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PLEASE HELP! last minute decision/opportunity to do the camino.. in 9 days!

dmbww

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
camino francés (2016/2017)
Hello all! before i start, i just want to say thanks in advance to all those that are going to help me get through this! (and for reading though this ridiculously long posting)

very briefly, I've been wanting to do the camino for years, and the last time i was planning on doing the camino, i found out i had an issue with my ankle while training that required a few surgeries... 6 years later, here i am! now, the problem i am facing is that i decided to do the camino 2 days ago because i magically got close to 2 months off work and oddly enough, i find myself in europe for this period of time... i had a eureka moment and decided i had this golden opportunity to do the camino, albeit in winter (and i just finished a 3 day mountain hike in transylvania so my blood has already cooled to below what the camino will be putting me through!)

that said, I'm scouring the forums for every piece of info i can find, but most of everything relates to spring/summer/fall hikes and not dead of winter! the plan consists of starting around december 18th to 20th. with that said, I'm looking for some help with some questions about winter hikes as well as some general info.. i know that if i keep looking i could probably find everything, but I'm very hard pressed for time.. sorry in advance..

so.. please chime in if you can help me with answering some of these questions!

shoes: i have looked at weather for the region and there is much more precipitation than most months (and cold weather). lots of posts on wearing trail running shoes but its winter... i have a pair of gortex trail running shoes and gortex gaiters but on the fence with buying a pair of hiking boots... (even gtx trail shoes get wet to a certain degree, but not sure how bad it will be on the camino in winter... mud? snow? big puddles?). I'm not worried about the trail shoes being cold. i wear them daily with wool socks in 0 degree c weather and I'm toasty... I'm more concerned about the conditions.

temperatures: from what I've gathered, highs are 10 deg c and lows are 1 deg c. does it get colder/warmer than this? I'm kind of planning all my gear around these temps so i would love some more accurate experiences along the camino. (my thoughts are i may not need a soft shell if I'm constantly in 3-7 deg c... my thermal, fleece and the poncho for rain could work or leaving the fleece and doing thermal/soft shell/poncho, but this is a risky decision if temps drop too much)

sleeping bag: not sure if theres any heating in the albergues.. what temp range bag should i be looking for? and since its the dead of winter and less frequented at this time, I've read that the albergues do offer blankets?? is this just select places or all? just thinking i could always ask for a blanket to go over my sleeping bag if it get too cold at night... i also plan on having a set of thermals to use to sleep if it gets bad.

camino passport: can someone please confirm that i read the pilgrim website correctly in that i can pick up a pp in st. jean pied de port pilgrim office upon arrival?

albergues booking: from the information i have gathered for winter treks, aside from booking my first night in st. jean, most of the albergues that you stay in will know which albergues are open further down the route, so its best to book winter accommodations as you go along since many of them are closed... is this true?

holidays: since i will be hiking over christmas and new years, will i encounter any issues with albergues kicking me out or being closed?!?!

clothing list: here's what I've got planned for clothes. if anyone has pointers, please chime in. I'm planning on packing as little as possible. i only have a 20L backpack with me.
socks - 3
underwear - 2
base layer pants (thermal) - 2 (possibly 1 to sleep, 1 to hike)
base layer top (thermal) - 2 (possibly 1 to sleep, 1 to hike)
t-shirt - 1
fleece sweater - 1 (evenings/backup)
soft shell jacket - 1 (maaaaybe 0)
pants - 1 or 2.. not sure yet
poncho - 1
gloves - 1

i wont list the rest, as in head lamp, toiletries, ear plugs etc...

i will leave it at that for the moment.. i may have some other questions but these are really the ones i need to find out about asap! and yes, a bit more planning and time would have been nice, but I'm kind of a spur of the moment type of guy and this opportunity just fell on my lap... I'm hoping the kindness I've seen on these forums will translate to people understanding my predicament! thank you again for your help!

any other pointers for a winter camino welcome!!!!! if you notice I've completely missed something important, please let me know!

matt

oh... and if anyone here is doing the camino around the same time and helps me out, ill buy the first bottle of wine!
 
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nycwalking

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Ourense to Santiago (2019), CF: (2014, 2004, 2002, 2001). On to Fisterra, (2002, 4, 14).
dmbww,
Yes, you can receive pilgrim passport in SJPP's pilgrim office, also request a list of open albergues. Trainers, worked great for my summer/ fall caminos, no go for winter. Boots much better, waterproof, even more so. Mud, you will probably walk through quite a bit, ice too, gaiters nice for snowy trails. A good walking stick helps maintain your balance. Some albergues have heat, some do not, most have blankets, but a sleeping bag is a must.
I doubt you'll have to book ahead, not many pilgrims out there. Remember, to question hospitaleros from refugio-to-refugio regarding open albergues. Some may be closed even if they state year-round.

Enjoy and enjoy and enjoy.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
My experience is mainly in March and November. However, in those months I always went prepared for extremes that matched the likely winter weather. There are some good threads on winter caminos - use the search function to find them.

Since you have a good amount of time, you have some flexibility. If you encounter unexpectedly bad conditions, you can take a day off.

I will add some comments to your post (underlined below):

shoes: i have looked at weather for the region and there is much more precipitation than most months (and cold weather). lots of posts on wearing trail running shoes but its winter... i have a pair of gortex trail running shoes and gortex gaiters but on the fence with buying a pair of hiking boots... (even gtx trail shoes get wet to a certain degree, but not sure how bad it will be on the camino in winter... mud? snow? big puddles? Yes, all of that). I'm not worried about the trail shoes being cold. i wear them daily with wool socks in 0 degree c weather and I'm toasty... I'm more concerned about the conditions.
If I were you, I'd look to see if I could get a lightweight goretex boot that was perfectly comfortable, and then energetically test it. If there was any doubt whatsoever, I'd take both the new ones and the old trail shoes and plan to discard one. However, it might be good to have 2 pairs of footwear in winter, as long as your pack size and weight are OK. On the other hand, you might find your trail shoes to be fine - the only question is drying them overnight in an unheated albergue.


temperatures: from what I've gathered, highs are 10 deg c and lows are 1 deg c. does it get colder/warmer than this? [If those are average highs and lows, then yes it gets both higher and lower.] I'm kind of planning all my gear around these temps so i would love some more accurate experiences along the camino. (my thoughts are i may not need a soft shell if I'm constantly in 3-7 deg c... my thermal, fleece and the poncho for rain could work or leaving the fleece and doing thermal/soft shell/poncho, but this is a risky decision if temps drop too much)

sleeping bag: not sure if theres any heating in the albergues.. [Sometimes no.] what temp range bag should i be looking for? [I would look for something for about 7C] and since its the dead of winter and less frequented at this time, I've read that the albergues do offer blankets?? is this just select places or all? [I don't know.] just thinking i could always ask for a blanket to go over my sleeping bag if it get too cold at night... i also plan on having a set of thermals to use to sleep if it gets bad [yes, that is always your plan B - wear all layers to bed].

camino passport: can someone please confirm that i read the pilgrim website correctly in that i can pick up a pp in st. jean pied de port pilgrim office upon arrival? [I am confident that is true.]

albergues booking: from the information i have gathered for winter treks, aside from booking my first night in st. jean, most of the albergues that you stay in will know which albergues are open further down the route, so its best to book winter accommodations as you go along since many of them are closed... is this true? [Yes]

holidays: since i will be hiking over christmas and new years, will i encounter any issues with albergues kicking me out or being closed?!?! [I don't know, but I would go with confidence.]

clothing list: here's what I've got planned for clothes. if anyone has pointers, please chime in. I'm planning on packing as little as possible. [I am assuming that thelist below includes your normal walking clothes.] i only have a 20L backpack with me. [That is small, to hold a sleeping bag, and the following.]

socks - 3 [Maybe an extra pair in winter.]
underwear - 2
base layer pants (thermal) - 2 (possibly 1 to sleep, 1 to hike) [See next comment.]
base layer top (thermal) - 2 (possibly 1 to sleep, 1 to hike) [Yes, you should always keep one warm dry layer to wear at night. Ideally that layer would also be suitable for the evening socializing. The base top would also be suitable for walking on cold days, since it seems (below) that you plan to walk normally in only a t-shirt plus fleece sweater. Two thin layers are always more versatile than 1 thick layer.]
t-shirt - 1
fleece sweater - 1 (evenings/backup)
soft shell jacket - 1 (maaaaybe 0) [You'd likely want this on days when it is chilly but not really raining, when the poncho is too much.]
pants - 1 or 2.. not sure yet [See my note above about the evening clothes. You don't need a second pair plus the second base layer.]
poncho - 1 [This is an emergency layer for walking or for sleeping.]
gloves - 1 [I take 2 light pairs. An emergency pair would be latex gloves.]

Basically, take your typical walking outfit, including rain gear, plus another layer for cold weather walking, plus a dry layer for evenings.

oh... and if anyone here is doing the camino around the same time and helps me out, ill buy the first bottle of wine!

See this thread and this one. Search "december."

Good luck, buen camino, and post about your camino!
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Have you had any winter hiking experience before? In addition to gear suggestions above, I would recommend taking "kahtoola microspikes". They are mini crampons for hiking (not mountaineering). I hate slipping and falling in icey/snowly trails, specially over uphill/downhill. I am sure they sell these in Europe. If not you can order online to have it delivered to where you can pick up. Last thing you want to do is get injured by not being prepared. Buen camino.
 

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mspath

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Do scan this recent Forum thread for posts/ links by many of us who have walked at this time to help you prepare your winter camino.
https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...forum-walking-this-dec-jan.42732/#post-437828

Particularly difficult early stretches on the CF after winter storms might be:
the Valcarlos route from SJPdP to Roncesvalles;
from Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada;
across the Montes de Oca from Vilafranca to Burgos;

Rabanal across Monte Irago to Ponferrada;
and, of course, climbing/descending O Cebreiro

Wherever you do begin it is most important to be prepared for storms and not take chances; walking in snow takes practice.

Stay safe and Buen camino!
 
Last edited:

zinco

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Winter 2015/6
Don't know about starting in SJPP.
I started in Pamplona last year - most albergues were heated, but a couple not.
Not all are open during winter/feast days, but the albergues have a list of who is staying open and will often help out/ring ahead to find out. The one day we did have problems with was Jan 1st because some albergues that were supposed to be open were closed for various reasons.
My personal opinion, re softshell jacket, etc is bring it if you can and are comfortable with your weight.
 

dmbww

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
camino francés (2016/2017)
WOW!!! big thank you to everyone for responding so quickly! tons of great info! i really appreciate all your answers!

Do it
You will not regret it
NollaigC

thats kinda my mentality! getter done!!!

Have you had any winter hiking experience before? In addition to gear suggestions above, I would recommend taking "kahtoola microspikes". They are mini crampons for hiking (not mountaineering). I hate slipping and falling in icey/snowly trails, specially over uphill/downhill. I am sure they sell these in Europe. If not you can order online to have it delivered to where you can pick up. Last thing you want to do is get injured by not being prepared. Buen camino.

as far as winter hiking, my experience tends to be more snow shoe and snow based. Ive never seen these but i do see the benefit that these would have! i may just have to add this to my collection of winter gear. invaluable for those icy areas. my hiking experience also tends to be shorter with much bigger elevation gains. ie. Romania was 900m elevation gains in just 12km (6k up, 6k down) in snow at -10c. while hiking the carpathian mountains, there were times when i really could have done with these! thx!

as for the backpack, yes.. i do realize it's tiny. my 30L, 50L and 70L are back in the usa and canada respectively. I only brought this pack which is my mountain biking pack since i had no plans originally to do the camino. the plan is to strap the sleeping bag to the outside of the pack and not carry it inside it. I'm still in Hungary but headed to Narbonne soon which is my staging ground. once i have all items with me, i will be testing the pack. if it really doesn't cut it, i have a decathlon next door to buy the appropriate sized pack.

I've tried on about 40 different hiking boots over the past 2 weeks and confident i found the right ones. they feel like slippers more so than hiking boots, so i will go pick up the ones i placed on hold today.

soft shell it is. they fend off light rain and are windproof, so I'm gonna get one in the end. along with my water resistant pants, gaiters and boots, i should stay pretty dry, even in the harshest conditions.

the weather info i found was a link i found on these forums. clearly not very accurate which is why i was asking. i found it odd that temps, especially in the mountainous regions would only be 1c. regardless, with what I'm bringing, i should be ok down to -15c. if it gets any colder, i will be sitting by a fireplace hopefully!

i will be scouring those pages that you all posted up thoroughly. not sure why i couldn't find them before but thank you! much appreciated!

again, thank you everyone! C Clearly, thank you for your super detailed reply!
 

HeidiL

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2004-), Portugués, Madrid, 4/5 Plata, 1/8 Levante, 1/8 Lana, Augusta, hospitalera Grado.
Woolly hat and a scarf or a buff! You can lose plenty of heat from your head, and they won't weigh much.

Some refugios are quite damp and chilly, even in March (my preferred time), so perhaps some soft socks that you can sleep in? Regular walking socks often have too much support to be really comfortable for sleeping.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
Have you had any winter hiking experience before? In addition to gear suggestions above, I would recommend taking "kahtoola microspikes". They are mini crampons for hiking (not mountaineering). I hate slipping and falling in icey/snowly trails, specially over uphill/downhill. I am sure they sell these in Europe. If not you can order online to have it delivered to where you can pick up. Last thing you want to do is get injured by not being prepared. Buen camino.
Too funny, when I read your post I thought to myself: mist be a Montrealer writting, and I was right.

As winter is slowly arriving here we have ice on the ground, with a light snow blanket. I tried wearing my Camino Ultra 2GTX Salomons at the dog run and it has not worked out well. They don't do anything on ice but give way. One would think Salomon would habe a good grip on all kts shoes, but alas it is not the case.
 
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AKflyer

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Past: Camino Francais 2015
Camino Portuguese 2016
Have you had any winter hiking experience before? In addition to gear suggestions above, I would recommend taking "kahtoola microspikes". They are mini crampons for hiking (not mountaineering). I hate slipping and falling in icey/snowly trails, specially over uphill/downhill. I am sure they sell these in Europe. If not you can order online to have it delivered to where you can pick up. Last thing you want to do is get injured by not being prepared. Buen camino.

Good call on the micro spikes...I hike in the Washington Olympic mountains and carry these lightweight spikes in the winter...They are a lifesaver. This brand is extremely well made and have a lifetime guarantee. They will give you confidence on the trail...ditto on the rain pants and the "buff". You won't regret this additional weight. Almost forgot...ensure that you have a very thick mil plastic pack liner inside your bag...nothing more disappointing than wet clothes in the evening or soggy socks in the morning. Kudos for making the journey. Buen Camino.
 

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