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GR20 Corsica solo hike planning and preparation (France)

As you have probably seen with my Laugavegur trail plans, when it comes to hiking and running, I try to limit the number of surprises (in contrast to my normal travel habits) to a minimum – so for my GR20 Corsica solo hike.

The GR20 spans 180-200km (I got conflicting numbers here) right through the heart of Corsica (France) and is considered to be one of the hardest trails in Europe. The trail is considered to be very technical (lots of climbing, rocks) as well as tough because of the height differences (climbing and descending more than 10.000 meters).

For readability, I chopped my post up in different stages:

  1. Settle on the idea
  2. Validate
  3. Settle on a date
  4. Lock-in the trip
  5. Create a rough day planning
  6. Creating a packing list
  7. Budget
  8. Extra

Step 1: settle on the idea for the GR20 Corsica solo hike

I am planning to hike on my own and camp along the trail. Normally, the 180-200km is done in 10-15 days, but a) I did not want to spend that long away from my wife and kids and b) seriously, 14 days for 180 kilometers … that would not be a challenge, would it?.

So the overall plan is to do the GR20 Corsica solo thru-hike (from what amount of days are things called a thru-hike btw?) in 6 days.

There are some key challenges here:

  • There’s an average of 12 hours between sunrise and sunset (some extra hours to win by starting to hike during twilight). This limits the amount of hours I can hike per day.
  • (Food) logistics – As I will have to be self-sufficient for a week, that means bringing a lot of food.

Step 2: validate your plans

I have found some instances of people hiking the trail in 5-7 days, I have found the French Foreign Legion to be known to complete the trail in 7 days and some people who have walked the trail in 10 and wrote they would have been able to walk the trail in 8-9 days. So, this will be a true challenge 🙂

While validating my ideas, I stumbled upon some really great online resources:

Step 3: settle on a date.

Key elements in planning your trip are the weather (summer is hot, winter the tracks are hard to hike because of snow) and -most importantly- the refuges, points on the trail that supply food, water and shelter. The refuges start their season from the end May and they work through to early October (see more here). Outside of this time frame, the refuges are open but not manned and there is no food available.
Because of other summer travel plans, to avoid snow (I am not that experienced in hiking in snow) and to avoid big crowds on the trail I decided to hike the trail in September.

Step 4: lock-in the trip.

Getting there. There are multiple airports on the island (Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi and Figari) as well as options to fly in to mainland France and then get the boat to Corsica. I decided to fly in/out Ajaccio airport (as the boat would take me a lot of extra time and is actually not that cheap) and Ajaccio would offer me the best connections to the beginning/end of the trail (more on that later).

Staying there. As I will spend most of the nights on the trail, I only need a hotel at the beginning and the end (near both trail heads).

Getting to the trail. So, this is actually pretty challenging. Public transport on Corsica is not that amazing. Because of how train/bus schedules matched my flight schedules, I decided to hike South-North rather than the more common North-South and take the Bus to Porte Vecchio the first day and then take the train back the last.

Step 5: create a rough day planning for your GR20 Corsica solo hike

As I have a rather ambitious planning (6 days hike), I will probably have to hike from dusk to dawn. An extra reason to get up early is that in the afternoon, the chance of thunder storms is higher than in the morning. That is why most hikers choose to get up early.

So here’s my rough planning for my GR20 Corsica solo hike, ever more detailed towards the trip (hours estimation based on Corsica for hikers):

  • 12/09: Travel from Brussels to Corsica.
  • 13/09: Hiking Day 1 of GR20 Corsica solo hike
    • Stage 16-15 (estimated hiking time 13h35)
  • 14/09: Hiking Day 2 of GR20 Corsica solo hike
    • Stage 14-13 (estimated hiking time 15h)
  • 15/09: Hiking Day 3 of GR20 Corsica solo hike
    • 12-11-10 (estimated hiking time 17h30)
  • 16/09: Hiking Day 4 of GR20 Corsica solo hike
    • Stage 9-8-7 (estimated hiking time 17h55)
  • 17/09: Hiking Day 5 of GR20 Corsica solo hike
    • Stage 6-5-4 (estimated hiking time 18h)
  • 18/09: Hiking Day 6 of GR20 Corsica solo hike
    • Stage 3-2-1 (14h45)
    • Spend the night in Calvi
  • 19/09: Travel back home

Fallback options

As said before, I like to plan a lot beforehand when it comes to hiking and running 🙂 So, there is one big exit point on the trail. If I would be -during the first days- doubting if I would be able to make the complete trail, I could opt to stop in Vizzavona (roughly half way the trail) and travel to Ajaccio from there.

Step 6: creating a packing list.

See my full list in a separate post.

Budget for my GR20 Corsica solo hike

I found it quite hard to budget

  • Transportation
    • Flight €229,98 for an BRU-AJA flight with TUI
    • To start [add]
    • From Porto Vecchio to start trail [add]
    • Back to airport [add]
  • Accommodation
    • I stayed 1 night at Hôtel Casa Bianca in Calvi, a total of €100,-
    • I stayed 1 night Hotel Le Mistral in Porto Vecchio, a total of €95,-
  • Food
    • I will have 6 days of meals on the trail (pre-packed Adventurefoods)
    • I will re-supply on the trail (I know the prices are higher because of the difficulty of resupply in the mountains), so budgetted a total of €250,-
  •  Extras

Total cost estimate €674,98 (+bus/train to the track) for my GR20 Corsica solo hike

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