The GR 20 is a 112 miles "trail" in the island of Corsica, France, going through the roughed spine of the island. Often is said that is toughest hike in Europe, in most of the part there is not trail ,you just follow the distinctive signs, jumping between granite rocks and climbing with the help of chains. You do not need to be a climber , you would to be able to do basic scramble with your backpack. I would put below the typical questions that come to me during the planing stage.
How to reach the GR20 ?
Public transport is difficult if you arrive on Sunday to the airport, I did hitchhike to the trail. I was expecting a very difficult hitch from the airport but it was very quick, feel safe. Nice people.
North to south or south to north?
I did a trail before this one so I had my legs ready. I was anxious for how difficult would be the north part so I decided to do it first, was not that difficult. I really enjoy the technicality of the north part. Calenzana is also a very nice small town where to start the adventure!
Most of the people start from the south to get used to the trail before reach the most challenging stage of the north.
How difficult is the trail?
Now I understand when people say it is technical, it means is not just hike , you would have to scramble and move between rocks, you would help yourself with chains. I did not feel my self in danger, maybe just ones or twice but anyone can do it. Some areas were difficult for me because I am scare of highs but don't need of any climbing experience. The climbs are huge , you can gain 1000 metres in a few miles, very extenuates.
During the 2650 miles of the pacific crest trail I can not remember any fall. During the 112 miles of the GR20 I fall twice and broke both hiking poles. I realize that after cross little springs the foot get wet and make them super slippery over the thin granite rocks !
How many miles do I hike a day?
In the north I was doing 1 mile an hour in some points, sometimes you need to cross a big fields of boulders without any trail, the climbs are very vertical and even going down make it quite slow because of the steep terrain. In the north I was following the stage and sleeping by the refuge, in the south you could do easily a double stage, you could do 20 miles a day. I strongly suggest start early as at 12.00 could get really very hot, I paid this mistake big time and learned the lesson.
How I Navigate?
The route is well mark with red and white signs. If you are scrambling and you miss the signs for a few meters, careful! , probably you are out of the track, I saw a few people included myself having to retrack as we were out of the route.
Try to get as closer to the signs as possible, why? In front of the rock is death, behind is an easy pass......
I got a printed guide from cicerone that have some mini maps and also the information need it. I always carry the Backcountry navigation app in my phone with the corsica topo maps and track downloaded as back up. This app is not free, I think is just 7 £ but after you can download all the topo maps that you want. It is not the easiest app to use, I highly recommend it.
Refuges or tent?
Myself a tent all the way, It is the main point for me to do the trail, the outdoors, I don't fancy sleep in a room with another 20 hikers, ( you have showers in the refuges ). In the north I was camping by the refuges, in the south I started doing one and half stages and do wild camping, it is a flatter terrain with more areas for camp. I brought a tart - tent, I was fine but in some of the areas were a little bit rocky. I cowboy camping a couple of times as the island hand a perfect weather , sunny and dry. Just got one storm. Wild camping is illegal, so set the tent with the dust and break down early in the morning.
One of the most amazing sunset was cowboy camping in the last stage after pass the refuge di Paliri, The Changing colors of the red rocks are amazing in this valley and you will be the first person to reach the pools of Ruisseau de Punta Pinzuta in the morning , all for you.
How I resupply?
You can resupply ones a day in the refuges. The refuges have all. You can buy to cook yourself or you can eat like in a restaurant. Both are very pricey as food arrive by donkey or helicopter. I started with two and half days of food and try to resupply in the refuges that have road connection as food is much cheaper like : Haut Asco, Hotel Castel di vergio, Vizzavona or Bergeries de Capanelle. In the refuges in the mountains be ready to pay maybe triple the normal price of the food. You only be able to recharge your electronics in the refuges with road connection. I carried a 9000 aw battery pack.
I found quite difficult to get gas for stove , also when you arrive from the airport. I was lucky as one hiker finishing the trail gave a full canister.
I got water from the refuges, did not treat it and I carry the sawyer filter to get the water from streams. In top of the crest you will depend of snow patches. You will never be alone so you could ask any hiker for some water in an emergency.
Which gear did I carry ?
The Basic, think in good weather and maybe a summer storm, so minimal cloths: puffy jacket, flash water proof jacket for late in camp and your hiking clothes. I used the now old Tarpent cointrail as a shelter and 20 F. Really hike minimal in this trail but careful with sun protection and did not get any mosquitoes !!! My default gear list is this link - Gear.
|Gr 20, lac du Ninu|
Do I recommend this trail?
Yes, big time, something different that the normal easy trail, enjoy a little bit of scramble, the views are astonished, the route is very good with nice weather, You have many rivers and pools where to stop and swim, In some areas was worthy to inflate my termarest and explore the pools.
You also have those Bergeries where you can have a break and taste the local products like cured meats ans cheeses from shepherds. Bergeris are kind of shepherds houses in the mountain.
After finish the trail I took a week to explore the beaches and the nice Mediterranean food from the island. I would don't mind to do this trail again , it is a lot of fun !