GR20 September

11 messages
16/02/2012 at 06:20

Spurred into life by the other thread. I thought I might copy his template...

My girlfriend kept a long diary of the events and thoughts but since it's 5:41am she is still asleep but I will try to update the post later.

Having never done anything more than the South Coast trail the GR20 was a bit of a shock in places. But we completed it all (no peaks) on schedule and managed to take in some of Corsican couture. 

We made the decision to fly to Ajaccio and take the train. On balance given the fees (35 euro for taxi, 2x12 for train?) and the difference in cost of the plan flights it was well worth it. Also the train trip through the centre was amazing. I would say the train trip (Ajaccio-Pointe Leccia, then bus I think) was worth the diversion in itself.


As I previously mentioned we had no massive walking (bar day walks) or scrambling experience.We took Paddy's guidebook and aimed to finish the whole thing in exact ammount of time in the guidebook. We were both very fit (gym=10+ a week).


I had some pre-SportsDirect Karrimor GTXs which did surprisingly well, one of the laces went (they were about 10 years old, so clearly used a lot ...) on the last day and was duly replaced. My girlfriend bought some a pair of North Ridge Corries. I poured with rain in Ajaccio the day we arrived and her boots leaked. Luckily the rest of the journey was dry barring some streams. But I would not recommend them.

Tent: Big mistake. Go Lite Shangri La 3. Great space. Easy to put up. But wants loads of space for pitching, which funnily enough we didn’t have. d’Ortu was especially windy and we didn’t get much sleep which was a downer and at de Prati I got now sleep and ventured into the refuge for a kip (and rightly was charged 5euros). Out of jealousy I bought a MSR Hubba hubba which seemed the order of the day on the walk.

16/02/2012 at 06:21


We came with two rat packs each. Not needed to be honest there is food everywhere and you are not going to get stranded in the middle of summer. We stocked up on some chocolate spread and some biscuits in the Carrefour in Ajaccio (should have bought multivits…). We also bought a variety of food along the way. Asco has loads of food and generally there were chances along the way to buy all manner of stuff. We probably did get overzealous buying bread at Asco which filled up a lot of our packs making them a bit unwieldy at the Circque. But there was bread all along most of the route so it’s not required.


We each managed to get our plane boarding packweights to 13kg. Which is still a bit heavy. We washed clothes every day and had a headway of about a day on underwear. The contrast on my split trousers really showed how much I hadn’t used the bottom. Like Duncan I have a full kit list so if you want to know give me a shout.

Our Itinerary

  1. Ajaccio to Calvi (train, bus, taxi (number was a sign nearby))
  2. Calenzana – d’Ortu (high level)
  3. d’Ortu – Carozzu (high level)
  4. Carozzu – Asco
  5. Asco – Bergeries de Ballone

6.      Bergeries de Ballone – Castellu di Verghio

7.      Castellu di Verghio – Refuge de Manganu

8.      Refuge de Manganu - Piana

  1. Piana –l’Onda (low level)
  2. l’Onda – Vizzavona (low level)
  3. Corte for the day
  4. Vizzavona – Capanelle
  5. Capanelle – de Prati (low level because of the wind)
  6. de Prati – Bergerie Asinau
  7. Asinau – Conca – Porto Vecchio (bus)
  8. Bonafaccio
  9. Bonafaccio
  10. Ajaccio
  11. Ajaccio
16/02/2012 at 06:21

Some of the highlights:

  1. Getting to the refuge at midday on the first day and not being able to believe we were there so soon.  We had to check the sign on the refuge to be sure we hadn’t made a mistake! (Shamelessy copied but exactly true!)
  2. The view at d’Ortu
  3. The gardiens and also those that were walking.
  4. The metal bridges were always fun, fave was just after Carozzu
  5. There was some amazing lakes on one of the stages (after Manganu)
  6. The bottle of wine at Prati, so good!
  7. Being in a constant fun competition with other walkers (we would win on the flat and uphill and got overtaken going down)
  8. The meal at Castel Vergio or should I say the view of the restaurant. It felt very film star with the view of the mountains!

I have others but the list would go on forever.

Considerations etc

We took a day off in Corte, but kept our packs on. The second point made most of the day quite arduous! We took them off to go into the museum in the citadel but after about 2pm we were clutching at straws as to what do to do. But do have breakfast at Café Cassonova. AMAZING Corsican biscuits/cakes.

We had “a lot” of time so we stopped off in Porto Vecchio (not worth it, other than a staging post) and also spent some time in Bonaffacio (well worth it). In Bon we rented a bungalow for two nights which was an excellent decision (and also the cheapest). It was nice to have creature comforts back. We also had a two nights in Ajaccio (one day effective), we bought presents from the Carrefour and binged on food at Le 20123 (ironically the food you would have at the bergeries, but we didn’t eat much in the refuges to save money)

We aimed to complete the whole GR20. Discussions on route and niggling injuries meant that we ignored the peaks in order to do the whole thing. I don’t think this was a bad idea especially when injuries are of concern nor with the benefit of hindsight would I have like to have sacrificed a day on Bonafaccio.

16/02/2012 at 08:13
Fred... that's amazing for someone with practically no experience of that sort of terrain. I'm glad it all went so smoothly, and that you had such a great time over there. I see you had a few spare days at the end, and that's always a good plan, in case of bad weather or in case rest days are needed. I agree with you that the train ride through the mountains is brilliant, and I think it should be made an obligatory part of the approach to the GR20!
16/02/2012 at 08:46
Enjoyed the report, thanks. When did you do this hike?
16/02/2012 at 09:30
We flew out on the 5th September (Sunday flights only) then to be conservative we arranged to fly back on the 25th September. We arrived/departed from Ajaccio, it was about £80 less for both us to do so, however you do arrive at about 2200 (dark) at Calenzana.

@Paddy Yeah, a bit foolhardy. I bought the book back in 2010 aiming to do it solo then, but work pressures postponed till September 2011. I am glad I went with my girlfriend and it was a wonderful experience.

I appreciate that many people on this forum go on loads of walks, we do not. Most of the year we are rowing so do not get "out there much". But I tell you for about (maybe less) £2000 for a month for both of us including all our equipment purchases, accomadation, food and flight. I think I have had one of the best trips of a lifetime.

Are actually iternary was

SUN 04/09/2011 London to Ajaccio to Calenzana
MON 05/09/2011 1 Calenzana to Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu
TUES 06/09/2011 2 Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carrozzu
WED 07/09/2011 3 Refuge de Carrozzu to Refuge d'Asco Stagnu
THU 08/09/2011 4 Refuge d'Asco Stagnu to Auberge U Vallone
FRI 09/09/2011 5 Auberge U Vallone to Hotel Castel Di Vergio
SAT 10/09/2011 6 Hotel Castel Di Vergio to Refuge de Manganu
SUN 11/09/2011 7 Refuge de Manganu to Refuge de Pietra Piana
MON 12/09/2011 8 Refuge de Pietra Piana to Refuge de l'Onda
TUES 13/09/2011 9 Refuge de l'Onda to Vizzavona
WED 14/09/2011 Corte
THU 15/09/2011 10 Vizzavona to Bergeries de Capannelle
FRI 16/09/2011 11 Bergeries de Capannelle to Bocca di Verdi
SAT 17/09/2011 12 Bocca di Verdii to Refuge d'Usciolu
SUN 18/09/2011 13 Refuge d'Usciolu to Refuge d'Asinao
MON 19/09/2011 14 Refuge d'Asinao to Refuge de Paliri
TUES 20/09/2011 15 Refuge de Paliri to Conca
WED 21/09/2011 Conca to Port Vechioo
THU 22/09/2011 Bonafacio
FRI 23/09/2011 Bonafacio
SAT 24/09/2011 Ajaccio
SUN 25/09/2011 Ajaccio to London to Southampton
Edited: 16/02/2012 at 09:31
16/02/2012 at 09:41

Two AH comments (for the inexperienced i.e us):

1. As Paddy mentions in his book there are some sections where minor scrambling is involved (chains/ladders etc). In the case of most of the early stages there are some climbing over rocks to be done and those stages will ground your feet. So have good knees and leg strength (there's a vid of a going doing a stepper machine with a rucksack, do that) before setting off. Also be aware of your fitness as it is a long trek.

2. This carries on a bit from 1). Loads of blogs mention the Cirque. and this report is (now) no exception. Most of the blogs are written by people who have "done it before" or something equivalent. We, actually had no idea how to use chains (although I have done a modest bit of climbing). I would read that again. Dumb, yes but there are very few good pictures of the Cirque nothing prepared us for that look down.

I admit I had a slight hiccup and needed help from a nearby Frenchman. So if you do plan on the doing the stage (there is no avoiding it) just go for an introductory session at a climbing wall. So might say this is overkill but having an appreciation for suspending ones bodymass will make things much simpler (along the whole route).
Edited: 16/02/2012 at 09:42
16/02/2012 at 09:43
Thanks for the extra info. Cheers.
16/02/2012 at 14:09

No worries about the copy and paste Fred; I've shamelessly linked to my report:

GR20 - June 2011

Sounds like you also had a great time.  A tent with a small footprint for pitching is definitely a good idea.  Food really is no problem all the way along, in terms of getting lunch to take with you at the start of each day and provision of an evening meal.

As for the Cirque: I think it's a matter of confidence and sure-footedness.  I can understand why some people find it harder than others but there is nothing technical about it and so I think it is largely down to whether you enjoy or feel confident going down steep rocky bits.  The only reason I nearly came a cropper on the Cirque was when some idiot above dropped a metal sigg bottle, which came flying down straight at me but thankfully when it hit it was empty.

At the end of our walk we had a couple of days in Porto Vechio.  There's a campsite right at the start of the town near to where the bus drops you off, which is basic but fine and is very cheap.  We really enjoyed PV, especially around the old square and on the beaches, which are a short ride out of town.

16/02/2012 at 14:18
Actually, there IS a way of avoiding the Cirque, but as that involves climbing over Monte Cinto, the highest mountain on Corsica, and coming down a very rugged valley on the other side, it's much more bother than it's worth!
16/02/2012 at 14:47
No problem Duncan!

Breakfast in Corte

Bonifacio (spelt correctly finally)

Trouser contrast!
Edited: 16/02/2012 at 14:54
Your say
email image
11 messages
Forum Jump