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GR 20 -- Any reports yet this season?
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Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
GR 20 -- Any reports yet this season? on 06/03/2013 14:40:51 MDT Print View

Anyone traveled on foot in this region yet this season? Scoop?

Wim Depondt
(wim_depondt) - F - MLife

Locale: The low countries
season just started on 06/04/2013 14:29:36 MDT Print View

Normally, the first hikers for the GR20 are setting of at the beginning of june, especially after this lenghty winter in western Europe.

If you understand some French (or use google translate):

PS: always glad to assist - I've walked the GR20 twice.


Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
GR 20 on 06/07/2013 06:56:25 MDT Print View

Hi Wim:

Thank you for the link to the Corsica site.

Do you have any feeling for north-south vs south-north other than that most people do it north-south?


Wim Depondt
(wim_depondt) - F - MLife

Locale: The low countries
GR20 NOBO or SOBO on 06/07/2013 15:32:09 MDT Print View

I would normally do it again north-> south. The main reason being popularity of the GR20. Going against the masses might make the trail feel overcrowded as you will cross far more hikers.
An extra bonus is that a far larger portion of the – sometimes brutal – climbs will be in the shade.

Only during the last twee weeks of September or later, I would opt for south-north as the trail will be less busy and as it would (normally) be a bit cooler. The advantage of going south-north is that you’ll often have the sun in your back, offering better views & photos. Also the southern part of the GR20 is less demanding than the north.

Oh, I am not sure you’re already aware that a section of the official southern part of the G20 has been rerouted a couple of years ago, Word goes that this has been done purely out of commercial reasons (it will add an extra day – read: hikers will spend an extra day in Corsica). My advice is to follow the old route as you will remain higher in mountains, offer better views and – contrary to the rerouting – will guide you over the Monte Incudine, offering a priceless 360° panorama view.
More specific, if going south bound: you’ll bounce upon the T-crossing at this gps location: 41°54'20.73"N - 9°10'37.31"E. The official trail goes to the right. My advice is to go left. You’ll quickly notice that the usual painted white-red GR markings have been over painted with grey. In other words, just look out for the gray markings. Right after Monte Incudine, on the descend to Refuge d’Asinao, you will rejoin the official trail.

I'm not sure whether you are familiar with hut catering in France. the vegan/veggie will often not be an option when relying on huts (except their - IMO dull and overpriced - hut breakfasts). Bring sufficient veggie/vegan goodies with you. It takes one to know one.


Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
GR 20 on 06/08/2013 18:46:07 MDT Print View

Thanks Wim:

Yes, I think N-S makes sense. Do you think the trail will be busy mid June? Passable?

Thanks for the advise on the rerouting. I will add this information to Dillon and further explore the alternative route. Hopefully, it is not overgrown!

Hut "catering" in France...LOL. Yes, I am familiar and not impressed. I read one trip report here where a guy just brought a week's worth of food from the UK. I am doing this walk to "get in shape" for the HRP later in the summer where I hope to push my mileage a bit. I have baseline fitness of course. I think it will take me around 10 days. I want to walk all day but not push too hard. Do you think I could send a package of my vegan vittles somewhere on route. When it comes down to it, if I can't have my preferred diet, I will make do.

Did you sleep in the refuges or take a "shelter". What kind? Is there anywhere to pitch it other than outside the refuges?

I hope to get this together soon. I don't think too much planning is necessary. I am going to read through Dillon (the English guidebook) today. Time might be better spent running an extra hour a day :)

Thanks again for your helpful info.


Edited by backpackerchick on 06/08/2013 18:51:04 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Just do it. on 06/09/2013 22:54:17 MDT Print View

OK Wim,

I think I will just do in the next couple weeks. Do you have a gear list? Just the basics. HRP will take planning but I think GR20 will just take physical effort.

I have the most recent Dillon (Cicerone) book and it sounds like small industry had grown up around the GR20 catering to hikers at every turn! Food, fuel, lodging, etc.

I looked at your website. You have been to many high places!

Wim Depondt
(wim_depondt) - F - MLife

Locale: The low countries
GR20 on 06/12/2013 13:23:18 MDT Print View

Although I haven't done it mid June, I predict it will be an excellent time: very long daylight hours (15h+) and ‘ pleasantly busy' with mostly experienced hikers (the large bulk of first timers will appear from July onwards, when the summer holiday starts on most European schools).
I suspect most hikers will be French.
I would take a lightweight axe though. No doubt you’ll encounter snow on the higher stretches & passes (which I personally like as an ‘add on’ to the landscape).
The ‘old’ route I mentioned is absolutely not overgrown. Lots of hikers still use it. Just look for the over painted grey markings (and the big mountain it will lead you to, coming from the north). If using a gps, Wikiloc certainly holds some gps-tracks of the GR20 with the old route.
Using the other old route in the north, the one bypassing the refuge of d’Asco Stagnu, might be more tricky though, especially if snow still lingers around the mountain ridge you’ll follow. But the Dillon guidebook describes it sufficiently. And I recommend it strongly – excellent views and hardly any people. Bring sufficient water though. Apart from a small tarn, just before the final climb to the Cirque de la Solitude, there will be no water along this old route.
If you have a hotel reservation in the small ‘midpoint’ village of Vizzavone, you could sent a parcel towards them (post it from within France – of better – Corsica). Just inform the hotel beforehand as the usage of bounce boxes and the likes is virtually nonexistent in Europe.
Last time, I did the GR20 in 8.5 days, which is very feasible if going lightweight (it’s approx. 180km). I brought & carried about 90% all my food. Most refuges have a small shop where you can supplement you daily rations (e.g. pasta, tomato sauce, (old) bread, not to forget wine & beer).
I took a small single wall tent with me. Sleeping in refuges can be quit uncomfortable (hot during the night, bugs, noisy and often cramped as sleeping accommodation often are of the ‘Matratzenlager’ type). I would normally pitch my tent but still sleep outside ‘cowboy style’, unless there are mosquitos around. If it would start raining during the night, I can quickly retire to my tent.
Officially, wild camping is prohibited along the GR20. IMHO with good reason: due to its popularity, it would render the GR20 the Garbage Route 20. If you do camp wild, do it with much discretion: pitching the tent just before sunset and breaking up camp before sunrise. Mind you, possibilities for wild camping are often limited due to the ruggedness of the surroundings (ironically, you’ll often notice find the best wild camping spots where signs have been erected reminding hikers that wild camping is prohibited.

PM me if you need last minute information. Anyway, you're in for a fabulous trip.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Re: GR20 on 06/26/2013 22:47:30 MDT Print View

Thanks Wim! Fantastic help.

I will be going a bit later. Hopefully start before Bastille Day!

Yes, the old route is still covered in the new Dillon...thanks for the tip.

The halfway resupply would be ideal. I have no issues with a night inside!

"light" -- what was the approx maximum you carried at any one point? Any special vegan favorites? I would probably eat tuna if my health depended on it. I don't want dairy...which rules out a lot! Possibly egg if situation demands. I try to avoid refined oils (Esselstyn diet) olive oil...again, an impossible ask...especially on top of the vegan business!

Crowded Martzanlager on a hot summer night sounds like sheer misery. I will carry a proper tent. I don't have experience with the minimalists setups described on this board. I am not sure which yet. (A kilo extra is a lot!)

I saw the "no camping" signs last year in the Vanoise and Ecrins parks, again posted strategically. They were some of the only signs in English. Clearly, "bivy between dusk and dawn" is no longer acceptable everywhere in France! I agree with you about the garbage. If the French are complying, so will I!

Yes, I will PM you with more questions, etc! Thanks again.

Edited by backpackerchick on 06/26/2013 22:48:34 MDT.

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
GR 20 -- Any reports yet this season on 06/29/2013 11:24:46 MDT Print View

I did the GR20 a couple of years ago, and in early September. I didn't read through all the posts in the thread, but I most definitely recommend doing it South to North.

I was going to do it North-South as well, due to convenience (you can start walking right away) but another BPL member strongly advised me not to and I'm glad I took his advice. The only reason I'd suggest going North South is if you are a really sociable hiker and like a large pool of people to socialize with.

Don't get me wrong, one positive aspect of the GR20 is meeting people, but the northbound group is much smaller and thus more "collegial" for a lack of a better term. I really enjoyed the people I met (I went solo).

Other reasons I'd do it northbound off the top of my head.

- Hiking with the sun at your back is huge. It can get very hot and dry.

- The southbound hikers are far more numerous and you'll be arriving pretty much the same time so there is far greater competition for campsites. Northbound group was far fewer and we tended to arrive earlier in camp for some reason.

-My last leg (downhill), southbounders first leg (uphill) was a brutal slog. Actually now that I think about it I remember thinking to myself.. "it's a good thing I'm doing this portion of the leg downhill vs having to do it uphill" many times.

-The view is better.

-I believe the French National parks people recommended/designed the trail to be hiked northbound. The only reason people do it southbound is due to the Cicero guide book.

And my decision to spend a night in a hotel room midway through in the town of Vissanova (I believe that's the name) was a really really good one. The shop in town had the best sausage and cheese, so make sure to buy some to take with you.

Not sure if they've taken care of the problem but when I was there, the beds in the chalets had a big bed bug problem. You can rent tents that are already set up and they were fine and convenient but I wouldn't even think about sleeping in the chalets.

Hope this helps. Enjoy.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
S-N GR 20 on 06/29/2013 20:09:19 MDT Print View

Scott, thanks for the S-N perspective!

Yes, it occurred to me that N-S, you've got one hell of a first day...especially if it is hot.

"Chalets"? Do you mean what are often referred to as refuges along the route...or is this some other sort of arrangement? Sounds bad...whatever it is! Thanks for the heads up!

I will take a proper tent and plan on using it.


PS. If you have a report somewhere, please feel free to post a link. I would love to read it.

Wim Depondt
(wim_depondt) - F - MLife

Locale: The low countries
Re: Re: GR20 on 06/30/2013 11:07:24 MDT Print View

Sorry for my late reply - just got back from a two week trek in Ladakh, India (world class trekking destination IMHO)
edit: added link with photos:

July will normally be hot - starting early, before sunrise would be my n°1 tip (with the added bonus of daily witnessing - mostly glorious - sunrises).
My base weight back then was approx. 5,5kg (now approx. 5kg). On the GR20, I would normally carry 1 to 2l water (sometimes 3l). On top of this I had food for nine days @ approx. 6kg. So in total +/- 13,5kg.
If I would do it again, I would sent a food cache to one of the small hotels in Vizzavona (and stay there one night), thus reducing my pack weight to less than 10kg.

I have the ‘advantage’ being veggie, not (yet) vegan, allowing me to use freeze dried meals one can find in outdoor shops (In Europe, there are about half a dozen veggie option). In my experience vegan options are virtually non existence. If I would turn vegan, I suppose I would buy a food drier and make my own meals at home or I might be a little bit more flexible when hiking.
Do note that most camping spots along the GR20 have one or more gas cookers you can use without extra charge.

Tent wise: a Tarptent would be perfect for the GR20, owing a Mediterranean climate: lightweight and few pegs needed (a bonus on the GR20). But do put some rocks on them – just in case. A sublite would be perfect for the GR20, being mostly dry. For the HRP, a tent with vestibule might be more appropriate, allowing you to could during bad weather. So maybe a Contrail as the ultimate compromise. My setup, having the luxury of owning two tents, would nowadays be:

- GR20: Tarptent Sublite
- HRP: Terra Nova Photon 1


PS: RE tuna: some popular tuna species are threatened ‘cause of overfishing - Sorry, couldn’t refrain mentioning it.

Edited by wim_depondt on 06/30/2013 12:07:23 MDT.