GR20 - High-level route including 'Alpine' variants and main off-route summits.

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Date Time Split Itinerary & logistics No­tes

(a) GR20 - lightweight backpack­

Sun 29/05/2005 a.m: flight LHR dep 06:20 to Paris-CDG, bus transfer to Paris-Orly, flight to Calvi, taxi to Calenzana
16:20 dep Calenzana GR20 is well marked by red & white paint marks throughout
20:05 03:45 arr Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu, buy meal at refuge, camp
Mon 30/05/2005 06:35 dep Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu
climb Capu Ladroncellu 2145m / 247m drop simple scree ascent from GR20 to SE
10:20 03:45 arr Refuge de Carozzu, buy food & drink
11:20 dep Refuge de Carozzu
climb Capu di a Marcia 2154m/197m and a Muvrella 2148m/?45m cairned route from GR20 to S: some scrambling
16:00 04:40 arr Haut Asco, Hotel I'Laricci for EM, B&B
Tue 31/05/2005 08:00 dep Haut Asco
12:30 04:30 arr Monte Cinto 2706m/2706 - tame Alpine Chough at summit signpost opposite hotel at start; some scrambling, fair bit of soft snow before crest, red paint & cairns mark whole route - crest is OK if these followed carefully
13:00 dep Monte Cinto, descend SW ridge direct to valley cairned route down from col, missing a big detour and (snowy) Cirque de la Solitude in the process
15:50 02:50 arr Refuge de Tighiettu: drink, given a near-empty gaz canister by guardian (wrong fitting, but it managed 2 brews at next refuge)
16:30 dep Refuge de Tighiettu
19:15 02:45 arr Refuge Ciottulu di I
Mori
, excellent Soupe Corse, camp
Wed 01/06/2005 08:00 climb Paglia Orba 2525m/c530m from Refuge Ciottulu di I Mori clear cairned path, fair bit of softish snow & moderate scrambling
11:00 03:00 dep Refuge Ciottulu di I Mori
14:00 03:00 arr Col de Vergio, buy drinks & provisions
14:30 dep Col de Vergio
18:55 04:25 arr Refuge de Manganu, cook own food on refuge stove, camp
Thu 02/06/2005 07:00 dep Refuge de Manganu
11:15 04:15 arr Refuge de Petra Piana, food & drinks
12:00 climb Monte Ritondu 2622m/1145m from Refuge de Petra Piana fair bit of snow, mainly soft - follow the cairns with care especially on the ridge
16:00 04:00 arr Refuge de Petra Piana; shelter from heavy shower
17:00 dep Refuge de Petra Piana
high-level variant, climb Punta da Pinzi Corbini 2021m/221m and Serra di Tenda 1991m/?80m high-level GR20 variant: yellow paint & cairns. Corbine v close to route; Tenda an easy climb from route
19:30 02:30 arr Refuge de l'Onda: no guardian (arrived a few days later): cooked own food thanks to gaz donated by a Dutch couple; camped - best grass of the trip!
Fri 03/06/2005 08:00 dep Refuge de l'Onda, climb Monte d'Oro 2389m/962m some modest scrambling - cairns & yellow paint; couloir with easy soft snow on descent
14:00 06:00 arr Vizzavona, food, drinks, lazy afternoon; Hotel for EM, B&B; phone
Sat 04/06/2005 07:35 dep Vizzavona
11:25 03:50 arr U Fugone (Refuge d'E Capanelle), drinks & massive Soupe Corse
12:00 dep U Fugone
14:00 02:00 climb Monte Renosu 2352m/1189m high-level GR20 variant, cairned but not paint-marked. We followed the route mapped on 1:100k, not the Dillon route
18:00 04:00 arr Bocca di Verdi, Gite - EM, B&B
Sun 05/06/2005 08:30 dep Bocca di Verde
10:15 01:45 arr Refuge di Prati (guardian absent), brew using refuge stove
11:00 dep Refuge di Prati
climb Punta di a Capella 2042m/~550m and Punte Formicola 1981m/356m short cairned route to Capella thru boulders from highest point of GR20; Formicola a very short scramble from GR20
15:30 04:30 arr Refuge d'Usciolu, cook soup on own stove, buy meal & drinks, camp
Mon 06/06/2005 07:20 dep Refuge d'Usciolu
12:00 04:40 arr Monte Incudine 2134m/?845m the only 2000m summit actually crossed by the main GR20 route
12:30 dep Monte Incudine
13:30 01:00 arr Refuge d'Asinau
14:15 dep Refuge d'Asinau, Alpine variant including ascent of Tour III High level variant is marked by yellow paint & cairns; Tour III is an optional modest scramble; bypassing Tour II involves a steep slab, with chain protection.
17:45 03:30 arr Col de Bavella, EM, B&B at Gite - Les Aiguilles de Bavella; phone at nearby bar
17:45
Tue 07/06/2005 07:40 dep Col de Bavella, buy provisions at store
09:10 01:30 arr Refuge d'I Paliri, cook own soup on refuge stove a very cute refuge, with good climbing to be had nearby
09:40 dep Refuge d'I Paliri
13:40 04:00 arr Conca; buy meal & drink; luckily offered a lift to Porto-veccio with a French group light rain for last hour or so; the big hills looking stormy
Total GR20 walking time 80:10 (the record is < 38 h - presumably not spread over 9 days!)
Time elapsed from start. 8 days 21 hrs 20 mins. Approx 190km; total ascent maybe 12,500 m (Dillon); maybe twice that?

(b) Return to Calvi via main towns / cities

Tue 07/06/2005 14:20 chance lift by minibus to Porto-veccio, 2*Hotel Panorama overnight, restaurant
meal
Wed 08/06/2005 a.m. Porto-veccio
12:00 bus to Bonifacio, arr 12:30
14:00 bus to Propriano, arr 16:15, 2*Hotel overnight, restaurant
meal
Thu 09/06/2005 08:10 bus to Ajaccio, arr 10:00, restaurant lunch
14:10 train to Corte, arr ~16:10, Hotel de la Poste overnight, meal at Restaurant u Museu
Fri 10/06/2005 07:30 walk to Gorges du Tavignano
12:05 train to Bastia (timetabled dep is 11:01), arr ~14:30
restaurant lunch, sightseeing, buy gaz (screw fitting - first we've seen)
18:23 train to Ponte-Novu, arr 20:20
21:30 camp on football field by San Thomaso Chapel (Gustalbio) - a lucky find; cook own food
Sat 11/06/2005 06:30 dep Gustalbio
08:30 cook breakfast at Funtana di Mazze
09:30 climb Monti Compoli 1236m/251m red-paint-marked track N from Col de Prato then easy walk to summit
11:30 arr Col de Prato
11:50 dep Col de Prato
12:30 cook lunch at Funtana di e Teghie
13:30 climb Monte San Petrone 1767m/?1208m easy track from Col de Prato to N, signposts/cairns at key points
16:00 arr Col de Prato, drinks
16:20 dep Col de Prato
18:00 arr
Ponte Leccia (given lift from halfway), food from patisserie
19:30 train to Calvi, arr 21:30; 2* Hotel du Centre; drinks on seafront
Sun 12/06/2005 a.m. RHW
climbed Capu di a Conca 725m/~320m & Capu di a Veta 703m/?97m (~4 hrs)
red-paint-marked trail to Veta start from Hotel Corsica which is signposted off the main road 1 km SE from centre of Calvi; C Conca is cairned from Veta saddle
Meanwhile CT finally tracked down GR20 T-shirts!
restaurant lunch
p:m: taxi to Calvi airport, flight to Paris-Orly, bus transfer to Paris-CDG; flight to LHR arr 20:30

Notes

kit:

lt KIMM-sacks with typical mountain marathon kit: karrimat, down bag, light cagoule, evening clothes. Shared single skin tent, stove, pan &c, 1-2 days food, Total wt ~5 kg, plus water. Most folk had packs weighing 15-25 kg.

water:

Plenty en route: a 1.5 lt plastic bottle each was ideal - in early June. July/Aug would be a different story.

food:

Most refuges do excellent 2-3 course evening meals, also wine; we had to self-cater occasionally e.g. at Ref d'Onda. Refuges usually have very few gas rings: we had to wait at Ref Manganu to use one, about 30mins. Day-food (dried fruit, bars etc) available at most refuges.

gas:

Can't take it by plane; we needed the screw-fit resealable sort; mostly on Corsica this fitting wasn't on sale. We finally bought one in Bastia, after finishing! Arriving Sunday didn't help - many shops closed.

accommodation:

We camped a few times but could probably have got beds throughout. Would be brave to go without a tent, though, especially in high season. Tent sites not exactly soft ground (except Onda).

language:

Most people we met, on and off-route, were French and spoke little English. We got by OK with a small amount of French. A few Germans and Dutch and even fewer English provided conversational top-ups. Folk were friendly throughout.

bagging:

The main high summits lie close to the GR20 and have good routes up them.
Other big-prominence summits include: Mte San Petrone 1767m/?1208m; Mte Astu 1535/~1035; Mte Caneto 1324/?956. A scan of the 100k maps suggests another half dozen or so with >400m prominence. Look for a list of Marilyns (150m drop) at www.peaklist.com - although only Mte Cinto was listed as of May 2005.
I gather there is a list of 2000m summits available at the National Parks visitor centres - around 150 listed points, including bumps and pinnacles.

travel:

We flew to & from Calvi, using Air France. The bus transfer across Paris was a bit time-consuming (and they charged us E16 each way!
Bus and train routes cover the main towns and cities easily enough. Timetables are a bit loose - especially the train although the scenery makes up for this.

cash:

Only 2 places along GR20 took Visa (Haut Asco, Vizzavona). We jointly spent approx E500 cash plus E200 Visa along the 9 days of the GR20.

birds:

Of interest, seen/heard, listed in approx order of frequency: Citril Finch, Alpine Chough, Woodlark, Serin, Black Redstart, Dartford Warbler, Nightingale, Scops Owl.

plants:

Approx 40 endemic spp listed with the help of Plantes Endemique de la Corse which is easy to buy on the island (and there's a copy at Bocca di Verdi). Plenty of non-endems including some nice alpines: the photos will hopefully yield some more with the help of the two Blamey books (Mediterranean Wildflowers and Alpine Flowers of Britain and Europe).

reptiles:

Lots of lizards and the odd grass snake.

butterflies:

Lots of Small Tortoiseshell, a few Swallowtail; lots of others unidentified.

maps:

You could just follow the paint... We took the two IGN 100k sheets (73 & 74) plus IGN 25k sheet 4250 which covers Corte and Cinto. I also bought sheet 4349 at Bastia which was invaluable in finding a way from Ponte-Novu to Mte San Petrone (an obscure route - we were using public transport - ascent is well signposted from col).
The Didier & Richard 50k sheets are supposedly out of print, although Chris bought both sheets in the Libraire Presse, Rue Pasteur, Porto-veccio. The mapping style is very dated, though. The 25k are much the best but you need six just for the GR20 (unless you have the Topoguide ....)
guides: we just had Dillon's Cicerone guide. 80% blarney but good reading and useful info. The Topoguide (Sentiers les Grandes Randonnees series) consists of annotated 1:25k map pages covering the whole route and looks to be well worth buying.

weather:

Dry apart from brief heavy shower on 2nd and light rain on 7th. However, seemed to worsen afterwards, with rain p.m. at Corte, and summits often in cloud p.m. Evenings chilly, days mostly hot sun, often high 20s.

Rob Woodall, Chris Taylor, 2005