GR 20, Cor­sica

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - Adventure -

REL­A­TIVELY UN­KNOWN IN Aus­tralia, this 180km-long jour­ney tra­verses the mid­dle of the is­land of Cor­sica, and prom­ises a min­i­mum of two, prefer­ably three, weeks of spec­tac­u­lar hik­ing as you move through a va­ri­ety of land­scapes. It is renowned as Europe’s tough­est trek, with an ac­cu­mu­lated as­cent of just over 10,000m. The GR 20 (GR stands for Grand Ran­don­née, or Great Walk) is di­vided into two sec­tions – north and south – and it is the north that will chal­lenge hik­ers the most. This section is more moun­tain­ous, with steeper and more rocky tracks to ne­go­ti­ate, as well as the higher alti­tude to con­tend with, when com­pared to the south­ern section. This north­ern section joins Calen­zana in the north­west of the is­land, with Viz­za­vona pretty much smack-bang in the mid­dle. The south­ern section be­gins here and fin­ishes on the is­land’s east­ern side, just in from the coast, at Conza.

The chal­lenges are many on the GR 20, espe­cially in the north­ern section, and range from un­pre­dictable wild weather and the tough 1500m-plus as­cent on the first day, to tack­ling the track’s tough­est full day, the Cirque de La Soli­tude and its mix of ladders and chains that need to be ne­go­ti­ated as part of the cirque, on day four. And yes, you’ve barely started. These chal­lenges are bal­anced with the al­ways-wel­come prospect of stay­ing the night at one of the 16 refuges (moun­tain huts) dot­ted along the route as you make your way south. Be aware these refuges are not as lux­u­ri­ous as what you will find in the Swiss Alps, for in­stance, but still of­fer a warm wel­come and a de­cent level of com­fort after a big day in the moun­tains. And also be sure to pack a bivy bag just in case the refuge is full when you ar­rive.

The south­ern section of the GR 20 of­fers its own high­lights: the i pozzi, a sys­tem of un­der­ground wa­ter­holes sit­ting at a lofty 1800m alti­tude in an im­mense alpine val­ley; myr­iad dense forests with of­ten barely dis­cernible trail mark­ers to up the ‘ad­ven­ture’ of your hike; some still-rugged and chal­leng­ing cols and moun­tain sec­tions to tackle; and a con­tin­u­a­tion of al­ways hos­pitable refuges. You will also spot the Mediter­ranean to both your left and right as you walk high along the ridge­lines.

The only sad part of the GR 20 ex­pe­ri­ence is re­al­is­ing that at some point you will have to leave your alpine refuge and re­join the heav­ing masses in the tourist towns down on the coast. Still, after two to three weeks in the wild, at least you know that pizza and beer will taste fan­tas­tic.

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