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Altitude adjustment

2020 Camino Guides
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (May-June 2020)
As part of my preparations for my first CF next year (SJPdP to Santiago and on to Muxia/Finisterre), I've been gradually increasing my usual 3km-5km daily constitutional to walks in the 5km-10km range, and expect to level that up to regular 15-20km walks by the time I set out the first week in May. I'm already breaking in the shoes I plan to wear (and have a backup pair in case they need to be replaced between now and then), and have been doing a few walks every week with a pack loaded with the amount of weight I anticipate carrying. So far, so good.

Here's the problem: I'm doing all this in my home town of New Orleans - which, as many of you may be aware, sits squarely at (and occasionally below) sea level.

My question to anyone who has walked the Camino from SJPdP after living/preparing in similar circumstances: How much did the altitudes affect your walking ability and stamina once you started walking? It's not so much the ups and downs I'm worried about: despite the notable lack of hills (much less mountain ranges) here in south Louisiana, I've been including as many staircases and ramps in my current perambulations as I can, in addition to incline intervals on the treadmill at the gym. So the muscles that will get me up and down those slopes and hills in France and Spain will (hopefully!) be in decent enough shape in five months' time.

But I'm concerned about the effects of an entire walk that will take place several hundred to over a thousand feet above the sea level that my body is used to. Save for a couple of very sporadic mountain hiking trips over the years and a few long layovers in the Denver airport, I've never spent much time at high altitudes.

How long should I expect any adjustment period to last? And is there anything else I can do to prepare for high altitude walking specifically? Any advice or perspective is most welcome.
 
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wjohnk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portugese Coastal (2019)
Everyone is affected differently by altitude. I am affected at 2000m but not noticeably at 1000m. I suspect that you will not have any serious problems going through the Pyrenees because of the altitude. Just take it steadily..
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (May-June 2020)
No part of the Camino Frances is at a high enough altitude to have a significant physiological effect. Even for those who normally live at sea level.
You’ll be fine. You are more prepared now than I have ever been on four trips.
I live at sea-level (Virginia Beach, VA) and have never had any effects in Spain due to elevation.
Buen Camino
This is very comforting to hear :) Maybe I'm just overthinking the fact that the altitude will present a problem.
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Aragones(2020)
Portuguese(2020)
I have lots of experience in climbing high altitude mountains, and am fully versed on the issue of altitude sicknesses and acclimatization issues. I will note that unless you have a serious pulmonary or cardiac issue, the amount of altitude change to near the Col de Loepeder prior to the descent into Roncesvalles is not significant.

If you have a cardiac or pulmonary issue, it won't be the amount of relative air pressure that will be the problem. . . it will be the amount of cardio workout that will be at issue. :)

If you can comfortably breathe while riding as a passenger on a jet airliner - which keeps cabin pressures equivalent of 5,000 to 7,000 feet elevation - then you will be absolutely fine with walking up to the highest altitude gain out of SJPdP to Roncesvalles via Napoleon.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (May-June 2020)
If you can comfortably breathe while riding as a passenger on a jet airliner - which keeps cabin pressures equivalent of 5,000 to 7,000 feet elevation - then you will be absolutely fine with walking up to the highest altitude gain out of SJPdP to Roncesvalles via Napoleon.
It's funny - I never even considered that air travel would count as high altitude experience, but of course it would :) Thanks so much for what sounds like a quite definitive answer to my question!
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Aragones(2020)
Portuguese(2020)
It's funny - I never even considered that air travel would count as high altitude experience, but of course it would :) Thanks so much for what sounds like a quite definitive answer to my question!
I'm glad if I have been of help. If you have other questions or concerns, feel free to send a PM. :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
somewhere between "not enough" and "way too many"
@SenorJacques -

With all respect, you are over-thinking it to a degree but responsibly so. I find my posts tend to "sprawl" a bit lately so am trying to make this one very tight. You can always PM me for any deeper detail.

I will cut to the main point: "Don't worry, the Camino itself will bring you up to fitness in good time."

The secondary point is that I doubt that I have nearly the same level of high-altitude experience of @davebugg but have seen only one instance in 40 years of a person being greatly debilitated at altitudes below 5,000 ft (~1,500 meters).

I am attaching a chart that shows the 7-day moving average of distance covered on the Camino (SJPP and onwards) in tandem with a friend of mine. Sorry about the miles thing...it was assembled for a US audience. (7-day Moving average is a trailing measure. It is a simple calculation of the average distance covered per day over the preceding 7 days.)

For context:

- both parties at ~ 60 y/o
- one of the team was 12 kgs overweight, the other trim but debilitated from piloting a desk non-stop for 15 months...very little practice walking
- our days were shortened, every day, by about 2 hours to allow time for one member to render medical care to the other.

All in all, I am thinking you can do at least as well with well-founded confidence.

B
 

Attachments

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
I’ve suffered from altitude sickness in past travels, but never in the Pyrenees. Good to consider all the angles, but this isn’t one you need to worry about. If you have specific medical issues (mentioned previously), then start in Roncevalles Pamplona. 👍
 

scruffy1

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Holy Year from Pamplona 2010, SJPP 2011, Lisbon 2012, Le Puy 2013, Vezelay (partial watch this space!) 2014; 2015 Toulouse-Puenta la Reina (Arles)
As part of my preparations for my first CF next year (SJPdP to Santiago and on to Muxia/Finisterre), I've been gradually increasing my usual 3km-5km daily constitutional to walks in the 5km-10km range, and expect to level that up to a minimum of 15-20km several times a week by the time I set out the first week in May. I'm already breaking in the shoes I plan to wear (and have a backup pair in case they need to be replaced between now and then), and have been doing a few walks every week with a pack loaded with the amount of weight I anticipate carrying. So far, so good.

Here's the problem: I'm doing all this in my home town of New Orleans - which, as many of you may be aware, sits squarely at (and occasionally below) sea level.

My question to anyone who has walked the Camino from SJPdP after living/preparing in similar circumstances: How much did the altitudes affect your walking ability and stamina once you started walking? It's not so much the ups and downs I'm worried about: despite the notable lack of hills (much less mountain ranges) here in south Louisiana, I've been including as many staircases and ramps in my current perambulations as I can, in addition to incline intervals on the treadmill at the gym. So the muscles that will get me up and down those slopes and hills in France and Spain will (hopefully!) be in decent enough shape in five months' time.

But I'm concerned about the effects of an entire walk that will take place several hundred to over a thousand feet above the sea level that my body is used to. Save for a couple of very sporadic mountain hiking trips over the years and a few long layovers in the Denver airport, I've never spent much time at high altitudes.

How long should I expect any adjustment period to last? And is there anything else I can do to prepare for high altitude walking specifically? Any advice or perspective is most welcome.
Your real worry should be that New Orleans is as flat as a pancake. You will be facing a good stiff ascent your first day out from SJPP, another surprise at Castrojeriz and yet another at O'Cebeira - however, if you have walked the entire distance faithfully, doing your 15-20kl every day, you won't notice anything after SJPP.
 

Ianinam

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2013 / CP 2018
Hospitalera at Roncesvalles:
2015/2016/2017/2018/2019/2020
Living in a part of the Netherlands that is totally flat and at 6 metres below sealevel, I worried about the same when I was preparing for my first Camino. So I did long trainingwalks, in the last few weeks before I left for the Camino also with my backpack (people in my neighbourhood thought I became crazy ....) and hoped for the best. The first day I had a stop at Valcarlos ( the Napoleon route was closed due to lots of snow) and the next day I made it to Roncesvalles without any problems. Of course there are more mountains on your way to Santiago, but by the time you get there your body is trained and used to walking every day.

Being a hospitalera at Roncesvalles I see them coming in every day, the people with problems who did not prepare properly: the people with lots of overweight, the woman who did one (!) trainingwalk of 7 kms, the man who smoked one cigarette after another, the woman with 12 kilograms in her backpack, including a hairdryer, lots of make-up and a library of books, the man with heart problems who thought it was a good idea to walk over the Pyrenees .....

If you are in a good condition, if you do your training walks and if you keep the weight of your backpack as low as possible, you are able to do it. Buen Camino!
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
There are two things that mustn't be confused: heaving your body upwards when you walk upwards and the effects of altitude on your body, for example shortness of breath, headaches and worse. I've seen people short of breath going up on the Napoleon route and the Alto del Perdon but that's because they were not very fit, would have benefitted from less bodyweight, and didn't know how to pace themselves, nothing to do with altitude.

Real altitude sickness, btw, is something else altogether and where and when you get it has little or nothing to do with your fitness level! On the Camino Frances, you will never ever even get remotely close to altitudes where this could become a concern. Also, you are not staying for long at "altitude" on the Camino Frances, you are barely up when it's time to walk down again. ☺
 
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thejoker

Member
Camino(s) past & future
many
I wouldn't worry too much. I do absolutely no training at all before I embark upon a Camino and have never had a problem yet (I am over 60). I just take it slowly and gradually work my way into each Camino by doing a maximum of 15 kms (where usually possible) for the first 7 or 8 stages. Altitude gain is not a problem if taken very steadily at the start until the body acclimatizes a bit.
 

Jerilyn

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
"CF May 5, 2019"
SeniorJacques,

Welcome to the forum! We are also from New Orleans (born & raised). My husband and I walked the Camino Frances from SJPP to SDC in May/June 2019. Altitude was never an issue for us. I am affected by altitudes over 10,000 feet, but we never reached that elevation on the camino. We trained as much as we could in our hiking shoes. The first day going through the Pyrenees was tough, but each day got a bit easier. We suffered a few minor issues with our feet, but other than that we were fine. We enjoyed every minute of our camino and look forward to doing another in the near future.

Buen Camino!
 

peckahad

Member
Camino(s) past & future
walk in sept 2019
I w
As part of my preparations for my first CF next year (SJPdP to Santiago and on to Muxia/Finisterre), I've been gradually increasing my usual 3km-5km daily constitutional to walks in the 5km-10km range, and expect to level that up to a minimum of 15-20km several times a week by the time I set out the first week in May. I'm already breaking in the shoes I plan to wear (and have a backup pair in case they need to be replaced between now and then), and have been doing a few walks every week with a pack loaded with the amount of weight I anticipate carrying. So far, so good.

Here's the problem: I'm doing all this in my home town of New Orleans - which, as many of you may be aware, sits squarely at (and occasionally below) sea level.

My question to anyone who has walked the Camino from SJPdP after living/preparing in similar circumstances: How much did the altitudes affect your walking ability and stamina once you started walking? It's not so much the ups and downs I'm worried about: despite the notable lack of hills (much less mountain ranges) here in south Louisiana, I've been including as many staircases and ramps in my current perambulations as I can, in addition to incline intervals on the treadmill at the gym. So the muscles that will get me up and down those slopes and hills in France and Spain will (hopefully!) be in decent enough shape in five months' time.

But I'm concerned about the effects of an entire walk that will take place several hundred to over a thousand feet above the sea level that my body is used to. Save for a couple of very sporadic mountain hiking trips over the years and a few long layovers in the Denver airport, I've never spent much time at high altitudes.

How long should I expect any adjustment period to last? And is there anything else I can do to prepare for high altitude walking specifically? Any advice or perspective is most welcome.
I walked the French route starting on my 77th birthday Sept 18, 2019. I live in Dallas. I trained the way you described. Had no problem in fact I overtrained. One thing I learned half way up to Orisson was use your poles. i quickly learned the value of them. After 2-3 days you get Camino legs and hills are no problem. Now I only walked 15-20 k per day for the most part but could have walked further. I elected to smell the roses and interact with fellow pilgrims. I started walking @ 7:30-8:00 and walked til @ 2:00 or so. It was an amazing experience and will process it for years to come. Buen Camino
 

Sharry

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2020)
As part of my preparations for my first CF next year (SJPdP to Santiago and on to Muxia/Finisterre), I've been gradually increasing my usual 3km-5km daily constitutional to walks in the 5km-10km range, and expect to level that up to a minimum of 15-20km several times a week by the time I set out the first week in May. I'm already breaking in the shoes I plan to wear (and have a backup pair in case they need to be replaced between now and then), and have been doing a few walks every week with a pack loaded with the amount of weight I anticipate carrying. So far, so good.

Here's the problem: I'm doing all this in my home town of New Orleans - which, as many of you may be aware, sits squarely at (and occasionally below) sea level.

My question to anyone who has walked the Camino from SJPdP after living/preparing in similar circumstances: How much did the altitudes affect your walking ability and stamina once you started walking? It's not so much the ups and downs I'm worried about: despite the notable lack of hills (much less mountain ranges) here in south Louisiana, I've been including as many staircases and ramps in my current perambulations as I can, in addition to incline intervals on the treadmill at the gym. So the muscles that will get me up and down those slopes and hills in France and Spain will (hopefully!) be in decent enough shape in five months' time.

But I'm concerned about the effects of an entire walk that will take place several hundred to over a thousand feet above the sea level that my body is used to. Save for a couple of very sporadic mountain hiking trips over the years and a few long layovers in the Denver airport, I've never spent much time at high altitudes.

How long should I expect any adjustment period to last? And is there anything else I can do to prepare for high altitude walking specifically? Any advice or perspective is most welcome.
I once saw an exponential graph depicting oxygen levels to elevation. Essentially, the curve didn't start steepening until 4000 or 5000 feet. Years ago, the advice was that it took one day for every 1000 feet over 6000 feet to acclimate. You shouldn't experience any difficulties due to altitude.

You're an inspiration in terms of training. I'm hoping for my first camino next May and wondering how I'll find the time to train.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (May-June 2020)
Your real worry should be that New Orleans is as flat as a pancake. You will be facing a good stiff ascent your first day out from SJPP, another surprise at Castrojeriz and yet another at O'Cebeira - however, if you have walked the entire distance faithfully, doing your 15-20kl every day, you won't notice anything after SJPP.
Yes, that's been a concern - which is why I've been trying to incorporate as much staircase, ramp, and inclined treadmill walking in my pre-Camino perambulations around this gorgeous but hill-less city that I call home :)

Welcome to the forum! We are also from New Orleans (born & raised). My husband and I walked the Camino Frances from SJPP to SDC in May/June 2019. Altitude was never an issue for us.
Who Dat! You might be amused by the fact that part of my training involves has involved trudging up and down the staircases in the park on the river across from Jackson Square in the French Quarter. I'm sure I'm an odd sight in my 40L pack and hiking shoes ... but then it's the French Quarter, where odd sights are not uncommon 🤣 Always happy to hear about fellow New Orleanians who have walked the Camino! I appreciate the words of support!

I walked the French route starting on my 77th birthday Sept 18, 2019. I live in Dallas. I trained the way you described. Had no problem in fact I overtrained. One thing I learned half way up to Orisson was use your poles. i quickly learned the value of them. After 2-3 days you get Camino legs and hills are no problem. Now I only walked 15-20 k per day for the most part but could have walked further. I elected to smell the roses and interact with fellow pilgrims. I started walking @ 7:30-8:00 and walked til @ 2:00 or so. It was an amazing experience and will process it for years to come. Buen Camino
You're an inspiration! I'm definitely planning on taking my time en route to Santiago, as I also believe that frequent rose-smelling and interaction is a vital part of the experience. And I too am a big fan of hiking poles, but I'll be leaving the ones I've been using on my camping/hiking trips at home and will pick up a new pair at the Decathlon in Paris when I land, or at the Boutique du Pelerin in SJPdP before I begin walking since I prefer not to check luggage if I can help it. Couldn't imagine a walk of any duration without them, and have found they're especially necessary for me on the decents.

Thanks again to everyone who helped assauge my anxieties here. Y'all are truly the best :)
 

tpmchugh

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Camino Frances (2015)
Camino Frances (2016)
Camino Frances (2018}
As part of my preparations for my first CF next year (SJPdP to Santiago and on to Muxia/Finisterre), I've been gradually increasing my usual 3km-5km daily constitutional to walks in the 5km-10km range, and expect to level that up to a minimum of 15-20km several times a week by the time I set out the first week in May. I'm already breaking in the shoes I plan to wear (and have a backup pair in case they need to be replaced between now and then), and have been doing a few walks every week with a pack loaded with the amount of weight I anticipate carrying. So far, so good.

Here's the problem: I'm doing all this in my home town of New Orleans - which, as many of you may be aware, sits squarely at (and occasionally below) sea level.

My question to anyone who has walked the Camino from SJPdP after living/preparing in similar circumstances: How much did the altitudes affect your walking ability and stamina once you started walking? It's not so much the ups and downs I'm worried about: despite the notable lack of hills (much less mountain ranges) here in south Louisiana, I've been including as many staircases and ramps in my current perambulations as I can, in addition to incline intervals on the treadmill at the gym. So the muscles that will get me up and down those slopes and hills in France and Spain will (hopefully!) be in decent enough shape in five months' time.

But I'm concerned about the effects of an entire walk that will take place several hundred to over a thousand feet above the sea level that my body is used to. Save for a couple of very sporadic mountain hiking trips over the years and a few long layovers in the Denver airport, I've never spent much time at high altitudes.

How long should I expect any adjustment period to last? And is there anything else I can do to prepare for high altitude walking specifically? Any advice or perspective is most welcome.
No effect at all. Walked all my caminos in my late sixties and it never bothered me in the least. Also never walked more than 4 to 5 km at a time while training. Must admit I do have a bit of a hill where I live at about 90 metres but I live at 50 so no big deal. The camino is tough at times but it is not Kilimanjaro or hiking to base camp. Reasonable level of fitness is enough, you pick up the rest as you go. By the way, change your measurments to metres, not feet. The highest points are in the region of 4 to 4.5 thousand feet not 0.5 to 1000 feet. Dont let that put you off, its usually reasonably gentle slopes all the way up. I found the slope up to Orisson on the first day tough but I got there. Next day, the worst part was the slope down but more due to the gale blowing me off my feet. The next tough part for me was the slope up to A Faba. Next day, the rest of it up to O Cebreiro was not too bad. Basically, if I can do it, just about anyone can.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
You will need attitude adjustment, more than altitude adjustment. ;)
Not to be concerned; these are big hills rather than mountains. So go slow and one step at a time.
And when the mind slides into OMG realm, just pay attention to the feet and to the breath, slow down or rest if you need to, and be very careful to go at your own pace, rather than trying to keep up with anyone who is naturally faster than you.
Buen camino, @SenorJacques !
(And you can use the Dutch trick of training on stairs. Eschew the elevator: it works!)
 

malingerer

Active Member
is "tread" a deliberate cunning mistake? Should it read "thread" ? Makes sense in its own strange way :)

The malingerer. (over 80 and a "flatlander" ) I started as a mere youngster of 65 and have been cursing, puffing, panting moaning and falling ever since! Currently awaiting results from chest x rays, blood tests and CT scans! I wholeheartedly agree with attitude over altitude, especially when climbing two flights of stairs to my flat! Keep on truckin and buen camino!
 

c0484

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013
As part of my preparations for my first CF next year (SJPdP to Santiago and on to Muxia/Finisterre), I've been gradually increasing my usual 3km-5km daily constitutional to walks in the 5km-10km range, and expect to level that up to a minimum of 15-20km several times a week by the time I set out the first week in May. I'm already breaking in the shoes I plan to wear (and have a backup pair in case they need to be replaced between now and then), and have been doing a few walks every week with a pack loaded with the amount of weight I anticipate carrying. So far, so good.

Here's the problem: I'm doing all this in my home town of New Orleans - which, as many of you may be aware, sits squarely at (and occasionally below) sea level.

My question to anyone who has walked the Camino from SJPdP after living/preparing in similar circumstances: How much did the altitudes affect your walking ability and stamina once you started walking? It's not so much the ups and downs I'm worried about: despite the notable lack of hills (much less mountain ranges) here in south Louisiana, I've been including as many staircases and ramps in my current perambulations as I can, in addition to incline intervals on the treadmill at the gym. So the muscles that will get me up and down those slopes and hills in France and Spain will (hopefully!) be in decent enough shape in five months' time.

But I'm concerned about the effects of an entire walk that will take place several hundred to over a thousand feet above the sea level that my body is used to. Save for a couple of very sporadic mountain hiking trips over the years and a few long layovers in the Denver airport, I've never spent much time at high altitudes.

How long should I expect any adjustment period to last? And is there anything else I can do to prepare for high altitude walking specifically? Any advice or perspective is most welcome.
I have had a chronic lung problem since my friends and neighbors sent me to Vietnam (Agent Orange). The altitudes have been no problem.
 

isobelmtl

New Member
I w

I walked the French route starting on my 77th birthday Sept 18, 2019. I live in Dallas. I trained the way you described. Had no problem in fact I overtrained. One thing I learned half way up to Orisson was use your poles. i quickly learned the value of them. After 2-3 days you get Camino legs and hills are no problem. Now I only walked 15-20 k per day for the most part but could have walked further. I elected to smell the roses and interact with fellow pilgrims. I started walking @ 7:30-8:00 and walked til @ 2:00 or so. It was an amazing experience and will process it for years to come. Buen Camino
Thank you for this encouraging post. I will be doing my first Camino Frances in May 2020. I am 73 years old and in fairly good shape. I now go almost everywhere on foot rather than the metro to get around town and train once a week climbing our modest mountain here in Montreal. I worry about the first couple of days and have decided to stop in Orrison. I think that might mitigate the jet lag factor. I use my poles and love them. It is great to hear from someone in my own age group who did so well. Isobel in Montreal
 

Richard rr

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2018)
As part of my preparations for my first CF next year (SJPdP to Santiago and on to Muxia/Finisterre), I've been gradually increasing my usual 3km-5km daily constitutional to walks in the 5km-10km range, and expect to level that up to a minimum of 15-20km several times a week by the time I set out the first week in May. I'm already breaking in the shoes I plan to wear (and have a backup pair in case they need to be replaced between now and then), and have been doing a few walks every week with a pack loaded with the amount of weight I anticipate carrying. So far, so good.

Here's the problem: I'm doing all this in my home town of New Orleans - which, as many of you may be aware, sits squarely at (and occasionally below) sea level.

My question to anyone who has walked the Camino from SJPdP after living/preparing in similar circumstances: How much did the altitudes affect your walking ability and stamina once you started walking? It's not so much the ups and downs I'm worried about: despite the notable lack of hills (much less mountain ranges) here in south Louisiana, I've been including as many staircases and ramps in my current perambulations as I can, in addition to incline intervals on the treadmill at the gym. So the muscles that will get me up and down those slopes and hills in France and Spain will (hopefully!) be in decent enough shape in five months' time.

But I'm concerned about the effects of an entire walk that will take place several hundred to over a thousand feet above the sea level that my body is used to. Save for a couple of very sporadic mountain hiking trips over the years and a few long layovers in the Denver airport, I've never spent much time at high altitudes.

How long should I expect any adjustment period to last? And is there anything else I can do to prepare for high altitude walking specifically? Any advice or perspective is most welcome.
Hi, I live at sea level and completed the Camino this year without being aware of any altitude problems. Age 74 years and only avar
As part of my preparations for my first CF next year (SJPdP to Santiago and on to Muxia/Finisterre), I've been gradually increasing my usual 3km-5km daily constitutional to walks in the 5km-10km range, and expect to level that up to a minimum of 15-20km several times a week by the time I set out the first week in May. I'm already breaking in the shoes I plan to wear (and have a backup pair in case they need to be replaced between now and then), and have been doing a few walks every week with a pack loaded with the amount of weight I anticipate carrying. So far, so good.

Here's the problem: I'm doing all this in my home town of New Orleans - which, as many of you may be aware, sits squarely at (and occasionally below) sea level.

My question to anyone who has walked the Camino from SJPdP after living/preparing in similar circumstances: How much did the altitudes affect your walking ability and stamina once you started walking? It's not so much the ups and downs I'm worried about: despite the notable lack of hills (much less mountain ranges) here in south Louisiana, I've been including as many staircases and ramps in my current perambulations as I can, in addition to incline intervals on the treadmill at the gym. So the muscles that will get me up and down those slopes and hills in France and Spain will (hopefully!) be in decent enough shape in five months' time.

But I'm concerned about the effects of an entire walk that will take place several hundred to over a thousand feet above the sea level that my body is used to. Save for a couple of very sporadic mountain hiking trips over the years and a few long layovers in the Denver airport, I've never spent much time at high altitudes.

How long should I expect any adjustment period to last? And is there anything else I can do to prepare for high altitude walking specifically? Any advice or perspective is most welcome.
 

LewSher

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de France: start on 5/14/2019
As part of my preparations for my first CF next year (SJPdP to Santiago and on to Muxia/Finisterre), I've been gradually increasing my usual 3km-5km daily constitutional to walks in the 5km-10km range, and expect to level that up to a minimum of 15-20km several times a week by the time I set out the first week in May. I'm already breaking in the shoes I plan to wear (and have a backup pair in case they need to be replaced between now and then), and have been doing a few walks every week with a pack loaded with the amount of weight I anticipate carrying. So far, so good.

Here's the problem: I'm doing all this in my home town of New Orleans - which, as many of you may be aware, sits squarely at (and occasionally below) sea level.

My question to anyone who has walked the Camino from SJPdP after living/preparing in similar circumstances: How much did the altitudes affect your walking ability and stamina once you started walking? It's not so much the ups and downs I'm worried about: despite the notable lack of hills (much less mountain ranges) here in south Louisiana, I've been including as many staircases and ramps in my current perambulations as I can, in addition to incline intervals on the treadmill at the gym. So the muscles that will get me up and down those slopes and hills in France and Spain will (hopefully!) be in decent enough shape in five months' time.

But I'm concerned about the effects of an entire walk that will take place several hundred to over a thousand feet above the sea level that my body is used to. Save for a couple of very sporadic mountain hiking trips over the years and a few long layovers in the Denver airport, I've never spent much time at high altitudes.

How long should I expect any adjustment period to last? And is there anything else I can do to prepare for high altitude walking specifically? Any advice or perspective is most welcome.
Bradypus is quite right that you shouldn't be affected by the altitude, but the first day of your trip will be quite taxing. I would suggest that you find the tallest building you can and walk up the stairs under full pack as many times as possible. Your groin will appreciate it as well as the rest of your legs--believe me!
 

Vaughan

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francais April/May 2019
Camino Notre April/May 2020
I agree with everything said about altitude so far. I trek in the Himalayas each year and there is nothing on the Camino that should trouble your lungs. As others have said you will get fitter as you go anyway but it does put a lot of stress on your feet and legs (and back and shoulders if you carry too much weight - my pack was 9kgs). I think you have a really good training plan to prepare your body for that. Repeatedly walking these distances will find out your body's weak points and if you keep at it should strengthen and condition them sufficiently. I walked the full Camino Frances earlier this year (took 32 days) and I reckon I did around 500 training miles over the preceding 3 or 4 months. Final tip - start early each day and then you are not forced to rush which is more stressful on the body plus you don't feel any pressure to keep going when tempting cafes appear!
 

AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
please see signature
As part of my preparations for my first ...
Here's something that is hard to prepare for or simulate unless you have a hill to go up and/or down.

Starting in early 2012 my preparation was similar to yours, except I had real hills, up to about 400 metres of elevation gain.

I started from Le Puy-en-Velay (south-central France) early April 2016 and encountered no real hills until leaving Saint-Jean on 2 May. I was aware I was passing people who stopped to adjust their clothing or their pack or have a breather or whatever. And also aware that no one was passing me. Which I through strange, as my steps were very short. On 3 May I stooped at Zalbaldika and there was a chat and short service of Evening Prayer in the church adjoining the albergue. The young people wanted to know why I was so "fast", as they described it.

Reflecting for a moment I demonstrated how I walked from 200 m asl to around 1400 m asl in 14 km or so, and it was this. For each step I:
1) moved the toes of one foot about 100 mm (4 inches) in front of the other;
2) breathed in on one footfall and breathed out on the other foot touching the ground;
3) lifted each foot just enough to clear the path (a few mm - less than 1/4 inch);
and I didn't stop until Orisson, then only to check the weather, and quickly moved on.
My upper body clothing was a single long sleeve merino top because of the low cloud cover forecast for the whole morning and because it was towards the end of Spring.

I would do the same short pace for a steep descent. Tortoise like in both respects. A key elements was to keep my breathing in step with my footfalls.

Looking forward to hearing of your safe arrival in western Galicia.

So, @SenorJacques , kia kaha (take care, be strong, get going)
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I worry about the first couple of days and have decided to stop in Orrison. I think that might mitigate the jet lag factor.
Excellent plan to stop at Orisson. Have you already booked it?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2018)
I came from Vancouver, Canada when I went (also sea level living), and previous to Vancouver I lived somewhere that was also insignificantly above sea level...and I was born on the other coast...also essentially sea level. I did not have any altitude effects on my Camino that I can recall. Since my Camino, I have traveled to part of Washington State that have tall mountains (in preparation for a high-elevation trip) and then traveled to Colorado (the high elevation trip) where I spent time (several consecutive days) above 10,000 feet. I now know what altitude effects feel like (holy crap) and definitely did not feel those on the Camino. **This is entirely anecdotal as altitude effects are different for everyone.**

For some non-anecdotal info; wikipedia has a section on altitude that shows that, medically, the 'regions' are defined starting at 1500m. The highest point on the Camino Frances is, I believe, 1515m or 1530m - and the rest of the route travels well below that range (i.e. the high point stands out as unique). Wikipedia (again, yay wikipedia!) has a section on altitude sickness that clarifies that 'sickness symptoms' aren't expected below 2500m. Herego, you aren't in 'altitude effects range' on the Camino. There's always the caveats that like 'some people are affected at lower altitudes', etc, but that would be considered outside the norm.

Buen Camino!
 

SusanH

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked 2014
You will be 100% fine. I walked at the age of 45 weighing 240. I didn’t do nearly the training that you are doing!
 

TinaPEI

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Hopefully sometime....
I feel your pain. In my province, the highest elevation is 140 meters or 459 feet. I will say that I didn't train like you are training, but I was out of breath any time we walked up hill. I could do it, but I was definitely short of breath. I hope to train a little better for my next Camino, which will hopefully be this coming summer.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
I feel your pain. In my province, the highest elevation is 140 meters or 459 feet. I will say that I didn't train like you are training, but I was out of breath any time we walked up hill. I could do it, but I was definitely short of breath. I hope to train a little better for my next Camino, which will hopefully be this coming summer.
If you are living where I think you are, this little walk might be good training for a Camino: https://theislandwalk.info/
 

TinaPEI

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Hopefully sometime....
Some of my friends did it this year! I followed their journey closely! It is not too hard to figure out where I am, eh?
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
Every time I see this thread, I have to adjust my glasses. I keep thinking it is attitude adjustment. To be honest, I love the double take, it makes me stop and think. Sorry for derailing your thread! (Well, almost sorry...)
Hahaha! Me too! In fact, I've passed it by several times and just now realized it was "ALtitude!"
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
No as I am not sure of dates yet. I want to start in early May but I cannot book flights until January 2020. Merry christmas and Happy New Year
As soon as you have your dates set, book Orisson. As they only have 28 beds, and May is very popular to start the Camino it's highly possible that they will already be full.

 
Thread starter OLDER threads on this topic Forum Replies Date
wcsjms Camino Frances 13
C Camino Frances 10
rita n/ Camino Frances 31
Urban Trekker Camino Frances 7
J Camino Frances 5

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