CORSICA GR20 Phase 3: DAYS 9th-10th-11th-12th
GR-20. HIKING DAY 10: Bergeries U Vallone, 1.440m - Asco, Le Chalet, 1.420m
8h (6h30min in movement) 10 km +1190m/-1215m
We got up at 5:30 a.m. having slept very well (the tent site that we found was completely straight) and it was also not very cold and the temperature has been very good.
We pack up the tent and at 6:30 a.m. we have breakfast inside les Bergeries bar, bread with jam and coffee with milk (the typical thing here for breakfast), we have breakfast a little quietly thinking about how today will go, since we know that this is the queen stage of this journey.
At 7:15 a.m. we started our way with a cloudy sky, this is exactly what we saw when we checked the weather forecast yesterday in Castel di Verghio, and after 15 minutes few rain drops begin to fall … we don’t like it at all since today we’ll be at high mountains and very exposed, going through the dreaded pass of ‘the Circus of Solitude’, theoretically….
Starting the journey to Tighjettu hut
The GR20 guide book from Desnivel publishing house, which we bought last summer (2019), points out that this stage has an important initial dilema, without the possibility of having any variant that avoids the complicated section, in case of bad weather.
We continue the walk on a stony path until we reach the Tighettu hut (40min), trusting that the 4 drops of rain will not go any further. We take water at the hut, while we ask the guard for the weather forecast. He says that he believes the day will remain cloudy, but it will not rain, although he can’t logically assure it, although he does tell us that the wind will be very strong and even more at the peaks. We asked him about the Cirque de la Solitude and he flatly answer that he would not go there, especially on a day like today ☹.
Tighjettu hut, 1.685m
Very scared, and after agreeing on it, we continued our way. We follow the red and whaite marks when leaving the hut towards Asco and we realize that they do not coincide with the route that we have in our GPS. We are very surprised since the route that the trail follows compared to the route we have in the GPS is really different, which makes us even more uneasy. With no hikers in our sight to ask at this time of day, we decided to continue with the GR20 marks, since so far they have always take us right.
So, we continued on a cloudy day, with a lot of wind and uncertain rain, without any route to follow on our GPS device and with the Hut guard having recommended us not to do the Cirque de la Solitude… come on, really?
Going up the GR20 path
Going up the GR20 path
After a while and seeing the increasing difficulty of the track, in which we have to use our hands in some sections, we take a good look at the Garmin map again, and we see that the route of marks that we are following actually exists, and our GPS says that actually it is the GR20, therefore, a little more relieved we decided to keep going.
So far we go alone and with this uncertainty we go up and up and each time the path gets steeper, until in about 45 minutes we find a small group of hikers going down quite fast and we ask them. They tell us that they have gotten up around 4 am from Asco and it is 8:30 am right now, what a cracks! They also tell us that the road is hard and that the wind is very strong at the top.
Going up the path of the GR20, steeper and steeper
We are in the Crocetta pass, obviously we are not where the Desnivel guide book said, nor where we had planned to go, so where are we going? We are disoriented. The guide book said that we were going up to Boca Minuta, but we are in Boca Crocetta at 2,455m.
We rest a bit and we see that a hiker arrives, he seems very experienced looking at his equipment and he is recording with his GoPro, so we asked him about the ‘Cirque de la Solitude’ but he doesn’t know what it is, he says that he has climbed “the peak” but he doesn’t tell us which one and he leaves fast … ok … and what peak did he climb? we wonder.
Beautiful panoramic views to the other side of the valley, from Bocca Crocetta
We continue following the GR marks towards Asco. From the pass we enter a very beautiful rocky cirque on the other side, where there is a small lake below the valley. We go around the circus in the N direction and from here we start to meet a lot of people, people alone and big groups. The wind continues to blow quite strong and we see that people are very very wrapped up, with winter coats, hats and even ski gloves …
Along the GR20 bordering the cirque
Along the GR20 bordering the cirque, climbing towards a hill
We already have an idea of where the GR is guiding us, we continue the way bordering the cirque along a stony path without difficulty until we reach a next pass, Punta des Eboulis, at 2,605m where we find an indication to climb the ‘Monte Cinto ‘and another one to descend towards’ Asco’.
Punta des Eboulis pass, where we find indications towards ‘Monte Cinto’ and towards ‘Asco’
Punta des Eboulis pass, where we find indications towards ‘Monte Cinto’ and towards ‘Asco’
And then we confirm our feeling; the GR20 has changed, we don’t know why, but the GR no longer goes through the ‘Cirque de la Solitude’ but from Tighjettu it goes up to Bocca Cruccetta, crosses Cinto cirque through rocky strips with Lake Cinto just below to drive to the access line to the summit of Monte Cinto, the point where we are right now.
Perhaps they have changed the route of the GR20 in this stage to bring hikers as close as possible to the highest mountain on the island and thus be able to make the summit of Corcega during the GR20 route, more popular and safe than going through the Cirque de Solitude, and well seen in this way, the change seems logical to us.
As we do not know how long it would take from where we are, Punta des Eboulis, to reach the summit of Monte Cinto, nor do we know what the path is like (if there are difficult climbs, etc …) and the wind blows very strong (at the top must be much worse) we decided to continue towards Asco.
Start of the descent towards Asco, from Punta des Eboulis
From here and especially at the beginning, the descent is very steep and slippery with dirt and loose stones, we go very slowly making sure not to fall. We find a lot of people going up, we assume that most of them are only going to climb Monte Cinto, and actually some ask us how the summit is, although our answer is not the expected one, we tell them that we are doing the GR20 and that we have not climbed Monte Cinto.
Beautiful panoramic views down towards Asco, from Punta des Eboulis
We continue our descent until the path becomes less steep and we find a small plateau where the path to the top of Capu Barbo (2,280m) begings, here we stop to eat sheltered from the wind with some rocks, it is 12:30 p.m.
Small plateau (flat) where we stop to eat, overlooking the Punta des Eboulis pass
After resting and watching the clouds how quick pass over us, we continued the downhill to Asco.
From here the stones are bigger and although the slope is steep it is possible to go down better than in the initial section. Further down we find chains to help us go through very steep sections of large even stones, but without any problem we passed, what is more, we had a lot of fun on this section! Although extreme precautions must be taken on rainy days or with wet rock.
Going down the GR20 through a section of large rocks
We will find various chains to advance, without problem we will lower them
The descent to cross the Russeau Du Tighiettu river is long but little by little and with the fun of the chains we reach the bottom of the valley, faster than we thought, to enter the last section of the day, a path through forest of about 2km to Asco.
Entering the final part of the day, through a beautiful stretch of forest
Almost at the end of the descent, before reaching the forest, we meet our two French friends who also do the GR20 from south to north and with whom we have been meeting for several days.
We tell them what happened today and they tell us that the Cirque de la Solitude was closed to the public in 2015 after some mountaineers tragically lost their lives there on a day of violent storms, the French authorities changed the GR20 and diverted it along the route of Ascent to Monte Cinto and they removed all the alpine gear (catwalks, chains, marks and signs …) in the Cirque de la Solitude.
2 years later the cirque was reopened, but without any type of gear, so if you want to do it, it is better to hire a guide. One of the French friends tells us that his father made the Cirque, and he remembers how exposed and risky it was but gorgeous, the most beautiful place he found on the GR20.
More information in the following article:
Ugh, after hearing this story we stopped on the side path and think about what mountaineering means. This information makes us grow and learn from our decisions, there are always uncertainties in life, and sometimes you take things for granted and then you find that it is no longer valid. The attitude of acceptance the situation, moving forward and looking for new alternatives and solutions make us create a new course, a course that will drive us our new path.
Thus, being guided by negative feelings such as frustration, fear or insecurity are useless, it will just increase the stress and prevent us from being able to think clearly.
Arriving at Asco, following the forest path
Finally, we continue along the forest path until we suddenly reach Asco, where there are some buildings, a hostel, a hotel and a hut at the base of a ski station. It’s 2:40 p.m.
We stay at the hostel that we booked, ‘Le Chalet’, where we have a room with 3 bunk beds, of which only 2 are finally occupied, with a couple of runners who have started doing the GR20 and want to complete it in 7 days, Waw! They just bring a small camelback, and small sleeping bag. We wish them the best of luck.
The hostel has a small food store, where we buy some products for the next day.
Asco, le Chalet hostel, near ski station
We had dinner in the “a la carte” restaurant (since the menu again consists of a Corsican soup for the first and steak with potatoes for the second …) and we ordered some local burgers from Asco, very good! They are accompanied by potatoes and salad and the plate is enough to satisfy our appetite, although we do not forgive dessert; Apple pie, Mmmmm, everything very tasty!
To say that the service was also very good because we changed the half board to sleep and breakfast, with dinner a la carte and although they had restaurant fully booked, they made a space for us.
During our dinner, we met Jose Manuel, a hiker we already saw in Castell di Verghio but we did not have the opportunity to chat. We talked for a long time, in fact all dinner long! Commenting why we were there and many other anecdotes and all in all this seems to be the beginning of a good friendship that will continue outside the GR20 😊
Jose Manuel went up to Monte Cinto today, he tells us that it took more or less 1 hour to go and another hour to return to the crossroads, but it wasn’t a nice experience since the wind blew very strong all the way, and when he reached the top there was no views at all due to the clouds; the climb to the top was not worth all the suffering and cold he past.
This is what it is, the mountains can be beautiful and wonderful, but at the same time uncertain and capricious. But the truth is that now there is a reason for us one day to return, and thus be able to make the highest summit of this island, which we still have pending.