We know that a beach holiday is not for everyone, luckily in Corsica, there is plenty to do! The GR20 trek is not for the inexperienced so here are a few tips to help you get started.
For those who may not have heard of the GR20, it is one of the most challenging and demanding walking routes in Europe. It is a famous route amongst the walking community, consisting of 16 stages, equivalent to 200km (125 miles) of walking, climbing, traversing, and scrambling and 33,000 ft of elevation. A substantial level of experience is essential to complete the trek due to the rough and rocky terrain and the significant length of the route. Confidence in heights is also necessary. Walkers must understand that the trek is not to be attempted without proper training. Nevertheless, if you are looking for your next hiking achievement and think that you are up to the challenge, here are some tips to help you prepare, it will be an experience you never forget!
1. Regularly participate in at least three aerobic training sessions a week to improve cardiovascular fitness.
The route entails long periods of exertion; therefore, your body must be accustomed to this. To prepare for this, carry out regular and consistent aerobic activities such as jogging, walking, cycling, swimming or anything else that requires exertion. These activities should raise your heart rate, and you should be able to maintain them for at least 30 minutes.
2. Gain real experience with mountain climbing and scrambling.
It is important to have completed relevant routes in the past to gain the relevant skills needed to finish the GR20. There are three hikes in the UK that will help walkers to prepare: Snowdon by Crib Goch (it is worth noting that many sections of the GR20 are higher than the elevation of Snowdon – 1085m – and most paths on Snowdon could be classed as easy in comparison to the GR20, so taking the route Crib Goch is essential. Descending from Blencathra by Sharp Edge in the Lake District and scrambling along the Aonach Eagach ridge in Glenn Coe in Scotland are good routes to have achieved beforehand. Many trails around the world are challenging, and it is easy to think that having done them equates to enough relevant experience, however, you would be surprised to hear that they are not. These include The Inca Trail, Tour de Mont Blanc, Everest Base Camp, Kilimanjaro and the Anapurna circuit.
3. Become used to walking 8+ hours per day in the heat and at elevation.
During each day of the GR20, you will complete 7-8 hours of walking and sometimes more! To be able to achieve this and cover enough ground each day, it is important that you can keep up with this pace for the full duration. Generally, the walking is at a slow and steady pace, however, it must be maintained to reach the end of each section. There will be elevation and some scrambling, and you will exert yourself through the day. It is worth noting that depending on the time of year, conditions can change quickly. You can experience high temperatures with little to any shade, and plummeting temperatures the higher you climb, wind, rain, fog etc. It’s essential to cater for all eventualities.
4. Practice keeping pace ascending between +400m to +500m uphill per hour.
The elevation will vary along the route, and at times it will increase by 400/500m per hour. Practicing walking on hilly terrain is essential, however, if this is not possible where you live, there are certain exercises you can do at home or the gym. A Stairmaster at the gym is the perfect way to train for elevation gain, or, using the incline setting on the treadmill will replicate the elevation gain you will experience during the GR20.
5. Prepare for walking with heavy weight on your back
Throughout the route, you will be carrying a 35-45 litre rucksack with everything you’ll need during the day of walking, as well as your sleeping bag and overnight kit. Your main luggage will be transported by vehicle through the route, but you will only be reunited at specific points, so in some cases, you will be carrying enough kit for several days. The rucksack you will have on your back each day will be heavy, so it is important to train beforehand by walking with a rucksack of the same weight. Once you have done a few walks at home without weight, begin to add weight gradually. Start with a daypack and add enough weight to account for around 25% of the total amount of weight you’ll be carrying on the GR20. Water bottles make great weights and will always be something that you'll be carrying! Gradually build up to 75% of the total weight you’ll be carrying, and you should now transition to the backpack you plan on using when in Corsica. This is important as you can adjust the straps and solve any problems you may find before starting the route itself. Eventually, work up to walking with the full weight of everything you will need – you can find a list of things to pack here.