Where Is Alpine Experience Required On The Trail?

Michael Grant

Posted: Fri, Apr 29, 2016, 11:27

Hi all,

We are a group of 6, ages 17-19. 5 of us live in London, and one of us in the Highlands. Everyone in the group has had previous experience to hiking. However, other than one member of the group who has extensive experience, (e.g. Ascending Kilimanjaro, and hiking in Mont Blanc area), no one else has any experience hiking in an alpine environment. We have done thorough research into many aspects of the trail, along with more general details, such as about hiking in the mountains; training and calorific requirements, and how to pack as efficiently as possible, etcetera.

We are planning to hike between the dates: 4/7 - 19/7

Consequently, we are not concerned about being fit enough, or packing the right stuff, as these are things that we are to prepare for thoroughly. But we are concerned about the group's overall lack of alpine climbing, especially along such a trail as the GR20.

Later into the planning of the trip, after having bought our tickets for the way there, we came to realise that parts of the first few stages may require more skill and experience, to do safely, (especially at a faster rate if the weather turns), than most of us have, and can realistically acquire as we go.

We are still very ambitious to do what we can of the GR20, even if we have to do the low-level variants for some of the stages. After doing an initial risk assessment into the trail, it seems like most of the difficult scrambling; walking along thin ridges, and use of chains as we walk by cliff faces, are at the very beginning of the trail (N-S).

1.) Does the difficult scrambling (and other potential dangers) on the first Stage require experience to do safely? Or can it be done safely if slowly?

We are aware of alternative routes for the first and second stages. We have yet to find one for the third, but then also, it came across as not being as difficult, etcetera

2.) Is the third stage safe to traverse, (with respect to our current experience)?

We have not yet found an alternative route for the fourth stage. We are aware that this will be the hardest stage of the trail, even after the recent route change. Moreover, we have found it hard to find much definitive details about the new route.

3.) Does the new route require a similar amount of experience and lack of fear of heights as the previous route? If not, even though it is still a long and hard day, which reaches high enough altitudes for the risk of sudden weather change to become noteworthy, can this route be done safely if slowly?

4.) Otherwise, does anybody know about alternative low-level alternative routes to meet the trail again at the end of the stage, or at least near it?



Posted: Fri, Apr 29, 2016, 12:50

Hi Michael.
Me and my brother had the same concern when we did the gr20 three years ago as our first real long distance hiking experience (age 21 and 24). We were both in good physical shape but had no experience of scrambling or climbing. We found the scrambling to be really fun but also challenging especially in stage 4, traversing the cirque de solitude. But as you just mentioned this stage has been redirected to traverse the cinto massive. Haven't personally tried this new route but it seems that it is less technically difficult however more physical demanding and exposed in case of bad weather. As long as you are in a good physical shape and don't suffer from fear of heights I don't think the scrambling parts will be a problem for you. Although the gr20 is a tough mountain trail it doesn't require any climbing skills but of course you need to take cation and be well prepared. As long as you do that and have the mindset to spent to challenging weeks in the mountain you will be fine.

Kind regards


Posted: Fri, Apr 29, 2016, 12:52

Hi Michael,

There is no such a thing as "difficult scrambling" along the GR20. Everything can be done with a little bit of attention in negotiating the various passages (some of them protected by chains).
1) the little scrambling on the first stage is "ridiculous" to say the least: not to worry about it!
2) the third stage (Carrozzu-Asco) is safe but must be done with fair weather and dry terrain: the first section in fact is done on granite slabs that can become slippery if wet.
3) the fourth stage (Asco-Tighjettu) is the new route. There is some little scrambling and chain protected passages. Besides that it's only hard work: it's a very long ascent and long descent (and yes, fair weather is a must). If you guys want to by-pass such stage I think there will be a shuttle bus again this year to connect with the other side (some walking is still needed though).

All in all I think you guys should be more concerned about the hardness of this trekking experience as a whole more than worrying about the scrambling sections. If you are fit, trained and motivated enough you'll make it.


Michael Grant

Posted: Fri, Apr 29, 2016, 14:06

Hey thank you for your replies, There's just a few things that I'm not totally clear about.

Malte, you mention the need to not fear heights. Whilst that in itself shouldn't be a problem for the group, I'm curious as to what this would suggest about the route at times. Does the path force you very close to cliff edges at times? That is, if you stumbled a few steps to the side, you'd fall off a ledge.

Michele, when you answered my first question, you said the scrambling is '"ridiculous"'. The way you said the sentence as a whole suggests that you mean it is ridiculously easy or ridiculously minimal. Is this what you meant? Or did you mean that it is ridiculously hard, but there's not much of it?

In your reply to my third question you mention that there is scrambling and chains. Firstly, just to clarify, this is referring to the new route? And secondly, are you aware of the nature/difficulty of these scrambling and chain-protected sections?

And also, you mention that there is a shuttle bus. I've heard of this before, but was not aware that it would likely still be usable, so thanks for mentioning that. Although of course, we can confirm that in advance. However, I've read on another strand within this forum that, whether it happens to be the new gr20 route or not, there is a way to reach refuge Tighjettu from Asco Stagnu by ascending Mount Cinto to within 100 metres, and then descending the other face. From what I have read so far about the ascent of Mount Cinto from Asco Stagnu, it doesn't appear to have any tight squeezes past sheer drops or presence of chains, etcetera. Do you know whether this is the case? And also, do you happen to know much about the other face of Mount Cinto?


Posted: Sat, Apr 30, 2016, 3:03

I'm sure that Michele will agree that on stage one the scrambling is minimal and there is a chain at one section, very short.
On the alternative to the old .....(stage four now only for those with rope and kit)....the route to the col 2600 is marked and there are several chains and cables to ease the way. The descent to the side down to Tighettu is also well marked and has chains...so no worries there.
What you are talking about with the South side is directly South, well nearly so, down to Refuge de Erco which would take you a long way out from the GR20. Your direction from the col at 2600 mtrs is roughly SW which will be well marked up.
I went to Cintu several years ago in my late 60's with no markings and no chains as a separate day trip and found no difficulties...just a little scrambling early on and returned the same way from Haut Ascu.




Posted: Fri, Apr 29, 2016, 14:55


as Gaffr pointed out, the scrambling section on the first day is mininal and easy. Again, some easy scrambling and chain passages on the fourth day to Tighjettu. Yes this is the new route that passes very close to Mt Cinto and has become the official way (maps here http://www91.zippyshare.com/v/ajjkR74v/file.html ). Gaffr explained there are no difficulties.



Posted: Sun, May 1, 2016, 9:09

Thanks Michele....I have downloaded the maps, 1:25,000, with the amended trails showing the new variants....very useful.

Using yellow traking of the variant over the Cintu col and beyond using the same colour as you will find on the route markings.

Also the variations on the stage between Usciolu and Asinau which will, perhaps this year, take on a valuable role this summer after the problems with Asinau....but knowing how important that the GR20 is to the Corsican economy there may well be a temporary structure erected for folks at Asinau?

For the concerns of the Michael Grant group. Look up the PNRC Randoblog/translation to find information on the new variant especially if you look back to the blogs of summer 2015....left side of page where there are a few images of the chains/cables/markings etc. taken when the Parks folks were putting them into place.




Posted: Sun, May 1, 2016, 17:17

Michael, don't think you need to be concerned about that at all. There are some passages that are a bit exposed once in a while but the only time I was a bit worried was in cirque de la solitude but that is obviously not a concern any more. Just go slow and watch you feet then you will be fine ;) The thing to worry about with the gr20 is the overall toughness of the terrain, the many steep and long ascents and decents and the unpredictable and sometime fears weather. But it sounds like you are in good physical shape and well prepared so I believe the odds are well on your side :)