We set up our breakfast station under the church porch since the sky is cloudy and stormy. As we are on one of El Camino paths, people think we are pilgrims and until St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, we will have to proudly claim our GR10 ownership. Right now, we look like authentic hiker trash – maybe not as stinky but this will come quick enough.
Because the store was closed yesterday, we have no bread for breakfast (how French!) and R decides to try his luck at the nearby restaurant where we had dinner last night. One of the waitresses is sweeping the floor outside and he asks her for some bread. After some negotiations, she gives him frozen bread.
Pro-tip: unfreezing bread on a camping stove won’t work!
The village is small and despite rumors that country and mountain people get up early, nobody is up and the only old man willing to give it a try with his oven suggests we go back to the restaurant and ask them to microwave our poor baguette. R goes back, asks the waitress again. She goes inside while he picks up the broom and starts to sweep the patio. She comes back a few minutes later, with warm bread… butter and jam! Now, that’s a breakfast!
Time to tackle this Iparla Crest! We make our way up and about 40 minutes later, we feel the first drops on our heads. We also notice “Robert” making his way down, “I do not hike in the rain and I have done this before. I am done.” This will be the last we will see of Robert!
The climb is steep but fun with some passages where using your hands is recommended, the path goes really close to the edge of the cliff and it is made more perilous with the rain. The stones are very slippery and falling would not be good since we cannot see the ground when peeking over the edge as we are now in a sea of clouds.
Going fast uphill is not my forte and I am soon left behind, hiking alone in the rain and wind, not really able to stop as I am too exposed. There is no sheltered spot before we reach St Etienne de Baigorry in the valley. It’s just pass, peak, more pass, more peak all day… under the rain of course!
I am starting to get hungry and R is nowhere to be seen. I cannot see more than 10 meters ahead of me when I suddenly see his head pop out from under a rock.
It is the less exposed spot on the Crest, I am mildly hypothermic and R warms up some soup before we continue our way as it is really too cold, rainy and windy to stop for long.
We reach a forest which contrary to my hopes of providing some kind of shelter only makes the rain drops bigger and nastier. A cave provides a temporary shelter so we can snack a bit before continuing our way uphill in the forest. The GR10 quickly goes back up on the Crest but this time, the clouds open up to reveal the extraordinary panorama under our feet. We can see dozens of vultures soaring below, using the air currents. The sun poking through the clouds make their brown feathers sign and it is truly a gorgeous show.
We learned a few days later that at this exact same spot, a woman had fallen to her death a couple years ago. Located by rescuers 40 minutes later, they only found her rain jacket and a few bones. Due to a law preventing farmers to leave dead animals carcasses out in the open for fear of disease spreading, vultures have become hungrier and more aggressive towards weak animals or even cows calving. We would see cows carcasses along the path later on, the head still on the skeleton and the skin untouched. Just no flesh left, the cows are devoured from the inside. Let’s just say I was very careful where I would put my feet from then on.
The way down is a killer for our feet and knees but at least it is not raining! We find the town camping area and rush for the showers, dropping a couple euros to enjoy a few minutes of hot water and nice smelling sop before getting back on the GR10. The camping is located in the middle of town and right by a very passing Route Nationale. Let’s go find some stealth spots! On our way out of town, we bump right into “Peter”, the biker we had met at the Esteben farm the day before. He looks sad when we tell him we plan on finding a spot out of town to pitch our tents. He cannot follow as his bike is not suited for that section of the GR10 – too rocky!
There was no flat spots right outside of town and the path was going up, up, up. After a day of walking in tough conditions, I was ready to settle for the first somewhat okay spot to sleep. Across a large field, I saw a farm and decided to take my chances. I went to talk to the farmer and asked if we could pitch our tents on his field. He said yes right away and once again, we had an amazing campsite looking the Iparla Crest that kicked our ass all day long. No rain this time!
Disclaimer: I did this trip in September