GR 20 27.04 - 10.05 (south-north direction)

Anton

Posted: Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 13:50

Hello!

There are two of us planning GR 20 starting south is early May of 2014.
I've examined a vast amount of information on this route, but still several issues are not clear.
Hope someone of you can help! :)

- Can we rely that gas or fire will be in EACH refuge, so we can cook there?
If no, can you help suggesting what amount of gas for our stove should be taken? Is 450g would be enough? (I'm going to buy Optimus Crux for the purpose).

- It seems it is forbidden to take a gas balloon on the airplane. Is buying gas baloon in Bastia a problem? Can you suggest a place for that?

- We are thinking to reduce amount of food to be taken with us from the start. Cause all in all it's appears to be 13 kilos. How many places on the route (like Vizzavona probably) where we can easily and guarantee buy basic things like buckwheat/sugar/wurst/rice?

- We are not really experienced with snow, and I've heard that bypassing some areas because of the snow can be an option. What do you think is it a good idea and can be easily done in most places? Or we shall consider completely changing our route when facing huge snow problems?

- Do we need to get any approvals to apply to this route? Or register our group somewhere before starting it?

- Shall we take any special medicine or tick sprays for some kind of dangerous bugs that appear on the route this time?

- We are arriving at Bastia 25th of april. Since bus to Conca leaves at 16, and we land at 18 - it seems that the only option for us is a taxi. Is that right?
If so - anyone who would like to share - you are welcome! :)

Thank you so much for any help in advance!!



Gaffr

Posted: Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 14:28

Hello,
There are so many questions to reply to here! :-). I can give a few replies based upon my own experiences on the island. I am sure that many of the others around here will also give you helpful answers where I cannot.
First of all end of April going into early May is very early season for the route but since you are travelling along the six stages of the Southern part you may just be able to manage? There are places such as Asinao up to the top of Monte Alcudina where you will be above 2,000 mtrs. On the 6th, of June in 2013 there were still some snowfields up the the col. prior to the summit. There could be, in early May, some snow still lurking on the ridge along to Usciolu refuge and on the high ground along to Prati where the terrain reaches to 2,000 mtrs at Punta Capella. The stages from Col di Verde through Capanelle/Renosa to Vizzavona are on good paths must stay around the 1,400-1,600 metres level providing that you don't go up to Monte Renosa.
From what I know the refuges are left open, April into May, but can you rely on there being gas still available in the canisters?
I purchased my gas in a garage in Moriani, French Blue cans, which was as far as got with a hitch down from near to the airport at Bastia Porreta. I took the bus on the following day, Monday, down to Sainte Lucie-de-Porto-Vecchio and then the Navette up to the Conca Camping.

--

Gaffr



Anton

Posted: Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 14:42

Oh, I'm sorry, I meant we start from the south, but planning to accomplish the whole route from south to north.

Thank you for your reply!

I wanted to use Optimus Crux with it's balloon since it's can be packed very compactly. But seems getting a gas for this thing is a real problem.



Gaffr

Posted: Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 17:18

Hello,
I had no doubt that it was from the South that you were travelling....but I thought that it was from Conca up to Vizzavona....the first six stages.
It is after Vizzavona that you could/will probably run into the remains of the snow. Vizzavona over to l'Onda had big snowfields on the 11th June 2013 and a day or so later from Petra Piana to Manganu very large snowfields. The section through the Cirque still had remaining snow. There were in 2013 transport options to bypass sections that folks did not fancy going over....but I doubt if such arrangements would be in place during early May?
Maybe there won't be any snow remaining in 2014...who knows....it is different every year!
It is a bit of a lottery starting early on the traverse.
I'll look out a 'web address thing' of my journey to illustrate the conditions that I found in 2013.

--

Gaffr



Gaffr

Posted: Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 17:26

Hello Anton,http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=33438
Try this link to see a few images of what I found in 2013.

--

Gaffr



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 20:33

Anton

Starting from the south is definitely the best option as you will be able to assess the conditions on the higher sections as you progress. You shouldn't have too many problems for a few days at least. The shop in Bavella, for example, sells everything you might need apart from gas.

The refuges, I think, have gas available for cooking but are not staffed this early in the season.

It's likely that the high passes will be snow covered. They were in 2013.

You will need crampons, ice axes and cold weather gear at least.

Restocking a Vizzavona should be OK but nowhere else.

Fuel is a problem. Unless you have a multi-fuel stove that burns petrol, you won't find anything easily.

--

Alan



Gaffr

Posted: Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 20:43

Hello TT,
I just wanted to clear-up a problem that I had, it may just have been that I was 'early season', in early June the shop in Bavella looked as if it was closed down. I looked in the window and could not see any stock at all. Completely different from 2007 when we were able to make purchases there on the 4th of July.
I guess that if you found it all up and running in August/September it must have been an early season thing with the shop?

--

Gaffr



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Tue, Feb 4, 2014, 20:50

Anton

What you need is something like a Coleman dual-fuel stove:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Coleman-Sportster-Single-Burner-Stove/dp/B000QUI...

--

Alan



Anton

Posted: Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 5:59

Alan,
Thanks for the comprehensive response!
The Dual-fuel stove with fuel would weight at least 1.5 kilos (compare to 600g for Optimus with 2 balloons and cans).
Thats sufficient, since we would need crampons and ice axes as well.
Do you think it's a good idea to rely on gas in refuges for cooking, and do not take a stove at all?

Gaffr,
What stove you were using for cooking? Do you think that we can count to find gas for it in Moriani, as you did?

Gentlemen,
May be you aware of any other options we can consider for cooking at this time?
E.g. I've read some that some generic gas balloons can be considered for any gas stove - I just need some proper adapter (may be this kind of balloons I can get there easily). Or..?



Joanna

Posted: Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 6:18

Anton, just please bear in mind that according to the National Parc authorieties, the GR20 is in generall not possible until early June:
"En raison de l’enneigement hivernal l’itinéraire n’est en général praticable que de début juin à mi-octobre."

I'm not saying people don't do it, but it can be dangerous! I've already written it several times here on this forum, but I'll repeat - in early June 2009 (?) there were still people who had tu turn back from the first northern stage at the route was closed by snow!

And refuges are open, but not manned, so don't count on gas or food there, carry your own.

If you read french, here is some official info on seasons and refuges etc:
http://www.parc-corse.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=227&...



Gaffr

Posted: Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 7:51

Hello Anton,
The stove that I have always used in Corsica is the Bleuet S200...the peirceable can type...prior to going in 2007 I was advised that fuel for these and the bleuet clip on type were the most readily available on the island and have up till now found this to be the case! I usually use the alpine stove along with the Coleman 70/30 'screw-on' cans of gas in most places that I camp...much more stable...burner is not more than a few centimetres above the ground when in use! I have purchased the Bleuet cans also in a filling station in Calvi and in the supermarket there when travelling from Calinzana....along the GR I stocked-up with a couple of cans at Vizzavona and at Col di Vergio and of course when the refuges are 'in business' there was usually available outdoor cooking points. I got the impression that folks, coming straight off the bus that I travelled South on, were able to buy the Bleuet cans somewhere in Sainte Lucie-de-Porto-Vecchio.
Joanne wrote...'in early June 2009' (?).... My own experiences are we arrived in Mid June 2009 to travel over the three routes beginning with the Mare e Monte Nord...another way of reaching Porto Vecchio on foot...we did come across folks at the bus station in Ajaccio...30th, of May...who had not been able to make progress on the GR20. I guess that the situation that folks found at the end May in 2013 is maybe not so rare?
Starting from Conca is definitly a way of easing your way into the route and of course the meetings with folks en-route will enable you to get information about what is happening further North. I would think that you may well meet folks coming from the North...could be important to ask questions...maybe? what equipment did you use...or as I found last year when meeting folks from the North...don't just accept that 'we found it OK etc' when further questions revealed that they had descended and taken transport to avoid the problem areas. No problem with that...just folks making sensible decisions based upon their abilities. I am not saying that this was an attempt to deceive but maybe just lost in communications with an aged Scotsman. From my travels last early June would indicate that the amount of snow cover alters by the day when the sun gets at it....when it is soft around late morning/midday OK ....earlier in the morning or when in a shaded Northerly orientation....very different and much more difficult to make progress on without crampons!

--

Gaffr



Michele
moderator

Posted: Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 8:36

I often visit the official blog of the park http://randoblogpnrc.blogspot.it/ to watch the pictures they post almost regularly and that show the current trail condition. Corsica has very beautiful mountains, but ... I can't help but thinking that the snow cover ... somewhat ... flattens the beauty of the landscape making all places somehow less identifiable and more similar to each other (if you know what I mean) . Of course this is true for any mountain, but, when I hear that people want to do this trail in the off season I always wonder why. The GR20 is difficult enough already: what's the point of making it harder than it is? Every step is a struggle in deep snow not to mention the additional hardware to carry plus heavy thermal clothes, the lack of easy resupply points, weather instability etc. etc. Sometimes the choice of the period is dictated by time constrains and allotted vacation days but still ....

--Michele



Anton

Posted: Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 17:01

Gaffr, thanks for your advices, that sounds very reasonable.
I've decided to take Optimus Crux and an adapter for piercing ballons, but hopefully I'll be able to find screw balloons in the Millet Expert Shop (thanks to plasmation, http://corsica.forhikers.com/forum/p/19003) or in any other supermarket in Bastia.
Cause with 450g balloon and Optimus cans it would all weight around 800g. Coleman complect would be at least twice heavier. And I'm not aware of better alternatives in terms of weight.
Since I'm going to travel with my wife total weight is a real issue :)

Michele,
Thanks for this link!
Speaking of nature May looks perfect to me since we would be able to see winter, summer and spring Corsica at the same time. And at the same time it would not be crowded and more challenging :)



Turnertactics
moderator

Posted: Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 17:25

Anton

Great news about Millet Bastia selling screw top gas canisters.

I suggested the petrol stove as you will need fuel and petrol is available anywhere but saving the weight will be important.

One last suggestion is to take a down jacket. I could have used one in August!

Good luck with your trip.

Can you report back after you've been? There will be plenty of people wanting to know what early season conditions are like

--

Alan



Anton

Posted: Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 11:04

Guys!

Am I right that in case of emergency I'm calling (+33 - 4 - 95 61 13 95) from my cell phone?

Are you aware what is the snow situation this time?
For some reason no photos have been published on http://randoblogpnrc.blogspot.it/ since March 21.

Can you share an opinion if it is safe to start route from the north? Or this Sunday (27.04) we definetely want to start from Conca? :)

Thank you!



Michele
moderator

Posted: Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 11:36

Anton,

Unfortunately I don't have any updated info about the current weather conditions (and, yes, on the Park blog lately they haven't posted any recent news).
However, I think I can safely say you will definitely run into a lot of snow on the highest areas which will be melting with the high temperatures of these past few days. And trudging in melting snow will be very tiring.
At this time of year, starting from the north or the south won't make any difference. I suggest you drop an email to the Maison d'information du Parc Naturel Regional infos@parc-naturel-corse.com or call them at +33 4 95517910 for any updated info and advice.
Alpine rescue is at the number you mentioned, although they also answer at +33 4 95 61 13 96 (PGHM de Corte).

--Michele



Joanna

Posted: Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 18:08

OK, here it goes, from Meteo France:

La douceur et les pluies que nous avons connu en Corse ont entrainé une fonte du manteau neigeux jusque 1600 à 1800M suivant le versant. Néanmoins l'enneigement est encore bon pour la saison particulièrement au dessus de 1800/2000M. On mesure 90cm près de la Plagia Orba à 2000M d'altitude et un peu moins de 3M sur la Maniccia à 2400M. DFes conditions de neige printanières dominent sur nos massifs. Au petit matin, les croutes de regel sont peu épaisses, voire inexistantes aux altitudes les plus basses. La neige devient rapidement très humide et lourde en matinée sur la plupart des pentes.

My more or less free translation to English: recent warm weather and rains melted the snow cover up to 1600 to 1800, depending on the orientation of the slope. Still, the snow cover continues to be good for the season, especially above 1800/2000m. There is 90cm close to Plagia Orba at 2000m, and a little less then 3 meters at la Maniccia at 2400. The spring quality of snow dominates in our massifs. Early in the morning, the melt-freeze crusts are thin, and nonexistent at lowest altitudes. The snow quickly becomes very wet and heavy later in the morning on most of the slopes.

The avalange danger is rated 1-2.



Anton

Posted: Wed, Apr 23, 2014, 16:29

Thank you Michele and Joanna!

I've wrote a message to infos@parc-naturel-corse.com, but it looks like there is some problem with mail server - this address in unreachable.

Anyway thanks to you I think I got the picture :)



Mumz

Posted: Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 6:12

Anton,
Please let me know how you get along, as I am planning a trip to Corsica at the end of May.
Although I know that is very early in the season, I hope the mild winter we have had will make the trail doable. I am planning to go light weight and quick, so not much need for provisions and I have a friend meeting me (support crew!) at two places along the way.



Vincent

Posted: Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 8:35

Hi Anton, great stuff, would love to hear how you get on. Mumz, two of us are also going last week of May first week of June. Hoping the refuges will be serviced! Are you going NS or SN?



Mumz

Posted: Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 13:25

Hi Vincent,
I plan to go NS. But should be off the route by May 23rd. I don't expect any of the refuges will be serviced in May. I plan to go alpine ultra-running style. Though I have not tried running with crampons yet :)
I will prepare plan B as to assure for a good time on the island even if I cannot do the GR20.



jenbrooks

Posted: Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 17:02

My husband and I are also leaving tomorrow April 27 for the Gr20, we are leaving from Calvi early in the morning, we may run into each other enroute. Good luck, I will update the forum when we return!

--

Jen



Mumz

Posted: Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 20:40

Good luck Jen,
Updates will be much appreciated.



Mumz

Posted: Sat, Apr 26, 2014, 20:40

Good luck Jen,
Updates will be much appreciated.



Gaffr

Posted: Sun, Apr 27, 2014, 6:04

Hello,
From what I observed last year...I arrived to the island 1st June....meeting folks already on the route....they must have got started middle to end of May.
Refuges were found to be up and running....all ? Folks were appearing from both directions as I made progress from the South although many of those N to S folks were having to get bused around a couple of the Northern stages....remains of winter still around. I have got the feeling that 2014 is a different with the amount of snow still remaining? In 2008 08/06 we met a lad in Calinzana who said that he had come all the way from the South so I guess that he must have started from Conca at the beginning of the third week of May.

--

Gaffr



Joanna

Posted: Sun, Apr 27, 2014, 6:52

I somehow cannot imagine why people would want to do the trek that early, well aware of the snow situation and unstaffed refuges... Early June is uncrowded, little snow left, refuges in operatin, stable(ish) weather... Why torture yourself at best, and get killed in an avalanche at worst case scenario if you can avoid it?
Those are high mountain, and remote, often without phone coverage. Let us see the elephant in the room-it is dangerous!



cpt_pickard

Posted: Sun, Apr 27, 2014, 7:36

Well, you can comfortably hike up El Capitan and still hundreds of people climb up the big wall...

I mean, there are people who go to GR 20 in early May thinking that it is summer already, a southern region with beaches and stuff and that it will be easy. These are delusional. On the other hand, people who understand the difficulties may appreciate them as a challenge.

Dan



Vincent

Posted: Sun, Apr 27, 2014, 11:38

Best of luck Mumz! Hats off to you for attempting in the style you are. Update on your return will be much appreciated - Sounds brilliant! We too have a back-up plan in case of inaccessibility on any of the stages. All the best



Mumz

Posted: Fri, May 9, 2014, 7:11

Anton? Jen?
I would love to hear how you are getting on (and do I need to bring my ice axe?)



anthuenis

Posted: Sun, May 11, 2014, 9:26

Any updates about the snow conditions on the northern part??



Anton

Posted: Mon, May 12, 2014, 10:21

Hello!
We are back! Safe and healthy! :)))

Although we took the absolute minimum we still had pretty heavy weight with us - 30kg with me and 10kg for my girl (that including all the clothes). It was our first tracking and we didn't know what to expect :)
We took traditional food thats why I think it was heavy, all the other was only essential stuff, and taken only once for 2 people. I may share my neat Xml sheet but it is in russian :)

From my experience progress on gr20 in May totaly depends on weather. In spite of having pretty heavy ruksaks we were progressing pretty fast when it was sunny. For example the step from Usciolu to Verdi we made for 6 hours, and on the previous day - when it was furious wind and fog - those groups who decided to go spent ~10 hours just getting from Prati to Usciolu.
We had only 2-3 days with good weather - on other it was wind, little rain, even snow hail(!), and fog at the same time most of the day! So normally we spent 8-11 hours a day on track (9 in average). We met many groups going gr20 south part. Most of them started in Vizzavona.
In Petra Piana we reach 2 german guys who were 1 day ahead and get lost on their way to Manganu. This stage was totaly covered with snow and fog. No marks at all or any traces or anything - I think we were the first two groups there this year. I had GPS with me - so next day we did it purely by my GPS. And that was pure ice/mountain climbing, not tracking, it was very dangerous.
Same story we had on the day 3 - there was a snow hail storm all the night until 5 am. On the next day - strong wind, fog, no marks only weak traces of german guys :)
At first days we noticed that the weather was always good more or less before 12am, so all the rest days we woke up at 4am to went out on the sun raise.
After Manganu my girl claimed that it was too risky to proceed to Solitude. We argued a little and decided to switch to Mare a Mare at Verghiu . After all we didn't had much days left since we had already lost 1 day because she had stomach ill and if it would be a bad weather on the day we reach it we would have to turn back to be in time for the airplane. Next day we reached Corte in 12 hours. We didn't like Mare a Mare actualy at all. Since we had a tent and stove with us we made a fast camping trip Corte - Ajaccio (train) - Bonifacio (ship) - Porto Veccio (bus) - Bastia (bus). It was cheap and fun :) Just the relax we needed after such a tough journey :)
German guys went further. They were using tracking sticks and crampons in mountains and we were using only ice axes. We took crampons as well, but were not using them. Snow was melting actively, so I thought they will not make big use to us. We hadn't tracking sticks as well. We met nobody who had ice axes - people were relying on tracking sticks and crampoons.

About gas. We found pin baloons on the fist patrol station. That was in Moriani on Sunday. Seems you can easily get pin baloons everywhere. Screw baloons are more rare. Milet shop in Bastia. Intersport shop in Porto Vechio and Ajaccio.

About refuges. There was gas in every single refuge. All had water source. In Asinao was a guardian, so we had to pay 11€ per place to stay. Other refuges was unstaffed. That woman, the guardian, seems hadn't made any difference - there was no additional food or electricity. You can make fire in refufes as well. There are plates, and cans and spieces. Verdi refuge is a private one you have to pay there as well. It is very neat, there is electricity there. Some snacks and macaroni are available. Some food was also available near Vizzavona train station, but not much.

Finally I want to say that my GPS was the most important thing during our trip. I was using my Android smartphone with a rain cover and open street maps software. It was a great use both in foggy mountains and during our last tourism days (since it has all the campings and sightseens in offline map).

After all we had a very balanced journey. I never expected that something could impress me after my water trips in Siberia, but gr20 did it - it was amazing experience from begining to end.



Michele
moderator

Posted: Mon, May 12, 2014, 11:07

Thanks Anton for your very useful and interesting feedback. 30 kg on your back???? Wow, that's tough.

--Michele



Gaffr

Posted: Mon, May 12, 2014, 12:07

Hello,
You did well to get through the passage from Petra Piana to Manganu....I guess that the extra two folks would help greatly with the trail breaking through the stage that can be truly alpine when winter is still around.
Out of interest, I recall you folks saying that you didn't have the full 15/16 days to devote to the trail,
from Conca to Col di Vergio would have taken maybe some nine (9) or so Days? Like Conca on the 26th of April.......Col di Vergio on?

--

Gaffr



Anton

Posted: Mon, May 12, 2014, 12:21

Yes, we would never did it to Manganu w/o each other. It was too depressing :)

Initially I was planning to make it for 12 days. Truncating 1 day through Uschiolu - Verde and Verde - Vizzavona, 1 day through Tatone and the last one on the last stage Carozzu - Calenzana (bypassing Ortu e Piobu).
We started in 27 of April - took a taxi from Moriani, and between 13 and 19 o'clock made the first stage.
We had 14 days (27.04 - 10.05) and made it according to this plan - but lost the 4th day because of stomach illness (it was a storming wind that day and mountain stage, so most likely we would stay inside anyway).
So, yes, all in all it took 9 days to reach Col di Vergio. And the next day we made it to Corte.



Mumz

Posted: Mon, May 12, 2014, 13:11

Thanks Anton,
Great to hear your story, though it is not comforting to hear the conditions you had (ice climbing and very dangerous!).
I am sticking to my plan: starting from the north on the 19th. I suppose I will into the icy bits earlier than you, but hope it won't make me turn back. The weather seems to have been good the past and week to come, so I hope conditions are improving.

The route is already loaded in my GPS
I will be taking crampons and trekking poles, sort of wanted to leave the ice axe behind....did you find it to be useful?

Great story, glad you had a balanced experience despite the weather.



Anton

Posted: Mon, May 12, 2014, 17:59

Snow was melting very very actively, so I belive you will be fine :)
And there will be traces of other groups already, which to my opinion is even more important.
But anyway my advice to you is to start the route from the south, as it looks to me that track would be much more balanced in this case. And you will face less snow in Solitude, as you will reach it later.

We were using ice axes all the time with snow, and yes it was very useful. But I think you should choose something one - either sticks or axes. Our german friends (I haven't hear from them yet) were successfully using sticks and crampons, so if you are using sticks during tracking - I think you better to choose sticks.
With ice axe you also need some training - how to stop youself if you have slip down. We took some lessons on mountain climbing before Gr20, so we knew how to use this stuff.
But what will you do with sticks in this case? This is an open question.

Actually all the groups we met were using tracking sticks, so I think we just missed something about tracking :) But still I can not see myselft using tracking sticks, as I think I'm moving much faster without them. My wife has the same opinion. May be we should try first :)



Mumz

Posted: Mon, May 12, 2014, 14:34

You are very right about the uselessness of trekking poles when trying to "self-arrest".
I guess I just need to watch my footing and not slip.
I am pretty much set on the N-S direction. I already have hotels booked where my friend will meet me and if necessary I can bypass the higher section by using her as a taxi.

It seems the south is very doable in any case:
(From the Facebook page today: no alp insist equipment necessary anymore and all huts open and staffed)

"Quelles nouvelles fraiches du GR20 Sud !
Encore quelques beaux névés sur le parcours, en particulier dans les secteurs de la Capella et de l’Alcudina, mais l’itinéraire ne nécessite plus l’utilisation de matériel d’alpinisme.
Attention aux névés qui restent encore bien durs le matin par ciel clair la nuit.
Tous les refuges sont ouverts et gardés à partir demain.
Bonne rando à tous et soyez prudents !"



Gaffr

Posted: Tue, May 13, 2014, 7:31

Hello,
For the early season travellers on the route the reports back here from folks should be the best advice that can be obtained. I am not sure that such advice on conditions can be obtained elsewhere?
Please let folks on the Forum have more of these reports. Not just the 'all the way through ones' but those which for many reasons have to be curtailed. I guess it is form these that we can all gain knowledge.
Anyway Anton's report seems to give a honest report on what he and his friend came across during their trip....27/04 -10/05. From what I have read they had several tough days. I think what we should all ponder are the difficulties that were encountered on the stage Petra Piana through to Manganu where obviously the route markers were (all?) under the snow surface. He seemed to be happy to have the support from his GPS. You may say that now there are footsteps to follow but as Joanna indicates with her translation from the French weather forecast is that snow at 2000 metres is expected later this week.

--

Gaffr



Anton

Posted: Tue, May 20, 2014, 15:22

Hi, just if you curious, here is the comment from our German friends on how it was after di Vergio:

"
We had a great trip! After the tour we did together we reached the Castellu di Vergio close to midnight. The next day, we hiked close to the cirque de la solitude. One day later we passed the cirque. For me, this part was the most challenging and risky part of the whole GR20 trip.
The slope was extremely steep and completely frozen and thus slippery. Fortunately me met two guys who had crossed the cirque two days ago, when the snow was not frozen. Hence their traces could be used as stairs. Without this it would not have been possible, or at least I would not have tried due to mortal danger.
The tours behind the cirque were easier. Finally we reached Calinzana on Thursday noon :-)
"

Anton.



Gaffr

Posted: Tue, May 20, 2014, 8:34

Hello Anton,
Many thanks for passing on this very useful information. This was exactly what I was expecting to hear after what you said about your experience earlier on the route. I would say that you and your friend made a very good decision to finish your tour at Col di Vergio. After all you can always come back to the island at a later time. In the mountains it is very important to feel comfortable with the decisions that you make. The traverse of the GR20 in May, especially early May, can present problems...it all depends on the year but there is a growing evidence that expecting to have a 'normal summer' journey during early May is a definite problem.
This concurs with last year when I arrived in early June at Conca with the trouble areas i.e. those with winter still around at both Petra Piana to Manganu and at the Cirque but by the time I travelled Northwards towards these areas the sun had done its work to make things 'more normal' under foot.
I have got the feeling that this year that the problem areas will be released from the effects of winter a bit earlier than last year?
I hope that others travelling the route in May this year will present us with what they found with conditions on the route. As always it is going to be a very fluid situation with conditions changing by the day!

--

Gaffr



Mumz

Posted: Fri, May 23, 2014, 21:11

Hello,
Just back from my Corsica trip. I started Calenzana on May 19th and had quite a struggle to get to Haute Asco in about 10 Hours. The snowfields made the trail less obvious and on some stretchen i already used crampons and ice axe, just to be comfy. Halfway it started pouring down, making the rock very slippery. Seeing as I was moving too slow and too lightly packed for the difficulties reported at cirque de solitude I called my friend and had her pick me up. Ran down the road 10 km to keep warm.
We spent the night in Restonica Valley and I contemplated entering the GR from there, but that seemed silly. So I hiked up the mare I monti route to ref. Onda. Col de Muratello was puzzling. Tracks in the snow crossing, leading to ...where? The route should go up and over. Again very happy with crampons and axe, making my way up and peeping over the edge happy to see easy slopes in the other side. Easy descent to hotel monte d'oro, wher I met my friend for dinner and good sleep. I left Wednesday morning at 03:30, just to have the possibility of finishing....woe is me. Though it is the "easier" half, it is far from easy. I ended up at col de Bavalla (way) after dark, 11pm. Luckily found a bed, though no dinner. Next day I took me 4:30 to get to Conca.
So I didn't see the high and hard parts, but from what I saw lower would still definitely recommend axe and crampons (check the GR20 Facebook page!). The southern part already has quite a bit of traffic....but is amazingly beautiful and well worth the hike if you have no alpine experience and can't do the whole route. I met people starting from Vizzavone going north, with what looked like 20 kg backpacks and no hard wear... I wonder if they got over Mutatello.....



pookey

Posted: Fri, May 23, 2014, 21:31

Mumz - do you mean you started on April 19th, not May?



Mumz

Posted: Sat, May 24, 2014, 6:04

No, I started last Monday, May 19th. But did not do the whole thing. I skipped the part between haute Asco and Onda, because it reports were that it could still be dangerous. I was travelling on my own, light and fast. Chances of having to turn back on that stretch were too great. Quite happy to have done southern part in two days. I was sick of trail food by the end.



Gaffr

Posted: Sat, May 24, 2014, 6:11

Hello,
Thanks for the information on your trip in Corsica. The dates of the journey can be sorted out later but from what I read your travelling times are remarkably quick!
To get from Calinzana to Haut Ascu in 10 hours in less than perfect conditions does show fine athletic ability.
Just off the top of my head....to reach the GR20 from the Restonica valley would have been an epic....you made a good decision not to try to get to the high ground from in there. Of course from in there you would have had to deal with one of the trickiest sections on the high ground between Manganu and Petra Piana.
To reach refuge l'Onda you would have, I guess, you perhaps travelled on a variation of the Mare a Mare Nord (not the Mare e Monti)? to get to the refuge via the junction prior to the Bergeries Tolla?...after that to Muratello and down to Vizzavona.
Then I read of 20 hours of continuous walking to get from Vizzavona to Bavella....That is like five stages of the route and then finishing the following day at Conca.
I am pleased that you enjoyed the Southern sections of the route....they do offer some very enjoyable walking.
Maybe, Mumz, could you clear maybe some confusion regarding the dates of your visit. Did it all take place between the 19th of May during this current week?
I think, as you can see above, that 'pookey' and maybe others who are going to do the route in early June would be happy to have this clarified and to have as much information regarding the conditions etc. that you can offer.
Many thanks for your report on current conditions.

--

Gaffr



Mumz

Posted: Sat, May 24, 2014, 6:30

All your assumptions are correct, Gaffr.
I read an interview with a Corsican mountain guide in the Corse Matin (May 18th) while flying to Calvi. He clearly stated that there were two alpine stages where ice axe and crampons would certainly be necessary. Cirque de Solitude and between Manganu en Petra Piana. A week earlier a Parisian hiker had slipped down about 200m and needed to be taken to hospital with broken bones. The only thing that made me think I could possibly do that stretch is that the Parisian was helped by British hikers: I thought if the route would be getting enough traffic there may be a path in the meantime.

There was not much snow on the sections I travelled, but you don't need much to turn you back. I was really happy I found a way over Muratello. (Between Onda and Vizzavone). Maybe I could have climbed straight up the rock, but there is always the risk of gong through the snow and getting your leg stuck (on other sections I got a little scraped up that way). In the end I made my way up to the col zig zagging, planting my axe in the hard snow very firmly . Falling was not an option.

Yes, the souther part is great! In it's own worth a trip to corsica. So if you are not equipped for some winter climbing that is a fine choice.



Mumz

Posted: Sat, May 24, 2014, 6:47

I was carrying water, food, down jacket, windstopper (but not waterproof) upper and lower, long pants, wool shirt, bivy bag, ice axe and crampons (first two days), phone, maps, GPS (sun to ambit2), hiking poles.very small first aid kit



Gaffr

Posted: Sat, May 24, 2014, 7:34

Hello Mumz,
Thanks again for getting back to the Forum. All of this, as I would say, is very valuable for those coming to the island in the near future. You certainly made the most of your short visit to the island! The availability of a companion with a vehicle must have been valuable!
One more question....would you advise that beginning the traverse from the South of the island at Conca for those coming to the route soon, say within the next week or so, as I did last year in early June, be wise to begin the GR20 at Conca?

--

Gaffr



pookey

Posted: Sat, May 24, 2014, 8:24

Mumz - I just assumed if you started on the 19th you'd not be back at a computer already. Impressive speed! Thanks a lot for the report, much appreciated.



Mumz

Posted: Sat, May 24, 2014, 10:11

Gaffr,
Snow will be longest on the northern side of the mountain, and I am happier going up than coming down snow. So that would be an argument for NS.
If you want to do the whole GR early June, and taking a reasonable amount of time, going SN would give the snow more time to melt on the difficult stretches.

Planning on going through Cirque Solitude and Petra Piana en Manganu early June I would take axe and crampons, so as not to have to turn back. I had lightweight Pogu crampons and a short like axe, so that didn't add much more than 600 grams to my gear.

Information on snow conditions can be found on the GR20 Facebook page.

Pookey,
Thanks! I am a little tired now. :)



Vincent

Posted: Sat, May 24, 2014, 10:48

Thanks so much Mumz, flying out tomorrow so this report is really useful. Thank you! Well done also on your trip. *bowing down*. We're not snow equipped and relatively inexperienced so looks like some of the tougher northern stages are out.
Cheers



pookey

Posted: Sat, May 24, 2014, 22:38

This seems to have some pictures showing both north and south conditions over the last week or so.

http://www.altre-cime.com/blog-actualite-montagne/