The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday 21 October 2017

Friday 20 October - Erdikoatxa (1042m)

It was the work of just a couple of minutes to look at Open Cycle Maps and find the name of the hill we had admired during Thursday's low-level walk, then to visit and download a gpx file of a route from Elorrio to its summit. Here's a screenshot of that route, which was described as 10.5 miles long, with 3800' of ascent:

As indicated by the map snippet, the first four miles of the walk in (and, as it was an out-and-back route, the last four miles of the walk out) were along a forest track, which wasn't dreadfully exciting, although in the latter stages we did start to get tantilising glimpses of the dramatic landscape around us.

Reaching our departure point from the track coincided with us leaving the forest, and also coincided with us pausing for elevenses.

We couldn't help but notice at this point that the wall-to-wall sunshine, that was forecast to be with us by that time, hadn't materialised, so we comforted ourselves that the clouds made for a pleasant walking temperature, and tried to ignore the thought of how much better the jagged lumps of limestone would look under blue skies. (As it goes, I would have been happy with the extra warmth of sunshine - my hands got quite cold as we topped out at 1042m.)

Having made good time along the forest track, even though it was uphill all the way, the going got significantly slower once we left it, as we picked our way through a landscape of limestone.

There was no path as such. There were well-camouflaged cairns and vague trodden lines, although with horses, goats and sheep grazing up there (jangling their bells as they went), not all of the trodden lines were helpful.

Our objective, the third and final summit of the ridge, looked impressive, with a huge cave entrance visible in the rock just below it. However, the final approach also looked very rocky and steep, and perhaps a little more difficult than we fancied. On the other hand, the second summit on the ridge, below which we happened at that moment to be standing, looked quite straightforward.

Still overcast at this point. Beyond Mick is the summit we had originally intended to visit, and you should be able to see the huge archway in the hillside too.

It was straightforward, but what we couldn't see from below, but soon discovered, was that this summit was tiny, with a sheer drop on one side and a sharp one on the other. I held on for dear life, took a few snaps and we retreated, getting a few minutes down hill before I realised that such had been my concentration on not tripping over a rock up there and thus becoming too acquainted with those drops, I'd completely failed to take in any of the views.

Don't let go of that cross, Mick!

A different (trickier, and very slow) route was taken to get back to the forest track, although not by design. Repeatedly we found ourselves being enticed further down the hill as the line we were on would hit a rocky outcrop and there always seemed to be a nice grassy trod a few meters below us. Interestingly, if you look at the route I'd downloaded, you'll see that whoever recorded it also took a lower line on their return. Every time I looked, we were exactly on that person's track - so maybe it's just the obvious line to take when heading east to west along that hillside.

By the time we stopped for lunch, at the same spot as we had enjoyed elevenses, the sun was finally winning over the cloud. By mid-afternoon, there was no longer a cloud to be seen.

Having gone for the easier summit, our final distance walked came in at exactly 10 miles, with 3100' of ascent (the third summit wasn't 700' higher, so either the advertised 3800' was an exaggeration, or I undermeasured). That's the furthest we've walked in a while, with the most ascent, so it was pleasing to be sufficiently ache-free this morning to go for a gentle jogette in a town a few miles further towards Bilbao.


  1. Splendid. On a par with a good Munro.

  2. The final approach to the summit, and hte views, were certainly on a par with a good Munro, although the walk in/out left a little to be desired. Having walked past half a dozen cars parked alongside the forest track within a mile and a half of the summit, I suspect that few people opt to walk all the way from Elorrio.