I love a winter pilgrimage. I prefer the solitude, the challenge, the weather, and the extra indulgences. But it does take some doing if you want to enjoy yourself. Here are some quick tips – from my own experience walking three times during the months of December and January:
1 – Take a sleeping bag. While the weather outside may not be exactly frightful, it’s rarely warm indoors in the winter. Many places you stay will only offer a few hours of heat. A sleeping bag will save you.
2 – Take poles. I love my walking poles and I always recommend you bring the most expensive, lightest weight poles you can find. It sounds cavalier but if you buy inexpensive poles and find yourself needing to use them to get you out of a tight spot, they could fail you. They can save you from falling, help you down the mountain, and keep you balanced.
3 – Go high tech, extremely lightweight. I love the new high tech fabrics that trap your body heat and weigh next to nothing. It’s better to take several extremely lightweight layers and wear them one over the other than to bring something heavier like a sweater and not have that flexibility.
4 – Get a buff. I love these. I used a brilliant yellow one with reflective strips – to keep my face warm, to keep my neck warm, to keep my ears warm, and to keep my hair out of my eyes. When it started to rain a bit, I used it as a hat.
5 – Carry cash. In any event, cash is always going to be better than a random assortment of credit cards – especially if you only have American credit cards. The magnetic strip on American cards doesn’t always work in European credit card machines – you might want to try to get a card with a chip. But even then, many places will not take any credit card which will leave you looking for an ATM or a bank when you should be resting or enjoying your time in Spain.
So these are my top top tips. I remind everyone to shun fear as well, but that calls for a larger discussion!