I can not fool you, the Urola valley has trapped me. Starting from Loiola to the meadows of Beizama, passing through the streets of Zestoa, the frontons of Azkoitia or the Azpeitia train museum. All these sites, although different from each other, have their charm, but the valley itself has two things in common: the river of course, and the Izarraitz massif.
I have always said that I am passionate about the mountain, but to live around it, not to climb it. Anyway, on this trip, I will climb more than 1000 meters. I'm going to meet the Izarraitz. But just in case, I'll go up the easy way, for "Attola".
Legend has it that the Izarraitz asked Izazpi mountain Hi zer haiz? (What are you?) And that he answered Hi, zazpi (seven like you) giving this questions game the name of these mountains. This was picked up by at least the famous anthropologist and ethnographer Jose Miguel Barandiaran.
The truth is that I do not know if Izazpi is seven times Izarraitz, but taking into account that the Izarraitz massif actually has 14 peaks ... Erlo, Xoxote, kakute, Sesiarte, Agido, Atxurigain, Gorostizabalgaña, Aittolako punta (top of aittola), Aitzbeltz, aittolako gurutzea (Aittola´s cross), Gaintxipua, Andutz, Saltsamendi and Garallutz. Of course, the best known are the first three and those will be the peaks that I visited.
Taking the road from Elgoibar to Azkoitia, once the port of Azkarate is finished, I took the old road towards Madariaga to reach Attola. I left the car in the parking lot.
From here to the refuge of Xoxote I have a road of 4 kilometers and an hour and a half approximately, with almost 300 meters of altitude difference. Luckily I have not gone the usual way, which leaves from Azpeitia because a mountain of barely 920 meters would have to climb a slope of about 850 meters in total.
Climbing up through the Attola car park we will immediately see the information sign on the massif.
Next to the sign, I went among the trees and followed a dirt road, until I found another sign: Xoxote, Erlo, Kakute. I am going on the right way.
As soon as I came out of the trees, I came to a shepherd's shed. It is fallen, but it clearly shows that the sheep grazed here at the time.
Climbing the meadow, I took a dirt road and reached a depth (then I have known that they call it Trikuan sakona or the depth of the hedgehog.
I have come to a fountain (it seems to be Izki's) and in addition to filling the canteen, I have cooled my throat well.
I found the track that leads to the antenna of the Erlo, but then I saw the sign that says Xoxote.
Today that will be my goal because I intend to sleep in Xoxote´s shelter. As soon as I went through other shepherd's huts I had to climb a hill, this walk had a trap because it leaves the hardest for the end! Anyway, it is a walk to do it with children, since it has 4 kilometers and 280 meters of altitude difference, and you arrive at the shelter immediately.
In 1983 the people of the Lagun Onak group began to rehabilitate a shack that until a few years ago served as a refuge for the sheep and opened it as a refuge on the day of Xoxote (May 27), 1983.
Nowadays it is a site that offers many services. From being a place where the Mountaineers changed, they ate something and took refuge from the bad weather, it has become a place where they give breakfasts, menus, combined dishes or dinners. In addition, it has two rooms with 32 beds, their bathrooms and showers, and in summer you will find it open every day. Today I have not tired too much, but since tomorrow I will visit the three most important summits, I have enjoyed a good dinner and immediately I have gone to bed.
I have spent all night dreaming, how would you do it to make this building almost a thousand meters high? Surely it took many and very hardworking countrymen. Well, in my dream I have also become one of those countrymen and Obelix has not wanted to lose sleep, hauling stones from one place to another.
It is curious, but it is said that Loiola was built with stones from the Izarraitz, and the refuge of Xoxote? Did they bring the stones from the village? I have to ask Oihana from Urola Turismo about it. If the dinner was delicious, breakfast is not far behind. Today my legs will not falter!
I will go back the way of yesterday because the first peak will be Kakute, located in the lands of Azkoitia. I started the road easily, downhill and then I found the track that leads to the Erlo's antenna.
It will be later when I take that road. Now, from the neck of Zamaleku (the site that divides Kakute from Xoxote) I have come back to the Izki fountain. I have taken to the left and in a moment I have arrived at the great cross that is in the top of Kakute. I have taken it as an observatory and what I have seen has been really beautiful. From here you can glimpse the entire Urola valley, long known as the Iraurgi. I am 924 meters away, but since my intention is to overcome the thousand today, I am heading to the highest peak of the Izarraitz: the Erlo.
I have returned to the road and this time I have taken the track that will take me to the antenna of the Erlo. And from there, along with a path of grass and stones, I have reached my second goal today.
The Erlo is 1026 meters, it is not too high, but being so close to the sea, it seems that the height you are at is much higher. And of course, with good weather ... you can see practically all of Euskal Herria from here.
Towards the northeast, the Landes coast; to the southwest, the rock faces of the duranguesado, with Amboto and Udalaitz; to the east the Peñas de Aia, Larrun and the Pyrenees and to the south, Aralar, Aizkorri and Urbasa.
I feel like the King of Euskal Herria. I have eaten a bite and have made my way to my last goal today. There I go Xoxote!
I'm going back to Zamaleku, for the third time. It is noted that this is the central core of the three summits. But this time I have taken the path of yesterday and I will go to the point where everything started this morning. The refuge is already full of people and the majority with the intention of going to Xoxote or eating something back from the top.
I left the track and taking the right I found the huge stone replica of San Ignacio de Loiola. It seems that he wants to control the valley from this place, or maybe it is the people who from any point of the valley glimpse his figure and feel that there is someone who protects them.
Xoxote is a modest peak, 912 meters high, but it will surely be the most visited peak. Maybe having the shelter nearby has something to do with it, but I think San Ignacio also takes it with them. Is everything in this valley tied to him? Azpeitia looks perfectly, in ant size, but perfectly.
If I felt like a king in Erlo, now I feel like God! Better take the road down before someone thinks I'm crazy.
Yesterday I took the easy way and today I will go down by the usual, as it is downhill ... I have started down a little path and soon I have found a fountain. But also something more beautiful and weird: a fridge! (which is not refrigerated) is the best conserved of Gipuzkoa and the ice that was preserved here, apparently, was transported in oxcarts to the spa of Zestoa and to the ports of Zumaia, Mutriku or Ondarroa to make frozen drinks. That's why they built a stone road up to here, which is still preserved and used. But it will not be down that road that I go down, but I will get between beech and pine until you reach a rail.
Through the hill of "Nargun" down, I zigzagged on a stone path until I reached the Urreta Txiki farmhouse. I have continued to descend and after leaving behind the hamlets Bildotxola, Arantzeta and Takolo I have arrived at the hermitage of Santutxo. It's time for me to go downstairs and they take me to "Iturritxiki". I'm already on the streets of Azpeitia and I can see the town square.
I have arrived! But ... My car! I have it in Attola! Will there be a charitable soul that will take me to him?
My desire to know every corner has made me lose orientation. I would like to thank, again, Oihana de Urola Turismo, for getting me out of this predicament and helping me in everything.
What is clear to me is that if you start the Izarraitz route by car, the recommended route would be: Refuge - Xoxote, Xoxote-Erlo and Erlo-Kakute. So once you get off Kakute to Attola, do not make the same mistake that I made.