Thursday, May 14, 2009

Anne Stirling has raised almost £4,500 for Raleigh by organising raffles, fairs, curry nights......and walking over the Pyrenees!

14th -17th April 2009

Day 1
Start Ostabat Asme 08:30 Finish 15:00 St. Jean Pied de Port(163 metres above sea level)

Weather: Bright in morning becoming cloudy after lunch. We passed through well kept villages with white painted walls and red shutters.The going underfoot was good with well marked paths.
We went slightly off course after lunch but arrived in St Jean-Pied-de-Port and climbed up through the walls of the town to our lodgings in the Rue de la Citadelle. There was heavy rain and a thunderstorm after we arrived.

Distance covered: 24 Kilometres

Day 2
St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncevalles
Highest point reached : Col de Ibaneta (1344 metres) 4408 ft
We left early next morning having decided to take the Route Napoleon over the mountain rather than the road route advised for the unfit and elderly!

The weather was cloudy but as we climbed out of the town the sun came through and stayed with us until lunchtime. Although we were walking on the road the steepness of the climb was enough to have us ready for a coffee break at the Refuge Orisson.

Leaving the Refuge we continued climbing still on the road but the wind got up and was blowing us almost into the ditches at the side of the road and seemed always to be in our faces no matter which way the road turned. We stopped for lunch at the Croix de Thibault seeking some shelter from the wind behind a 4x4 which had been conveniently parked. The sign said 8 kilometres to Roncevalles and we thought ‘Pas de problème’ - Wrong!

As you can see from the picture we were now at the snow line and the weather started closing in. We were soon walking through snow about 12 inches deep often in the footsteps made by the 8 or 9 people ahead of us. The path which followed the line of the Spanish border was extremely narrow and we were battered by hail and snow. We crossed the border into Navarre but the path still had a few surprises left for us. It started climbing again and we heard thunder and thought we might have to jettison our walking poles which would have made the descent very difficult. A last climb to the Col de Ibaneta our highest point, one more tricky patch of snow to cross and we were on the downward path to Roncesvalles. This was a very tricky descent first on snow and then on deep mud. When at last we reached our hotel(La Posada at 16:45 having covered 27.5 kilometres, 23 of which seemed to be uphill, a large brandy for Anne and a large beer for me were very welcome. The expected thunderstorm came in at about 18:00 – good timing! Still at a height of 952 metres (3100 ft)

Day 3
Roncesvalles to Zubiri (526 metres)
For some strange reason the hotel did not start serving breakfast until 08:30 so we did not get on the road until 9:30. However easy first few kilometres to Burguette an attractive village of mainly 18th Century houses.

After a cool start the weather brightened and first climb of the day to Espinal on a relatively easy path. Leaving the village the footpath climbed steeply and after crossing the main road the descent became very treacherous underfoot across rock and tree roots. A brief rain shower and another climb, on a paved path this time, brought us to the village of Biscarreta where we found a slightly down at heel bar for a sandwich and a drink. The afternoon was a long steep climb with difficult underfoot conditions passing a memorial to a Japanese pilgrim who had died on the way!
We could see our destination below us but we had another long and difficult descent through the woods with a final rocky scree to cross before crossing the bridge into Zubiri. We arrived at 16:45 in heavy rain fortunately in the village street regretting our delayed start.

Distance travelled 26.1 kilometres.

Day 4
Zubiri to Pamplona (420 metres)

The heavy overnight rain had given way to drizzle and low cloud when we left at 08:15 but it quickly cleared and by 09:00 we had stopped as had other walkers to take off our anoraks. Leaving the rather ugly Magnesite works behind we progressed down the valley alternately climbing and descending on wet and often muddy footpaths. A slight deviation while chatting to a Peruvian pilgrim saw us do a 2 km stretch along the main road before we picked up the pilgrim path again but we made good progress crossing the river again and climbing. These pilgrims certainly did not like the valley bottoms.
By lunchtime we had reached Trinidad d’Arre and the first suburbs of Pamplona. After lunch of tapas we started the slog along pavements to the city Boundary but with still another 4km across the pilgrim bridge and into the old town until we reached our hotel at 16:00

Journeys end (almost) Distance travelled 28km

Total distance 105.6 km

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