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Some practical tips, please

philipc67

New Member
Hello all, starting from Roncesvalles 20 September.

I have been looking at the maps and trying to imagine what the day-by-day itineraries would be.

I have just a couple of questions re steep stages and highways:

How bad is the descent into Zubiri, is it very slippery and does it kill your knees?

Is the climb to Alto del Perdon after Pamplona steep? One guidebook suggests that it is, another describes a relatively even track along the side of the mountain.

How bad is the O Cebreiro climb, should it be avoided in bad wather or heavy rain? It looks like the Villafranca-Cebreiro segment is very long, would you recommend that it be split in 2 days, for example in Valcarce?

The stretch along the highway at Vega del Valcarce sounds dangerous with hairpin turns etc, has the new motorway improved things or is there still a big risk of being knocked over by a truck?

Similarly, the highway crossing before Leon seems bad.

I would appreciate some input from people who have done it.

Many thanks
Philip
 

William Marques

Moderator
Staff member
Is the climb to Alto del Perdon after Pamplona steep? One guidebook suggests that it is, another describes a relatively even track along the side of the mountain.

The Alto de Perdon climb is a relatively even track across the diagonal of the mountain the descent down the other side is steeper.

How bad is the O Cebreiro climb, should it be avoided in bad weather or heavy rain? It looks like the Villafranca-Cebreiro segment is very long, would you recommend that it be split in 2 days, for example in Valcarce?

The stretch along the highway at Vega del Valcarce sounds dangerous with hairpin turns etc, has the new motorway improved things or is there still a big risk of being knocked over by a truck?


The Villafranca - O'Cebreiro is a day's walk (especially if you are now fit having walked from Roncesvalles) and there are plenty of stops in between if you feel tired. Now the main road is on the viaduct the old main road is peaceful and even pleasant. The walk is basically along the valley bottom and then a steep uphill for the last 4 or5 km roughly.

Similarly, the highway crossing before Leon seems bad.

Unless something has been done recently the highway before Leon is bad.

Buen Camino

William
 

FatmaG

Active Member
Philip,

here some answers...

towards Zubiri : it is not so steep, but might be slippery if it rains (or has rained the days before). It was so when I did the Camino Frances in May. My walking stick was very helpful not to fall down into the mud.

Alto del Perdon : it is rather steep and might be windy and cold, but - to me - it is when descending that your knees might have problems.

O'Cebreiro : I did not find it such difficult (but it was after having taken the 'camino duro' the day before which was for me the most 'hard' up and down a mountain). Take just your time and don't hurry. (By the way, the O'Cebreiro-day, I started walking from Vega de Valcarce)

The camino between Villafranca and Vega de Valcarce : you go along that national road with plenty of trucks, yes, but there is some 70-cm-concrete-wall to protect you. Nevertheless, it is just horrible! You can only partly escape to this by taking the camino duro for some kms.

Leon : there is no highway crossing any more.

Enjoy your camino.
And take your time, then you will be fine.

Fatma
 

KiwiNomad06

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy-Santiago(2008) Cluny-Conques+prt CF(2012)
Philip, I don't think any of the steep sections you mention are anything to be especially worried about, so long as you just take some care. The descent into Zubiri was quite slippery the day I did it, as there had been quite a lot of rain that day. (We left Roncesvalles in the morning in torrential rain: people with little $2 plastic ponchos were soon to find they were not suitable for the conditions!!!) However, I used my stick for balance down the hill into Zubiri and was fine. It was at the bottom itself when I reached the concrete path and relaxed that I had what was nearly my trip-ending fall!!!! I had been walking for weeks from France by this stage, without an incident. But I slipped, completely lost my footing and fell full frontal, spread-eagled onto the ground. Amazingly, apart from a few twinges that evening, I was fine the next day. (I think Our Lady of Le Puy was doing her darndest to look after me!!!)

As for the busy highway crossing near Leon, I hated it, and found it very dangerous. A few months ago Rebekah reported that it seemed like something was going to be done about it, but I didn't think it could have been fixed yet.
Margaret
 

chinacat

Veteran Member
Thanks, Phillip, for asking those questions - and thanks to those who gave such useful answers :)

I feel better informed and my mind is easier.

We should be at Roncevalles, from Orisson, on the 20th - so we'll be just a day behind you !

Kalo Taxidi, (bet I spelled that wrong !)

Buen Camino
chinacat
 

cecelia

Wandering for the love and growth of it
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from SJPP - 2003, 2005, 2009, 2013. 500 km on Le Puy 2013. Future - Vezelay-Santiago
Hi Philip,
Just to add to what others have said from a personal perspective... Of course what's 'steep' can be seen from quite an individual perspective and you don't mention how old you are or whether you have any particular body issues that might make some things harder than they might be for others. Having said that - I did my first camino when I was 60, then a short one the following year again from SJPP to Finisterre and a couple of years later. Although certain downhill sections can be very slippery in the spring (and probably the fall) I haven't had any difficulty. I was humbled each time I walked, to meet two or three 78 year old women who were also completing the whole walk.
Of course tripping is not necessarily age-related! The worst bruised face I saw was a fairly young woman who tripped on the descent from Alto de Perdon because one of the hooks at the top of her boot caught in the lace of the other one and she tumbled down quite a rocky stretch. It taught me to always make sure my socks are rolled down over my boot tops!!
Buen camino
Cecelia
PS(I'm starting on Sept. 26th for just a ten-day stretch and SO looking forward to it!)
 

FatmaG

Active Member
How very thoughtful of you, Cecelia, to add the shoe-and-the-lace-thing!!!
It happened to me more than one time that I stumbled, happily without falling.

Concerning the individual feeling of 'steepness', you are right of course.
We should not frighten away any future pilgrim, but they should also know what they might be expecting.
There are some rude parts to do, and your age definitely is less the question. It's more about finding your personal rhythm and listening to your body.
When climbing up to O'Cebreiro, there was a very overweight man on that Camino section. He seemed to be in an awful state, but said he was ok when asking him. He took all his time, probably plenty of people had been passing by during the whole morning as he seemed not much quicker than a snail. But he did it! He reached O'Cebreiro. And when entering the bar, everyone was applauding him. It was a great moment.
On the other hand, I met young people with health problems because they wanted to be to fast or to do to much km a day.
 

nellpilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
SDC-Fisterra 08/Camino Frances SJPP to SDC 09/Nuremburg-SDC 11- ongoing
Hi Philip you specifically mention knees well I have dodgy knees (have to wear straps and use walking poles) and the descent that I found most challenging (Knee and ankle wise) was that between Riego de Ambros and Molinaseca. Despite the facts that this descent was at the end of a long and fairly challenging day, it was well into my journey (started in SJPP) and my knees were a little knackered and my guidebook said it was steep I was much more 'laissez faire' about that section than when carefully coming down into Zubiri. So I paid the price (walked like John Wayne for a day :oops: ) and learnt the lesson - I was careful with every little decent from then on :? .
Bonne route
Nell
 

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