Reflections on GR20 Race track jamboree

manac

Posted: Wed, Jun 29, 2016, 10:04

Having walked the mountains for the past 50 years, I have to admit that the GR20 is relentlessly tough. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; the GR20 was like a cheap Corsican wine; rough and left a bitter taste.
1) Most commonly asked 1st question. How many days are you planning to do it in? Well the "team" moving between car accessible stopovers so that their clothing, masseur and electronic muscle-massaging kit were obviously in a hurry.
2) Hut "meals" 20€ for a thin soup, pile of tomato smeared pasta and a piece of cake. Alpine huts also use helicopters to stock huts!
3) 1 toilet; 1 cold shower for 50+ paying (!!) visitors at ref Uscioulu.
4) Beautiful en-route (illegal) possible camp sites, should be left as such ......... beautiful untouched spots. Whoever was in the tent en-route to Bocca Crucetta shouldn't have been there.
5) Disillusioned Charley, deploring the "new" mountaineers leaving his hut like a pigsty
6) Absoultely virgin mountaineers, trying to lose their virginity on this route??
7) Hut warden weather forecasts were a joke, to be told at Haut Asco that the next three days were for heavy rain, when in fact they were to be the hottest three days on the route.

Did I enjoy it? Not as much as many other hut-to-huts in the alps that don't have pages and pages of internet info on them. Last year's tour of the *********** was stunning, quiet and the food was amazing. Not once was I asked how many days was I planning to "do it in".
Recommendations:
1) Gite d'etape U Renosu: excellent food (dessert - FRESH fruit salad); most amenable, welcoming gardien with an accurate weather forecast.
2) Hot, never ending shower in a shed at Bergeries de Vaccaghja. Superb campspot.

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MnM



Kevski

Posted: Wed, Jun 29, 2016, 12:04

Hi Manac
Did you just finish the route in the last few days or when did you do it?

Congratulations on 50 years in the hills. I haven't quite made that many....yet.

Kevin

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Kevin



Paddy

Posted: Wed, Jun 29, 2016, 12:11

Much to add to this, when I'm back at my computer...



Gaffr

Posted: Wed, Jun 29, 2016, 13:24

Hello,
I do think that many on this Forum have tried hard not to encourage the 'Fast packing folks' who on here 'talk the talk' on this subject many times prior to reaching the route....Not sure of how many of these folks found the route in reality?
I guess that by carrying my tent and mostly cooking my own food I can avoid much of what MnM found during his visit.
The GR20 is a very fine walk in grand surroundings that could become downgraded into some sort, as the Poster stated, 'race track competition' stored away in people's 'list in a bucket'. This walk is worth a lot more than that.
I arrived at Renosa, during my visit from the South, having on a very wet miserable day and was met with a similar response at the 'other' refuge to that which I found six years earlier when travelling N to S on the route. Having been aware of the re-opening of Renosa. I quickly moved on up to a much more welcoming place and was able to dry out my kit and tent etc. beside the hot stove. A good place to spend the night and with good food.
As for Vaccachja on my first visit I had a bit of lunch there and coming from the South I had a pleasant breakfast there. Apart from Renosa I camped at each of my chosen overnight stops.
Also coming from the South, after Monte Alcudina, I sought out the relatively new Croci overnight stop and enjoyed my camp there.....also very good showers there.

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Gaffr



GRRR 20

Posted: Wed, Jun 29, 2016, 14:13

It's too good to hurry.



manac

Posted: Wed, Jun 29, 2016, 20:44

ref: Kevski: Finished 7 days ago (23 June)
ref: Gaffr: We carried our own tent too, thank goodness; but ate in the huts. Difficult to avoid people (queuing for toilets and shower), indeed one of the beauties of the mountains (usually) is meeting like-minded people, something that I think I did much less of on this trip, I wasn't really sure why some were there. People asking " Is the hut far?" when they are at least 4 hours away???? They should know how far!
I'd be interested to know the statistics for casualties and MR callouts.
ref: GRRR 20: so many people just saying .......... "I'll be glad to get it finished."

One ray of hope in the attractiveness of this route, it keeps so many other mountain areas free.

I can't imagine what it would be like in July and August, a bit like the TMB I suppose ......... to be avoided!

refuge Matalza's good too.
refuge Ortu di Piobbu (reminded me of Snells field campsite in Chamonix in 1980; which I think was closed down for hygiene reasons in 1991.) Obviously walking to the toilet block is just too much for so many people.

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MnM



Michele
moderator

Posted: Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 7:29

Unfortunately this trail has turned into a competition: competition on who gets at stage end first, who gets the better pitch, who gets the toilet first, who gets the last drop of hot water and so on. In addition to that the number of hikers is increasing each passing year and this can only result in more and more problems.
On the other end the Corsicans don't do much to improve our living conditions, but only keep milking from the fat cow without giving much in return. That's their "style". In other countries there would be a closed number access to the trail. Nothing of the sort will ever happen on the GR20 for obvious economic reasons.
So these are the .... "features" of this trail one must embrace long before embarking into this adventure.
Do I like them? Of course not, but if you love this place ...

--Michele



Kevski

Posted: Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 8:27

This thread is not making great reading. Should we reconsider our plans for Sept?

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Kevin



robertotinti

Posted: Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 8:46

I want to do the trail cause I've never done it. I'll be quite sure I'll never do it again like other long trails. Why do the same things when there are so many opportunities.
I want to do it cause I love Corsica.
I want to do it with my tent sleeping if I can outside refuges. Where I want to stop.
I'll carry my food and all stuff to cook my soups.
I want to do it in my time. I don't like to walk just 5-6 hours per day.I'll be alone. Nothing to do except walking. So I want to do it in less time than schedule. 8 day. I hope. If I'll not no problem.
You like to go slow and smell flowers ok. No problem. People are different. That's all.



Paddy

Posted: Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 8:52

I didn't get the racetrack feeling from it. Seemed like a pretty nice mix of slow folk and faster types. And if you left early you'd not really see many other folk all day. (As of last week - I'm sure it's busier in July, though the refuges seemed at capacity even with the few people they had...) And I don't see the problem with people trail-running it if that's what they want to do. But I definitely echo the thoughts on the quality/hygeine/modernity of the refuges. Seems pretty inexcusable when compared to what they manage here in the alps. A crappy powdered soup and pasta with tomato sauce for twenty five quid? You'd get a fondue and a glass of wine for that here, with electric lighting, a hot shower, flushing toilets and a nice flat pitch for your tent. If I wanted to rough it I'd rather do it properly, without having to pay for the privilege. Seems like the GR20 is the worst of both worlds. Lovely scenery, though.



Gaffr

Posted: Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 9:19

Hello,
Mike has presented some French newspaper articles on the upgrading of the Refuges on the GR20 on here just a few weeks back.
I guess that Asinao could be, on account of the happenings there, the first one to be rebuilt....as suggested progress is not quick in Corse.

One of the many problems that you will encounter on the trail is the carelessness of many folks using the trail to discard their own produced litter and waste wherever they choose. See the aftermath in the wash areas after folks go rushing onto the next location. An indicator that there are many folks who are totally uninitiated into the ways of coping with such things....simply carry a bag to collect litter and use the bins at each refuge. I know that most of the refuges burn the litter? (in the Alps nowadays the helicopters delivering supplies take out the litter) but at least it is centralised.
I will never forget the very large incinerator, tipped onto one side, (at a odd location...bergeries de Capeddu) which had completely rusted into many holes and had rubbish spilling out from its inners....an illegal camping place? but only a few kls. from Conca. That was in 2007.
In 2013 the large incinerator had gone along with the rubbish. I would hazard that the only way in and out for this metal box would have been by helicopter.

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Gaffr



obrobinson

Posted: Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 12:16

Re: Kevin

The GR20 has been my go to trek in June, when the rest of mainland Europe invariably necessitates the use of crampons/ice-axe/snowshoes for the duration! July onwards there are far more scenically interesting routes such as the GR54(Oisans/Ecrins) and GR58(Queyras), which can be linked together by the GR541 to form a grand 'figure of eight' tour - both relatively quiet in terms of footfall. The Pyrenees between Lescun and Luchon on the GR10/GR11/HRP is additionally a superb linear route with a myriad of alternatives.

Best of luck with decision.

Oliver



Kevski

Posted: Fri, Jul 1, 2016, 13:48

Thanks Oliver

We've walked a lot of the GR54 as we regularly go to Briancon for climbing, walking, skiing. Great area but people should definitely avoid it. (It can be addictive.... and is definitely dangerous, bad for your health, completely polluted, populated by trolls and the food is really bad - Wink, Wink).

The Queyras are great for ski touring and we've enjoyed some fine excursions there but we haven't done much in the way of Summer walking. A future objective that we can look forward to....

For a variety of reasons, the GR20 has been a target for many years and having missed out last year after my partner broke her hand, I guess we'll stick with it this year. I'm sure the memories of beautiful mountains will outlast whatever distasteful stuff we run into.

As an alternative to the GR20 last year, we made a last minute decision to do the MBT. However with bad weather plaguing us all the way to Courmayeur (without once seeing Mont Blanc) we bailed out and went back to Briancon where we enjoyed some fine day walks in the Ecrins.

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Kevin



manac

Posted: Sat, Jul 2, 2016, 6:19

Response: robertotinti
I trust that your line "Where I want to stop.", does not mean exactly that. I have read elsewhere in this forum comments such as "the park authorities seem to tolerate bivouacking as long as you pitch late and leave early etc" This is exactly a point that I tried to make, this should NOT be even contemplated. There are many wild beautiful campsites; they are beautiful because the majority obey the rule and do NOT wild camp. It's not just about leaving rubbish, a tent footprint leaves that exactly, a "footprint". France outside National parks is very tolerant and even encourages wild camping, go elsewhere if you want to camp where you want "to stop". If all the tent carriers took your attitude the GR20 would deteriorate very quickly. OK I accept that emergency scenarios can and do arise, that's another issue.

One final point on this answer, which harks back to my original criticism ..... "So I want to do it in less time than schedule." Race Track mentality Rules GR20!

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MnM