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The GR20 Corsica: The High Level Route

The GR20 Corsica: The High Level Route

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The GR20 Corsica: The High Level Route

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464 página
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Jun 23, 2016


This guidebook describes the classic GR20 trek, the north to south traverse of the rugged mountains of Corsica. Starting in Corscia's north-west, in picturesque Calenzana, the route winds south-east, through the heart of Corsica, finishing on the eastern side of the island, just north of Porto Vecchio in the township of Conca. Described in 16 stages with high level/low level alternatives for relevant stages, the route is roughly 200km in length and takes approximately two weeks to complete. The GR20 climbs high into the mountains. It is demanding trek and only suitable for experienced walkers.

Step-by-step descriptions of each stage are accompanied by 1:50,000 mapping, together with information on ascent/descent, terrain, and food, water and shelter en route. Also included is invaluable information such as path conditions, what to take, and getting to/from and around Corsica. This comprehensive guide also includes information on the history and geology of Corsica, together with notes on the local plants and wildlife.

An island of surreal beauty, Corsica showcases dramatic mountains, enchanting coastline and ethereal vistas. Bare rock and sheer cliff contrasts with black sand beaches, alpine pastures and pockets of forest. Mediterranean flair abounds, history lingers and culture is celebrated, making it the perfect destination for a trek bursting with adventure.
Jun 23, 2016

Sobre el autor

Paddy Dillon is a prolific walker and guidebook writer, with 100 guidebooks to his name and contributions to 40 other titles. He has written for several outdoor magazines and other publications and has appeared on radio and television. Paddy uses a tablet computer to write as he walks. His descriptions are therefore precise, having been written at the very point at which the reader uses them. Paddy is an indefatigable long-distance walker who has walked all of Britain's National Trails and several European trails. He has also walked in Nepal, Tibet, Korea and the Rocky Mountains of Canada and the US. Paddy is a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild and President of the Backpackers Club. www.paddydillon.co.uk

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The GR20 Corsica - Paddy Dillon


The High Level Route

by Paddy Dillon



About the Author

Paddy Dillon is a prolific walker and guidebook writer with over 70 guidebooks to his name, and contributions to 30 other titles. He has written extensively for many different outdoor publications and has appeared on radio and television.

Paddy uses a tablet computer to write his route descriptions while walking. His descriptions are therefore precise, having been written at the very point at which the reader uses them.

Paddy is an indefatigable long-distance walker who has walked all of Britain’s National Trails and several major European trails. He lives on the fringes of the Lake District and has walked, and written about walking, in every county throughout the British Isles. He has led guided walks and walked throughout Europe, as well as in Nepal, Tibet, Korea, Africa and the Rocky Mountains of Canada and the US. Paddy is a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild.

Other Cicerone guides by the author

Irish Coastal Walks

The Cleveland Way and the Yorkshire Wolds Way

The GR5 Trail

The Great Glen Way

The Irish Coast to Coast Walk

The Mountains of Ireland

The National Trails

The North York Moors

The Pennine Way

The Reivers Way

The Teesdale Way (Martin Collins; updated by Paddy Dillon)

The South West Coast Path

The Wales Coast Path

Trekking in Greenland

Trekking in the Alps (contributing author)

Walking and Trekking in Iceland

Trekking through Mallorca

Walking in County Durham

Walking in Madeira

Walking in Mallorca (June Parker; updated by Paddy Dillon)

Walking in Malta

Walking in Sardinia

Walking in the Isles of Scilly

Walking in the North Pennines

Walking on Guernsey

Walking on the Isle of Arran

Walking on Jersey

Walking on La Gomera and El Hierro

Walking on La Palma

Walking on Tenerife

Walking the Galloway Hills

© Paddy Dillon 2016

Fourth edition 2016

ISBN: 978 1 85284 852 1

Third edition 2014

Second edition 2012

First edition 2007

Printed in China on behalf of Latitude Press Ltd

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

All photographs are by the author unless otherwise stated.

The routes of the GR®, PR® and GRP® paths in this guide have been reproduced with the permission of the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre holder of the exclusive rights of the routes. The names GR®, PR® and GRP® are registered trademarks. © FFRP 2016 for all GR®, PR® and GRP® paths appearing in this work.

This guide includes the latest route changes, made in 2016, avoiding the Cirque de la Solitude. The Cirque is no longer part of the GR20 and its waymarks and safety aids have been removed. The route now crosses the shoulder of Monte Cinto.

Updates to this Guide

While every effort is made by our authors to ensure the accuracy of guidebooks as they go to print, changes can occur during the lifetime of an edition. Any updates that we know of for this guide will be on the Cicerone website (www.cicerone.co.uk/852/updates), so please check before planning your trip. We also advise that you check information about such things as transport, accommodation and shops locally. Even rights of way can be altered over time. We are always grateful for information about any discrepancies between a guidebook and the facts on the ground, sent by email to updates@cicerone.co.uk or by post to Cicerone, 2 Police Square, Milnthorpe LA7 7PY, United Kingdom.

Front cover: Descending from Bocca Crucetta (Stage 4)


Overview map

Route summary table

Map key



Brief history

Getting to Corsica

Getting around Corsica

Getting to the GR20

When to trek

How to trek


Mountain weather

Path conditions

Mountain rescue

What to take

Services along the route

Food, drink and fuel



Using this guide

Plants and wildlife on Corsica





The GR20

Stage 1A Calenzana to Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu (high-level)

Stage 1B Calenzana to Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu (low-level)

Excursion Ascent of Monte Corona from Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu

Stage 2A Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carozzu (high-level)

Stage 2B Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carozzu (low-level)

Stage 3 Refuge de Carozzu to Ascu Stagnu

Stage 4 Ascu Stagnu to Auberge U Vallone

Link route Auberge U Vallone to Albertacce

Stage 5 Auberge U Vallone to Hôtel Castel di Vergio

Excursion Ascent of Paglia Orba from Refuge de Ciottulu di I Mori

Stage 6 Hôtel Castel di Vergio to Refuge de Manganu

Link route Bergeries de Vaccaghja to Corte

Link route Refuge de Manganu to Soccia

Stage 7 Refuge de Manganu to Refuge de Petra Piana

Link route Brèche de Capitellu or Bocca a Soglia to Bergeries de Grotelle

Excursion Ascent of Monte Ritondu from Refuge de Petra Piana

Stage 8A Refuge de Petra Piana to Refuge de l’Onda (low-level)

Stage 8B Refuge de Petra Piana to Refuge de l’Onda (high-level)

Link route Bergeries de Tolla to Tattone and Vizzavona

Stage 9A Refuge de l’Onda to Vizzavona (low-level)

Stage 9B Refuge de l’Onda to Vizzavona (high-level)

Stage 10 Vizzavona to Bergeries d’ E Capanelle

Link route La Foce to Bocca Palmento

Stage 11A Bergeries d’ E Capanelle to Bocca di Verdi (low-level)

Stage 11B Bergeries d’ E Capanelle to Bocca di Verdi (high-level)

Stage 12 Bocca di Verdi to Refuge d’Usciolu

Link route Refuge d’Usciolu to Cozzano

Stage 13 Refuge d’Usciolu to Refuge de Matalza

Link route Tignosellu to Zicavo

Link route Zicavo to Refuge de Matalza

Stage 14 Refuge de Matalza to Refuge d’Asinau

Alt Stage 13/14 Refuge d’Usciolu to Refuge d’Asinau (variant)

Stage 15A Refuge d’Asinau to Village de Bavella (low-level)

Stage 15B Refuge d’Asinau to Village de Bavella (high-level)

Stage 16 Village de Bavella to Conca

Appendix A Facilities along the route (Calenzana to Conca)

Appendix B Facilities along the route (Conca to Calenzana)

Appendix C Accommodation list

Appendix D Basic language notes

Appendix E Useful contacts

Appendix F The Cirque de la Solitude



Tents for hire, dotted around the Bergeries de Vaccaghja (Stage 6)

There is no doubt that the GR20, traversing the rugged mountains of Corsica, is one of the top trails of the world. Its reputation precedes it, and most who trek the route describe it afterwards as one of the toughest they have ever completed. Others find they are unable to complete it, having seriously underestimated its nature. The GR20 climbs high into the mountains and stays there for days on end, leading ordinary trekkers deep into the sort of terrain usually visited only by mountaineers. The scenery is awe-inspiring, with bare rock and sheer cliffs in some parts, contrasting with forests, lakes and alpine pastures in other places. Those who walk the route are only too eager to share their experiences with those who haven’t, so that everyone who completes the GR20 is probably responsible for two or three more people trekking it. It has been estimated that as many as 30,000 people trek the route each year!

Most people would relish the opportunity to trek through wild mountains, feeling the roughness of the rocks with their fingers, enjoying the clarity of the views under a blazing Mediterranean sun, maybe enlivened with streaks of snow on the higher slopes. There is the perfumed scent of the maquis, and the chance to spot eagles in flight. You can do all this, provided you keep an eye on the weather, since Corsica is noted for severe summer thunderstorms, while in winter the mountains are truly alpine. There is the prospect of sleeping in rustic refuges, or even better, sleeping under canvas, peeping out to discover the mountains bathed in moonlight. On moonless nights, you can gaze awe-struck at the firmament speckled with millions of pinprick stars. You can enjoy all this and more provided you make careful plans and walk within your limits.

The GR20 is an experience, more than simply a trek, and those who try and rush the route may find they finish with certain regrets. While the ‘classic’ route can be covered in a fortnight, discerning trekkers will be happy to include variations – maybe climbing some of the nearby mountains, or visiting nearby villages. The main route allows little opportunity to meet ordinary Corsicans, but a detour into a village, or better still, a night or two spent with a Corsican family, will enhance the quality of the trek. Take the time to sample local foodstuffs, including the meat and cheese produced in the mountains, maybe washed down with a homemade wine, but always be aware of where your next fill up of water is available. Corsican food is generally simple and wholesome – ideal for a trek through the mountains, and all part of the joy of travel!


Corsica is often referred to as ‘the Granite Isle’, and it is easy to dismiss the whole island simply as one enormous granite massif, but this would be wrong. Corsica is geologically divided into two parts by a line running very roughly from Île Rousse on the north coast, through Corte in the middle of the island, to Favone on the east coast.

Everything west of this line is referred to as ‘Hercynian Corsica’, named after a mountain-building era that occurred between 345 and 225 million years ago. The bedrock in this, the greater part of Corsica, is essentially a massive granite intrusion. It was pushed into the Earth’s crust under immense pressure and temperature, so that the rock was in a molten state. As it cooled over a long period of time, coarse crystals formed, chiefly of quartz, feldspar and mica. Geologists sub-divide the granite according to its mineral composition, which varies from place to place, especially around the northwest of the island. Granophyres and quartz porphyries are common, and conspicuous linear dykes have been intruded into some rocks. The mountains that were raised during the Hercynian era are long gone, and the granite mountains of Corsica are merely their deepest roots.

Everything east of the dividing line is referred to as ‘Alpine Corsica’, simply because the rock types were pushed up during the later era of mountain building that was associated with the creation of the Alps. There are several rock types, including schists of uncertain age that have been folded and metamorphosed time and again. There are also layers of limestone and sedimentary rocks that were formed on the seabed, before buckling under immense pressure to form mountains. Fossils contained in these rocks reveal that they were formed in the Upper Carboniferous, Liassic and Eocene periods – with respective ages from around 300, 150 and 50 million years ago.

The Ice Age, which ended only around 10,000 years ago, had a profound effect on the mountains of Corsica. The mountains were high enough to ensure that snow never melted from year to year, but increased in depth so that glaciers could form, grinding out deep corries and carving steep-sided valleys into the mountainsides. During a much wetter period than at present, powerful rivers scoured the valleys deeper, and spread fans of alluvial rubble further downstream, and around the coast. During harsh winters in the mountains, conditions are again reminiscent of the Ice Age, when the high corrie lakes freeze completely and deep snowdrifts are heaped up against the cliffs. By the time Man discovered Corsica, the island valleys were well wooded, although parts of the coast and the high mountains were bare rock, much as they are today.

Brief history

Those who trek the GR20 may feel that they are completely bypassing anything of historical interest on Corsica. Transhumance, the seasonal movement of livestock to summer pastures in the mountains, followed by a retreat to the low ground before the onset of winter, has been practised in Corsica for thousands of years. The island has been invaded dozens of times by all kinds of armies, and native Corsicans have often fought to resist each successive attempt at colonisation. However, high in the mountains, there are few ancient monuments or proud fortifications, nor are there any museums to visit. The GR20 is essentially a tough mountain trek almost completely divorced from the history and culture of the island. History, by and large, was wrought elsewhere on the island, and the best you can do is at least be aware of some of the key events and turbulent times that Corsica has experienced.

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