GR20 trip report


Posted: Mon, Sep 12, 2016, 5:40

The stuff I carried:

Things I should have taken:

  • Hydration Pack/water bubble/whatever the name is: It was slightly annoying having to refill the bottles with the large bottle buried in the backpack
  • Medication against a cold/flu: a fellow hiker was ill and nobody (including the hotel de vergio) seemed to have anything helpful
  • more bags to store small things like lighter, knife etc.
  • maybe a pad to sit on during breaks/in the evening
  • if there’s lots of room in my pack left, I would bring a pillow cause it’s comfier
  • fizzy tablets to have a little taste in the water
  • more clothes: when arriving late, drying the clothes after washing gets impossible, plus you have to wash more often
  • solar charging device: the only free charging I had was at the camping Hotel di Vergio. A fellow hiker had such a thing and it seemed to work well
  • hiking poles: I had problems with my knees on long descents and think sticks could have made it better. Next time, I would bring a pair

Things I didn’t need:

  • The stove: I was too lazy to buy gas in Calenzana, but everywhere on the GR20, cooking was possible
  • the maps: Didn’t need them a single time
  • my cooking pot: at every refuge/stop larger pots were available and also necessary. I don’t know how I imagined cooking a full evening meal in a 900ml pot
  • the backpack rain cover: very good luck with the weather
  • (the water filter): I did use it, but only because I lost the way and didn’t know when I would arrive.
    Every refuge has a source, and there are rarely opportunities on the way, so it’s not necessary if you plan well
  • the medicine: fortunately. But I gave the sore throat pills to someone else

Additional comments to the equipment I used are on the lighterpack site.

How I got there
I arrived via nightferry in Bastia and caught the train to Calvi around 9am. Three hours later, I arrived and waited until 14:30 for the bus to Calenzana. The first night was spent in the gite at Calenzana. The plan until then was to do the way in the “normal” 15 days, skipping Matalza.

For the route, I always used the official GR20 variants from Paddy Dillon’s guide.

Day 1: Calenzana to Piobbu
One of the hardest parts directly in the beginning, during the end my legs threatened to get cramps. For the final ascent to the refuge I needed what felt like an eternity and took countless breaks, but I finally arrived.

Day 2: Piobbu to Carrozzu
A lot of climbing (which I liked), and a long descent which I did rather slowly. In the evening, a family gave us half of their meal, which was great.

Day 3: Carrozzu to Asco
Another descent that took a while. The tent spaces were really nice, but the toilets and showers were in a horrible condition. The gardien didn’t look like he cared much for it. The restaurant had a tasty burger.

Day 4: Asco to Tighjettu
The hardest part for me. Knees hurting during the descent, which took a lot of time. It’s possible to see the refuge app. 3 hours before arrival. Every time you get past a corner and think “that was the last one”, it goes on. I wasn’t motivated enough to go to Monte Cinto. Tighjettu has warm showers when the sun is shining due to the long water pipes, and the gardien was very friendly, chatting with the people and also had music playing.

Day 5: Tighjettu to Hotel de Vergio
The first day with a change of plans. We arrived at Ciottulu around 12h, and decided to continue cause it was so early. When I was in Ciottulu two weeks later, the gardien told me there were no showers nor toilets. We saw the foreign legion rushing up and down the mountains. Hotel de Vergio has a supermarket with the first bread available on the way (correct me if I’m wrong, not sure about Asco). It’s next to a road, the prices are refuge level nonetheless. Electricity is available here, as well as hot showers.

Day 6: Hotel de Vergio to Manganu
The easiest part. Lac de Ninu is beautiful, especially with all the horses around. The path is mostly flat and for the first time nearly without stones, partially. Manganu has a river nearby, with a few bathing possibilities (not that great though).

Day 7: Manganu to Petra Piana
This day included the in my opinion most difficult climbing part, it was a descent secured with chains. Still no problem though.

Day 8: Petra Piana to l’Onda
This part was 5h in my guide, we only needed 4h30. This must have been the shortest stretch we’ve done. L’Onda has the dormitories 30m uphill from the tent spaces and the rest of the facilities. A nice guy from the Netherlands made us tea from picked mint, which was very nice. The tent spaces were the nicest on the GR, on grass.

Day 9: l’Onda to Bergeries d’E Capanelle
This was the second change of plans, we completely skipped Vizzavona and only stopped in Col de Vizzavona for an entrecote. We also kind of missed the way, so that we never saw the actual village. In Capanelle, I shared a rented tent because there was very little space, only one other tent would have fitted on the small site.

Day 10: Capanelle to Prati
Prati was the most beautiful refuge for me. There were clouds a few hundred meters downhill on both sides, making it look like we were floating on a rock island. The camping spots were on grass, and the area was very flat, which made it very easy to reach all the facilities.

Day 11: Prati to Usciolu
Nothing special on this part, the refuge was okay, on the way we climbed a small peak that had a summit cross, no idea which it was though.

Day 12: Usciolu to Asinao
Second peak in two days, we left our backpacks at the bocca and climbed Monte Alcudina. At Asinao, they had placed a container for the gardien and a large tent, I think with seats inside.
It was very windy and cold until the next morning, plus the refuge dog wasn’t let off the leash and howled. There also was a helicopter which searched for something for at least an hour at night.

Day 13: Asinao to Conca
We took the low-level route and arrived in Paliri around 2pm. The sign told us there were 5h of way left, and we continued our way down in the heat. Luckily, we found a source near some ruins. The final descent was nearly a sprint, especially when a woman told us that Conca was only 20 minutes away.

I know that's not a lot of description of the terrain. I can only say that I had no problems worth mentioning. After all, that's the part you should find out yourself ;)

Way signs:
The biggest part of the GR20 was well-marked and easy to follow. However, there were quite some moments where we went wrong because the way took an unexpected turn. Sometimes, the way splits up without a sign in sight. These situations costed us sometimes 15 minutes. Overall, it wasn’t a big problem. One very simple rule is if you see waste (paper towels), you’re on the wrong way ;).

The cows are scared very easily, and they don’t hear you until you pass them. In general, they walk away when you are coming closer. They also sometimes block the way. Nearly no wasps or mosquitos, but lots of flies.

Definitely more choices on the southern part (bread, more tinned food varieties). Every refuge offers breakfast (10€; orange juice, hot beverage, bread, confiture, butter; seems to be standardized across the island), omelettes (8-10€) and an evening meal (around 20€), mostly consisting of soup, a meat platter (charcuterie) and spaghetti or lentils. There were also offered sandwiches for around 6€. Don’t expect all-you-can-eat, even for this price. We mostly ate spaghetti Bolognese by buying the ingredients at the refuges, which was at least a bit cheaper. The drinks are around 3€ for a 0.33l can. Hot beverages exist, too.

Most of the supplies also cost around 3-5€. This is what I remember:

  • Pâtes (spaghetti) 250g or 500g
  • tinned food (not always everything available): ravioli, lentils with sausages (400g or 800g); tuna, sauce bolognaise or normal (very small cans)
  • corsican salami for around 8€ each at hotel de vergio supermarket
  • twix or sth similar, chocolate bars

It is a hard decision between carrying more weight to save money and just buying stuff at the refuges and hiking lightly.

I didn’t have problems putting my tent up anywhere, except for Capanelle where there was very little space. The ground always allowed me to get the pegs in, and the spaces were large enough (for my one man tent). A lot of the refuges had bed bugs, and the people who reserved had to sleep in a tent. Every refuge had at least 10 of these tents set up, and lots of these remained unused every evening. There wasn’t a location that I would call significantly bad. Although, sometimes you have to be careful with the location concerning smells from toilets or garbage.

If you completely cook your own meals and maybe buy a lot at home, I think the trip can be a lot cheaper. I didn’t really track my expenses, but it must have been around 500€. This includes around 150€ of meals and drinks that were not cooked by myself. Camping fees also around 100€, plus transportation Bastia-Calenzana 25€. The rest should be mostly food and snacks.
Electricity: Free at Hotel/Camping de Vergio. I also saw two refuges offering charging for 2-3€ in the northern part, but cannot remember which ones. Cell coverage was sometimes quite good, mostly not available. I can’t give more specific information.

The GR20 in a few words:
Stones everywhere. Really everywhere. A lot more climbing than I was used from where I hiked in the Alps. Very exhausting, but totally worth it.

Hope I didn't forget anything.


Regards, Simon


Posted: Mon, Sep 12, 2016, 7:28

Thank you Simon for your excellent report and update on the trail!!

"Stones everywhere ..." that makes me remember how I had reached the point where I started to hate those (it was on my descent along the Manganellu river between Petrapiana and Onda).

Too bad you missed the Aiguilles de Bavella: your Asinau-Conca stage must have been endless ....



Posted: Wed, Sep 21, 2016, 6:30

Thanks for such a detailed report. It's always good to get some up to date news about things along the trail.


Posted: Sat, Oct 15, 2016, 0:45

Hi. I would never advise anyone to not carry a map. You don't need it, until you do.

Sorry you had difficulty charging your devices. I found free charging at least every third day.


Posted: Sat, Oct 15, 2016, 14:26

You appear to have enjoyed your trip on the Jairvan. Some of the stages are tough others are just fine walking....there is something for all to enjoy along the GR20.
The wee Peak above Prati is Punta Capella a rough grained wee rocky peak. I have a couple of images of the top showing the Prati refuge below and another with a German gentleman whom I met en route standing beside the summit Cross.




Posted: Fri, Aug 4, 2017, 8:12

I plan my trip to Corsica next year, this year a trip to the Carpathians is already planned. Thank you for such a detailed article, I'm not sure that I will choose this trail, since it is still too early to guess, but the information (at least about what should be taken with oneself and what is not) is very useful.


Posted: Fri, Aug 4, 2017, 9:26

Share the pictures? Very interesting) And I'll try to make an interesting report of my trip (on the 9th I'll be in the Carpathians)


Posted: Fri, Aug 4, 2017, 14:41

Stones everywhere?

I only remember the rocks everywhere!