We had only met in person the day before when we linked up at the airport in Paris, the long train and bus journey to reach Saint Jean had provided some time to get to know one another. Scratching the surface really.
The night before our walk begins we have dinner together at a quaint local restaurant in Saint Jean Pied du Port, France. Although everyone is travel weary, we are excited to begin the hike in the morning.
Earlier in the day, we had checked into the pilgrims office and to our surprise and disappointment, they told us that the scenic but difficult Napoleon route that cuts over the top of the mountain was still closed as portions were under snow.
Jean Baptiste, my French assistant facilitating this trip, and I weren’t satisfied with that answer so we called the albergue Orrison. Its the last stopping point nearly halfway up the mountain so we asked their thoughts on the pass being clear enough to hike. They said that it was finally clear enough to hike despite the official word stating otherwise.
We took a vote at dinner and decided to make a go at the more difficult, but incredibly stunning Napoleon route.
And so, in the morning. We took the high road knowing full well that we could have to turn back at the very peak if the weather turned or the snow proved too deep to find the path.
Our gamble paid off. We were able to walk the incredible Napoleon route without incident and arrived safely in Roncesvalles before the sun set, probably among the first 20 or so Peregrinos to make the route this spring. Tired and sore but very happy, we celebrated with a toast at dinner before getting some much needed rest to be ready to get up and continue walking the Camino in the morning.
The Veterans and friends ready to begin walking
Piotr makes it to the top, Witold has a selfie stick and Casey Saunier is with us in spirit
Jean Baptiste plays his guitar in the emergency shelter at the top of the mountain