Corsica - The GR20 (Part Two)
by Chris Henshall » Sun Jan 19, 2020 11:03 pm
Date walked: 22/07/20133 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Today gave us another straightforward walk contouring the eastern slopes of the main watershed to the Bocca di Verdi where Chris would resupply us with food and propane for the fourth time. I had wanted to divert over the summit of Monte Renoso (2,352 metres) but, as our students were beginning to focus solely on getting the trek done and as I had climbed it before, we stayed low. It was, though, a beautiful walk through the forest and Chris arrived at the col with fresh fruit! Day 14 - Tuesday, 23rd. July:
In anticipation, this seemed like just another day on the walk but, ultimately, it registered as more demanding than most. As ever, we were underway soon after 6.30.am. and made the Bocca d'Oro as the sun came up over the Tyrrhenian Sea; the views were stunning. We then followed the ridge south - interesting walking with constantly changing views and the sea visible to the east, the south and the west - but the ridge was lengthy and, about three or four kilometres short of the Refuge d’Usciolu with the sun high in the sky, it climbed nearly 1,000 metres. This made for a good fight but some of the students were out of water before the summit and they had to work hard to tough it out. It was a tiring crew that topped the final rise before the refuge. Day 15 - Wednesday, 24th. July: The feeling that the end was in sight was palpable - but there were still some tough days to come and this was one of them. We were up and away by moonlight, stepping out along the Arête a Monda while, to butcher Homer, dawn's rosy fingers were spreading themselves along the horizon. The sun, though, was well and truly up by the time we descended to the Plateau de Cuscoine and it was at this point that, memorably, Steve and I realised simultaneously that our joint diet of porridge and squeezy cheese had finally caught up with us; we were both forced to stop and lighten our loads in a monumental fashion. Putting such indignities behind us, though, we enjoyed the gentle climb to the spectacular top of Mount Incudine (2,134 metres), the only summit that the designated route actually takes in. From there, it was a swift descent to the Refuge d’Asinau. Day 16 - Thursday, 25th. July:
Walking from north to south, the penultimate stage of the GR20 is also one of its most spectacular if you divert over the Bavella pinnacles - something not to be missed. Our usual early start saw as already up high as the sun climbed into the sky and the pinnacles were spectacular. Once through the pinnacles, we made our way down to the Col de Bavella where we met Chris for the last time and had a coffee before heading off for the last few miles to the Refuge di Pailiri. Day 17 - Friday, 26th. July:
Given some complicated arrangements later in the day, we needed to be away especially early and we were stumbling through the trees looking for the telltale red and white markers by the lights of our head torches soon after 5.00.am. The dawn, when it came, was brilliant. Once the sun was up, I raised the pace and streaked into Conca with enough time in hand to make sure that there was a beer available for everyone when they arrived at the first cafe in town; it seemed a little debauched to be having a beer at 10.30.am. but it had been a dry trip and it seemed that everyone had earned it! The rest of the day was taken up with catching a lift to the main coastal highway where we caught a service bus to a campsite at Moriani Plage, just south of Bastia. We joined up with Chris for a day on the beach and then flew back to the UK on Sunday, 28th. July after 19 days away.
There’s a lot of hype and a lot of silliness talked and written about the GR20 but, while it helps to be reasonably fit, you don’t have to be superhuman to do it. It's certainly not "Europe's toughest long distance trek" and is nowhere near as demanding as covering a similar distance and ascent / descent would be in Scotland. This trip was, after all, just a D. of E. Gold Award training trip and an assorted bunch of 17 year olds got round in good order. Providing you go in the summer, providing the weather is good and providing that you start early enough in the mornings and carry enough water, simply placing one foot in front of the other with some determination will get you to the end - and you can always get supplies at the refuges if you're prepared to pay a bit of a premium.
If I were to do it again without a group to manage, I would (at the risk of a big fine) camp - well, bivi - high in order to avoid the open latrines around the refuges (where you have to pay to camp) and I would run some of the stages together. It would be interesting, for example, to avoid Haut Asco and stay on the watershed (the original route) between the Bocca a i Stagni and the Cirque de Solitude. Although much more serious, it would also be interesting to do it in late spring (say in May) to avoid the crowds.
Anyway, whatever else is true, it's a terrific walk.
Next Report: https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=43111
by past my sell by date » Mon Jan 20, 2020 6:39 pm
Thank goodness the Pennine way, Coast to Coast and Cape Wrath Trail are not "disfigured" in such a way - though I have had heard tales of munro bashers saying something like " we did 127 and 83 at the weekend" But maybe that's just because they couldn't pronounce the names
by Chris Henshall » Tue Jan 21, 2020 9:37 pm
Glad that you enjoyed the report and sorry that you reckon that you won't get it done yourself. Judging by your fascinating accounts of the Swiss 4,000 metre peaks, I'm sure that you'd be up to it. If I had my time again, I'd like to have tried to tick off all the Alpine peaks of this height and above but, after three good summers (mainly around the Mont Blanc massif) in my early twenties, I decided that the objective dangers were too great once my children had arrived and I concentrated on my rock climbing instead. Anyway, the GR20 is a terrific walk but, I think, getting too busy at peak times these days.
I don't know why the French (or anyone else, for that matter) feel obliged to number footpaths when an evocative name would work better - although, that said, "GR Vingt" said in a French accent has a certain ring to it.
by Sunset tripper » Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:38 am
All the best.
- Posts: 2559
- Joined: Nov 3, 2013
- Location: Inverness
by Chris Henshall » Wed Jan 22, 2020 9:45 pm
The very reason that we went to Corsica as a family in the first place was because my wife (who is a Latin teacher) ran a trip to the Bay of Naples in about 2000 or 2001, I went along for crowd control reasons and we flew over Corsica on the way back! It looked brilliant - rugged mountains and a beautiful coastline. We took our family holiday there the following year, spent a week on the coast and a week inland in Zicavo. I read the Rough Guide, bought a map and managed to get the family up Monte Renoso... Good times!
- Mr. and Mrs. H on the top of Monte Renoso in 2002
- Thomas and Mary H on the summit
by past my sell by date » Sun Jan 26, 2020 7:32 pm
The great thing about the Swiss 4000nders is that - unlike the Mont Blanc massif - objective dangers are minimal. The Grand Combin was the only route where we felt under pressure - on both the ascent and descent. And perhaps the Matterhorn - but that was due in the main to other people
Still Lakeland rock- climbing is quite wonderful and in the main well protected It's the one thing about Cumbria that I miss
by Chris Henshall » Mon Jan 27, 2020 11:54 am
The only 4,000 metre peaks which I have climbed in Switzerland are the Dent Blanche and the Matterhorn - although I also remember finding the traverse of the Grand Combin from the Valsorey Hut the most difficult bit of the Haut Route when I did it back in the spring of 1984; the approach demanded crampons rather than skis! My son ended up at ETH in Zurich for the best part of five years between about 2012 and 2018 but, ridiculously, we never quite made it into the mountains.
Lakeland rock climbing remains a favourite. I worked in Seatoller after I left school in 1978 and during most university holidays for several years. I did a lot of the routes in Borrowdale and on Gable and got into fell running - but the most dangerous thing I did in the Lakes in those days was certainly cycling into Keswick and back.
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