rush to try to put as many kilometers under their boots the first day and bypass what many consider a highlight of their Camino.
 
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PeteD

Active member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016
2023
I bicycled the Valcarlos route in Mar 2016 from SJpdP to Roncesvalles. The snow started south of Valcarlos and ended up being 1m deep on the trail. Quickly became a case of me carrying the bike rather than the other way around! Opted to complete the balance on-road where the the greatest hazard wasn't the increasing snowfall but the snowplough traveling at speed clearing the snow off the road. Now I know what that loud noise is and would be prepared. Didn't realise how challenging this all was until I reached Ibenata Pass and a motorist pulled over and congratulated me on having made it that far! There were others walking on the road shoulder. A wonderful experience especially Roncesvalles in deep snow cover. I would repeat the experience at any opportunity :)
 

Myra Ramsay

MyraNT
Time of past OR future Camino
SDJP to SDC 2016
Porto to SDC, Finisterre, Muxia, Camino Ingles 2017
Camino del Norte 2019?
How is the descent to Zubiri awful?
For me the “awful” bit was the man made “paving“ stones after Espinal. It was a steep descent and the stones were slippery! Resting at the river crossing before Bizkarrete, I decided I would not push on to Zubiri (although I had stayed in Orisson and Ronscevalles). Stayed in a wonderful casa rural in Bizkarrete. Recharged in luxury. Next day walked on to Larasonia and didn’t notice a steep descent into Zubiri! So it was a slow walk to Pamploma. It was 2016 and I was 71 with no mountain training.
Sorry to go on, off topic but I have often wondered what others consider is the steep path into Zubiri.
 
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2006 to date: Over 21 Caminos. See signature line
For me the first time was pure HELL after a good-intentioned hospitalero convinced us to cancel our reservation in Orisson and do the first stage in one day. I cursed his name as I limped into Roncesvalles crying. That almost ruined my first Camino.

Since then I have walked the Frances many, many times and I ALWAYS break the first stage into two days. It makes all the difference in the world.

The walk into both Roncesvalles and Zubiri can be steep and slippery as snot if it’s raining. These days I take the road into Roncesvalles. It’s just as pretty and less dangerous. I am a person who doesn’t like to use walking sticks but I never walk those first stages into Roncesvalles and Zubiri without them.
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
Started around 7am, arrived at Roncesvalles at 2.30pm - clear and beautiful day. Stopped at Orrison for breakfast and the view, watched the vultures wheeling, stopped at the caravan further up and lay on the grass and watched the sky whilst eating a banana, filled up at the fountain, met the horses - it was a lovely day.
They had a laundry system at Roncesvalles, so our stuff was washed and dried, we had a rest, a chat, and then a great communal meal.
 
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Cicada

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances St Jean -Santiago April -June 2017
Portugues September 2018
Hi everyone,
i would like to know your personal experience for the first day of the classical French way. Did you do it at once, did you make a stop over? How did you like it?
We walked the 26k on this day the 23rd 5 years ago and it was tough! Both in our late 60's. Our last minute decision too have our packs transported was a good one. It's a long way up but the hardest part was the 4k decent at the end
The hotel owner in St Jean had told us to take our time and take it easy .... good advice. On day 2 we only walked 14 k arrived at lunchtime and rested up. That set us up nicely and 40 days later we arrived in Santiago
PS We carried our packs there after!
 

simongx

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Oct-Nov 2021 (Camino Francés)
I walked over the Napoleon Route and the Lepoeder Pass on a Saturday in late October 2021. The day was sunny, with some wind in the higher areas. I realised later during my camino that I had been very lucky, when I met some people who told me about walking in cold and rain just a day before me.

True, I found the initial climb to Orisson difficult - but as I knew about this in advance it was ok. The road is incredibly steep in some points, not to mention the short stretch where the camino splits off the road and gets even steeper. I inadvertently got into a race with some cyclists and - won, in spite of carrying an 8-kilo backpack. The poor guys had to keep dismounting, and that made them waste time, while I could just keep going slowly and steadily.

Anyway, the albergue/café at Orisson was closed, and there was no food truck higher up. I found only two water fountains, one at Orisson and one near the top (Roland's Fountain).

When I set off from Saint-Jean, there were some other hikers and pilgrims, but beyond the Virgin of Orisson I walked almost completely alone. I had lunch in the sun at Roland's Fountain and then on the Spanish side, I decided not to follow the advice from the otherwise very helpful and friendly Pilgrim's Office in Saint-Jean, and descended down the steeper route. It was a slippery mess with the autumn leaves, but also very beautiful. Still, I would not generally recommend it, unless you have good hiking experience.

I arrived at Roncesvalles at around 14.30, six hours after leaving Saint-Jean. It was my first day walking towards Santiago, and I was very happy with how it had gone.

20211023_101427.jpg 20211023_092419.jpg 20211023_134641.jpg
 

Pia Valbak Schmidt

Pilgrim, DK, Caminos 2007,09,11,12,13,14.15,16,18
Time of past OR future Camino
2007,2009,2011,2012,2013,2014.2015,2016,2018. Hospitalera 2012,2013,2014,2016,2017
Hi everyone,
i would like to know your personal experience for the first day of the classical French way. Did you do it at once, did you make a stop over? How did you like it?
Four times I walked St. Jean to Roncevalles in one day. The Napoleon route. In 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012, and I am now 75. I would be happy to do it again, but I would definately be sure not to have a heavy backpack.
It was never easy but wonderful. You have to start out early from st. Jean. Buen Camino 🍀 🍀 🍀
 

John A Richard

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (2017), Portuguese (2019)
Started around 7am, arrived at Roncesvalles at 2.30pm - clear and beautiful day. Stopped at Orrison for breakfast and the view, watched the vultures wheeling, stopped at the caravan further up and lay on the grass and watched the sky whilst eating a banana, filled up at the fountain, met the horses - it was a lovely day.
They had a laundry system at Roncesvalles, so our stuff was washed and dried, we had a rest, a chat, and then a great communal meal.
Very similar timeline to my experience. Staying first night in SJPdP, getting early start, following paved descent to Roncesvalles are recommended. Mental preparation and visualization of the climb and descent ahead of time helped me keep my pace in check, a reward for the following 32 days.
 
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Hilarious

Hilarious
Time of past OR future Camino
Planning stage Camino Frances from SJPdP (Sept. 2019)
We started our Camino Frances mid-September 2019. This was our first ever Camino. We are mid-sixties and we had trained with our backpacks on some local hills and had ensured we were capable of walking 20 kms a few times a week. Coming from Australia and having endured a long haul flight and train trip from Charles de Gaulle to SJPdP we opted to be conservative. We stayed in SJPdP for two nights. Walked to La Vierge first day on Napoleon Route stopping at Orisson for Cafe con Leche and lunch then caught shuttle back and next day shuttled back to La Vierge and walked the 17 kms to Roncesvalles. On the first day weather was perfect - we thought. Oh we could have done the whole thing to Roncesvalles. Second day the wind was howling. You felt like you were going to get blown off the trail. We were so glad to reach Roncesvalles. Yes, we were glad we took the two days. Weather conditions can make a huge difference but it’s all part of the rich experience. Enjoy, whatever you decide.
 

howardd5

Active Member
Hi everyone,
i would like to know your personal experience for the first day of the classical French way. Did you do it at once, did you make a stop over? How did you like it?
I have been over the Napoleon route five times starting the Camino . I was about 50 and considered in good shape for hiking. Well it was tough , real tough . There was no Orisson then and I stumbled in nearly dark. The second time I figured I needed a good night sleep and get in some shape before I went over the top to Roncevalles. Well it was still a tough pull and got in about the same time of day . On the third time I was going with my daughter and booked at Orisson . Got to Orisson about 10:30 and decide to go on , got to Roncevalles worn out but still in 8 hrs. It seems your best plan is get a good nights sleep( in bed by 9) leave at dawn after coffee and breakfast , plan you rest stop (10 min) but keep going , when you get to the crest don’t go left ( beech grove) go right on asphalt And you’ll be at the albergues in 30 min . It’s you toughest walk on the Camino . Stop at Orisson if you must but , you can do it
 

Eamonrodden

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
French, Norte, Primitivo, portuguese, via del plata, madrid
Hi everyone,
i would like to know your personal experience for the first day of the classical French way. Did you do it at once, did you make a stop over? How did you like it?
We walked to Orisson, after train in the morning. We had pleasant afternoon and a good evening at Orisson. They had a communal dinner, a good way to start. It also breaks the first leg up nicely, because it is very steep out of Sjdp.
Good luck
 

Hilarious

Hilarious
Time of past OR future Camino
Planning stage Camino Frances from SJPdP (Sept. 2019)
The first question is how old you are and what kind of shape you are in. I can tell you the first time I walked I was 59 and trained like crazy on mountains and hills around my home. I thought I would die when I got to Roncesvalles. I was exhausted when I got to Orisson and the last 5k on the regular Camino was a killer. The second time I walked I was 61 but I started in Le Puy. When I got to SJPP we stayed an extra day because the weather was miserable and was raining hard in SJPP and we heard had sleet up the mountain with high winds. In late afternoon the weather was wonderful. We bought a box of awesome pastries which we ate the next day walking up to Orisson. It was a beautiful warm day and when we got to Orisson I was hardly breaking a sweat needed to rest to digest all the pastries. We had a beer and then bought some baguettes and headed out. We got to Roncesvalles without a problem. I learned that the camino pain depends on where not when you start. The first 10 days or so out of Le Puy gave me more than enough pain and suffering to be able to get to SJPP and have a cakewalk up the mountain.
A cakewalk - literally and figuratively 🤣
 

Karl Oz

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances
Portuguese
Aragones
Sanabres
+ others
I walked it once, in 2013. I had been in Belgium, visiting the Ypres area, where my great-grandfather had fought in the First World War. I hired a bicycle for a day and cycled through a great deal of interesting sites. Since I felt my fitness was a little underdone when departing Australia several days earlier, I was very happy to have the opportunity to 'top-it-up', so to say. The next day I had a RyanAir flight booked from Brussels to Bayonne, and planned to be in SJPP in time for dinner. I thought I had left myself plenty of time to get to Charleroi (Brussels) airport that morning, until the train station master in Ypres informed that: i. Charleroi was not actually the airport for Brussels and was quite a distance away from the capital, and ii. there were works on the train line between Ypres and Brussels.

I got to Brussels central train station later than expected, and had no idea how to get to Charleroi. The information desk had a long stationary queue, and I had no French (although 'nonplussed' sounds both authentic and apt). I had no hope of making my flight, so bit the bullet and booked the TGV from Brussels to Bayonne, transiting Paris. Of course, since it was a Saturday and short notice, only a wallet-squeezing first class seat was available. Better than none though!

I finally got to Bayonne station in the evening and the departures board had a train leaving for SJPP 20 minutes later, at 7:45 I think it was. What luck, finally! I waited out on the platform. And waited. No trains came or went, and there was distinct paucity of fellow travelers. At the scheduled time, no train appeared. I began to wonder if 7:45 actually meant 7:45am. I returned to the main concourse and checked. It did! I dolefully trudged around the immediate area and found a run-down hotel and got a room with a leaky ceiling, and enjoyed the sleep of the innocent pilgrim.

The next morning I caught the long-anticipated train to SJPP. I did a very abbreviated tour of the sights (basically I saw the World Heritage-listed gate, and bought a baguette with ham from the butcher) and at 9:30 commenced my traverse of the Route Napoleon. I admit I must have been feeling a little 'left-behind' because I set a cracking pace for myself, but nonetheless enjoyed the beautiful weather, views, horses and ospreys, and cyclists pushing their bikes uphill. I arrived safely in Roncevalles and was relieved to find a bed available. That evening at dinner with other pilgrims I recounted my journey and one asked how long had it taken me to come from SDPP. I replied 'Six hours', and his response was to repeat the words back to me, in a tone that was either scornful or incredulous - at the time I was unable to determine which.

So that is how I crossed the Pyrenees. It reminds me of that Marx Brothers movie, where, disguised as Italian aviators, they relate to an audience in New York the unlikely and convoluted story of how they flew across the Atlantic. (They actually travelled via ship).
 
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mspath

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
I walked it once, in 2013. I had been in Belgium, visiting the Ypres area, where my great-grandfather had fought in the First World War. I hired a bicycle for a day and cycled through a great deal of interesting sites. Since I felt my fitness was a little underdone when departing Australia several days earlier, I was very happy to have the opportunity to 'top-it-up', so to say. The next day I had a RyanAir flight booked from Brussels to Bayonne, and planned to be in SJPP in time for dinner. I thought I had left myself plenty of time to get to Charleroi (Brussels) airport that morning, until the train station master in Ypres informed that: i. Charleroi was not actually the airport for Brussels and was quite a distance away from the capital, and ii. there were works on the train line between Ypres and Brussels.

I got to Brussels central train station later than expected, and had not idea how to get to Charleroi. The information desk had a long stationary queue, and I had no French (although 'nonplussed' sounds both authentic and apt). I had no hope of making my flight, so bit the bullet and booked the TGV from Brussels to Bayonne, transiting Paris. Of course, since it was a Saturday and short notice, only a wallet-squeezing first class seat was available. Better than none though!

I finally got to Bayonne station in the evening and the departures board had a train leaving for SJPP 20 minutes later, at 7:45 I think it was. What luck, finally! I waited out on the platform. And waited. No trains came or went, and there was distinct paucity of fellow travelers. At the scheduled time, no train appeared. I began to wonder if 7:45 actually meant 7:45am. I returned to the main concourse and checked. It did! I dolefully trudged around the immediate area and found a run-down hotel and got a room with a leaky ceiling, and enjoyed the sleep of the innocent pilgrim.

The next morning I caught the long-anticipated train to SJPP. I did a very abbreviated tour of the sights (basically I saw the World Heritage-listed gate, and bought a baguette with ham from the butcher) and at 9:30 commenced my traverse of the Route Napoleon. I admit I must have been feeling a little 'left-behind' because I set a cracking pace for myself, but nonetheless enjoyed the beautiful weather, views, horses and ospreys, and cyclists pushing their bikes uphill. I arrived safely in Roncevalles and was relieved to find a bed available. That evening at dinner with other pilgrims I recounted my journey and one asked how long had it taken me to come from SDPP. I replied 'Six hours', and his response was to repeat the words back to me, in a tone that was either scornful or incredulous - at the time I was unable to determine which.

So that is how I crossed the Pyrenees. It reminds me of that Marx Brothers movie, where, disguised as Italian aviators, they relate to an audience in New York the unlikely and convoluted story of how they flew across the Atlantic. (They actually travelled via ship).
Karl Oz,
Thanks for sharing your special memories.
For other posts re walking the poignant Ypres salient see this earlier thread....Especially today on Anzac Day.

Carpe diem.
 

Roland49

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF2019, CP2023!
I walked in 2019 on 1st of July early (6:30) and had a coffee in Orisson, stopped at the food-truck before the spanish border and ate a banana. Then walked on to Roncesvalles.

On that date it was not recommended to walk the RN due to forecasted heavy winds and heavy rain. Weather changed a lot, it was quite dry after the first 3 hrs. of walking. The winds pushed the clouds over the Pyrenees and it was all in all a very pleasant walk. You will find photos in my media. Mentally I was prepared for a really annoying walk, but I was amazed how easy it was in reality.

I had trained a bit in the local mountain ranges with and without my backpack. I play tabletennis in league, so a bit training for me, too.

For me, crossing the Pyrenees was not as stressing as the Montes de Leon after the City of Leon.
 

auburnfive

Active Member
I was thinking about this option…walking to Valcarlos the first night, and then walking through Roncesvalles to stay in Burguete the second night. Any thoughts on this? Thanks
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
I was thinking about this option…walking to Valcarlos the first night, and then walking through Roncesvalles to stay in Burguete the second night. Any thoughts on this? Thanks
There is one private albergue in Burguete and several small hotels/hostals. All are listed in Gronze Camino Frances. If you did walk through you would miss the evening blessing in the Roncesvalles monastery church which is a poignant experience for all.
 
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stuartwalker121

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2017 September - October) Camino Norte (2018 September - October)
There is one private albergue in Burguete and several small hotels/hostals. All are listed in Gronze Camino Frances. If you did walk through you would miss the evening blessing in the Roncesvalles monastery church which is a poignant experience for all.
Yes agree. And also seeing that famous road sign tellling you you have only 790km to go is better after a sleep over in Roncesvalles. You should stop here if you can. Its great for making companions and linger a while your first steps on Spanish soil before striding out...
 
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Anhalter

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2019 CF, 2022 CF
2019 CF: Prior i read a lot about that stage. Many scary things. Including not getting a bed in Roncesvalles.
So i trained. I packed smart. I did not do many breaks.
I arrived 6 hours 8 Minutes after starting in SJPDP.

In hindsight i am sad i did not take more time in the beautiful landscape.

This year i will spend a night in Orisson but likely not one in Roncesvalles.
 

Old walker

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
LePuy07, CF 08, Arles17, Via Regia '18,
We started from Le Puy in 2007 and arrived in SJPDP days ahead of schedule and in good shape. We had booked for a second 2nd night there before heading home, but we really were not ready to end our trip. At breakfast we decided to continue on io Pamplona In spite of grim warnings about starting out too late and our host‘s unpleasant refusal to consider refunding that nights tarriff (which was understandable.) The weather was perfect. Already trail hardened we sailed along, passing the early starters all day. The only disquieting note was the sound of a helicopter, which we learned later, was related to a man who had a heart attack on the climb. I won’t forget the pleasures of meeting new pilgrims, the gorgeous scenery and tasty rest stops. I know that I was unrestrained in advocating for and demonstrating the virtues of light packs. sorry. We met up with some of those pilgrims later in Pamplona, shared meals and stories before they continued on. I hiked over the pass in my crocs that day because of some mild tendinitis caused by the heel of one trail runner rubbing on the Achilles’ tendon . The crocs worked fine. Crocs are good for serious walking, not just for showers and town tours. We were in our late sixties and, we were told, served as good role models for some younger pilgrims who were feeling their bodies tune up, and having doubts. The next year we returned Pamplona to continue to Santiago. We met a second crop of pilgrims, some of whom were suffering from those early days from SJPDP. Bad weather caught up hikers who were unprepared for cold and rain, or snow and had to be rescued. Many were just developing an intimate relationship with heavy stuff in their packs. Lots off good learning ahead.
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
Caminho Português da Costa (Fall 2018)
My sister in Australia sent me this story tonight.

Claude Tranchant's pilgrimage from France to Spain​


Claude Tranchant is gleefully honest. "I had no concept, none at all, what walking was about."

The French-born Brisbane grandmother is talking about her 2,200 km pilgrimage on foot from Eastern France to Western Spain along the famous Camino de Santiago.

She began the journey on her 64th birthday, Easter Sunday, 2010. It took her three months to complete and is the subject of her internationally acclaimed book Boots to Bliss.

It all began, she said, at the age of 58 after her marriage of 34 years ended.

"I had to look for work. So I became a checkout chick in a food barn in New Farm. And I stayed there until I was 64.

"But in between, a lady asked me to walk St John's Way (the Camino) with her. And I didn't know what it was. I was not a walker as such.
"And I scratched my head - although I didn't show it - and I said, '240km? Oh, my God. In France? Oh, my God.' And I said to her, when do you want to do it?"

What Claude did not know was the actual length of the walk. She only found out when she happened to pick up a newspaper while on a visit home to see her family.

"For some odd reason, I felt I needed to open it. And in a centre page, I saw that the walk had another zero at the end! But I didn't want to be a chicken."

More at this link:
https://www.thesenior.com.au/story/7707740/confessions-of-a-novice-pilgrim/
 

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