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May 2017 Camino: Gear/weather

Discussion in 'Camino Frances' started by Marlo, Jan 27, 2017.

  1. Marlo

    Marlo New Member

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    Hi everyone!

    I've read so many great/helpful things on this forum ~ thank you to all of you for your stories, learnings and tips. I'm planning on doing the French Camino starting May 1 this year and I couldn't be more excited... or more unsure about what type of jacket/pants I'll need!

    From the sounds of it, the weather in Spain once I get over the Pyrenees will be great for walking - temperature wise - with the possibility of some rain but manageable.

    BUT, the Pyrenees themselves is unpredictable ~ making packing/planning a challenge.

    What I'm looking for are recommendations from people who've done the walk around the same time of year and what type of jacket/pants they took.

    Did you get snow/blizzard?

    Was your gear warm enough? Was it overkill? Did you ditch the heavier/outer-layer once you go over the mountain?

    I'm from Canada, so I'm pretty used to unpredictable weather and going from rain to snow in a matter of seconds but I don't normally have to carry my coat with me for 800 kms ;)

    Any and all suggestions are welcome and appreciated.

    Thank you so much in advance!

    ~m
     
  2. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Donating Member Donating Member

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    I left Saint Jean on May the 5th in 2016 on a beautiful sunny cool day. I stayed overnight at Orisson. The next day I went on to Rochevalles. When I left Orisson there was a medium wind from the left side of the road, as I got closer to the summit the wind grew stronger so that it was difficult to walk without my poles. The temperature also dropped slightly. When the trail leaves the road, I put my rain suit on to use as wind breaker. The next morning in Rochevalles there was a mild drizzle of rain and cooler weather. I ended my walk in Rochevalles due to my being very dizzy because of getting dehydrated the day before.
     
  3. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Hi Marlo

    You already have some good info posted by someone who walked the route at the same time of year as you are planning yourself – I think that being aware of potential problems is half the battle and that with a little bit of good kit selection, you will be fine.

    First thing to mention is that, I also think it is a good idea to pan to split the Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles section into two by staying overnight at Orisson – This enables you to have a mornings sightseeing at Saint Jean Pied de Port, an early lunch and a leisurely walk up to Orisson, it’s only 8k, but all uphill and this will give you the ideal opportunity to get used to walking with your pack (And trekking poles)

    You must book your bed at Orisson in advance at http://www.refuge-orisson.com/en/ - The sooner you book the better as there are limited beds and a high demand on them.

    Then the question of kit – As you have already sussed out, you don’t want to unnecessarily overload yourself just for the first two days, so it’s a case of selecting your kit carefully – Layers are by far the best solution then on cold days, you are simply wearing most of your kit and have a very light rucksack – I would suggest that your kit includes 2 short-sleeved T-Shirts (Wick-Away) and one long-sleeved thermal top. Then a fleece jacket (Or jumper) and a single shell “Gortex” rain jacket (This will also double up as a wind stopper) – Leg wear – I tend to wear trekking trousers when it is cool and fine, but when it rains I wear my a single shell “Gortex” rain jacket, shorts, gaiters and Gortex fabric boots – Then the water runs off the bottom of my jacket, down my bare legs and over my gaiters and boots – But in May, if it is raining it could well be too cold to cross the Route Napoleon wearing shorts, so maybe take along a lightweight pair or rain trousers too.

    Obviously the above items are as part of your full kit list.

    I hope this helps a little

    Good Luck and Buen Camino

    Rob
     
  4. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    IMG_1406.JPG
    Hey Marlo - The weather in the Pyrenees can be quite unpredictable at any time of your. I crossed last year on April 29. It was as nice a day as one could ever hope to have hiking in the mountains. The next day, pilgrims had to cross in the snow. It changes that fast!

    I left SJPP at about 6:15 am pretty bundled up as I didn't know what to anticipate. By the time I reached Orisson (8 km up the mountain) for my first break, I had stripped off several layers down to shorts and a t-shirt for rest of the climb. As there was some wind that day, I did have my lightweight jacket close at hand that I needed to put on a couple of times.

    In general, my recommendation is that you create a clothing kit designed for layering. That should handle most anything you run into. My ensemble is pretty basic and minimal: 2 pairs of pants (1 regular; 1 zip-off so I have a pair of shorts), a long sleeved underlayer top, 2 t-shirts, an ultra light down-type vest, and a lightweight waterproof jacket with hood. Everything I wear, from outer to inner layers, is ultra lightweight and generally of a wicking material. Although I don't carry much extra, everything can easily be laundered after a day of walking and ready for the next day. From a ladies point of view, my wife also has a lightweight walking skirt and legging that she enjoys wearing most days.

    So, crossing the mountains, I would start out wearing a t-shirt or my underlayer, vest, and lightweight jacket. On the beautiful sunny day that I ascended to the Col de Lepoeder, the layers definitely came off. Remember, it's all uphill that first day (except for the last 5 km), so you will generate a great deal of body heat. Staying warm won't be a problem! Layering allows you to shed items when you get too warm.

    For the possibility of snow, but more likely for rain, bring along a pair of lightweight gaiters. On a very wet day, these will help in keeping your feet dry. If your hiking or running shoes are lined with Gor-tex, that will also help your feet stay dry.

    Buen Camino!
     
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  5. Crepes4Suzette

    Crepes4Suzette Well-Known Member

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    I'm excited for you, Marlo! You are wise to consider the part over the Pyrenees carefully. The first 5K are some of the most steep and most prolonged of the entire Camino except maybe the day up to O'Cebreiro, which can be broken up. There are other hills that are a bit of a challenge, but I found none of them anywhere near as bad as those first 5K, probably partially because by the time you reach the others, you're much stronger and it's a little easier then. When you get about 2K before Orisson, the worse is over except for a limited climb when you get to the Col de Lepoeder. Another thing some people do to reduce one steep-ish climb is keep to the road after Huntto instead of making the steep left uphill climb off-road. Going left there is really just a shortcut to avoid the road's switchback, and the shortcut reconnects with the road at the top (going that way is guaranteed to get you warnings from other hikers that you're going the wrong way, but you're not). At the top is where the most spectacular views of he mountains start. Keeping to the road following the switchback is much easier in my opinion. You can actually go the day up to where it departs to the right from the road on Google Earth if you like, but it won't give you a sense of steepness.

    That day is so stupendously exhilerating that it's all worth it. The mountains look like they're covered in green velvet, and you might find yourself wading through herds of sheep and oxen and a few ponies (I was just praying they were oxen and not bulls). They do open grazing there.

    Here's an option that many probably won't like, but worked out very well for me the second year - I didn't want to stay at Orisson at all, and saw no need to repeat the first 5K out of SJPP as it is the least scenic of the entire 25K to Roncesvalles, so this worked well for me: Caroline - Bouricott Express - runs a shuttle twice during the morning along with her run to take people's backpacks over. Her new office is just 2 doors down from the Pilgrim's office. She can drop you off at several specified points. She canceled the shuttle the day of the hurricane in Sept. 2015 and although the Napoleon was NOT CLOSED, dropping people off would have been irresponsible. She is a mountain guide, and was absolutely correct about the conditions, and can be trusted to tell you accurately if the weather is too bad to hike the Napoleon.

    Layers work well, as others are saying. Sometimes people take a very old piece of outerwear that's ready to be thrown away anyway, and then just pitch it as the days become warmer, as long as you're taking other layers to rely on for warmth. It really is likely to still be cold May 1 over the Pyrenees.
     
  6. Greg Canning

    Greg Canning Well-Known Member

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    Marlo, I would agree with Crepes4Suzette. Express Bourricot provide an excellent service. I've used them to travel from Biarritz airport to St Jean and they are very reliable and friendly with great advice.
     
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  7. AnnaKlura

    AnnaKlura New Member

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    Thank you Marlo for making this post, I'll save the tips you got :)
    I have an overnight stay at Orisson booked the 2nd of May. Good luck to you!
     
  8. oldman

    oldman Oldman Donating Member

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    Hi Marlo you asked one of the most difficult questions ( Weather on the mountain ) it is different every year.
    2013- 15 April the hill opened with snow 1-mtr deep in places with low cloud and closed the next day due to high winds on the Roncesvalles side it took 9hrs for the next two weeks it never got above 5 deg any morning. again 2015 middle May ( thought things would be better ) Caroline brought me from Biarritz strolled up to Orisson in the afternoon ( as Rob said ) it started to rain just as I got there and didn't stop for 3 days ,the next morning mist, cloud, blowing rain I saw flimsy ponchos whipped off people and it was reported after that the chill factor was down to -6 and people had to be rescued ,
    but no matter what its like you should have the basic same gear.Lite ( as in not heavy to carry ) warm layers ,long and short sleeves long and short pants and good quality windbreaker including over trousers , I use a long coat with a hood that covers my pack belted and with a draw string around the hem.
    I still have to go back because I have not seen the mountain in all its glory, I am just not going to let it know when I am coming.
    You have the experience at home so it will be a doddle
    Buen Camino.
     
  9. janice

    janice wandering photographer

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    Great Question Marlo, thanks everyone for the many replies. My husband and I walked the camino in the fall of 2012, this year we are leaving SJPD on April 22, I had convinced myself it would be summer. We have good rain gear, but I hadn't really planned for the cold. I like the idea of taking a old stuff that can be tossed once the temperatures warm up.
    jmeyersforeman.wordpress.com
     
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  10. oldman

    oldman Oldman Donating Member

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    Hi Janice.
    I would not go for old stuff that you can toss , because it may warm up in the middle but in my experience when you reach O Cebreiro you are likely to get the same weather you started with,I did on both occasions . I still think
    Lite ( as in not heavy to carry ) warm layers ,long and short sleeves and if the weather is getting warm post yore excess gear on forward to just before you get to Galicia. If you still don't need it you can send it forward to Santiago.it will not cost very much.
    Enjoy April I have to wait until July for the Primitivo.
    Buen Camino
     
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  11. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Janice - As you've walked the CF before, you already have a good idea what you'll need. I'm with Oldman regarding layers. Having layers that can be put on or taken off depending on conditions is the way to go. I walked the CF last year at approximately the same time you plan on going. Weather was great, but chilly mornings necessitated a few layers that came off as I walked and as the day warmed. I did hit rain several times, so my rain gear came in handy. If you go to my current blog, you'll find my packing list. I travel light! But, from warm to chilly to cold to wet, what I take covers the conditions that I might (or will) encounter. My preference is to buy just a few pieces of high quality, lightweight clothing that I can multi-purpose. Although the outlay of cash may be higher the first go around, all of my items are now heading out for their second Camino so, the saving this time is already being seen. Buen Camino!
     
  12. janice

    janice wandering photographer

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    thanks Wily, and oldman for your advise, layers make sense. I am going to sort my outfits one more time! I think I always second guess myself, thanks for your help
     
  13. Todd Reach

    Todd Reach New Member

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    Wily,

    Todd Reach here. I looked all over to specifically locate your packing list. I am going very light, but wanted to take a look at your list. Can you please assist me in locating it exactly. Thank you very much.
     
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  14. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Todd - It can be found on my recent blog:

    Caminoportugues2017.blogspot.com

    Go all the way down to one of my first entries. Specifically, it's my March 16 post. Any other questions, just shout.
     
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  15. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Donating Member Donating Member

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    For an idea of what hiking the Camino is like Google something like "why the Camino de Santiago sucks". The guy that wrote that seems to only be interested in Bushwacking instead of doing civilized walking.
     
  16. hindsfeet

    hindsfeet Donating Member Donating Member

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    I think Francis (The guy) didn't really know what to expect on the Camino. I think he has
    a real love for the PCT, which is a wilderness trek, and the Camino is a pilgrimage. He
    longed for the solitude and narrow, seldom walked path that challenged him. I read where
    he said that he probably would not be returning to the Camino, but maybe in 20 years he
    might. He could be in a totally different place emotionally and spiritually and might then
    truly capture the spirit of the Camino.
    I have to admit, when I first read his entry, I felt a tinge of defense. Ha, seems odd since I
    have yet to walk the Camino. But I am in the planning stage, and I didn't want it tainted
    with negativity. But he just shared his opinion. We are all on our own Camino. And I am absolutely thrilled to be planning MINE.
     
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  17. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Donating Member Donating Member

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    What my point was that you can enjoy the pilgrimage and not worry about carrying everything you need on your back. As he might been used to.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
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  18. janice

    janice wandering photographer

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    Hi Todd, I didn't write list, but I can tell you I have rain jacket and pants, good boots, 2 pair socks, walking sandals, 2 pants, 2 tank tops, 2 long sleeve running shirts, 1 short sleeve running shirt, 3 panties/underwear, warm jacket, small gloves, hat, scarf. We use running shirts because they wick the moisture and stay dry better than cotton t-shirts. Bathroom essentials, smart-phone(contains books, notepad and camera). I do a lot if photography, so i do carry a full size camera, in addition to this, but that is the list!
     
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  19. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Janice - I carried my full size DSLR on my first Camino. It was a real pain! If it was around my neck, it was always swinging back and forth. If I put it in my pack, it was less than convenient to access. Because I use walking sticks, it was hard to keep the camera stable particularly when walking on sections of difficult terrain. My solution this past Camino was to buy a high quality camera that fit in my pocket. Much easier to use and to capture the moment. However, I sacrificed picture quality! Because I, too, enjoy photography, I will walk again with my full size camera. However, I will also invest in a camera harness for the reasons mentioned above. If you already have one, bring it! If you don't have a harness, consider getting one as I think it will be one of those "tools" that will help you enjoy shooting photos more. Buen Camino!
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
  20. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Donating Member Donating Member

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    I like to take pictures (my wife requires it) and have decided that I can use the nice camera built into my Samsung S7 cell phone. I have an "Otter Box" that allows me to attach it to one of my pack straps so that I can always easialy get to it. A feature of the S7 is that it supposed to be water tight to a meter or so under water and that should be enough to withstand rain, etc. I can also directly send pictures home via WiFi, when it is available and fast enough.
     
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  21. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey UnkleHammy - You shouldn't have any real problem, most of the time, with good Wifi speed. As we've talked about before, Wifi is everywhere! In fact, it's more available, in general, than it is in the States. If your albergue were not to have a great connection or great speed, you could certainly find it in a nearby cafe/bar. You'll have no problem keeping in touch or sending photos home. Buen Camino!
     
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  22. Todd Reach

    Todd Reach New Member

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    Janice, Thank you so very much. Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I think I have everything you stated. I was trying to break things down into 3/4 specific packing areas. I have not made my flights, but heading over toward the end of May - thank you again for all your assistance.
     
  23. Todd Reach

    Todd Reach New Member

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    UnkleHammy,

    Good morning. I hope this post finds you well. When did you say you were heading over? I have not set day that I need to be over, and thought you said you were heading over in May sometime. Anyway, I hope you have a great day today. Semper Fi - And I read your original post again - 50 years out. Wow that is great - time passes in this journey of life - I am at 28 this year.
     
  24. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Donating Member Donating Member

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    I will be in Saint Jean on May 11. Yes there is life after the Marine Corps.
     
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  25. Mike F.

    Mike F. Member

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    Marlo--I'm arriving in St. Jean on 5/2 and will start hiking on 5/4. I'm traveling solo and would love to meet some people from the Forum. Perhaps I'll catch up with you!

    Mike
     
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