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Christmas/winter Camino 2019

Gumba

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF with my husband and two boys in March 2018
Planning a winter CF in 2019/2020
#1
Hi,

Since walking the CF in March of this year, we have been planning our next camino and thinking of starting 15th December 2019. That will put us in Najera of Christmas Eve/Day.

We had a few days of snow, including 25cm in Zubiri but we are Aussies so are pretty clueless when it comes to snow/really cold weather. We (me, husband and two boys who will be 11 and 13 in 2019) were usually among the last to leave so the paths were clear of snow, so we never really walked in anything more than a couple of cm's.

so a few questions:

1. We loved our Merrill Moab trainers - will we be able to wear these again? I cannot wear hiking boots. Would we need snow boots.

2. I am afraid of being caught in a blizzard, especially as we are walking with our children. Of course we will monitor the weather daily, but is it likely to change unexpectedly in your experience? Generally speaking, how many days will we be walking in the snow? I know it varies, I just want to get a bit of an idea as to how far the snow will extend over the Camino during Dec/Jan.

3. Did you find that you needed to walk more along the highway rather than the Camino paths? Can you let me now of your experiences here.

4. We wont be planning on taking sleeping bags, what is the availability of hotels or accom other than albergues? Is there a list of winter accomodation?

5. Clothing - apart from gloves were were more than happy to with our clothes - layering and merino. Any tips? Should we have balaclavas or similar?

6. What was it like walking down Alto de Perdon - would the road be better in winter time?

7. Are supermarkets open on Christmas Eve? Am guessing there will be not restaurants/bars open, we are thinking of staying in the same accom as this year which had a kitchen so buying enough food for a couple of days

8. I know there will be no bag transport but will it be doable to get a taxi to transport our bags on the odd day where we ill want a break?

9. Can we get water along the way or will it be frozen?

Would be grateful for any advice you may have..
 
Last edited:

Anamiri

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances
#2
I havent walked in winter, but not all villages have hotels/hostels, and I have heard that not everything is open. If you don't take sleeping bags I would think you might have to taxi a lot to find hotels with warm rooms and bedding.
I imagine that the mountain areas would be quite cold, they were cool even in early summer.
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Camino Inglés 2018

Now: http://egeria.house/
#3
Hi, I have a few winter caminos under my belt, so here a few tips and opinions.

1. You will need warm, ankle high shoes/boots that keep the cold and snow out, also gaiters or rain trousers/pants that cover the top of your shoes/boots. Trainers are not enough imo for a winter camino.

2. Yes, the weather can change quickly, especially in the mountains and in the meseta. As for how many days of snow, nobody can tell you that but additionally I would also count with many days of cold rain.

3. I managed to walk mostly on the Camino but was happy to choose the road when the path was dodgy, for example for the descent to El Acebo.

4. Unless you stay exclusively in hotels and similar, take sleeping bags! List of winter albergues can be found here (will be updated closer to the time): http://www.aprinca.com/alberguesinvierno/

5. You certainly need warm, wolly hats or similar.

6. I managed fine, never took the road, but I had good weather.

7. Pretty much everything is closed around Christmas and then again for Epiphany, 6th January.

8. Check with paqmochila@correos.com and https://www.elcaminoconcorreos.com/en/rucksack-transfer if they cover your dates. Taxis are available in bigger towns and normally widely advertised.

Buen Camino, SY
 
#4
Although I agree with almost all of SY's thorough answers, I tend to disagree on point 1 regarding shoes. I walked during that period last year (December 26-January 8 Burgos to Sarria) and did fine with Goretex low Salomon walking shoes but we were lucky with weather going through Foncebadón and down through Molinaseca and El Acebo. We only had snow the day we left O Cebreiro and once again, my shoes were fine on the trails. I never walked along the road due to poor conditions. One just never knows year to year but I have yet to wear boots during my 9 years of walking Caminos.

The website www.aprinca.com served me well but check it regularly as it is updated almost daily. We found that some albergues were open, for example the municipal in Pereje, although not on the list and at least one was on it but closed (the municipal in Molinaseca). If in doubt call.

Should you make it as far as Ponferrada I would be pleased to welcome you at the Albergue Parroquial San Nicolás de Flüe where I will be volunteering during the first two weeks of January. I plan on walking either from Sahagún or León to Ponferrada and so hope to spend New Year's Eve there.

Ultreia!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
#5
To further your research re Walking in Winter see these earlier recent threads filled with useful links and tips.

https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/logrono-to-burgos-in-january.50991/

https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/november-december-cf.50932/

https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/walking-the-camino-in-december-january.37261/

Sillydoll who is a Forum member has in her blog compiled encyclopedic information on Winter Walking.
http://amawalker.blogspot.fr/2009/10/walking-in-winter.html?m=1

Twice during winter caminos I have sat out true blizzards; in Villafranca Montes de Oca, February 25, 26, 2006 and Foncebadón, March 5,6, 2009. Even late November 2012 the climb up to O Cebreiro was packed with snow. You can see the snow and read my blog accounts of these three memorable storms here. http://mermore.blogspot.fr/p/memories.html
Luckily open albergues offered welcoming shelter, heat and companionship.

Most of us who walk in late autumn and winter wear and carry lightweight but warm layers which can easily be added or removed while walking. Each pilgrim develops a favorite combo. Scan the Forum's Equipment topic http://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/forums/equipment-questions.30/
to see a multitude of varied approaches. Here's mine
http://mermore.blogspot.fr/p/kit-and-tips.html

Remember winter is a great time to walk, but you must be PREPARED!

Happy planning, stay safe and Buen camino!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Walked the Camino Frances starting at SJPDP in January - February 2018.
#6
Hello Gumba

Interesting contribution you make: I too prefer the Camino in winter.

"2. I know it varies, I just want to get a bit of an idea as to how far the snow will extend over the Camino during Dec/Jan."
Impossible to predict. The three mountainous sections: the Pyrrenees, the section between Leon and Ponferrada, and the section upto O Cebreiro - these are where you might experience snow. But for me, these were the most beautiful and exhilerating sections; I wouldn't have missed them for the world. If the forecast is for deep or driving snow, then your options would be (a) take a day of rest until conditions improve or (b) take a bus / taxi through the worst bits.

"3. Did you find that you needed to walk more along the highway rather than the Camino paths? Can you let me now of your experiences here."

A fair bit of the official Camino route involves walking on minor roads: but they are really 'minor' with very little traffic. The only time I deliberately chose to leave the official route was: Day 1 /2 (from St Jean to Valcarlos to Roncesvalles) where you are more-less-obliged to take to road route but, again, the roads are very quiet (at that time of year); and on the walk up to O'Cebreiro (when we were advised that the snow was obscuring the line of the path and the waymarkings): But the road up the mountain was quiet and in its own way quite beautiful.

"4. We wont be planning on taking sleeping bags, what is the availability of hotels or accom other than albergues? Is there a list of winter accomodation?"

In addition to the specialised website for winter accommodation, my experience (January - February 2018) was that all the albergues I stayed in put the heating on, to the extent that my 4-season sleeping bag was way too warm. But I wouldn't like to survive a night in an albergue without any sort of bag. If you could manage to take very lightweight 2-season bags would be a very good idea. When I needed a private room, I found booking.com really reliable and useful: I just browsed the possibilities the day before.



5. Clothing - apart from gloves were were more than happy to with our clothes - layering and merino. Any tips? Should we have balaclavas or similar?

"6. What was it like walking down Alto de Perdon - would the road be better in winter time?"
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. I really don't know why it has such a reputation. Just take your time: and a pair of hiking poles.

9. Can we get water along the way or will it be frozen?

Yes, I did come across frozen water fountains a couple of times. I found that one litre of water got me through most days. And if I stopped at a bar/cafe, I didn't even need that much. I only wanted more water on the warmer days (walking in tee shirts!).
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF December 2017
#7
Hi Gum
Fellow Aussie here. Yes we are clueless about winter! I did CF last year about 4 weeks ahead of your schedule. Left 13 Nov and finished 17 Dec. SJPP to SdC. Every year will be different but my experience was;
1. I started with Merrill hiking boots, and ditched them in Leon for Salomon Ultra trainers. They were giving me blisters and I needed a soft top. They were fine rest of trip and we ploughed through some fairly heavy snow O’Cebriero 11 Dec and also day after. Unless I was doing it end of winter in big snow, I would use the Salomon again.
2. We got 5 days of rain and 4 days of snow out of 33 walking days. In the main, lovely sunny days 2-10 degrees. Coldest coming out of Leon at -8. Snow Roncesvalles, a bit on the Meseta, Foncebaddon, and O’Cebreiro. Got a bit hairy trying to find O’Cebreiro in a snow storm so you do have to be careful. Check with locals as you go, especially with the kids.
3. We tried to stay off the roads as much as possible and stick to the Camino pathway. But you soon realise the Camino is designed to take a tortuous path to the same destination. That I assume is to keep the summer volumes off the road. In winter no cars about, so walk the road if you feel like it. But I must say the best days were struggling through the snow on the Camino itself. For Aussies, magnificent, as we are not used to seeing it like that.
4. No SBags a risk IMO. There are some places, like Hontanas, with nothing open except the Albergues. And blankets/heating cannot be totally relied upon. I was in/out of my SB the whole trip depending on where we stayed and the heating situation, but occasionally I was really glad I had it.
5. Acccomodation- this is how we did it. We were 2 mates prepared to share a room if we could get one. Check booking.com, if on there then hostel/hotel will be open. Same for Casa Rural. Check out Albergues - if new mates going there, tag along. Use Gronze.com but get friendly with a Spaniard to read it, as I could never get it to work in English. The Pilgrim Office in SJPP gives you a list of open Albergues but no one used it - all done online. Every cafe has wifi so you can check ahead each day over coffee.

Stuff on clothes etc I will leave for others. If I see a hill I break out in a sweat so I’m the worst person to ask about winter clothing.

But wonderful experience and fantastic you are taking the kids. You will have a ball.
Good luck and Buen Camino
 

SafariGirl

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés, Vía de la Plata, Primitivo, Norte, Lebaniego & Vadiniense,
Aragonés
#8
Hi Gum
Fellow Aussie here. Yes we are clueless about winter! I did CF last year about 4 weeks ahead of your schedule. Left 13 Nov and finished 17 Dec. SJPP to SdC. Every year will be different but my experience was;
1. I started with Merrill hiking boots, and ditched them in Leon for Salomon Ultra trainers. They were giving me blisters and I needed a soft top. They were fine rest of trip and we ploughed through some fairly heavy snow O’Cebriero 11 Dec and also day after. Unless I was doing it end of winter in big snow, I would use the Salomon again.
2. We got 5 days of rain and 4 days of snow out of 33 walking days. In the main, lovely sunny days 2-10 degrees. Coldest coming out of Leon at -8. Snow Roncesvalles, a bit on the Meseta, Foncebaddon, and O’Cebreiro. Got a bit hairy trying to find O’Cebreiro in a snow storm so you do have to be careful. Check with locals as you go, especially with the kids.
3. We tried to stay off the roads as much as possible and stick to the Camino pathway. But you soon realise the Camino is designed to take a tortuous path to the same destination. That I assume is to keep the summer volumes off the road. In winter no cars about, so walk the road if you feel like it. But I must say the best days were struggling through the snow on the Camino itself. For Aussies, magnificent, as we are not used to seeing it like that.
4. No SBags a risk IMO. There are some places, like Hontanas, with nothing open except the Albergues. And blankets/heating cannot be totally relied upon. I was in/out of my SB the whole trip depending on where we stayed and the heating situation, but occasionally I was really glad I had it.
5. Acccomodation- this is how we did it. We were 2 mates prepared to share a room if we could get one. Check booking.com, if on there then hostel/hotel will be open. Same for Casa Rural. Check out Albergues - if new mates going there, tag along. Use Gronze.com but get friendly with a Spaniard to read it, as I could never get it to work in English. The Pilgrim Office in SJPP gives you a list of open Albergues but no one used it - all done online. Every cafe has wifi so you can check ahead each day over coffee.

Stuff on clothes etc I will leave for others. If I see a hill I break out in a sweat so I’m the worst person to ask about winter clothing.

But wonderful experience and fantastic you are taking the kids. You will have a ball.
Good luck and Buen Camino
Lovely, heart-felt reply...a joy to read :)
 

Athena Atterdag

time&space traveller
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2017, 2018)
Via Turonensis (2018)
Camino de Invierno (2018)
#9
Hi @Gumba,

I'm preparing to start my Camino right on Christmas day this year, starting from León - my plan is to reach Ponferrada and take the Camino de Invierno from here. This route is somewhat longer, but (as its name suggests) it's more suitable for walking in winter as it takes you to Santiago by valleys south of the notorious O Cebreiro :)

As for clothes and equipment, I'm afraid I cannot be of much help here, as I live in Northern Russia and am used to cold winters (Galician winter is in fact even warmer than most of autumn in my region!). But I'd advise you to try and find lightweight clothes and equipment (e.g. sleeping bags) - the lighter your pack and clothes, the better. Decathlon and Uniqlo have lots of useful stuff (i checked, and they're present in Australia, too :)).
 

Gumba

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF with my husband and two boys in March 2018
Planning a winter CF in 2019/2020
#10
Thank you lovely people - I am sorry for not coming back sooner.

mspath, thank you, you always deliver! I enjoyed reading the links, thank you. Do busses run between the towns or do they too back off in winter? I imagine the supermarkets will still be open as even the locals need to eat over winter!

ChristopherX, thank you for your advice, especially re the sleeping bags. Do you find private accom was available all the way along the CF (via booking.com)? I have had a look and while places say they are open, I dont really trust the website 100%. I have emailed a few places to check winter availability.

"6. What was it like walking down Alto de Perdon - would the road be better in winter time?"
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. I really don't know why it has such a reputation. Just take your time: and a pair of hiking poles
Haha, we were expecting the worst when we walked down last March - it was fine. Rocky, but fine. Just wondering about the chances of it being covered in snow or muddy in December.

GaryAus - hey Gazza! I cant wear hiking boots at all. I found my Merrill Moabs were great to walk in. 3 days of falling snow and rain plus the odd bit of rain and my toes stayed toasty warm and dry the whole time. No blisters. However, paths had been cleared by other walkers so our shoes were not submerged in snow.

But you soon realise the Camino is designed to take a tortuous path to the same destination
Never a truer word spoken!!! Beautifully said.

Gary, did you find many cafes open along the way?

Athena, thank you for your post. On your advice we will take a look at Camino de Invierno. W walked last March/April and ended up getting a train from Leon to Sarria as the kids (and us) need a break and we were a bit behind schedule. We and especially our boys were very disappointed to have missed Cruz de Ferros so that is a must this time around. Are you concerned about everything being closed between Christmas and the New Year - I understand that things don't open until the 7th of January.

Thanks again for taking the time to reply to my questions,

regard
Gumba.

I have attached a photo of our boys just out of Roncesvalles in March this year...
 

Attachments

Camino(s) past & future
CF December 2017
#11
Re cafes. For us, there were only 10-15 other pilgrims with us for most of the way (at least until after Sarria). If breakfast was available, we ate it. But generally the pattern seemed to be to wake up, pack up, get going, put 2 hours or about 10kms under the belt and then find a stop about 11am. It's not light in winter until after 8 or 8.30am so you won't be leaving early, and no point stomping about in the dark and the cold. The Europeans seemed to do it this way, and we just assumed they must know what they're doing...and followed suit. So we were always looking for a cafe stop about 10kms into each day, and everyone generally stopped at more or less the same places. The 10kms stop was enough to last until the end of the daily walk unless it was a big day of 25kms+ and then we looked for a second cafe stop and food top-up. This didn't always work out. On about 4 days we found no stop at all. Breakfast turned into lunch after we finished. We had muesli bars, apples, nuts and water, and lived on that a few days. So as a general rule, in my experience, a cafe somewhere each day will be open. But on a few days maybe none will be open. Carry some supplies so you walk the whole day without a cafe if that happens.
 

Athena Atterdag

time&space traveller
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francigena (2017, 2018)
Via Turonensis (2018)
Camino de Invierno (2018)
#12
Athena, thank you for your post. On your advice we will take a look at Camino de Invierno. W walked last March/April and ended up getting a train from Leon to Sarria as the kids (and us) need a break and we were a bit behind schedule. We and especially our boys were very disappointed to have missed Cruz de Ferros so that is a must this time around. Are you concerned about everything being closed between Christmas and the New Year - I understand that things don't open until the 7th of January.
Oh, quite frankly, I'm concerned about quite a number of things, especially since it's my first Camino in Spain, and first long hike (I did a couple of legs on the Via Francigena in Italy and 100 km of the Tours route from Paris to Chartres, but these were rather short, 3 day max). But I'm doing my research and asking around, and so far it seems that the Camino de Invierno is entirely doable this time of the year. There are accommodations open all year round (I understand that most of these are general tourist accommodations, as the region is very popular among hikers, so they don't close when there are very few or no pilgrims), and I'm planning to take a supply of lightweight food (e.g. porridge sachets, muesli bars, bouillon cubes, Aptonia jelly bars) - just in case there are no open stores or cafes around on some days.
 

MsBeckyO

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Starting 2nd November 2018
#13
Fellow Aussie here starting on 3rd November and feel equally clueless about preparing for cold weather. I'm hoping if worse comes to worst I can always wear all of my clothes at the same time.

I've improvised before wearing gloves with spare socks over the top to keep heat in my hands when caught out

Trying to figure out if a long sleeve merino top, a fleece and a shell rain jacket are enough layers. I've started to see photos of people in huge down jackets so getting worried.
 

Gumba

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF with my husband and two boys in March 2018
Planning a winter CF in 2019/2020
#14
MsBecky, Hello! When we walked in March - in snow - I had a merino short sleeve, merino long sleeve, a jacket and very good quality gortex waterproof jacket (and rain pants when needed). I also had a nylon cami/singlet because I dont like the feel of merino next to my skin. Husband wore the same minus the cami. We also had long johns which we wore infrequently during the day. The boys wore long johns, merino long sleeve shirts, polar fleece and waterproof jackets. We were always warm, never needed more. We would end up taking off layers. The think that let us down were the gloves. I wish we had bought proper snow gloves. We had merino liners and wind breaker gloves which were inadequate for the snow. We purchased almost everything from Kathmandu. So from your above description I would add another layer - singlet and/or short sleeve merino.

Buen Camino to you my fellow Aussie
 

jl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances('05, '07), Aragonese ('05), del Norte / Primitivo ('09), Via Tolosana (Toulouse '05), Via Podiensis (Le Puy '07), Via Lemovicensis (Troyes '09), VF ('12), Winter Camino ('13/'14) Cammino d'Assisi ('14) Jakobseweg (Leipzig - Paris '15) San Salvador/Norte ('15) Ignaciano ('16) Invierno ('16)
#15
Another Aussie here who walked in 2013 / 14 departing on the 16th Dec. The Valcarlos route had snow on the side of the path and I didn't see snow again till I got to O Cebreiro. It was snowing quite heavily then, and so I caught the workers bus early in the morning down the mountain to Triacastela and continued walking from there. As far as accomodation was concerned there were sufficient albergues open for around a 20 - 25 km day, and sometimes even less. I booked a hotel room for Christmas Eve and for 3 Kings Day (Jan 6th). I got sick in Carrion and stayed an extra night in the albergue there. I had no trouble going from one albergue to another. It is easy walking in winter too because the mud is frozen and you walk across the top, rather than sinking in!

Interestingly pretty much all the people I met were Koreans or Australians, and I was frequently the only person in the albergue. The Koreans don't seem to mind the snow, and the Aussies are making use of the summer holidays! I managed to find food most days, and one night just had snacks from my pack (I always carry muesli bars for emergencies).

I would recommend timing Three Kings eve at a large town (I was in Leon). You will enjoy the Nativity scenes - quite different to home, and VERY large! If you want a chat send me a PM and I can call you. Here's my blog for what it is worth,
http://mywintercamino.blogspot.com

Buen Camino, Janet
 

Gumba

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF with my husband and two boys in March 2018
Planning a winter CF in 2019/2020
#16
Thanks Janet - great post excellent info - I am thoroughly enjoying reading your blog, thank you. I have lots to ask but need to think on it so I would love to PM you shortly.

Regards,
 

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