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wondering where to start, and if I've trained enough

Time of past OR future Camino
June/July 2015 (CF, 100 miles), June/July 2018 (CP, ~40 miles, too hot!)
Hi all,

I started training some in June, did more in July, and now aim to train nearly every day in August. I'm up to 10k steps a day which doesn't just drain me or make me ultra sore, but where I am, Louisiana, is super flat. I'm doing what I can, realizing I'll train every day as I walk, and I have time. So a few questions:

1) I leave 1 September, and have three months to walk. I'm slow because of weight and knee issues, but determined and persistent. I have thought about starting in Pamplona because someone told me it's a lot flatter overall, and walking to SdC, then if I have time, coming back and walking the Valcarlos route and doubling back to Pamplona. But then I think I'd love to begin at SJPdP, walk the Valcarlos, and do the full Camino, start to finish, in a more traditional way. I'm 54, have wonky knees, but have hiking poles, and have no issue at all going slow, getting passed, and listening to my body and taking my time. Any thoughts?

2) Are there places to stay along the Valcarlos route? How far between each albergue? I'd prefer not to sleep rough if I don't have to!

3) How far is it from Valcarlos to Roncevalles, and how much water should you bring? I'm type 2 diabetic, and I need to hydrate. If it's hot, I don't want to do what I did in 2015 on my first day out, and run into heat exhaustion.

4) Speaking of, how hot should it be in September? When does it get cold, later in September, into October? I have a down vest, merino long-sleeve shirt, regular long-sleeve shirt, undershirt, and a pair of leggings. Did anyone use gloves, or just put socks on their hands in the mornings?

Thanks, everyone. I look forward to reading all replies.
 
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Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Time of past OR future Camino
2019
Lots of questions, so here we go!

- If you walk YOUR pace and YOUR distance, you can do it - this is not climbing Everest, but the Camino does not suffer those who over-exert themselves to keep up with friends or hotel reservations! If you have three months, give yourself plenty of rest days and limit your daily mileage.

- September will generally be warm, but not the muggy type like at your home. However, if you are still walking in November, it will definitely turn cooler by then. Of course, you can pick up whatever extra clothing you need as the weather changes, so your current layers sound appropriate. The few times it was cold enough to need gloves in October, my wife repurposed a pair of socks - she’d rather do that than carry an item she didn’t plan to use that often.

- Walking from SJPdP is nice, but hardly required or that exciting compared to views elsewhere on the Camino (on our passage, everything was obscured by clouds anyways😂). It CAN be rigorous, though, and both routes actually involve a fair amount of climbing and descent, just at different angles. You can break up the day by staying in Valcarlos - check Gronze.com for specifics. In your case, taking on that type of challenge (elevation changes and distances longer than you are used to) may not be the best idea for Day 1 and 2. I’ve known several pilgrims who had to return home early after suffering injuries on their initial days due to overexertion.

I‘m sure others will have different advice and only you know your limitations. Just appreciate that it’s a very long road to walk with sights and challenges all along the way, no matter where you start. Walk in a way that works for you.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Yearly and Various 2014-2019
Via Monastica 2022
I think your idea is a good one.
In your shoes, I'd start in Roncesvalles - which is where Spanish pilgrims tend to start.
Between Roncesvalles and Pamplona there are a number of options of places to stop, so you can start conservatively. Then once you've finished and have well-seasoned camino legs, you can go back and walk the part from SJPP to Roncesvalles, via Valcarlos. There aren't many options along the way - but staying in Valcarlos is easy. Between there and a few kms before Roncesvalles, there's just you and the steep hill. But by then you'll be primed.

Check any of the guidebooks or Gronze for distance - they'll have the correct information.
 

Suzanne H

Camino Junkie
Time of past OR future Camino
CF'17; LePuy'18; Porto/Coastal'19; Portugal? '22
Hi CaminoKate and congrats on your training progress -- I see you've done some walking in Spain and Portugal before, so I'm going to jump to question 4) where I have some experience (I have none on the Valcarlos route).~!

I walked the CF in Sept in 2017. That year, we were wearing socks (and gloves once I bought some) on our hands most mornings, and getting very, very tan in the afternoons (afternoons continued to be in the 80s throughout Sept) in spite of the cool mornings. We had only one day of rain mid-month (very light) and I didn't encounter rain again until the middle of October after walking to Muxia. The days were still comfortably warm in Galicia during the first half of October. Of course, this is just my experience during one random year. If heat is an issue, you may want to consider carrying a hiking umbrella (or just any old Umbrella). It's portable shade and can cool off your upper extremities while providing the obvious protection against rain, when needed.

Gronze.com or wisepilgrim.com can give you a lot of information for planning, including the locations of albergues, so you can see the distances and compare them to your route planning. The guidebooks are very helpful, too.

Starting is SJPdP is definitely a challenge, but if you've already walked the route and have achieved better fitness, you may be ready for those steep mountains! I don't want to suggest that day 1 out of Pamplona will be easy, though. There will be a considerable climb and descent on that day. I tell you this only to dispell any notions that it's flat leaving Pamplona. Viewing the profile map in the Resources section may be helpful.

I also drink a lot of water, I always carried 1.5 liters (minimum) and was never too challenged to find taps to refill them.
Buen Camino~!!
 
Time of past OR future Camino
CF Spring 2022
Fellow Louisiana resident here 👋🐊⚜️

I can't add much to @Vacajoe's and @VNwalking's very sound advice above (especially about walking at your own pace and distance) beyond sharing my own experience as someone who lives below sea level and walked from SJPP to Fisterra this past spring: Those first few days until Pamplona were by far the most difficult of my entire walk, and I'm not sure I'd recommend them given the physical limitations you describe.

I decided to walk the Napoleon route and made reservations at Auburge Borda the first night, thinking that splitting the walk to Roncesvalles would make things easier. It did, to a point, but even the walk from SJPP to Borda was much more difficult than I expected: being unaccustomed to the altitude (and dealing with long-term post-Covid respiratory issues besides) made for very slow going those first two days. And while I did feel a sense of accomplishment afterwards, and made some wonderful friends - looking at you, @J Walking! - I'm still not entirely sure it was worth the effort. (I also had a less-than-pleasant experience at the albergue in Roncesvalles, but that's a story for another post.)

Taking the Valcarlos route may be a bit easier, but you will still be walking several thousand feet above sea level straight from the get-go. And whichever route you take, that downhill stretch into Zubiri is pretty challenging, especially on the knees.

Next time (and there will be a next time - I'm already planning on walking again in 2024!) I will start in Pamplona, which I really enjoyed and which is where I felt like my Camino properly began. As @Suzanne H mentioned above, you will encounter some steep terrain (via the Alto de Perdon) that first day out of Pamplona, but I don't think it will be as difficult as walking over/through the Pyrenees, especially given the ample opportunities to rest and refuel along the way.

I think your idea about coming back to walk the SJPP to Pamplona stretch after you've reached Santiago is a good one. You will be much stronger by then and your lungs will be better equipped to deal with the altitudes. (From personal experience, I was surprised how "easy" the walk up to O Cebreiro was - but of course by then I'd had a month of walking under my belt!)

Whatever itinerary or route you choose, you are in for an extraordinary experience. Buen Camino to you!
 
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Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
Hi @CaminoKate0214. I've walked both routes a few times. The Napoleon is tough for those of us who are not athletic.

My suggestions:

The walk from SJPDP to Valcarlos is really lovely. There is an excellent albergue in Valcarlos, and a good restaurant. That makes a beautiful first day of walking, about 12km long and not too onerous in terms of elevation.

The downside of the Valcarlos is the second day, which again is not too long (about 12km) but is uphill and very steep for the last section. See this elevation chart (the line at the top is the Napoleon, the bottom is the Valcarlos route).

I think what I would do is walk the first day to Valcarlos, and then organise a taxi from Valcarlos to the top of the divide, the Ibenata pass. From there I would walk down into Roncesvalles, stop for a look around, then continue walking to pre-booked accommodation in one of the small villages between Roncesvalles and Zubiri - here's a link on Gronze.

My reasoning is that the walk from Roncesvalles to Zubiri is also a stretch, and testing for someone not Camino fit. Particularly the very difficult descent into Zubiri. By walking past Roncesvalles you make a slightly easier third day.

Buen Camino!
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
I think I agree with VN that Roncesvalles would be a good starting point for you.

Part of the fabled excitement of walking from SJPP comes from the formation of groups of friends (aka "Camino family") who walk somewhat together for 4-6 weeks. In Santiago, they exuberantly remember their first day together from SJPP.

However, given your slow pace and planned 2-3 month Camino, you will not find yourself in such a group, although you may be surprised to re-encounter a few people. So, take advantage of being freed from that pressure or expectation to find a group on your first day or two. Start wherever is convenient to you, and do not consider it incomplete in any way. Instead, embrace it! Many of us prefer not to be caught up in groups, and instead we value the solitude and ephemeral friendships that we form for only a day or two.

September will be very busy with people starting from SJPP. Let them pass you. Make reservations as necessary, so that you can continue at your pace. By mid-September, the crowds will lessen. As you build confidence and strength, you will be able to enjoy detours and rest days that other will regret missing.

I recommend that you be determinedly slow and deliberate in your pace. Make that your Camino hallmark!

That is why I suggest starting at a point that will most help you succeed. Roncesvalles is a good choice. Take 3 days to get to Pamplona. Take a rest day there, maybe the next day start late from Pamplona and walk only to Cizur Menor. Then the walk up Alto de Perdon and to Uterga will be about 13-14 km.

I wouldn't always recommend this, but in your case, I suggest booking all those days (to Uterga) in advance. By the time you get to Uterga, you will have had 6 days on the Camino and you can judge the state of affairs and can book just a day or two ahead.

the full Camino, start to finish, in a more traditional way.
Try to put this "standard" out of your mind. Your Camino will be a full Camino, with a start and finish, and lot of experiences in-between. Make it your own!

I am not sure if my comments will make sense, or resonate with you, but I hope that they help.

walk the first day to Valcarlos, and then organise a taxi from Valcarlos to the top of the divide, the Ibenata pass. From there I would walk down into Roncesvalles, stop for a look around, then continue walking to pre-booked accommodation
I have just read @Kanga 's suggestion to walk to Valcarlos and then taxi onward to the top of the Ibaneta pass. That is an excellent idea if you really want to see the SJPP experience. You could even stay overnight in Roncesvalles and then continue with prebooked accommodation that I suggested for several more short days.
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
CaminoKate214,

Whatever route you decide to take,
be a snail; slow but, determined, until your body has found its way.

Whatever your age and fitness do remember that this is not a walk in the park! Just because so many pilgrims have been successful does not guarantee that all will be. Anybody any moment can fall or pull or break anything. The most common injury is the result of trying to walk too far too quickly carrying too much! Easy does it.

Take care and Buen camino!
 
Time of past OR future Camino
06,CF;13,CP;17,SSal;19,Ingles
Greetings. Above you have sound words from everyone. Before I walked in 2006, I had a lot of email to and fro with @mspath - long before I was aware properly of the forum, I found her accounts of her caminos to date. She it was who provided me with the support and encouragement to believe I could do it! I have learned some more also, since then, from experience of a few caminos. We began in Roncesvalles. I half heartedly said I would do the SJPdP day another time, but instead, I have walked el Perdon a few times. It is a lovely walk! In my experience...
Back to your training: if you have access to a gym, you can use a machine that allows you to adjust your walking to include height.
You will be fine. Buen Camino.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
@CaminoKate0214 I've just re-read my post and realise I did not make it clear I was suggesting that you stay in the albergue in Valcarlos, and take the taxi to the Ibeneta Pass and walk down and through Roncesvalles the next day. Although it also makes sense to get to Roncesvalles all in that first day, using the taxi for the last part of the route.
 
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2016 SJPP to Logrono, 2017 Logrono to Castrojeritz
I love C clearly's reflections! They make so much sense.

I myself started my first camino in 2016 from SJPDP by using Express bouriricot. They drove me up to La Croix Thibault and I then walked over the top myself. One can aslo use them to split up the walk and have them pick you up after a days walk and drive you back the next day.

If you decide to walk the Napoleon route I would recommend making sure to take the right turn when going down towards Roncesvalles at it was much nicer for the knees...

 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Time of past OR future Camino
A few in the past; more in the future!
I have thought about starting in Pamplona because someone told me it's a lot flatter overall, and walking to SdC, then if I have time, coming back and walking the Valcarlos route and doubling back to Pamplona.
Since no one has specifically commented on the second part of this option, I will humbly suggest that I don't think it's a great idea. Once you reach Santiago, the last thing you're going to want to do is travel all the way across the country just to walk three more stages and then finish in Pamplona - it's quite disjointed. If starting in SJPdP has some kind of pull or resonance for you, and it sounds like it does, then just go for it! You have mentioned Valcarlos but the Napoleon route with an overnight stop in Orisson is another option to break up the Pyrenees stage. ¡Buen camino!
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
Hi @CaminoKate0214. I've walked both routes a few times. The Napoleon is tough for those of us who are not athletic.

My suggestions:

The walk from SJPDP to Valcarlos is really lovely. There is an excellent albergue in Valcarlos, and a good restaurant. That makes a beautiful first day of walking, about 12km long and not too onerous in terms of elevation.

The downside of the Valcarlos is the second day, which again is not too long (about 12km) but is uphill and very steep for the last section. See this elevation chart (the line at the top is the Napoleon, the bottom is the Valcarlos route).

I think what I would do is walk the first day to Valcarlos, and then organise a taxi from Valcarlos to the top of the divide, the Ibenata pass. From there I would walk down into Roncesvalles, stop for a look around, then continue walking to pre-booked accommodation in one of the small villages between Roncesvalles and Zubiri - here's a link on Gronze.

My reasoning is that the walk from Roncesvalles to Zubiri is also a stretch, and testing for someone not Camino fit. Particularly the very difficult descent into Zubiri. By walking past Roncesvalles you make a slightly easier third day.

Buen Camino!

I like the sound of this idea from @Kanga . You'll get to start in St Jean, see the mountains, Roncesvalles......
And there are some nice intermediate villages along the way through Zubiri to Pamplona, so you could start with some short stages.

Also agree with @jungleboy . The last thing I would want to do on reaching Santiago, is try to get back to St Jean. My body shuts down when I reach the end! :oops:
 
Time of past OR future Camino
2023
I think your idea is a good one.
In your shoes, I'd start in Roncesvalles - which is where Spanish pilgrims tend to start.
Between Roncesvalles and Pamplona there are a number of options of places to stop, so you can start conservatively. Then once you've finished and have well-seasoned camino legs, you can go back and walk the part from SJPP to Roncesvalles, via Valcarlos. There aren't many options along the way - but staying in Valcarlos is easy. Between there and a few kms before Roncesvalles, there's just you and the steep hill. But by then you'll be primed.

Check any of the guidebooks or Gronze for distance - they'll have the correct information.
What she said.
 
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Dilbin

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Irun to Santander del Norte
Hi all,

I started training some in June, did more in July, and now aim to train nearly every day in August. I'm up to 10k steps a day which doesn't just drain me or make me ultra sore, but where I am, Louisiana, is super flat. I'm doing what I can, realizing I'll train every day as I walk, and I have time. So a few questions:

1) I leave 1 September, and have three months to walk. I'm slow because of weight and knee issues, but determined and persistent. I have thought about starting in Pamplona because someone told me it's a lot flatter overall, and walking to SdC, then if I have time, coming back and walking the Valcarlos route and doubling back to Pamplona. But then I think I'd love to begin at SJPdP, walk the Valcarlos, and do the full Camino, start to finish, in a more traditional way. I'm 54, have wonky knees, but have hiking poles, and have no issue at all going slow, getting passed, and listening to my body and taking my time. Any thoughts?

2) Are there places to stay along the Valcarlos route? How far between each albergue? I'd prefer not to sleep rough if I don't have to!

3) How far is it from Valcarlos to Roncevalles, and how much water should you bring? I'm type 2 diabetic, and I need to hydrate. If it's hot, I don't want to do what I did in 2015 on my first day out, and run into heat exhaustion.

4) Speaking of, how hot should it be in September? When does it get cold, later in September, into October? I have a down vest, merino long-sleeve shirt, regular long-sleeve shirt, undershirt, and a pair of leggings. Did anyone use gloves, or just put socks on their hands in the mornings?

Thanks, everyone. I look forward to reading all replies.
Hi. With regard to the training aspect I've never trained but walked for a month 3.5 to 4km daily and never had any issues so I'm sure you'll be fine and have a great trip. Daniel
 

Ian Salsbury

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
booked to do Lugo-Santiago June 2018
You will be fine, go at your own pace. I started June 30th 2022 from Saint Jean. I had left IT band pain for a few weeks prior to starting so did not train. Walking the Camino cured my IT band within a few days and i became quite use to the distances. My biggest issue was the heatwave they were having, not the daytime but the night time temperatures were too much for me. Also I tried some gel metatarsal pads in my shoes, never again as one caused a horrendous blister. I hiked 296 miles before coming home. Temperatures will be much nicer I think in September, at least you will be able to sleep.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
I've walked the Frances over 20 times, but this LAST time was a huge challenge to me. I had a double mastectomy two YEARS earlier and since then, my stamina has been shot. I found the walking much more difficult this year than any year in the past. That combined with my eyesight going downhill (I'm 70) and my glasses being the wrong prescription, I fell near Ciraqui and thought I'd broken my wrist. So this year, even after all my experience, was difficult. I just tell you this because the Camino can be a challenge to ANYONE and you simply have to do what it takes to get YOU in your current condition, up the trail. This year, I ended up taking buses and taxi many stages after my fall.

Arrival Day. Fly into Pamplona and spend a day or two there sightseeing so when you walk back through, you have seen everything and don't need to stop there. Also, this gives you a day or two to adjust to the time difference. Then take a bus to Roncesvalles.

First Walking Day. If I were you, I'd begin in Roncesvalles and frankly, I'd walk a half stage the first day. The walk into Zubiri can be treacherous - I'd walk to Viskarret and take a taxi into Zubiri (or walk it slowly and carefully the next day).

Second Walking Day. From Zubiri, I'd walk to Trinidad de Arre and stay at the beautiful Albergue Trinidad de Arre at the river crossing.

Third Walking Day. You've already seen Pamplona, so walk straight through. There is a climb today. It's not as bad as some folks say, BUT I'd stop today in either Zariquigui at the base of the hill, or in Uterga.

Fourth Walking Day. Walk to Maneru or Ciraqui.

Fifth Walking Day Walk to Estella.

Now you have "trained" enough in my opinion, and you're ready to start walking full stages if that's what your body will allow. There are plenty of places to stay in the "in between" places if you look at Brierley's map and often, these are easier to find beds in than in the supposedly proper stage villages.

Walk until you're tired, then stop. If you start by 7 or 8 am and stop by 2 pm, you should be able to find beds. If you can, it's smart to book ahead this year. ESPECIALLY in the first first stages between Roncesvalles and Pamplona.

If you get tired, book backpack transport. There's no law that says you have to carry your pack, and it's nice to walk without it, especially in those first stages. As you gain strength, if you WANT, you can carry it. But it's only about 5-6 Euros per stage to have it transported. I use Caminofacil because I can book them online the night before.

PS: Don't get caught up in the race for a bed. Start at a decent hour then just walk until you're tired. Those "stages" aren't written in stone - they're someone's idea of how many kilometers THEY can walk. I did a Slow Camino Trip with two gals one year and we only walked half-stages. They loved it - so did I!

Good luck and Buen Camino!
 

DearKat

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Irun to Santiago planned
Hi all,

I started training some in June, did more in July, and now aim to train nearly every day in August. I'm up to 10k steps a day which doesn't just drain me or make me ultra sore, but where I am, Louisiana, is super flat. I'm doing what I can, realizing I'll train every day as I walk, and I have time. So a few questions:

1) I leave 1 September, and have three months to walk. I'm slow because of weight and knee issues, but determined and persistent. I have thought about starting in Pamplona because someone told me it's a lot flatter overall, and walking to SdC, then if I have time, coming back and walking the Valcarlos route and doubling back to Pamplona. But then I think I'd love to begin at SJPdP, walk the Valcarlos, and do the full Camino, start to finish, in a more traditional way. I'm 54, have wonky knees, but have hiking poles, and have no issue at all going slow, getting passed, and listening to my body and taking my time. Any thoughts?

2) Are there places to stay along the Valcarlos route? How far between each albergue? I'd prefer not to sleep rough if I don't have to!

3) How far is it from Valcarlos to Roncevalles, and how much water should you bring? I'm type 2 diabetic, and I need to hydrate. If it's hot, I don't want to do what I did in 2015 on my first day out, and run into heat exhaustion.

4) Speaking of, how hot should it be in September? When does it get cold, later in September, into October? I have a down vest, merino long-sleeve shirt, regular long-sleeve shirt, undershirt, and a pair of leggings. Did anyone use gloves, or just put socks on their hands in the mornings?

Thanks, everyone. I look forward to reading all replies.
Im younger, Ill turn 34 on trail. It looks like youve done 2 Caminos before... congratulations! Itll be my first and have trepedation. Last August I walked half marathons every other day and walked my dog *whos coming on a marathon for his birthday to ensure stamina. My fear is I need to do halves everyday to complete the 820KM not every other day. I also have a fear of rough sleeping but see in the dog accomodation sheet in the forum it is going to happen indefinetly on Norte/Coastal and half the time on Frances. Ive many other fears... you are certainly not alone!

I can understand European temperatures seeming cold from Lousiana but I dont glove/scarf myself until November and this is in Berlin on Polish border not Spain, Spain should be mild. I run a hiking group here in Berlin and we get beginners come on 6 hour 30KM hikes in doc martens and make it! Stark blieben!

Ill be ahead of you leaving August 18th.
 

DearKat

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Irun to Santiago planned
You will be fine, go at your own pace. I started June 30th 2022 from Saint Jean. I had left IT band pain for a few weeks prior to starting so did not train. Walking the Camino cured my IT band within a few days and i became quite use to the distances. My biggest issue was the heatwave they were having, not the daytime but the night time temperatures were too much for me. Also I tried some gel metatarsal pads in my shoes, never again as one caused a horrendous blister. I hiked 296 miles before coming home. Temperatures will be much nicer I think in September, at least you will be able to sleep.
This is a really hopeful reply... thank you!
 
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lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
but have hiking poles, and have no issue at all going slow, getting passed, and listening to my body and taking my time. Any thoughts?


However, given your slow pace and planned 2-3 month Camino, you will not find yourself in such a group, although you may be surprised to re-encounter a few people. So, take advantage of being freed from that pressure or expectation to find a group on your first day or two
I agree with C CLearly about being free from the pressure of walking with a group. I have heard about but no nothing about a facebook group called something like slow walkers. I think I have read that this group is made up of people who really take their time and have the time to walk shorter distances and go for a longer period of time, I enjoy walking alone most of the day and at my own pace which I think is important for a person both spiritually and physically. But I do like the companionship of other pilgrims in the evening and hoping to see some often in the evening. This group may be something you may want to explore.
WHen it comes to distances and albergues I would check out this website:
It will give you elevation profiles, distances, albergues and hostels and reviews. It is free. Wise Pilgrim app and Buen Camino app are free apps you can download to your phone to help supplement information and they both have gps maps.
 

AKCaminoDuck

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2019, Camino Frances 2022
There has been a lot covered, but a few more suggestions. If you can, I would try to get in a few hikes on a treadmill with incline to test your legs, or better yet a stair climber. This will give you a good assessment on how the incline feels with your training. You’ve stated that you’re comfortable with a slow pace which is great. One thing I learned from my first Camino is to find your pace and remove any judgement associated with trying to keep up. I’m a slow walker, and if I tried to keep faster pace I wouldn’t have the energy reserves to cover my distance for the day. Finally, I walked Valcarlos. The second day is steep but doable if you take your time…the descent all the way to Zubiri was arguably the hardest hiking of the Camino for me, but I hate descents :).
 
Time of past OR future Camino
June/July 2015 (CF, 100 miles), June/July 2018 (CP, ~40 miles, too hot!)
I think I agree with VN that Roncesvalles would be a good starting point for you.

Part of the fabled excitement of walking from SJPP comes from the formation of groups of friends (aka "Camino family") who walk somewhat together for 4-6 weeks. In Santiago, they exuberantly remember their first day together from SJPP.

However, given your slow pace and planned 2-3 month Camino, you will not find yourself in such a group, although you may be surprised to re-encounter a few people. So, take advantage of being freed from that pressure or expectation to find a group on your first day or two. Start wherever is convenient to you, and do not consider it incomplete in any way. Instead, embrace it! Many of us prefer not to be caught up in groups, and instead we value the solitude and ephemeral friendships that we form for only a day or two.

September will be very busy with people starting from SJPP. Let them pass you. Make reservations as necessary, so that you can continue at your pace. By mid-September, the crowds will lessen. As you build confidence and strength, you will be able to enjoy detours and rest days that other will regret missing.

I recommend that you be determinedly slow and deliberate in your pace. Make that your Camino hallmark!

That is why I suggest starting at a point that will most help you succeed. Roncesvalles is a good choice. Take 3 days to get to Pamplona. Take a rest day there, maybe the next day start late from Pamplona and walk only to Cizur Menor. Then the walk up Alto de Perdon and to Uterga will be about 13-14 km.

I wouldn't always recommend this, but in your case, I suggest booking all those days (to Uterga) in advance. By the time you get to Uterga, you will have had 6 days on the Camino and you can judge the state of affairs and can book just a day or two ahead.


Try to put this "standard" out of your mind. Your Camino will be a full Camino, with a start and finish, and lot of experiences in-between. Make it your own!

I am not sure if my comments will make sense, or resonate with you, but I hope that they help.


I have just read @Kanga 's suggestion to walk to Valcarlos and then taxi onward to the top of the Ibaneta pass. That is an excellent idea if you really want to see the SJPP experience. You could even stay overnight in Roncesvalles and then continue with prebooked accommodation that I suggested for several more short days.
I'm a solo traveler, an introvert, so the idea of a Camino family doesn't appeal although re-meeting people along the way sounds great. The whole purpose of this walk is to have time finally to think and feel about a lot that's happened to me over the past 2-3 years: early slightly unplanned retirement due to Covid, moving, pandemic, loss of my dad (at 91, so a good long life), loss of my uncle (older at 93, again a good long life), contemplating starting my own catering business, and all the changes I've undergone through menopause, that changed me "tectonically" so to speak.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
I think the Camino will be wonderful for you. I am also a solo traveler and somewhat introverted, so I sometimes need to figure out how to navigate in the very social Camino while still being myself. I do enjoy some of the social elements, but just not too much of them. During September, from SJPP, you will need some strategies for that!

Having a deliberate slow start will set you up for success.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
June/July 2015 (CF, 100 miles), June/July 2018 (CP, ~40 miles, too hot!)
You will be fine, go at your own pace. I started June 30th 2022 from Saint Jean. I had left IT band pain for a few weeks prior to starting so did not train. Walking the Camino cured my IT band within a few days and i became quite use to the distances. My biggest issue was the heatwave they were having, not the daytime but the night time temperatures were too much for me. Also I tried some gel metatarsal pads in my shoes, never again as one caused a horrendous blister. I hiked 296 miles before coming home. Temperatures will be much nicer I think in September, at least you will be able to sleep.
Temperatures were too much how? too hot? too cold? I can deal with cold way better than heat!
 
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Ian Salsbury

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
booked to do Lugo-Santiago June 2018
During the day 37 to 41 centigrade at night it must have been 30 in the alberges. Living in the uk I can do cold but not incredible heat at night, just couldn't get any relief. As a result I was on the road between 2am and 5am nearly every morning just to get cool.
 

xin loi

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Walked May 14, 2014 from St Jean France

starting to walk again August 25, 2016 --SJPDP to Finisterre
Lots of questions, so here we go!

- If you walk YOUR pace and YOUR distance, you can do it - this is not climbing Everest, but the Camino does not suffer those who over-exert themselves to keep up with friends or hotel reservations! If you have three months, give yourself plenty of rest days and limit your daily mileage.

- September will generally be warm, but not the muggy type like at your home. However, if you are still walking in November, it will definitely turn cooler by then. Of course, you can pick up whatever extra clothing you need as the weather changes, so your current layers sound appropriate. The few times it was cold enough to need gloves in October, my wife repurposed a pair of socks - she’d rather do that than carry an item she didn’t plan to use that often.

- Walking from SJPdP is nice, but hardly required or that exciting compared to views elsewhere on the Camino (on our passage, everything was obscured by clouds anyways😂). It CAN be rigorous, though, and both routes actually involve a fair amount of climbing and descent, just at different angles. You can break up the day by staying in Valcarlos - check Gronze.com for specifics. In your case, taking on that type of challenge (elevation changes and distances longer than you are used to) may not be the best idea for Day 1 and 2. I’ve known several pilgrims who had to return home early after suffering injuries on their initial days due to overexertion.

I‘m sure others will have different advice and only you know your limitations. Just appreciate that it’s a very long road to walk with sights and challenges all along the way, no matter where you start. Walk in a way that works for you.
Not climbing Everest?? Actually it is. If you add up all of the Vertical parts of the Frances, you will find that walking from SJPDP to santiago is actually walking a higher vertical distance than walking up Everest.

Don't worry, you will make it. It is all in your head!
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino's Frances, Fisterre, Portuges. Over 180 day
If your heart is set on starting in St Jean then do so and walk the Valcarlos, stopping in Valcarlos for the night. I agree with what was said earlier, after you reach Santiago you will have no interest in going all the way back to St Jean and walking to Pamplona.
Do you have a Camino Frances guidebook? You asked about distances between albergues and the Valcarlos route. I suggest you get a guidebook and research and plan your walk. Know the distances as they relate to your physical limitations.
 

henrythedog

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
X
I'm a solo traveler, an introvert, so the idea of a Camino family doesn't appeal although re-meeting people along the way sounds great. The whole purpose of this walk is to have time finally to think and feel about a lot that's happened to me over the past 2-3 years: early slightly unplanned retirement due to Covid, moving, pandemic, loss of my dad (at 91, so a good long life), loss of my uncle (older at 93, again a good long life), contemplating starting my own catering business, and all the changes I've undergone through menopause, that changed me "tectonically" so to speak.
At any point in time the Camino is populated by several thousand introverts all trying to avoid each other. I’m one. It’s fine.
 
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henrythedog

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
X
Temperatures were too much how? too hot? too cold? I can deal with cold way better than heat!
Kate: what they were, or indeed what anyone else’s prior experience was in the past is pretty much irrelevant to you in the future. From your description of your current capability; you’ll be fine - just don’t over pack; have decent footwear and take it easy. Detailed enquiry can easily go beyond the factual and start irrationally fuelling anxiety.

On the balance of probability in a couple of months time you’ll be dishing out advice like many of us, safe in the knowledge that it’s all rather straightforward.

Until then, don’t imagine demons where none exist.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino's Frances, Fisterre, Portuges. Over 180 day
You ask about the weather, and that's a question that gets asked a lot on this forum, and it is easily answered in one of the many weather websites on the internet. On those you can literally look up the weather for the entire Camino route(s) from years past. For example on the Frances if you are walking it say from June 1st to July 10th. You look up the weather from the year before for that exact time frame of when you will be in those places (estimated) for the cities of Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos, Leon, and Santiago. You see how hot or cold and how much rain or not. Plan accordingly with that information. Still hesitant? Go back two years, three or even five. Whatever.
 

LavanyaLea

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (May/June 2022)
Im younger, Ill turn 34 on trail. It looks like youve done 2 Caminos before... congratulations! Itll be my first and have trepedation. Last August I walked half marathons every other day and walked my dog *whos coming on a marathon for his birthday to ensure stamina. My fear is I need to do halves everyday to complete the 820KM not every other day. I also have a fear of rough sleeping but see in the dog accomodation sheet in the forum it is going to happen indefinetly on Norte/Coastal and half the time on Frances. Ive many other fears... you are certainly not alone!

I can understand European temperatures seeming cold from Lousiana but I dont glove/scarf myself until November and this is in Berlin on Polish border not Spain, Spain should be mild. I run a hiking group here in Berlin and we get beginners come on 6 hour 30KM hikes in doc martens and make it! Stark blieben!

Ill be ahead of you leaving August 18th.
Welcome to the forum! If you are planning to walk the Frances with a dog, yes it is possible to find accommodation the whole way! Options are limited but yes it’s possible 🐶

I’m not sure if my google sheet on Del Norte is very up to date, it doesn’t seem to be very popular for perregrinos? But Fuji has so many Camino friends so we’ll turn our ears and sniff around for perregrinos on del Norte!
 

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
I haven't walked the Valcarlos route myself, but from what I've read, it's not necessarily easier than the Napoleon route, and unlike the Napoleon, which has its steepest part at the beginning, the Valcarlos route's steepest part is at the end. See this thread for a discussion of the two routes. Also, although it doesn´t sound like you are looking to walk with others all the time, there can be comfort in having other pilgrims around, and I don´t know how many other pilgrims there are on the Valcarlos route.

Therefore, I propose another idea for starting from St Jean Pied de Port.

Book two nights in St Jean. On your first day you can walk as far as you can, then take a taxi back to St Jean. You would want to identify a taxi company and program their number into your phone. The following day have the taxi drop you off where you left off.

Or you can prearrange this type of service with Express Bouricott.

If the very steep walk from St Jean to Orisson seems too daunting for your first day you can taxi up there, then walk up to Virgen of Orisson, and take Express Bouricott shuttle back to St Jean, then return to that point the next day to continue on to Roncesvalles.

la-navette-du-matin.png
 
Time of past OR future Camino
May/June 2022 Camino Frances
You state that you have knee problems. I agree with Señor Jacques that a wonderful place to start is Pamplona.
When I started out of SJPP, I had NEVER had any knee problems, . . . I GOT knee problems the first week with the steep downhill sections into Roncesvalles and the equally treacherous approach to Zubiri. The pain almost derailed my Camino altogether. I made to SdC but only with newly purchased knee braces and plentiful OTC pain meds.
I met several people in my first couple days on the walk that had to give up their Camino plans and ended up going home. I would not want that to happen to you!
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
From O Porto in September.
My podiatrist told me that the test of fire is to make a a three-day "pretend camino" at home: using all your gear and going home as it was your camino accommodation because it's not the same to walk 10k here and there as opposed to a few days of walking the the whole morning back to back. She was right.

I also found this this training guide very useful useful: https://stingynomads.com/camino-de-santiago-training/
 

Vicki Brian Miller

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances
Hi all,

I started training some in June, did more in July, and now aim to train nearly every day in August. I'm up to 10k steps a day which doesn't just drain me or make me ultra sore, but where I am, Louisiana, is super flat. I'm doing what I can, realizing I'll train every day as I walk, and I have time. So a few questions:

1) I leave 1 September, and have three months to walk. I'm slow because of weight and knee issues, but determined and persistent. I have thought about starting in Pamplona because someone told me it's a lot flatter overall, and walking to SdC, then if I have time, coming back and walking the Valcarlos route and doubling back to Pamplona. But then I think I'd love to begin at SJPdP, walk the Valcarlos, and do the full Camino, start to finish, in a more traditional way. I'm 54, have wonky knees, but have hiking poles, and have no issue at all going slow, getting passed, and listening to my body and taking my time. Any thoughts?

2) Are there places to stay along the Valcarlos route? How far between each albergue? I'd prefer not to sleep rough if I don't have to!

3) How far is it from Valcarlos to Roncevalles, and how much water should you bring? I'm type 2 diabetic, and I need to hydrate. If it's hot, I don't want to do what I did in 2015 on my first day out, and run into heat exhaustion.

4) Speaking of, how hot should it be in September? When does it get cold, later in September, into October? I have a down vest, merino long-sleeve shirt, regular long-sleeve shirt, undershirt, and a pair of leggings. Did anyone use gloves, or just put socks on their hands in the mornings?

Thanks, everyone. I look forward to reading all replies.
There's a municiple albergue in Valcarlos. I don't know if there are anything before and after. We found that, even though you train for it(we didn't have a lot of hills), it doesn't prepare you for the hills over the pyrenees. Getting the taxi to the top is an excellent idea. Good thing though is you get fitter as you go on. We took it easy and didn't try to keep up with anyone else. Walk to your own pace. Good luck and enjoy every breathe. Oh and the scenery is awesome as well and going slow you will be able to take it all in
 
Last edited:

Robo

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
Here's another thought @CaminoKate0214 . There are so many options :)

If you wanted to experience the Pyrenees ....... Use express bouricott (this is their map)

la-navette-du-matin.png

But on day 1 get them to take you right up to Croix Thibault.
That way you can start on the top of the Napoleon route!

You'll have a gradual incline for a bit, then a fairly gentle walk across the top, passing the Roland fountain, and then need to head down to Roncesvalles. Take the right hand road option though! It's obvious when you see the signpost.

It's slightly longer (maybe 500 m) but on a hard surface and more gentle, with wonderful views.
This is the route I take.....being overweight with dodgy knees!
(you'll avoid the steep descent through the trees that can be slippery in the wet)

Lots of options to play around with..........

You have walked twice before, so know what to expect.

As others have said many times. Walk slow, carry a light pack, lots of rest breaks to enjoy the scenery......

You've allowed plenty of time, which is great. So no pressure.
 
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auburnfive

Active Member
@CaminoKate0214 I've just re-read my post and realise I did not make it clear I was suggesting that you stay in the albergue in Valcarlos, and take the taxi to the Ibeneta Pass and walk down and through Roncesvalles the next day. Although it also makes sense to get to Roncesvalles all in that first day, using the taxi for the last part of the route.
Theoretical question - would it be possible to call a taxi if the walk up to the Ibanez’s Pass turned out to be too strenuous, or would that need to be decided before one set out from Valcarlos?
 
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Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
Theoretical question - would it be possible to call a taxi if the walk up to the Ibanez’s Pass turned out to be too strenuous, or would that need to be decided before one set out from Valcarlos?

I think I'd be cautious and at least put the taxi driver on notice you might need him. I'm also not sure you would have cell phone reception all the way. As @mspath says, there is nothing between Valcarlos and Roncesvalles. There is a small chapel at the Ibañeta Pass, but nothing else.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
I haven't walked the Valcarlos route myself, but from what I've read, it's not necessarily easier than the Napoleon route, and unlike the Napoleon, which has its steepest part at the beginning, the Valcarlos route's steepest part is at the end. See this thread for a discussion of the two routes. Also, although it doesn´t sound like you are looking to walk with others all the time, there can be comfort in having other pilgrims around, and I don´t know how many other pilgrims there are on the Valcarlos route.

Therefore, I propose another idea for starting from St Jean Pied de Port.

Book two nights in St Jean. On your first day you can walk as far as you can, then take a taxi back to St Jean. You would want to identify a taxi company and program their number into your phone. The following day have the taxi drop you off where you left off.

Or you can prearrange this type of service with Express Bouricott.

If the very steep walk from St Jean to Orisson seems too daunting for your first day you can taxi up there, then walk up to Virgen of Orisson, and take Express Bouricott shuttle back to St Jean, then return to that point the next day to continue on to Roncesvalles.

View attachment 130589
A person can also book BORDA which is just 1 k past Orisson and a wonderful place to stay!
 
Time of past OR future Camino
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
Here's another thought @CaminoKate0214 . There are so many options :)

If you wanted to experience the Pyrenees ....... Use express bouricott (this is their map)

View attachment 130593

But on day 1 get them to take you right up to Croix Thibault.
That way you can start on the top of the Napoleon route!
This is a nice option.
 

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