Corsica trip planning for hikers
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Posted: Sun, Sep 20, 2015, 21:58
After 3 months of silence (without a single update) a quick note on the randoblog site informs that the Cirque de la Solitude for the moment will stay closed and its access forbidden because its instability is confirmed by geologists. A new visit/survey of the site will take place at the end of this winter.
Posted: Mon, Sep 21, 2015, 15:52
I guess it is a wait and see what the 'freeze/thaw' cycle will do to the precariously perched boulders?
Posted: Mon, Sep 21, 2015, 16:00
Well, I'm certainly not an expert in the field so I'm just curious. Shouldn't the freeze/thaw cycle keep things just about the same?
Posted: Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 8:05
I had a stab at translating the geologists report:
The main residual risk is the possible movement of the mass of blocks that were displaced and deposited by the boulder-slide in the area dominating the path near the neck of the Bocca Minuta and the equipped area of scale and chain. This mass of blocks is imperfectly stabilized on more or less strongly inclined slopes. And indeed, the overall landing of the balanced mass is performed good proportion said limit??? These balanced elements could therefore be called into movement as a result of extreme triggers: heavy rain, application of a temporary overload (passage of people or animals or rock fall impact from up-hill). Moreover, the observations made on the re-movement of the main area of scales/blocks show the presence of rocky compartments or unstable multiple holes that may give rise to very short-term instabilities. Beyond the breakdown of isolated blocks, the whole area is equally likely to cave/collapse? in the very short term. These breaks are all triggering factors for a further boulder-slide as described above.
Given the morphological configuration of the site, these various threats are likely to impact directly on persons on the GR20 or its surroundings
Posted: Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 9:16
Of course the geologists are correct in their argumentations. But, I guess this area has ALWAYS been at risk, given the nature of such terrain. I wonder what Michel Fabrikant was thinking when he decided to have the GR20 pass through the Cirque .... hmmmm
Posted: Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 9:51
My understanding is that it took Michel Fabrikant a number of attempts to find a route through the Cirque. I think it's clear that he was trying to avoid taking it over Monte Cinto. Today, it's clear that there really are only two choices.
Freeze-thaw this winter will either consolidate any loose material in the Cirque, or it will loosen it even more. We won't know until the winter is over, and the geologists have produced another report. I can't see the restrictions being lifted if there is a chance of further rock falls.
Posted: Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 10:47
I think Monte Cinto was out of the picture at that time. In fact the original route didn't go down Haute Asco at all but stayed on the crest to reach the Altore hut. And from that point on the Cirque was unavoidable. Probably its instability was underestimated.
At the end of winter the geologists will have the delicate task of deciding whether to give the green light or not. I wouldn't feel comfortable in their shoes. Especially if they end up lifting the restrictions.
Posted: Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 13:18
I'm really pleased to be able to say that I have done the cirque but it is out of character with the rest of the trail and a lot of people found it very intimidating. The new route looks arduous but much more in keeping with the rest so maybe it's a good thing for the GR20 and maybe for the guide book producers too when they bring out new editions!
Posted: Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 14:37
It looks as though Cicerone are already on the ball with the variant route.
(The link above uses Flash, which won't work on some devices. Even then, you have to turn through the pages to find the bit about the GR20.)
The Cirque sometimes frightened trekkers of the route before they even reached it. It doesn't matter how much time you spend looking at routes on maps. The next best option through the mountains is the new variant. The trouble is, it's a very hard days walk, and plenty of trekkers have been using the bus to avoid it. There isn't really another option available.
Posted: Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 14:13
Well it's no mystery the GR20 has a reputation to be tough. So people should be physically and mentally trained to endure its hardship. The variant is in line with this. Plus it also gives the precious opportunity to visit the highest peak of the island.
Posted: Tue, Sep 22, 2015, 17:01
Thanks GRRR 20. I might contact Paddy Dillon and give him some of my observations from my last trip.
Posted: Thu, Sep 24, 2015, 11:44
I got the following from Paddy Dillon and thought I'd share it:
Only yesterday, someone was asking me exactly what the problem was with the Cirque, so I told them roughly what the geologist's report said. (A jpeg image of the report was posted a while ago on the PNRC blog site.) Basically, the landslide left a heap of unstable scree and boulders perched above Bocca Minuta. They reckon that heavy rain, or a person or an animal walking across it could trigger another landslide. As all the rubble would come down the slabs where the chain is fixed, it's just too dangerous to let anyone in there.
As you'll know the place, you can imagine what it would be like... nowhere you can run... nowhere you can hide. It's not really possible to predict what will happen during the winter. If it rained very heavily, all the rubble might get washed down. If it snowed, and there was an avalanche, that might clear the rubble. On the other hand, it could spend the winter in deep-freeze, then either collapse with the spring thaw, or thaw out in an even more dangerous condition.
They're obviously not going to do anything else until next year. The problem is entirely down to the risk of another landslide.
I had a careful read of the actual legal closure order, formulated by the local council in Calvi, and posted at the refuge at Haut Asco. They'd brought a whole lot of organisations round the table to discuss what to do, and they jointly recommended closure. The order also said that the police have ultimate authority to enforce the order. The whole thing was signed and stamped with an impressive 'official' seal, so there's no doubt that the council means business! It would take the same sort of round-table meeting of organisations to have the restrictions lifted.
The guy who got through the Cirque on the morning it was closed didn't have any problem following the route. However, he would have been unaware of the risk of further landslide. The geologist didn't get in there to look at the situation until much later. In theory, I expect you could send thousands of people through there without a problem... but if you did that and there was another landslide, causing more deaths, then there would be an absolute outcry! My guess is that closing the Cirque was the easy part. Re-opening it assumes that you can 'guarantee' that it is safe, and that's much harder to do.
I've been through the Cirque three times. The first time I entered it was terrifying, but I quickly realised it was just a scramble. The second time, because I knew what it was like, I was much more relaxed, and more interested in watching how other people coped with it. The third time, I decided to see if it was possible to get through without touching any of the chains, and that worked fine. Basically, the chains show you which way to go, but they're not absolutely essential. The only ironwork I had to grapple with was the short ladder, because I really didn't want to dangle from the rock-face! I'm still of the opinion that everyone who makes it through the Cirque pops out the other side, then wonders what all the fuss was about!
As far as my guidebook goes, I'll still be including the Cirque, but I'll be telling people that it was closed at the time of writing, and telling them where to check for the latest information. I'll be including full details of the new variant and bus service, just in case those are the only options. Maybe once every year, someone contacts me to ask if there's any way of avoiding the Cirque. I've always told them that they could use my Monte Cinto route, then adapt it by descending to Tighjettu, but it's only in the past few weeks that I've been able to check the link with Tighjettu myself. It's now very well marked, and in many places very well trodden too, but many other parts are on bare rock.
I can't imagine anyone could get lost on it in good weather, but it would need a bit more care in mist to spot the markers. Snowfall would obscure many of the markers, and any amount of snow or ice would be treacherous on the steep and rocky parts. Being up there in a thunderstorm would be awful, because it's not easy to get off the high ridge in a hurry without risking some form of accident or injury.
Lots of people now pile up their packs in a heap at Pointe des Eboulis, and make a dash to include the summit of Monte Cinto. In previous years, I hardly met anyone up there.
Posted: Thu, Sep 24, 2015, 12:47
Thanks Alan for your report. Interesting read although unfortunately PD doesn't add anything new to what we already knew.
The area is unstable and therefore potentially dangerous. But it's walkable. In fact on my blog I got a guy who claimed he passed the day after the accident and didn't note anything special (I also have another who asked info/advice about sneaking in - can you believe it?)
Personally I don't expect the area to be reopened: too many responsibilities should anything happen again (I've seen a video of people walking it during a torrential storm: WTF? with torrents of water washing down the rocks... CRAZY!)
The variant although probably more physically demanding than the Cirque is more in line with the spirit and the rest of the trail. And a much safer way (weather permitting). The Cirque was somehow an anomaly: some loved it, others hated it. Many avoid it. My buddy Nicola being one of them.
Posted: Thu, Sep 24, 2015, 14:15
It would be wrong to sneak in there. It's probably not being patrolled, but if you got caught then I'm sure someone would kick up a fuss about it.
Posted: Thu, Sep 24, 2015, 16:14
Of course it's wrong. Some people just don't want to understand ....
Posted: Thu, Sep 24, 2015, 19:14
I wonder if the same person that contacted you is the one who also contacted Paddy and said he didn't notice much damage in the Cirque apart from a broken chain. The people who got caught in the landslide must have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In this risk averse age, I don't think the Cirque will re-open. That's a shame but the GR20 and it's trekkers will carry on!
Posted: Thu, Sep 24, 2015, 19:40
If the guy who also contacted PD was Italian, chances are he was the same person.
The people who got caught in the landslide were pushing the envelope imho. A report said they were warned by someone coming the opposite way that bad weather was arriving. And it was also late. But they preferred to keep going. I'm sorry for them. They certainly weren't the first ones to engage the Cirque in bad weather. They just were unlucky.
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