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Thread: Gr20 hints and tips

  1. #1
    ‹bermensch
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    Having recently returned from the GR20 having done the Southern section and then retired hurt after injuring my knee I thought it would be worthwhile mentioning a few items not mentioned previously.

    Getting to Conca. I got the overnight ferry from Marseilles to Bastia. Suggest you book the cheapest fare - reclining seat - and make sure you have a camping mat near the top of your rucksack. Most similar passengers ignore the seat and find somewhere else to sleep. I slept on the open deck. Bus from Bastia at 08.30. I had emailed the gite at Conca in advance requesting a reservation and telliing them of my travel plans. They were waiting for me at the bus drop off point. There were two other fellow hikers on the bus and so we were charged only 4 euros each.

    Getting back from Vizzavona. Having terminated my trip prematurely I had to lose my return booking and had no idea how I was going to return. Tossed a coin as to whether to catch the train to Ajaccio or Bastia. The latter won ( 17 euros). In Bastia the door down (Thomas Cook) from where I had purchased the original bus ticket provided me with all necessary ferry, train information. In the next block up was a Cyber cafe where I investigated air journeys. From these two places identified the best way home - which was overnight ferry to Marseilles, train to Nice and FlyGlobespan to Edinburgh ( 150 euros). An alternative would have been hotel in Bastia, day ferry to Nice and FlyGlobespan to Edinburgh (150 euros). I preferred the night at sea.

    Gas. I carried a Titanium mug and Coleman F1 stove but found no suitable gas cannister until Vizzavona! Although huts had notices that kitchens were for refuge users only, this was ignored by campers with no comeback. The gas rings for campers had two burners, one small one which isssued minimal heat and one big one where all the heat was wasted on a small based mug.

    All huts provided substantial ( ie there were left overs) basic meals except for Prati which only provided 'chaud Repas' of carrots.

    There was minimal queuing for stoves, toilets and showers, the latter actually being warm at Prati until the sun went down.

    Next time I go I will not book a return trip in advance, still take an F1 stove (just in case) and take a wide based pan.

  2. #2
    Mini Goon
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    Sorry to hear you had to bail out, Pete; bummer. Was GR20 worth all the hastle?

  3. #3
    Goon
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    Do you think it feasable to use a wood burning stove all or part of the way (maybe a meths stove as backup) please? This question is for anyone who has done all of the GR20 of course!

    Agreed, must have been a real let down having to 'retire' AND all the hassle that went with it. Have put off doingthis'walk'more years than i can remember.

  4. #4
    Widdler
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    Yes it would be feasable to use a wood burning stove.Would start to collect wood near end of stage. I used gas bought from supermarket at Calvi.Its the hardest walk I ever down,Needed to carry 3-4 litres of water.Glad I did it.Very hot last year

  5. #5
    Ultra King edwin's Avatar
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    Possible but why - you can use the stoves at the refuges ...

    It is a fine walk - but way too busy for my tastes.

  6. #6
    ‹bermensch
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    I enjoyed the walking , going south to north there were about 10 of us each day. I reckon I met about 50 per day on average going the other way. The hut areas were disappointing. By the time I got there the best camping spots were occupied. Don't suppose advanced bookings would have made any difference.

    I got away with 1.5 litres of water - mind you there were ample refill points on the southern section. Weight of ruck sack was 10.5 kgms without food or water.

    3rd attempt next year - mid to late September. I've seen the flowers - no need to go early.

  7. #7
    Mini Goon
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    I started at Calenzana and, having had my gas cartridge confiscated by Eurostar (London end, of course, although the 'rules' said only no CS gas canisters, nothing about camping gas) was fairly amazed to fine Coleman's cylinders on sale at the small Spar in the village. Well done to those people.

    I camped throughout - less hassle than rushing for the dortoir places - except for Haut Asco (hotel) and relied on evening meals from the refuge and did breakfast (porrige) myself most mornings using my MSR stove. This worked out pretty well and a single gas cyclinder lasted pretty much to Vizzavona with occasional evening hot drinks. By this point I was out of porrige so it was hut food all the way. Like Pedro said, I found this adequate and sometimes really good. Dinner at Bergeries L'Onda was a high point and the fresh bread for breakfast at Manganu was really great - on a par with fresh oranges at Castello di Vergio, which has an unusually civilised camping area with tables and chairs by the pitches under the trees (but service in the hotel/restaurant is still as Paddy describes it - grudging at best).

    I generally left fairly early on a morning - about 7am - rather than the stupid early that some people seemed to think was necessary (i.e. 5am - dawn) and was usually fairly well under the guide book times for ascents (but not descents) so some days got in before noon to the refuge. This was good for getting one of the better camping spots but I also had a one-person tent which also gives a bit more flexibility as some of the pitches were fairly restricted in size. When I started (11th June) the route wasn't busy and I seemed to fit between the early leaving French and the later leaving Germans so often spent most of the day walking completely alone - nice. By Refuge L'Onda, things were very different with a lot of people starting from Vizzavona going north. I don't know whether it was the reports of snow in the north, but it seemed to me that at at least as many people were going south to north as north to south at least for the first few days.

    Old Boy - I think you'd be OK with a wood burning stove at the refuges, where there were actual wood piles in some cases marked as fire wood, but not between refuges.

  8. #8
    ‹bermensch
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    Fiona

    Copied from Eurostar site:-

    Below you'll see a list of the items which are not allowed on board, or which will only be permitted if you seek special permission before you travel. With this special permission these items may be transported as registered luggage in the train's hold. This special permission is not guaranteed however, so make sure you contact us well in advance if you have any doubts.

    Bear in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. Any article which is inherently dangerous or which could be used to commit an act of violence or threat will also not be allowed. For example items such as imitation, replica or toy guns, ice axes, household cutlery, camping tools, shriek alarms, hypodermic syringes and butane gas canisters will not be permitted.


    As you can see gas cannisters are not permitted. Maybe I'll try and get special permission in future!

  9. #9
    Mini Goon
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    The problem was that I didn't book through the Eurostar site as I took the train from Cumbria to Nice so Eurostar was a short and inconvenient section in the middle. On the French rail network site (and very oddly, given the above post, on the Eurostar safety leaflet at St Pancras which was given to me by the security official confiscating the gas canister) only CS gas is banned although it is suggested that knives will be examined and treated on a case by case basis.

    Basically the whole security thing on Eurostar is completely OTT. I mean, consider what goes into the tunnel via the car/truck trains. I've never heard of anyone with a camper van with a (big) gas cyclinder and sizeable kitchen knives being asked to remove them before leaving the country.You could take a whole carful of explosives on board and no one would be any the wiser. So just why do the train passengers get harassed? The whole point of the train is that it's supposed to compete against flying by being more convenient - but Eurostar isn't. I can pack a knife, ice axe crampons and whatnot in my hold luaage on a plane. Whereas with Eurostar you have to get special permission. What complete rubbish.

    Rant over

  10. #10


    Finished the GR20 (Calenzana-Conca) two weeks ago - it was 11 days of pure meditation; eat - sleep - walk. Quite exhausting - and some parts more exciting than I wanted them to be - but well worth all the effort. Loved it.

    We did not bring a stove and hardly any extra food, and we survived (although we had to eat chocolate for breakfast a few mornings.). We noticed that we had to remember to add some fat and protein (i.e. chocolate, cheese and sausage) to our diet on the remote refuges - otherwise we could have encountered a few problemes with all the pasta-meals.

    We did, however, carry quite a lot of water (2-3liters/person), maybe a bit to much on some days since it wasn't that hot, but it was better than risking running out. (Try hiking in Greece in July, and you'll never want to be out of water again..) .

    We camped all the time, and it was perfect, but it got a bit chilly and windy during the nights - especially when the fog came in. We used a 1 season sleeping bag (comfort +8, extreme +1), but wore a thin layer of wool inside to keep warm. Most nights we had to wear socks too. And a buff on your head is a must!

    Additionally, I would recommend bringing a pair of trekking poles. We used ours 95% of the time, and our knees would have been completely wrecked without them.

  11. #11
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    Leia - Did you bother with the new booking system, or did you just turn up unannounced and pitch your tent at the refuges? I guess that the GR20 is now getting its biggest number of visitors, from mid-July to mid-August, and I'm wondering if they're applying the new 'rules' any more strictly.

  12. #12
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    Paddy, if you look at the National Park web site, you will see they have now changed their tune. It is no longer compulsary to book ahead. You can just turn up and pay.

  13. #13
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    Typical... after all that fuss earlier in the year!

    I guess it was doomed to failure once the word got out that the refuge guardians weren't keen on the scheme.

  14. #14
    Yup, we had no problems just turning up. Seemed to get a bit overcrowded near the end (Asinau), though. Hardly any tent-spaces left around 17:00.. Don't know if it was because it was getting closer to peak season, or if there are more people near the end anyway. (Might have been two-days-trippers climbing Inquedine?)

  15. #15
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    Asinau gets crowded anyway. I turned up there during a fairly quiet spell once, but still had trouble finding a pitch. I'd actually started putting my tent on the grassy patch reserved for helicopter landings, but the guardian came out waving her arms furiously at me, saying 'whoosh whoosh whoosh'. Turned out that she was doing a good mimic of a helicopter!

    It's surprising how extra-busy things get between July 15th - Bastille Day - and August 15th - Assumption Day.

  16. #16
    BTW - does anyone know of a good google earth tool to show friends and familiy the route?

  17. #17
    Goon Judy A's Avatar
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    High pressure over the Balkans is bringing a sand-laden Scirocco wind from the Sahara to Corsica at the moment: 43.4C there yesterday ‚?¶

    ... unfortunately that means forest fires: 10,000 acres burning in 3 fires in South west Corsica near Sartene / Ajaccio. One has been slowed, but the others are growing as of this morning.Palls of smoke will be visible from the southern GR20. As far as I can make out, the fires are a long way from the crests and are being fought by 6 planes with retardant and sea water, but with the wind and these temperatures ... one to watch.

    From French reports at 1130GMT Friday

    Judy

  18. #18
    Goon Judy A's Avatar
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    There is no notice on the PNRC website advising GR20 or TMM walkers, however I've just found this, which advises walkers to KEEP AWAY FROM THE GR20 AND TMM (presumably the Southern parts near the fires, though this is not mentioned).

    ¬ęNous d√©conseillons fortement aux vacanciers de partir en for√™t¬Ľ

    Avec ces incendies toujours en cours, les autorit√©s locales multiplient les conseils de prudence, aux vacanciers notamment: ¬ęNous d√©conseillons fortement aux personnes qui sont en vacances de partir dans les massifs, ni sur le GR [Grandes randonn√©es], ni sur le Mare Monte, explique le pr√©sident du conseil g√©n√©ral de Corse-du-Sud. Parce que vues la canicule et la temp√™te de vent qu'on annonce pour ces 2 ou 3 jours, poursuit-il, il n'est pas recommand√© de partir dans les massifs forestiers faire de la randonn√©e ou du canyon, c'est beaucoup trop dangereux. Sur l'incendie qui est parti de Fozzano, c'est-√*-dire du Valinco, quelques personnes ont du leur salut au fait qu'ils se sont r√©fugi√©s dans le lit de la rivi√®re, et il a fallu tous les h√©litreuill√©s. Si un incendie part dans certains massifs forestiers, on n'aura pas le temps d'√©vacuer tout le monde.¬Ľ


    We strongly discourage holiday makers from walking in the forest.

    With these fires still burning, local authorities are repeating the need for care, to tourists in particular:

  19. #19
    Widdler
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    French news sites are reporting that there are still fires at Aullène which I think is at 5-10 km from Bavella (the stage to refuge de Paliri)

    Im planning to do the GR20 for the first time starting the 8th, I dont recall reading anything about fires in the north part and will ask the locals about what is possible for going south.

    Does anyone here has any news from the GR20 atm or advice?

  20. #20
    Ultra King Paddy Dillon's Avatar
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    I've seen plenty of evidence of former forest fires along the GR20, but thankfully have never been inconvenienced by them. In fact, the last fire I saw in Corsica was in the maquis between Calenzana and Calvi. Helicopters were water-bombing it. Two GR20 walkers who live near me were prevented by PNRC rangers from starting the route from Calenzana one year, since there was a blaze that actually cut across the trail. I saw the burnt area a year later, and while it wasn't particularly extensive, I guess the rangers got spooked because it was in an area where walkers were burnt to death some years previously. Those two guys had to re-start their walk from Haut Asco, but when they finished at Conca, they travelled back to Haut Asco and walked to Calenzana, as the fire had long since been put out. A fire at Bavella would be awful. The area between Paliri and Conca was once devastated by a fire, but is now well on the way to recovery.

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