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How steep is steep?

2020 Camino Guides

Curiosity

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2016
Hi all!

First of all; this forum rocks! It's extremely helpfull during the preparation for my first Camino, starting on May 10th. Thank you so much, so far.

My biggest concern at this moment is the first stretch to Roncessvalles. I'm planning on staying at Orrisson to cut myself some slack and it seems to ge great experience. But still... I saw some great footage on YouTube and was under the impression that it was gradually steep. After reading some threads here on the forum I start to doubt. Shouldn't I take the Valcarlosroute? I don't want to wear myself out during the first two days nor take a restingday in Roncessvalles. I live in the Netherlands, it's quite difficult to train uphill, since we have no hills or mountains of Amy significance.

I'm reasonably fit, I can walk 20 k's in a day, but I'd still like to hear any opinion about these first two days.

Monique
 
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Mark Lee

Guest
Having made the crossing three times, I can say the videos are pretty good representations of that first day over to Roncesvalles from SJPdP.
I don't know how old or how fit you are, but if you are already walking 20km a day with no problem, the first day over the Pyrenees via Napoleon is plenty doable.
I did it all three times (Napoleon 2x, ValCarlos 1x) in my 50's and did it easily. It really, really isn't that bad, and everyday during the Camino season many, many people of all ages and fitness levels make the walk all the way to Roncesvalles.
Take the fish stories you read of its difficulty on here with a grain of salt.
cheers and ultreia
 
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Icacos

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Sorry @Mark Lee, I have to disagree with you. If the OP is from the Netherlands and is not accustomed to up hills and downhills, a sudden introduction to inclines and declines can be murderous on the leg muscles. Sure, the OP will be able to manage the Napoleon or the Valcarlos route the first day, but the sudden, initial use of muscles unaccustomed to hills will become apparent a day or two later, and then, unfortunately, the incapacity will occur. My advice to the OP is to find some stairs, somewhere, and begin training those muscles which don't come into play during walking on level ground. That's my humble opinion.
(Edited for typo)
 
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Mark Lee

Guest
"OP" is short for original poster.
The uphill treadmill sounds like good training. More than I ever did for any of my Caminos. You will be alright.
I never had any incapacity on any of my Caminos, except when I drank too much the night before. :D
A little bit of soreness of the muscles is normal (after all, pain is weakness leaving the body, right? ha ha). I always stretched every morning when I could before I started walking on the Camino, just like I do before I go running at home. Seemed to help.
cheers
 

good_old_shoes

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('15)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
Hello Monique, welcome to the forum :)


I have only walked via Valcarlos, so obviously can't say anything about the Napoleon.

But, I can definitely say, you can't compare walking on rather flat terrain with hiking in the mountains. At all.
Being fine walking 20kms on flat ground doesn't necessarily mean much when you get into mountainous terrain. For me, even the Valcarlos route was hard enough, even though I had trained before and was fine walking 20kms on rather flat ground with some hills.

I split the first stretch in two and stayed over night in Valcarlos. Embarrassing to admit, but the next day up to Roncesvalles I was so slow, I arrived at the albergue the same time as the people who had started in St Jean that morning! And I had thought I had trained enough, and was walking the "easy" lower route :D

On the way I saw one man collapsing from exhaustion and rolling down a hill. He got transported off by an ambulance. Later, another lying flat on the ground, on the last stretch up before Roncesvalles, also completely exhausted, feet up on his pack, his companion feeding him some snacks and water.

It is not as bad as it might sound, but it's not a walk in the park either, if you're not used to it.


If you've never hiked in the mountains, at least consider the Valcarlos route. It offers the advantage to stop and stay in the albergue there, in case it's more exhausting than you thought. Also think of the fact that you don't only have to get over that mountain, but get over that mountain and still be healthy enough to walk 20km a day, every day, for the next weeks.


Happy Camino planning!
 

Peter Fransiscus

Be a Rainbow in someone else's cloud.
Camino(s) past & future
All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
Sorry @Mark Lee, I have to disagree with you. If the OP is from the Netherlands and is not accustomed to up hills and downhills, a sudden introduction to inclines and declines can be murderous on the leg muscles. Sure, the OP will be able to manage the Napoleon or the Valcarlos route the first day, but the sudden, initial use of muscles unaccustomed to hills will become apparent a day or two later, and then, unfortunately, the incapacity will occur. My advice to the OP is to fine some stairs, somewhere, and begin training those muscles which don't come into play during walking on level ground. That's my humble opinion.
I am from the Netherlands to and I started walking in the mountains at the age of 18. So don't think that pilgrims from Holland can't walk in the mountains because now you make a mistake.
Wish you well, Peter.
 

Rob the Slob

A slob
Camino(s) past & future
Madrid to Santiago (May 2016)
Hi Monique, also living in the Netherlands I'm in the same situation as you. Before I go hiking I strengthen my leg muscles by doing one-legged squats and wearing ankle weights.

When you're on the trail, remember to take small steps when going uphill. You can also use trekking poles in more or less Nordic walking mode: ground the tips behind you and push yourself forward.
 

Peter Fransiscus

Be a Rainbow in someone else's cloud.
Camino(s) past & future
All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
Hi all!

First of all; this forum rocks! It's extremely helpfull during the preparation for my first Camino, starting on May 10th. Thank you so much, so far.

My biggest concern at this moment is the first stretch to Roncessvalles. I'm planning on staying at Orrisson to cut myself some slack and it seems to ge great experience. But still... I saw some great footage on YouTube and was under the impression that it was gradually steep. After reading some threads here on the forum I start to doubt. Shouldn't I take the Valcarlosroute? I don't want to wear myself out during the first two days nor take a restingday in Roncessvalles. I live in the Netherlands, it's quite difficult to train uphill, since we have no hills or mountains of Amy significance.

I'm reasonably fit, I can walk 20 k's in a day, but I'd still like to hear any opinion about these first two days.

Monique
Hi Monique, the first part thil the albergue Orisson is the steepest on your walk to Roncesvalles. I would say begin your journey slow to get used to the terrain and that you have to walk every day for several weeks. Listen to your body and you will do fine. And by the way I'm from Holland to.
Wish you a wonderful journey and a Buen Camino, Peter.
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
Like Mark I have ventured over the Napoleon several times. I love the stop at Orisson because it is a great way to break up the 27km from SJPdP to Roncevalles on your first day.
Am I fit? There are several fellow forum members who will tell you I don't look very fit:eek: at the age of 70 carrying about 10kg of excess belly fat.
In 2014 I had a good friend from Biarritz who runs 5k every day. He wanted to share a day of my Camino as I started my first day walking to Orisson. He got about 75% of the way to where the path veers off the paved road to a very steep hill climb. At that point he quit and waited for a car to pass and take him down to where he had parked his car and then he returned to meet me at Orisson. After about 5k he was swearing that the signage was very deceptive and he may be right that the 7k to Orisson is figured in statue distance. It is a long steep undulating road. After Orisson it is a nice easy walk until the downhill to Roncevalles.
In my experience: steep is defined by the walk to Somport from Oloron on the GR 653, the morning walk out of Pontedueme and the jog up to Hospital de Bruma on the Camino Ingles.
 

Icacos

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
.....I train in the gym on the treadmill, 7% uphill, speed at 5 k's an hour. I just don't know if that's sufficient to train my muscles.
If you're training on the treadmill at 7% uphill, I'm sure you will be fine, but don't forget the downhills too. It's equally important to strengthen the downhill muscles.

I'm smiling at your 5 k's an hour. I was slower than that on the Camino, but then I made regular stops for cafés con leche.
 

Icacos

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
I am from the Netherlands to and I started walking in the mountains at the age of 18. So don't think that pilgrims from Holland can't walk in the mountains because now you make a mistake.
Wish you well, Peter.
I never meant to imply that people from Holland can't walk in the mountains. The OP said, "I live in the Netherlands, it's quite difficult to train uphill, since we have no hills or mountains of Amy significance." I merely said if the OP didn't train for uphills and downhills, she may suffer some incapacity later - incapacity in the pain department, not the kind of incapacity to which @Mark Lee refers which, thankfully, is a far distant memory for me. :) For what it's worth, on our way down to Zubiri, we met a peregrino twenty years my junior. He said he was from south Florida (flat as a board). He told us he had no idea the walk would be so strenuous, and he packed it in early in the day. We never saw him again. I can only assume he hadn't trained for the hills.
 

Patrick Camino

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-SDC august/september 2015
I didn't train at all (and I'm from Belgium so also no mountains available) and the hilss were okay. It wasn't easy and my legs hurt, but when you just keep on moving and take rests now and then, drink a lot of water and maybe take some magnesium, and keep on breathing, everything will be fine. It's a great view so enjoy the mountain!
 

zzotte

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2012 Camino Frances, 2014 Lourdes to SDC, 2016 Camino del Norte
Hi all!

First of all; this forum rocks! It's extremely helpfull during the preparation for my first Camino, starting on May 10th. Thank you so much, so far.

My biggest concern at this moment is the first stretch to Roncessvalles. I'm planning on staying at Orrisson to cut myself some slack and it seems to ge great experience. But still... I saw some great footage on YouTube and was under the impression that it was gradually steep. After reading some threads here on the forum I start to doubt. Shouldn't I take the Valcarlosroute? I don't want to wear myself out during the first two days nor take a restingday in Roncessvalles. I live in the Netherlands, it's quite difficult to train uphill, since we have no hills or mountains of Amy significance.

I'm reasonably fit, I can walk 20 k's in a day, but I'd still like to hear any opinion about these first two days.

Monique
Its not that bad, just practice on some hills even if its short try faster and faster the idea its to burn those glutens :) if you don't have hills climb the bleachers at your local school its works too.

Buen Camino

Zzotte
 

Marc S.

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Since 2012: CF, CdN, CP, Salvador, Aragones, Via Regia, Elisabethpfad, Jakobsweg NRW, Jakibspaad.
I had the same fears before starting my first camino, being from the Netherlands and not being used to walking in the mountains. It was much easier than I anticipated though. When you are reasonably fit, I think you will be fine on the ascent, as long as you take your time and do not walk too fast. The first bit to Orisson is steep, after that it gets much easier. Actually I experienced that descending is much harder for my muscles than ascending. It could be a good idea not to take the steep descent from Col Lepoeder to Roncesvalles, but the other option.
 
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Mark Lee

Guest
Like Mark I have ventured over the Napoleon several times. I love the stop at Orisson because it is a great way to break up the 27km from SJPdP to Roncevalles on your first day.
Am I fit? There are several fellow forum members who will tell you I don't look very fit:eek: at the age of 70 carrying about 10kg of excess belly fat.
In 2014 I had a good friend from Biarritz who runs 5k every day. He wanted to share a day of my Camino as I started my first day walking to Orisson. He got about 75% of the way to where the path veers off the paved road to a very steep hill climb. At that point he quit and waited for a car to pass and take him down to where he had parked his car and then he returned to meet me at Orisson. After about 5k he was swearing that the signage was very deceptive and he may be right that the 7k to Orisson is figured in statue distance. It is a long steep undulating road. After Orisson it is a nice easy walk until the downhill to Roncevalles.
In my experience: steep is defined by the walk to Somport from Oloron on the GR 653, the morning walk out of Pontedueme and the jog up to Hospital de Bruma on the Camino Ingles.
Hey bro, you are plenty fit enough. Beat me to the albergue in Ponferrada and had a bottle of Spanish red in your hand. ;)
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
I never meant to imply that people from Holland can't walk in the mountains. The OP said, "I live in the Netherlands, it's quite difficult to train uphill, since we have no hills or mountains of Amy significance." I merely said if the OP didn't train for uphills and downhills, she may suffer some incapacity later - incapacity in the pain department, not the kind of incapacity to which @Mark Lee refers which, thankfully, is a far distant memory for me. :) For what it's worth, on our way down to Zubiri, we met a peregrino twenty years my junior. He said he was from south Florida (flat as a board). He told us he had no idea the walk would be so strenuous, and he packed it in early in the day. We never saw him again. I can only assume he hadn't trained for the hills.
It's damn hard to find any hills in Florida.
 

Lmsundaze

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF (2016), CP (2017)
I haven't trained on hills either, just a bit on the treadmill. I live in coastal North Carolina and it is FLAT. I am 70 and reasonably fit but all walking is flat. Starting in Pamplona and going slowly. Sure you will do fine.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
St. Jean to the high point of the Route Napolean is roughly 1250 m elevation change in 20.2 km horizontal distance or a fairly consistent 6% grade although it is steeper from Honto to Orisson. The steep part of the Valcarlos route is from Ganecoleta to Puerto Ibaneta, about 650 m elevation change in about 7 km or roughly a 10% grade. One thing that avoids a lot of this is to hike from Roncevalles to the French border and back. (as a one day trip.)
20160309135440-33222-profile.png
 

Curiosity

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2016
Fortunatly I still have two more months of training ahead. It's good to know the SJPdP-Orisson stretch is the steepest. That means to leave early and take my time. I just don't want to miss out on the Napoleonroute.

Thanks everyone for your feedback!
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2020? Hopefully Via de Bayona/Burgos to Ponferrada/Camino de Invierno
Well, for what it's worth...

I hadn't had time to train much before my first camino, a few treks up the hills round here, sure, to try the backpack etc.
I found the first 8 km to Orrisson hell, in fact my heart was beating so fast I thought I might die. (I'm French, ignore me, we're all hyponchodriacs :D).
It was very steep. Then fortunately it gets better. Still climbimg, but not so demanding.
I did it again a year later, much fitter (i had carried on walking for a whole year) and it was no big deal.
I walked mid-july both times and the conditions were idyllic.
May 10th.... Please whatever you do, ask about the weather conditions before you start. It is a demanding walk in perfect conditions. In fog, wind, rain or heaven forbid, snow, it's a different game!
My husband walked April/May and walked through Valcarlos, there was still snow in the mountains.

Buen camino:)
 
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biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
They're all on the overpasses. :)
Exactement, in my spinning class the other day the instructor cited we should work as hard as a guy she observed pedaling his heart out on an overpass over I 75.
 

CathyJ

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances - April 2016
SJPP to SDC
Fortunatly I still have two more months of training ahead. It's good to know the SJPdP-Orisson stretch is the steepest. That means to leave early and take my time. I just don't want to miss out on the Napoleonroute.

Thanks everyone for your feedback!
If you are planning to stay at Orisson book now. Several members are saying they are having trouble getting a booking for mid April
 

newfydog

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona-Santiago, Le Puy- Santiago, Prague- LePuy, Menton- Toulouse, Menton- Rome, Canterbury- Lausanne, Chemin Stevenson, Voie de Vezelay
t don't forget the downhills too. It's equally important to strengthen the downhill muscles.
.
I would say training on downhills is 80% of the preparation. Uphills can tax your lungs but other than perhaps a heel blister, injuries are rare. Downhills can wreck everything from the hips to the toe nails.
 

pudgypilgrim

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
voie de tours 2015
Yeah, also from flat, flat FL here. We walked the voie de tours from Paris and even though those are very mild hills, the constant up and down-ness of the terrain really told on us the first few days. If you are accustomed to even gentle hills (and sorry, Brussels has some pretty steep hills to me) it makes a very big difference.

My walking companions were much younger than I and real gym rats, too, and they felt the hills as much as I did.
 

MaidinBham

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances SJPP to Muxia, April (2014)
Camino Portuguese Lisbon>Santiago, April/May (2016)
Hi Monique,
I was 60 1st Camino, (April 19th) with total body fat way above where it should be. I did training walks with my backpack and nordic track, but not mountains, as none local. As others have said the steepest climb is first few km until Orisson. I was dreading it because my body doesn't like ascents, and I was bothered by shin splints prior to departure, but I was fine and huffed and puffed my way up the mountain. I was lucky to get a bed at Orisson as I had not booked or even planned to stay there. I think you will be absolutely fine, (and seem very fit training at 5 km/hr) with walking entire first stage, but do stop at Orisson, and make sure you book. From Orisson to Roncervalles eazy peezee . Depending on weather, the crossing maybe closed and the SJPDP pilgrim office will advise. For me, blue skies and temp around 60 F - a most perfect day on top of the Pyrenees, a meal cooked by French Chef and good company, and I wish the same for you.
Buen Camino,
Janice
 

tomnorth

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015)
Hi all!

First of all; this forum rocks! It's extremely helpfull during the preparation for my first Camino, starting on May 10th. Thank you so much, so far.

My biggest concern at this moment is the first stretch to Roncessvalles. I'm planning on staying at Orrisson to cut myself some slack and it seems to ge great experience. But still... I saw some great footage on YouTube and was under the impression that it was gradually steep. After reading some threads here on the forum I start to doubt. Shouldn't I take the Valcarlosroute? I don't want to wear myself out during the first two days nor take a restingday in Roncessvalles. I live in the Netherlands, it's quite difficult to train uphill, since we have no hills or mountains of Amy significance.

I'm reasonably fit, I can walk 20 k's in a day, but I'd still like to hear any opinion about these first two days.

Monique
I live in Minnesota where we also don't have mountains or super big hills. I trained on a treadmill program that maxed out at a 10.6% grade. I also did step ups and one legged squats with the weight of two packs in Dumbbells. There are ways to train for the ascents and descents. It sounds as if you're fit, so my guess is you can do it. The Pyrenees are drop dead gorgeous. If you can, I highly recommend making the crossing.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
You'll be fine especially if you stop in Orisson. Just image what a small percentage of those walking that route cut it in 2 days considering the number of beds.

Oh, I was tired when I got to Orisson, and it had never occured I could stay there, so I just walked on. It was a long day, walking up that incline was not a walk in the park (thanks to dozens of extra pounds I should not be carrying) bit I took breaks and picked up again. Lots and lots anf very short breaks, no lingering over a long lunch admiring the views.

Even on the Primitivo I still walk slowly and take breaks. Sometimes I challenge myself to take 20 steps, and I stop to rest, look back where I came fromand do another 20 steps. I am far from fit, I just don't pressure myself for time and push mentally (because it is much more mental than physical in the end) and do it.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss and you achieve much more than you think you can.
 

Urban Trekker

Happy Trails
Camino(s) past & future
English Camino (2013)
Portuguese Camino (2014)
French Camino (2016)
Way of Saint Francis April 2017
Thanks both!

@Mark Lee : I'm 44 years old.
@Icacos : That's exactly what I worry about. I train in the gym on the treadmill, 7% uphill, speed at 5 k's an hour. I just don't know if that's sufficient to train my muscles.

Hmmm....still very new here, OP is short for?
Jack it up to 10% and slow down a little. Are you wearing your camino gear while on the tread mill. When I can't train outside I go to the gym. I set the tread mill to 10% and 2.5 miles an hour and wear my camino load. I'm striving for endurance not speed. Buen Camino
 

Urban Trekker

Happy Trails
Camino(s) past & future
English Camino (2013)
Portuguese Camino (2014)
French Camino (2016)
Way of Saint Francis April 2017
Like Mark I have ventured over the Napoleon several times. I love the stop at Orisson because it is a great way to break up the 27km from SJPdP to Roncevalles on your first day.
Am I fit? There are several fellow forum members who will tell you I don't look very fit:eek: at the age of 70 carrying about 10kg of excess belly fat.
In 2014 I had a good friend from Biarritz who runs 5k every day. He wanted to share a day of my Camino as I started my first day walking to Orisson. He got about 75% of the way to where the path veers off the paved road to a very steep hill climb. At that point he quit and waited for a car to pass and take him down to where he had parked his car and then he returned to meet me at Orisson. After about 5k he was swearing that the signage was very deceptive and he may be right that the 7k to Orisson is figured in statue distance. It is a long steep undulating road. After Orisson it is a nice easy walk until the downhill to Roncevalles.
In my experience: steep is defined by the walk to Somport from Oloron on the GR 653, the morning walk out of Pontedueme and the jog up to Hospital de Bruma on the Camino Ingles.
I have walked the long English. Once you got to Pontadeume there were 3 brutal assents and descents to Bruna or was it Betanzos. Is the Napoleon route as bad.
 
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biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
I have walked the long English. Once you got to Pontadeume there were 3 brutal assents and descents to Bruna or was it Betanzos. Is the Napoleon route as bad.
The Napoleon is longer than anything on the English. The ascent to Bruma is similar to say going up the first half of the Napoleon. I agree with several other post regarding the descents being under estimated like getting down to Zubiri and Molinseca.
 

LesBrass

Likes Walking
Camino(s) past & future
yes...
@Curiosity - I talked myself out of the walk to Roncesvalles the first time I walked and regretted it. I went back last year and did it. I didn't start until lunchtime but prebooked a bed at Orisson so I had all afternoon. For me there was only one stretch that got me really huffing and puffing a lot and that was after Hunto and before Orisson... but... I did it and I'm so glad I went back.

Those 2 days were fabulous - you sound sensible and prepared, if you're in good health and you've been training then I think you'll have a great time!
 

newfydog

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona-Santiago, Le Puy- Santiago, Prague- LePuy, Menton- Toulouse, Menton- Rome, Canterbury- Lausanne, Chemin Stevenson, Voie de Vezelay
We have pointed out in the past that there is no real reason, historical or otherwise to start at SJPP. From a preparation standpoint, it is a terrible place to start. There is nothing wrong with starting in Pamplona, for example. If you go to the true historical original start, LePuy en Velay, you will certainly be ready for the Pyrenees by the time you get there!
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
I do not know the percent of incline, but the first day, out of Saint Jean Pied de Port is the steepest ascent on the entire Camino Frances. There is another stretch, near Castrojeriz (?) where there is a 1 kilometer long climb that is signposted as being a 12 percent incline. So, while the climb from Saint Jean Pied de Port is steep, is 'only' lasts about 8 km. This other stretch may be a few degrees less steep, but it lasts...well it seems like forever.

Like BiarritzDon above, I too live in souther Florida. We rival the Dutch for lack of hills. However, the southeastern part of the Netherlands has rolling hills and low mountains. If you live in any truly flat locale. here are some tips to practice hill walking, some have been previously stated, but I will include them to put them all together:

1. If you have a nearby outdoor sports stadium or "football" pitch, don your loaded Camino rucksack and walk up and down the bleacher / stadium seats. This works at our local high schools... In Europe, the local soccer pitch may suffice. You can even use your walking sticks to slow / brake your descent.

2. Seek out buildings with stairs out front. Older public buildings, Cathedrals, etc. usually have steps out front.

3. Lacking any public facilities with stairs, try the already suggested treadmill method. Don your loaded Camino rucksack, set the treadmill for 7 percent (more or less, building to more) and try to build to and maintain a 3 km per hour pace.

4. If all else fails, find a parking garage, or other accessible public structure with stairs and have at it. For that matter a parking garage with a sloped ramp leading to the various levels may be a very good alternative to stair climbing, per se. I presently live in an apartment complex with a four-story parking deck. I use this ramp on a regular basis to make sure my knees stay limber.

If all else fails, and you cannot do training, before hand, start your Camino SLOW! Take extra time and extra days if needed at the beginning, to build up your strength and endurance.

If you need elastic knee or ankle supports, bring them form home, or find them in any local pharmacy in Spain or France. Also, Voltaren ointment greases the knees and salves the aches and pains of many, many pilgrims. It is available over the counter throughout Europe but only by prescription in the US.

Many Camino veterans consider that the first week of any Camino is spent getting your body used to doing something new. After this, you should be okay.

If you are doing "on the job" training, you might consider having your rucksack taken ahead to your day's destination by the many "mochila" (backpack) transport services available along the Camino. You can get information at at any albergue or hostal.

To facilitate this, be sure to have a collapsible, lightweight day pack (siliconized nylon is good for this) to carry, rain gear, first-aid, water and snacks, and your valuables. This 'itsy bitsy' (< 20 liters) pack can double as a shopping bag, laundry bag, carry-on for flying to and from the Camino.

I hope this helps.
 

mcopeland

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances - April-June, 2016
Portuguese Lisbon-Santiago - October, 2017
My husband walked April/May and walked through Valcarlos, there was still snow in the mountains.
What happens if you have paid reservations at Orisson and it snows and you' have to take the lower route? Do they refund you?
 

Icacos

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
What happens if you have paid reservations at Orisson and it snows and you' have to take the lower route? Do they refund you?
Yes, they do. We had reservations April 7, I think it was. The route was closed because of snow, and we got a refund, no problem.
 

owms2323

Credential question
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Frances (2014) Camino Frances (2016) Camino Finisterre/Muxia (2017)
The Napoleon is longer than anything on the English. The ascent to Bruma is similar to say going up the first half of the Napoleon. I agree with several other post regarding the descents being under estimated like getting down to Zubiri and Molinseca.
YES!. Down to Zubiri is treacherous and to Triacastella seemed oh so long. I don't know how to train for downhills.
 

MaidinBham

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances SJPP to Muxia, April (2014)
Camino Portuguese Lisbon>Santiago, April/May (2016)
I think Zubiri must have been the place where a cyclist (Italian I think) came flying past me, eyes intent on the many rocks and going very fast. He said something, but I dont think it was "Buen Camino" :)
 

Icacos

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
The slippery slide down to Zubiri, in the mud and snow, I found to be an interesting challenge, but it would definitely not have been so without my poles. It was the descent to Villafranca del Bierzo some weeks later that I thought would be my demise. I've never, before or since, had to drag my sorry self along as I did that afternoon, and our albergue was at the far end of town. I tend to think it may have been some nutrient I was lacking (concentrating too much on cafes con leche maybe). Next time I'll pay more attention to what I was feeding my body.
 
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M

Mark Lee

Guest
I do not know the percent of incline, but the first day, out of Saint Jean Pied de Port is the steepest ascent on the entire Camino Frances. There is another stretch, near Castrojeriz (?) where there is a 1 kilometer long climb that is signposted as being a 12 percent incline. So, while the climb from Saint Jean Pied de Port is steep, is 'only' lasts about 8 km. This other stretch may be a few degrees less steep, but it lasts...well it seems like forever.

Like BiarritzDon above, I too live in souther Florida. We rival the Dutch for lack of hills. However, the southeastern part of the Netherlands has rolling hills and low mountains. If you live in any truly flat locale. here are some tips to practice hill walking, some have been previously stated, but I will include them to put them all together:

1. If you have a nearby outdoor sports stadium or "football" pitch, don your loaded Camino rucksack and walk up and down the bleacher / stadium seats. This works at our local high schools... In Europe, the local soccer pitch may suffice. You can even use your walking sticks to slow / brake your descent.

2. Seek out buildings with stairs out front. Older public buildings, Cathedrals, etc. usually have steps out front.

3. Lacking any public facilities with stairs, try the already suggested treadmill method. Don your loaded Camino rucksack, set the treadmill for 7 percent (more or less, building to more) and try to build to and maintain a 3 km per hour pace.

4. If all else fails, find a parking garage, or other accessible public structure with stairs and have at it. For that matter a parking garage with a sloped ramp leading to the various levels may be a very good alternative to stair climbing, per se. I presently live in an apartment complex with a four-story parking deck. I use this ramp on a regular basis to make sure my knees stay limber.

If all else fails, and you cannot do training, before hand, start your Camino SLOW! Take extra time and extra days if needed at the beginning, to build up your strength and endurance.

If you need elastic knee or ankle supports, bring them form home, or find them in any local pharmacy in Spain or France. Also, Voltaren ointment greases the knees and salves the aches and pains of many, many pilgrims. It is available over the counter throughout Europe but only by prescription in the US.

Many Camino veterans consider that the first week of any Camino is spent getting your body used to doing something new. After this, you should be okay.

If you are doing "on the job" training, you might consider having your rucksack taken ahead to your day's destination by the many "mochila" (backpack) transport services available along the Camino. You can get information at at any albergue or hostal.

To facilitate this, be sure to have a collapsible, lightweight day pack (siliconized nylon is good for this) to carry, rain gear, first-aid, water and snacks, and your valuables. This 'itsy bitsy' (< 20 liters) pack can double as a shopping bag, laundry bag, carry-on for flying to and from the Camino.

I hope this helps.
Good advice on the backpack transport services. If you know where you want to stay for the night and have reservations, it's a good, cheap way to move your stuff. Like it was said, handy to have a small daypack for your water and food if you do choose to use transport for the bulk of your gear. The small pack also comes in handy when you get groceries in the towns.
Honestly, if you have never exercised, live a sedentary lifestyle, are more than a few pounds overweight, over the age of 40, have never walked with a backpack for a long distance, have never walked a long distance without a backpack, or any combination of the above, the Camino Frances will probably kick your arse a bit, with or without a backpack on. The Camino will not magically beat you into shape, and can't be looked at as some sort of weight loss program (like that overweight character in the movie "The Way" looks at it). Yeah, you will lose weight, but that's only if you can walk some measure of distance wearing a pack in the first place. Otherwise, you'll just set yourself up for possible injury if you don't know your limitations. Use the bag transport for the days you just can't haul your stuff anymore.
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
YES!. Down to Zubiri is treacherous and to Triacastella seemed oh so long. I don't know how to train for downhills.
Take a ski lift to the top of a black diamond trail with a full backpack and walk down the hill:p! just kidding. I often crab walk because of a serious foot problem.
 

Icacos

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Take a ski lift to the top of a black diamond trail with a full backpack and walk down the hill:p! ........
If you're over forty, don't try this without poles, and good inner soles. Seriously. :D
 

biarritzdon

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
I do not know the percent of incline, but the first day, out of Saint Jean Pied de Port is the steepest ascent on the entire Camino Frances. There is another stretch, near Castrojeriz (?) where there is a 1 kilometer long climb that is signposted as being a 12 percent incline. So, while the climb from Saint Jean Pied de Port is steep, is 'only' lasts about 8 km. This other stretch may be a few degrees less steep, but it lasts...well it seems like forever.

If you need elastic knee or ankle supports, bring them form home, or find them in any local pharmacy in Spain or France. Also, Voltaren ointment greases the knees and salves the aches and pains of many, many pilgrims. It is available over the counter throughout Europe but only by prescription in the US.

I hope this helps.
Tom, all great advice but one cautionary note about Volteran Gel. It can cause skin irritations if over used and should not be used in combination with other NSAIDS because you will be double dosing on pain relievers. Ask your doctor for advice. I use it but carefully.
There is another OTC pain reliever which is an aerosol available in Spain - Radio Salil.
 

Curiosity

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2016
Great advise everyone! Thank you so much! I'll make the booking now for Roncesvalles and will decide in SJPDP which route I'll take. For now I'll just keep in training.

@t2andreo Thanks for the trainingtips!
 

rometimed

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
(SJPdP: 2015, June2020!) (Eng Way: 2015)
I met a retired Dutchman @ Orisson and walked over to Roncesvalles the next day with him. He had the same concerns coming from such a flat country but his only issue was where I thought it would be on coming down into Roncesvalles downhill. He just had to take his time but no worries. :) I think he came in about an hour behind me, but I live in mountains so am used to the downhill. Uphill isn't too bad just slows you down a bit.
 

fraluchi

RIP 2019
Camino(s) past & future
One every year since 2007
Many people who spend all their life on sea level do not have the stamina (lungs) to suddenly hike at over 1'000 meters above sea level.:eek:
 

newfydog

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona-Santiago, Le Puy- Santiago, Prague- LePuy, Menton- Toulouse, Menton- Rome, Canterbury- Lausanne, Chemin Stevenson, Voie de Vezelay
Many people who spend all their life on sea level do not have the stamina (lungs) to suddenly hike at over 1'000 meters above sea level.:eek:
Actually, at 1000 meters you have 90% of the oxygen available at sea level and any effects are very hard to detect. Commercial planes are only pressured to an equivalent of around 2000 meters. At 3000 meters, oxygen drops to 68% and the difference becomes rather noticable, though altitude sickness is rare. The Camino has numerous difficulties, but altitude is not one of them.
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
The route from SJPdP to Roncesvalles is a 27 kms step climb and then steep downhill. If you are not very fit or experienced with heights it is a tough challenge, and you can easily ruin your feet (and attitude) on your very first day. Doing it in only one day is a very tough start to your Camino. It will be the hardest day on the entire Camino. The climb is steep. No discussion on that. No need to start your first Camino day as the toughest on the whole stretch. A stop in Orrison is much recommended, breaking it into 2 days to Roncesvalles.

I am a Norw. used to mountains, and I recommend splitting it into two days unless you feel very fit.
 

Urban Trekker

Happy Trails
Camino(s) past & future
English Camino (2013)
Portuguese Camino (2014)
French Camino (2016)
Way of Saint Francis April 2017
The Napoleon is longer than anything on the English. The ascent to Bruma is similar to say going up the first half of the Napoleon. I agree with several other post regarding the descents being under estimated like getting down to Zubiri and Molinseca.
On paper the first half looks to be the hardest. Just to be safe we have reservations for one night at Refuge Orisson. It was the descents that got got me on the English. No blisters but bilateral foot pain that lasted for months and I lost my small toe toe nails. I have much better shoes now. Buen Camino

Happy Trails
 

Lachance

Me llamo Deb
Camino(s) past & future
Part Francese 2016
We have pointed out in the past that there is no real reason, historical or otherwise to start at SJPP. From a preparation standpoint, it is a terrible place to start. There is nothing wrong with starting in Pamplona, for example. If you go to the true historical original start, LePuy en Velay, you will certainly be ready for the Pyrenees by the time you get there!
That explains it! I've often thought it a bit strange that starting in St Jean makes it a 'camino francés' when at most 1 day is actually in France.
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
That explains it! I've often thought it a bit strange that starting in St Jean makes it a 'camino francés' when at most 1 day is actually in France.
The name Camino Frances comes from the fact that it is the route that pilgrims from north of the Pyrenees followed as they walked across Spain to Santiago de Compostela. Hence it can be considered the route of the pilgrims who passed through France and not the route which passes through France.
 
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HeidiL

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2004-), Portugués, Madrid, 4/5 Plata, 1/8 Levante, 1/8 Lana, Augusta, hospitalera Grado.
I can't say anything about the St Jean bit of the route, since I have a ruined knee and will never walk it. But starting from Roncesvalles, the way the Spanish do, is absolutely lovely.

My biggest recommendation is to practice walking with poles and a backpack - it may take some time to find an efficient way of doing it. but once you've got it down pat, it's really useful having poles that you can use efficiently, without too much lifting and waving and dragging.
 

rometimed

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
(SJPdP: 2015, June2020!) (Eng Way: 2015)
Actually, at 1000 meters you have 90% of the oxygen available at sea level and any effects are very hard to detect. Commercial planes are only pressured to an equivalent of around 2000 meters. At 3000 meters, oxygen drops to 68% and the difference becomes rather noticable, though altitude sickness is rare. The Camino has numerous difficulties, but altitude is not one of them.
Going up passed 3000 m for the first time is quite shocking. :eek:
 

LesBrass

Likes Walking
Camino(s) past & future
yes...
Why is that?
I have no idea of the science but a few years ago we had a camping holiday in the Alpes, around the Alpes D'huez area... and we drove up to the site during the afternoon and settled in for the night.

After an hour or two I really started feeling under the weather, headache and nausea and generally feeling unwell. It carried on for a day and I just assumed it was a bug. We moved on and into Italy (and sea level) for a few days but returned back to the site on our way home and I was ill again.

The owner of the campsite tthat evening quickly realised that I had classic altitude sickness symptoms. We were leaving the next morning so I was fine. She suggested that for some folks going quickly up to over 3000m can cause problems but it's often minor and often sorts it self as you get used to the oxygen?
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
Oh yes, lack of oxygen, but nowhere on the CF, Primitivo, even the Picos don't reach that height. You would have to be in the Sierra Nevada in the south or on Tenerife to get to those altitudes. Doesn't it normally kick in a just around 2500m.?
 

LesBrass

Likes Walking
Camino(s) past & future
yes...
Oh yes, lack of oxygen, but nowhere on the CF, Primitivo, even the Picos don't reach that height. You would have to be in the Sierra Nevada in the south or on Tenerife to get to those altitudes. Doesn't it normally kick in a just around 2500m.?
I've just looked it up... crikey! I didn't realise it can be quite so serious! They seem to say the same as you... 2500m http://www.altitude.org/altitude_sickness.php
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
Doesn't it normally kick in a just around 2500m.?
Last year I walked the Via Francigena. The highest point is a little under 2500m at the Col Grand Saint Bernard. I could certainly feel the reduced oxygen at that height. My breathing very quickly returned to normal next morning after a descent of a few hundred metres.
 

newfydog

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona-Santiago, Le Puy- Santiago, Prague- LePuy, Menton- Toulouse, Menton- Rome, Canterbury- Lausanne, Chemin Stevenson, Voie de Vezelay
As mentioned you start feeling light-headed and like you are walking through molasses. Very odd feeling.

High altitude climbing (as in over 5000 m) has been described as " climbing with the worst hangover of your life, with a pair of socks in your mouth"
 

Tom Leonard

Boston Strong
Camino(s) past & future
Walking Sarria-Santiago Sept. 17,2015
I would say training on downhills is 80% of the preparation. Uphills can tax your lungs but other than perhaps a heel blister, injuries are rare. Downhills can wreck everything from the hips to the toe nails.
Trained for uphills , no problem . Downhills were very tough on knees and caused pain I had to live with. Poles really helped
 

lunna

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
frances; lisboa-muxia; norte+bayonne; vdlp; le puy; voie d'arles+aragones; geneva to ales
your treadmill training is fine, and you can gradually increase your incline. my recommendation for both uphills and downhills is to zig-zag. not only does it take the pressure off the knees, but it is fun! and though i didn't use walking sticks for my first 2 1/2 caminos, i would strongly recommend you use at least one for the downhills - they are critical for balance (i learned the hard way taking a tumble on an easy, but slippery, small downhill slope!). needless to say, i fell in love with my walking stick the last half of that camino!
 
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MaidinBham

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances SJPP to Muxia, April (2014)
Camino Portuguese Lisbon>Santiago, April/May (2016)
Trained for uphills , no problem . Downhills were very tough on knees and caused pain I had to live with. Poles really helped
Yes! Poles help and relieve stress on joint's ~ 25%. I imagine stress relief would be even greater on gradients, if used correctly?
I am surprised I have seen forum comments suggesting poles are only for those above age 40! Prevention is key in my experience.

Janice
 

MaidinBham

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances SJPP to Muxia, April (2014)
Camino Portuguese Lisbon>Santiago, April/May (2016)
your treadmill training is fine, and you can gradually increase your incline. my recommendation for both uphills and downhills is to zig-zag. not only does it take the pressure off the knees, but it is fun! and though i didn't use walking sticks for my first 2 1/2 caminos, i would strongly recommend you use at least one for the downhills - they are critical for balance (I learned the hard way taking a tumble on an easy, but slippery, small downhill slope!).
Thanks for reminding me about zig-zag method. Wonder if I zig-zagged all the way SJdPP > Santiago, I could claim 1000 miles? o_O :)

Buen Camino,

Janice
 

Susan Peacock

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances/SJPP 2015,2016,2018,2019
Way of St. Francis, Italy 2017
Portuguese/Finisterre 2018, 2019
Great advise everyone! Thank you so much! I'll make the booking now for Roncesvalles and will decide in SJPDP which route I'll take. For now I'll just keep in training.

@t2andreo Thanks for the trainingtips!
I am 55, only trained by doing long walks on flat ground in Florida. Last year I walked to Orisson on day 1 and Roncesvalles on day 2. It was not easy but doable and the excitement and adrenaline of the first days get you over. It was worth it. I did used bag transport those first few days which helped. Be sure to pay attention to the pilgrim office and turn right at the sign below and do not take the old roman road down. We didn't pay attention and this descent was the hardest part of the route.
 

Attachments

Icacos

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
.....it looks like I'll have to go to the condos on the beach and climb up and down the stairs to train. o_O
And to escape the ills of winter I found some convenient stairs at an indoor sports facility and trained on those.
I am surprised I have seen forum comments suggesting poles are only for those above age 40!
:D If you are referring to me, I was trying to prevent a barrage of comments from those young'uns who are perfectly happy and able to manage without poles and who don't want an oldie like me suggesting to them how they might conduct themselves, thank you very much, etc. I myself only became a convert to poles at Castrojerez. Before that, I managed very well without them......or was convinced I did......thank you very much. Some of us have to learn the hard way! :D:D
 

MaidinBham

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances SJPP to Muxia, April (2014)
Camino Portuguese Lisbon>Santiago, April/May (2016)
I am 55, only trained by doing long walks on flat ground in Florida. Last year I walked to Orisson on day 1 and Roncesvalles on day 2. It was not easy but doable and the excitement and adrenaline of the first days get you over. It was worth it. I did used bag transport those first few days which helped. Be sure to pay attention to the pilgrim office and turn right at the sign below and do not take the old roman road down. We didn't pay attention and this descent was the hardest part of the route.
Yes! Stay to the right at intersection! I knew to do this from pilgrim in the planning stages of my csmino. I tried to warn others at this intersection,to no avail. They were last seen.........;) Just kidding.

Janice
 

Pingüigrino

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Aragones, Vasco del Interior, Baztanes. (Frances Winter, La Plata, Camino de Invierno, Mozarabe, Norte, Primitivo.)
Hi all!

First of all; this forum rocks! It's extremely helpfull during the preparation for my first Camino, starting on May 10th. Thank you so much, so far.

My biggest concern at this moment is the first stretch to Roncessvalles. I'm planning on staying at Orrisson to cut myself some slack and it seems to ge great experience. But still... I saw some great footage on YouTube and was under the impression that it was gradually steep. After reading some threads here on the forum I start to doubt. Shouldn't I take the Valcarlosroute? I don't want to wear myself out during the first two days nor take a restingday in Roncessvalles. I live in the Netherlands, it's quite difficult to train uphill, since we have no hills or mountains of Amy significance.

I'm reasonably fit, I can walk 20 k's in a day, but I'd still like to hear any opinion about these first two days.

Monique
Hi Monique. I suggest you, in order to train your muscles, to start climbing stairs up and down . I think you can easily find buildinds of ten or twelve floors in the Netherlands. It could be a good exercise for your legs. Buen Camino.
 

dee bright

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Spring 2016
Like Mark I have ventured over the Napoleon several times. I love the stop at Orisson because it is a great way to break up the 27km from SJPdP to Roncevalles on your first day.
Am I fit? There are several fellow forum members who will tell you I don't look very fit:eek: at the age of 70 carrying about 10kg of excess belly fat.
In 2014 I had a good friend from Biarritz who runs 5k every day. He wanted to share a day of my Camino as I started my first day walking to Orisson. He got about 75% of the way to where the path veers off the paved road to a very steep hill climb. At that point he quit and waited for a car to pass and take him down to where he had parked his car and then he returned to meet me at Orisson. After about 5k he was swearing that the signage was very deceptive and he may be right that the 7k to Orisson is figured in statue distance. It is a long steep undulating road. After Orisson it is a nice easy walk until the downhill to Roncevalles.
In my experience: steep is defined by the walk to Somport from Oloron on the GR 653, the morning walk out of Pontedueme and the jog up to Hospital de Bruma on the Camino Ingles.

Ha! I'm glad to see I'm not the only "oldster" who is attempting this!
 

fraluchi

RIP 2019
Camino(s) past & future
One every year since 2007
Actually, at 1000 meters you have 90% of the oxygen available at sea level and any effects are very hard to detect. [...]
Actually it's not the oxygen, or dilution of it, which may cause difficulties. I live on an altitude of 1'100 m. and know of various people who had problems to tackle a distance here which they would easily walk at home, at sea level. People don't all have the same lungs I guess?:eek:
 

newfydog

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona-Santiago, Le Puy- Santiago, Prague- LePuy, Menton- Toulouse, Menton- Rome, Canterbury- Lausanne, Chemin Stevenson, Voie de Vezelay
Sorry to disagree frauluchi, but I feel your anecdotal experience is not backed up by science, and may put unnecessary concerns into peoples heads. For example, in the US the Athletics Association allows runner's times to be adjusted for altitude when qualifying for the national championships. For a track at 1124 meters the correction factor is only 2.02 seconds per kilometer. For another track at 2307 meters, it jumps to 6.9 seconds per km.

I also live at 1100 meters. Visitors from sea level notice no difference. I used to live at 2700 meters, and visitors noticed that for sure.
 
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Henriette46

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy en Velay -Santiago (2011) Vezelay -Limoges (2013)
Hi all!

First of all; this forum rocks! It's extremely helpfull during the preparation for my first Camino, starting on May 10th. Thank you so much, so far.

My biggest concern at this moment is the first stretch to Roncessvalles. I'm planning on staying at Orrisson to cut myself some slack and it seems to ge great experience. But still... I saw some great footage on YouTube and was under the impression that it was gradually steep. After reading some threads here on the forum I start to doubt. Shouldn't I take the Valcarlosroute? I don't want to wear myself out during the first two days nor take a restingday in Roncessvalles. I live in the Netherlands, it's quite difficult to train uphill, since we have no hills or mountains of Amy significance.

I'm reasonably fit, I can walk 20 k's in a day, but I'd still like to hear any opinion about these first two days.

Monique
Hello Monique
I am from the Netherlands too and walked from Le Puy en Velay to Compostella. I don't like doing sports and was 65 when I crossed the Pyrenees. Before arriving in St Jean I had walked for some weeks and that was my only training. I worried a lot about the stretch across the Pyrenees and booked at Orrison to cut the stretch in two parts. Leaving st Jean the road is Tarmaced, easy on the feet, you can walk in a rhythm, when you get out of breath the road levels out. I managed to talk with a Spanish family while walking up and now I think it was not that difficult at all. The route from Le Puy en Velay has far more demanding stretches.
Good luck and enjoy your Camino.
Henriette
 

Kellie

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2013 Complete, 2014 & 2015 Partial, Plan 2016 Partial
I think this was mentioned a bit, but will share again...yes it is steep, but it is not the steepness that I typically have issues with it is the footing. It can be slick, rocky, muddy, sliding rocks. I have done it 3 times & fallen 3 times. I never got hurt, just dirty. :)
 

MaidinBham

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances SJPP to Muxia, April (2014)
Camino Portuguese Lisbon>Santiago, April/May (2016)
And to escape the ills of winter I found some convenient stairs at an indoor sports facility and trained on those.

:D If you are referring to me, I was trying to prevent a barrage of comments from those young'uns who are perfectly happy and able to manage without poles and who don't want an oldie like me suggesting to them how they might conduct themselves, thank you very much, etc. I myself only became a convert to poles at Castrojerez. Before that, I managed very well without them......or was convinced I did......thank you very much. Some of us have to learn the hard way! :D:D
We shall go up the hill/mountain with our canes.......um I mean trekking poles!
:eek: :) :p o_O

Ultriea!
Janice
 

Lance Chambers

Lance Chambers
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria (2015), SJPdP (2016), Burgos (2017), SJPdP (2018), Burgo (2019), SJPdP (2023?).

Seeker43

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to start Camino Frances end of September.
The route from SJPdP to Roncesvalles is a 27 kms step climb and then steep downhill. If you are not very fit or experienced with heights it is a tough challenge, and you can easily ruin your feet (and attitude) on your very first day. Doing it in only one day is a very tough start to your Camino. It will be the hardest day on the entire Camino. The climb is steep. No discussion on that. No need to start your first Camino day as the toughest on the whole stretch. A stop in Orrison is much recommended, breaking it into 2 days to Roncesvalles.

I am a Norw. used to mountains, and I recommend splitting it into two days unless you feel very fit.
There is no need to take the steep route down from the Col L. In fact, the longer but much less steep route that branches off to the right just below the Col is very pretty and easy.
 

Icacos

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
.... Last year I walked to Orisson on day 1 and Roncesvalles on day 2. ..... Be sure to pay attention to the pilgrim office and turn right at the sign below and do not take the old roman road down. We didn't pay attention and this descent was the hardest part of the route.
Yes! Stay to the right at intersection! I knew to do this from pilgrim in the planning stages of my csmino. I tried to warn others at this intersection,to no avail. They were last seen.........;) Just kidding.
Please clarify something for me. I keep reading advice that one should take the right (and slightly longer) path because the left path to Roncesvalles is very steep and more difficult to negotiate. Am I correct that the left path (I think, slippery when wet) takes one through a particularly lovely wooded area? If so, I would really like to go this way someday, provided my body is up to it, and the path conditions condusive. I may be getting older, but I am still inclined to take the road less travelled if it provides a bit of a challenge and pleasant surroundings. Is everyone who takes the left path considered foolhardy?
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2020? Hopefully Via de Bayona/Burgos to Ponferrada/Camino de Invierno
Please clarify something for me. I keep reading advice that one should take the right (and slightly longer) path because the left path to Roncesvalles is very steep and more difficult to negotiate. Am I correct that the left path (I think, slippery when wet) takes one through a particularly lovely wooded area? If so, I would really like to go this way someday, provided my body is up to it, and the path conditions condusive. I may be getting older, but I am still inclined to take the road less travelled if it provides a bit of a challenge and pleasant surroundings. Is everyone who takes the left path considered foolhardy?
Hi Icacos,
On my 1st Camino, I wanted to take the 'easier' way down. I was on my own at the top, (yup, in July!) and hesitated... Then a group of 2 or 3 Koreans pilgrims joined me, looked at their map ( like I was) and decided 'that way' was the easier one...I was going to take the other way but decided to go their way thinking at least I wouldn't be alone....
I soon realised I had taken what had been described to me as the 'dangerous' descent, the one I wanted to avoid.
I loved it. Yes it is steep but I zigzagged down to minimise the strain and I was absolutely fine.
Now....I much later met lots of pilgrims who had suffered on that descent, had hurt their knees or suffered other injuries....

The 2nd time I walked the CF, I was looking forward to that walk down in the woods. Well I didn't like it at all, it went on for ever I thought - again I was on my own - and I couldn't wait to reach Roncesvalles. Just goes to show...l

From memory, the way down into the forest is straight on, the 'easier' way is on the right, you follow the road? I hope others will confirm or correct me if I am wrong.

Hope it helps?
 

Lord Longpath

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (April/May 2015)
Chemin du Puy (April/May 2016)
North Wales Pilgrim (October 2017)
The treadmill in the gym set to steeply uphill should be good training. Dull, but you can let your mind wander. The machine that strengthens the knee muscle just above the kneecap will help with the downhills, but with light weights. The Camino Frances is gentle for anyone who has walked elsewhere (with the possible exception of the first day). I never use poles and I'm 61, but there's no reason not too if you find it helps - there's no scrambling or climbing over stiles.

I recommend the descent through the forest. There's a lot of walking close to roads later in the Camino.

To really simulate walking in mountains you should set the treadmill to 10 degrees up, and have someone throw a bucket of cold water over you every half hour.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
The map at the url below is centered at Col Lepoeder. From there you see the easy way (white road) heading south and then north at the switchback and then heading generally west. Just north of the switchback turn you see the shorter, steeper and wooded way (dotted black line) headed south-west. The map is interactive and with the top right dropdown menu you can select the type of map you want to see (including satellite views.)

gpsvisualizer.com/draw/?type=OPENTOPOMAP&zoom=15&center=43.026259,-1.295378
 

MaidinBham

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances SJPP to Muxia, April (2014)
Camino Portuguese Lisbon>Santiago, April/May (2016)
Please clarify something for me. I keep reading advice that one should take the right (and slightly longer) path because the left path to Roncesvalles is very steep and more difficult to negotiate. Am I correct that the left path (I think, slippery when wet) takes one through a particularly lovely wooded area? If so, I would really like to go this way someday, provided my body is up to it, and the path conditions condusive. I may be getting older, but I am still inclined to take the road less travelled if it provides a bit of a challenge and pleasant surroundings. Is everyone who takes the left path considered foolhardy?
Well, the friend who warned me, I wouldn't say is foolhardy. I don't believe she was quite prepared to take the steeper route in trail runners. This is a woman who cycled 2200 miles from California to Florida the same year as her Camino, so it was not just an issue of fitness.
For myself, only 2nd day walking, and I wanted to remain focused on preventing injury. I walk with heavy mid hiking boots due to old ankle sprain/foot fracture. They are heavy because even the lighter weight mid boots I have can not provide the comfort when I am carrying a pack. But I do remember thinking in those first few days that my downfall could have been a foot injury. If the choice of which path to take had occurred later on - well that may have been a different story, as I felt like wonder woman with wings on my feet, and a pack as light as a feather!

Janice
 

Icacos

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
The map at the url below is centered at Col Lepoeder. From there you see the easy way (white road) heading south and then north at the switchback and then heading generally west. Just north of the switchback turn you see the shorter, steeper and wooded way (dotted black line) headed south-west. The map is interactive and with the top right dropdown menu you can select the type of map you want to see (including satellite views.)

gpsvisualizer.com/draw/?type=OPENTOPOMAP&zoom=15&center=43.026259,-1.295378
Thank you very much for this map. Please bear with me here. If I read it right, and your directions, the dotted black line through the wooded area shows the trail approaching Roncesvalles from the south east, i.e. via Zaldua - the opposite direction from the less difficult trail. If so, that seems an awfully long way through the woods if one is by him/herself. I don't know if I'd want to go that way on my own. :eek:
 

West Coaster

Zoomer
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances May-June 2015
Thanks both!

@Mark Lee : I'm 44 years old.
@Icacos : That's exactly what I worry about. I train in the gym on the treadmill, 7% uphill, speed at 5 k's an hour. I just don't know if that's sufficient to train my muscles.

Hmmm....still very new here, OP is short for?
Considering you’re training and putting a lot of consideration into this adventure it’s all lining you up for success.

Tread mills don’t really provide an alternative to actual walking or running. They’re good at building up cardio vascular endurance but because all you’re doing is moving the belt behind you, they’re not a true weight bearing exercise.

Being from the Netherlands you most likely already have what it takes to climb mountains. Ever ride a bike? Pushing down the pedal on a bike is using most of the same muscles you would engage climbing a hill. To round off your training, I would suggest you climb stairs. Just climb up and down the stair well of a high rise office building and you’re strengthening your prime movers.

One mistake a lot of people make climbing up hills, is they try to walk up when they should be hiking. When you’re normally walking you actually push off using your Achilles tendon. (The muscle that forms your calf). The Achilles was designed to propel us forward either walking or running. It works like a big elastic band, storing energy and then releasing it. We use it to get around quickly, but it’s not designed to carry loads up hill. This is where your largest muscle (the Quads) and your hip flexors come into play.

When hiking up a hill, lean forward a bit and lift your leg and place it right where it wants to fall in front of you. Keep your steps short and don’t push forward from your ankle.

Try hiking at home. Walk around the room, up and down stairs without pushing off with your Achilles. Feels a bit strange, but it’s the only way to climb a mountain.
 

Montana Jayne

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
September 2015 - Camino Frances
? Camino Ingles
Hi all!

First of all; this forum rocks! It's extremely helpfull during the preparation for my first Camino, starting on May 10th. Thank you so much, so far.

My biggest concern at this moment is the first stretch to Roncessvalles. I'm planning on staying at Orrisson to cut myself some slack and it seems to ge great experience. But still... I saw some great footage on YouTube and was under the impression that it was gradually steep. After reading some threads here on the forum I start to doubt. Shouldn't I take the Valcarlosroute? I don't want to wear myself out during the first two days nor take a restingday in Roncessvalles. I live in the Netherlands, it's quite difficult to train uphill, since we have no hills or mountains of Amy significance.

I'm reasonably fit, I can walk 20 k's in a day, but I'd still like to hear any opinion about these first two days.

Monique
 

Montana Jayne

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
September 2015 - Camino Frances
? Camino Ingles
My husband(71) & I(69) did SJPP to Roncesvalles fall 2015 in one long day. I'm a mall/greenbelt walker from way back and did little hill or mtn training. It IS a hard walk, I called it "awesome" awful", but it was a great experience and I'd do it again. We couldn't get into Orisson, but I do think that might have eliminated the "awful", although we also had 30 knot winds, but the view was really something.
 

Marc Hamel

Member
Camino(s) past & future
September (2016)
Fall (2019)?
My husband(71) & I(69) did SJPP to Roncesvalles fall 2015 in one long day. I'm a mall/greenbelt walker from way back and did little hill or mtn training. It IS a hard walk, I called it "awesome" awful", but it was a great experience and I'd do it again. We couldn't get into Orisson, but I do think that might have eliminated the "awful", although we also had 30 knot winds, but the view was really something.
My partner and I will be doing our first Camino in September/Ocotber 2016. This is the first time I have been made aware of the two paths down into Roncevalles. It seems all the pictures I have seen from other pilgrims have shown a wonderful path through the woods and so I think that would be my choice. I will be 64 when we start and Ed will be 67. We have already started walking practice, and it is very hilly around where we live in central Massachsuetts, and this Spring and Summer we plan on practicing on Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire so that by September we will be in better shape. I'm so thankful for this forum and for the willingness of people to share their experineces with us newbies! Many thanks.
 
Camino(s) past & future
April-May 2016
Hi Monique,
This forum is great because it gives you a lot of important info. If you haven't figured out by now, you will get a lot of different personal opinion regarding the Camino. Unfortunately, the ones that stick in your mind are the ones that fuel your fear. I've been backpacking since I was in boy scouts and spent 23 years in the military. I've carried packs that weighed 85 pounds plus my individual load bearing equipment that weighed at least 20 lbs. After 23 years in the military I've experienced many terrain from desert to high elevation. I'm not boasting because at 50 I'm starting to feel it. The point I'm trying to make is the human body is very tough and can do more than people think. It can adjust to a lot of discomfort.
Yes, preparation is the key and the better in shape you are the better it will be for you, but a lot do not have the training and experience that some have had. You do have your gear and most inexperience hikers' problem starts with the equipment. Load your pack and start carrying it at home when possible and in the morning start doing squats with it on, keeping your back straight. At night before sleeping do a lot of stretches from neck to your feet. There are lots of stretching videos on YouTube. Go to the mall and walk around with the boots you'll be wearing, wear them daily if possible.
No matter how much you prepare, you will get tired and drained by the end of the day, but your body will adjust. You will have aches and pains, but your body will adjust.
We are all different, but what I've given you applies to anyone. 23 years in the military and years of backpacking, I've never had blisters in my feet and my feet are soft. I've used two wools socks everyday I was in uniform. I'm not saying I won't get one on the Camino, but with a lot of breaks and constant changing to dry socks helps me a lot. I don't use Vaseline or silk liner socks, I use foot powder. It works for me and I don't know if it'll work for you.
The Camino will not be as hard as climbing Moana Kea or My Fuji, but I'm sure my body will adjust no matter how steep or flat the route will be. Take what you can from this forum, but ultimately you'll be the one to decide what will work for you. That goes for your gear to pack and the weight you carry. For someone who've been in harms way, death will never be a better option to climbing a steep hill, like some post I've read here.
You ever wonder how we in the military can go through the most grueling training and most unforgiving environment? The body will adjust.
Listen to your body, when you're in pain find out why and fix it. Pain let's you know you're alive. Your body will adjust. Be positive and believe in your mind that you can do it, it's amazing how your body follows...because your body will adjust.
 

WalkonBy

Walk' Wounded
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Fall 2015
Upcoming, Portuguese Comino summer (2018)
Hi all!

First of all; this forum rocks! It's extremely helpfull during the preparation for my first Camino, starting on May 10th. Thank you so much, so far.

My biggest concern at this moment is the first stretch to Roncessvalles. I'm planning on staying at Orrisson to cut myself some slack and it seems to ge great experience. But still... I saw some great footage on YouTube and was under the impression that it was gradually steep. After reading some threads here on the forum I start to doubt. Shouldn't I take the Valcarlosroute? I don't want to wear myself out during the first two days nor take a restingday in Roncessvalles. I live in the Netherlands, it's quite difficult to train uphill, since we have no hills or mountains of Amy significance.

I'm reasonably fit, I can walk 20 k's in a day, but I'd still like to hear any opinion about these first two days.

Monique
The most important reason for stopping overnight in Orrisson is the people you will meet and dine with. These people will be just ahead of you or just behind you or walking with you. you will see these same folks all along the way.
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF last 150 to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2022)
Sorry @Mark Lee, I have to disagree with you. If the OP is from the Netherlands and is not accustomed to up hills and downhills, a sudden introduction to inclines and declines can be murderous on the leg muscles. Sure, the OP will be able to manage the Napoleon or the Valcarlos route the first day, but the sudden, initial use of muscles unaccustomed to hills will become apparent a day or two later, and then, unfortunately, the incapacity will occur. My advice to the OP is to find some stairs, somewhere, and begin training those muscles which don't come into play during walking on level ground. That's my humble opinion.
(Edited for typo)
I don't have any hills nearby to speak off.

I trained in two ways.

  1. Up and down the stairs in a multi storey car park. That helps strengthen the legs, but doesn't do much for extending the Achilles.
  2. Then I found a short hill of 200 m or so and just walked up and down it.....
Another thing. might be to go to a Physio and ask about specific exercises to build your legs for hills. Might be some kind of Pilates for example. Professional advice is invaluable.

But it's certainly 'doable' for you.

If you are really worried, try the 'shuttle service'. Walk to Orison or beyond on day 1 and get picked up and taken back to SJPDP. See how you feel.

ON day 2 you can decide to get dropped off at yesterday's finish point, or if you are worried, a bit higher up. That will give you the best of both Worlds. The chance to walk over the 'high route' with a Plan B 'just in case'.

See this page: http://www.expressbourricot.com/persons-transport/

Caroline speaks great English, French, Spanish, Basque. (from what I could make out)... and is very helpful.
 

MTtoCamino

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis SJPdP to Finnestere April(2014)
My husband(71) & I(69) did SJPP to Roncesvalles fall 2015 in one long day. I'm a mall/greenbelt walker from way back and did little hill or mtn training. It IS a hard walk, I called it "awesome" awful", but it was a great experience and I'd do it again. We couldn't get into Orisson, but I do think that might have eliminated the "awful", although we also had 30 knot winds, but the view was really something.
Nice to see others from MT, I 53 walked with 2 swedes 65+ & a German 32 going over to Rocevalles, All did just fine by the end of the day they were 3 km behind me but you simply must slow down if needed. People who live in the mountains generally are not as beat up the next day so if you are concerned split it up. Just have a wonderful time.
 

Ahaj

Member
My twopence worth!
1. Train however you can but with your pack. Treadmill or outdoors is great but having experienced the pack weight was the only distinguishable difference in training between my walking companion and myself. She was blistered after the descent into Roncsevalles.
2. I didn't train with poles but got them out from the very start in St Jean and would not now walk without them.
3. The "easy" descent to Ronscevalles was stunningly beautiful in September with the heather clad hillsides. Seeing fellow pilgrims with very sore knees several days later after the steeper descent made me feel a degree of relief!!
Buen Camino
 

newgabe

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Via Francis May (2016)
Hello Monique, welcome to the forum :)
Also think of the fact that you don't only have to get over that mountain, but get over that mountain and still be healthy enough to walk 20km a day, every day, for the next weeks.
Hmmm, really, it's necessary to walk that far every day? I'm not planning to at all. I haven't done serious training, I'm not particularly fit , in fact I've had some nasty health issues really slow me down since I booked my trip. So if I want a rest day, or to walk just a few kms in a day, I certainly will~ there seem to be plenty of places to stay options closer together than that. And when I travel, I love just sitting and taking in my surrounding. spending time in churches, and people watching. I look forward to that being quite a part of my soon-to-start Camino :)
 

Curiosity

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2016
Hmmm, really, it's necessary to walk that far every day? I'm not planning to at all. I haven't done serious training, I'm not particularly fit , in fact I've had some nasty health issues really slow me down since I booked my trip. So if I want a rest day, or to walk just a few kms in a day, I certainly will~ there seem to be plenty of places to stay options closer together than that. And when I travel, I love just sitting and taking in my surrounding. spending time in churches, and people watching. I look forward to that being quite a part of my soon-to-start Camino :)
That's exactly what my Camino will be like! Fortunately I have all the time in the world. When will you start?
 

bunnymac

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2012 SJPP-Logrono, 2013 Logrono-Burgos, 2014 Burgos-Leon
CF August/September 2016 SJPP- Santiago
Thanks both!

@Mark Lee : I'm 44 years old.
@Icacos : That's exactly what I worry about. I train in the gym on the treadmill, 7% uphill, speed at 5 k's an hour. I just don't know if that's sufficient to train my muscles.

Hmmm....still very new here, OP is short for?
The average gradient for the walk from SJPP to Col de Lepoeder is about 6%. The steepest 5k (last 5k to the summit of course) is about 8%. Then it's downhill all the way to roncesvalles. Your current training should stand you in good stead for your journey.
 

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