Thursday 18 January 2018

Two pilgrims who got lost walking in the Pyrenees for five days saved after turning clothes into a cross

The pair got lost trying to cross the Roncesvaux Pass in Spain
The pair got lost trying to cross the Roncesvaux Pass in Spain

Cristina Criddle

Two British pilgrims walking the Napoleon route of the Camino de Santiago have been rescued after five days lost in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

They were found around 6pm yesterday after a rescue helicopter spotted a cross they had made out of brightly-coloured clothes on the French side of the border near Valcarlos which belongs to Spain.

The pair survived after drinking from animal water troughs when they ran out of supplies.

They left the French border town of Saint Jean Pied de Port on Friday to try to cross to Roncesvalles in Spain via a famous mountain route used by hikers heading to the cathedral city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

The Camino de Santiago is a historic pilgrimage attempted by more than 200,000 people each year. But the Napoleon route is the more strenuous and hazardous path from Saint Jean, an extra 400 metres more than the Valcarlos route.

It is named the Napoleon route as Napoleon used it to invade Spain and it involves a climb to around 4,500 feet.

Firefighters on board the chopper decided against attempting a risky landing because of the steep terrain.

After giving the dehydrated pair water, they alerted colleagues who reached them by land on foot, after getting as close as they could with a 4x4.

They are understood to have set out from Saint Jean Pied de Port around 4pm on Friday with some basic provisions. It is not known if the unnamed Brits needed hospital treatment.

The eight-hour-long trek to Roncesvalles is a starting point for many of the pilgrims attempting the 500 mile, four-week-long walk to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.In 2007 British millionaire Chris Phillips, 50, died after being caught up in a freak snowstorm.

Brazilian businessman Gilbert Janeri, 43, also died in March 2013 on the route after getting caught in a storm.

His body was found a fortnight after he set out from Saint Jean Pied de Port on March 8 2013.

Brazilian Antonio Jorge Ferreira, 48, from Rio de Janeiro, also lost his life attempting the mountain crossing in January 2002, although his diary and then his body weren’t discovered until two months later.

The Camino de Santiago was honoured in the 2010 film The Way directed, produced and written by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen.

A huge percentage of the walkers are foreigners from all over the world including Britain.

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