GR20 - June trip report - Vizzavona to Calenzana


Posted: Mon, Nov 28, 2016, 22:53

Hi all, Well my friend and I did the trip and I have been promising to do the right thing and write a report so here goes.

Day 1 - We caught an early flight in June from Manchester to Bastia, due to time we decided to go from Vizzavona to Calenzana. We caught a taxi from the airport to the nearest train station (cant remember the name) for the exorbitant price of €20. We then had a long and lonely five hour wait for the train. Upon arriving at Vizzavona we headed straight for the bar, two pints for €14!! and then preceded to have a superb and very reasonable meal in the restaurant situated in the train station. Following this and with fading light we set up camp at the bivouac site which despite what I had read was not free.

Day 2 - Vizavonna - Refuge de l'Onda. We started this with the intention of doing the high level route but as the guide book goes the other way we missed the turn and headed the other route, although this was probably a good thing for our first day. A nice day in excellent weather saw us into the Refuge in good time.

Day 3 - Refuge de l'Onda - Refuge Petra de Piana (high level route). We started early and this was a really nice day, an initial climb sees you walking the rest of the time on ridges and we were finished in good time for a relaxing afternoon. Having looked at the low level route this was definitely the right call for people heading North. However, look after your food!! I left my entire cook kit consisting of stove, titanium pot, spoon and all my food in between my fly and inner and a sneaky fox had it away in the night leaving us on half rations and me very, very pissed off!!

Day 4 - Refuge Petra de Piana - Refuge De Manganu - Hotel Castel Di Vergio - This was a real killer day, we did just shy of 30kms and really felt it. However the campsite at Vergio is lovely with a nice shop, a restaurant and hot, fresh bread in the morning.

Day 5 - Hotel Castel Di Vergio - Auberge U Vallone - Due to kicking the arse out of it the day before we had a late start which meant climbing in the heat which wasn't ideal. We stopped at Refuge de Ciottulu di l More for lunch and had a supurb dried sausage in a roll. The descent down is a killer on the legs and we got into the Auberge late in the afternoon meaning we really struggled for a camping spot. The food at the Auberge is superb though as are the pools in the river next to it for a swim.

Day 6 - Auberge U Vallone - Monte Cinto - Haut Asco - A 5am start saw us up the bad stuff in shade which was essential. We made the decision to ascend Monte Cinto, leaving our sacks on the saddle and going clean bar passports, cash and water. It's well worth the effort but not many others thought so which meant once again we came in to a full campsite and pitched tents on very bad ground.

Day 7 - Haute Asco - Refuge de Carozzu - A nice day with an early start saw us finishing at around midday, we had an admin afternoon, washing our clothes and ourselves, eating well and snoozing in the shade. It was nice to be one of the first in for a change and get a shaded flat spot.

Day 8 - Refuge de Crozzu - Refuge D'Orto di u Piobbu (high level) - By now we had our fitness right up and with an early start flew up to the ridge. There is still a bit of up and down throughout the day but it's really enjoyable.

Day 9 - Refuge D'Orto di u Piobbu - Calenzana (high level) - This saw us with our earliest start 04:30 as we knew a hotel awaited us in Calvi. It was a nice walk but a little tedious towards the end after what you get used to. The best part is at the end seeing all the poor buggers coming up with no idea of what awaits them!! A nice ice cream and coke in Calenzana and then a cab down to Calvi saw us check into the Hotel Revellata for a much needed night in a bed.

OK, so that's the run down of what we did. Here are my top tips.

1, TENTS - don't even think about staying in the refuges if you like your own space. When we went in June there were loads of tents to hire with nice big rubber mattresses in them (no bed bugs) so if money is not an issue save on weight and rent a tent each night.

2, FOOD - Take as much food as you can, the meals in the refuges are €20 a pop and consist of powdered soup, pasta and tinned fruit. I am not moaning because I wouldn't want to carry it up there but its just not very inspiring and there is more flavor in a Vesta dried curry.

3, FOXES - They are there and they will come into your tent and steal your food.....I know, I woke up at 1am in the morning to someone clanging pots and pans to find in the morning it was actually Foxy pinching all of my cooking gear and food which I had placed in a nice big dry bag for him. Gutted!!

4, STOVES - You can probably do without one as there are places to cook at all of the refuges but for the weight I like the option. I bought a screw on can in Vizzavona but there was only one left so maybe a GAZ stove next time.

5, DISTANCE - Try to do it in the days stated in the book, we pushed it and it became a bit of a slog at times which you don't want when you are on holiday.

6, THE BOOK OF LIES - My mate and I quickly came to regard Paddy Dillon as a serial liar. When Paddy says its a short easy scramble, imagine the North Face of the Eiger!! I may exaggerate a little but neither of us were inexperienced and both had experienced the rigors of military training in our youth but some of his descriptions are a little.......Understated???

7, TIMES - We went in June and it was hot for us walking so in my opinion its essential to get an early start so any gutty ascent is knocked off before the sun is hitting you. Plenty of people walk through the night or leave at 3am.

Did I enjoy it? You bet. Am I going back? You bet, all booked up to knock off the easier (hopefully) South section next year in June again.

Any questions, ask away.


Posted: Tue, Nov 29, 2016, 7:57

Thank you Buster for your report!!! It's always good to have the feedback of who's been there recently. I'm hearing more and more news about foxes and nightly incursions. This is becoming an issue. At least you guys didn't have any beg bugs problems.
I'd like you to expand a little on the scrambling problems. Where (roughly) did you find it hard? Was it on the new route Tighjettu-Asco?
I agree that going down from Ortu to Calenzana it tends to get a little boring. Maybe it would be a good idea doing the other trail, the one that heads to la Maison de Bonifatu and grab a taxi from there to Calvi.

Best luck for your next year adventure.



Posted: Wed, Nov 30, 2016, 12:17

For the south, the variant Monte Rinosu and Plateau d'Ese is worth it and in my opinion the best part of the south. You can do Monte Rinosu Lac de Vitalaca to Plateau d'Ese, but it requires following cairns and it could be confusing if the weather is not good. So be careful. Monte Rinosu to Plateau d'Ese on the ridge seems easier. All alpine variants of the south are worth it in my opinion.


Posted: Mon, Dec 5, 2016, 19:16

Hi Michele, to clarify what I meant by my comments is that the book sometimes paints certain ascents/descents as perhaps easier than they are.

The descent down to Asco from the summit of Mount Cinto is very scree ridden and is very hard going on tired legs. I would suggest that some work will need to be done in this area if the route is now this way as the number of walkers now using it is going to have a major impact on the route which is already very loose underfoot and although I hate to say it if there are going to be more casualties this is a prime area for it to happen.

Foxes are definitely a problem so to anyone going make sure you put your food up high at night.


Posted: Mon, Dec 5, 2016, 20:09

Hi buster,

thanks for your reply. Although I haven't done that section yet, I'm aware that especially the descent towards Asco is rather demanding and potentially dangerous due to loose scree, and granite slabs that become slippery when wet. I guess the safest way to take that section is going up from Asco (instead of down).



Posted: Tue, Dec 6, 2016, 7:59

"The best part is at the end seeing all the poor buggers coming up with no idea of what awaits them!!"

Yeah... I've walked down from the refuge to Calinzana and it's interesting watching everyone else coming up. Shortly after leaving the refuge, I met a couple of tough guys who had obviously started very early and climbed fast. Halfway down, I met others who were taking things steadily, and it was clear they would have no problem. Towards the bottom, I saw people collapsed in heaps, exhausted, run out of water, in the middle of the day. They weren't going to reach the refuge. Their trek was finished, even if they hadn't admitted it to themselves.


Posted: Tue, Dec 6, 2016, 11:12

So true, I would love to know the statistics for people that don't complete the walk.


Posted: Tue, Dec 6, 2016, 14:18

I don't know of any source for statistics, but, for many years before I trekked the GR20, the only people I knew were those who had failed to complete it. In fact, I didn't know anyone who got further than the first day on the trail. I heard, a long time ago, that of all those who drop out, half of them drop out on that first day.

I think that if you start early from Calinzana, you would always be ahead of those who start too late, and therefore never see them when they realise they have to give up and go and take a beach holiday.


Posted: Wed, Jan 11, 2017, 2:10

Thanks, an interesting post. I am looking at doing the full length in June (south to north). Can you tell me when in June you did it and what the conditions were like with rgard to snow and ice? I realise this will differ from year to year.



Posted: Thu, Jan 12, 2017, 22:42

Hi Ben,

There was very little snow on the route and what there was posed no danger. In fact it was nice to see a bit of snow for variaty.


Posted: Thu, Jan 12, 2017, 22:42

Hi Ben,

There was very little snow on the route and what there was posed no danger. In fact it was nice to see a bit of snow for variaty.