Moonset on the Meseta

Moonset on the Meseta

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Roncesvalles May 15, 2010

Josef Oswald in the snow

I am in Roncesvalles, really on last 2 days of walking. We had disappointment today crossing the Pyrenees. I got 2 thirds of the way through and had to turn back in blizzard, trail totally invisible under the snow about about 1200 meter with about 8 km left to go to get here.

It was a long walk back to the gite where we spent last night. It continued raining at the elevation of the gite, but had turned to snow as we walked. An Austrian man and I were in the lead, and a Dutch couple caught up to us after 2 hours of walking as we neared the spot where the trail left the road.  There we could see no sign of the trail as it wandered across open ground, and it was freezing and snowing and blowing, and we were all totally cold and wet, boots soaked through. I thought someone might find a group of pilgrims huddled together and buried in snow like a flock of sheep.  We all agreed it was impossible to continue as we could not see where to walk.  It was a dispiriting walk back.  We looked like a string of refugees, and kept meeting more walkers climbing up who also turned back with us. I got colder and wetter as I walked, through all the rain pants and rain coat.  When I took off my pack briefly along the road, snow fell off in a pile. The gite where we spent the night, the only place for many miles around, was jammed with wet walkers, packs, people in all states of dress and undress. I had to make an instant decision to catch a taxi to Roncesvalles in 10 minutes, which I did, and found a warm hotel room shared with a Dutch woman, Anja, I met on the trail yesterday. Several others who were with us this morning also made their way here by various means, but none by walking.   It was only about a half an hour taxi ride, but we would have been here in less than 4 hours had we been able to keep walking. I will see what tomorrow brings. Tearful hasty goodbye to Steven and Lisa whom by now I think of as my children.

They will try to get here tomorrow, and I will decide whether to continue on in the morning, or stay here one more day, perhaps walking back up to meet them. But, it is still raining and cold. It was snow here in Roncesvalles when we arrived by taxi in early afternoon.  I went to pilgrim mass in the abbey here before dinner.  I did feel that I truly experienced the Pyrenees crossing even though I didn´t get all the way throug.

We had a lovely farewell dinner on Thursday night in Saint Jean Pied de Port with our Swiss friends.  So the group that has been walking together off and on for the past 3 and 4 weeks is splitting up.

Thankfully the Spanish keyboard is a bit more like the American version, making typing a bit easier and faster.  I will see what tomorrow brings.  And in any case will stop walking in the next 2 to 3 days and make my way to Barcelona. What a trip it has been!  Every day a surprise.

But, I am looking forward to the comforts of home and not living out of a pack and a series of plastic bags.


  1. You did indeed experience the Pyrenees crossing. You experienced it in real mountain conditions, (whereas I just had a holiday hop over it!)

  2. Hi Linnea,
    We faced the same dilemma at the start of our Camino as like you met a 'whiteout' at the turnoff. At the time it was was a hard and upsetting decision for me to 'let go' of the Route Napoleon, especially as we had to walk back down to Arneguy and then on up the valley route to Roncevalles. Retrospectively I see that choice as being not only sensible but critical in my revision of what the 'Camino' is really about.

  3. Linnea, could I have permission to use this photo on my blog at I will give you credit and put a link back to this blog. Annie