Corsica, 9th-25th June 2007

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We'd promised ourselves another visit to Corsica, but hadn't quite found the time. With Jen pregnant this seemed likely to be the best chance we'd have for some time, so we booked flights and headed over. We didn't really know how much Jen would feel up to, so had planned a number of possibilities and intended just seeing how things went

We arrived at Calenzana on the Saturday night, and as the gite was full we pitched the tent. We had been chatting with Scott and Zoe, who intended walking the GR20, and thought it'd be nice to team up with them for the first stage

 

Jen, Scott and Zoe at the start of the trail

 

Scott and Zoe approaching Bocca a u Saltu. We were glad we had made an early start to avoid the worst of the heat, as it was already very warm

 

A lizard sunbathing at the pass

 

Bocca a u Saltu from a small top beside it. The GR20 heads across the left side of the ridge from here, with some easy scrambling to reach the next pass

 

Beetles enjoying themselves

 

Heading along the ridge from the next pass, most of the day's ascent now behind us. Refuge Orto di u Piobbu - the end of this stage - is nestled on the slopes of Monte Corona, ahead on the right just above the tree line

 

We pitched our tent near the refuge. I had hoped to head up Monte Corona before dinner, but the cloud had formed and covered the higher reaches, and there seemed no point if there wasn't going to be any view. We spent the afternoon relaxing instead, and chatted with various other walkers. The refuge guardian said that she had never known the trail to be as busy at this time of year; dinner was a lot of pasta with not a lot of pesto sauce (ingredients were running out!) After dinner I helped a group from Bavaria (and their French friends) deplete the refuge's supplies of red wine, then spent some time staggering through the thorny scrub trying to locate our tent without my headtorch

 

We set off quite early on the second stage; this is the view from the ridgetop. Monte Cinto is the highest peak at the back. The plan was to see how we felt after that - we could either push on, or stop at Refuge Carrozzu. From Carozzu we could either head on along the GR20 or drop down to join the lower, gentler Tra Mare i Monti. Once again, it was very warm, and we quickly decided that the lower trails would not be a good option.

We met up with Charles and Anna not long after leaving the refuge. They were walking at about the same speed as us, so we stuck together for the day

 

A scrambly ridge on the second stage of the GR20

 

A casualty of spring

 

The stage finishes down through some woodland to Refuge Carrozzu

 

The refuge sits at the junction of two valleys - the one we had descended, and the Spasimata. We arrived before lunch time, took a bit of a break, and ate some omelette. Jen felt fine, but it was very hot, confirming that dropping down to the lower trails wasn't on. We helped persuade Charles and Anna that they'd be fine pushing on with the next stage (they had been hoping to walk the whole GR20 but were worried they didn't have enough time), and we all headed on together

 

Jen, Anna and Charles on the bridge over the Spasimata gorge

 

Me above the Spasimata gorge

 

Jen, Anna and Charles on slabs above the gorge

 

Higher up the valley

 

The Indian Head, guarding the pass. After this, the trail traverses left across the hillside to another pass, then descends steeply to the Asco valley and the end of the third stage. Running the second and third stages together makes for a fairly long day, so we were all quite tired. We booked into the gite, had warm showers, and treated ourselves to a nice meal in the restaurant. Charles and Anna would press on with the GR20 the next day; Jen and me would have an easier day leaving most of our kit in the gite and heading up Monte Cinto, the highest peak on Corsica, before pressing on with the trail the day after

 

We made an early start from Asco for Monte Cinto

 

The Austrian Alpine Club hut at Asco

 

Heading through the woods towards Monte Cinto. The route then crosses a river and heads up a scrambly buttress beside a gorge, then up screes into a corrie. We headed up more screes and snow through the corrie, then scrambled up onto the ridge

 

Cloud had formed, and was intermittently covering the ridges and tops

 

The route goes onto a forepeak then drops down to the right before heading up scrambly slabs to the summit (at the left here)

 

A multinational gathering at the summit of Monte Cinto (Swedish, French, Czech, Scottish and half-Scottish-half-Swedish present, mostly non-embryonic).

We were lucky with the cloud - it partially cleared giving good views, though some of the hills to the South (including Paglia Orba) remained covered

 

Descending the gully between the summit and forepeak, with Lac du Cinto below. We took our time on descent, then spent the afternoon relaxing

 

Setting off early the next day (Wednesday) on the fourth stage of the GR20 - we wanted to get to the scrambly section before it got busy

 

Early light over the Asco valley

 

Scrambling down into le Cirque de la Solitude

 

Scrambling up the other side of le Cirque de la Solitude

 

Near the end of the scrambling

 

Heading down the valley towards Refuge Tighjettu and Bergeries de Vallone. We got to the bergeries in time for lunch (omelette again). We decided to press on with the next stage up to Refuge Ciottulu a i Mori, so that we could climb Paglia Orba in the morning if the weather was OK

 

In the woods near Bergeries de Vallone

 

Heading up again, leaving the woods

 

Lizard

 

We pitched our tent by Refuge Ciottulu a i Mori, and I was glad to get my boots off for a while. My feet don't seem to like walking in hot weather

 

It was clear and chilly overnight, and the weather was still good the next morning, so we headed up Paglia Orba (the third highest hill on Corsica). This involved a fair bit of pleasant scrambling up gullies and ledges on reddish-purple conglomerate to reach the forepeak, than a bit more easy scrambling and walking down to, then up the ramp-like slope to the summit

 

The views were great in all directions. Monte Cinto is the peak at the back on the right here. We could see back North along the trail, South where it headed, and out to sea West and East

 

A ladybird spotted on the way down

 

Looking South and West - note the remarkable archway in Capu Tafonatu, the peirced hill beside Paglia Orba

 

This wee bird was flitting about the boulders below the hill

 

Looking down the Golo valley from above Refuge Ciottulu a i Mori. The GR20 heads this way next

 

We ate lunch at Refuge Ciottulu a i Mori, had a chat with Neil, Lucy, and Doug who had started the trail at the same time as us, and helped split up a dog fight, before heading on down the trail towards Castel di Vergio

 

Testing the water in a pool in the Golo river. It was very cold!

 

Lower down the Golo valley. After this the trail crosses the river and traverses through woods towards Castel di Vergio. Unfortunately, Jen stumbled and tore the ligaments in her ankle, making progress slow and painful. We spent some time chatting to a pair of Frenchmen as Jen hobbled along the next section; Dominic very kindly gave Jen a support bandage for her ankle

 

The Mare a Mare Nord trail crosses the GR20 here, creating options for linking up different trails if it isn't too hot to drop down to them.

We treated ourselves to a hotel room at Castel di Vergio and Jen got some ice to put on her ankle. Contrary to our stay in the gite 5 years ago we found the room nice, the food good, and the staff friendy

 

The next stage of the GR20, to refuge Manganu, is an easy one, so we decided to head on slowly and see how Jen's ankle would hold out. We set out not-so-early from the hotel

 

The GR20 is marked out with red and white paint splashes along its length, and variants to it are marked with yellow. The trail used to head across the ridge at Col di Vergio, a bit above Castel di Vergio, and a variant cut down to the hotel. Apparently the hotel owner set out with some red, white and yellow paint one day, redirected the main trail by his business, and turned the route by the Col into the variant; this was later approved by the park authority. The path around this area still has a confusing mix of waymarks, and a lot of people end up a wee bit confused

 

A sign in the woods on the trail. I don't suppose you're reading, Jean Marc?

 

On the ridge above Col di Vergio. I guess it gets quite windy here

 

Looking back at the Northern hills one last time. Paglia Orba is the high hill to the left; Monte Cinto is the highest on the right.

We met Neil, Lucy and Doug again here, and walked with them for much of the rest of the stage

 

Lac de Nino

 

We sat on the grass by Lac de Nino and ate lunch. These horses decided they'd like some too

 

Refuge Manganu. Jen's ankle had held out fairly well, but it was sore and we were worried she'd go over on it badly again. We had hoped to head along the next stage to Refuge Pietra Piana the next day so we could get up Monte Rotondo (the second highest hill on Corsica and supposedly a superb viewpoint), but it seemed like a bad idea. We decided to head down the Tavignano Gorge to the mountain citadel of Corte instead - a walk that we could do in one long day or two short ones, depending on how we felt.

We had dinner and drinks at the refuge - a very social evening with Neil, Lucy, Doug and others. The guardian baked a batch of demi-baguettes, which made a good breakfast the next morning, and a great lunch combined with cheese from the bergerie we had visited just before Manganu. The cloud had built up quite a lot that evening, and we retired to the tent expecting rain, but it didn't happen (indeed, I still owe Neil a pint due to making a bet on this)

 

We started later than usual the next morning and headed back down to the flats below the refuge. The Tavignano valley drops down East from here (towards the back of the picture); another possibility is to drop down West to the town of Soccia on the Mare a Mare Nord Variant trail

 

Trout in a stream

 

Looking back up at the hills South of the upper Tavignano

 

A fallen tree

 

Falls and pools in the upper Tavignano

 

Refuge Sega, halfway between Manganu and Corte. We decided to pitch the tent here, and had a relaxing afternoon and evening. After dinner the guardian and another did some polyphonic singing

 

Heading down the Tavignano gorge the next morning. A well constructed mule track runs down the whole way to Corte

 

Corte lies just below what can be seen here

 

Beetles at it again

 

Lower in the Tavignano gorge

 

Mushrooms and pinecones

 

The bridge across the Tavignano

 

Nearing Corte - the citadel can be seen on a hilltop to the right in the middle distance

 

Prickly pears and beasties

 

Corte - the end of our walk.

We booked into a cheap but pleasant hotel (Hotel du Poste) for a couple of nights and spent the next day and a half relaxing. We had a week of holiday left, but needed to give Jen's ankle some rest, so we decided to get the train back to Calvi and hire a car from the airport so we could spend some time touring the island

 

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