This route basically offers an alternative way to the summit of Ortzanzurieta, recommended for anyone willing to avoid the road from Ibañeta to the summit or unwilling to find anyone on the way up. It's lonelier than the road or than the normal route to the Col of Lepoeder, but not really hard for experienced hikers/mountaineers. Just a matter of a good orientation ability and a proper physical shape. The way up goes along a dirt road and a rather dense beech forest. After that you will be able to enjoy ample views from the summits and you will return to Roncesvalles along the Way to Santiago, maybe sharing it with pilgrims coming in from France.
In order to reach Roncesvalles, leave Pamplona towards Huarte and afterwards follow road N135 north. About 19 km after leaving Pamplona, you will cross the village of Zubiri. Turn right after Zubiri and follow the signs to Burguete for an additional 28 km. Once you reach Burguete, keep going along the main street and drive for another three km to the Abbey of Roncesvalles, main trailhead for Orzanzurieta.
If you have decided to from the french side of the border in order to reach St. Jean Pied-de-Port you must follow highway A63 up to exit 5. Leave the highway at this spot and keep driving following road D918 along the river Nive towards Cambo Les Bains, St.Martin d’Arrossa and St.Jean Pied-de-Port. After St.Jean, just keep driving towards "Espagne" and after 31 km you will be across the Col of Ibañeta, at the Abbey of Roncesvalles
Closest main railway stations:
On the spanish side Pamplona (50 km away from Roncesvalles)
On the french side St. Jean Pied-de-Port.
Closest main airports: Pamplona (50 km away from Roncesvalles, 66 from Fábrica de Orbaitzeta)
and Biarritz (about 52 km away from St.Jean Pied-de-Port)
Start walking from the new car park placed on the east side of the Roncesvalles building complex, crossing a small stream and a metal barrier to hike into the forest along an eastwards dirt road. There are a couple of crossroads on it, but you will always find them properly marked by wooden signposts. Follow the signals towards "Nabala" and you will reach a small, not too prominent, col on the south side of Ortzanzurieta. A new green metal gate, similar to the one you previously crossed, marks the spot.
Cross the gate and turn left, leaving the track to enter the forest through a green flat platform of terrain. It's a rather clean beech forest, you only have to walk uphill following a wire fence placed on your left hand side. Get across the fence as soon as you can and keep following it (now placed on your right side, obviously). When the fence makes an abrupt turn to the right pay no attention and climb for another 100 meters (or so!) to reach the small foresummit of Otsolezea (basque for "wolf hole"), marked by a small cairn and offering some views towards the north and northwest: Ortzanzurieta, Altobizkar and Auza. Leave Otsolezea northwards. The forest becomes a little bit denser here, but it's still easy to get across it. In a short while you will come out to the final slopes of Ortzanzurieta. Should you find them covered by snow (or wet!), a dirt track can be found halfway up on your left side. Either by this track or directly, a final rightwards turn will be enough to reach the summit.
For the way down, leave Ortzanzurieta westwards, following the summit line. It's your choice to follow the old road or go straight across its turns. Along the way you will be able to bag the small hills of Mendimotz (1490 m) and Burregieta (1441 m). On the northwest slope of Burregieta, you will find at the col of Lepoeder (basque for "beautiful col") the signs towards Roncesvalles and Santiago marking the beginning of the descent towards the trailhead: either yellow arrows, yellow spots or red-and-white stripes (GR markings) will lead you down until you reach a spot three hundred meters east of the car park, where you started hiking some hours ago.
Essential GearThere's no real "must" for fine weather climbs apart, I assume, from proper clothing, good boots, some food, water and maybe walking poles. But bear in mind that the area around Ortzanzurieta is rather prone to sudden weather changes. Some pilgrims to Santiago have died in winter conditions not too far away from the summit, or got lost on the way down to Roncesvalles.
- Always carry some orientation equipment (map and compass, at least). A GPS receiver can become really useful to find the col of Lepoeder and the way down if you get caught by foul weather.
- If in doubt about the weather outlook for the next few hours, take warm and waterproof clothing in your backpack-
Basic GPS waypointsCollado de Nabala: 43.00226 / -1.29547
Otsolezea (foresummit): 43.014564 / -1.282364
Mendimotz: 43.026389 / -1.284722
Burregieta: 43.026744 / -1.293614
Collado de Lepoeder: 43.027324 / -1.294254