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GR-20 Questions
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Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
GR-20 Questions on 01/27/2012 08:50:42 MST Print View

Hi all,

I'm lucky enough to have the time to do the GR-20 this year, likely in August. I have a few questions I was hoping to ask of anyone who has done it before, or people who seem to be doing better at research than I am. I did the John Muir Trail this year, so these questions are in light of that.

What was your experience getting "Alcohol a Bruler" before hitting the trail?

What was your eating regimen for the trip? I'm particularly interested in how much food to bring, as I don't think I'll be wanting to pay the (from my understanding) 15-25 euro for a refuge meal. I know how to calculate basic "I need this much a day", but I was wondering about your experience with finding food at refuges to then cook along the trail. How expensive was bread? Dried meats? Freeze dried meals? I'm particularly interested in this as I believe organizing a food drop is difficult.

What was your August weather experience? I hear rain storms are decently likely. I used a poncho tarp on my last trek, but was thinking of switching to a dedicated rain jacket for this. I also hear the temperatures on the island are pretty high, but am not certain that applies to those higher altitudes.

How was your traveling to and from experience? Was it easy to get to Calenzana? Was it easy to get out of Vizzavona?

Any trail worries I should know about?


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: GR-20 Questions on 01/27/2012 13:57:38 MST Print View

> What was your experience getting "Alcohol a Bruler" before hitting the trail?
Difficult. A large hardware store or supermarket is usually OK, but finding them ...

> I don't think I'll be wanting to pay the (from my understanding) 15-25 euro for a refuge meal.
Be about half that in my experience.

>experience with finding food at refuges to then cook along the trail.
Generally not possible. They are not in the business of resupply. But they can do cut-lunches no trouble.

> How expensive was bread?
From the shops in the towns, cheap, and good. Also cheese and jam and sausage.
From the refuges - available but rather more expensive.

> Dried meats? Freeze dried meals?
Huh? What is that?
Unobtainable. Generally unknown.


xac kurush
(xackurush) - F
Re: GR20 on 01/27/2012 14:50:52 MST Print View


I 've done the Gr 20 last August with 2 friends, starting from Conca the 10th(in the south, near Porto Vecchio) ending in Calenzana the 21th. We had warm and sunny weather and no rain, but remember that in Corsica the weather can change very quickly, due to the proximity of the sea (it changes faster than in the alps) and you can get stormy weather with snow and temperature near 32°F in July or August.

We got high temperature on the daylight but it can go near 32°C by night as some refugee (on the gr20 you have to sleep near the refugee in a camp zone with other hikers (it costs 6 euros by night) , but you have drinking water shower and toilets (rustic but efficient ;) )

You can get "Alcool à Bruler" in every supermarket, (in Porto Vecchio if you go South-> North or in Calvi if you go North to South) It cost approximately 3€ for 1 liter. If i remember right, stoves are only allowed in camp place (near refugee)(and no wood fire) to avoid forest fire.

For the food, you can resupply in mostly all refugee, but some are better than other for that (some have little supply)! You can buy pasta, canned fish (sardines), bread (3 euros for 500g but not always available),etc... It's more expensive than in supermarkets. Cooked food are not equal in all refugee. It costs around 15 euros but quantities and qualities varies. As it slightly change from year over year, the best is to speak with other hikers who are going in the other side of the path. You can't get freeze dried food but you can get some local delicatessen.

To go to calenzana you have a train and a bus from bastia and a bus to go to porto vecchio.

This site is not official but it give good advices fr transports: (and it's in english to!)

If you have other questions don't hesitate!

Best reguards


PS: sorry for the grammatical mistakes ... :D

ed hyatt
(edhyatt) - MLife

Locale: The North
GR20 on 01/27/2012 15:23:37 MST Print View

Did this 5 (?) years or so back.

On my way to bed so here is a link to a trip report and will follow up with any info others have not covered tomorrow.

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
GR-20 Questions on 01/27/2012 16:09:00 MST Print View

very kind of you three to respond!

Thanks Roger. I'll mentally change my dinner cost ideas. It does rather seem like, when camping, you could spend 30-35 euro a day eating their dinner, taking a cut lunch with you from them, and camping in designated (required, I understand) spots. Does that sound about right?

Cyril thanks for all that. Is there any "stealth camping", or camping where you don't have to pay? I guess in the long run 6 euro isn't much money, but it's just the principal I guess. Did you eat mostly from the refuges? How much food did you wind up bringing?

Beautiful pictures ed!

I'm most interested in people's food strategies. I might be a happy camper with bread and jam during the day and just cooking for dinner, mixing in the occasional refuge meal. Is that what you guys did?

If anyone has done both the GR-20 and the John Muir Trail, how did they compare?

Many bugs on the GR-20?

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
RE: GR-20 Questions on 01/27/2012 16:37:07 MST Print View

This GR-20 forum site might be helpful as well, or this great video

John T. another member mentioned to me you were planning a trip, he helped me with mine in Sept.2011 and it was indispensable----especially the part about going from South to North. As I was on trail, I was so happy I listened to that one piece of advice.

The sun is out of your eyes and at your back the whole way. You get into camp earlier/different time then the majority N-S people (it was just right for spaces on my trip but will be crowded in Aug). It just makes more sense when actually on trail with what you're walking on during the downhill/uphill sections.

Maybe I'll do the trip report I was planning 6 months ago, now that I know someone will find it useful.

I used isobutane myself, and had no trouble finding it in Calvi (major airport city near Calenzana at northern end) at the supermarket. I assume the same with alcohol. I think the Supermarket is closed on Sunday, so keep that in mind if flying in that day. When leaving the airport by cab to the train station in Calvi or whatever airport to town (cab only choice), ask to stop/get out at the supermarche. If you're flying in from Calvi, it's not a problem.

Although, and to my surprise, the common use cooking facilities they provide at the refuges are excellent. I ended up using them for most of my dinners. It is nice to be able to boil up a cup of tea, breakfast etc near my tent.. so I'm glad I brought a stove as well. May be different in Aug/peak season, but the common kitchen is a good back up.

The refuges in the North when I went had a bed-bug problem. Should you need to, it's better to sleep in one of their tents that are already set up. Not much more expensive then what you'd pay to camp.

I dehydrated my own food and brought it with me (ground beef, pasta, peppers). The French authorities didn't even ask. However, you will no doubt end up buying cheese and sausages and bread along the way. Make sure to load up at the half-way point in Vizzavona, they had the best sausages. Get yourself a good cheap knife in Calvi or Conca before setting out. Your lunches undoubtedly will come with spectacular views. Bring some food, but the options you have along the way are very good, and really not that expensive. I didn't think the dinners at the refuges were worth it, but you can buy canned pate etc and bread for decent prices. If you aren't a picky eater, you'll be fine. Make sure to bring whatever you need for the beverage side of things, drinks are expensive.

We stayed at the nice hotel (big white building) in Vizzavona, did our laundry, had a decent meal ... and hot showers!... at the half way point. I'd strongly recommend doing the same. 60 euros for a very nice room. Again, makes sure to get the cheese at the GR20 backpacker store attached to the train station. Pasta is cheap. Not much freeze dried etc like mountain house, very expensive if there are. Bread was like 2 euros (huge loaf), cheese and sausage for 4 days was around 8 euros each.

You fall into a routine once on trail, there are showers (albeit, ice cold) and everyone washes whatever they wore that day in the sink for the next day. I had a great time, and they've done a great job with providing all the facilities you'd want on-trail, without ruining it. I've never been on the JMT, but I suspect it's different from the GR20 in that the latter has lots of support should you choose. I hiked with a guy from Paris who just had a sleeping bag and camera gear. Bring some money and eat at some of the Alburges (inns) along the way), worth it. 4 course lunch with Boar stew on a rainy afternoon for 20 euros .. great deal.

It's going to be very very hot. You're basically exposed on a rocky ridgeline most of the way. Get hiking as early as you can, and finish early to lounge around and maybe do some of the side hikes. I'd suggest taking your time. Obviously, if given an option, take the high route. The side trips to the higher peaks are worth it. Just give yourself a little more time than necessary to get there and back (well..I need more time). Bring a tensor and stuff for blisters, just in case. It's a very rocky trail and can be hard on the knees and feet. There is very little in the way of smooth flat trails, most of it is negotiating rocks. Think nimble. I used New Balance 876 trail runners. I found I was slower through the loose rock without ankle support, but more than made up for it with balance and dexterity I had going over everything else.

Hope you had as much fun as I did. Enjoy.

Edited by elf773 on 01/27/2012 17:01:18 MST.

ed hyatt
(edhyatt) - MLife

Locale: The North
JMT, GR20 on 01/28/2012 01:03:11 MST Print View

Comparison...they don't really compare for me and I have done both...if asking which I found harder - the JMT as you have long distances between supply and being from the UK the altitude kicked a bit. They are both busy trails - too much so for my tastes really.

Bugs - not that I remember on the GR20; we went early June and Sth-Nth.

On the GR20 I took a tent (self supporter); if you have no experience of the Alpine bunks in refuges you are in for a surprise. I hate them.

Food-wise; refuge (may as well have been refuse) breakfasts - dry bread, jam, not great. We bought bars and things from home and resupplied with what others above note along the way. The refuges dinners are varied - some really good, others poor to mediocre. If doing it again I would take a basic carb (pasta) use the refuge cooking facilities and supplement it with what I could buy at refuges.

You can always get beer though ;-)

Sabine Schroll
(sabi) - MLife
GR20 on 01/28/2012 03:13:04 MST Print View

I wasn't there myself but the GR20 is _very_ popular in Europe so you can find lots of trip reports on the Internet; although lots of them in german or french.
Like this one of a friend:
But I am sure you can contact Matthias for questions - he was on the PCT 2011.

There is a guidebook by Paddy Dillon: Cicerone has usually very good, extensive guidebooks.

I personally wouldn't do completely without some of the french specialities like cheese (I mean real cheese ;)), sausages, bread or vin rouge - but of course I am a bit francophil. Wild camping is forbidden on the GR20.

ed hyatt
(edhyatt) - MLife

Locale: The North
GR20 on 01/28/2012 05:34:43 MST Print View

Drop me a PM if you would like a .pdf (at 1:25,000) of the route on maps - derived from the IGN Rando digital mapping; I'd have to put it in a download space for you somewhere.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: GR-20 Questions on 01/28/2012 16:40:41 MST Print View

> you could spend 30-35 euro a day
Yeah, can be done for that. Towns could be a bit dearer unless you use their campsites.

> with bread and jam during the day and just cooking for dinner, mixing in the occasional refuge meal.
Definitely cheaper to adapt to the local foods. Bread, cheese, sausage, packet soups, pasta ... yeah, be flexible. Try the local wine too ...

> Is there any "stealth camping",
There is ALWAYS stealth camping! ALWAYS, just stay out od sight. You may need to carry water a little way though - have some 1.25 L PET rocket-base bottles handy.
The advantage of the pay-sites are toilets, clothes and self washing facilities, and possibly on-site food. Be flexible.


Trevor Wilson
(trevor83) - MLife

Locale: ATL -- Zurich -- SF Bay Area
Re: Re: GR-20 Questions on 01/30/2012 13:33:00 MST Print View

Michael, thanks for posting this thread and all, thanks for your responses. My wife and I are planning to hike the GR20 in September and all this info should be really useful.

Ed, great pictures and blog!

john hansford
(jhansford) - MLife
GR20 on 02/05/2012 17:52:18 MST Print View

Over the years I have done the GR20 six times, N-S, S-N, climbing peaks, sleeping on peaks, slight variations each year. Last year I did the JMT. Each time I went in June (not JMT): main advantage is the snow is still melting and so all the springs marked on the Didier et Richard 1:50,000 maps could be found on the ground, albeit sometimes only a 6" pipe poking out of the rock. This meant I didnt usually carry any water, just hiked quickly from source to source. Also it was cooler, daytime 15-20'C, with night min of 7'C.

Rainwear : Having seen French men and women wearing ponchos nearly taking-off on high ridges , I prefer a light rain jacket and trousers, I guess you call them pants. 7 oz jacket and 3oz golight reed type trous will do. In the 6 traverses I only got rained on twice, briefly.

My times were 7days GR20, 13 days JMT. You might want to take longer, but these times dictated my fuel and food strategy. I took ALL my food from the UK, which meant it was all pre-packaged and ready to go. I flew into Calvi, Bastia or Ajaccio, hired a car, and drove up to the Col de Vizavona and cached 4.5 days if going north, or 2.5 days going south, plus a little for whatever peaks were planned that year. Then drove to the start and began walking, the same day the flight got in. Hertz have offices at all the airports, and Porto Vecchio. The hotel at Tarco accepted drop offs, and provided a taxi up to Conca. Taxi Calvi to Calenzana.

Regarding food, even if you don't take everything, I would at least take your own dehydrated stuff, tea, coffee, favourite energy bars etc. I drank from the springs entirely, did not purify anything, and did not get ill.

The route is well marked, over-marked in places, such that a red/white flash can be seen either in front or behind nearly all the time. To keep my route as "pure" as possible, I stayed on the high ground, avoiding Vizavona village, Haut Asco (use the old route) and the hotel at Col de Vergio. The route is much rougher than the JMT over long stretches, so that your average speed is likely to be 20% slower. It is a remote route, at least for Europe, and as I said, you can avoid all habitation if you want to, apart from half a dozen houses at Bavella.

In all my trips , I have never stayed in a hut or hut official campsite, instead bivying up high, (a tent is not good for stealth), starting at sunrise and finishing late, but with long brew stops in between. Beware the green of the hillsides is often not grass, it is more likely low thorn scrub, making pitching a tent impossible . Also beware that they may have tightened up the no free-camping rule, with "rangers" checking up.

No particular trail worries : hikers have been killed in forest fires, so no open fires; no bugs or wild animals, apart from a few hogs; but watch out for that thorn matting, I have spent quite a lot of time digging thorns out of my hands!

Sandor Heman
(Saanti) - F
RE: GR-20 Questions on 03/10/2012 11:13:19 MST Print View

Flew into Calvi, and took a cab directly from the airport to Calenzana (find some people on the airport, share a cab, we paid 40 euro's for 4 people, in 2011).

The trail can be tough, technical and slow. And hot!.
I did it in July, and slightly faster than the suggested 15 stages, but still pretty laid back.
I was with my wife, and she preferred not to stealthcamp. If solo, I would have taken just a bivy and a simple tarp and
camp somwhere in a veeeeeeeeery wide peremiter of a refuge ;-) But beware not to get caught by some Corsican.
They are the boss, and not to be argued with, typically.
The refuges were 6.50 euro a night (per person, if you bring your own tent).
You can also hire tents at the refuge's, so bringing one is not strictly necessary.
Camping spots are often hard and rocky.
I never had rain in July, only heat.

I brought all my food until Vizzavona (the 'halfway' split between north and south parts) back home in the Netherlands. Fuel ('alcohol a bruler') can be both in the supermarket in Calenzana. Their food selection is pretty basic though (small supermarket)
There is a little shop in Vizzavona, but they are overpriced and have very limited choice (and no 'alcohol a bruler'!) . There is a train connection between vizzavona and Corte (where you can get everything in a huge supermarket), but the train goes once or twice a day, and in such a way that there is no quick back and forth. My wife and I took a hitch into Corte, and the train back, worked perfectly.
Hitching worked fine, but is most fun if you speak a bit of French, I guess.

On a laid-back schedule, this single resupply can suffice. If you do the trail in a week like John Hansford, you don't need to resupply.
I would definitely bring 'food basics', like carbs and bars. Then, if you like to taste some local stuff, you can buy cheese and sausages on the go. Especially Haut Asco has a nice hiker oriented little shop, with a kitchen and large open dinner space.
I never ate at the official PNRC refuge's (drinking cold beers though) but there are also the privately run 'bergeries', which tent to be really nice (and cheaper!) for meals and drinks.
Check these out.

In August, I would definitely take some water along. 1 or 2 liters will typically be ok
I guess, depending on your speed.
I never had rain in July, but I would not use a poncho: winds on the ridges, and quite some (potentially slippery) scrambles on hand and feet.

Sorry if this 'brain dump' (in my best english) is a bit messy, but I hope it provides you with some help.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Excellent Thread! on 06/01/2013 00:20:42 MDT Print View

The post about the people in ponchos taking of on ridges made my day. Excited to read the rest of the thread.

Dillon's 2012 edition makes the GR20 sound like the most idiot proof walk ever aside from the physical effort. He even says that you could do it without a map! He makes every refuge and bergerie sound like a mini mart. I hope to do this walk in the coming weeks and promise to report. It is still early but has anyone been up in these hills yet this year (2013)? Snow? Services?