GR20 on the first half of October - sharing the experience


Posted: Tue, Oct 27, 2009, 14:08

I will try to present our experience from this trip as detailed as I can so others may enjoy it and get answers that we did not had before making this trip.

I and my cousin did the GR20 north-south part from Calenzana - Vizzavona on 02/10/2009-13/10/2009.
The original idea was to make the whole GR20 but we had limited time and very big bags so we could not run and double up stages.
3 months prior to the start we started to practice some 8KM fast walking 2 days in a week and 1-2 day trips on weekend with big bags to adjust to the weight. Most of our trips were on small-medium mountains and medium-hard level of difficulty, and took between 5-9 hours.
We decided to take with us all the necessary things to be mobile and not to be dependent on refuges and food. We also wanted to make the track without running it and enjoy the wild nature of Corsica.
As it turned out, our bags were much heavier than on practice because we took 2 tents for two people and food for 16 days. They weighted 27 Kilos with 3 liters of water each.
The first two stages took us 16 and 14 hours instead of 6:30 and 7 as it said on the guide and we had to sleep twice on the way in tents and refill water from streams on the way (we used iodine tablets to clear the water)
After 4 days of adjustment we started to finish the stages in 1 day but still it took us at least 2-6 hours more than in the guide and we also split the 6’th stage to two because we had to rest after “Cirque de la Solitude” (4’th stage)
In Vizzavona we decided to cut from GR20 because we had only 3 days left and 6 stages to go and took a train to Ajaccio (goes 3 times a day) , relaxed there for 1.5 days and took a bus (1 time in a day ) to Bonifacio (total drive time of 3.5 hours ) . We stayed there another 1.5 days and took a Taxi to Figari airport (tried to hitchhike for a 1 hour but there were maximum 50 cars that did not stop or drove only in the city). From Figary we took a plane to Nice and spend there another day before flying home.

Some data about the track itself:
Many sites say that this is the most difficult route in Europe but in my opinion the walk difficulty itself depends on 3 most important factors:
1) Your personal fitness – If you prepare yourself good enough then you will enjoy more and suffer less.
2) Weather – bad weather can make this trail from very hard to dangerous.
3) Bag weight – this is personal decision what to take and what not but this weight will be key component of your progress , as we learned , with 27 KG you can’t run or even go normal speed.
If you want to take it easy and still finish the trail, take a lot of spare days.

The trail itself is very similar every day, a lot of up’s and down’s although the scenery changes a lot.

We got very lucky because at most of the stages the days were sunny with a lot of clouds and fog. The rain was only on early mornings, afternoon and nights. Other groups that we meet were not so lucky and had to return back on some of the stages. Most of the stages become very dangerous (especially the down going) if it’s raining.
Light hours were 7:15-19:20 local time (12 hours maximum).
Temperature was 10-20 at days and (-3) - 10 at nights.

Food and water:
There were not many sources of food to buy. Asco stagnu had nice restaurant and the one refuge with guardian had stock of beer and conserves. Ski resort in the middle of 6’th stage had fresh bread , restaurant and conserves. One of the restaurants near Vizzavona was open too (1KM up in the road) .
All refuges had water in the kitchen or water source near by. There were many water streams on the GR20 itself to refill but not all of them looked very clean.

Sleep, gas and bathrooms:
All the refuges except one had no guardians but all of them had kitchen and gas. At Calenzana there was only abandoned camping site. At Vizavona the refuge was closed and instead there was gite open (for 12euro) near the hotel (that was closed) with no kitchen or gas. On 6 stage which we split there was ski resort in the middle with nice hotel (70 for room), gite (14 euro per person) and camping site (that was closed).
There were hot water only at Asco stagnu(end of 3 stage) , ski resort at the middle of 6’th stage and gite at Vizzavona. All other had from cold to freezing water in bathrooms or open hose.
Most of the toilets were holes in the ground with no toilet paper and some of them were closed.

Exit Points:
There were many exit points on the trail but most of them lead to small villages with no public transportation of any kind (October) at all so if you have no time then you have to be very lucky to hitchhike. This is the main reason why we cut in Vizzavona and did not continued more and exited later.

Nature and wild life:
There was a lot of beautiful nature and wild life on the trail and I think pictures will show this better than words.

• On personal note I can say that this was one of the interesting and beautiful trails that I have ever done until now and I strongly recommend others who like this kind of traveling to make it after proper preparation at least once.