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One of the perks of favouring bergeries (sheepfolds) over refuges is the warm welcome and delicious food. After an excellent local cured ham sandwich for breakfast that is a nice change from our usual oatmeal, we are ready to tackle this next stage. Much easier than the previous one (13.5 kilometres of distance with only 660 metres of elevation gain and 680 metres of elevation loss), the first few hundred metres feel like it is our very first bit of flat trail on the GR 20. The mineral world of Stage 4 has turned into greenery and forests with challenging and refreshing river crossings. The softer path underneath our Lowa hiking boots feels soothing compared to the rugged terrains we have crossed for the past three days.
This feeling does not last for long as climbing up to the refuge of Ciottulu di i Mori requires more scrambling and climbing. This time around is much easier as we are carrying fewer kilograms of water: the melting snow gives birth to many streams and should we have a doubt on the water quality, our 1-litre Katadyn BeFree bottle takes it away thanks to its integrated hollow fibre filter.
After this fast climb, a large 30-metre wide hole in the rock welcomes us on the other side of the mountain above the refuge of Ciottulu di i Mori. The Tafunatu can be hiked too, but as the climb is pretty dangerous and not marked a mountain guide seems necessary. We will observe it from a distance before descending gently along the Golo River and its flat stones.
While resting our tired feet in the ice-cold water some noise on the rocks peaks our curiosity: three females and a young mouflon are elegantly making their way up the mountain. Their agility and speed in this unforgiving terrain is highly admirable.
We pass the bergerie de Radule where one can pitch a tent, go past its waterfall to cross a birch forest and eventually set foot on the first patch of asphalt for only a few metres. The hotel of Castel del Vergio is perfectly located to divide the stages better than usually recommended by most guidebooks and also provides comfortable rooms or flat bivouac spots in the soft grass where we soon fall asleep.
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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.
- Most guidebooks recommend to go from Tighettu to Ciottulu di i Mori for Stage 5. However, this makes a very short Stage 5 and the night at Ciottulu di i Mori at almost 2,000 metres can be one of the coldest ones on the GR 20. It also makes Stage 6 that is already long, longer. This is why we recommend to go from bergerie de Ballone (Tighettu to Ballone is a very easy downhill stretch and does not impact Stage 4 too much) to Castel del Vergio (continuing past Ciottulu di i Mori is an easy and scenic downhill and allows a nice afternoon break along the Golo River). Castel del Vergio is not as scenic as Ciottulu di i Mori but way more comfortable (power, warm showers, bivouac spots or hotel) and balances the long Stage 6 better by shortening it significantly.
- 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:
5 thoughts on “GR 20 Etape 5: Ballone to Castel del Vergio [why this is better than Tighettu to Ciottulu]”
An extensive tour but compensates for the effort, with the spectacular views of the mountains. It’s worth moving on.
Quelle chance d’avoir pu photographier les mouflons en pleine course. Quand au jambon du petit déjeuner; il ressemble beaucoup à ceux que l’on mangeait chez ma grand mère maternelle : j’en ai encore la saveur. Vous avez du vous régaler … entre 2 bols d’avoine !!!
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