Category Archives: GR20

GR20 – the best and the worst

The toughest stages:
1. Stage 2: Refuge d´Orto di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carrozzu
2. Stage 4: Haut Asco to Refuge de Tighjettu via Monte Cinto
3. Stage 3: Refuge de Carrozzu to Haut Asco

It never gets tougher than the second stage to Carrozzu: A tough ascent followed by tough scrambling followed by the toughest descent of the entire GR20. The 4th stage over Monte Cinto replacing the Cirque de Solitude is just long and exhausting while the third stage is somewhat shorter than the other two but with a very tough ascent followed by a difficult descent to Haut Asco.
Immediately after these stages, I´d place stage 7 and stage 1.

GR20 stage 2 to Refuge Carrozzu
GR20 stage 2 to Refuge Carrozzu

The easiest stages:

1. Stage 10: Vizzavona to Bergeries d´E Capanelle
2. Stage 11: Bergeries d´E Capanelle to Bocca di Verdi
3. Stage 15: Refuge d´I Paliri to Conca
The two first stages on the GR20 are significantly easier than any other stage on the GR20: A gradual ascent through forest out of Vizzavona is followed by easy walking through woodlands. The last stage is straight-forward throughout.

On the way to Bocca di Verdi
On the way to Bocca di Verdi

Toughest descents:

1. Stage 2: Refuge d´Orto di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carrozzu
2. Stage 3: Refuge de Carozzu to Haut Asco
3. Stage 13: Refuge d´Usciolu to Refuge d´Asinau

Despite the lack of scrambling, descending the steep scree slopes towards Carrozzu is clearly the most difficult descent of the GR20. Closely followed by the steep descent towards Haut Asco, with a couple of scrambling sections, where I had to throw my backpack in front of me. The flat and steep rocks above Asinau would be a nightmare to descend if wet.

GR20 stage 3: The descent to Haut Ascu
Stage 3: The tough scrambling section on the descent to Haut Asco.

The oughest scrambling sections:

  1. Stage 7: A short section on the ridge overlooking the lakes Melu and Capitellu
  2. Stage 3: A short section on the descent to Asco
  3. Stage 2: Several sections between Bocca Piciaia and Bocca Carrozzu
The toughest scrambling section on the GR20
Stage7: The toughest scrambling section on the GR20

On the high ridge overlooking Lac Melu and Capitellu a very short scrambling section, aided with a chain is, in my opinion, the most difficult scrambling section on the GR20. Second to this is one short 5 m section scrambling over some rocks before Haut Asco, while the scrambling on the second stage after Bocca Piciaia is slightly less difficult, however more extended.

The most beautiful stages:

1. Stage 7: Refuge de Mangano to Refuge de Petra Piana
2. Stage 4: Haut Asco to Refuge de Tighjettu via Monte Cinto
3. Stage 2: Refuge d´Orto di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carrozzu
4. Stage 3: Refuge de Carozzu to Haut Asco

It does not get more beautiful than walking through Bréche de Capitellu after a steep ascent to find yourself on top of a magnificent cirque overlooking Lac de Capitellu and Lac de Melu. Closely followed by the early morning ascent towards Monte Cinto,  the magnificent cirque traversed between Bocca Piciaia and Bocca Carrozzu and the ascent through the wonderful Spasimata Gorge.

Stage 7 Lac Melu and Capitellu
Stage 7 Lac de Melu and Capitellu

The best camping:

1. Stage 14: Refuge d´I Paliri
2. Stage 7: Refuge de Petra Piana
3. Stage 4: Refuge de Tighjettu
4. Stage 12: Refuge d´Usciolu
5. Stage 1: Refuge d´Orto di u Piobbu

All of the above campsite offers great mountain views.

Refuge d´I Paliri
Camping at I Paliri

The worst camping:

Stage 3: Haut Asco
Stage 10: Bergeries d´E Capanelle
Stage 9: Vizzavona

Camping under ski pylons at Haut Asco, next to ski pylons at Bergeries d´E Capanelle and in a dirt compound close to Vizzavona railway station are probably the least charming campsites of the GR20.

Camping at Haut Ascu
Camping at Haut Ascu

I walked the entire GR20 in August 2015. Below the itinerary, where each days walk is described in an individual post:

Stage 1: Calenzana to Refuge d´Orto di u Piobbu
Stage 2: Refuge d´Orto di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carrozzu
Stage 3: Refuge de Carozzu to Haut Ascu
Stage 4: Haut Asco to Refuge de Tighjettu via Monte Cinto
Stage 5: Auberge U Vallone to Hotel del Vergio
Stage 6: Hotel del Vergio to Refuge de Mangano
Stage 7: Refuge de Mangano to Refuge de Petra Piana
Stage 8: Refuge de Petra Piana to Refuge de l´Onda (high route)
Stage 9: Refuge de l´Onda to Vizzavona
Stage 10: Vizzavona to Bergeries d´E Capanelle
Stage 11: Bergeries d´E Capanelle to Bocca di Verdi
Stage 12: Bocca di Verdi to Refuge d´Usciolu
Stage 13: Refuge d´Usciolu to Refuge d´Asinau via Monte Alcudina
Stage 14: Refuge d´Asinau to Refuge d´I Paliri
Stage 15:Refuge d´I Paliri to Conca

GR20 general information sources:

Guidebook: Paddy Dillon´s GR20 (Cicerone). The new 2016 version includes the new stage 4 over Monte Cinto. Also available as ebook.
PNRC Randoblog – official blog of the PNRC (National Park)
Corsica for hikers forum – forum with an answer to any possible question about hiking in Corsica and the GR20 in particular.
Travelblog as well as general information on GR20

GR20 stage 15: Refuge d´I Paliri to Conca

GR20 stage 15: Refuge d´I Paliri to Conca
Distance: 14 km, asc/desc: 500/1390m, 7h
August 21th, 2016

On the way to Conca
                                     On the way to Conca

An uncomplicated, very pleasant walk down to Conca: A short climb to Bocca di U Sordu and then it is downhill past a couple of (uninviting) mountain lakes, the ruins of Bergeries de Capeddu and finally through a the curious gap of Bocca d´ Usciolu before the final ascent to Conca.

Bocca d´Usciolu
                                Bocca d´Usciolu

Click for full photogallery of this GR20 stage on flickr.
This post is part of a series on the GR20 as walked in August 2015.

GR20 stage 14: Refuge d´Asinau to Refuge d´I Paliri

GR20 stage 14: Refuge d´Asinau to Refuge d´I Paliri
Distance: 13 km, asc/desc: 750/1145m, 7h
August 20th, 2016

Despite the weather not being 100% stellar, I nevertheless took the higher trail via Aiguilles de Bavella, which turned out to be vastly preferable to the very hot and not overly inspiring lower trail  I walked in 2014.

The circular day hike from Bavella through Aiguilles de Bavella is very popular, thus many people are encountered on the trail. This day also marks the last scrambling section of the GR20: A short scramble up a rock supported with a cable:

Aiguilles de Bavella
Aiguilles de Bavella: Short scrambling                                             section

Bavella is a tourist center, where camping is officially not allowed. Probably just as well as Refuge I Paliri, two hours further on, is one of the most atmospheric campsites of the entire GR20. When I was there, they were short of water (it was dripping from a rock) and the showers are far too far away, however the colours and ambience of I Paliri is wonderful:

Refuge d´I Paliri
Refuge d´I Paliri

Click for full photogallery of this GR20 stage on flickr.
This post is part of a series on the GR20 as walked in August 2015.

GR20 stage 13: Refuge d´Usciolu to Refuge d´Asinau via Monte Alcudina

GR20 stage 13 : Refuge d´Usciolu to Refuge Asinau
Distance: 17 km, asc/desc: 1010/1225m, 11h
August 18th, 2016

This stage starts  scrambling along the final part of the Corsica Spine Ridge from Usciolu, through a final gap, and then down to Bocca di l´Agnonu, where the trail splits in two:

1. The official trail: Via plateau de Cuscioni, over wonderful farmland passing three Bergeries, the last being the wonderful Bergerie de Croci, located only 2,5-3 hours walk from the summit of Monte Alcudina, alternatively 3 hours walk from Refuge Asinau. I walked this trail in 2014 camping at I Croci.30815031785_167d52230b_k

2. The variante: Crossing the plateau de Cuscioni before passing I Pedinieddi, the only place on the GR20 where camping is allowed, though no facilities are available and the nearest water source is a 30 minutes walk away. I  camped here, thus splitting the stage in two. The next day is a  straight-forward two-hour walk up to the summit of Monte Alcudina followed by a quite challenging ascent down to Asinau, placing right after the descents to Carrozzu and Haut Asco in difficulty. In fact I saw man being evacuated with helicopter due to an ankle injury.

The final gap in the ridge, Usciolu
The final gap in the ridge, after Usciolu

Asinau is located at the top of the valley. It can be windy but the views are great. Note: The Asinau Refuge burned down in early 2016, and as I understand it there is (2016) nothing left on the site except water, thus it should should be possible to pitch a tent. Alternatively, Bergeries d´Asinau offers accomodation a bit further down the valley (reservations essential).

Camping at Asinau
Camping at Asinau

Click for full photogallery of this GR20 stage on flickr.
This post is part of a series on the GR20 as walked in August 2015.

GR20 stage 12: Bocca di Verdi to Refuge d´Usciolu

GR20 stage 12: Bocca di Verdi to Refuge d´Usciolu
Distance: 16 km, asc/desc: 1290/830m, 8h
August 17th, 2016

One of the great stages of GR20. From I Prati the GR20 is essentially a ridge walk all the way to Usciolu and even a couple of hours beyond. The ridge has been described as The Spine of Corsica, with extensive views  and frequent shift from one side of the ridge to another, undulating with only a couple of major ascents and descents.

Scrambling on the ridge near Usciolu
Scrambling on the ridge near Usciolu

The scrambling is moderate and technically the trail is not exposed, however it can get very windy up there and obviously it is only recommended to walk in dry weather.

The ridge on the way to Usciolu
The ridge on the way to Usciolu

Somewhat curiously, I camped at exactly the same spot at Usciolu in 2015 as I did in 2014:

Camping at Usciolu
Camping at Usciolu 2014
Camping at Usciolu
Camping at Usciolu 2015

Click for full photogallery of this GR20 stage on flickr.
This post is part of a series on the GR20 as walked in August 2015.