GR 20 Trip Report and Summary, June 2016

Backstroke

Posted: Thu, Aug 4, 2016, 5:10

I traveled the GR 20 from south-north between June 7-21, 2016. I post a photo-based trip report at:
http://www.trailnamebackstroke.com/gr20/.

Thanks to this site and everyone who has contributed!

For those looking for text information, in my report I offer the following short summary:

The GR20 is broken into 16 stages with accommodation, food and water at every stop. It has the reputation for being the most difficult GR trail because of its many steep descents and frequent interludes of a trail that turns into minor rock climbing. I did not find it so hard, but those with bad knees might suffer. There is a high route variante at almost every stage that is more interesting and sometimes even shorter than the low route. I did the hike in 14 days, following almost all of the high routes, and I also visited several nearby peaks. 12 or 10 days is not so difficult if one does double days on the lower, easier routes. Those with a limited schedule can consider doing only the southern or northern portion with Vizzavona the obvious middle transit point. Many take a break in the middle of the trip at Vizzavona and spend the day resting and stocking up supplies in nearby Corte. While the south is not as alpine as the north, I found it to be equally enjoyable and interesting. Bad weather can impede progress and it is advisable to build in at least one extra day if concerned about making a flight home. I enjoyed taking the overnight ferry from Nice to Porto Vecchio as it took me directly to the southern trailhead; many fly into Bastia in the north and either take the train to the northern trailhead or a bus to the south. In general I like hiking north and it seems that going south-north is becoming as popular as north-south. The earliest one can start is usually early June, depending on snow conditions and if one is willing to carry crampons. After June, Corsica becomes very hot. Most people do not enjoy the dormitories and the booking process is a pain that locks one into a schedule, so I took a tarp to avoid all that. Pitched tents are available to rent but may also be booked out. I think the trail is more popular than in the past so I would not trust older trip reports stating June conditions or ease of booking. A tent pitch is 7 euro, a dorm bed is 14; pitch plus rented tent is 18. Dinners are in the 14-20 euro range. Even with taking a tarp, all told I spent about 40 euro per day, and most places only take cash. One can spend only 20 euros if not purchasing a prepared meal and alcohol. A vegetarian version of dinner is almost always available, and during my time in June I found plenty of food stocks in the refuges, including bread, local cheese and sausage, crackers and cookies, candy bars, and a variety of tinned items. I did not take a pot or stove and was able to heat what I needed at each refuge. There is plenty of safe water and there is no need to take a filter. Power for USB charging is available in about half of the locations. Opinions vary about each refuge; I found that my mood, the weather and my companions mattered far more than the individual facilities, and I consider them all basically equal, except for Asinau where the refuge is burned down and the Bergerie is marginal. Much better food is available at any refuge or hotel that sits by a road. Beer is always available and red wine is also usually available and decent. The majority of hikers are French, and as English is the lingua franca of Europe there is always someone around who can assist. The only difficulty a non-French speaker may have is off-trail where negotiating the spotty transportation options is problematic. There is nothing special about the trail that demands particular equipment, so I advise trekking poles, 1 1/2 liters of water, a light pack and trail runners or light hiking shoes like Merrel Moabs. If one follows a traditional schedule of stopping and eating at each refuge the trail experience can be very social; alternatively if one does double stages and cooks their own food they may find it more solitary.

I read Paddy Dillon's book The GR20 Corsica published by Cicerone and made pdf's of a few pages; it now appears that one can buy an ePUB of this book from Amazon. I saw some other books, perhaps in German? with better hike diagrams, so it may be worth looking around at other books. The Carte en Poche Editions Didier Richard 1:50.000 map is compact and sufficient. I used the Gaia iphone GPS app https://www.gaiagps.com/ with maps downloaded from OpenHikingMap HD for navigation and creating tracks. Better quality French maps and satellite views are available from the excellent iphone GPS iPhiGenie app http://xn--iphignie-f1a.com/. There is a lot useful basic information and a discussion forum on the website http://www.corsicaforhikers.com. The official Corsican http://www.parc-corse.org/ site is in French and is useful for information and news reports on trail conditions.



Gaffr

Posted: Thu, Aug 4, 2016, 10:38

Hello,
Very enjoyable images of the route and like myself also enjoy meeting up with our European neighbours.
It all seemed a bit busy in June this year. My two visits beginning from either end of the route were made in June but with fewer folks around at the overnights. I guess that I have missed out on all of the crowding during dinner times at the refuges having done my own cooking at the tent.
I did take meals at Ascu, at l'Onda on my first visit and in Vizzavona.
All in all it is a grand experience.

On another route crossing the island we had a day off in Corte camping at a site beneath the Citadel.
Our 18th, century Scottish lawyer, James Boswell, made his way to Corsica to meet up with Pascal Paoli after he created the short lived independent state that to me, Scotland to Corse, was a great undertaking for the time.

--

Gaffr



Nele Beys

Posted: Fri, Aug 5, 2016, 14:35

Thank you for the excellent report. 29 days to go and then we're off as well. would appreciate if you could comment a bit more about the alternative route of Cirque de la Solitude. Thanks in advance

--

elen



Backstroke

Posted: Wed, Aug 10, 2016, 6:11

Hi Elen. I don't think there is much to say, it is perhaps the most straightforward of all the routes. You go up high to a pass, and then you come down. It is high enough that you could encounter lighting, and the rocks are very slick on the Haut Asco side when wet. There is apparently some kind of navette to transport hikers between the stages if they choose to not do it. I don't think that there is a low route alternative.

BTW. I misspelled the URL for this site. It is NOT http://www.corsicaforhikers.com
IT IS http://www.corsica.forhikers.com



Trurl

Posted: Wed, Aug 10, 2016, 2:24

Backstroke,

thank you for your great report, photos & commentary!

--Jacek

--

--Jacek



Michele
moderator

Posted: Thu, Aug 11, 2016, 15:57

Thanks Backstroke for you report. Awesome work.

--Michele