Last day on the trek, or at lead it’s what we planned as everybody going Northbound told us that the section between Caruzzo and Ortu is the most challenging, impossible to double, dangerous and very vertiginous and so on.
Again we started very early, woke up at 4 for a start at 5, the sky still dark and full of starts.
I was a bit anxious for this one as I suffer from vertigo, but we started the climb and it wasn’t worst as we did before, steep and using our hands most of the time.
We arrived to the pass in less than 2 hours and then we saw the ridge walk, or more precisely we couldn’t see the trail with all the cliffs on the ridge but as we were following the white and red marker, it was actually not so bad for my vertigo. It looks definitely more scary from far than when you are on the “technical passages”.
I was still asking Ludo to wait for me all the time. It helps me fight the vertigo to concentrate on his steps, follow him quickly and not look too much around.
About an hour and a half after we were on the other side of the ridge and could see the saddle from where we were.
Then it was a long down 700m (+920m for this section) in loose rock and steep terrain.
We took a quick lunch break with a couple from Lyon who just started the GR20 this morning and were a bit too optimistic about tripling the section. They were doug a bit of trail running at home and in the Vercors but they couldn’t believe how much harder it is here, as the terrain is so difficult. They were quite presumptuous and we thought for ourselves that it was only the beginning for them, and they will soon figure it out for themselves.
We also heard a group of strong guys coming from the North saying that the first section was very challenging, with a steep part, with chain, that they wouldn’t like to do it the other way….
It was indeed a bit steep for a while but as well as all the other parts on the trail, and we had no difficulty going down.
The morality of the GR20 is that we shouldn’t listen to the other hikers and go at our pace. As I am curious I was always asking for info from the Southbounders but what you get is very subjective. We don’t know the level of fitness of the people (even if most of the time you can guess it), it can depends on plenty of things, the weight of the back pack, if people have vertigo, if they feel confident with their step on lose rocks or not…
What we found is that most of the time people were exaggerating on the difficulty, everybody told us about the North, how much difficult it was… How dangerous…
As a consequence, I was always getting anxious and fearing about the next section as in reality it was always doable, challenging for sure, but if you go at your pace it’s doable.
Anyway we arrived very happy at Calenzana, feeling blessed we didn’t suffer any injuries apart from sore legs, knees and feet and we went for a nice dinner celebration.
For the remaining of the holidays, we rented a car in Calvi and drove along the Cap Corse coast, stopping from village to village, and beaches to beaches, swimming and snorkeling.
The return to work is going to be tough.
The first and longest climb of the section was ok,
We have two days to do the three section left. After weighing the pros and cons, we decided to do only one today and do the last two tomorrow, even if it means more than 2000m down in total, which sounds painful for the leg muscles and the knees.
Yesterday, I got a skin reaction on my legs, I thought first it was a sunburn, but it didn’t look like it and wasn’t burning like one. I will discover two days later while asking a pharmacist that it’s some kind of light frostbite (because of the cold and the sun). It’s not painful, only a bit unesthetic.
Anyway, we started walking this section a bit after 7am, with a steep climb, lots of rock climbing. The climb was ok on the south face of the mountain, but as soon as we pass the pass, we felt the strong wind and it was freezing cold.
We saw two “mouflons” grazing on the top of the mountain, then went down for a long and tiring one until Caruzzo refuge. There were lots of chain and cable that we didn’t really use but that could become handy if the terrain is wet, as it was mainly big blocks of granit.
We spent the afternoon talking with a group of teachers on holiday, sharing with us funny story about their students.
This night we cowboy camped and everybody looked at us as if we were animals. But we had an amazing night, not cold at all and the sky was so beautiful.
Last night was beautiful and the clouds had cleared away so we cowboy camped. The sky was full of stars and in the morning we saw plenty of shooting stars.
Today the start was at 6:10. We climbed to Tijhettu hut quickly in half an hour then the big game started.
As the Cirque de la Solitude is closed since the rain storm and the accident last June, you can take an alternative route
Via Monte Cinto, which is the highest peak in Corsica, 2600m. It climbed straight away along cliffs. It’s a bit of rock climbing but doable as long as you go carefully.
It was also freezing cold I had to put my legging on and we climbed all the way with our jackets.
I was dreading this section and at some point I was tempted to go back and take the shuttle that brought us directly to Ascu. I would have regret it. It was such a beautiful hike, challenging enough but not impossible.
It took us three hours to climb to the summit and 3:30 to go down. I am very slow going down, as I have to cope with vertigo.
We finally arrived at Asco which is a ski station. And we went straight away for the restaurant. The service wasn’t very friendly but the food was amazing, huge grilled steak with a banana split.
Yesterday night while we were having diner at the refuge, the girls arrived, Alice and Eve, they eventually decided to do the section and it was nice to see them again.
We woke up at 4am this morning and we realized that our food was gone, our whole food bag disapeared, some fox or other animal took it. We were a bit pissed off as there was still plenty of Cliff bar remaining in it (American energy bars that we also found in Dublin, and paid quite a lot for them also!)
Anyway, no need to get upset, and at least our breakfast was in our tent, so we ate it and started walking at 5:15am.
About 5 minutes down the trail, we found our dry figues bag on the trail, as well as our tea bags. Looks like the fox doesn’t like tea. We looked around but didn’t see anything and it was still dark.
What a beautiful day, first we walked along meadows with peaceful cows and horses grazing.
At least those animals are happy in Corsica mountains. The. We walked along lake Ninu, and we saw a dead cow but we were quite far from the Bergerie so we couldn’t warn the shepard.
We walked quite fast, the terrain was relatively easy, but it’s a long section, 23k, +1000m, (I’ll update the blog with the corresponding profile). After 4h30 of fast walking we reached Castel de Verdi pass where there was a small groceries store. We bought a few things, ate them right away as we were starving.
Then back on the trail, this time it was a bit under pine trees then up on the mountain, quite rocky terrain but beautiful.
After the full 8h estimated we arrived to the first hut. It was winter time up there with fog and a freezing wind. We stopped very briefly, ate again and carried on to the next Bergerie 3h away. It was mostly going down but quite vertiginous along the cliff.
It was a very long day and we finished also quite tired but not as bad as the other day. We were motivated to reach this Bergerie as there is hot shower and an amazing diner.
Back on double section day today. We started walking at 5:10 with Eve but without Alice. We chose to walk the alternative route via the crest, which is supposed to be shorter, 4h instead of 5:30 via the valley.
We had a nice sunrise while climbing up, but it was cold so no time to do much break. It was quite steep and we climbed for about 1:30, probably around 500m then we navigated on the crest. Again some tricky passage, rock climbing and so on. It’s safer to use our hands than our hiking pole in that case.
We lost Eve on top of the mountain, she had to cure some blisters and it was so cold we carry on and waited for her at Pietra Piana.
She didn’t feel doubling the section and stayed there and we carried on the two of us.
It was really nice to walk with her the last 4 days, we’ll miss her.
The two section of today where beautiful, this afternoon between Pietra Piana and Manganu. First time we saw mountain lakes.
It began with a steep climb, then we stop for a while because there was cell reception and the timing was ok (not 6am). We called to cancel hotel booking and modify our car booking because we change our planning and we need one more day to finish the GR20.
Then we finish climbing with a good pace and did a short steep down. My leg muscle started to be painful after the effort and the ridge walk didn’t help relaxing them with some vertical part to climb but the chain helped a lot.
The last down destroyed the rest of my leg muscle who were so stiff.
Thomas, a Belgium guy we met since a few days back passed us running. We ask him to book the dinner for us as you need to arrive before 5pm to do so. And we would have been short as we arrived around 5:30.
Now let’s rest and enjoy the Pietra.
What a nice feeling to wake up with daylight.
Everybody in Vizavona camp looked weird at us because we cowboy camped but the night was great with a lot of stars and no clouds.
Our group got bigger with Alice from Brussels. It was a beautiful section climbing along the river with so many clear water pool. But what a climb, 1200m up of huge granit step, sometimes rock climbing. But we felt great absolutely no pain at all, plus because we did only one section, we took our time, took lots of break which made it much easier, especially that it was very hot. We only started walking at 8am.
It took us 5h30 total to climb the 1200m, then only 1:30 to go down 600m to Onda. It was a bit tricky with lots of loose rock and sleepery steps but overall ok.
Apart from Bavella, it’s the first time we stop so early, at 3pm.
Plenty of time to rest, absolutely no pain at all tonight, time to do laundry and enjoy camp life. There is so many hikers at Onda hut tonight, even a group of German girls scout with long skirt outfit.
We took our time to leave Prati hut and started walkin at 5:45 am, without any headlamp as for once the terrain was easy enough. We went down for a while, around 500m till the Verdi hut. Then the terrain was quite easy to walk without to much rock but climbing 600m total for this section.
Around 9am we passed in front of a Bergerie and as we were starving we stopped for a long pause eating saucisson and cheese. I love hiking in Corsica.
The section was very nice, mostly under the trees, quite long compare to the other (17km) and we arrived after 1pm at Capanelle. We decided to take only a quick snack break with Eve, wet our socks in order to cool down our feet and we were back again towards Vizavona. The tiredness of the three previous days caught us up. And we took ages to do this section which is supposed to be an easy one.
We arrived completely broken at Vizavona. 31km, -1900m, +800m.
We were so tired we decided to change our planing and do only one sections tomorrow instead of two initially planed.
The. We went for a nice diner with other hikers and went to bed with a cheerful spirit, knowing we will sleep late (6am still) and only on section to walk.
We had such a short night, waking up again at 4am but we went to bed too late at 10pm.
I could feel my body didn’t get enough sleep and didn’t recover from yesterday effort.
As it is also a big day with two section to walk we started early. Even though the first part of the section was smooth and easy climbing a bit with a slight steepness, it felt really hard my body didn’t want to get in motion.
After a while I felt a bit better and we reached the ridge. Now the trouble began.
I thought I didn’t like the steepness but I love the steepness compared to the stress you have walking along this ridge.
Ridges used to be my favorite part in hiking in mountain, not anymore. It was still incredibly beautiful even with a bit of fog but there was quite a few tricky passage, where we had to use our hands to climb, not necessarily difficult, but considering that sharp edges on both sides it was very impressing. It took us a scary 1:30 along this ridge to reach Usciolu where we took a long 1:30 minutes to recover from the first section. Still it was 9:30am.
We hesitated to go further as the weather was quite foggy with possible afternoon storm and the next section is also long and exposed most of the time.
After carreful thinking we decided to go at 11am, the first part was easy enough, a quick climb, a ridge walk but not technically and a long 500m down, we finished this part in only 2h and it was about halfway, but the next half took us another 3h45. We could feel the length of the day and our body were tired and the terrain was also very demanding with a steep climb some tricky passage, especially down. I hate those, I always get frightened and it makes legs muscle stiffen which makes it even harder.
Anyway, we finally reach Prati, with Ludo and Eve, very proud of ourselves and our monstruous day.
1400m up, 1100m down, 20km, and some hard terrain successfully negotiated.
There is a lot of people at Prati refuge and we had dinner chatting with lovely people from Grenoble.
It was easy to start early as our back pack were already packed. The gite was very comfortable and clean.
The night before we talked with Eve and we decided to walk the next day together.
So we started the three of us still under nightfall at 5am.
We walked about 15min with our headlamp and suddenly we saw a big lightning, we looked back and there was an enormous cloud full of lightning in it. I can’t tell with words what we saw it was magnificent and scary at the same time.
We looked at it for 10 minutes and decided to walk back to Bavella as the next section was exposed on the ridge. It was a safer option to wait for the storm to finish.
We took a coffee at the gite and waiting 7am to start again.
The climb was in the clouds and the fog, very steep but it seems that steepness is the general characteristic on the GR20.
The alternative way of the Bavella Needles is must see and an amazing hike. There is a few tricky passage, one with a chain but overall it was ok.
4 h later, We arrived to Asinau refuge and took our lunch break. Then, OMG, a huge climb, 500m straight up. We are missing the switchbacks and the 5% climb from the PCT. there was some rock climbing involved. I’m glad we did it that way and not down even though it was quite tiring. But 1h30 later we reached the top and then it was finger in the nose, 1h30 minutes down to Croce gite where we took a snack break and an extra 1h10 to reach Basseta Bergerie where we had a nice welcome.
Overall it was a long way with almost a double section done, at least 1000m up and down.
It started to rain 10min after we reached the Bergerie and rained for half the night.
And I was afraid to be extremely hot, definitely not the case.
We really appreciated walking with Eve so we will carry on together.
I barely slept last night for various reason.
The anxiety of the start, also because we didn’t do much today. With Ludo we decided to cowboy camp because it was so warm and it’s also easier to have a quick start.
We couldn’t use our sleeping bag because it was still too hot, and we were bitten by mosquitoes. So I was going in and out of the sleeping bag, in until I was really too warm then out until I got bitten and so on.
Last but not least it was Conca’s bal in the evening and there was music and party until 2am, (with all the classic summer tube and crapy song).
Still it was easy enough to get up at 4am.
The pack felt a bit heavy with 3L of extra water, and it was already warm, probably 25.
We left the campground and took our picture at the official start point at 5:20am and started going up and up and up, through Conca’s village first.
We crossed the school ground were there were people still partying from yesterday’s bal.
Then we reached the GR.
We walked with our head lamp for 30min and then it was clear enough. We climbed and climbed and climbed and reach the first ridge right at the sunset. It was beautiful.
Then a short down and back up up up.
But we were feeling good, advancing at a good pace. The only people that caught us were trail runners.
We met a few South boundersand arrived a bit tired but still ok at Paliri refuge at 10:40. We felt reassure on our capacities to hike the GR20 in 9 days.
Originally we had plan to camp at this refuge but because it was so early we decided to carry on after a nice break.
Bavella is just 2h away, 1h said the guardian if you’re fit. And why not push even further to the next section Asinau, 8h away.
However It was much warmer now and we were beaten by a nasty steep up, (and down and up and down and up) so we decided that Bavella was a good stop for the first day. Indeed we were quite tired arriving there after 2h not 1h (not fit enough). The gite look really nice so we took the half-board (diner, accomodation and breakfast) option. People are really nice in addition and the place is spotless.
Still very proud for our first day. We arrived at Bavella at 1pm, showered and did our laundery, as we sweated so much today even Ludo did.
We had a Pietra in order to relax the muscles. And now we have to wait until 7pm to have diner.
Time is so long when you’re waiting for food.
I don’t know exactly how much we hiked today as we don’t have a topo guide with us. But there was 1000m+ and 160m-, 12km from Conca to Paliri. And I guess between 300-400m up and down between Paliri and Bavella.