Sitting on the plane for our short hop from London to Nice we barely talked about our forthcoming adventure. This may seem strange to some but we wanted to discover it for ourselves rather build it up into something in our minds that was probably nowhere near reality. All we knew is that GR20 is considered to be Europe’s toughest long trail. Traversing diagonally across Corsica it is not only the most difficult but also the most visually spectacular, and we couldn’t wait to get there.
After landing in France the next step of our journey was to catch the ferry to Calvi in the north of Corsica and our anticipation grew by the second as we neared the port. An average of 15 to 25km a day on this northern section was awaiting us. We couldn’t wait to start and when we did we certainly weren’t disappointed. This trek had it all. Forests so deep in beech and Lariccio trees they looked impenetrable, vast windswept ridges, the tranquil silence of rolling valleys and the miles of glistening snow fields between the towering mountains.
Even with the snow this was far from a barren landscape and splashes of breathtaking colours peppered the vistas and free roaming wildlife simply added to the enjoyment. The hardest part of GR20 North is the Cirque de la Solitude which offers explorers cables, chains and ladders in order to conquer its most challenging sections. It is the steep ascents and descent which are most difficult as they are not only covered but start at sea level and the relentless rise and fall is hard on the knees. I recommend walking poles, especially for the descents which are really testing. Whilst there is a fair bit of scrambling on GR20 itself you won’t get much than grade 1.
The trail causes you to ascend Bocca di Fuciale and you are rewarded with amazing views right across the Golo Valley before descending to Verghio. The next day takes you to Lac de Nino, a stunning glacial lake nestling amongst grassy meadows, and the rest of the natural pools. There are huts right along the trail where you get water and fill up your canteens to take with you.
You need to time your visit to GR20 carefully and we chose June for our trek. Much cooler than in the height of summer but still warm and clear so you can enjoy the views in all their glory. There was only one night and following day when we had rain and gusty winds inflicted on us. I followed the upper route of the trail which was also gusty as I crosses the ridges and there were some patches of snow around too but they didn’t prove too problematic.
Accommodation wise I preferred to stay in the mountain huts or refuges. These are located in most of the stages along the GR20 trail and while they are basic they offer everything you need to get a good sleep for the day ahead. If you are thinking about taking the GR20 trail, I would recommend either late June or early September for the most comfortable trekking conditions and to be able to fully absorb the scenery around you.