Saturday, July 1, 2017

Emilio Estavez died here but you really won't believe what else happened...

Stopping in Orisson was an excellent idea. It was the last refuge on the climb over the Pyrennees. Getting to it was a not insignificant climb of 700 meters over the course of 8 km. The sky was misting when we departed St. Jean at about 2 but generally it was good walking weather. We stopped briefly at Hontos, the only village (5 houses) of any size on the way to Roncevalles. As we sat on the empty patio outside the guesthouse, the skies opened up. We retreated under the terrace and in 10 minutes the storm had passed. Another 40 minutes of steep uphill later and we had arrived at the Refugio Orisson, a lone hostel on the side of the road. We met good fortune again here as the heavens opened up further, including hail, just as we were arriving - the pilgrim we passed an hour before arrived soaked to the bone some 10 minutes later.
Approximately 40 of us had decided that "half-way" was far enough for the day. As I would soon learn, the "normal first day" was just as brutal as advertised. We split it in half and it was still a bit much.
The evening's family style dinner in the Refugio was fun - good food, free wine, and tales of how we all landed on this trail. Some 10 countries were represented and strangely 4 Seattle-ites (followed closely by 3 from Santa Cruz) - only one east coaster in the bunch. Most impressive was the 84 year old Minnesotan grandmother hiking with her daughter and grand-daughter.
Mike finds WIFI
The next morning most of us were on the road before 8. The sky was bleak. The rain was not terrible but relentless and it was strangely cold for late June - due to both the 3000 foot elevation and a poncho shredding wind. We continued to climb for the 3 hours eventually reaching the high point on the trail. The only respite was a brief stop in a concrete mountain hut that allowed 10 of us at a time to get out of the wind and drop our packs for a few minutes. After reaching about 4500 feet, we had a ridiculous one hour ascent which challenged both our footing and our hips. On a fair day, with the ability to stop and sit in the sun once in a while, The typical day one route would have been difficult but do-able. The challenge of the weather would have made doing the whole thing both mentally and physically exhausting. I'm glad we chose to attack the hill in the manner that we did.
Janine in the rain
Because we started early (and we were a bit wet and cold), we decided to by-pass the 200 bed hostel and go to the next town and rent a single room. Tomorrow our more regular schedule will begin - up early, walk for an hour, stop for coffee and pastry, continue walking most of the morning, eat on the trail, and arrive in our destination early afternoon.

Click Bait Resolution
Emilio Estavez, in the movie "The Way", he died on the trail the first day. We could see how that could happen. We saw several grave markers. Another 10 degrees colder and I could see getting hypothermia. But we think everyone made it today.

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