Search over 55.000 Camino Questions

A donation to the forum removes ads for you, and supports Ivar in his work running it

Advertisement

Any tips for a first timer starting out in February 2018?

Martin Ennis

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2018)
I am planning to undertake a Lent Pilgrimage this coming year and am wary of travelling too light in the early part of the year... others reckon I may find rather a lot of snow... has anyone been on the Camino Frances in the early part of the year recently? Hints and tips much appreciated...
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

MichelleElynHogan

Veteran Member
The weather is not as predictable and generally colder and wetter. In addition, not all albergues are open. Pack weight is heavier due to more clothing, heavier rain gear, boots etc, and heavier sleeping bag. The Route Napolean will be closed due to snow, (and you do not want to walk up / down 28 km in the snow and no one wants you to either). The Vacarlos Route will be essential.

It may be wise to determine a good list of open albergues before going. With fewer open, hotels will have to fill in, where available.

Any help?
 

Sarah Fisher

Master Traveler, Novice Walker
Camino(s) past & future
September 2018 - Camino Frances
At what time of year does the Route Napoleon usually reopen? I'm considering starting around the 1st of April.
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
At what time of year does the Route Napoleon usually reopen? I'm considering starting around the 1st of April.

The Napoleon route is officially closed by Navarra law from 1 November through 31 March.

Whatever the time of year before you set out be sure to ask at the SJPdP Pilgrim Office, 39 rue de LaCitadelle, what are current forcasted weather and trail conditions.
 
Last edited:

poogeyejr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte, May 2011
Norte, Sept 2013
Frances, 1wk, Jan 2017
The Napoleon route is officially closed by Navarra law from 1 November through 31 March.

But can open later if there is alot of snow.

Also - take lists of open albergues with a grain of salt. I found a few that were closed even though a kind person a few days earlier had them on a list of open albergues.
 

Sarah Fisher

Master Traveler, Novice Walker
Camino(s) past & future
September 2018 - Camino Frances
Ok one more question! The route Napoleon is THE route from Saint Jean to Roncesvalle? Or is there another way through? I want to challenge myself with the first day's walk so I'm fairly adamant on starting in France. Kinda "shocking" myself into it, if you will. I just saw that Easter falls exactly on April 1st next year, so hopefully that will also mean most places will be open. Is that when a lot of people start? If so, I may be doing the same.
 

HedaP

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances starting SJPdP Sept/Oct 2015, April/May 2017
Sorry can't advise about walking in February but you've got lots of expert advice above. I did start 2 April this year from SJPdP. The Napoleon route was still closed due to snow. I took the Valcarlos route staying at Valcarlos municipal albergue on the way. This route has it's own challenges including a good rise in elevation on the second day that is only 200 metres less than the Napoleon. There was still snow on the ground at Roncesvalles.
I was nervous starting out as not used to snow. I took pretty much what I took for walking in September/October ie. plenty of layers including a set of long silk thermals, tshirt, long sleeved shirt, fleece jacket, rain jacket, long trousers and rain pants plus hat, gloves and buff. I carried a sleeping bag as well as a big plastic garbage bag to line my pack on rainy days and as a waterproof divy bag should it ever be needed. This latter is no doubt packing my fears as the saying goes. o_O
One new exception was that I packed a fleece vest but found it too hot to walk in so it was donated to an albergue early on in the walk. The other exception was a pair of waterproof socks because I walked in trail runners. I ended up using the waterproof socks on rainy days and walking in wool socks through snow because the waterproof socks kept my feet bone dry but my toes got chilly. If there's ever a next time I would start early to mid March.
BTW I just looked up the dates of Semana santa (easter week) for 2018 and they are 25-31 March. Semana santa a wonderful time to be on the camino but don't tell anyone else. ;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
Ok one more question! The route Napoleon is THE route from Saint Jean to Roncesvalle? Or is there another way through? I want to challenge myself with the first day's walk so I'm fairly adamant on starting in France.
There are two routes to get from St. Jean to Roncevalles. They diverge shortly after you pass the Spanish Gate in St. Jean.

One route takes you through the valley where the highway between the town runs. It goes through the town of Valcarlos and reaches its high point of 1060 m (or so) at the Puerte de Ibaneta. This route is called the Valcarlos Route.

The other route is the Route Napoleon which goes up a ridge on the east side of the Valcarlos valley. It goes along a road past an albergue at Orisson and it eventually diverges from the road to follow a trail to the high point of the Col de Lepoeder at 1426 m (or so.) From there it takes a trail often described as steep and slippery to Roncevalles. However the Pilgrims' office in St. Jean recommends that you take a road down from the Col de Lepoeder to the Puerte de Ibaneta and then follow the Valcarlos Route to Roncevalles.

Although you reach a higher elevation above sea level when you take the Route Napoleon you actually do more uphill walking on the Valcarlos route. That is because as you follow the main valley you encounter a number of smaller valleys leading into the main one so there is a lot of walking down and then up again as you encounter these. The numbers I found analysing some GPS tracks are:



Valcarlos route (SJPdP - Valcarlos - Puerte de Ibaneta - Roncevalles):
Distance: 22.9 km / 14.2 mi​
Elevation gain: 1541 m / 5054 ft​
Elevation loss: -754 m / -2473 ft​


Route Napoleon (SJPdP - Orisson - Col de Lepoeder - Puerte de Ibaneta - Roncevalles):
Distance: 25.05 km / 15.57 mi​
Elevation gain: 1449 m / 4755 ft​
Elevation loss: -663 m / -2174 ft​


I would say from the above that both routes are about as equally tiring.

You can pick up a copy of the map that the Pilgrims' office gives you from either of these two locations:
http://www.aucoeurduchemin.org/local/cache-vignettes/L600xH850/img-a2aaf.jpg
http://www.xacobeo.fr/ZE1.11.Aqu.Nav.SJPP-Ron.Cize.pdf

Attached is a profile comparison of the two routes:
stage1-profile.png
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Go easy.

It is good to train while wearing/carrying whatever you plan to take. Tried and true is better than new and never worn/used for all your camino gear. Although training is most important nothing really prepares your body for the daily repeated routine of walking the camino week after week except walking daily with all your kit week after week.

Although I had walked throughout the summer hiking 20 k up the 1060 meter Ibaneta pass via the Valcarlos route the first time in autumn 2004 at 65 to the monastery at Roncesvalles was certainly the most physically exhausting day of my adult life then to date. I was pooped! Beneath a deep blue sky and brilliant sun I gasped and ached while my pack felt like bricks.

After about 5 hours I finally staggered over the pass into a picnic area filled with a munching mob; they had arrived by bus and cars! Never will I forget the look that one très correct French woman drinking champagne from a crystal flute, no plastic for her, gave me as I trudged past exhausted!
ET would have been better received....Nevertheless eventually I made it to Santiago walking slowly all the way.

Ever since I always walk very easy. Daily distances cited in the guidebooks are not sacred; remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare.

On every camino I have eventually sensed that special moment when everything 'clicked' while realizing that it was, indeed, MY way and that all was and would be good. Perhaps such secular transcendence felt while walking might be akin to what runners call 'the zone'. Your body can handle the task while your spirit glows with the effort. Neither easy, nor impossible; all simply is.
Thus, you resolve to continue.
 

Turga

Camino tortuga
Camino(s) past & future
CF (Aug/Sep 2017)
CF (Aug/Sep 2018)
Ever since I always walk very easy. Daily distances cited in the guidebooks are not sacred; remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare.

Amen to that!

On the stretch from Astorga to Rabanal I came across this very old man walking very slowly with only a bumbag and a bottle of water in his hand. I passed him three times that day and every time I took a rest, shortly after he would pass by in his slow, steady pace. That taught me a lesson.
 
Last edited:

Sarah Fisher

Master Traveler, Novice Walker
Camino(s) past & future
September 2018 - Camino Frances
Thank you all for the replies! My issue, being from the US, is that I should probably book a roundtrip ticket so find myself debating a time limit but want to do it all at once and on a limited budget. I just can't really get into the spirit of dividing it up, planning to go from St. Jean to Santiago, maybe to Finisterre but would gladly take a bus. I do plan on training as well as I can over the winter.

Considering making my end point plane departure around the 40th day-ish. Finishing as early as possible then getting to Madrid or Barcelona by train. Maybe seeing a little bit and living cheap in a hostel. I will be flying, most likely, into Paris as my city has a direct flight there (the only direct flight to Europe in the the 3 surrounding states!).
 

Advertisement

Booking.com

Similar threads

Camino Conversations

Camino Conversations

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Forum Donation

Forum Donation
For those with no forum account, it is possible to donate here as well. Thank you for your support! Ivar

Follow Casa Ivar on Instagram

Most downloaded Resources

When is the best time to walk?

  • January

    Votes: 16 1.2%
  • February

    Votes: 10 0.8%
  • March

    Votes: 56 4.2%
  • April

    Votes: 200 15.2%
  • May

    Votes: 328 24.9%
  • June

    Votes: 95 7.2%
  • July

    Votes: 24 1.8%
  • August

    Votes: 27 2.0%
  • September

    Votes: 380 28.8%
  • October

    Votes: 158 12.0%
  • November

    Votes: 17 1.3%
  • December

    Votes: 7 0.5%

Camino Forum Store

Camino Forum Store
Top