Planning for spring

bcnhiker

Posted: Wed, Jan 2, 2019, 8:43

Hello fellow trekkers :) Happy new year.

Since I did the GR-20 in September last year I can't get it out of my head. I've been doing some research to find similar routes and it seems the GR-20 is still the best route for various reasons. (I like the concept of doing some of the high level routes in the Italian Alps but as fas as I can tell you cannot camp and you have to stay in the luxurious refuges, which is not something I want to do.)

So I will be doing the GR-20 again this year, in Spring. I'd like to know from trekkers who have more experience than I, when is the earliest it can be done without winter equipment? It seems mid - late May is possibly the earliest. Is this true?

BTW I'm planning on doing a roundtrip/circular route. I will do North to South, turn around, and do South to North.



GRRR 20

Posted: Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 6:59

Many years ago I started the GR20 in late May and it was touch and go in some places because of snow and ice. I also met three men on that trip who had made two previous attempts on the GR20 in late May and they didn't get more than one day into the trail before deep snow and sheets of ice forced them to abandon it. So, it might work for you or it might not. It all depends on what you find when you start.



Michele
moderator

Posted: Fri, Jan 4, 2019, 9:27

bnchiker,

The "earliest it can be done without winter equipment" in my opinion is late June. There are 2 passes in the northern section that require crampons and ice axe. This past year (2018) in early July they had just been cleared from ice.

--Michele



bcnhiker

Posted: Fri, Jan 4, 2019, 10:09

Hi Michele and GRRR 20. Thanks for the useful responses.

It's looking like doing it in May/early June is risky. My reasoning for wanting to do it early is to avoid the crowds and the overpacked refuges with limited camping spots (eg Refuge de Carozzu), but it seems like the crowds are unescapable due to the relatively short summer window in which it can be done without winter equipment.

It seems the best period to do it to avoid the crowds (in contrast to some info you can find online and in the guide-books) is mid summer: July & August, but I really don't want to it in the heat.

Putting all that to the side, from your experience when is the best time to do it to avoid the crowds?



GRRR 20

Posted: Fri, Jan 4, 2019, 12:33

It gets quieter between September and October, around the time that the guardians vacate the refuges. Bear in mind that you need to carry food for several days as there are only a few places you can resupply. Once those last few places close, you are on your own. I have visited Vizzavona a couple of times in the winter when everything is closed.



Michele
moderator

Posted: Fri, Jan 4, 2019, 13:14

What GRRR20 said. September and October are your best bet. Also bear in mind the weather will be very unstable and unpredictable, with temperatures dropping drastically at night.



GRRR 20

Posted: Fri, Jan 4, 2019, 19:00

Yes it gets cold in October. Last time I was there in October I loosely attached my jacket under the flap of my pack and lost it God knows where.



bcnhiker

Posted: Wed, Jan 30, 2019, 5:31

I did the route in early September last year and the weather was pretty decent but it was still quite busy, but based on what you've said late September/early October seems like a good time to get away from the crowds. I don't mind carrying food and wotnot. Only problem is I don't think I can wait until September haha.
I was hoping to do it early this year but based on your feedback and some more research i've done it looks like late June is probably the earliest I can do it without additional equipment. I found this video also showing pretty bad conditions in June 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBPzeDCengc It seems like one of the trekkers has super light-weight crampons which I've not seen before, I'm not sure they were very effective though. But also the refuges seem fairly quiet. I will ponder over this to decide haha. Thank you both for your feedback!



SQFP

Posted: Tue, Mar 19, 2019, 17:35

1. Most refuges resume operation around May 15th; until their staff arrives there are no groceries or meals to buy. Dormitories (feat. bunk beds with mattresses) are of course left open, and there's at least a gas burner (and some gas left... usually)

2. You'll find tiny shops at the beginning and end of your trip (Conca, Calenzana), also half-way (Vizzavona, or in Vivario or Bocognano nearby), and at the Ascu ski resort (hotel selling some basic food or snacks). Perhaps at the Vergio and Capannelle ski resorts, haven't checked their opening date this year.

3. There's no electricity as long as it's unstaffed.

4. In May it's either snowy, or sunny, or both. Sloped icy snowfields can get hazardous if you can't clearly see where to step. For comfort or safety, just bring some pocketable, lightweight, cheap sunglasses for those "nasty parts".

--

Geologist in Corsica



SQFP

Posted: Tue, Mar 19, 2019, 21:01

Few people attempt the GR in early May - for the early hikers have to be self-sufficient with respect to food etc.

--

Geologist in Corsica



Redlesweb

Posted: Thu, Mar 21, 2019, 18:44

Enjoy your spring GR20 trip. Don’t write off Italian alps though. I’ve trekked all over and the “luxury” huts may exist In some of the Mont Blanc regions, but in the dolomites the huts are basic and you get what you’re given. The dolomites are also spectacular.

--

Lesley



Redlesweb

Posted: Thu, Mar 21, 2019, 18:50

Enjoy your spring GR20 trip. Don’t write off Italian alps though. I’ve trekked all over and the “luxury” huts may exist In some of the Mont Blanc regions, but in the dolomites the huts are basic and you get what you’re given. The dolomites are also spectacular.

--

Lesley



bcnhiker

Posted: Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 16:43

Thanks Redlesweb. I really would love to see the dolomites, but I'm just not comfortable sleeping in a dorm with others. Based on your experience can you briefly describe the sleeping situation? Would you also need to book the refuges ahead of time?



bcnhiker

Posted: Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 16:41

Also based on the advice in this thread, I'm not doing GR20 in Spring, but rather late June starting in the South.



Redlesweb

Posted: Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 20:51

Hey bcnhiker. I musts admit, the dolomite dorms are quite squashed and washing facilities are very very basic. There is the occasional luxury modern Refugio and the odd have private rooms but you need to book months in advance apparently. Others are very basic, no hot water etc. All in all, nothing bad as such but certainly not as high tech as those on the tour du Mont Blanc. By all accounts the GR20 Refuge are even more basic. I’ll get to find out myself this September :). Late June sounds like a lovely time to go. Not long now ! :D
Lesley

--

Lesley



bcnhiker

Posted: Sat, Mar 23, 2019, 5:54

I don't mind basic refuges so much, I can deal with pit toilets and cold showers, but I'm not a fan sleeping close to others. Still, it's probably worth it for the experience of being in the dolomites. I haven't written them off just yet, I might get there next year!
Are you doing the full GR20? I found some of the refuges in the north to be really basic.
Not long now indeed! I am getting quite excited :) September is also a good time of the year to do it. Hope the journey goes well for you.



Redlesweb

Posted: Sat, Mar 23, 2019, 23:56

..

--

Lesley



Redlesweb

Posted: Sat, Mar 23, 2019, 23:55

Thank you bcnhiker. I was due to go last year but some major life events got in the way. Finally I get to go this year and I can’t wait. I already had plans for June so couldn’t do late spring early summer, so late summer early autumn was the next best (I hope). I look forward to hearing about your trip. How long do you think you’d like to take? I’m interested re fitting in additional summits or if it’s too exhausting on top of long days.

If you ever want any dolomites tips I’m happy to share. They’re so unique. But then again, everywhere we hike is unique I guess. I’ve loved every country and every path equally, they’ve just been different. Here’s to 2019 and lots of glorious mountain adventures.

--

Lesley