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November,December & January Camino

Daxzentzu

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
FRANCES (2018) in planning
I will start my pilgrimage, Camino Frances, during November, 2014.
I hope that veteran camino "winter walkers" here, may provide me with insights, for walking at this time of year
There is a saying that ignorance is bliss which means I should just let go and just let it happen.
But my rugby coaching background and intrinsic belief in the 7Ps require that I am prepared.
I welcome any suggestions - even facetious ones to sweeten, with humour, a topic that may be boring to some.


Dax
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mspath

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Daxzentu,

Any season can be a wonderful time to walk, but in late autumn/winter you MUST be prepared for varied weather. Nights can be extremely cold with freezing rain or snow. Learn to read the sky for possible storms, ask locals for advice and take every precaution.

Sillydoll who is a Forum member has compiled encyclopedic information on Winter Walking. Other good accounts of winter walking by Forum member Kialoa3 are his 2010 and later blogs

In bad weather many steep descents on the camino would be treacherous and following smaller parallel roads might be necessary. Winter 2012/13 the Napoleon route from SJPdP to Roncesvalles was filled with several meters of snow and in effect closed to pilgrims thus necessitating the use of the Valcarlos alternate; read more here about this hazardous situation

Other difficult stretches after storms might be from Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada or across the Montes de Oca from Villafranca as well as Monte Irago and, of course, O Cebreiro.

Not all albergues will be open, but the welcome at those albergues which are is often most sincere. Most will usually be heated and/or have blankets. Generally the hospitaleros know who is open on the next stage.

When walking in late autumn/winter only in larger places such as Roncevalles, Logrono and Santo Domingo de la Calzada and, of course, Santiago have I ever seen a cluster of more than 20 pilgrims at one time. It is easy to walk alone and in smaller albergues you might be the only pilgrim.

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. 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 to see a multitude of varied approaches. Here's mine

Happy planning, stay safe and Buen Camino,

Margaret Meredith
 

lettinggo

Active Member
Hola

The origin of this quote is from a poem by the Englishman Thomas Gray, 'Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise',
which, in my understanding, should be translated; 'Where ignorance is bliss, the fool or foolishness will be wise'.
This changes the meaning from the shorten version which has been used in many different ways and in popular entertainments.
The meaning is not that ignorance is bliss, but that it is the fool, or good to not know, that is wise or good, where it can hurt to have knowledge.

Preparing a Camino can, in my opinion, be about gathering the right equipment, seeking information from people that has experience, visualizing oneself beforehand on the way and thereby foreseeing upcoming challenges.
That being said, the wonderful thing about the Camino is, that for many people, it comes down to 'just' showing up medium prepared.
The Camino will unfold itself and if one takes it one day at the time and adjust to the challenges the forthcoming day, all will be fine.
Arriving at ones start point completely unprepared, in a state of blissful ignorance, does not provide any advantages in my opinion, although it certainly is possible without having a negative effect on ones Camino.

About a winter camino the post above provides many good practical information.
My own would be:
• Acquire equipment so you and your gear stay dry
• Get good water repellent boots
• Get a warm sleeping bag
• Use reflective vest or bands or lights
• Bring a headlamp
• Use water proof mitten gloves, wool gloves inside
• As usual 3 layers; inner wool, middle fleece, outer water and wind shell
• 3 x socks, 3 x inner socks, 2 x underwear, 2 x long johns, 2 x long sleeved wool T-shirt, 1 x heavy middle fleece, beanie hat, scarf,
Basically you need one set to walk in all the way, 2 x spare underwear, 3 x socks, 1 extra fleece for cold days, and the usual personal stuff.
• Pack all in zip locks inside to keep dry and easy to organize.
• Empty your backpack, put an open large plastic bag or a airline backpack traveling bag inside. Put all gear inside this large bag to keep dry.

The one word to remember is; Dry.

Lastly. Let go. Just get yourself to your starting point. Bring the best of yourself and the rest will take care of itself.

Buen Camino
Lettinggo
 
Last edited:

Leaningforward

Active Member
Dax,

I walked in February, but I understand from other threads on this forum that many of the same issues I encountered would apply to November through January.

To Margaret Meredith's excellent reply I would add:

-- you probably will find fewer places open (in the many small towns between traditional stages) that provide food, water, and services/bathrooms. Carry a little extra food (e.g., nuts, chocolate, fruit) to boost your energy and temperature.

-- on Sundays, don't plan to purchase anything you wouldn't expect to find in a bar/restaurant, as most stores close (except in larger towns and cities).

-- plan to encounter glare ice ("black ice" in the US) some mornings on concrete and asphalt streets and sidewalks, and consider walking with a trekking stick or sticks that have a pointed metal tip.

-- carry with you a small waterproof cushion, about the size of a pad of paper, for when you need to sit on wet or cold ground; I took a piece of closed-cell foam, others use a padded plastic shipping bag like those used by FedEx, DHL, etc.

-- if you start from SJPDP, heed the advice of the pilgrim office concerning weather conditions on the Napolean Route. Don't set out on either route after 9-10 a.m. unless you are a fast walker. If you are tempted to walked either route in bad weather, familiarize yourself with the ubiquitous and hungry Griffon vultures -- then reconsider.

Above all, be prepared for a powerful, potentially life-changing experience -- the sort of experiences that leave people like members of this forum thinking daily about the camino, months and years after they return home from Santiago.

Buen camino.
 

robertt

Active Member
Can't add much to the above excellent advice. One advantage of winter walking is that locals are in less of a rush, and encounters with other pilgrims can be a bit more personal. Stay dry, in freezing weather wear the contents of your pack don't carry them, take advice from locals in the know re safety...and eat lots of sopa de ajo, Christian penicillin.
 
Camino Way Markers
Original Camino Way markers made in bronze. Two models, one from Castilla & Leon and the other from Galicia.
Fine art photography from the Camino Ways.

alansykes

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Except the Francés
My caminos have been entirely in November and December. It's mostly been great. Lonely, perhaps, but the locals are usually very friendly (if sometimes a little bemused ...). Sopa de ajo is very good, and caldo generally - some bars serve consommé with a slug of sherry, which is welcome as well.

I strongly recommend merino wool. I have four layers in total, two lightweight t-shirts and two with long sleeves, and a pair of long-johns. With them, a balaclava, and waterproofs, I think I can cope with almost anything: last December, near Toro, after three days in freezing fog, the temperature hit -9 or 10, the water in my bottle froze up as I was walking, and I still didn't feel uncomfortable - even with hoar frost all over my torso - thanks to the miracle of merino. The previous year near Zamora I got mild frostbite on my hands, but that was because of inadequate gloves. In fact I'm so reliant on my merino I don't carry a sleeping bag - on the rare occasions the albergue doesn't have blankets, I can still sleep soundly in my lovely light wool.
 

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