Most hikers are already gone when we open the rainfly of our tent to admire the view: the mountains are slowly bathed by the pink light of the rising sun. After a cold night, we are both impatient to feel the sun rays. Tomorrow is the start of the summer and the weather forecast has already greatly improved from snow in mid-May to rain and thunderstorms last week. The days are very hot in the sun with a traitorous cold wind on the summits.
We pack our Jamet-designed three-season tent, count its pins and fold it. We boil some water in the refuge on the communal stove saving a bit of our own gas that we could only buy in a tiny bottle in Calenzana before departure. A morning coffee and tea with a hearty oatmeal breakfast provides us with the energy we need for the first part of this day. The distance is only slightly more than 7 kilometres, but the elevation will have us ride a roller coaster: a gain of 780 metres for a loss of 920 metres.
Pleasantly surprised, our muscles are not soared after yesterday’s tough stage and our warm is gentle as the path takes us up slowly through a mystical birch forest. Soon many streams offer the opportunity to refill our Laken aluminium water bottles and to cool down. The refuge seems to be getting smaller as we make progress. The almost summer sun keeps us warm, and so does the next climb! It leads us along a red granite wall and turns into a few-hour long scramble. Our reward is a majestic viewpoint with snowy peaks we will conquer tomorrow on one side, and the Bay of Calvi in the far background on the other.
Thinking that from now on it is all going to be downhill proves to be horribly wrong. The scramble turns into a demanding up and down climb for which good balance is required. The technical part seems to never end in a mineral landscape we have a hard time appreciating as we are getting tired. We finally arrive at the top of the final long downhill. If it is easier on our hearts, it is unforgiving on our knees and ankles and we are relying on our poles to economize our joints. We steadily make our way down towards the refuge we see very far below in the distance.
The popularity of the GR 20 implies that its refuges operate beyond their maximum capacity. Passing by the scenic but very busy Carrozzu we decide to not stop and take the trail down to Bonifatu to leave the crowds behind and find the river. Cleaning up and washing our sweaty clothes in the stream that we have to ourselves, we then prepare our dinner. We boil water from the river and mix capellinis (thin spaghettis requiring only three minutes of cooking time hence ideal when hiking and relying on gas bottles) with a lyophilized tomato sauce that turns out to be pretty good after thickening it with warm water. We look at the sun setting behind the mountains from our flat rock in the middle of the torrent feeling alone in the wild and privileged to enjoy this quietness just a stone’s throw away from the over-packed refuge.
Hiking back up to Carrozzu, we pitch our tent and soon fall asleep to the sound of a cuckoo.
Marcella & Claire
- Check out our gear tip section before venturing out!
- For a bird’s eye view and to get access to all the GR 20 articles, please refer to this prologue article.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area! To download the GPS track, refer to this short tutorial.
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Part of this article was published in the Beyond Boundaries e-magazine by Xtreme Adventure: