Everyone who’s made the effort to read about the GR20 before heading out to Corsica has heard of the infamous Cirque de Solitude, the most technical day on the route.
And while looking down into the bottom of the Cirque from the Col Perdu it certainly feels like you’re staring down a rocky cliff into an abyss, it is certainly achievable if you can hold your nerve.
Day 4 – Asco to Vallone 8 hours 45
Distance 9km approx with 1000m ascent and 1000m descent
We left the lovely hotel as Asco filled with the first decent breakfast in days (and real coffee!) and headed up the track early. We set out at 6.30am to make the most of the day, and to ensure we were in and out of the Cirque before the predicted bad weather arrived. As the route through the Cirque is entirely rock slabs with chains to hold it is not to be attempted in wet or stormy weather.
The path from Asco starts out as a woodland track which heads uphill until it finally becomes bouldery.
As we got closer to Col Perdu the path becomes more rock slabs and requires hands to ascend.
When we arrived at Col Perdu just before 10am, a lot of walkers were already en route and had stopped for a break. Spotting that many of these were from large groups our guide insisted we continued into the Cirque right away to get ahead of the bigger groups, which was certainly appreciated.
The descent into the Cirque de Solitude begins as a scree path and quickly becomes steep rock slabs with the flashes of paint marking the route and leading to the sections of chains. Without these chains the route would certainly require rock climbing skills and rope, but with the chains all you really need is a bit of bravery, good footwork, a tight grip and encouragement!
Being a small group we managed to descend the Cirque at a relatively good speed, though its hardly quick scrambling and abseiling down rocks and chains.
the bottom of the Cirque – a rocky abyss with no escape routes out
We had a short break at the bottom of the Cirque to collect nerves and have something to eat before we started the ascent back out.
The ascent up the other side was very similar in terms of technicality although there was one short ladder to ascend.
As the route gets closer to the top of the col it reverts back to bouldery rocks and scree before you appear at the Bocca Minuta where we stopped for a well earned rest. Getting from Col Perdu on one side of the Cirque to Bocca Minuta on the other took us about 3 hours.
The descent down to Vallone is not exactly much quicker as it continues to be a rocky path of boulders and bare rock. So when we reached the Refuge de Tighjettu we had to stop for a well earned hot chocolate.
From here is was only another half hour to reach our refuge for the night at Auberge de Vallone. This was our first night in tents on the GR20. Tent accommodation along the GR20 is variable, tonight we were in pop up style tents which had clearly been up since the start of the season. The mattresses are foam and so were comfortable and aren’t left in the tent so they do get aired. Toilet and washing facilities are limited with only one toilet and one shower to cater for everyone. So we were happy we were off to a hotel the following night.