Corsica trip planning for hikers
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Posted: Wed, Feb 25, 2015, 17:33
Last year (2014) when descending to Ascu (from Carrozzu) we were being chased by an also descending cloud. Luckily we have won the race. Later, from down below we saw all of this (infamous) descent line shrouded in fog. I'm curious... If the cloud had been faster, would we be still able to continue in seriously diminished visibility conditions? Should one continue? Or rather stop and try to wait out the fog in a tent? (Hardly any spots for a tent there). And what about being caught in serious rain?
We know that George Hecht somehow perished on the first stage from Calenzana in 2014. Those who reached Ortu di u Piobbu reported a downpour that evening/night so the weather likely played a role in George's fate. What's the wisdom on reacting to weather while walking in-between gites?
Posted: Thu, Feb 26, 2015, 7:51
the weather on the Corsica mountains is no joke (the terrain gets very slippery). Some foolishly dare to venture into bad weather conditions only to meet their schedule. But my advice here is to ask every day at the hut about the weather forecast (they have a daily bulletin) and if the forecast is bad stay put until it gets better. So when planning for your vacation do take into account more days just for that. After all where is the enjoyment in walking under a downpour?
Posted: Thu, Feb 26, 2015, 13:37
I assume there is still no news about what happened to George Heck.
Poor visibility is always a concern in mountainous areas. Even a route that appears to be relatively benign like the GR20 can become difficult when you are in low cloud with the risk of becoming disorientated. Carrying a compass is always a good idea in the mountains even if you don't have a map. A GPS and a map are best but maybe a bit too much weight.
I would have thought the descent to Haut Ascu would be OK if you were already on the trail when the weather closes in, despite being quite tortuous. It is a fairly direct line down and there are the red & white markings at frequent intervals but you would need to concentrate on staying on the trail. If you haven't seen a mark for 200/300 metres, then you're probably off-route. Go back to the last one and try again. If you can't find that then pitch camp and wait for it to clear.
Posted: Thu, Feb 26, 2015, 14:44
we and others always asked about weather, but sometimes the meteo was unclear, like "maybe rain in the afternoon". My question was, what to do when caught in fog or rain?
Along the route from Carrozzu to Ascu ominous clouds were moving in the skies all the time. Close to Lac de Muvrella I started looking for places to set up tent. Luckily it cleared nicely (and surprisingly) so we continued. And then there was this descending cloud that we outran.
The main point of my question is about decision: when caught in bad weather -- should one abandon going to the next refuge and set up tent wherever possible along the route?
Posted: Sat, Feb 28, 2015, 17:35
I think it's about the **type** of bad weather. If it's just clouds you may try to cautiously keep going moving in turns (if you're not hiking alone, that is) from one trailmark to the next one. If - on the other hand - you're caught in rain and the terrain is not an easy one, you may want to stay put and wait till it clears out.
Posted: Mon, Mar 2, 2015, 12:51
The (hitch)hikers guide to the galaxy has the answer: Don't Panic!
As Michele says, it depends on the kind of weather you encounter. If it's foggy and bad visibility and you have problems finding the path and the markers, you should stay put and wait it out. Do not walk blindly around in thick fog. If you can still see the path and markers, you can keep moving, but keep your eyes on the alert.
If in heavy rain, consider your footing. Do you feel safe and stable walking on the current terrain, continue. Assess an obstacle if you meet one, if you feel it's too risky negotiating it in the rain, wait it out (or return to the previous refuge, it is no shame in turning back).
So, pretty much like what Michele says.
Posted: Mon, Mar 2, 2015, 15:45
Just to make sure... By "wait it out" you can mean "stay where you are for the night", right?
Realistically, it took us about 8 hours to walk from gite d'etape to another. Being in the middle we would be 4 hours away from previous or next refuge; that's pretty far away, and rather late within a day. Waiting out will mean not reaching any refuge that day. Rather, set up tent wherever possible and hide inside. Sounds reasonable.
Posted: Mon, Mar 2, 2015, 16:06
Bad weather (or good for that matter) can end just as fast as it happens.
So, the thing to do would be to wait it out. That could mean wrapping yourself in as good as you can, or pitch the tent. But you stay put where you are, until the bad weather is over (or you have to move on).
But it could be that the bad weather passes quickly, and if there are enough time left of the day you could move on. Waiting it out just means to wait until the weather is good enough to continue.
Posted: Mon, Mar 2, 2015, 16:31
Thank you Tarjei!
The reason I've been asking has to do with 2 accidents. Quite recently in White Mountains of New Hampshire a young woman froze to death on her hike, apparently caught in very strong and cold winds. And I mean VERY! Even the rescuers had to give up. She was experienced.
And then, we had the case of George Hecht who perished on the first stage from Calenzana. In my estimate he must have been within maybe 2 hours from Ortu di u Piobbu when some serious rain started. Unfortunately, we do not know exactly what happened to him. He could have slipped somewhere on the scrambling sections.
And I got scared a few times, including elsewhere on Corsica, by time planning mistakes and finishing hike in total darkness.
Posted: Tue, Mar 3, 2015, 7:50
And I got scared a few times, including elsewhere on Corsica, by time planning mistakes and finishing hike in total darkness
That's why the rule of thumb is to be well informed about the weather forecast and start **very** early in the morning (between 5 and 6 a.m.). Also please take a look at the other recommendations I give on my page
Posted: Tue, Mar 3, 2015, 18:31
The two examples you are looking at have one thing in common i.e. both of them were on their own.
Being in a group or pair certainly helps as you are able to counsel and reason with each other to avoid panic. Please don't start getting too anxious about trekking in the mountains as a few 'rules of thumb' can get you out of most predicaments, one being 'if you are disorientated, stay where you are'.
I think Michele's idea of taking it in turns to move to the next marker is great. I wish I'd thought of that. It's an obvious safe way of travelling (here in the UK we don't have marked trails so tend to rely on compass bearings).
Use each experience to make to a better mountaineer rather than put you off. I've been benighted more than once but I'm a better climber because of it.
Posted: Tue, Mar 3, 2015, 19:43
of course we know your page very well as well as your wonderful videos, that we have watched several times, first in preparation, than to revive memories.
Alan, I am not anxious, but the two quoted accidents which ended badly (for really experienced hikers) made me curious about "emergency procedures" related to weather change.
Especially, since I plan on returning to GR 20. (I haven't touched the South part yet).
Posted: Wed, Mar 4, 2015, 15:14
I'm pleased to see you're not put off by a few unfortunate and thankfully rare incidents. The southern end of the GR20 is a bit less extreme than the northern section but still fantastic. Be careful but enjoy it!
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