The difficulties and dangerous sections of the GR20

Insider Tips

The GR20, stretching across Corsica, is one of the most demanding hiking trails in Europe. With 180 kilometres of rugged, mountainous terrain, it offers breathtaking scenery, as well as presenting some notable challenges: rocky terrain, risks of rockfalls and falls. Hikers need to be prepared, both physically and mentally, to tackle hazards such as the Pointe des Éboulis and the Aiguilles de Bavella. Our article highlights the importance of preparation for the GR20 in order to conquer the difficulties and take full advantage of the trail's rugged beauty.

The GR20: a demanding trail

The GR20, which crosses Corsica from north to south, is reputed to be one of the most difficult trails in Europe. This 180-kilometre hiking route, known for its steep gradients and rugged terrain, offers spectacular views of the mountains and the sea.

Risks and precautions on the GR20 

The GR20 is full of pitfalls for careless hikers, with around 250 interventions every year, often due to minor accidents. Hikers should be well prepared and equipped, including warm, waterproof clothing, sturdy footwear, water, food and shelter from the elements.

Characteristics of the terrain and difficulties 

Most of the GR20 follows ridges over mainly rocky terrain, requiring constant attention. Rockfalls and slippery passages are frequent, increasing the risk of injuries such as sprains. The intense heat, particularly in hot regions, and the fatigue accumulated over the days, make some stages particularly demanding.

Particularly dangerous points

Preview Les chaînes sous le Capu Ghiovu sur le GR20

The chains below Capu Ghiovu

On the GR20 stage from Calenzana to Ortu di u Piobbu, you will cross Bocca U Saltu, a remarkable passage where you will come across rocks fitted with cables and chains. These installations are specially designed to help hikers negotiate the technical passages below the summit of Capu Ghiovu, ensuring safer and easier progress on this demanding section of the trail.

Preview La passerelle de la Spasimata sur le GR20

La Spasimata and the slabs below Lac de la Muvrella

On the section of the GR20 between the Carrozzu refuge and the Ascu Stagnu station, after crossing the Spasimata footbridge, hikers will encounter smooth, sloping slabs. Although they present a challenge in terms of progress, these slabs are secured with cables to assist hikers in their crossing, guaranteeing a safer ascent in this tricky section of the route.

Preview Passage à Bocca Crucetta sur le GR20

Bocca Crucetta and Pointe des Éboulis

On the GR20 between Asco Stagnu and Tighjettu, at an altitude of 2,600 metres near Monte Cintu, hikers encounter major challenges at the Pointe des Éboulis and the Bocca Crucetta. This area features granite slabs and stone fields, some of which are equipped with chains. Risks include unstable scree and slippery slabs in wet conditions. Below the Bocca Crucetta pass, an unsecured rock-climbing passage above Lac du Cinto requires particular care, especially on wet and slippery rock.

Preview Bocca di Foggialle sur le GR20 nord

Bocca di Foggiale

To reach the Bocca di Foggiale pass, culminating at 1962 metres, the path is steep, with some sections approaching rock-climbing and sometimes requiring the use of the hands. The rocky slabs encountered on the section between Tighjettu and Ciottulu are particularly technical and can be slippery, requiring extra care from hikers.

Preview Brèche de Capitello

Bocca Alle Porte and the chains of the Capitello breach

At an altitude of 2,200 metres, Bocca Alle Porte is a crucial point on the GR20 trail, marking the passage between the Manganu and Petra Piana refuges. This section is equipped with a chain that facilitates the ascent of a small chimney, making the crossing more accessible. In addition, the presence of large snowdrifts requires extra vigilance, particularly at the start of the season, when these piles of snow can present additional challenges for hikers.

Preview La variante Alpine entre Petra Piana et l'Onda

The ridges of the Serra di Tenda

Located on the alpine variant between Petra Piana and Onda, this route offers hikers passages along the ridges of the Punta di Pinzi Corbini. This variant is notable for its superb panoramic views and an impressive traverse of the ridge. However, this route should only be taken in good weather, as adverse weather conditions such as rain or storms make the hike risky and difficult.

Preview Les barreaux de la Punta della Capella

The bars of the Punta della Capella

On your hike from the Prati refuge to the Usciolu refuge on the GR20, you'll come across a key passage below the summit of the Punta della Capella. This slightly airy section includes a short stretch of rock-climbing secured by rungs firmly anchored in the rock. This passage, while technical and demanding, requires extra vigilance due to its complex terrain.

Preview Chaînes de l'arête a Monda

The Monda ridge or Arête des Statues

On the GR20 stage between Usciolu and Cuscionu, the Arête a Monda, also known as the Arête des Statues, takes its name from the tortured granite formations that line its route. Here, the traditional path gives way to a series of passages in steep couloirs, sometimes equipped with chains for rock-climbing. 

Preview La variante Alpine des Aiguilles de Bavella

The Aiguilles de Bavella ranges

The alpine variant of Bavella on the GR20, particularly at the foot of Punta di l'Arghjettu, offers hikers an impressive challenge: a large stone slab several metres high to cross. To ensure safe passage, a chain and bars have been installed. This section of the trail, close to the Aiguilles de Bavella, is particularly remarkable.

Advice for hikers sensitive to vertigo

It is advisable to proceed at your own pace and concentrate on the task in hand, asking other hikers for help if necessary.

The importance of experience and preparation

Previous experience of trekking for several days is crucial. The GR20 puts an intense strain on the body, with steep ascents and descents. Mountain training is recommended to acclimatise to the altitude and the challenges of mountain terrain. Read our article on : How should you prepare physically for the GR20?

Although the GR20 presents many challenges, it remains a magnificent trail, offering an unforgettable experience to hikers who are well prepared and aware of its dangers.