The last 3 days of the GR20 seemed to whizz by. That said it was still a mental challenge; the weather was scorching hot and become hotter as we lost altitude each day, my ankle started to complain about walking and we were starting to play the food game too early in the morning (what do you hope we’re getting for dinner tonight? I really hope its a huge salad with cheese and a massive chocolate dessert. No I really fancy ice cream, a huge bowl with chocolate sauce – you get the picture).
Day 11 – Cozzano to Crocce 8 hrs 45
Distance 17km approx and 1230m ascent and 315m descent
The ascent out of Cozzano village was brutal and we’d had to wait til 8am before we could leave as one group member wasn’t well enough to join us for the day and transport needed to be organised. So it was scorching hot as we tackled the track through the woodland out of Cozzano. My ankle was already not happy and while I’d been using poles up to today just to get down hill safely, now I was using them uphill too.
I have to be honest it seemed a bit unnecessary to have to regain over 1000m ascent back up to the GR20 path, just for a night at Cozzano. But we did, but not before we’d battled through waist high undergrowth and said hello to more wild pigs. So when we got onto the ridge we were pleased for a break, thankfully the path across the top is easy to follow.
Actually we didn’t stay on the GR20 for long as we were staying at a private refuge at Crocce. So when we reached the plateau at Bocca di L’Agnonu we stopped for a long lunch in the shade just near the water source and then followed the path by the river (another stop to cool feet) before heading for the refuge at Matalza for a cold drink. The terrain across the plateau is nothing like the rocky terrain in the north and if you do only half of the route you are certainly missing out on the stark contrast between the rocky mountains surrounded by pine woodlands in the north and the pastures and pinnacles in the South.
The route from Matalza to the Bergerie de Crocce is a wide track suitable for vehicles and so was easy to follow.
While Crocce is a private refuge it is clean and in a great location and even has hot showers which was a novelty for such a remote place. We had great views of the sunset as we relaxed with beers and later that night when nature called I had fantastic views of the stars and milky way.
Day 12 – To Bavella 9 hrs 35
Distance 13km approx and 1140m ascent and 1470m descent
After a false start this morning when our guide left his mobile behind and realised half an hour into the walk and had a mad sprint back for it, we had a relatively easy ascent up to Monte Alcudina from Crocce, reaching the peak from the south west direction rather than non the GR20 path. The sun was already hot and the views amazing.
The descent down to the refuge d’Asinau across steep rock and boulders shattered morale as much as knees as we lost 600m in a short distance, so a drink was needed when we reached the hut at 11am.
From there we continued to descend the steep path to the river where we stopped to cool feet and have lunch. Eventually the path becomes easier to walk as it winds through the woodland, that is until we reached the junction with the ‘alpine’ path.
Once again, we took the higher level option rather than staying on the main GR20 route which headed through the woodland all the way to Bavella. The ascent of the alpine route was steep and not really what any of us fancied in the afternoon heat as legs were tiring. But it was worth it when we got to the top. The path zigzags up the hillside towards to towering Pinnacles of Bavella.
The path eventually heads right around the rock towers and we stopped on the small plateau top for a break at the foot of Punta di u Pargulu. From the plateau the path then starts to descend down a boulder path.
Once we reached the tree line we had one final chain to use to ascend a rock slab and then continue our descent down to Bavella.
We stayed in the Gite below the restaurant at Bavella which in all honesty was a very small room for 5 people and despite the location (next to a road and in a popular spot for short walks) it was not one of the better places we’d stayed. However it was a bed and a hot shower and the food at the restaurant was plentiful and good. As you reach the road there is a large statue of the Notre Dame des Neiges.
Day 13 – last day to Conca!! 9 hours 15
Distance 19km with 700m ascent and 1670m descent
We started our last day heading for the village of Conca at the end of the GR20 in a good mood and not at all bothered for once that we were off walking at 7.30am.
The route initially follows the track past the refuge at Bavella and through the woodland, and while it heads uphill it is an easy path to walk. In fact the path was easy all the way to the refuge di Paliri.
The path remains easy to walk for much of the day, although don’t be fooled that you are heading downhill all the way to Conca. There is in fact three ascents today and in the scorching heat we didn’t appreciate them.
The views however were amazing, but with little shade as we walked through the ankle high scrub either side of the narrow path it was hard to appreciate it properly. We stopped at the river to cool and have lunch and enjoy the shade before a steep ascent to squeeze through the rock gap at Bocca di u Sorta.
Eventually the path starts a gradual but endless descent down to Conca which lies at an altitude of 250m. Even though the path is easier to walk than some encountered the descent is still tough on the knees. We were very glad to reach Conca even if we had walk through the village to the campsite to meet our minibus and had to rush our ice cream to start our 3 hour drive to Bastia for the night.
I thoroughly recommend the GR20 but would seriously advice reading the Cicerone guide to the route properly before heading off (unlike me who just looked at the pictures!) as the route is very challenging. I’ve done a lot of scrambling and long distance trails and I found this easily the toughest walk I’ve ever done. I also recommend walking poles to save your knees!