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Winter Camino questions

Discussion in 'Camino Frances' started by katie@camino, Nov 14, 2017 at 10:40 AM.

  1. katie@camino

    katie@camino Member Donating Member

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    Hi all,

    The idea of a winter Camino (SJPdP-SdC) has been percolating in my mind for some time and after buying a super-duper, super-warm sleeping bag on the weekend, i think i am edging closer to making it a reality in Dec 2018-Jan 2019 (Australian summer school holidays). I have some questions that I am hoping someone who has experienced a Winter Camino or anyone who lives near this Way could answer, please.

    1. What is the weather usually like in Dec/Jan, particularly on the first and last thirds of the Way? What is a typical temperature range of minimums and maximums? Is it as cold as it usually is in February? I have read a few blogs of people walking in winter but it seems most of those people walk in mid/late Jan-Feb.

    2. Albergues and bars - are there enough open within reasonable distances (20-25km) of each other? I have checked out the website listing albergue open/close times for this year but am still wondering about past pilgrim's experiences.

    3. Pack transport - i have a dodgy left knee, and as much as i have tried, i have simply been unable to complete my last 2 Caminos without sending my pack forward. I am strengthening my leg in the hope i won't need pack transport but i am wondering if pack transport is available in Dec/Jan just in case?

    4. Lastly, what have been pilgrim's favourite things about their Winter Camino?

    Thankyou for taking the time to read :)
     
    Gillean likes this.
  2. Magnara

    Magnara Maggie Ramsay Donating Member

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    We started on 27 December. It is indeed perishingly cold, but you do warm up as you walk, so you don't need many layers. I used two plus a goretex jacket, my husband added a thermal base-layer as well. You do need good gloves, (I used caving gloves which gave good grip) and fleece headband or cap etc. Things may have changed recently but the only pack transport available was to get a taxi to take it to your destination. We used that once and our packs arrived. The weather was dry and crisp (very crisp!) with crunchy ice on the path in the mornings very often, but glorious clear skies. The days are short, so the evenings are long, and the TV in bars is just an endless series of game shows - take something to amuse yourself, like books or puzzles on your phone, or a pack of cards. That also means we often started out in the dark to get enough walking in before the daylight ended. There were almost no albergues open then, so we used cheap hostels/pensions. We always found bars open for a cheering something mid-morning and a cake. Walking in the winter was great, fantastic, amazing, but not for the faint-hearted. One thing very different to walking at other times was feeling alone on the path, you hardly meet anyone. That really means hardly anyone - you can go days on end, even a week or two, and not see another pilgrim. We liked that feeling of "owning" the camino, we definitely didn't have to share it with anyone, and the glorious scenery stretched out ahead without another person in sight. And we did like feeling tough about the cold - a bit of perverse pride.
     
    Kanga, amparo, katie@camino and 2 others like this.
  3. mspath

    mspath Veteran Member Donating Member

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    Although 10 caminos and more than 450 nights usually in albergues provide limitless memories for which I am forever grateful, January 24, 2009, was singular.

    I had walked 5 hours through strong wind, heavy rain, sleet and eventually dense snow up the Valcarlos route to the almost mythic monastery of Roncesvalles! Saw few people and no other pilgrims on the route; needed to ring the monastery bell to ask for shelter and would be the only one staying in the frigid old winter albergue tucked opposite the cloister entrance.

    When opening the monastery door the surprised monk greeted me saying "Senora in weather like this!" After stamping my Credential and offering hot tea, he invited me to the evening benediction. As always it was lovely. The service was held in the ancient Romanesque church (wonderfully heated!!) in front of the magnificent silver sculpture of the Virgin. Three monks assisted and asked me to stand with them at the altar. ...In retrospect how special it was that snowy night to be the single pilgrim where crowds have stood and will continue to stand throughout time. ...
     
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  4. jl

    jl Veteran Member Donating Member

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    Frances('05, '07), Aragonese ('05), del Norte / Primitivo ('09), Via Tolosana (Toulouse '05), Via Podiensis (Le Puy '07), Via Lemovicensis (Troyes '09), VF ('12), Winter Camino ('13/'14) Cammino d'Assisi ('14) Jakobseweg (Leipzig - Paris '15) San Salvador/Norte ('15) Ignaciano ('16) Invierno ('16)
    I walked the Camino Frances in the school holidays in Dec / Jan 2013/14. I was walking this route as a test run to walking the following year in the winter, and it was a wonderful experience. I will put my blog address below, you may find it helpful. There is plenty of infrastructure open along the way - you just may not have as much choice as when walking in the busier season. I always found albergues at a comfortable distance, and restaurants and bars open (though I always carried a few muesli bars - in case!). Walking in winter time I never got up early, often not starting till 9.00am because of the dark, and knowing that it was only the (surprising) occasional Australian, quite a few Koreans, and a sprinkling of other nationalities that I would meet (generally not till days end). I was often the only person in the albergue. the Valcarlos route was speical, as was the albergue in the village. I resorted to catching a bus down the mountain from O'Cebreiro because of the snow, and then sloshed my way through Galicia. I find snow a little scary (we don't see much of it here in Adelaide!) and so treated it with extreme caution. I saw the three kings parade on 5th Jan in Leon - that was great - again something we don't see here in Australia. Seeing all the Nativity scenes in bars along the way was special too - the people go to extraordinary lengths to build beautiful scenes in surprising places such as bars and restaurants, and of course in the churches. The bonus of walking at this time of the year is that as a general rule the mud is frozen and so you walk across it, rather than sink into it!

    http://mywintercamino.blogspot.com.au/
     
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  5. katie@camino

    katie@camino Member Donating Member

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    JL i have read your blog and it is so well written, i felt like i was there! Also, were you wearing an Aarnpack? I just bought a Featherlite Freedom! Did you like your Aarnpack?

    Thanks so much for your response - i feel very buoyed by it, like 'yeah! I can do this!'
     
  6. katie@camino

    katie@camino Member Donating Member

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    What a beautiful memory indeed! While we try to capture beautiful sights with our camera, we must rely on our memories to capture these besutiful moment and feelings.
     
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  7. katie@camino

    katie@camino Member Donating Member

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    Thankyou maggie! I appreciate your response. It sounds like while it is difficult, it is worth the effort. May i ask what brand of clothing you mostly wore? Also, did you wear a down or synthetic jacket? And what time roughly did you start and finish walking most days?
     
  8. jl

    jl Veteran Member Donating Member

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    Yes Katie, I was using an Aarn Pack. It wore out on the next trip and I have now switched to an Osprey (which sits very high near the head unfortunately). I used the front pockets on that trip for the first time - previously I had used just the pack. It was my second Aarn Pack, but it wore out half way through my next trip and I got a Marmont (French) one when in the UK. The one thing I don't like about the Aarn pack when using the pockets is that it has large footprint! Every time I put it down it would take up so much room - it splayed out and I couldn't hide it in the corner very easily!

    If you want to have a chat the phone number on the afotc.org website will reach me, or the info email address.

    Happy planning and Buen Camino, Janet
     
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  9. Magnara

    Magnara Maggie Ramsay Donating Member

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    I used ultrafine merino clothes and my husband used hi-tech synthetic. Ultrafine merino is lovely to wear, almost as quick to dry as synthetic and naturally anti-B.O. You can see more about this on previous threads. We both had sleeveless fleece jackets (vests) and a 2-layer Goretex jacket (waterproof enough and softer, thus more comfortable, than 3-layer). We both had Aarn Featherlight Freedom packs, which are waterproof, and still going strong after 3 caminos and countless days of bushwalking. We wore Akubra hats which are great in sun, rain, even snow (with a fleece headband - very fetching!) as they keep sun, rain and snow off your face. With this combination of everything we didn't need a poncho. Caving gloves. Trekking poles. I carried 6 kg (including the pack weight) , my husband the same weight in gear plus he carried all our electronics (chargers etc plus a camera) and water for both of us, adding 3 kg. We started usually about 7 (still dark) and finished at about 4. We loved it. Are you walking alone, though? It is very isolated, from both a companionship and a safety point of view. We met a handful of men walking alone, but no women doing it solo. This was 10 years ago, maybe someone who has done it more recently can tell you about numbers on the track.
     
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  10. katie@camino

    katie@camino Member Donating Member

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    Maggie you're my hero! 6kgs! That's incredible! I upsized to a 50L Featherlight Freedom from a 36L Osprey bc I think I'll need the extra space for a winter camino. Do you feel your FF has made a difference to your walking posture/ease of walking? An Akubra is a great idea - did the size and rigidity of it bother you though? Yes, I think I would tend towards merino; my friend who got me onto Aarnpacks recommends Icebreaker.

    Yes I intend to walk alone. I quite like my alone time, so that doesn't bother me. As far as safety goes, I might make sure I have some kind of pepper spray and a whistle handy.

    I have read a few blogs of people who walk a winter camino and a lot of them have mentioned that there were a few warm days along the way, shorts and t-shirt weather. Did you encounter this?

    What sorts of shoes and socks did you wear? I have only ever walked the Camino in Salomon trail runners and Injinji toe socks but I think I will need something a little more heavy duty for a winter Camino.
     
  11. katie@camino

    katie@camino Member Donating Member

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    Thank you so much Janet, I really appreciate your offer. I will most likely email you closer to the date if that's ok. I'm think I'll walk my winter Camino in Dec/Jan 2018/2019. Use 2018 to gather my resources!

    Were you able to take your Aarnpack as carry-on luggage?
     
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  12. katie@camino

    katie@camino Member Donating Member

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    Also Maggie, were you able to use your FF as carry-on luggage, including the Balance Pockets?
     
  13. Kanga

    Kanga Moderator Staff Member Donating Member Donating Member

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    @katie@camino I use a FF Aarn pack (have done for many years) and have just come back from Camino. I had no problems taking it onboard international flights but I keep the weight below 7 kilos and I detach the balance pockets. I usually have room to put them inside, and it is easier to manage getting the pack in and out of the luggage racks that way. An alternative is to detach the balance pockets, clip them together and use them as a "handbag". I'd rather only have one thing to carry (passport, boarding pass and wallet go in my pockets).

    For hand luggage, the critical thing is to keep the pack under 7 kilos.

    If you are flying down from Tamworth, you may not be able to take the pack onboard for the domestic flight - they are much stricter about the size limits.

    If you are new to the Aarn pack and want to talk to me about it, send a PM and I'll give you my phone number. I'm in Sydney.

    PS in 17 years of walking various caminos I've never needed either pepper spray or a whistle.
     
  14. jl

    jl Veteran Member Donating Member

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    Katie, I do the opposite to Kanga and never take my pack on as hand luggage. I take a small bag with essentials (orthotics, camera, charger, guidebook - only because I know that I wont be able to get the English versions where I go). I take those things because I know that life might be difficult in replacing those specific things if the pack and contents were to go missing. Mind you I have never had any issues so far. Everything else is available / replaceable - I'm not headed to the backblocks - and so I take a punt on getting my pack off each trip. The other reason I put my pack in the hold is that I can dismantle my poles and put them in my pack and thus not worry if they are allowed as hand luggage or not. I also always carry a small pocket knife for cutting cheese, bread etc and that definitely wouldn't go through the hand luggage. I cant be bothered hassling over what can and cant be taken on board and for me I like to have the freedom to move around transit lounges with the minimum of equipment. I know others like to take their pack on board, I like the freedom of not having to worry about it. It boils down to personal preference really.
     
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  15. Kanga

    Kanga Moderator Staff Member Donating Member Donating Member

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    Yes, in the past I've put my pack in the hold. Many times. Never had it go missing. My poles are carbon fibre with rubber ferrules, so not a problem folded inside the pack as carry on luggage.
     
  16. Magnara

    Magnara Maggie Ramsay Donating Member

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    We both have 35 l - it's a good discipline to have that size, keeps the weight down. We just have 2 sets of clothes, one for day and one for putting on in the evening after showering. That means both sets can be worn for days on end in the winter, the evening one almost doesn't need washing at all. We didn't have warm days, but we have on other caminos, and merino goes with ease through a lot of changes of weather, just push the sleeves up to the elbow. I used Kathmandu but Icebreaker is also just as good. The weird thing about that freezing weather is that you do warm up a lot - more than you expect - so if you start out cosy you'll be stripping down at the first corner. We just start cold and wait to warm up. If you get the right gear you don't need much at all. The FF pack: yes it does help with posture and ease of walking, it feels so light when it is properly fitted to you, using the dvd that comes with it. I don't use the balance packs but I think they are very good of you can (ahem) accommodate them at the front, the best weight distribution. Instead my husband carries all the water for both of us in his, and the camera. The whole pack fits so well and is so adjustable. I had very serious spinal surgery a few years ago, and just took the soft metal bar out and reworked it to fit my new line - they are an amazing piece of equipment. Oh my Akubra! (see it in the pic) - no problem with size and rigidity - put it on in the morning, take it off at the end of the day, bliss, I just automatically wore it every day. Like a farmer it would feel funny not having it on. I actually wore that one out, now on my second. I have just bought my second pair of boots now and got Keen as I have wide feet, I haven't done any very long walks with them yet but they seem fine. My previous brand is now not made. Bridgedale socks - aah. There is lots of useful info in other threads too from various people.
     
  17. Magnara

    Magnara Maggie Ramsay Donating Member

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    We take the balance packs as hand luggage and put the packs in the hold because they have our trekking poles in them.
     
  18. katie@camino

    katie@camino Member Donating Member

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    Thanks heaps Kanga! I may just need some help with the FF - it seems to be very technical. Thankyou for your offer. Good idea about the balance pockets - a good alternative if thr backpack weight ends up more than 7kg.

    Thankyou for your reasurance re: safety. I was stalked and groped by a masked men on a quad bike just outside of Sarria in July 2016. I hope to never feel as helpless and powerless as i did on that day. I was fine on my next Camino, but given the immense solitude of a winter Camino, i would feel better knowing i had a bit of help.
     
  19. Kanga

    Kanga Moderator Staff Member Donating Member Donating Member

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    That is terrible @katie@camino . Can I recommend that you download the Alert Cops app onto your mobile phone and register your details (through the App) with the Spanish police?. You will need a local SIM card and it takes a minute or two to register (passport ID etc required). Once you are registered it only takes seconds to alert the police who automatically receive your location and the type of problem you have (sexual assaults, robbery, violence). It was adopted and refined by the Spanish police as a tool to assist pilgrims.
     

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