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The big map o the Caminos de Santiago

Please comment on these plans

#1
I suddenly have some time freed up, so that instead of doing the Camino in 3 two week stages, over my next 3 years' summer holidays, I would be able to start walking around Feb 23rd, ending around March 28th. I make that just about 5 weeks altogether. But, I'm a bit worried about the weather in the Pyrenees, and at the moment my level of walking fitness is only about 8 - 10 miles per day - but that is without a pack.

So I have some questions about my "Plan A" - which would be to start at Roncesvalles, and give getting to Santiago in 5 weeks my very best attempt - do pilgrims speed up as they get fitter? is Roncesvalles in late February a bad idea? would I need a sleeping bag? is this at all realistic a timeframe for a female walker with the lightest pack she can get away with?

Then I thought of "Plan B" - start at Burgos, use the Meseta to improve walking fitness, avoid the worst weather at higher altitudes at start of trip, every chance of getting all the way to Santiago, and if I made good time I could carry on to Finisterre. Then return and walk SJPP to Burgos in the summer sunshine. Is this more realistic? Would I really be avoiding the worst weather?

Any comments or alternative suggestions would be really welcome.

Fiona
 

Arn

Moderator
Staff member
#2
Hi Fiona,

You've answered your own question
avoid the worst weather at higher altitudes at start of trip, every chance of getting all the way to Santiago, and if I made good time I could carry on to Finisterre. Then return and walk SJPP to Burgos in the summer sunshine. Is this more realistic?
Now, since you still have a Plan A...consider this: Begin walking NOW every day with your full up pack on. Get the boots ready for the added weight and you ready for the added effort it will take. If you can comfortably make 15 to 20 km with a full pack before you depart...you'll have a much better experience overall and, still have a Plan A option.

That said, not knowing you or what shape you're in...follow the workout plan outlined above and enjoy not pushing to make a cut off date that's only a possibility. You're still going nearly 450 km and that's quite a feat!

Buen Camino,

Arn
 

vinotinto

Active Member
#3
Arn said:
Begin walking NOW every day with your full up pack on. Get the boots ready for the added weight and you ready for the added effort it will take. If you can comfortably make 15 to 20 km with a full pack before you depart...you'll have a much better experience overall and, still have a Plan A option.
I second that, and also, you may wish to begin drinking more booze now so's you can build up a tolerance for the Camino's alcoholic offerings... :wink:

Seriously, Arn is right about training now and getting used to/breaking in your equipment before you leave. I wish I'd done that, but I have a fetish for learning the hard way.

fiona said:
start at Burgos, use the Meseta to improve walking fitness,
fiona said:
Then return and walk SJPP to Burgos in the summer sunshine.
I have to admit I struggle with the idea of doing the Camino in stages. Of course, if that's the only way you can do it, then that's OK. But if you have the chance to do a straight shot from Roncesvalles to Santiago, I'd go for it. I walked from St. Jean to Santiago in the summer of 2007, and it was a pretty amazing and life-changing journey, like a quest or an adventure.

While on the Camino, I read about the "Three Stages of Life" the Way mirrors when you start in St. Jean (Roncesvalles should be close enough, though). Stage 1 is Youth, where you go too fast, fret, make dumb mistakes, etc. Stage 2 starts when you reach the Meseta, and it is Middle Age, where all your crap comes to the surface, and you have a sort of "mid-Camino crisis." Finally, Stage 3 kicks in around Galicia, and is like Old Age, where you've worked thru your stuff, become a seasoned walker, and can go the rest of the Way to Santiago (i.e. The End) in peace.

Anyway, that's why I recommend a straight shot, because I found the three-stage idea to be true for me. In addition, walking such a long distance affects you in areas such as physical fitness, body awareness, letting go of material things, simplicity, getting out of your comfort zone with strangers, learning to deal with adversity, and so on. I think a short jaunt lacks the transformative power of the long haul.

With all that in mind, I suggest you 1) train before you go, and 2) start in Roncesvalles. And if you're doing it in February, you'd better learn a lot about hiking in inclement weather. But whatever path you take, have a buen Camino! :arrow:
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#4
Hello Fiona,
How exciting that you can now take 5 weeks to walk your camino. I think 8 - 10 miles is pretty good training! I walked the camino last year in 37 days - walking an average of 20km (12.5m) per day. You will get fitter as you go and you could find that you do longer stages once you are fitter.
If I were you, I would aim to start at Roncesvalles. It could be glorious weather but if the weather forecast is for rain and snow, then start from Pamplona. Remember that Pamplona is 415m whilst the towns in Castille y Leon are almost all over 800m, and the highest point on the camino - higher than the Pyrenees - is after Manjarin at 1500m. Then you have O'Cebreiro where it almost always snows in winter at 1400m.
There are far more villages on the road at the start than there are on the Meseta. This means more accommodation, a better chance of finding transport if the weather becomes impossible and more chance of help should you become ill or injured.
I am hoping that Rebekah will jump in here with some advice about walking the Meseta in winter.
All the reports I've ever read claim that the Meseta is perishingly cold in winter "a barren, raw landscape with with little or no shelter and snow in the Mountains of Leon".
You will definitely need a sleeping bag! The CSJ article on "Winter Pilgrimage" has this to say about sleeping bags: You will need a very good sleeping-bag as some refuges are as cold, or colder, inside than out, especially in Castille. One tip that works is to warm up your body before getting into your sleeping bag. Jump up and down next to your bed until your body temperature rises so that when you get into the bag, your body will warm it up.
Wear wool close to your body and layers of fleece and wind chill fabrics. If it gets warm you can feel off the layers.
Whatever you decide, I wish you blue skies and sunshine!
Pilgrim hugs,
 
#5
Thank you so much for these thoughtful replies. It hadn't occurred to me that the geography of the stages of the route could mirror the emotional/spiritual stages of the pilgrim state of mind. You have persuaded me to start near the start and give it my very best try. Pamplona sounds like a good compromise for a starting point. My cold weather gear is on order and I am counting down the days until I can start. And am training for both walking and drinking!
 

Arn

Moderator
Staff member
#6
Fiona wrote:And am training for both walking and drinking
Both VT and I believe that the "total" experience is enhanced by either drinking along the Way...or observing (Sil) those that tend to watch the Way some of us drink!

Salud,
Arn
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#7
Well done Fiona - your soul is now on its way!
If you don't have a blog, please visit us from time to time so that we know how you are getting on.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
#8
fiona said:
Pamplona sounds like a good compromise for a starting point. My cold weather gear is on order and I am counting down the days until I can start. And am training for both walking and drinking!
Hi Fiona, that sounds like a good plan. It is quite possible you will find it cold in some parts, but you will most likely find a wide range of temperatures. Last December I walked the last 160 km from Vega de Valcarce to Santiago in six days, and was all prepared for winter conditions but it wasn't all like that. Indeed, there was a little snow on O Cebreiro (as you can see in the photo next to this post). Later there was a really cold mist on the descent into Sarria and then a whole day of continuous freezing rain from Portomarin to Palas do Rei, so it's well worth the extra weight to take clothing suitable for severe conditions. But there's another side to this: climate change is producing some surprisingly mild weather and I experienced three mild, sunny days on my Christmas walk to Santiago, with temperatures similar to spring or early summer, and on several occasions I was walking in shirtsleeves.

So you may be pleasantly surprised to find the weather less severe than you expected. You'll certainly find it cold in the meseta: I have no experience of that in winter, but last August I asked the lady who fed us in the refugio in the village of Hontanas - a day's walk from Burgos - what is it like in winter. She just shrugged and said, "We don't even go out of the door until March!"

It will be good to follow your progress and see how it goes, as you will be one of the next to go on the road by the looks of it. Buen camino!

Gareth
 

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