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Time of past OR future Camino
12/23
I’m planning to start the CF the beginning of the 2nd week of December. I read it is mandatory to take the alternative winter route! I understand why but winter doesn’t officially begin till December 21. So, when does it become mandatory/winter? I’m experienced in winter hiking/camping and hiked the Appalachian trail twice and lived 10 years on the Canadian border, so I’m capable and won’t need someone to come rescue me. I don’t expect anything to be open before Roncevaille and can easily carry enough supplies to last 4 or 5 days.
 
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Yes there is often debate about when the seasons "officially" change. However in the case of the Napoleon Trail of the Camino Frances - from St Jean to Roncesvalles - the Spanish authorities close their section of the trail from November 1 until March 31 (ie for 5 months). Yes you could take that trail, but if you need to be rescued by the Spanish authorities you could be up for a fine of more than 5000 Euros (plus the cost of said rescue). Best advice - is take the Valcarlos option, and even it has a climb to around 1000 metres. Any study of the weather in the Pyrenees will tell you that it can snow/sleet above 1200 metres on any day of the year.
 
It is not a question of your personal abilities. The Route Napoleon is closed to pedestrians from 1 November to 31 March inclusive by Spanish law. More specifically a local law enacted by the government of the province of Navarra. I believe there is a loophole which allows for a special permit to be obtained but that is probably more trouble than it is worth. Those who walk the route in the closed period lay themselves open to very substantial fines - plus costs for any rescue if they should prove less competent than you believe yourself to be.

Why do you think it is relevant that you can carry supplies for 4 or 5 days on a route which most people of average fitness can easily walk in a single day? Do you expect to make unusually slow progress? The route is not a difficult technical challenge despite the often lurid and breathless descriptions you may have read online. For most of its length the Route Napoleon parallels a sealed road or follows a broad and well-surfaced forestry track which is readily accessible to 4wd vehicles. Most people have breakfast in SJPDP and dinner in Roncesvalles having managed an hour or two of sleep before dinner. If you really believe that you will need four days of supplies then perhaps you should re-evaluate your fitness for the route in winter.
 
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I’m planning to start the CF the beginning of the 2nd week of December. I read it is mandatory to take the alternative winter route! I understand why but winter doesn’t officially begin till December 21. So, when does it become mandatory/winter? I’m experienced in winter hiking/camping and hiked the Appalachian trail twice and lived 10 years on the Canadian border, so I’m capable and won’t need someone to come rescue me. I don’t expect anything to be open before Roncevaille and can easily carry enough supplies to last 4 or 5 days.
You can go ahead and walk over the Pyrenees any time you choose. Only a few miles further south-east of the Route Napoleon people will be out climbing and walking at their own risk in challenging winter conditions.

The route of the Frances passes through the foothills on decent tracks but passage is prohibited by a by-law during the winter season. That is because the vast majority of Peregrinos are not experienced winter climbers or walkers and would be at significant risk. The authorities have neither the time, resources or patience to separate the sheep from the goats.

So: don’t take it personally; equally don’t be a smart-arse. If you want to walk that route, obey the law. If you want to do something much harder and - frankly - more interesting, the Pyrenees, the Alps and much of Scandinavia offer countless opportunity. If you really want to put your money where your mouth is, try winter climbing in Scotland.
 
I believe there is a loophole which allows for a special permit to be obtained but that is probably more trouble than it is worth
No, there is no option for a special permit. This option was considered when the law about the closure of the Napoleon trail was introduced during the first year but it was never implemented and it is not an option.

Yes you could take that trail, but if you need to be rescued by the Spanish authorities you could be up for a fine of more than 5000 Euros (plus the cost of said rescue).
I don't know why this is even being brought up. You visit a foreign country. You respect the laws of this country. Spanish law says that their section of the eastern Camino trail ("Route Napoleon") is closed from 1 November until 31 March. It's the law. Respect it. No matter what the weather is like, no matter what your level of experience is. It does not matter. The legal closure applies to each and every pilgrim without exception.
 
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I’m experienced in winter hiking/camping and hiked the Appalachian trail twice and lived 10 years on the Canadian border, so I’m capable and won’t need someone to come rescue me.
I don't think so. I have experience from winter training in the Norwegian army in Arctic Norway. I have been an instructor for Nato soldiers on how to survive in winter warfare. I would never dream of crossing the Pyrenees 2nd week of December. If you still do and then need rescue, you will have to pay for it, seriously. For a good reason: You will have behaved recklessly, putting not only yourself, but also rescue teams, in danger.
 
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Beyond just the Napoleon Trail, Caminos undertaken between November and March are often considered to be "Winter Caminos" ; Albergues and so on have their Winter opening or more often closure.

The official dates for Winter are one thing, but in practice, "Winter" is a notion that is often variable by local contexts.
 
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Well, there's another new member who won't be back......... :rolleyes:
Thanks Robb but I know from having been around certain hiking communities there are some who, at the very least, are self ascribed know it alls and rub it in the faces of people who ask a straightforward question.
Suffice to say, the pertinent takeaways from these answers are; an actual law and specific timeframe (my research hadn’t mentioned that, so in doing my due diligence, I inquired here) there is a significant fine and additional costs if I did need to be rescued, if that were the case I could put rescuers and in harms way, the weather at that altitude and location is extremely unpredictable and a couple lesser concerns, as well.
If there is a law and specific timeframe, end of story, enough said. It’s safe to say there’s very good reason for the law and the timeframe and I’m law abiding regardless of what country I’m in!
I doubt I’d post any other questions and simply dig way deeper when a question does arise. I’ll continue to be a member for now and when I do post from the various Caminos, it will just be the occasional photo thanks for the answer to my question Camino community. I very much appreciate your input and insights.
Buen Camino
 
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Thanks Robb but I know from having been around certain hiking communities there are some who, at the very least, are self ascribed know it alls and rub it in the faces of people who ask a straightforward question.
Suffice to say, the pertinent takeaways from these answers are; an actual law and specific timeframe (my research hadn’t mentioned that, so in doing my due diligence, I inquired here) there is a significant fine and additional costs if I did need to be rescued, if that were the case I could put rescuers and in harms way, the weather at that altitude and location is extremely unpredictable and a couple lesser concerns, as well.
If there is a law and specific timeframe, end of story, enough said. It’s safe to say there’s very good reason for the law and the timeframe and I’m law abiding regardless of what country I’m in!
I doubt I’d post any other questions and simply dig way deeper when a question does arise. I’ll continue to be a member for now and when I do post from the various Caminos, it will just be the occasional photo thanks for the answer to my question Camino community. I very much appreciate your input and insights.
Buen Camino
Thanks for your gracious response after you received some pretty harsh answers.
 
Thanks Robb but I know from having been around certain hiking communities there are some who, at the very least, are self ascribed know it alls and rub it in the faces of people who ask a straightforward question.
Suffice to say, the pertinent takeaways from these answers are; an actual law and specific timeframe (my research hadn’t mentioned that, so in doing my due diligence, I inquired here) there is a significant fine and additional costs if I did need to be rescued, if that were the case I could put rescuers and in harms way, the weather at that altitude and location is extremely unpredictable and a couple lesser concerns, as well.
If there is a law and specific timeframe, end of story, enough said. It’s safe to say there’s very good reason for the law and the timeframe and I’m law abiding regardless of what country I’m in!
I doubt I’d post any other questions and simply dig way deeper when a question does arise. I’ll continue to be a member for now and when I do post from the various Caminos, it will just be the occasional photo thanks for the answer to my question Camino community. I very much appreciate your input and insights.
Buen Camino

First of all, welcome to the forum!

This is usually a very friendly and respectful community. Sorry you got some very harsh answers instead of a welcome.

I guess the problem ist that each year, pilgrims overestimate themselves (and underestimate the risk, because the path is not at very high altitude), ignore the winter closure of the Napoleon route, and then need to be rescued. Before the path was closed for pilgrims in the winter time, pilgrims have died up there in the snow. Maybe that's why some replies you got were so harsh - in good intention. Still, it can be said in a more friendly way.

There's endless information about everything concerning the Camino to be found via the search function of the forum. But you can also ask questions. Most of us love to answer them (even if the questions have been asked countless times before) :)

Happy Camino planning and Buen Camino!
 
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Why do you think it is relevant that you can carry supplies for 4 or 5 days on a route which most people of average fitness can easily walk in a single day?
The answer lies in the original question. The OP knows what he's doing. He's not someone that's only ever walked the Camino, He's an experienced backwoods hiker, with experience walking in snow etc. Any half decent hiker with a background like that would carry a minimum of an extra couple of days of food, so that should an unforeseen event such as a full-blown storm come through he would not need rescue. Unlike many first questions from new members he gave us all the information we needed to give him a reasonable answer (rather than a lecture.).

@TiedyeAT, I can but echo @trecile .

Welcome, and enjoy your Camino. After hiking the AT twice I hope that you're not disappointed with the CF. ! Technical, it is not. If you've kept your fitness up you probably find you're doing about double the mileage that most of us do if not more. Buen Camino, and I look forward to your posts from the trail!
 
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Thanks Robb but I know from having been around certain hiking communities there are some who, at the very least, are self ascribed know it alls and rub it in the faces of people who ask a straightforward question.
Suffice to say, the pertinent takeaways from these answers are; an actual law and specific timeframe (my research hadn’t mentioned that, so in doing my due diligence, I inquired here) there is a significant fine and additional costs if I did need to be rescued, if that were the case I could put rescuers and in harms way, the weather at that altitude and location is extremely unpredictable and a couple lesser concerns, as well.
There are also times outside of the stated dates when bad weather conditions can cause the closure of that route.

Coming through there on the valley route on the 1st January this year, I saw there was no snow anywhere, but right up on top there was some potentially dangerous very strong wind that day, strong enough to possibly blow you over, even if you were big and strong. In practice, there is some degree of tolerance from the authorities in case of a warm dry winter and non-dangerous conditions up there, but it's cold and wet this year, the snow's already coming down, and so there will be no such tolerance from them on your own dates this year.

It's mainly the growing number of Winter pilgrims that has led to the end of the previous individual case-by-case assessment of each pilgrim individually, and this law was enacted for the protection of pilgrims, as the great majority have no experience at all of hiking in adverse conditions, let alone mountain ones. Up until the early 1990s, only about 5 to 10 pilgrims a month would head over to Roncesvalles in Winter, most having walked to SJPP from further away and so already accustomed to the weather at least, so that conditions on the day and each individual pilgrim's ability & kit and any mandates from the Police were what determined outcomes.
 
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