Hiking the GR20 review by Philippe – Guest Article

Fellow adventurer and explorer Philippe H. undertook a breathtaking journey across Corsica, which challenged him not only physically, but also psychologically. Read his report about hiking the GR20 here!


This summer, I did a two-weeks trekking trip together with my cousin in Corsica. It was the very first time I hiked for such a long time and that’s why I was in need for ultralight gear. My mate Tom from ExpediTom helped me out and I could borrow the Sea to Summit Spark II Sleeping Bag, Meru Inlay Sleeping Bag Silk, Thermarest Neoair Xlite Sleeping Pad and some other useful gadgets to survive in the wilderness. In return, I am writing a short guest article for his blog.

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Philippe on top of a Corsican Mountain ridge during sunset
Map of the GR20

There are several long distance trekking trails in Europe, the so-called GR routes (in French Grande Randonée). We picked the GR20, which is said to be one of the hardest due to its length (170km), the altitude difference (13’000m) and the conditions of the path.

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High altitude where there is even snow
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Philippe’s cousin

After packing our 18-kg rucksacks we started our trip in Calenzana with the Corsican mountains in front of us. The first day we ascended 1500m which was pretty hard for me and I realized how important hiking sticks are. I would not recommend to do the GR20 without them. Your knees will be grateful and you will avoid to fall in the steep and rocky descents.

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The GR20 is 170kms long
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The primary wind direction is quite obvious

 

We did the entire GR20 in twelve stages, which is approximately a 7 hour hike every day. It is not allowed to camp wild but there are ‘Bergeries’ and baracks similar to the Swiss SAC huts where you are allowed to camp. There is also the possibility to sleep in a bed inside the hut for a small charge and sometimes they even offer dinner and breakfast.

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Spectacular views

The views that you get during the hike are spectacular and the environment changes every day. You’ll come by hundreds of gorgeous natural pools formed by mountain creeks where you can have a break and get a cooling-off. But be careful. I had a little accident as I opened my rucksack. All of a sudden, my sleeping bag rolled off the rock towards the water. In order to catch it before it gets wet and looses its insulation ability, I chased it. Due to my barefoot run downhill, I got injured and started bleeding. The next day I struggled with the heavy pain and already thought that I had to give up. Luckily, it got better in the evening and I could walk the rest of the way without pain again.

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Rewarding scenery
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Panorama

Be also aware of carrying always enough water with you. There are some sources where you can refill your water but the distances between them are often very long.

Furthermore, you can’t always trust the information that you get from a guide book. We had to learn this lesson the hard way. Our guide book mentioned that there is a source in the middle of a six hour hike.  Thus, we didn’t want to carry more weight than necessary and filled only 1 litre of water for each of us. After approximately three hours of a difficult ascend of 400 metres, we reached the spot of the source without any water left in our bottles. Unfortunately, there was no source anymore. We looked desperately for it because we were very thirsty, but it seemed to be dried-out a long time ago. We still had three hours of walking and 300 more metres of ascension to tackle and so we checked the map if there was a river or a little stream somewhere near.

No river. No stream.

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As far as the eye can see
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Rugged mountain ridge
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Harsh environment

We had no choice than to keep going and reach the next alpine hut. After a while my mouth was completely dry and I was swearing about our decision not to carry additional water. Fortunately, after one and a half hour of suffering we met a group of other hikers who helped us out.

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Envrionment changes daily

To sum up, we had a fabulous hike in the Corsican mountains, we did not die of thirst, I was always warm during the nights thanks to Tom’s sleeping bag and our bodies did recover well from all the ascents and descents.

I can highly recommend to do the GR20 and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask me.

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Lush green meadows
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Locals
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Finally the sea.

Summary about hiking the GR20

As Philippe reported it is advisable to take hiking poles with you on the GR20 adventure. Additionally, he recommends to always bring plenty of water with you and to question the information in guide books. Therefore, local knowledge gathered in huts and from hikers might be more accurate than written books.

Thanks Philippe for this impressive insight into a long distance hiker’s journey. It was a pleasure to read your review.

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