The GR20, Frances most illustrious Grande Randonnee has been on my tick list for many years. The route (170km) traverses the relentlessly rugged mountains of Corsica and involves 19,000m of ascent and descent, climbing to an altitude of 2225m. Some sections of the route involve pitches fixed with ladders and chains, while others involve snow slopes.
We set off in June with camping equipment and food supplies, anticipating spectacular views, blistering hot weather, etc. What we had was long heavy periods of rain, a great deal of mist, a hailstorm and much snow underfoot.
The following is a brief summary of our adventures:
Day 1 to the Piobbu refuge. A hot start which soon clouded over, R's new boots started to disintegrate and needed gaffer tape.
Day 2, a long day to the Carrozzu refuge. In the absence of mist, the ridge walk would have been spectacular, but we did enjoy the scrambling and the challenge of the various boulder-problems en route. It was interesting meeting French, Austrian, Belgian, German, Scottish, and Irish groups who were good company in the evenings.
Day 3, to Haut Asco, at a roadhead. Here we met C and G B whose beach trip was abandoned due to pouring rain. M locked himself in a shower to be rescued by a lady lock-picker with a kitchen knife. R's new rucksac started to fall apart needing S's sewing kit for repairs.
Day 4, through the Cirque de Solitude. Sunshine and spectacular views, before descending the 200m sheer-sided amphitheatre enclosed by the Cinto massif, and up the other side. At the Tighjettu refuge, the guardian celebrated his birthday, giving everyone free hut places.
The next few days, 5, 6 and 7 were in very bad weather, traversing snow with hail and, with the refuges full, we were camping from then onwards. The Austrians, Germans and the Army gave up.
Day 8, we were blessed with sunshine and took the high level variant over a delightful scrambly ridge to the Onda refuge.
Day 9, we abandoned plans to traverse Monte dOro and took the lower level variant in rain and mist again, spirits plummeting. A restaurant in Vizzavona provided respite from the rain, a nice meal and a rocky campsite. Many sensible people finished the trek at this point, the end of the northern section.
Day 10 marked the start of the southern section and some respite from the elements.
Day 11, the ascent of Monte Renoso was misty and interesting, requiring map and compass navigation.
Days 12-15, gave warm sunny ridge scrambles, taking in the summit of Monte Incudine.
The campsites around the refuges became very crowded, one boasted a toilet with no door, a room with a view! At last we were in sunshine, R swam in a mountain pool, and we descended to Conca. This was certainly a memorable trip and although many European groups withdrew part way, or finished after the northern section, the MAM group were gluttons for punishment, and made it to the end. After all, we are used to this sort of weather in England!