Route 20: The seven small peaks from Astondo to Armintza

Route 20

Route published by Pedro Pablo Uriarte ” 24 circular walking routes around Gorliz”

Map of the route


Total time: 5 hours.
Distance: 15,7km
Cumulative elevation gain: 675 m
Difficulty: Moderate

This is a route for the brave, for experienced mountain people who don’t mind suffering for a while crossing relatively difficult stretches at the expense of having at almost all times spectacular views in areas very little frequented. We will always go close to the abysses that mark the cliffs and that fall with maximum verticality to the resounding sea that can be seen below.

The first part of the route,  the section that runs between Astondo and Ermua, and even Etzandarri, is already described on several previous routes: Route 3, Route 8, and Routes 18 and 19, and is not difficult at all. Nevertheless, we will make a brief description. However after the Etzandarri the route becomes wild, walking with some difficulty and insecurity along paths barely visible by the lush helechal vegetation. Fortunately, in the most difficult part of the route, some green spots painted on the oaks or pines and some signs will make it easier for us to walk. I must remember that if people who dare to do the whole route follow it through Wikiloc, they are guaranteed not to get lost at any time. And one more thing, we strongly recommend wearing long trousers and long sleeves. Then we’ll explain why.

We are facing a route that I consider to be of medium length (it does not reach 16 km), although we will not be able to do it at a good pace, since our mountain pace will be reduced significantly in the second part of it (we did it at an average speed of 4. 4 km per hour). The cumulative positive difference in altitude is 675 m, which is also not an exaggerated difference. The return to Gorliz is made by the classic road that joins Ermua with Armintza, going down the concrete track that connects from Fano with Urezarantza.

To conclude this introduction, I have to say that the small peaks of the ridge that we will climb are named as follows: Astondo, Larragan, Legorrariburu (or Lehorrari), Ermua Mendi, Etzandarri, Lularri and Kauku punta, already located in bird’s eye view on Armintza

As always we started from Ibarreta Plaza, going down to the PIE roundabout and the first aid station, heading towards Astondo along the beach promenade of Gorliz. We arrive at the other rescue post and continue forward past the petrified dunes to reach the rudimentary stone stairs that start to our right and go into the pine forest.

We take it there, going up in sections the aforementioned stairs until we reach the highest point of this first part of the route. And just before reaching the top, under the holm oaks we see that on our left comes a little path that in no more than ten meters places us in the “viewpoint of Isaure. Monte Astondo”, as it says on a small plate, the small and first peak of the day. We must look out carefully because there is no protection and the drop is about 126. 5 m.

We return to the road for a few dozen meters down the rudimentary steps made with stone slabs until we see the detour towards the Azkorriaga fortress or “Castillito”, which is signposted.

But we do not go to the fort, already almost completely destroyed, we continue forward and upwards, to take the longest and steepest slope of the whole route, which places us next to the second peak of the day. This is the Larragan, which has no plaque or mailbox and is 147. 7 m high. Just below the summit we see part of a tunneled concrete shed, probably remnants of old military positions around the nearby coastal batteries at the height of the Lighthouse.

We continue ahead and bordering the pastures of the foral farm we descend for a while and we get to link with the road to the lighthouse, which comes to it from Astondo. Along it we head towards the famous Gorliz Lighthouse, undoubtedly the town’s icon.

We take to our right just as we reach the Lighthouse and ascend along a path that immediately leaves to our left between the branches of the sides, the entrance to a firing bunker and a little further up to the old rangefinder that guided the shots of the coastal battery shells. The views of the coast and cliffs of Ermua to our left are breathtaking.

We have to be careful when we reach the plain located a little higher, because to the right (you can see the ferns trampled), we see that a path starts that in some tens of meters places us on the third peak of the day, the Legorrariburu or Lehorrari, 217. 5 m. high, with mailbox and geodesic pole. The panoramic view of Gorliz Bay from its summit is exceptional.

From the Lehorrari the path continues forward between “argomas” that will prick our legs a little despite wearing long pants. The path that we follow returns after a few hundred meters to the path that we brought and from which we have deviated, and that will lead us after a few hundred meters to the pastures of Fano.

We cross the closed pass with a net (and leave it as it was) and, in a gentle climb, through the high pastures of Fano, we reach another fence that we must jump and now without loss the road that follows will lead us to the summit of Ermua. But we are not going to go along the usual path to the summit, we are going to go along a parallel and little visible path that a few meters runs through the interior of the oak grove under the tops of the holm oaks. The road is dark, wild, tortuous, winding, meandering, treading on the soft bed of the leathery leaves of the oaks and almost flat. In short, a beautiful path that is worth knowing and that introduces us to the stories of “sorgiñak” that we were told about children in past times.

On this path of the holm oaks we will not get directly to the summit of Ermua, but we will get a little further, to the stone and concrete hut. Turn left to reach the summit of Ermua, 292 m. (284. 8 m. on the official map of Gorliz municipality). We were very pleasantly surprised to see that they have replaced the mailbox that repaired the image of the lighthouse and that some savages had broken, with a new, beautiful one. Congratulations from these humble lines to the people who have had the initiative.

A drink of water and we’re on our way. We reach the stone casemata and descend to the junction with the path that will lead us to Etzandarri, the next destination of today’s route. This section is reported on routes 6 and 10, but we remember it again.

We arrived at the crossroads (signposted with a pole on the ground with a reddish-white blade, which indicates that there is no need to continue if we want to follow the GR 123), we turn left, since we do want to go down that road in a gentle descent. It is a stretch that has been badly damaged in recent years and is being closed by the lush vegetation on both sides. It is a pity that the roads are not maintained, at least the most frequented ones, and that at this rate they will disappear. The whole road is of clay terrain with large grooves turned into torrents by the rains that considerably hinder walking. Finally, we reach a clearing next to the cliff from which the views are spectacular. It is worth stopping for a while to delight in the rugged nature. The cliffs that come out of the Ermua in all their amplitude. It’s been a while since we entered the municipal territory of Lemoiz.

A moment for a photo and we head to Etzandarri, fifth peak of the day. To do this, we only have to focus on the track that descends towards Armintza and, only a few meters away, to the left, starts a little path that is barely visible as soon as we enter it. The path, visible but somewhat covered by the “argoma”, runs at first under winding pines battered by northern thunderstorms. Interestingly, it is interesting to note on this route the convoluted structures of many pine trees close to the abysses: they are tortured, with twisted trunks and twisted branches, shaped by winds and storms. They are living sculptures.

In a few minutes, always uphill, sometimes approaching a few meters from the cliff, we reach the summit of Etzandarri, 209 m. , the first of the three peaks that stretch along the ridge of this second part of the route. It has a recent mailbox placed by the Lemoiz mountain group with a plaque. Next to the small mailbox there is one of those superb examples of pine trees shaped by the winds, perfect to rest under its large glass. We also find a sign indicating the direction of Ermua and the GR 123, and in the opposite direction the Lularri and Kauku point.

From now on, the real difficulties begin, although they are not difficulties that involve great physical exertion or sharp unevenness. We have already said in the introduction, that this part of the route is recommended only for mountaineers or advanced hikers as we will cross difficult areas, and we will go on trails that you can’t see, only intuitively, covered by lush vegetation, especially ferns of great size and very variegated that far exceed our height and make it difficult to pass. It is true that plant growth in general along this coast has been favored by the climate we are having this year 2021 in spring and summer (I write this on July 31), with plenty of rains and days of sunshine, which favors that in these dull lands the vegetation grows exuberantly, blocking roads and narrowing sidewalks. I had never seen until this year (and I have been on the mountain for more than 60 years) ferns, to give an example, that are more than two meters high. I did the same route a month and a half ago and the ferns were half as tall. It is also highly recommended on this route to use sticks, two better than one. They will serve us, apart from giving us additional support and broadening our base of support, to spread fern stems, prickly heaths, or simply to spread spider webs from side to side of the road.

In addition, in almost all this stretch we will find areas with a great profusion of fine woody stems of cedars, vines and creeping bushes that cross the path and are real traps, with which we can easily hook ourselves. This forces us to walk raising our legs as we take the step, getting a little more tired. In fact, the one who subscribes to this stumbled twice and the companion again. Fortunately, to favor the route, someone (I guess people from the Lemoiz mountain group) has placed some signposts and painted green circles on some pines and eucalyptus trees. They help a lot. Congratulations again to them.

For all this we recommend doing this route with long trousers and long-sleeved shirt or shirt. To avoid two things: on the one hand, protect yourself better from pricks and scratches of heather and brambles and, on the other hand, protect your legs and arms from possible tick bites. Ticks are moved by warm-blooded forest animals, usually boars, skunks, deer, etc. , or domestic animals such as goats or sheep if we pass very close to where they have passed or been grazing. Ticks attach themselves to plants, shrubs and ferns, and wait for another animal or us to pass before they can feed. When we pass is when they cling to our skin, trying to reach hot and humid areas as soon as possible, such as folds and flexures (angles, genitals, folds and navel). We don’t notice anything, as they use their saliva with some kind of anesthetic to anchor them. This happens most often in summer. Therefore, wearing covered arms and legs when walking through areas with lush vegetation is never bad. Usually nothing happens, if we notice or discover them when we get home we take them off with a pair of tweezers and that’s it, but in some cases they can transmit ricketsiosis or cause Lyme disease. Even rarer are some reported cases of Thuralemia and Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever. In the Basque Country and Spain in general, the risk is low, but not zero. So you know.

But we had stayed at the Etzandarri. Taking note of the sign of the summit, we continue towards the Lularri along a little visible path and as we have said with low heather. The road goes down little by little and, we repeat, we must be very careful where we step because the path is barely intuitive. We entered an area of tall ferns. The path winds always downhill with the cliffs at more or less distance. We immediately see some green circles painted on the branches of some trees that serve as a guide. We will also find a couple of more posters: Lularri and Kauku Punta where we are going and Etzandarri in the opposite direction. We continue towards the Lularri, along the path and making permanent use of intuition to discover where the path really goes.

We found more green spots on branches of trees and some other signage. This confirms that we are doing well. Always downhill we enter a pine forest near the edge of the cliff and reach a clearing with tall ferns. We cross the clearing by the covered road and reach another pine forest in front of which the path enters. Immediately we find a cairn that indicates the proximity of the summit. We continue forward along a path that meanders among the pines and reach a sign that points to the summit: Lularri. There’s a fixed rope that helps us climb to the mailbox and the summit.

The summit of the Lularri is an intricate mixture of several large rocks and thick, variegated and tortuous pines, which we imagine have been battered by raging storms to shape and transform into twisted living sculptures, and there they are. At the summit there is a gap, which we approach with great care, with a vertical drop to a beautiful cove of pristine turquoise waters. The mailbox, it’s screwed to a rock. It couldn’t be any other way. We are on the summit of Lularri, 184 m. , a curious place where there are, but really uncomfortable.

From the summit of Lularri we descend to the path with the invaluable help of the fixed rope (again we remember with gratitude the people who came up with the idea, which I think is magnificent. Thanks again, whoever they are).

The road to Kauku point, or rather imprecise path, is perceived more badly than well inside the pine forest, and immediately begins to descend. We are walking downhill into the pine forest and near the cliffs.

There comes a time when we enter the edges of a recently planted eucalyptus. We walk pretty close to the abyss, but without any danger. From time to time the grove opens and you can appreciate the cliffs of the Armintza area.

When we see a wide road to our right, to which we are tempted to access, we continue a little more along the path that we bring until we reach in a very short time a beautiful natural viewpoint where the path mentioned above also ends. We are in Kauku Punta at about 116 m altitude, the last pinnacle of the seven peaks of the cordal between Astondo and Armintza.

From here to return to Gorliz and make as always a circular route, we take the commented path that reaches Kauku Punta. In a few minutes we reach a clearing where there is a large one-storey house. We already knew this construction from other routes. From here starts a wide gravel track, very flat an its first half, that will take us to Armintza village.

We go for a long time until we find the road that descends from Ermua towards Armintza, where we will climb. It is a clay and ascending road, especially at the beginning, to then enter the eucalyptus. After a while the road gets narrower. We have already said that the vegetation on the sides of the roads is growing so much that they drown the paths. As one does not tackle a clearing every now and then it is almost certain that many paths will disappear.

In a while we reach a flat area that leads to the road that leads to the summit of Ermua (there are signs), but we don’t want to go back to Ermua. We take from the front and a little to the left for a path 100 times walked we go down through rather uncomfortable terrain and under the oaks to Fanobidea. We will always take to our left on this stretch a long fence that separates a closed forest of pines and some oaks.

Arrived at Fanobidea, we go to the left past a large house. Immediately we see (there are signs) that comes out a concrete track to our right that we have used a lot on other routes. In about 20 minutes we will be in the neighborhood of Urezarantza. We cross the road in front of the Kilimanjaro brewery and descend towards the sports center, surrounding it by its promenade, until we reach the area of the old camp of Elorriaga. We reached the roundabout and continue towards the village through Aldapa Barrena and Talaia Bidea. We are almost at Iberreta square from where we left.

It has been more than 4 hours and three quarters, we have done 15. 7 km and we have climbed a cumulative difference in altitude of 675 m.

Beautiful route of the cliffs from Astondo to Armintza, with spectacular views and some adventure along those difficult to follow trails. I repeat, it’s best to follow it on Wikiloc, and there won’t be any problems. In spite of everything, I hope that this text will serve as a support for people trying to take this route. I think he’s detailed enough for that.

Route made with my friend Koldo Mendía Cueva, on July 29, 2021, with cloudy weather and sometimes some drizzle and thin sea fog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign Up For Newsletter