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To cross the pyrenees or not to cross...

#1
Hi, I'm planning to start my walk with two friends around the 20th April. The plan is to start from SJPP. However, as the time draws nearer I am getting slightly worried about the walk from there to Roncevalles. I am in my mid fifties and although pretty fit and used to walking, I am not used to carrying backpacks. I also have a slightly dodgy left knee, which can hurt and swell when walking down hill. I am working on strengthening it etc., nevertheless my thoughts are turning to the possibility of starting at Roncevalles instead.
I'd hate to miss out a spectacular stage of the walk!
Any one out there who could tell me how hard this stage is. Is the descent difficult? How long does it take approximately. I'm torn between the romance of 'crossing the pyrenees' and being sensible...
I'm glad to have stumbled on this forum. It's helped me greatly to make decisions about footwear, backpack weight etc. It's great to have so much positive feedback from so many lovely people.

Thank you
Gordana
 

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#2
to cross or not to cross, that is the quandary

Gordada, Do it! Wear a lightweight knee brace, use a walking stick (any ol' stick will do) for the descent. I, too, am in my 50s, walked from SJPP...and am planning to do so again this year. The MAIN THING is to make sure that no storms are forecast for the day. They are whoppers! The 32k from SJPP to Roncesvalles is long, whew, but there is a refugio about 7k up from SJPP; I'd suggest stopping there for the night. That way you can take in the views of the Pyrenees and have a shorter walk the next day. Be prepared: rain/wind gear, gloves, hat. And, by all means, take in the Pilgrim Mass and blessing the evening after you arrive in Roncesvalles. Life is good. Buen Camino. stella
 

Ulysse

Active Member
#3
I am 64 and I did it in october 2005 !
As I arrived from Montreal through Paris and Biarritz by air, then took the train from the train station in Bayonne I was somewhat tired the following day.
I stopped at the privately owned and extremely well kept auberge in Orisson for the night (almost half way). Great welcome good food and good wine. The next morning I was 100% fit to continue the climb... and the descent to Roncevaux.
So go ahead and keep your bag LIGHT.
Walking sticks are also of great assistance.
Stop often because the view is awesome. Stop and listen the the flight of the vultures, I was impressed.
 
#4
Thanks Stellar and Ulysse.

I like the positive, no nonsense replies! The fact that your'e repeating the experience is a good confidence booster. So go for it I shall!
By the way, how light is light?
Good luck and enjoy this year's walk.

Buen camino
Gordana
 

Ulysse

Active Member
#5
Good show Gordana you will not regret it.

Light is (in my terms) is nothing exceeding 12kg (around 25lbs) more is suicide...
This means you have to prepare your bag, weigh it, get rid of stuff, prepare it again and so on with sufficient iterations to reach a weight you are at ease with.

Do not forget you cross many villages and towns; shops are available should you have missed something.
 

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#6
Hi,

I walked in 2003 and as I was very wary of crossing the pass after St Jean, so I decided to take the side road and divide to walk to Roncevalles in two.
The first 16km or so were to Valcarlos where I stayed the night and the next day was another 16km or so to Roncevalles.
A slightly longer road, I believe, but somewhat easier if you're a slow unfit walker (as I am). The second part was still very hard for me as you still have to climb up to Ibaneta before decending towards Roncevalles.
A slight downside to this choice is that you will walk part of the way on a carretera, a calm one but still.

As you I was torn also and I was rather sad to realise I wouldn't be able to cross the pass, but my physical condition just didn't allow it.
I'm still very happy with my decision and will probably do it again in 2007.
A big Bravo to the people who manage the pass though!
 
#7
'crossing the pyrenees'

I did it 2 years ago when I was 56. Didnt find it to difficult at all, If you are worried there are a couple of refugios on the way up outside SJPP.
BTW lighten your load! I took 7kg - it was plenty.
 
#8
Thanks for all the responses.(Barbara/Geoff). It all helps to build confidence!

Geoff: what does BTW stand for?
I take on board the importance of travelling light - though I haven't had a weigh-in yet - it seems to be the main message from those who have done it before and you guys should know!

Regards
Gordana
 

Minkey

Active Member
#11
Gordana, do the Pyrenees!

You can to Biarritz from Stanstead on Ryan Air and it's dirt cheap. Did it last year and although it was hard at times, it was truly worth it.

Jon (formerly of Tooting!)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Apr 2003; Lourdes to Burgos via Jaca, August 2006; (Le Puy to Santiago 2014)
#12
Hola Gordana,

All I can say is tat crossing the Pyrenees from SJPP to Roncesvalles was a highlight of my Camino. Do it if you can! It's a great sense of achievement.
There is a great little private alburgue at Hunto (?) about 1/2 hour walk out of SJPP. Great to get the stage underway the day before. A stick is very useful (I didn't realise this till I got to Astorga 4weeks later!). When I walked this way in April 2003 it was extremely windy and cold but fortunately no rain. And be careful of the final decent into Roncesvalles. Stupidly (as a 31 year old male who thinks nothing can stop him!!!) I took the shorter straight decent down through the forest. I ended up stuffing my knee up from rushing down quite a steep slope. I had to wear a knee brace for most of the rest of my camino. C'est la vie.There is a road to follow over the last few miles and I would recommend that.
But all I can say is seriously think about about walking over the mountains. It is a beatiful sight to reach the Virgin on the Rocks about halfway through your day. I found it a great way to start an unforgetable Camino.
Good luck
Buen Camino
James
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Apr 2003; Lourdes to Burgos via Jaca, August 2006; (Le Puy to Santiago 2014)
#13
Hola Gordana,

All I can say is tat crossing the Pyrenees from SJPP to Roncesvalles was a highlight of my Camino. Do it if you can! It's a great sense of achievement.
There is a great little private alburgue at Hunto (?) about 1/2 hour walk out of SJPP. Great to get the stage underway the day before. A stick is very useful (I didn't realise this till I got to Astorga 4weeks later!). When I walked this way in April 2003 it was extremely windy and cold but fortunately no rain. And be careful of the final decent into Roncesvalles. Stupidly (as a 31 year old male who thinks nothing can stop him!!!) I took the shorter straight decent down through the forest. I ended up stuffing my knee up from rushing down quite a steep slope. I had to wear a knee brace for most of the rest of my camino. C'est la vie.There is a road to follow over the last few miles and I would recommend that.
But all I can say is seriously think about about walking over the mountains. It is a beatiful sight to reach the Virgin on the Rocks about halfway through your day. I found it a great way to start an unforgetable Camino.
Good luck
Buen Camino
James
 
#14
Ulysse - i REALLY appreciated your response and thought Ihad thanked you (and Stella) on the 16th March - being a well brought up sort of a gal....
Suffice it to say, all help is much appreciated and conversations with veterans of the camino are very inspiring, though I'm now battling with a chest infection, which has called a halt to my already sporadic 'training', though hopefully not my determination!

Thanks too Aussiejames. Your dash down the steep slope will be a salutary lesson for me. It's just the sort of thing I would be inclined (no pun intended) - to do. So I shall take your advice on that.

Minkey, you're right about the Ryan air bargains. I have booked a cheap flight to Biarritz and am looking forward to getting on the way.

Best wishes
Gordana
 

Ulysse

Active Member
#15
Of course you thanked us Gordana .... just pulling your legs (stretching is also good training for the Camino) :D

The descent to Roncesvalles (Roncevaux in French) is steep indeed especially if it has rained; the path is slippery but going through the silent forest is wonderful. When you reach the top you cross the road going down, being a young man of 64 I took the other way. I had to zigzag my way down ... I looked behind me to ensure no one was laughing at me !

Gordana, I hope your health improves quickly to really enjoy the Camino.

Cheers
 

Magnara

Maggie Ramsay
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago de Compostela (2005) Via Francigena (2010) Le Puy to St Jean (2014)
#16
to cross the pyrenees

I had planned to start in Roncesvalles but after reading these messages it sounds as if the walk from SJPP to R is truly awesome. But my concern is this - I am starting a the end of Dec (and walking through January). Is it silly to consider crossing the pass in the middle of winter? Will the path even be open? Perhaps I should play safe and do that first stage by bus and start off in Roncesvalles, but if it is safe I would prefer to walk it all. I'm quite willing to take local weather advice on the day. What do people think?
I'm an Australian, 59 and quite fit, but because of living Down Under I'm not very experienced in snow conditions. I've just had a couple of skiing holidays in my lifetime.
Magnara
 

Ulysse

Active Member
#17
Magnara

Ohhhh in winter eh !

Well, once you get in SJPdeP talk the the hospitalero(a) and do inquire about the weather BEFORE you begin your journey. Snow and blizzard in the mountains can kill you (I am Canadian, so I should know)

If the people do not advise you to climb the mountain, don't but there is a National road that you can take to Valcarlos and ultimately Roncesvalles. It will be better than to get lost and freeze at 1000m in the mountain.

You will also have to deal with the snow all over Spain as a good portion of the Camino is at an altitude where it might snow.

Take care and please do listen to the locals for advise.
 

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