Corsica – The Tough Way

Let’s Go – Corsica

A hiking boot, found just before the last refuge before arriving at Conca – the southern end of the trail

The Challenge. Created to allow walkers to discover the beautiful and diverse interior of Corsica, the GR20 is a long and tough trek that requires a high level of fitness, lots of mountain walking experience and sure­footedness for the rocky landscape and mountain ridges. The 16-stage route, which crosses Corsica diagonally from north to south, is approximately 112 miles long. Expect to walk for an average of six to nine hours a day (not including stops), with considerable daily ascents and descents that can be rough underfoot.

When to Go. Due to heavy snowfall in winter, the main hiking season is late June to October. The weather in Corsica is generally dry from May to September, with plenty of daylight hours if you intend to double up some stages. Many hikers set their alarms for 4am to minimise walking during the hottest times of the day. But remember that the weather in the mountains can be unpredictable. Thunderstorms are common in summer afternoons, so carry wet weather gear similar to that needed for hiking in the UK. Temperatures in the mountains can also be significantly cooler than on the coast, falling below zero at night, as the environment is more alpine than Mediterranean.

Timescale. Fifteen or 16 days are ideal to complete the GR20, but 12 days is adequate if you are fit and can manage to double up on some stages. A sobering thought is that the French Foreign Legion stationed in Corsica usually do it in seven days as training! Bear in mind that limiting yourself to 12 days will not allow for a zero hiking day’ should you need it, for example in the case of bad weather, minor injury or fatigue and the need to spend a day resting. Think carefully about your itinerary and capabilities and be realistic about what you can achieve based on your hiking experience.

Where to Stay. Refuges and gîte d’etapes offer basic accommodation and food along the route. From June to September they are staffed by wardens [gardiens], who provide sup­plies and prepare a meal in the evening.

PNRC (Parc Naturel Regional de Corse) refuges are generally equipped with bunk beds and offer the use of a well-equipped kitchen, dining room and shower-toilet block. If you’re camping at the refuges you don’t need to book, but it’s advisable to if you want a dorm bed.

What to Take. What to take depends how light you want to travel. Staying in the refuges or hiring a tent at each one means you only have to carry sleeping gear. To travel even lighter you can buy food at every refuge, albeit for a heavily inflated price. The selection varies but all refuges usually have bread, saucisson, tinned fish, pasta and jars of tomato sauce.

Hiking kit we recommend includes a waterproof and windproof jacket for the changeable weather, ankle scree gaiters to keep stones out of your trail shoes, and walking poles for additional support on all the ascents and descents.

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