GR20 in Mid May 2013

cjohnson415

Posted: Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 9:30

Hello,

I have a few questions. I booked a trip for Corsica for 5/14 - 5/22. I arrive early in the morning on the 14th of May and leave late in the afternoon on the 22nd of May.

Initially, I was planning/hoping to do the Southern half of the GR20 in 6-7 days of hiking. However after doing more research I am concerned about the snow conditions. I have a few questions that I am hoping people can help me make a smart, safe, and enjoyable plan.

1. How has this year's Winter been? I saw on meteo France that the snow level is currently at ~200 cm at 2000 m altitude. Is this a lot, a little, or a medium amount? Does this have any indication about the snow conditions for mid-May?

2. Is there a place to rent crampons and an ice axe on the island? I'll be arriving in Bastia, so ideally in Bastia or in Vizzavona, where I'll start actually hiking. If I'm using crampons and an ice axe, is it a terribly bad idea to be travelling alone? I'm an experienced outdoors person but not experienced with snow.

3. If you think that this would be an unsafe plan, what alternative Corsica hikes would you recommend? I am excited for both the physical challenge and stunning beauty of the GR20 so it would be sweet to capture some of that in prospective alternatives. Would it be preferable to attempt to change my dates to the first week of June? This would involve some extra cost and inconvenience, but if half the GR20 is this much better than alternatives, then let me know!

Many thanks for any advice that any of you can offer!!

--

Charlie



Michele
moderator

Posted: Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 10:58

Hello Charlie,

It is a well established opinion that the GR20 should be done June thru September for a number of reasons: snow is the most important, but also the refuges' activity (in terms of staff and supplies) is based on that time frame. Additionally if the path is covered in snow you "might" have problems of orientation due to the trail marks being covered as well.
The snow conditions are determined by the local temperatures and weather (doh!) but it's difficult to predict what the situation is going to be like in a month or so. I suggest you keep a watchful eye on the park blog: http://randoblogpnrc.blogspot.it/
AFAIK I don't think there are any places where you can rent crampons and ice-axe on the island. Travelling alone is not a bad idea per se but it poses obvious problems in case of need/emergency/accident/whatever.
Other people on this forum can talk about alternative routes to the GR20 (they are also detailed on this site as well), but I don't think such routes can compare to the beauty of the GR20 itself. So, bottom line, if I were you I'd definitely wait until June.

--Michele



cjohnson415

Posted: Thu, Apr 25, 2013, 7:38

Thanks, Michele.

I am not worried about food--I was planning to carry my own food anyways since I am doing half the route only.

Do you have any sense of how this year's winter compares to last year's on Corsica? I came across a blog post from last May 10 indicating there was no snow at all on the entire southern half of the GR20. If this year's winter were anything like last year's then I'd feel pretty confident about doing just the southern half of the route.

The trip is 2 weeks and 5 days away, so the snow conditions won't change that much from now. In south currently there is a maximum of 160cm snowpack at 2000 m elevation. This seems pretty reasonable and safe to me given a couple weeks to clear up a little bit more.

I might have understated the difficulty of changing the trip to the first week in June, which is why I am inclined to go for it in May.

--

Charlie



Gaffr

Posted: Thu, Apr 25, 2013, 7:47

If unable to alter your plans, although a lot can happen with snow cover over six weeks or so regarding the snow. Don't forget that the Mare e Monti also begins at Calenzana. You could travel this route for a few days to reach Evisa then use a leg of the Mare a mare Nord to reach Col de Verghio then continue from there on the GR20 if conditions underfoot have improved. There are many opportunities for linking in and out with the several other long distance routes on the island.

--

Gaffr



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Thu, Apr 25, 2013, 11:15

Charlie

If you do come in May and can't find anywhere to hire crampons & ice axe, now is a great time to buy surplus winter kit on Ebay. Crampons or walking axes are bits of kit you can buy second hand as they're not technical. You can get lightweight Aluminium crampons but I wouldn't reccomend them for potentially patchy snow.

--

Alan



Michele
moderator

Posted: Thu, Apr 25, 2013, 15:55

Charlie,

Based on the blog post you mentioned and the fact that this spring seems pretty mild, chances are you'll end up finding very little snow on the southern section. However I strongly encourage you to write an email (in French or GoogleFrench) to the park staff equipemontagne@parc-corse.org and get first hand information. It's also good to let them know you'll be traveling alone in this period and ask for recommendations. AFAIK they don't speak any English, so be prepared to get a googletranslated reply.

--Michele



cjohnson415

Posted: Fri, Apr 26, 2013, 12:34

Excellent ideas.

Michele, I emailed the park staff, but I haven't heard a response yet.

Alan, I was also able to find crampon and axe rental in Geneva for $55 for 10 days, which is great! I will check the park blog and snow levels just before I go to see whether I should rent them or not.

Gaffr, that is a great point. Because the highest points of the Southern route are in the first 2 days, my plan is to give it a shot and turn back if I am ever nervous. If it's too risky, I'll just head up to the mare e mare north trail, which I've heard great things about.

To all, I am lastly looking into two things. First, I am seeing if I need to make reservations at the refuges even though they won't be crowded. Second, I am looking into renting a satellite phone since I am travelling alone, though they seem to be prohibitively expensive.

Thanks again for all your advice! Feel free to post any other thoughts or ideas. I will post my results when I return for anyone seeking advice in the future!

--

Charlie



roman laba

Posted: Fri, Apr 26, 2013, 14:19

You could simply bring a cellphone. Coverage is sporadic.

--

RL



Michele
moderator

Posted: Fri, Apr 26, 2013, 15:59

Yes, Chiarlie, you can get cellphone coverage from the highest areas and/or when in line of sight with the villages below. Memorize Mountain Rescue (PGHM) number : 04 95 61 13 95 and keep the phone off all the time. Turn it on only when needed.

--Michele



dunit

Posted: Fri, Apr 26, 2013, 17:27

Agree, a regular mobile phone should be adequate. We found coverage in the south to be fairly constant last year, not quite so good on the northern section.
Officially, you need to make reservations at the refuges whenever the gardien is in residence through the season. However, this early in the season you should be ok just to turn up - just be warned!

--

Dunit



jenbrooks

Posted: Tue, Jan 14, 2014, 22:09

Hi Charlie,
I am wondering if you can tell me how your trek went in May? My husband and I are planning on doing the trek this May, 2014 and have quite a bit of mountaineering experience coming from living in the mountains in Canada. How much snow did you have and did you bring ice axes and crampons and need them? Thanks any info would be helpful!

--

Jen



Gaffr

Posted: Wed, Jan 15, 2014, 9:17

Yes, it would be good to hear about Charlies experiences on the GR20.

From what I recall of folks who write here and elsewhere May in 2013 was a very difficult period on the route. One young person, who wrote here, had a very difficult time with very poor weather in the area around Col de Vergio/Manganu.....cold and wet and no-go over the high ground above Manganu.
Another travelling from the South at the end of May ran into poor weather with new snow etc and retreated back to Usciolu to descend to Cozzano and make contact with one of the lower routes.
When I arrived a week after this, 4th, of June, I decided to begin in the South to allow the snow fields on the higher ground in the North to shrink. I travelled without any specialised winter kit since being a camping person I had enough to carry in the rucksack. The weather was much improved and by the time that I reached the big snowfields in the North the snow was soft and progress could be made using the walking poles. When I arrived to Bergeries Vallone, on the 15th, of June, there was still a bus available taking folks around from Calasima to Haut Ascu to allow an alternative for the stage which had been causing a many problems over a few weeks. With care the descent and re-ascent out of the cirque was possible. By now the weather conditions were full-on summer.
I have also been on the route at Haut Ascu in 2007 21st June and in 2008 on the 11th of June and experienced very different...less snow conditions. I guess like most mountain areas the conditions can be a bit different year on year.

--

Gaffr



Michele
moderator

Posted: Wed, Jan 15, 2014, 17:54

Jen,

Unless we have an exceptionally hot Spring (which I doubt), the situation will be like Roger described. Still plenty of snow especially in the highest areas (and no food supplies because of the still unstaffed huts). So, yes, ice axes and crampons will be solely needed.

--Michele



jenbrooks

Posted: Fri, Jan 17, 2014, 19:22

Thanks! Does anyone know of anywhere in Corsica that rents ice axes or crampons? We're hoping not have to bring them with us!

--

Jen



Gaffr

Posted: Sat, Jan 18, 2014, 8:17

Hello,
Hiring would appear to be the best solution for the winter kit....after all you don't really want to be bringing the kit all the way from Canada unless it were definitely needed.
My observations from last year were that folks I talked to had brought the kit with them from Europe, owned or hired, although I did see at Bocca a Soglia, prior to an area of continuous snow up to the high point of Bocca alle Porte, a guide meeting up with a group and kitting out the folks with crampons. There must be a few gear shops? on the island but contact with the guiding folks may allow a hire to be made if that were necessary ?
Looks as if May is your referred time for a visit to the route so the conditions could go one way or the other during that month.
Before and when you arrive will allow you to asses what is happening but starting from Conca and travelling to the North does allow for at least six days or so of time for change although there were a few small snowfields when heading up to Monte Alcudina from Asinao. The next snowfields, that I found, were between Vizzavona and l'Onda on day seven when going North.
Further to my earlier post on the 15th, January. When we arrived to the island on the 17th, of May 2009 there was plenty of snow on the high ground but on that occasion we were travelling from Calinzana to Conca but on that occasion on the Mare e Monti north, Mare e Monti Sud and the Mare a Mare Sud where the highest ground would be circa 1,500 metres.

--

Gaffr



patsy

Posted: Fri, Jan 31, 2014, 17:43

Coming to Corsica on 24 May and starting Mare e Mare Centre the next day. When reach Cozzano 4 days later (29 May, perhaps) we have the option of completing the Mare e Mare or turning south on the GR20. Does anyone know when the refuges open properly with guardiens? Just wondered! Have tried to find out but to no avail!

--

Patsy



Michele
moderator

Posted: Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 7:32

Patsy,

the refuges officially open in June. But usually the gardiens arrive maybe some days earlier than that. So you might get lucky and find them manned already.

--Michele



Gaffr

Posted: Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 7:36

Hello,
I think that you will find accommodation in Usciolu and further South....I was around coming from Conca in early June 2013....all the places were open for business. I can also recall, after my trip, reading of other folks journeys that began earlier in late May. There did not seem to be any problems with getting a bednight/camping spot.
Why would you want to drop down to Cozzano...nothing wrong with this village it is a fine place to stop when on the MM Centre. When on the MM Centre you will arrive at the Bocca Laparo after coming up from Catastaghju....just turn left,as you say, and follow the path through the beechwoods on the left of the ridge to head up and out towards Usciolu. :-)
Just had a thought....maybe you are beginning your journey on the MM Centre from Porticcio on the West Coast?

--

Gaffr



Gaffr

Posted: Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 7:36

Hello,
I think that you will find accommodation in Usciolu and further South....I was around coming from Conca in early June 2013....all the places were open for business. I can also recall, after my trip, reading of other folks journeys that began earlier in late May. There did not seem to be any problems with getting a bednight/camping spot.
Why would you want to drop down to Cozzano...nothing wrong with this village it is a fine place to stop when on the MM Centre. When on the MM Centre you will arrive at the Bocca Laparo after coming up from Catastaghju....just turn left,as you say, and follow the path through the beechwoods on the left of the ridge to head up and out towards Usciolu. :-)
Just had a thought....maybe you are beginning your journey on the MM Centre from Porticcio on the West Coast?

--

Gaffr



patsy

Posted: Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 9:21

Hi Gaffr and Michele

Flying UK to Ajaccio and will start Mare e Mare Centre from Porticcio. Have done a few stages of the GR20 before, stopping at Col de Verde and it would be nice to move further south. Have done part of the Mare e Mare as well. This time we're not bringing our car and leaving it on a campsite for a week so are more flexible - and obviously have more time as it used to take 48 hrs to get there from here - and that's with an overnight ferry. We're near the top age to walk like this, I think, but this year are much fitter and coming earlier in the year. Now children are all grown up, we've reverted to our late 20's when we used to pack rucksacks and go.....

New point - what are the temperatures like in late May/early June? Is there still snow cover (experienced that in Switzerland at the same time of year but not on paths). Not a daft question as last year went to Norway (partly to collect middle child who was on a course in Aalesund) and went north to the Lofoten Islands by boat. Did some walking there (mid to late June) and I'd taken every blanket we possess as were camping - and it was warmer than the UK that week with the added bonus of 24 hour sunshine. Only 50 miles north of Arctic Circle!!!!

Patsy

--

Patsy



Gaffr

Posted: Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 11:21

Hello,
I guess that we all tend to wander away from the original topic on here....but it does have to do with the GR20. Remember to turn right when you get up to the Bocca Laparo. :-)
Sounds like a good plan. Corsica is just made for dipping into and out of the many trails.
From what you say...age...you must be Septuagenarians like we are. Exactly like we are load up the rucksack and travel. We have had journeys on all the main routes on the island. We stay in Scotland and do like to get down for some sunshine so we know about the long sometimes complicated journeys just to reach Corsica!
Last year coming up from Conca to Calinzana in early June there was much more snow than there is normally so I guess the best deal would be to head South at the end of May....but each year is very different.
Temperatures were very fine during the trip in early June with just one cooler day with heavy rainfall but the stage was between Col de Verde and Capanelle so an easy path walking day.
I looked up the report by an English guy for his trip made at the end of May last year when he set out from Usciolu and returned to the refuge after encountering snowfall and this just a week prior to my visit! Maybe unusual conditions?
If you don't want to have a long day from Usciolu to Asinao (over Monte Alcudina ) it is possible to leave the route prior to Alcudina and spend a night at the Bergerie Croci and follow the marked route up to the col above Asinao, leave sacks here and visit Alcudina, then down to Asinao refuge.
Option of Alpine route to reach Bavella then up to Paliri refuge next day a beautiful descent to Conca.
An Eight /Nine day trip from Porticcio?

see Gaffr blog walkhighlands...where you will find some images of all the routes on the island that we have followed.

--

Gaffr



Joanna

Posted: Mon, Feb 3, 2014, 6:11

Patsy, as for temperatures, hot is your best bet! I did experence 5C in June once, yes, but it was on a very windy/rainy day, and quite high up. The usuall temperature however, both during this particular trip and the one a few years before, both in early June, was well over 20C, and climbing up to 30C. Quite horrible, actually!
May is probably a bit colder, but I would still expect more warmth then cold.

One thing that might be a problem in late May are rotten snow and avalanches, so plan for it, as you'd be walking on some exposed and/or steep slopes. Remember that many places on the GR20 are very remote, so should a disaster struck, it might take a while to get help.



patsy

Posted: Mon, Feb 3, 2014, 9:46

Hi Joanna

Ta for post. It's all beginning to sound exciting with the rain and flooding we've had here in the UK. We've walked near Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland in late May and think we've experienced there some of the conditions you've talked about. We also are coming from Ajaccio via the Mare et Mare Centre so it will be around 29 May before we get to the GR20 so it will be more like June. We've also done a lot in North Wales (and will again in early March) so are quite used to inclement weather.

Thanks everyone, I think we now know what to pack in our rucksacks - should be good!!!

Pat

--

Patsy



hanshurvig

Posted: Wed, May 14, 2014, 18:59

Hi, I'm planning to do the GR20 from the north starting June 1st. Does anybody know the current route conditions? Has there been much snow this season? And: can I count on the huts beeing open and serving food from june 1st? Thx.



patsy

Posted: Wed, May 14, 2014, 20:15

Hi hanshurvig

Not 100% sure about route conditions but I had heard somewhere that this last winter has been a milder one than the year before. Also, on the gites and refuges site, it said (I think) that refuges on the GR20 were opening in mid-May this year. We've successfully booked Usciliou (spelling!!!!) in the south on May 29th via the Park website.

Patsy

--

Patsy



hanshurvig

Posted: Wed, May 14, 2014, 20:43

Hi Patsy,

Thx, that sounds great.

When you say the huts are 'opening', do you mean with food service? (as I understand it, they are never actually closed, only unstaffed)

Can you give me the proper URL for the huts, please? Does it work for non-french speakers??

Thx, - Hans



Joanna

Posted: Thu, May 15, 2014, 5:05

When the huts are staffed, they serve food. In June, they will all be open and staffed.
You do realise you only need to book if you actually stay in the refuges? If you plan on camping, no booking is required. The booking page is: http://www.parc-corse.org/vad/
It's in French, but it is easy to understand with the pictograms, or use google translate is you're stuck.
For current conditions, read some of the newest threads, fex: http://corsica.forhikers.com/forum/p/24807

But in June the snow will probably melt away, except for some deep shadow on the northern slopes.



hanshurvig

Posted: Thu, May 15, 2014, 8:43

I'll be bivying, so the primary concern is food. Thanks a lot for your help, this really takes care of the major uncertainty. Thx again :)