My Adventures on the toughest long distance trail in Europe …

About the trail: the quick and dirty facts

Ok. So you heard of the GR20 and wonder if you can do it yourself. Here are a few things you have to take into account.

The trail (conceived by Michel Fabrikant back in 1970) is long (even if you walk half of it) and tough. Don’t underestimate it! You need to be fit, well trained but most of all you must be highly motivated. This is not a fancy fashionable walk that everybody is doing and so would you! You need to be mentally prepared for its hardness. Because the propeller will be in your head more than in your legs! But you also need to be very well informed about what to expect. Why? Because most of the complaints and sarcasm I heard and read about the GR20 come from uninformed or misinformed individuals who have had a very  harsh impact with the trail’s reality (google up “My holiday hell” for one). This is the GR20: get wise and adjust to it or just forget it. So please bear with me if I’ll be blunt and straightforward. Only if you know what to expect you’ll be fine on the toughest, long distance best hike in Europe.

On many occasions you will read/hear the word: basic. This diplomatic definition means one thing: you need to be prepared to rough it up. Period.

The path is basic: i.e. there actually is no real path underfoot for 98% of the time (northern section mostly). So much that on many occasions if you don’t see the next waymark or cairn you won’t know where to go. Seriously. In addition to that forget the flat path you’re probably used to; most of the time you’ll walk on rugged and tormented terrain, rocks, stones galore, granite slabs … you get the idea. Get used to it. The majority of hikers walking the GR20 consider this to be the toughest part. Here is what someone on another site wrote about: The underfoot conditions were so bad that we spent most of the time concentrating on our feet”. The southern section, in this respect is way better. 

The huts are basic. If we leave out the minor exceptions of the decent buildings at Haut Asco and Castel de Verghio, the huts are small rudimentary (some of them) bergerie-style buildings with small suffocating dormitories where – if you have chosen to sleep there – in dubious hygienic conditions (clicky) you will be crammed with other “smart” hikers who wanted to go light and will share with them the smell, the noise, the heat and will be invited to participate in the international late hour snoring contest. This …. until the bed bugs wake up and will start to entertain you with their nightly activities. I’m not kidding! They are a recurring issue (no matter the regular disinfestations) and a royal P.I.T.A ; so if you stubbornly still want to sleep in a hut, it’s best if you build yourself a Midge Net Sleeping Bag or … you’ll be trying your luck ….

My advice instead is to bring your own tent (a good free standing tent – because many pitches are very rocky – capable to withstand heavy rains and that does not flood). Being independent is invaluable and it is more in tune with the original spirit of this trail (but also tent pitches can be a pain, many of them being on rocky or slanted terrain). Or you may want to compromise and see if you manage to book in advance the park tents (permanently pitched next to the huts) that the Park has been providing now (barely water resistant, mind you!). But then you’ll be somewhat tied to your date of reservation, something difficult to stick to if you’re nailed in one place because of foul weather. In any case either if you’re sleeping in the huts or in the Park tents be aware you’ll be in “competition” not only with self-organized individuals but, more and more with commercial organizations that will make reservations in large numbers. So it’s best for you to make your own reservations as soon as possible.

The toilets and showers are very basic with two minor exceptions. Lately the Park authorities are beginning to understand that humans and animals are of a different kind. So in 2 – so far (2011) – very limited cases the toilets and showers’ blocks have been rebuilt. You’ll find such basic but decent facilities at Ortu d’U Piobbu and Carrozzu. Besides these 2 exceptions (at the moment I’m not aware of others), toilets and showers facilities are – to be diplomatic – third world type and in many cases you’ll realize that the word basic is a sorry excuse to sheer couldn’t-care-less attitude: hard to accept, but, like I said, take it or leave it. So, at least for the toilets business, be prepared to go out in the woods behind some private bush. Oh, by the way, don’t expect to always find the showers hot, of course! Again it makes exception the Gite d’Etape at Castel de Verghio which has good showers and toilets (but that’s a privately owned facility next to a Hotel and a tarmac road).

The food. The food is fine at almost every refuge. True it is pricey and there is not much choice. But that’s understandable given the fact that food supplies are carried daily on muleback. (So, please don’t complain because you paid 6 euros for a Pietra!). My advice is to eat at the huts as much as possible (although I heard some complain about scanty portions) in order to spare on the weight of your own food supplies (I recommend dried up rations for emergencies). We also preferred to cook our own breakfast, so we carried some essential supplies (stove, teabags, coffee, chocolate spread, jam etc.) and we always bought some bread at every hut. Ultimately it’s your choice about what to do about the food. Most of the huts have also on sale a large selection of food supplies for trekkers (canned stuff, dried up meals etc.). You may also use the stove facilities provided by the park (outside the huts and at the trekkers’ disposal) and cook  your own food there. But you have to take into account you’ll have to stand in line waiting for your turn while hunger will be eating you inside out. Good luck with that.

The water. Here we go again. Water is scarce all along the trail. I’m talking about proper water springs. On the contrary you’ll find plenty of surface water (streams, rivers); of course not at the very high altitudes. Obviously the most likely place where you will refill your tank/canteen/whatever is near the refuges. In fact there is always a water source there (with hot weather take no less than 3 liters). But here is the thing: is this water safe? 100% safe? At my own expenses I realized that such water is not always safe (see my first video). This is because, in many cases,  water is not sourced from a proper spring but conveniently from a nearby stream (through hoses and pipes). And everybody knows that in the presence of (wild) animals – which is often the case – the water may be easily polluted. Ultimately it’s just a matter of luck! Obviously all problems could be averted with an evident sign stating the origin of such water. But no, you won’t find any of that. So my advice is: always ask where the water is sourced from (this applies to tap water as well) and, in case of doubt, always treat the water to stay on the safe side.

The weather. Nothing much to say here. DO NOT start your day if the weather forecast is against you. Don’t be such a smart@$$! Besides, it doesn’t make any sense!! (I know what you’re thinking: I’m here, my days are limited … that dude is leaving … you know what? I’m going anyway …). Wrong! You have to plan your vacation to allow more days just for this (do NOT walk the GR20 on a tight schedule!  You’ll end up making the wrong choices). Thunderstorms can be wild and dangerous on the crests, the rocks become slippery. Low visibility can get you off-course, people have died already because of lightning strikes and some places become deadly pits (like the Spasimata slabs for instance, that get inundated by avalanches of water flooding in from the side of the mountain). Why do you want to make it harder than it is already?

About lightning strikes here is a forum post from corsica.forhikers.com:

We were hiking on the 1st of Sept second stage to Carrozzu, and were surprised by a thunderstorm up in the mountains at about 11:30 AM. I know the wisdom about leaving early, but 11:30AM! We decided to sit it out. At about 12:00 we decided to move spots, as we were walking lightning struck about 50 metres away into a cliff outcrop. I consider myself born again …

Are these the memories you want to bring back home??? The GR20 is merciless! Just wait for another day or, walk only those low-level routes that are deemed to be safe, and you’ll be ok (always ask the gardien at the refuge).

The Cirque de la Solitude: do I really have to worry about it? Yes and no. Yes if you’re thinking of crossing it with bad weather because it may become dangerous (for the reasons above). But if the weather is fine and the terrain is dry, you only have to follow the waymarks and watch your steps. Of course you have to have done some minimal scrambling in your life and not just start here. But if you don’t suffer from vertigo the logical route will magically appear from under your feet and you’re going to be ok. With this I don’t mean to underestimate it. The point is you’ll hear very different opinions about the Cirque. Ultimately the difficulty or the easiness of it very much depend on people’s personal experience and attitude (doh!)

Do I need any special gear? No gear is needed along the GR20. Only make sure you have fairly new (high collar) boots. It surely would be a shame if your faithful but old boots should decide to leave you right in the middle of the Cirque, wouldn’t it? Besides that, take along some minimal equipment you would normally use in your hikes on the mountains. But don’t forget to also take something waterproof and warm. It is summer but the weather on the mountains may always change rapidly. Oh, also walking sticks (with removable rubber ferrules for the granite slabs) can be really helpful!

What if I go during wintertime? Now THAT is a real challenge! Almost the entire route will be covered in snow and so will be waymarks and cairns (a gps unit becomes mandatory). All refuges will be open, unstaffed and probably buried in snow. Ice axe and crampons are a must for the highest areas. You have to carry your own food start to finish as there are no resupply points along the way. The only available water will be probably from thawing the snow or from occasional non-frozen streams. The weather will be highly unstable. But kudos to you if you manage to pull that off!

So when it’s the best period to go? Hard to say. The weather is always unpredictable. Maybe late June-early July might be a good choice (the window of opportunity goes June thru September, and it’s also when the huts are staffed). But, of course I don’t have any crystal ball :) Personally I’ve been blessed by excellent (but very hot) weather in both 2010 and 2011. I’ve been lucky in that way.

North-South or South-North? There are pros and cons for both, and different points of view. Some say that by going South-North the body has the time to gradually adjust to the difficulty of the trail and in this way is more capable of enduring the hardness of the northern section (in addition the sun will always be on your back, which is a plus). Others instead believe that it is best to face the hardness of the northern part immediately when the body is still full of energy (and therefore prefer to go North-South). Both theories have a point and everything is subjective. If you instead are thinking of walking one section only, the direction of travel is not that important. Traditionally hikers walk North-South, so, if you decide to swim against the tide you’ll know what to do.

I don’t have 15 days for this trek and I also want to go to the beach. I heard the GR20 can also be done in 7 days. Is that true? Yes. If you are willing/able to walk march/run on rugged terrain, ascents and descents at an average of roughly 28 Km/day from dawn to dusk! (Or you’re one of those skyrunners). The Legionnaires of the French Foreign Legion stationed in Corsica usually rush it in 7 days. You may want to tag along!! (Who knows, you might get a medal for that! j/k :)). Seriously, I strongly advice you against it. It’s surely a “muscular” challenge that doesn’t have much sense (unless you wish to prove yourself something). Like someone said: “You quickly reach a point where you start tripping over things that aren’t actually there!” I know a couple of friends who have done it in 7 days. They ended it in an almost dazed condition, sore knees, had lost weight, with only a fuzzy recollection of the places (doh!) and were badly looking forward to finishing it. But if that’s what you’re looking for … yes … it may be done in 7 days. And good luck with that!

Alright, alright. So, having to choose, which one is better? The GR20 north or the GR20 south? The million dollar question! They are both very beautiful. To simplify one might say the northern part is more alpine and rugged with steep ascents and descents, while the southern section is relatively easier with long stretches on the crests and longer stages but also a fairly good number of ascents and descents as well. In my videos you can get a fairly good idea of the places. Take a peek. They are there for this as well.

So what’s this thing with the reservations?  A total mess, although it does make sense. Basically it’s an awkward attempt to control the constant increase of hikers that grows every year. Everybody is requested to book at http://www.parc-corse.org/vad/. The system works with those staying in the refuges or in the park tents – since they are forced to book, but it doesn’t work with those camping out with their own tent. Because when you carry your own tent you don’t want to feel compelled by a schedule. As a consequence it’s getting harder (not yet impossible) to find good tent pitches in some locations if you don’t get reasonably early.

What if I decide to camp out in the wild? Officially it’s illegal, but nobody seems to be there to enforce it. So if done with discretion and with the “leave no trace” rule, it does have its fascination.

Do I have to worry about wild animals? Generally speaking, no.  Although you’ll see many wild boars in various places they usually mind their own business.  However at times we have had reports of foxes’ nightly incursions (Castel de Verghio and Manganu) at the expenses of unlucky hikers who left smelly food in their tent antichamber. Read this thread and also Audrius’ scary report (halfway down the page).

Are a map or a gps unit necessary? With good weather and therefore visibility they are totally useless. The trail is well marked. But if you happen to walk in a persistent thick cloud … well a gps unit might come in handy. On the Internet it’s easy to find gps tracks of this trail. For example on this page, but the tracks are not updated to the latest Usciolu-Matalza variant. *** As for the map a very good topo map can be viewed and also printed from the French GeoPortail (but the system is a little cumbersome). Here is an example. However, the site www.le-gr20.fr has made them all available for download. Finally, as pointed out by hiker Kees Gort in a post below, an excellent opensource vector topomap for Garmin devices (with tracks, waypoints, points of interest and everything) can be downloaded here

Is there cellphone coverage? On the mountains cellphone coverage can be very random and sporadic. However in some conditions it is possible to place phone calls. The rule of thumb is to reach a high position possibly in direct line of sight with the villages below (and their phone towers) and turn the phone on. It is a waste of battery having the phone constantly on for the reasons above.  If on the contrary you are deep in a valley, chances are you’ll have no coverage. And since we are talking about cellphones it’s always a good idea to have the Mountain Rescue (PGHM) number handy: +33 4 95 61 13 95. Who knows … one day you might rightfully brag about having saved somebody’s life!!

I’m a dog lover. Can I take my pet with me on the GR20? If you’re a real dog lover you don’t take your dog on this trail. The GR20 terrain is VERY stressing for your beloved animal (especially if you’re going to walk all of it). Paws get easily worn out by granite and I heard a report of a dog whose paws were bleeding from the excessive consumption. Furthermore the Cirque can be a tough challenge for your pet to pass. Finally dogs are not admitted in the huts (although some people don’t seem to care about it).

Can I walk the GR20 alone? Yes you can. Some people prefer to do it on their own. If you’re in the mood for a solitude trek or maybe your friends are couch potatoes, you can perfectly do this trail by yourself.

Ok. Being fit and motivated is key, got it. What kind of training would you recommend? Find rugged terrain around your place (if possible), ascents and descents and walk at least 10 km per day with a 14 kg backpack. Add some easy scrambling. Rinse and repeat :)

Is it too much to ask for a kit list? GR20 British veteran Giles Campbell (who walked the trail in Sept. 2012) has kindly compiled a detailed GR20 kit list that you could use for guidance. Thank you Giles!

Aside from the horrific stories above, is there something nice about this trail? :P  Yes. it’s all in my videos. Go watch them …. again ;) and fall in love with this island (now that I put you in the right perspective). And if you like photo galleries, GR20 hiker Tarjei Næss Skrede has an excellent one here.

The last piece of advice I feel I should give you is to buy Paddy Dillon’s guidebook: GR20 CORSICA – The high level route – Cicerone Press. It is a useful reading for anybody seriously contemplating to walk this trail (although, quite frankly, it’s a given fact that the reading of a guidebook is not that necessary to do the GR20). For a start you may want to check out the site: http://corsica.forhikers.com/gr20 …… Oh, almost forgot … steer clear of those toxic processionary caterpillars and their nests who have lately become a plague!!

If you are a regular hiker/backpacker: please don’t turn it into a competition! The reward is in the walk itself, not on who gets to the next gite d’étape first! So take your time and enjoy this unique trek!!! If you are a skyrunner ….. whatever  …..

***WARNING*** Starting from the late summer 2011 the too long stage Usciolu-Asinau has been split into 2 sections. The new official stop will be the Refuge Matalza (or the Bergeries A Basetta or the Bergeries d’I Croci). The path has been waymarked to reflect this change but the old route has been preserved (actually restored in July 2012) giving hikers the option to choose whether to split the stage in two or not . Because of this, when buying your guidebook you want to make sure you have the latest print.

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INFECTION ALERT: Travellers to Southern Corsica warned about parasitic infection (25 June 2014)

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PS

If you’ve recently walked the GR20 I’d like to hear your thoughts about it … especially if you had any issues of some sort or you simply have some news or changes regarding the trail that could be useful for the readers.  (Please do NOT write, if you mostly intend to brag about how good you were in doing in 6 days!!! We’re not interested.) Thank you

52 responses

  1. Roger Gaff

    Hello Michele,
    I concur with what you say regarding the GR20 and especially having done the prior training before reaching the island. We came across folks, some of them not for the first time, who were in trouble physically and had to curtail the traverse….is is quite sad to witness this since they all had a passion to complete the route. The longish d’Usciolu to d’Asinau section almost did for me. On a hot afternoon, ascending from Cuscione to Monte Alcudina, the heat was playing havoc with me…..it was the only time during the traverse that the heavy rucksack felt like a burdon to me. In fact it was the wirey French lady, my wife, that kept my spirits up and kept me going…..if only there were a source of some sort of water trickle up there! Fortunately it was slightly cooler on top and the spirts recovered somewhat for the descent. I, like you, descended to the bergeries below with the ‘rooms available’ scribed into the roof of the building but received a quite different response from the gentleman, maybe they were oversubscribed that evening, so we had to make our own arrangements for a camping spot. The splitting of the stage thirteen seems to me to make good sence.

    March 31, 2012 at 13:51

  2. Hi Roger,
    Thanks for your interesting feedback! From your post we seem to be on the same page about everything (I suffered the same as you while climbing Monte Alcudina). I’m sorry to hear you had a different treatment at the bergerie de Asinau, because, very much like yourselves, we had not done any reservations in advance and the place was full up when we got there. So I really don’t know what to think. Probably a matter of bad luck, the same we had at the Refuge de Asinau, maybe. The splitting of the stage 13 will probably solve most of these issues. At least people won’t get to the end of the stage too late with all the problems this means.

    Michele

    March 31, 2012 at 14:21

  3. Vince

    Hi Michele,

    First off, b/c of your video I found while doing some research on Corsica for it’s a possible summer sailing destination this year, I’ve planned to trek the GR20 early June. After watching it, I felt I had to do it! Never heard about it before, but now some months later, I’ve done my share of research, got most of my gear and will start training for a few weeks under the Portuguese sun. My buddy from Hawaii will join me in June. You see, internet is a good thing. Especially when you put it to good use by sharing such information and uploading very inspirational videos- Thank you!

    If I may, I have a couple of questions. I’m still in doubt about what sleeping bag to go for (in combination with 1p tent + R2 sleeping mat). I’m easily cold at night, so I thought to go with a 0 C comfort (synthetic for financial reasons, despite the size and weight). I understand this is a personal choice and it all depends on the weather.Though, I’d appreciate your thoughts on this.

    Second, my buddy asked if it would be possible to send a box (with fresh supplies) to the half way point, Vizzavona for instance. Perhaps from Bastia when we get of the ferry. Any thoughts on this, too?

    I’m sure you get lots of questions- if you feel like not answering mine, I understand. If you do, I’d be grateful!

    Best regards,
    Vince (Amsterdam)

    April 28, 2012 at 16:46

    • Hi Vince,
      thanks for taking the time to watch my videos. It’s great to hear they inspired you to walk the trail.
      If this coming June is going to be like last year’s I think you’ll be perfectly ok with a O C° comfort sleeping bag. But – mind you – I never experienced any rough Corsican weather; and I know temperatures can drop quickly. Since you say you’re easily cold at night, if you haven’t bought the sleeping bag already, why not buying one that is a little warmer? Just to stay on the safe side ;)
      As for the second question …. I heard that some people had shipped by train some of their stuff to be kept at the delivery station waiting to be picked up. I don’t have any direct experience in this but I think your buddy won’t have any problems.

      –Michele

      April 29, 2012 at 21:42

  4. Eva

    Hi Michele,
    thanks for sharing your interesting, beautiful and sometimes funny videos with us all! I had a great time watching them. I have visited Corsica twice: 2008 and 2011. I’ve seen both Lac Melo and Lac Nino but I have only made all together 5 day hikes. I have a dream to hike the whole GR20. I’ll better start exercise :-)
    Eva, Sweden

    April 29, 2012 at 18:56

  5. Hi Eva,
    Thanks for your flattering comments about my videos! I’m truly happy to hear you enjoyed them!

    Yes, you definitely have to walk the GR20. If you love hiking/backpacking it’s a f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c experience. The island is gorgeous and the mountains are really outstanding!
    Of course training is very important to cope with the difficult terrain. But if you’re truly motivated, I have no doubt you’ll make it. …. and then I’ll want to hear your outspoken opinions on it ;)

    –Michele

    April 29, 2012 at 21:59

  6. Eva

    It’s all about having a GOAL with your exercise… if not, it’s SO boring… ;-) Last year I exercised to complete the Girl’s Vasa, a part of the Swedish ski race “Vasaloppet” 90 km. Heard about it? We had a lot of snow in Sweden 2010 and 2011.
    Anyway, I think I’ve decided to go for the GR20 next year. Thanks Michele! I will let you know when it’s done!

    April 30, 2012 at 21:13

  7. No, actually I didn’t know about the Vasaloppet :( but I took a look and it seems a very serious race. Kudos to you. Then you definitely won’t have any problems in Corsica. Best luck with your GR20. 2013 ah? Jee it seems so far away …..

    –Michele

    May 1, 2012 at 06:08

  8. Jim Horton

    Hello Michele, great video and very inspiring.

    My Partner and I leave this Saturday to do the whole route South to North, with small tent. A quick question on foot-wear. We have a choice of fairly light flexible thin sole leather Gore Tex lined Zamberlan boot which are new but “run in” or slightly heavier stiffer boots with rand, maybe not quite so positive fit or grip, again new but “run in”. The former feel more at one with your foot and later more protective, which would you recommend?

    Thank Jim

    June 6, 2012 at 13:45

  9. Hi Jim, thanks for the compliments.

    About the boots. I personally used stronger boots on the northern section and lighter ones on the southern part. So I can safely say, go with the lighter boots (as long as they are robust enough and the soles not too worn out – the sole grip is very important especially on the granite slabs). Also the soles should not transmit to the feet all the asperities of the ground because – mainly on the GR20 north – the “path” will be extremely rugged.

    This is my opinion. Now that said, I can report I’ve seen some people crazy enough to do the walk in sneakers … go figure!

    Michele

    June 6, 2012 at 14:06

  10. Miro

    Hi Michele,

    Great video’s and nice informative prospect here above. Inspired me a lot, but also made me aware of the size of the adventure!

    I have one main question in my preparations for the GR20 (I’m taking a tent) and that is: are there reasonable possibilities for resting days? Is it for example possible to rest after two days of walking at refuge de Carozzu? To let the legs accommodate before heavier stages are to be overcome as it were. And what are the places on the route where the camping ground is reasonable enough to possibly consider a resting day? I hope you have some tips for me.

    Thanks a lot!

    Greetings,

    Miro

    June 15, 2012 at 08:30

    • Hi Miro, thanks for the compliments.

      In every campsite you are never forced to leave, so, wherever you are – especially if you have your own tent – you can stay as long as you please. Of course you’ll probably be requested to pay € 6 for every day of your permanence. So you can relax, take your time and walk accordingly.

      June 15, 2012 at 09:15

  11. maya

    Hello,
    Thank you for your detailed information and lovely video.
    My main questions are:
    1/ do I have to carry sleeping bag and food for several days? I’m not good walking with a backpack. How heavy would it be by average and your experience?
    2. How do I know if I’m capable of the trek. My friends want to take the northern part for around 5 to 6 days. I have a bit of vertigo. I’m 66 years old but not a bad walker.
    Can you give me any advice?
    I really want to go, they are going on Sept. 9th and I feel a bit insecure.
    Many thanks, Maya

    July 28, 2012 at 11:27

    • Hello Maya,

      Thanks for taking the time to watch my video. I’m glad you liked it.

      1) Yes, it is necessary to carry a sleeping bag during your trek even if you sleep in the huts. On the contrary you can buy/eat the food in the huts so it’s not vital that you carry it on your back. However, I’ve never seen anyone walking without a backpack: you will still need it to carry essential items (a rain jacket, a warm fleece etc. for example). The average weight varies from 10 to 15-18 kilos.

      2) About the second question, I don’t know your background and I guess only you can tell (please, re-read this informative page). If you’ve never done any previous multi-day trek, nor are you comfortable walking with a backpack and furthermore if you suffer from vertigo, well … you “might” have some problems especially on the northern section which is more rugged. Probably your friends – if you hiked with them before – will be able to give you the right advice on the matter.

      Best Regards
      –Michele

      July 28, 2012 at 12:29

  12. Rob

    Hi Michele,

    Great to read all your infos! I like your straightforward style of writing.

    Never heard of the GR20 only untill a friend told me a few months ago, and having read all now it seems like a thing I have already put on my to-do-list definately :)

    kind regards
    Rob

    August 10, 2012 at 08:04

    • Thanks Rob. Well … usually I’m not that blunt, but … I started this page after having read some annoying comments of people who clearly didn’t have any clue of this trek. So that’s the reason of the ….let’s say … abrasive style ;)

      Anyway, I’m glad to hear you’ve been inspired … definitely something worth doing …. and probably more than once ;)

      Best luck with your GR20

      –Michele

      August 10, 2012 at 08:29

  13. bobwalker01

    Thanks for your honest description….I have just finished the Camino de Santiago and am looking for another challenge. This may be a lot shorter but it looks a LOT tougher! I have a couple of reservations…bed bugs (I got them on the Camino and it was horrible) and the vertical parts..Im not a rock climber and was wondering what level of technical ability you need. Im 50 this month..but still pretty fit (i had no problems with the Camino..) but this seems on another level of difficulty. Thanks for posting your comments.

    September 9, 2012 at 13:13

    • Hi Robert, thanks for your feedback. Although I’ve never walked the Camino, I know for a fact that the GR20 is much tougher. While on the Camino you mostly walk on dirt roads, this is a VERY rugged mountain trail start to finish.
      About your questions (which I thought I had answered on my blog page :D) if you don’t want to take a chance on the bed bugs, forget the huts: your only option is to carry your own tent (park tents “might” be safe … but don’t quote me on that :) )
      About the vertical parts … I’m in my early 50s as well and not a rock climber. As a matter of fact you don’t need to be a rock climber to pass those sections. You only need to be fit (and you are), cautious, not suffer from dizziness and make use of some common sense. No gear is needed, sometimes you use your hands to help you along. That’s all.

      Best luck with your next challenge
      –Mike

      September 9, 2012 at 18:48

  14. Ellie Richards

    Hi Michele

    Thanks for the great description of the walk. Just was looking for some advice really. Me and a friend are considering doing the GR20 as part of our gap year after A levels in September 2013. We both have experience of walking with packs on Bronze, Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. We both have a reasonable level of fitness as we both run three/four times a week anywhere between 5 and 10km. We would also do some training, potentially in the welsh hills. I have quite a lot of mountain walking experience with my family as we are ‘munro baggers’ and neither of us have a problem with roughing it. I just wondered if we would be sensible to attempt it – we are both very determined individuals and would really like to do it but could do with some advice. Hope you can impart some words of wisdom!

    Thanks,
    Ellie

    September 13, 2012 at 21:33

    • Hi Ellie. With all the experience you described, I don’t really think you guys might have any problems in doing the GR20. The path is almost always uncomfortable (specially in the northern section), it’s mostly rugged and hardly level with lots of stones, rocks and slabs of granite. This is probably something you don’t have up in Scotland (correct me if I’m wrong), so be prepared! My page was meant to raise a level of awareness. Once you know what to expect, the rest lies in your fitness and determination (which you have). My only advice is: just don’t do it in the off-season.

      Best luck with your GR20

      –Michele

      September 14, 2012 at 06:10

  15. alan kennedy

    Hi I am currently planning to do the north section in early may of next year with my 16year old nephew.Not ideal timewise but work committments dictate!!! Can you give me insight to weather conditions at this time of year please.Any other essential early season info would be very helpful.I believe the huts are open but unmaned.Would there still be cooking facilties available? many thanks in advance. Alan from n.ireland

    November 25, 2012 at 23:39

    • Hi Alan,
      If you must do the north section in May, be aware chances are you’ll find a lot of snow especially in the gullies and on the crests where the likelihood of ice will be high (ice axe and crampons are a must). The weather will still be unstable and I doubt you’ll find other souls around. The huts will be open, unmanned and with gas and stove facilities available. But sometimes you’ll have to dig your way in :) Really not the ideal situation. However, I strongly recommend to follow the weather conditions around that time. If the winter season has been dry, the snow will be minimal and everything will be much easier. But don’t forget you’ll have to carry your own food start to finish or plan some detours to the villages below for supplies. Bus services will also be limited at that time of year.
      Please check out the official Park page for links about the weather conditions and the blog page that shows frequent updates (with photos) about the current trail status.
      http://www.parc-corse.org/

      November 26, 2012 at 07:14

  16. malcolm

    Hey mate,
    Awesome videos! truly inspiring!!just want to be there now. We are 2 guys from new Zealand coming to hike south to north beginning of july. Couple of questions if u find the time to answer
    – Do u know if there is a direct connection between Bastia and conca?
    – We are quite budget travellers so are planning on mainly wild camping but is it even possible?didnt look like many places from your video? Along those same budget lines what were the prices like in the huts for food?

    February 3, 2013 at 18:53

  17. Hi Malcom, thanks for your appreciation.
    There is a bus that travels from Bastia to Porto Vecchio and you want to get off at S.Lucie de Porto Vecchio. From there you can hitchhike your way to Conca or arrange a shuttle-bus pickup from La Tonnelle camping .

    Wild camping is forbidden but, like I said on this page, nobody seems to be there to enforce it. So yes, there are places where you can pitch your tent (possibly a little off the main route).

    Prices may vary from season to season (that’s why I didn’t mention any). However you could spend as far as 18 euros for a hot dinner and 8-9 euros for breakfast. Of course it all very much depends on what you eat: for instance a can of Pietra beer alone costs 6 euros (2011). But you can cook your own food and buy food supplies at almost every hut.

    I wish you a fantastic GR20
    Michele

    February 3, 2013 at 22:06

  18. Andre

    Hi Michele, thank you for the information above and enticing video:) We are planning to hike the GR20 early July this year. Concerning the North-South, South-North debate: We can fly to Figari for (100 Euro’s in total for 2 people) cheaper than to Calvi, and are returning via Ajaccio either way. Would you say that is motivation enough to rather hike from South to North? Or do you think transport from Figari to Calvi is cheap enough to still consider doing it from North to South? Your advice is appreciated! Regards Andre

    February 26, 2013 at 17:37

    • Hello Andre,
      I think it’s not a matter of costs of transportation as much as how long it would take you to travel from A to B and the time at your disposal. So you should check out the bus timetables and take into account delays. For instance: when I completed the south section, it took us an entire day to travel from Conca to Bastia and back to Vizzavona where our car was parked. But if costs are an issue, I think you guys can certainly do the GR20 from South to North with no problems. I always prefer not to waste any time at the beginning of a trek. I hope this answers your question.

      –Michele

      February 26, 2013 at 19:13

  19. Andre

    Thanks for the advice Michele, I agree I’d rather use the extra day for another activity or a spare day for if the weather changes for the worst. South to North it will be!

    February 26, 2013 at 21:48

  20. Kees Gort

    Hi Michele,

    At first I want to thank you for this site and your video. Stuff like this really helps me to prepare for the hardships (and the beauty) of the GR20. Regarding the GPS topic, I found a site offering free maps featuring tracks far superior to the tracks that are downloadable from Corsica for Hikers. Not only the GR20 track is showed, but also most/all of the alternatives and optional mountain ascents. It works like a clockwork on my GPS device and I’m really happy with it! I don’t know if you yourself use a GPS, but if you do, it’s really worth the effort checking it out!

    Here’s the link: http://openmtbmap.org/donate/odbl/download_france_en.html

    Greetings from Holland!

    March 4, 2013 at 20:08

    • Thanks for the heads up, Kees, I’ve checked it and indeed it’s a very good map. So I updated the page giving you credit for the precious info. And thanks for the appreciation of my site and videos.

      –Michele

      March 4, 2013 at 20:24

  21. Greg McFaul

    Sounds excellent advice, Thanks, I’m doing it mid to late August

    April 3, 2013 at 10:17

    • Thanks Greg. Please report back with your impressions, if you please.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:24

  22. Roger Gaff

    Michele, I have only just come across your very own blog on the GR20. You have always been straightforwardly honest in the your well thought out responses to folks asking for information regarding the ‘Fra li Monti’. You have put a lot of work into bringing through your two Videos the fun and pleasures of making this fantastic journey through the beautiful island. Corsica is never far away from my thoughts especially so here in Alba where the waters of the Atlantic regularly get dumped upon us here. :-)

    May 14, 2013 at 09:53

    • Thanks again Roger, for your kind words of appreciation. It is always a pleasure to hear from a good friend and true lover of this beautiful island. The Corsica wilderness is always in my heart and I look forward to returning as soon as possible.

      –Michele

      May 14, 2013 at 10:23

  23. ivo

    Hi,

    Me and a friend are going to do half the gr20 from south to north in july and since its forbidden to take gas canisters on the plane, I was wondering if it’s possible to find these in Conca or somewhere around there.

    Thanks in advance,

    Ivo

    (really like the blog, it’s very helpful)

    May 16, 2013 at 21:03

    • Hi Ivo,
      Gas canisters (you didn’t specify what type) are usually available everywhere on the island. However you should have better luck if you try in Porto Vecchio (which is close to Conca), or any large town.

      May 16, 2013 at 23:33

  24. Richard Sullivan

    Hi Mike,

    Looking into completing the Gr 20 in 12 days, as I have a tight schedule. Im planning on going from north to south. However, I’m finding it difficult to find information regarding buses from Conca to Calvi? I was wondering if you had any information regarding this?

    June 16, 2013 at 01:22

    • Hi Richard,

      Public transportation on the island is not that great. On http://corsicabus.org/ you should find the info you need. Basically a shuttlebus from camping La Tonnelle in Conca will take you to S.Lucie de Porto Vecchio to get the bus connection to Bastia. You can either get off in Bastia and jump on the first train to Calvi, or ask the bus driver to drop you off at Casamozza from where you’ll get the Bastia train headed to Calvi.
      However, bear in mind that times and connections are awful and if you’re out of luck you may end up wasting an entire day just to go from Conca to Calvi.

      June 16, 2013 at 23:02

  25. Phil

    Hi Mike,

    I’m hoping that you can help me out a bit. As I’ve never hiked in Europe before I’m unsure as to how to interpret the information you gave us here with my own experience. I’m a hiker from the United States, and when you say that the trails are basic, rugged and uneven, it sounds as though this isn’t the usual the norm for outdoor treks. Or is it the case that most Europeans aren’t used to it? The places I have backpacked so far have no huts or vendors and definitely no toilet. Everyone has to carry map, tent, food and necessities on the back for the whole duration, or restock at checkpoints. Do you think these experiences are adequate preparation for the GR 20, or does it require a different set of outdoor skills? And, if possible, how would you compare the GR 20 to trails in the US in terms of how well-marked they are?

    Thank you for your help.

    Best,
    Phil

    March 13, 2014 at 08:01

    • Phil,
      As I explain, the reason I started my page was to put people in the right perspective regarding this trail and what to expect. You might be surprised but many hikers were expecting a flat trail (more or less something like this)
      Quite the contrary for the most part, the ground of the GR20 (especially the northern section) is rough and rocky or covered in stones and boulders. Other times you will walk on granite slabs with no evidence of the trail except for the waymarks and or cairns. And these “features” are kind of offputting and very stressing (phisically and mentally) for many people. With this is mind I believe you can perfectly hike the GR20 with no problems at all. And rest assured the trail is VERY well-marked; in fact a map and/or gps device are really unnecessary.

      March 13, 2014 at 10:01

  26. Vered Shatil

    Hey Mike,

    We’re planning on starting the trail on the 29th of May, which is 2 days before the official season opening. We were wondering if the refugees will already be open or should we plan to bring the first 2 days of supply with us.
    Also, we tried looking for the national park phone number/e-mail but were unsuccessful (the official site “contact” link is broken), Do you happen to have it?

    Thanks
    Vered

    May 5, 2014 at 11:19

    • Hi Vered,
      It is customary for the refuge “gardiens” to arrive a few days earlier to do the usual maintenance chores and be prepared for the official season opening. So although I cannot guarantee it, your chances are you’ll find the huts already staffed and working. My best advice would be to contact the park agents at this address equipemontagne@parc-corse.org (best if you write in French) and ask them about this and other inquiries you might have.

      –Mike

      May 5, 2014 at 12:27

  27. vered shatil

    thanks for your answer. I will contact the park agents

    May 5, 2014 at 12:38

  28. Pete

    Hi Michele – Thanks for your page. I walked the GR5 from Lac Leman to Nice in July/August 2012 and considering the GR20 for this July. It sounds much harder than the GR5 because of the path remaining in the wilderness, far away from roads or villages for days on end. I am intending to walk on my own, but presumably there are lots of people walking at the same time, just like it was on the GR5. Many thanks again Pete

    May 24, 2014 at 18:34

    • Hi Pete,
      It’s definitely much harder than the GR5 especially because of the rugged terrain. And yes, you will find A LOT of people on the trail.
      Thanks for stopping by.

      –Michele

      May 25, 2014 at 22:38

  29. Xenia Karlsson

    Dear Michele,
    My two friends and I are planning to walk the southern part of gr20 in reverse from Conca, arriving at Porto Vecchio with the ferry. How do you recommend we go about starting the hike? We arrive early in the morning in Porto Vecchio so should we take the bus to Conca the same day and overnight there before starting our walk?
    Also, one of my friends is very allergic to nuts. She is going to bring a lot of food with her but do you think it would be very difficult to get a nut-free meal at the gites?
    Thank you,
    Xenia

    May 28, 2014 at 19:58

    • Dear Xenia,
      Since the first day is kind of long-ish and the trek starts at a very low altitude (hot temperatures), I recommend you to leave very early in the (next) morning and – if time constraints are not an issue – enjoy your arrival day in Porto Vecchio. You can take a later bus to Conca just to check in at the gite d’etape.
      Now, about the food, your friend should explain clearly at every gite her problem before ordering a meal (in case they use peanut oil, maybe?). Besides that, she “shouldn’t” have any problems because – as far as I know – I don’t think they use any nuts in the meals offered, (but please, double check that!).

      Enjoy your GR20

      –Michele

      May 28, 2014 at 20:55

  30. Xenia karlsson

    Thank you!
    I have one more question, predicted boat strikes on the la meriodionale ferry company are making us go to propriano with another ferry instead! Propriano is pretty close to the second stage and there is a bus that goes straight to Bavella (the alternative to Paliri) in the second day. Would you say the stage Conca-Bavella is worth making our way to porto vecchio and then to conca to start on the first stage?
    Thank you!
    Xenia

    May 30, 2014 at 16:55

    • Xenia,
      the answer is YES. While the first half of the first stage (Conca-Paliri) is kind of meh, the second half is beautiful: there is a mixture of granitic rocks with trees and bushes which I found very attractive (it is also briefly shown in my second video). Also the landscape at Paliri camp is fantastic; in fact I consider Paliri the most beautiful camping place of the whole GR20.

      But, of course, this is just my personal taste.

      –Michele

      May 30, 2014 at 17:22

  31. Onno

    I guess you can not hang a hammock in the huts? From roof beams or something? The temperature drops in the huts as well I presume? Thanks for your site, top notch.

    May 31, 2014 at 23:43

    • About hanging a hammock I guess it depends on how crammed the huts are (usually very) and the staff decision. But I never heard of someone hanging a hammock inside. On the other hand you are free to hang it outside, but in some places it’s hard to find a suitable environment (lack of trees etc.). And no, temperatures inside the huts are very warm (due to lack of ventilation and the number of people).

      –Michele

      June 2, 2014 at 21:25

  32. Hi guys I was wondering if any of you guys can help me. I will taking on the GR20 this weekend and was thinking of doing the hike in a pair of Men’s Chameleon Slam approach shoes. The reason for this is i’ve recently become Vegan and the choice is very limiting regards to footwear. I have done many long hikes and mountains before, and recently Mont Blanc, but these were with much higher boots. I’m pretty nimble on my feet so that’s why i went with the approach shoes, but after reading a lot of posts i’m now a little worried about how i’d get on? I will be carrying a 15kg ish rucksack due to carrying all my food and fuel. Any advice would be much appreciated. Btw Michele I love your vids, they’re ace :)

    June 5, 2014 at 18:43

    • Hi Nathan,
      As you may have read on my blog, because of the nature of the rugged terrain, I don’t recommend approach shoes (or shoes without ankle support). And that’s because your ankles will undergo a lot of stress to stabilize your pace. Yet, a lot of people still walk the GR20 with low-heel shoes and are fine. So I guess, in the end, the choice is just a matter of personal preference and habit.
      Thanks for the appreciation.
      –Michele

      June 5, 2014 at 21:01

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