2017 Completed Thru-hike Experience

msptosfo95

Posted: Wed, Aug 16, 2017, 22:27

I recently completed the GR20 North -> South and found this forum extremely helpful in my last minute planning. So, I wanted to detail my experience to hopefully help out a future hiker.

A little about me: I'm a 22 y/o frequent hiker with experience on several 3-7 day trails. I consider myself fit, but I did not train specifically for the GR20. I traveled to Corsica alone, but hiked with numerous groups of people I met along the way.

Timing: I completed the hike in 10 days from 7/20 - 7/29.

Weather: Sunny and blue skies almost everyday. Experienced a bad rainstorm around Manganu that almost caused us to wait a day instead of attempting the pass to Pietra Piana. Temperature was about 30C at lower elevations & 25C at higher elevations during the heat of the day. About 10C at night and in the early morning. I strongly recommend leaving early (5am) to avoid the heat and unrelenting Corsican sun.

Transportation: I took the Moby overnight ferry from Genoa to Bastia and the 9:07 train from Bastia to Calvi (16 euro) arriving at 1215. Then, I took a shuttle that leaves from near the town center (ask around) to Calenzana at 230pm (8 euro). After, I got a cab from Conca to Porto Vecchio for 40 euro total.

Cost: Mild variation between some sites, but usually:
Sleeping in the Refuge (Refuge): 14 euro
Sleeping in your tent (Bivouac): 7 euro per person
Sleeping in their tent (Tente): 11 euro / 2 people + Bivouac fee
Dinner: 25 euro for soup + entree + desert
Cold Drinks: 3-5 euro
Beer: 5-7 euro
Coffee / tea: 3-4 euro
Snacks (cookies, chocolate etc): 3-10 euro

Route:
Day 1: Calenzana - d'Ortu di u Piobbu
Well graded initial ascent leads to rougher terrain and a total of 1300m ascent before descending just 50m to the hut. I was surprised by how technical the terrain was. It makes the distance and elevation change much much much more challenging. Beautiful views from the campsite, cold showers, and basic provisions. 6 hours in total.

Day 2: d'Ortu - Refuge d'Asco
Initial scramble of >650m up a boulder field leads to a technical traverse before a steep, 900m technical descent into Carozzu. 5.5 hours for this stage. Began the next stage during the midday heat. Soon after leaving the hut, you cross a river before climbing 800m up another boulder field over slightly improved terrain before a sharp down climb of > 600m to Asco. Several provisions for purchase & warm showers in Asco. 4.5 hours for this stage.

Day 3: d'Asco - Tighjettu + Mt Cinto Summit
A short lived but enjoyable forested walk leads to an unrelenting 1000m ascent to the saddle of Mt Cinto. Plan to spend an additional 2.5 hours return for the technical 200m climb to the summit (leave your packs down below!). Soon after crossing the ridge, you descend 750m over steep technical terrain to the hut. In my opinion, this was the most challenging stage. Descent camping site, basic provisions. It only gets easier from here! 6.5 hours w/o summit, 9 hours with summit.

Day 4: Tighjettu - Col di Vergio
A lovely smooth descent from the hut leads to a pine forest and flat ground (!) before ascending about 600m over the ridge to Refuge Mori. 4 hours for this stage. After a brief lunch, we continued downhill about 600m to Col de Vergio. There's a hotel and a small shop to restock provisions, warm showers, but a rustic roadside campsite. Only 3 hours from Mori to Vergio.

Day 5: Col di Vergio - Manganu
Easiest stage of the GR20. A smooth forested start gives way to a well graded 500m climb to the river valley. Then, easy hiking over to rufuge Manganu. Basic provisions, cold showers, and the coldest campsite of the GR! 4.5 hours total.

Day 6: Manganu - l'Onda
Steep & technical ascent of 800m over the initial boulder field gives way to a beautiful panorama of what's to come. Expect technical traversing and a few smaller climbs before descending into Pietra Piana. 4.5 hours for this stage. After a short break, I followed the GR20 alternative 'high route' to l'Onda. While steeper and more technical, the alternative route is shorter so it could be completed more quickly. l'Onda was slightly better stocked than previous sites, hot showers for purchase (2 euro), and delicious lasagna for dinner. I really rushed myself from Pietra Piana - l'Onda, so I finished in only 2.5 additional hours, but I'd comfortably budget 4 hours.

Day 7: l'Onda - Vizzavona
As is the trend, a steep & mildly technical 700m ascent suddenly drops into steep descent before slowly leveling off for a total of 1200m of descent to Vizzavona. Plenty of bars, restaurants, hotels, hostels, campsites, and resupply points to treat yourself after finishing the GR20 north. You earned it! 6 hours total.

** By this point, my feet & toes were blistered in numerous locations, my joints were screaming in pain, and my legs were stiff. It's not just the rocky terrain, just the elevation change, or just the hot Corsican sun that makes the GR20 difficult- it's the combination of all the elements stacked on each other & repeated day after day after day. I was tempted to quit, but instead I decided to just finish as quickly as possible. So, my hiking partner and I decided to double all of the remaining stages to finish in 10 days.**

Day 8: Vizzavona - Refuge de Prati
Smooth switchbacks gradually climb nearly 900m to Capannelle. The terrain is much better than the north, so just enjoy the views! The hut at Capannelle is extremely well supplied and connected as it servers many day hikers. Only 4 hours for this stage. The hike to Prati was almost as enjoyable. Smooth terrain and gorgeous views make the kilometers fly by. However, the end is marked by a 650m ascent to the ridge line which proved grueling after covering 30km. Gorgeous campsite overlooking the valley, icecold showers, basic provisions, and lots and lots of wind. 5.5 hours for this stage.

Day 9: Prati - Asinao
The hike from Prati to U'sciolu relapses to the technical terrain of the north as you hike along the ridge line gaining and losing about 700m each. I found U'scilou to be the most barebones of the accommodations, with basic provisions for a quick resupply. A fast 4 hours to U'scilou. Immediately after leaving U'scilou, you will continue to hike along the same technical ridge line for about 2 hours before descending into a meadow beginning your 800m ascent to 'the doorway' that marks your final peak of the GR20. Once reached, it's a very unwelcome 800m sheer technical descent to Asinao. Currently being rebuilt after the recent fire, expect to find plenty of space to camp, basic provisions, and cold showers. 6.5 hours for this stage- one of the most grueling especially when paired with Prati - U'scilolu.

Day 10: Asinao - Conca
The home stretch. After leaving Asinao, you'll follow well graded trails through the forest and around the valley to reach Bavella- a great place to grab lunch and prepare for your final push. More well graded trails and a surprise 400m ascent lead you to Paliri after dropping 900m since Asinao. This is your last chance to restock on water, so take advantage of the spring. Plan 5 hours to reach Paliri from Asinao. Expect well graded trails and gradual descents after leaving Paliri all the way to Conca over the next 4.5 hours. The views of the ocean and deceptive as this segment takes longer than you'd like after coming so far already. A mildly technical final descent will lead you into the streets of Conca after dropping 950m in all. Keep following the red and white stripes into town and you'll pass a small sign on the side of a bar to celebrate your accomplishment.

I hope this is helpful to anyone planning a thru-hike! Though it was extremely grueling and challenging in many parts, it's truly an outstanding adventure through the breathtaking Corsican mountains! Feel free to leave comments and I'll try to answer to the best of my ability.

Happy hiking!

--

Logan



BarbB

Posted: Thu, Aug 17, 2017, 4:54

Hi Logan
Many thanks for your detailed report on your GR20 adventure. Very useful to see up-to-date prices and interesting to hear your impressions of the various stages and refuges. I've also found this forum has been such an informative source for all things GR20 and hope to add to it once we complete the northern GR20 in September.

BarbB

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BarbB



Isabel S

Posted: Thu, Aug 17, 2017, 6:26

Hello Logan,

Thanks for your report. What can you tell me about the plug-in in the refuges? If they are points to charge.

Another thing: I already booked for a bed, but seeing the problem with bedbugs I changed my mind. The bookings were already paid. Is there any problem if I say the guardian that I want to sleep outside, instead in the refuges? Will they refund me the difference? (The guys from thr Parc Corse told me to inform the guardians)



rwdlan

Posted: Thu, Aug 17, 2017, 9:06

Hi Logan - very useful to have up to date notes, thank you.

Did you stay in the refuges, and if so had you booked them in advance? As you changed your plans/itinerary how did that work?



Gaffr

Posted: Fri, Aug 18, 2017, 6:04

Hello ..95,
I would say that the above report is a very reasonable summary of what to expect on the GR20 Trail.
Also describes a bit of how much tougher things can become when doubling up on stages.
Staying in refuges and eating at the refuge does mean a much lighter pack?....roughly how much did your pack weigh when travelling? I guess quite a bit less than folks carrying own tent and camping/cooking own food etc.

--

Gaffr



msptosfo95

Posted: Fri, Aug 18, 2017, 13:39

Hi Everyone!

**POWER** (answering from memory -- all huts have power to supply the warden, but they usually don't let hikers charge their devices since they have so little)
Piobbu - No opportunity to recharge
Carozzu - No opportunity to recharge
Asco - Several outlets in the bathroom & kitchen of the refuge (available to everyone)
Tighettu - No opportunity to recharge
Mori - No opportunity to recharge
Vergio - Numerous outlets in the bathroom and shop
Manganu - No opportunity to recharge
Pietra Piana - No opportunity to recharge
l'Onda - Costs 2 Euro to charge your phone
Vizzavona - Numerous outlets everywhere (it's a city)
Capannelle - Outlets in the shop
Prati - No opportunity to recharge
U'scilou - No opportunity to recharge
Asinao - No opportunity to recharge
Bavella - Several outlets in the restaurants that you pass as you walk through town
Paliri - No opportunity to recharge
Conca - Numerous outlets everywhere

** Switching Reservations **
I cannot speak confidently on if the wardens will be able to change your reservation. I met several people along the trail who did not book their bunks / tents in advance, but had no problem paying for the night
in the hut or in the permanent tents upon arrival. I think most wardens will try to be accommodating- maybe refunding you the difference in food / supplies for the hut?

Personally, I carried my own tent so I simply paid for a campsite upon arrival. I did not book anything in advance. I'd recommend this option if you don't mind carrying your own equipment as it offers the most flexibility when you're on the trail.

@Gaffr: I carried all of my own equipment (shelter, quilt, sleeping pad, cook set, etc) and all of my own food to save money. My dry weight (everything but food, water, and fuel) is 7.3kg. I started with 6 days of food that I purchased in Calvi during my 'layover' between the train and shuttle. This added a brutal 8-10kg to my pack weight (I will always regret the glass jar of Nutella that snuck it's way into my pack lol). Including the 3L of water I carried, my total weight when I started the hike was about 20kg ---- way, way, wayyyy too much for the steep climbs of the first few days.

In hindsight- I would strongly advise against carrying so much food, especially during the first few days. Most, if not all, of the huts sell basic food items like pasta, sauce, biscuits, bread, and local charcuterie / cheese for reasonable prices. So, I'd recommend only carrying what you plan to eat during the day for snacks / lunch and restocking at the refuges when possible. This will significantly reduce your pack weight. Alternatively, you can bring a few lightweight backpacking meals for peace of mind without adding too much weight. The huts also let you dispose of trash, so you don't have to worry about carrying empty tuna tins or a bag full of wrappers with you for 15 days. Lastly, the huts let you use their cooking facilities, so you really do not need to carry a cook set or fuel either. I carried mine for the added flexibility & since it's really light (.4kg).

--

Logan



GRRR 20

Posted: Fri, Aug 18, 2017, 15:03

This is all good stuff.

I can add that if your plans include going to or from Sega, the refuge offers charging for €1 per hour.

At Vergio, you should try and reclaim your devices before the shop closes. I forgot, along with a few others, and had to wait until the shop opened in the morning. It is only then that I discovered that all the devices had been unplugged, put in a box, and taken to the hotel reception, which means I could easily have reclaimed mine the previous evening.



Trurl

Posted: Wed, Aug 23, 2017, 1:43

The shop at Castel Vergio indeed closes midday and late afternoon, but you can charge in the bathroom.

@Logan: great account! Thank you & congratulations -- you've done the WHOLE GR20 and very fast too. That speed must have cost some suffering + you did not have enough time to just sit down every now and then to take in the scenery, meditate etc. On the way from Ciottulu di i Mori there is a great alternative to stay for the night: Bergeries de Radule, my most charming night in 2016. In contrast, Bergeries de Vaccaghja were NOT more charming than Manganu. Petra Piana is well worth spending a night in (or 2 for the ascent of Monte Rotondo). This year I am planning the South and I am wondering about options for getting out of Conca, preferably to Ajaccio, in late September. Taxi only?

--

--Jacek



Doreen

Posted: Sun, Aug 27, 2017, 13:56

Following up on the question of rwdlan:
We did have bookings for rented tents at the refuges, and as we doubled one stage in the end, came earlier than expected. This didn't create any problem, the guardian was accomodating. But a refund from the hut where we didn't stay was not possible, as the money you pay online goes directly to the PNRC, not the guardians.



Rockhugger

Posted: Mon, Sep 11, 2017, 16:25

Hi Logan,

Brilliant article, just wondered if you can explain what you mean by technical? ie. use of ropes, graded scrambles, careful foot placement? as Im not sure what to expect. Im used to srambling to grade 3 and climbing to Severe and good with exposure. But as I'm probably going to solo the route it would be good to have tips on the technicality of the route,

Many Thanks,

Anna

--

rockhugger



Gaffr

Posted: Mon, Sep 11, 2017, 20:39

Hello,
Not at all very technical.....a bit of scrambling here and there but really a fine variety of terrain throughout the journey. It is the variety of terrain types that makes the journey such a good experience and of course the meeting of a vast range of folks.
A few images of my two visits to the GR20.
http://gaffr.blogspot.co.uk

--

Gaffr



msptosfo95

Posted: Tue, Sep 12, 2017, 6:11

The terrain is not technical in a rock climbing or mountaineering sense. No gear required- but I'd recommend trekking poles to help take stress off your knees during long graded descents. In the north, I'd say 50-70% of my time was walking over loose rock & boulders vs groomed trail. The rocky terrain makes ascents and descents more laborious, thus taking a larger toll on your feet and joints. In the south, it's much smoother (with the exception of the stage after Prati) but you're covering longer distances.

My primary concern was sure foot placements on the more technical descents. If you're trying to rush, it's possible to lose your grip and slide / twist an ankle. If you move slowly and methodically on graded descents, you'll be fine, but at the end of the day you might want to try and rush things to get to camp sooner ;)

--

Logan



noa

Posted: Wed, Sep 13, 2017, 7:17

Hi Logan,
thanks for your report and helpful descriptions. Do you remember if it is possible to camp at the stages Croci and Bavella in the south? Instead of staying at Asinao and Paliri after U'scilou.
Noa



GRRR 20

Posted: Wed, Sep 13, 2017, 7:48

Croci has one of the best campsites on the GR20. There is no camping at Bavella.



Rockhugger

Posted: Wed, Sep 13, 2017, 13:46

Thanks, Gaffr. Great blog too, good to see different conditions from year to year. :D

Anna

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rockhugger



Rockhugger

Posted: Wed, Sep 13, 2017, 13:56

Thanks Logan,

Loads of useful info, I'd rather do a slow descent and get there without injury. I've suffered by trying to rush in the past and have hopefully learned from the experience.

Anna

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rockhugger