Finished the GR20 (north-south), my experience

Tarjei

Posted: Sun, Sep 30, 2012, 14:14

After 19 days (not including the 5 days of waiting for better weather in Corte) in the mountains I entered the road in Conca with the mountans beside me, finishing the GR20.

For me the GR20 was not as hard as I had expected, given all the fuzz I've read about it. But on the whole I really enjoyed the walk. The scenery was at times really breathtaking.

A short opinion of each of the different stages that I did:

- Calenzana - Ortu di u Piobbu:
Great start of the trek. Offering great views in several directions on a path with great variations.
- Ortu di u Piobbu - Carozzu:
Absolutely stunning. The walk on the ridge shifting view between the valleys was magnificent.
- Carozzu - Haut Asco:
Beautiful up the Spasimata Slabs. But not as nice as the two previous stages.
- Haut Asco - U Vallone:
Great. I loved the Cirque de la Solitude, the view down in the cirque is splendid. Nice walk down to U Vallone.
- U Vallone - Ciottulu di i Mori:
A nice walk. Good views down from Bocca di Foggiale.
- Ciottulu di i Mori - Manganu:
Fine in the start, Golo valley a little bit boring. Nice through the woods. Castel di Verghio awful (glad I didn't stay there). Nice upwards again. Lac du Ninu a highlight.
- Manganu - Petra Piana:
Breathtakings views over Capitellu and Melo. Went down to the lakes. Very nice stage.
- Petra Piana - L'Onda (low-level):
Beautiful walk through the woods next to the river. A nice change from the alpine stages.
- L'Onda - Vizzavona (low-level):
Nice start with great views. Nice, but touristy, through the cascades.
- Vizzavona - E Capanelle:
Beautiful walk through nice woods, with great views to the sea and green mountainsides.
- E Capanelle - Prati (high-level):
Fantastic start with Lac de Bastani, Monte Renosu and I Pozzi. Boring part in the forest on the original GR20. Foggy from Bocca d'Oru.
- Prati - Usciolu:
Quite nice walk on the ridge. Foggy evening.
- Usciolu - Asinau:
Splendid day with a great variation in the scenery. From the walk through the Ârete a Monda, over the lush plateau of Cuscione, and over Mounte Incudine.
- Asinau - Village de Bavella (alpine-variant):
Great walk over the Aguiles de Bavella, with grey clouds overhead.
- Village de Bavella - Conca:
Nice and easy walk.

A short opinion of the different places I stayed:

- Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu:
Nice location with a nice view. Nice gardiens. Cabin very basic as usual.
- Refuge de Carozzu:
Very nice terrace overlooking the Bonifatu valley. Nice gardiens. Very little water, and few good camping spaces.
- Haut Asco:
Not as bad as expected. The food at the hotel was very good. The refuge is very basic and not nice at all, but the gardien is very nice and friendly.
- Auberge U Vallone:
Great place to stay. Good food. Nice ponds to take a bath in. Hot shower.
- Refuge de Ciottulu di i Mori:
Great location with wonderful views. Definitely one of the nices refuges though. Grumpy gardian.
- Refuge de Manganu:
Ok place, but nice gardiens here. Chaotic with many people in bad weather.
- Refuge de Petra Piana:
Nice place, small refuge though. Good views. Quite nice gardiens.
- Bergeries de L'Onda (campsite):
Nice campingplaces. Good food (one of the best dinners along the way).
- Vizzavona:
Weird place. Stayed in the I Laricci hotel, which was very nice, a charming little chalet.
- Gîte d'etappe U Fugone (Bergeries d'E Capanelle):
Another ski station with a connected road, minus for that. Otherwise a nice enough place.
- Refuge de Prati:
Great view over the sea (when you're able to see it). Nice gardien. Got extremely hot inside (too hot actually, went out).
- Refuge de Usciolu:
Basic and dull cabin. Nice view (again, when you're able to see it). Gardien also nice. Ok place.
- Bergeries de Asinau:
Quite simple fantastic. Extremely friendly gardien. Very good food in a cozy hut. Bonfire in the evening. Best evening on the GR20.
- Village de Bavella:
Another weird place, ramshackle huts and lots of tourists of all things (just to see a cross and a statue). Good food at the gîte d'etappe though.
- Conca:
Didn't stay the night here, regretted it.

The summits, not including everyone, just the major ones:

- Monte Corona:
Easy climb from Ortu di u Piobbu. Offering nice views of the area and further.
- Monte Cinto:
Hard and uphill climbing all the way. Great views (if no clouds). When I was there all the south was obscured by clouds. The views to the north though was fantastic.
- Paglia Orba:
More difficult, only part along the trek when I was a little bit nervous (due to me going up a wrong place and found myself in a difficult spot). Great views back towards Cinto and south again. But quite a lot of clouds around when I was there.
- Monte Ritondu:
Quite hard up. Breathtaking views from the top when I was there (no clouds).
- Monte D'Oro:
Quite easy actually, but long up from Vizzavona. No visibility at all when I got to the summit the first time. Climbed down from the top, saw a tiny blue hue in the clouds. Climbed back up again, no luck, just as grey. Had to sit down to rest a little bit. The clouds slowly dissolving and the views to the north was revealed. Fantastic.
- Monte Renosu:
Nice climb up from E Capanelle (apart from the ski tow part) passing the beautiful Lac de Bastani. Nice views.
- Monte Incudine (Alcudine):
Great views. Very easy climbing coming from Usciolu, but steep down towards Asinau.

Equipment:
My 14-kilo backpack offered no problems along the way. Most worthy equipment along with my great 1-kilo tent was my little 20-litres day-pack (65g), great for the summit bids and in the evenings at the various places. Sleeping bag way to cold for the temperatures at night in september (limit comfort +10), should have brought my ordinary sleeping bag (I've never been so cold at night ever). No use for insect repellant, harder tent pegs, compeed (but should be in your pack anyway).

Weather:
What can i say? Most of my walk I had nice weather in the morning. At evenings and nights it ranged from nice, cloudy, windy to rainy. But had 6 days off the course due to very bad weather after finishing the three first stages. Which was a little bit frustrating, since I ended up doing all other things in Corsica than what I really was there for. Sometimes I felt like I was back in Norway ;), and I was hoping to coming to a warm and nice environment. Looking back, I think I was quite lucky in the end.

GR20 was a great trek, no doubt about it. The toughest one? Well, I'm not sure about that. But that's another discussion. I wasn't there for the toughest, I was there to enjoy the walk and the scenery. Which I did.



Joanna

Posted: Sun, Sep 30, 2012, 19:07

I totally agree with you on the Castel de Vergio hotel - we did stay there, and the room was horrible (although clean) - damp, tiny, and old, with a leaking shower. But the food was excellent!!!! It's worth staying there (or on the nearby camping ground) just to taste it :-)



Tarjei

Posted: Mon, Oct 1, 2012, 7:06

By the way, I'm currently updating my blog with my experiences of the different stages:

http://tarjeiskrede.blogspot.no/search/label/GR20%20%28Korsika%29

The blog is in norwegian though, but there are pictures there from my trek.
I'm also working on all the pictures that I took during my walk, which amounted to about 2000. I will post a link to my picture gallery from the walk later when that is finished.



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Mon, Oct 1, 2012, 7:10

I agree with Joanna. The Castel de Vergio hotel is a bit grim and the budget rooms in the basement could be a lot better but plentiful hot showers, great food and some good company made up for it. It was a better option than the refuge next door and a good opportunity to wash everything. Doing the whole route and the optional peaks in 14 days is a good time.

--

Alan



Tarjei

Posted: Mon, Oct 1, 2012, 9:37

I spent 19 days, included in those days were not the 5 days in Corte that I got off the route due to the very bad weather ;).

15 days for the individual stages (including the summit bids for Monte Corona, Paglia Orba, Monte Ritondu, Monte Renosu and Monte Incudine), 2 additional days for climbing Monte Cinto and Monte D'Oro, 1 day waiting in Haut Asco for better weather and 1 day of resting in Vizzavona.

I really like to take my time and enjoy the walk. I'm not into the stress of trying to be the fastest one, and I really had the time to do it. I'm pretty sure I can finish the route in a lot less days than I did, but that is not a goal for me.

The Castel di Verghio looked very dull when I passed it, just next to a passing road and so on. The food may be great, but the place wasn't to my taste. I do fine without a hot shower when I'm in the mountains (though I really enjoy having one). :)



Joanna

Posted: Mon, Oct 1, 2012, 10:49

Looking forward to read your blog this evening (I'm probably the only one on this forum able to actually do it, hehe).

Looks like the weather was strange most of the season this year! We went in mid-June, and by the time we arrived, it had already been raining for over a week. And the wind was just horrible! On the second or third morning, my hands got so cold and numb that my husband had strap the backpack on my back! And then, within a day, the heat arrived, and so it went from 6 to 34 degrees in the course of 4 days!



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Mon, Oct 1, 2012, 16:56

Tarjei

I'll have a go at reading the blog if I can translate it!

Looks like a great trip despite the weather.

I see you saw one of the fire salamander's. A small compensation for the rain maybe?

I agree with the pace. When I did the northern half of the route, I was ready to double up some stages but soon decided to take my time and enjoy it instead. I'm going back to do the rest next year and can't wait but I hope I get better weather than you did....

Alan

--

Alan



Tarjei

Posted: Mon, Oct 1, 2012, 19:27

Alan, you can always use Google translate. But I have tried it and the english turned out quite funny, it will give you an idea though (but just don't take that english as an indication of my writing).

It was a great trip despite the weather, and I actually had quite nice weather when I was walking. Mostly it was just bad during those days after I arrived at Haut Asco. After I climbed Monte Cinto on the 6th of september it was nice during the day. With the exception of the last part to Refuge de Manganu from Lac du Ninu, when it was rain and thunder. It was actually very nice the first day after arriving in Haut Asco as well, but it was forbidden to walk. Some evening with fog and cold wind though on the southern part.

I actually saw several of them, funny little creatures. One of many compensations I got for the rain :).



Joanna

Posted: Mon, Oct 1, 2012, 19:56

I love those salamanders, used to play with them as a child:-) they have those cute, small, cold feet . Found one in Vizzavona this year, and just couldn't resist letting it walk across my palm again, even if i know they secrete irritating chemicals through the skin.

Anyway, does the blog really start with the cirque de la solitude stage, or do i do something wrong while browsing it?

Also, i took a look on some of your other posts on the blog, and guess what? We fish in the same lake -Manntjern:-) in fact, i was there just a couple of weeks ago! Fancy meeting you on a CORSICA forum :-).



Tarjei

Posted: Mon, Oct 1, 2012, 21:41

At the moment the blog starts with the cirque stage, but that is only because I've only come that far when blogging about the trek ;). The newest post will always be the first one. So, when I finish the post about the next stage, the first post will for then be the stage betwen U Vallone and Ciottulu di I Mori.

Quite funny. It's a small world. :)



Viktor

Posted: Tue, Oct 2, 2012, 6:24

Hi Tarjei, what is the most beutiful part, the northern or the southern? If we dont have time to walk the whole trail? Thanks!



Tarjei

Posted: Tue, Oct 2, 2012, 7:11

Hi Viktor!

I must say that the northern part is the most beautiful, but there are stages on the southern part that is just as nice as the stages on the northern part. Especially the high-level route between E Capanelle and Bocca di Verdi and the stage between Usciolu and Asinau over Mount Incudine.

But I would have done the northern part if I had to choose. There are fewer people on the south though.



Joanna

Posted: Tue, Oct 2, 2012, 9:14

The northern part is by far the most beautiful, but it's longer and tougher, with numerous scrambling parts. So deciding, you have to think about how fit you are and how much time you have at your disposal.



Viktor

Posted: Tue, Oct 2, 2012, 19:07

Thank you Tarjei & Joanna! So we will choose the northern part.

If some days left, is it better to continue down the GR20, or to switch to Mare-Mare Nord and go to west? (if you know also this trail)

Last year I visited Mt. Cinto (starting at Lozzi). If you compare the difficulty, North GR20 is similar to this "one day trip" or more difficult / or less? :-)

I wish you all the best for your next journeys!

Viktor



Tarjei

Posted: Tue, Oct 2, 2012, 20:20

I can't say anything about doing the western part of the Mare a Mare Nord, since I haven't done anything on that part. While waiting for better weather in Corte I did walk up to the Refuge de Sega through the Tavignanu valley, which is also on the Mare a Mare Nord (but that will mean going to east from the GR20). That was a very nice walk, the Tavignanu valley is extremely beautiful and the Refuge de Sega is a nice place (at least I thought so).

But that will mean skipping the stage between Manganu and Petra Piana, which is one of the nicest stages on the nortern part. It's quite hard, but the views you will get from the ridge is fantastic. With great views down to the two lakes Lac du Capitellu and Lac du Melo. One option is off course to continue from Manganu and then go down to the lakes and continue to the Bergeries de Grotelles. That is the start of the Restonica valley, which is also a very nice valley. From the Bergeries de Grotelles you can get down to Corte as well.

You should have in mind though, when deciding what you will do, the options you have for getting down from the GR20. How many days you have left will probably be decisive.

I still think that I would continue down the GR20. The first stage on the southern part from Vizzavona to E Capanelle is a beautifully walk. More forest than mountain, but the walk through the trees is very nice. And you get to see the sea. Then you could take the high-level route from E Capanelle to Bocca di Verdi, which is fantastic. You will pass the beautiful Lac de Bastani, climb up to the top of Monte Renosu for great view and end the walk walking through the magnificent I Pozzi. There is a road passing the Bocca di Verdi, but apparently there aren't any buses stopping there though. Keep that in mind. Then again, hitch hiking is supposed to be easy in Corsica.

From Haut Asco the climb up was a little bit harder than the average stage on the northern part in my opinion. There are parts on the northern part that involves a little bit more serious scrambling than at the climb of Monte Cinto though, but the climb is very much uphill all the way.



Viktor

Posted: Wed, Oct 3, 2012, 6:36

Thank you, Tarjei!



willysan

Posted: Wed, Oct 3, 2012, 6:37

Hello, we starded the GR20 on september 9th in Calenzana. We ended it after 13 days on september 21th in Conca.
We were lucky about the weather that periode.
The northern part was fysical tough. If you a bit afraid of heights then the Cirque the la Solitude can be hard.
The southern part is less difficult but of course of the duration in its entirety it can mentally sometimes hard. The joyness we had after we finisched was greatly.
A beautiful experience !



Gaffr

Posted: Wed, Oct 3, 2012, 8:28

Willyscan says 'a beautiful experience'.....wheather you do the GR20 in it's entirety or do it two parts seperately with the northern and the southern parts on different occasions. It is a journey, of a variety of sections, to be savoured.
Victor talks about the visit to Monte Cintu from the south.....we could see this approach to the mountain from our lookout at bocca a l'Arinella while on the MM Nord. I think that this route goes via the refuge de l'Erco. I only have visited the mountain from the Northern side from Haut Ascu.
You were considering leaving the northern part of the traverse at col de Viergo to continue down the MM Nord to Cargese or perhaps even the mare e monti nord when reaching Evisa? You could return to Calinzana on this route. By doing this you would miss out on one of the jewels of the GR20....the day between Manganu and Petra Piana and it is very fine travelling all the way through to Vizzavona.
We have explored all of the main routes on the island even the two trails from a camp at Bonifatu when we were travelling the Mare e Monti to revisit both Ortu Piobbu and Carozzu. I takes time and it does mean coming back several times to the island. For us it was time more than well spent.

--

Gaffr



arild

Posted: Fri, Oct 5, 2012, 11:15

Thanks for valuable info Tarjei, I plan for GR20 next summer (2013), starting from South and saving the "best part" until the end of the trek. I will read your blog and probably contact you for any possible additional information



Tarjei

Posted: Sun, Oct 7, 2012, 20:44

You can look forward to a great experience then.

I can be contacted at: tarjei [.] skrede [at] gmail [.] com



Tarjei

Posted: Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 11:36

I've now posted a selection of pictures from my journey on the net:

home.bouvet.no/tarjei.skrede/photo/gr20/

Well, quite a lot actually ;).



Michele
moderator

Posted: Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 14:44

Hi Tarjei,

Excellent photo gallery. I truly enjoyed watching it and going back with my memory through all those places. (I also liked all the detours to the mountain tops, something I have in mind to do in the future).

"A journey ends...another begins?" hmmm ... where have I heard that before? ;))

--Michele



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Thu, Nov 1, 2012, 11:54

Jarjei

Nice photo's.

The Tavignanu & Refuge de Sega section looks interesting.

I might use that next year to get back onto the GR20.

I was intending to go via the Restonica Gorge but that's a road & I walked down that a few years when I had to head for home.

I've still got the Lac de Melu to Conca section to finish but I'd really enjoy going over Capitellu again AND I can add another day to the trip.

Alan

--

Alan



Gaffr

Posted: Thu, Nov 1, 2012, 12:14

I would be happy to view the images from Tarjei.....can someone let me know how to get this address thing to work? I'm ancient and have not many PC skills.

--

Gaffr



Marek Prokop

Posted: Thu, Nov 1, 2012, 12:17

Gaffr, I've made the link clickable.



Gaffr

Posted: Thu, Nov 1, 2012, 12:46

Many thanks Marek for this.....I've managed a quick skim through of the very fine images I'll get to a more thorough viewing this evening.
Tarjei these images are a real tonic for me, on this, a cold frosty low cloud morning in Scotland.
How I wish I could do regular visits to the section between Manganu and P Piana. My very favourite area of the GR20. Did you descend to the lakes via a dusty wee gully, marked with an arrow to Corte, that we came across when on the ridge area prior to finding a much needed trickle of water before reaching the Bocca Rinosa? Just thought, maybe not so, since this would maybe funnel you into the Restonica?
Maybe when I return I could use Restonica valley to reach Monte Ritondu. We have knowledge of the Tavignano when we followed the MM Nord.
I see that Cintu has some extra 'bunting stuff' flapping from the summit cross.
Many thanks.

--

Gaffr



Michele
moderator

Posted: Thu, Nov 1, 2012, 15:20

Gaffr: Maybe when I return I could use Restonica valley to reach Monte Ritondu.

Yes Roger there is a path that climbs up from the Restonica road and goes as far as Lac d'Oriente and further up to Monte Rotondo. But it's quite a steep and long ascent (the last bit being on rocks).
Back in 2011 (after the GR20 south) my buddy and myself went as far as Lac d'Oriente on a one day trip (I shot a short video about it). My wish is to be able to sleep on a clear night on top of Monte Rotondo. Sunsets and dawns from up there are terrific, I hear.

--Michele



Tarjei

Posted: Thu, Nov 1, 2012, 22:16

Glad you all liked my pictures from the trek, I enjoyed walking and taking them :).

Michele, I suppose you would've recognized the quote yes. Take it as a compliment to your videos :).

Alan, I really enjoyed walking the Tavignanu valley better than the Restonica (there's no road going through Tavignanu). Though, not saying that the Restonica wasn't nice. I had a nice stay at the Refuge de Sega, good dinner with lots of food. Although the night was extremely wet, woke up with a river underneath my tent. Going up to Sega and then continue to the GR20 either towards Manganu or Petra Piana going over the Alzo plateau is really something you should consider.

Gaffr, sorry for not making the link clickable. Yes, I did go down to Capitellu and Melo by the link towards Bergeries de Grotelle / Corte (through the Restonica valley) by the Brèche de Capitellu. I was a little bit confused by this name though, in the book by Paddy Dillon this is the pass you walk up towards from Manganu and where you see the beautiful two lakes for the first time. But a sign at the pass says it is named Bocca à le Porte, whereas a sign where the path goes down towards the lakes says that that is the Brèche de Capitellu. I walked back up to the GR20 again through the path that goes up towards Bocca a Soglia.

Sleeping on the top of Monte Ritondu on a clear night sounds great.



Michele
moderator

Posted: Thu, Nov 1, 2012, 23:11

Thanks for the appreciation Tarjei.
About the Breche de Capitellu you are correct. The signs are confusing because, at least from the ign maps, the Breche de Capitellu is the actual pass and not the place further down where the path that goes to the Restonica valley starts.

ign map

However, I can understand why they called it Bocca à le Porte, (bocca = pass) because the near mountain top is called Punta alle Porta.

Funny though the maps use different place names. I wonder who's right

--Michele



Gaffr

Posted: Sun, Nov 4, 2012, 15:18

Hello Tarjei, I have had a closer look at your fine images from the GR20. You most certainly used your time usefully in Corte to reach some fine terrain. I would guess that the images of both the atmospheric bergeries at d'Alzo and Colletta were on the route which allows Tavignano to link with Restonica? Is there a bus or whatever to get you back to Corte or do you have to walk down the road? We travelled over the bocca al'Arinella from Sega refuge to reach Calacuccia and col de Vergio. At first I thought that you had descended to Corte from the GR20 from somewhere between Manganu and P Piana... but now I understand that the poor weather arrived at Haut Ascu. By the way is there a bus to reach Ascu from Corte?
I just wonder if your Raven is what we call a chough. The French have a differnet word for this bird but I can't recall what it is. It looks like those birds that kindof 'hang around' the refuges in the Alps?
We stayed in the dortoir of the well looked after Laricci hotel in Vizzavona, on our way to connect with the route to Conca, and was aware of the ruinous state of the former grand hotel in Vizzavona...I have too a rather sad image of this.

--

Gaffr



Tarjei

Posted: Sun, Nov 4, 2012, 22:20

Yes, the pictures from the bergeries d'Alzo and Colletta is on the route that takes you from the Tavignanu over the Alzo plateau to the Restonica. The route is nice and probably even nicer in good weather.

I really can't say if there is a bus going the whole Restonica valley, but I don't think so. Although there was a bus stop at the end of it. But that was very close to Corte, and the place looked more like a turning point as well. I did walk down the valley alongside the road. There is a path going down the valley, but I missed the markings where the path leaves the road (there were no signs marking where the path leaves the road).

And yes, the bad weather arrived after I'd reached Haut Asco. Decided to leave for Corte while waiting it out. It was really dark in the horizon where the GR20 goes from there. People were coming down, some where being sent down. From Corte I took the train to Ponte Leccia, from there a navette service goes up to Haut Asco.



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Mon, Nov 5, 2012, 8:37

Gaffr

There is a Navette running from a car park 4km from Corte to the Bergeries De Grotelle but it only runs from mid July to mid August. It's a shame that when I was trying to get down the valley, it was just after the Navette had finished. They had National Park staff operating a traffic system on a long single track section so I guess it gets very congested at times.

We were lucky and hitched a lift for about half the distance down to a big campsite but the rest was a hot and tedious walk along the road but there are loads of swimming pools in the river to cool off in.

Alan

--

Alan



Gaffr

Posted: Wed, Nov 7, 2012, 7:41

Gaffr
Thanks Tarjei and Turner. We have found that the transport and the links to be the difficult when getting about in Corsica. On our second visit, after re-doing the first three stages and Cintu, we had to hitch down to Ponte Leccia before getting to Moriani via train and bus. For reaching more of the summits on the island I think that a small car hire could be the solution as we did last year for a few days after MM Centre.....maybe, from what you say, avoiding taking a car into Restonica valley!

--

Gaffr