Palermo

GR20

The GR20: Day 2

Polly FarringtonComment

Day 2: Ref. d’ I Paliri – ref. d’Asinau

Date: 24th June 2019
Distance: 13.5km
Ascent: 1284m
Descent: 808m
Weather: HOT & SUN

Rolling out the tent it was clear it was going to be another beautiful day. In order to avoid some of the worst heat we had set an alarm for 6.30am and were still persevering with boiling water for porridge and coffee but it was becoming apparent if we wanted to get moving this was going to be a luxury we had to give up. Who doesn’t love cold soaked porridge on holiday?

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Having a relaxed attitude is great, do recommend. Leaving your packing til the last second and realising you’ve lost your rucksack in a recent house move and having to borrow one that is way too large back-size-wise but way too small content-wise, do not recommend.

Trying to repack each day was a precarious endeavour. My pack was so stuffed that after I put the water bladder in, if I bent over or even breathed out too hard, water would pour out.

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Nothing to worry about here…

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People who hike the northern section first are often under the misapprehension that the southern half is easy, unfortunately having done it all I can tell you there are no real easy parts on the GR20 just marginally less-gruelling.

We spent day 2, the high variant between Paliri and d’Asinau, climbing up forested slopes, scrambling over rocks and rolling down the other side, lowering ourselves off precipices before eventually coming to a river bed where we were able to take off our shoes and soak swollen feet in the ice cold water.

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It was unbearably hot by the time we began the final climb up to the Refuge d’Asinau, vertical and never ending. A final traverse across the mountain brought us to the refuge.

There is no shade. Not a single sliver. It is 2.30pm, 33 degrees and we are half way up the exposed side of the mountain with seven hours until the sun sets. It is times like these you do the only thing you can, have a fully dressed shower, drape a travel towel over your head like a microfiber ghost and lie very still in a tent that is hot like an oven, but at least provides a small amount of shade. Finally, at 8pm, the sun disappears behind the mountains and you can relax.

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The GR20: Day 1

Polly FarringtonComment

The GR20, along with the TMB and the Walkers Haute Route is one of the classic mountain treks. It is 180km long with 10,000m+ of climbing and the terrain is extremely rugged e.g. during the Northern half there is not so much a path, just thousands of rocks to scramble over. It is commonly thought of as one of the most beautiful treks in the world and the unique geological properties of Corsica with the incredible mountain range running down the centre with miles of ridge line and the sea often within sight.

Alex (travelling companion/housemate/fiancée) and I are, more or less, reasonably competent at hiking long distance mountain trails  and having done a fair few now we went into this feeling pretty relaxed, too relaxed we would soon discover.

We arrived in Bastia the last week of June and caught a bus down to Conca, we would be hiking the trail in the opposite direction to normal (South to North) in order to have the sun on our backs and to do the more “gentle” southerly section first before moving onto the more rugged northerly section. I still maintain this was a good plan, what we weren’t prepared for however was the extreme heat wave heading for southern Europe during the 10 days we had scheduled for this trip.

I’ll be detailing our trip in this blog.

Back when rocks were still a novelty!

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Stage 1: Conca – Refuge d’l Paliri

Date: 23rd June 2019

Distance 13.8km

Ascent: 1228m

Descent: 431m

Weather: Hot (you will notice a pattern start to emerge here)

The trail climbs steeply out of Conca up an exposed tarmac road before eventually turning off and joining the trail, the official start of the GR20. We had spent the night at the Gite La Tonelle (the traditional end point for most trekkers), testing out our home for the next 10 days, a small green tent held up with our trekking poles just big enough for two.

Everyone says the second half of the trail, from Vizzavona to Conca (the section we were doing first) is a bit of a disappointment after the dramatic scenery of first half. Don’t listen to them though, it was beautiful, lush and green with rocky mountains rising in the distance and pine cones as big as your head. It felt hard though, wasn’t this supposed to be the easy section? And it was hot, really hot. Sweat mixing with sun cream and running into your eyes, burning, something we would get very used to. We started to see people coming in the other direction, at the final stage of their hikes. They all looked very ready for the end. 

Sweat soaked.

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At one point we found ourselves walking behind a large cow and her calf, this is single track so there is no easy way around. And also cows are terrifying. We fell in line behind the cow and eventually overtook when a hiker much braver than ourselves created a human shield to let us past. We later saw the same cow/calf chilling at the campsite.

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We completed the final climb in the hottest part of the day and it was tough, heavy bags full of food, relentless sun. Wasn’t this the easy part? When we finally emerged into a shady campsite on the col with lots of tree cover it felt amazing, a freeze dried dinner, a glacier shower in a shack with a falling off door and it was time to call it a night.

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