Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the GR20 (7-22 June 2016)


Posted: Thu, Jul 14, 2016, 15:57

Finally I’m getting my act together and putting my thoughts about the GR20 down in writing.

I started in Conca on 7 June and finished in Calenzana on 22 June, so I walked it from south to north. This was a gamble, because of guides etc. but it wasn’t a problem. In fact, I think it was a good idea. I got to tackle some of the less demanding stages in the early part of the walk, building up my fitness. I also prefer walking with the sun at my back instead of in my face. A small thing perhaps, but on a trail this long these things make a difference. However the south is not to be underestimated. Some of the ridge walking / scrambling on day two, from Bavella towards Asinau around Bocca di u Pargulu, and day three, along the Arete a Monda towards Usciolu (completed in a thunderstorm), was brilliant. The rock-scape on the walk to I Paliri was amazing too.

Physically I felt fine most days. The stage from Petra Piana to Manganu was the toughest for me I think. On paper it shouldn’t have been, maybe I was just having a bad day. Or perhaps it was because I had climbed Monte Ritondu the previous evening. The snow sections were easy.

Generally, I think it was the sheer unrelenting concentration required almost every moment of every day that challenged me most. I found some of the descents tougher than the ascents. The focus required on every step was draining, and particularly on the wet gravel from the Pointe d’Éboulis to Haut Asco I wasn’t enjoying myself at times.

I carried too much gear, I know I did. In addition, my footwear consisted on a pair of Meindl Boots which were more than I really needed. But they were old and near the end of their days and they don’t owe me anything anymore. They got a good send-off.

The huts were colder than I had anticipated, and I had to use my day off in Corte to upgrade my sleeping bag, and acquire a new fleece. I became famous for my lost fleece. That morning at Vizzavona Train Station I met a German guy, with whom I had spoken to before only very briefly the previous evening. He looked at me and said “I know you. You are the Irish guy. Everyone knows about you. You are on facebook, on twitter, everywhere. You are the guy who left his fleece in Nice.” Thanks Backstroke for informing the masses!

As for huts generally I would say the following. They’re basic and without frills. Sleeping conditions varied from the freezing cold to the hot and humid, depending on the number of bodies and the ventilation (a term I’m using loosely). The nightly snoring and farting competitions also have to be considered. I didn’t encounter any bed bugs however. Maybe it was too early in the season for them.

Prize for the best hut goes to Gite u Renoso at Capanelle. Wonderful and plentiful food, hot water, friendly gardien and plenty of maps and books to browse in front of a very comfortable stove whilst whiling away the hours of the evening. Second prize would go to Castellu di Vergio. I won’t award a booby prize because there were a few contenders and I can’t be bothered choosing between them. The open-air shower at Bergeries d’Asinau was unique, although quite pleasant in the afternoon sunshine. It also had the largest toilet on the trail, consisting of the whole mountain side. Up at the Refuge d’Asinau there was a toilet but no shower, so you choose. The refuge at Tighjettu also deserves a mention. As one French walker said to me there “Even going to the toilet is an expedition.” Although the hut itself was fine.

I would have to say that if the weather is good that staying in a tent is preferable. I stayed in a tent only one night, and it was probably my best night’s sleep on the trail, despite the windy conditions outside. However, if it’s cold and wet it might not be so pleasant. By the time you know what the weather is going to be like it might be too late to choose though.

I noticed that as I walked the trail got busier. The northern section was definitely more crowded. Of course it was later when I reached this part of the trail so that must explain some of it. I’m not sure that I would enjoy July and August to be honest. The heat at this time of year must be quite a challenge too, and perhaps more afternoon storms too.

The racers didn’t bother me. We all have our own challenges in life, be they physical ones or the ones in our heads, and I don’t think I should criticise another’s motives or aspirations in this regard.
My highpoint was climbing Monte Ritondu, for which I must thank the photos and pointers given by Turnertactics on his website. I got caught by the fog climbing Paglia Orba and Monte Cinto and completed neither. Descending the former was also a doubt, I had made a few awkward moves and decided discretion was the better part of valour.

I didn’t attempt Monte d’Oro, too wet and very strong winds. Overall, the weather was rather mixed, although there was no day that forced me to question whether I should complete my intended route.
I finished in 15 days’ walking, 16 days when including a rest day spent in Corte. At the risk of being accused of falling into the “How many days did you do it in?” trap, I could have walked it in one or two days fewer. There were pros and cons to this. I calculated while on the ferry back to Nice (where I didn’t lose my new fleece) that I had walked 200km and climbed 13,500m. I followed all the high-level routes with the exception of Monte d’Oro.

Finally a big thank you to all the interesting, friendly people I met along the trail. I had some fascinating, and some very funny conversations. I took two consecutive half-days on the northern part of the trail, hoping to do side-walks, both of which had to be abandoned. I missed the companionship of the people whom I had befriended. We were like a caravanserai of little ants, marching from one hut to the next, day after day. Not quite a brotherhood of the rope perhaps, but a brotherhood, and sisterhood, of the trail. Thank you too to all those who gave their advice and suggestions on this forum before I left.

Apologies for the long essay!


Posted: Thu, Jul 14, 2016, 17:12

Please don't apologise for the long essay, it was great. ;)



Posted: Thu, Jul 14, 2016, 19:38

I think that I recognise this Irish fellow's brogue, we missed you too on the final two days...... I know that you'll not thank me for saying it but the high route from Carrozu to Ortu (??) was excellent. My photo links are elsewhere on this forum look here




Posted: Fri, Jul 15, 2016, 6:08

Oh, were you that guy who "lost his fleece in Nice?"
I think I was coming down Paglia Orba when you apparently abandoned it. I expected to cross paths again there. I have to say it was the highlight of the trip. Monte d'Oro was also pretty good. In both cases, starting off at 5:30 really matters, the clouds and fog came in shortly after I summited both. In retrospect, your plan of taking the day off to go to Corte I think is good way to break the mental fatigue of the trip, I recommend it to others. I did it at the end of my trip, and wish that I had done it in the middle and with you instead. I concluded in Ajaccio and a jump in the Mediterranean.
When you come out to join me hiking in the Sierra, we don't have any snarky Germans running around these parts. And FYI, nobody, I mean no one, wears beater Meindls. Just sayin.


Posted: Fri, Jul 15, 2016, 6:29

Thank you Danton. It was a pleasure to read your report. These feedbacks are very useful to everybody interested in the trail.



Posted: Fri, Jul 15, 2016, 9:05

This report, from a fellow Irishman :-), is exactly what I was hoping for when I started the thread "Trip Reports, Information, Beta". Lots of people looking for information on this forum but too few realise how valuable it is for them to share their experience and knowledge.

If a whole new section could be created for trip reports, that would also help by keeping all the information in one place. There are sites - such as or that are devoted to collecting such reports. I believe having such a section would encourage others to come back and post their very useful information and photos etc.




Posted: Fri, Jul 15, 2016, 9:22

I agree Kevin. I asked Marek (the site owner) to create a new section (as a moderator I have no power to do so). I hope he will comply.


Posted: Fri, Jul 15, 2016, 9:49

"Snarky Germans"? Didn't meet them, perhaps something got lost in translation.




Posted: Fri, Jul 15, 2016, 12:44

I should clarify, the German wasn't being snarky at all. I thought he was being very witty. I spent the day with him and a Swiss girl in Corte and thoroughly enjoyed their company. We even bought a Euromillions ticket together. Unfortunately that bit didn't work out . . .

One omission from my report was that I took the low route from Carozzu to Calenzana via Bonifatu. Although the photos of the scrambling and the ridge walk to the Ortu di i Piobbu hut do look fantastic. But it's something to aim for if I go back, which I wouldn't rule out.

Incidentally, watching the sun go down from the balcony of the Carozzu hut on mid-summer's evening was glorious.

And I don't know about the 5.30am starts, I need my beauty sleep!


Posted: Fri, Jul 15, 2016, 14:29

Well the lottery did not get my money, but for those going to Corte, the U Museu restaurant is excellent, perched on the hill with beautiful shade and breeze. The museum itself is hardly worth visiting, it shows clearly that this little island has always been pretty rustic and undeveloped. The historic part of Corte is a lot like small Italian hill towns, with swallows diving around, and pleasant to visit.
Eric and I also took the low route from Carozzu to Calenzana. I agree that the balcony and sunset from Carozzu was great. It is also worth noting that by that point (June 20) it seemed like the trail was getting flooded with hikers; Carozzu was booked out and it was even a challenge to find a proper place to pitch my tarp. The low-route walk down the hill is pleasant and a great way to really sense the transition from high altitude to the sea. We had a great outdoor lunch at Auberge de la Foret along the way, and the river below there is wide, deep and warm enough where we were able to stay in the water for a half-hour without getting too chilled. It felt like a reverse baptism to cleanse and complete the hike.


Posted: Fri, Jul 15, 2016, 19:00

Well your tarp's floorspace was pretty similar to our non-tarp floorspace, we were there the day before and likewise, very few tent-spaces, indeed the one we found and after pitching, were told by someone from the hut that we had to move our tent as "that space" was for 3 tents!. We got away with two tents in that spot but we were pretty close and tent walls do not protect you from snoring and farting neighbours.
never though of bringing EAR PLUGS for camping, in huts yes ..........
Can't imagine what it's like tonight!
Looking forward to seeing your photos..........




Posted: Fri, Aug 5, 2016, 20:25


Great write up & glad I could help. Your description matches my experience very closely, including the cold conditions, the relentless terrain and cold conditions. I really liked the u Renoso refuge and Castellu di Vergio - the latter probably because we got a proper sprung bed. The food was great there too.