The GR20 is a mesmerizing trail that traverses the island of Corsica from North to South. It has a length of 180km/112 miles and leads you over the rugged mountains of the island’s center. The best time to embark and this fantastic hike is early June to late October, with the high season (= crowded) being July and August. The trail is considered the be the most difficult trail of the GR routes, while on the other hand, the GR20 is also often referred to as one of the most beautiful mountain trails in Europe. While the trail certainly isn’t a walk in the park and is extremely rugged and challenging at times, you will be rewarded with beautiful and refreshing glacial lakes, spectacular cliffs, and summits with mesmerizing views.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the interview and hear from Giudi about her experience on the GR20!
*All pictures in this post are from Giudi’s hike, thank you for sharing these with us to make the interview more alive and personal!
Welcome back Giudi! It is great to have another opportunity to chat with you about more amazing trails. We can’t wait to hear about the GR20 in this interview – to start with, can you tell us when you hiked the GR20 and how you discovered the trail?
Hello again! It’s a pleasure for me to have this nice “trail talk” with you!
I hiked the GR20 in July and I had the time of my life, despite the summer heat and the crowd. Well, this trail has been on my bucket list since I started developing my passion for thru hikes, as it is very famous and has a legendary reputation as one of the most epic and toughest trails in the world. In the past, every time I talked about hiking, I was asked if I already thru hiked the GR20… now I can proudly reply “YES, and you should too!”.
As with many trails, the GR20 is very high on our (too long) bucket list of trails to hike. Looking at the itinerary and pictures, it just looks stunning and rugged. How was your experience on the trail?
The GR20 leads hikers high up into the wild mountains of Corsica, far away from the busy town life. It is a trekking that challenged me both mentally and physically, but the struggles were always rewarded with breath-taking, awe-inspiring alpine landscapes and feelings. More than simply a challenge, this trail is an experience worth living and enjoying. I will always remember the goosebumps I had on the top of each climb and how small, intimidated, but also strong and invincible I felt in front of the huge and rough mountains on the trail. The fresh turquoise water of the many natural pools along the GR20 and the moonless night skies, filled with millions of stars, will also stay with me forever.
In our previous interview, you mentioned that you wouldn’t recommend the Arctic Circle Trail for first-time thru-hikers. With the GR20 being classified as one of the or even the most difficult of the GR hikes – in your view what level of experience should someone have to hike this trail?
You’re right, the GR20 is widely known as “one of the toughest trails in the world” and is therefore intimidating many hikers. I must admit that this adventure was indeed tough, and involved both a mental and physical challenge, mainly due to the length and elevation gain of the stages, the heat and the difficult terrain, which requires focus and concentration on the correct and careful positioning of both feet and hands. However, I am convinced that any passionate hiker with trekking experience, some knowledge about alpine terrain, a good level of fitness and proper equipment would be able to thru hike the GR20. I suggest to train ahead and to take this trail one step at a time, while being aware of your capabilities and showing respect to the rugged mountains you are crossing.
And how did you prepare for the hike?
Since I live in Switzerland, I made sure to go for multiple overnight weekend adventures in the mountains with a heavy backpack, mainly to train my legs and lungs for the big elevation gains that I had to face along the GR20.
However, for people who are not used to alpine terrain, I could suggest taking part to some bouldering or indoor climbing lessons for beginners. This would greatly improve your knowledge on how to position hands and feet for reducing the physical effort when climbing on rocks and would increase your confidence on the difficult sections of the GR20.
Even though you prepared well for the trail, did you come across any (major) challenges that you would never have thought of beforehand?
I learned several lessons along the trail:
- My backpack was too heavy at the beginning of the hike. I indeed packed way too much food and I soon realized my mistake, as all the huts on the trail have a small shop and even serve dinner to hikers.
Lesson number 1: minimize the weight of your backpack as much as possible!
- I suffered a lot from the heat during the day, which slowed me down and played with my mind, making even 1 Km feel like an endless struggle.
Lesson number 2: start hiking very early in the morning!
- I decided to double a stage to reunite with some friends met on the way in Vizzavona, the midpoint of the GR20. On that day I was full of adrenaline and felt invincible, but oh my legs were so tired the next day that it seemed also impossible to finish the stage.
Lesson number 3: listen to your body and know your capabilities. Doubling the stages and finishing the trail in the shortest time possible could be an interesting challenge, but is not a must. Allow your body to recover daily, don’t rush and have fun! J
The trail traverses Corsica from North to South and is said to be quite crowded at peak season. How was your experience with the hiking community along the trail?
The GR20 became increasingly popular over the years, and is now a highly frequented trekking, especially during the peak summer months. However, the presence of many people allowed me to bond and form unforgettable friendships along the way, by sharing this adventure and all the good moments and the struggles that came with it.
What surprised you most about the GR20?
The amazing and surreal scenery, for sure. Many people asked me why I decided to hike in Corsica, when I have the chance to spend time in the Swiss Alps at home. Well, every mountain range has its own beauty, and I have never seen such a spectacular landscape in my life, with rugged and beautiful mountains hugged by the sea.
In our previous interview you shared that you have just started your hiking blog (https://www.talesofatrail.com) to share your experiences and knowledge with the wider community, which is extremely exciting! We love the goal of your blog and are cheering you on! But what inspired you to start your blog?
Many friends of mine got inspired from my thru hiking adventures and often ask me very specific questions about the trails I hiked. Sometimes I struggle to help them as I do not remember very well the details of a specific stage and I do not manage to find useful information online. Therefore, I thought it could be a good idea to summarize my knowledge and some useful tips about my experiences in a blog, hoping to help many people planning a long-distance hike.
One of the sections of your blog is Trail Food – and we love the subject 😊. What is your favorite go-to breakfast when out on a trail?
The Trail Food section of my blog is still in development, but we hope to soon provide many delicious recipes and instructions for dehydrating food at home J
Personally, I tend to start the day only with a cereal bar, as I gain some sleeping time, and then to stop again later (1-2 h into the morning) for another cereal/chocolate bar or even some peanut butter. But I know that other people, like my boyfriend, take the time to prepare some porridge and tea to fill up with energy for the hike.
And in terms of your packing list – what is the one piece of gear you will not leave your home with when embarking on a thru-hike?
I know this may sound silly, but my favourite piece of equipment is actually a luxury item! I would never leave for a new adventure without my tiny stuffed animal Stitch, from the Disney Cartoon “Lilo & Stitch”. It is always strapped to my backpack as a lucky charm, and it gives me power and motivation in the moments of discomfort :)
What is the biggest lesson you have learned about yourself throughout all your hiking experiences?
Long distance hikes made me realize how lucky and privileged I am, to be able to travel and live such wonderful experiences. They taught me to fully appreciate moments, memories and little things, like a friendly smile, a warm bed and a warm shower. Moreover, hiking brought me happiness and built up my self-esteem. When I find myself in nature I just love being my simple self, carrying all I need to survive in my backpack.
And we certainly share your passion and aim to inspire outdoor lovers to overcome doubts and embark on their first thru hike. While there are many aspects to it - what is the one piece of advice you would like to give people inspired but hesitant to start their hiking adventure?
Start slowly, one step at a time J If you are hesitant to directly start with a big adventure, first go on a few day hikes, and then on overnight hikes over the weekend. This way, you will slowly get trained and get used to hiking long distances while spending time in nature and getting familiar with your equipment.
Giudi, while there are so many more questions to ask and so much to chat about, we will leave it at this for now. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us, it was an absolute pleasure! Please let us know if you would like to add anything else.
Do you have an amazing story about one of your trail adventures which you would like to share with the community? Please reach out to us via email@example.com as we would love to hear from you.
Jay & Maud