On the 8th September 2018, I waited outside the hotel Monte d’Oro at the Col de Vizzavona, a high mountain road pass in the centre of Corsica. The group was of particular interest to me, since it was headed up by Virgin and included Sir Richard Branson himself...
I was consumed with curiosity and positive expectations but I knew that it would be a challenge.
Our Corsica Adventure, mountain walking company had a very clear brief; we were to organise the itinerary and guides for 4 groups of 12 hikers, over a challenging part of the GR20 North route from south to north, finishing at the coast. The aim was to accomplish this without using any form of transport between the various stopovers.
I wasn’t sure that the small rustic refuges along the route, with such limited facilities, would want to accept such a large booking. It would be necessary to take up practically all the capacity of each of the refuges. The guardians would be required to provide a full board menu and cater for a variety of nutritional needs, plus tents, mattresses etc. Would this be pushing my Corsican friendships too far?
As Sir Richard himself once said, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
I was of the firm belief, that if one of the refuges accepted the complexities of this reservation, the others would follow suit. I just needed the first ‘yes’. Fortunately this came from Pascal, the guardian and mountain Guru at the tiny refuge of Petra Piana. Situated at an altitude of 1842m, this particular refuge was built in 1971 and has just 28 places. ‘Yes,’ he said , ‘Providing you can get 25 extra tents into the next helicopter drop.’ The other refuges soon accepted, in spite of all the logistical difficulties that all this would entail. Our program started in Vizzavona at the Monte d’Oro hotel. The route went on to l’Onda refuge, Petra Piana refuge, Manganu refuge and Castel di Vergio hotel. Theroute then peeled down through the Aitone Forest to the west coast, finishing in Porto on the west coast at the hotel Mediterranean.
The name of the challenge is ‘Strive’. In this case it consisted of a month-long adventure that started in Southern Sardinia, crossed Corsica, via the GR20 North and finished on the summit of Mont Blanc. The idea was for a group of participants to cycle, kayak and walk along the various sections, with the aim of raising money for their charity, called ‘Big Change.’ The money raised is used for a variety of carefully chosen projects that support young people and help them thrive in life. At the end of most walking days, there was a presentation which provided insight into the latest project development.