Hello Christian, could you please introduce yourself ?
Hi, I am Christian, 36, from Munich, Germany. Hiker, Outdoor enthusiast and wannabe adventurer 🙂
Have you ever gone for a hike ?
Yes, I have family living in the Oberstdorf Area about 90 minutes away from Munich and only a stone throw away from the Alps. I usually go there at least once a month and do some sort of day tour with my dad. Once a year we do a longer hike such as the E5 Alp Crossing (6 days) or this year the Heilbronner Höhenweg (3 days) and so on. I also did the West Coast Trail and the Juan de Funca Marine trail in Vancouver Island in 2016 for 10 days. All of these hikes are very different to the GR20. Especially the West Coast Trail in Canada was more coastal and jungle and just different than hiking in the Mountains.
Concerning about hiking in your country, could you advise some hikes to our readers ?
A must do is the E5 Alp Crossing, the Heilbronner Höhenweg and there are several other long and short distance hikes in the Alps. To many to recommend but there are plenty of trails for beginners as well as hardcore alpinists 🙂 All trails are very easy to find and are well marked, no matter what the level of the hiker.
Concerning about the GR20, when did you hike there and which way ?
I did the GR20 in August 2017. I walked alone beginning in Calenzana and finishing in Conca. I did the whole trek in a total of 15 days.
What was the context for hiking the GR20 ? How did you prepare yourself to this target ?
I started planning the logistics of the hike in late 2016. That is also when I started training and researching for it. I had a specific training plan consisting of a lot of heavy lifts (for example squats and deadlifts to build up the legs and core/back) apart from hiking obviously. I took the hike as a physical and mental challenge as I wanted to do it Solo.
Around this time I also started researching the island itself and what kind of gear I might bring, what to expect weather wise etc.. I had a certain strategy in my head regarding hiking stages and food options. My goal was to carry most of my supplies and only restock at the refuges if really necessary. I did not really have a detailed look at each stage before planning the hike. I carried a German hiking guide which had details on each stage and this is the only info I read once before the hike and then each night before the individual stage in order to prepare for the next day.
What equipment did you bring ?
I used a 70 Liter Karimoor Panther backpack. It’s very big and bulky but obviously lots of volume. However it has a very comfortable strap and carry system and I love the feel on my back.
In general I carried way to much clothing as I was prepared for all types of weather. The long clothes were pretty much useless except for one day of mistral winds. I carried a MSR 1-man ultra-light tent, ultra light sleeping pad and a down sleeping bag. In general I was over-prepared for colder temperatures at the altitude and not well prepared for the extreme heat I encountered. So I mainly used shorts and shortsleeved functional wear. I had expected different weather at the higher altitude to be honest. I carried food for the first 7-8 Stages. I mainly carried energy bars, pasta, rice and some instant soup powder.
I had carried a 1,5 liter drinking pouch and an extra 1 liter canteen. On most days this was more than enough to get from source to source. Only the first 4 days from Calenzana were really sketchy regarding the water and you really had to be disciplined and ration it from water source to water source.
The best and most valuable piece of equipment I had was a good watch (Suunto Alpha Traverse) as I navigated mainly using the altimeter on the watch.
Another important thing are good and sturdy hiking boots. I used really sturdy, ankle high leather boots from Hanwag. They were a bit heavier but really saved me in the rough and loose terrain of the hike.
Your positive feedbacks ?
The hike is a great physical and mental challenge. Each individual stage is fairly doable but all together the hike is a real good challenge. I loved that aspect of it because that is what I was looking for during my vacation. To really disconnect from everything mentally and physically drain my body to the max. The different scenery each stage is absolutely amazing.
I loved being alone during the day without seeing people at all. I had very little contact with locals, other hikers or people at the refuge. This however was my choice.
Some negative feedbacks ?
The heat, lack of water and the fires were a real concern the majority of the hike. It was hard to get infos at the refuge regarding the weather or the fires.
This is a bit of a downside and I suspect that this, during seasons that have different weather than August, can lead to some trouble for the hikers if they don’t know what they are getting themselves into (storm/snow etc.).
Some of the forest sections seemed very dirty with toilet paper everywhere.
This is something I can’t really understand as the sanitation areas at the refuges were impecable most of the time.
Which was your favorite stage, and your favorite shelter ?
The stage from Haut Asco to Refuge Thigiettu via Monte Cinto was one of the hardest yet best stages.
The dramatic scenery changes and the physical and mental challenge on this long leg were incredible and really taxing. My favourite Refuge was probably Prati as the bivouac place and the view were incredible.
If you should hike again the GR20, would you change something ?
I would probably change the season so I would hike in some cooler weather. I would take less changes of clothes and probably try to use the refuges more for supplies.
Which advices could you share to people whom are thinking to go on GR20 ?
Know what you are getting yourself into, take your time, eat right and enjoy the trip !!!
Thanks a lot Christian for having shared your GR20 solo feedback ! It’s always courageous to start this trek alone !
We hope to see you soon for a next GR20 hike 🙂