About a month ago I decided I needed to go for another trek as part of my training for Patagonia.
With it being summer, I thought I’d treat myself to somewhere out of the UK and head for Europe. My adventures usually start with one initial idea followed by a Google search.
‘Europe hard trek summer’ is what I typed into the search engine.
Immedietely I was bombarded with links with the word GR20 in it. Research later developed and I was pleased to read that this GR20 was a trek in Corsica. Not just a trek though, this was named Europe’s hardest trek of all.
I did my usual act of going around my outdoor friends (I don’t have many) asking if they’d join me. One said he’d be happy to… This later (with only a few days to go) didn’t work out and I was left to take on the GR20 alone.
On reflection, I definitely underestimated the trek. I should stop saying the word ‘trek’ too. This wasn’t a trek, you’d be lucky to see 20 metres of flat, ‘walkable’ terrain. This was a climb. A climb without ropes.
Concentration is everything on the GR20. I’d often find myself cursing in the early hours of the day as I sleepily began the 3 hour climb across boulders and rock faces. “Pay attention Lucy” I’d say. No one was there to help me if I fell, it was up to me to get through this safely.
Distance isn’t a factor on this route. To put it into perspective, on some stages I’d only be walking 5 miles as the crow flies and it would take 7 hours. This proved frustrating. Slowly I’d climb up a 15 metre boulder that stood in the way, then carefully lower myself and my giant rucksack down to the ground.
For the entirety of the trip, I slept in a tiny hooped bivy bag which meant I didn’t get the sleep I needed. I was cold at night, waking up in shivers despite the 35 degree Celsius midday heat. All of this added to the infamous name ‘hardest trek in Europe.
The route was gruelling but after a while, my balance improved, my leg muscles grew stronger and my confidence to climb without ropes and with chunky boots and a rucksack, grew enormously. There were times I questioned why I was even making myself do this in my spare time, but like anything worth doing, it felt incredible to finish and was a phenomenal way to spend the last few weeks of summer.
Sadly, over half a dozen people have died on this route since June and many are still missing. This is a result of a storm where people were trapped in a landslide and also struck by lightening.
This was a big reminder to take care when on the GR20 and treat it with respect, it won’t be kind to anyone.