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LE GRANDE RANDONÉE #20 - THE TOUGHEST TREK IN EUROPE

ADAM CRUISE IN THE WORLD:.BLOG
 FRIDAY, 12 OCTOBER, 2012

 

I know, I know it has been a while since my last entry, but for good reason. I have been in training for, then climbing up (and down) mountains. Not just any mountains mind you. The way I see it now, there are two kinds of mountains - Corsica's mountains and all other mountains. I don't know how the idea first germinated but I decided to spend my 10th wedding anniversary (with my wife Amanda, of course) traversing this menacingly almost-impenetrable range of mountains on a trail that the French rather flippantly call Le G.R. 20 (the multiday hikes across France are named numerically). The hike is worthy of a substantially stronger name, because this aint no hike. Hiking involves walking, 'Le zhah-van' is all about climbing. In fact, the first four days there was not a single metre of level ground, just unrelenting ascents and descents vaulting between between altitudes of 1000 and 2300m. Day 5 is supposedly the easiest but we still endured a total ascent and descent of 900m. Perhaps its easiest because it comes after Day 4, the toughest and most paralysingly precipitous where we had to cross a high altitide cirque - the Cirque de la Solitude - along its great, slippery U lip while dangling high above a glacial valley. Needless to say most turned around but we fool-hardedly perservered and made it across with the last vestiges of energy being sapped as we crawled over the final lip. All the stages involve scambling on all fours, with finger-nails gripping into cracks and hauling one self and back-pack up and down over slippery smooth slabs sometimes aided with chains nailed into the cliffs, often not. We carried everything, tent, sleeping bags, clothes, heavy weather gear (for the thunderstorms, of which there were a few) and food except dinner. These were supplied by Corsican shepherds called 'gardiens' charged with maintaining a rudimentary refuge at the the end of each day's hike. The food was simple fare, a bowl of pasta and soup charged at a premium of 20€/person (supplies had to be hauled from villages way below by donkeys). The wine was extra, home made stuff and really good, so in the end we did not mind paying. Sometimes the gardien brought out grappa, vicious moonshine but that was even better especially since the night time temperatures dropped to almost zero, 30 degrees colder than the day, and the grappa also gave us courage for the gruelling 6-7 hour trek the folowing day. Ultimately, this was one of my greatest adventures, massive agonisingly twisted rock high above the Mediterranean sea that sparkled temptingly blue way below, the giant Larico pines seemingly growing out of solid rock and the great sense of accomplishment which came from a combined form of terror and exhiliration. La vie en Corse!