Ian Mellors from Canada – GR20 hike in Corsica with his daughter Emily

Hello Ian, could you please introduce yourself?

Hi, my name is Ian Mellors, I am 50 years old, I live in Canmore, Alberta, Canada and work as a high school math and physics teacher. I have been hiking all my life, but I’ve done most of my hiking the last 10 years. I have hiked all over the Canadian Rockies and the American Southwest, including multiple trips to the Grand Canyon. As a family, with my wife and two daughters, we completed a seven-day trek to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2015.

Ian Mellors and Emily
Ian Mellors and Emily

Can you introduce your website bootwreckers.com ?

I started my website at the end of our GR20 hike. I found that I often had unanswered questions when planning trips and that I always learned something from each hike. If you look at the website, I start each hike describing Our Plan for the Hike, How We Prepared and What We Learned. The summary of our hike comes after. My hope is that I can share the knowledge from each hike with others who are interested in doing the same hike.

The name bootwreckers came from hiking the GR20 — it was my first long-distance trek and my boots were destroyed by the end!

What about hiking in Canada ? Could you advise some hikes to us ?

Living in the Canadian Rockies, we have numerous National and Provincial parks providing both single-day and multi-day routes. The Rockwall in Kootenay National Park is a classic high-alpine multi-day hike. The Brazeau Loop in Jasper National Park travels over three alpine passes.

Banff National Park has many great day hikes. You can also spend days exploring areas of the park such as Egypt Lake, Sunshine Meadows out to Mount Assiniboine or the Sawback Range, turning any of these into multi-day outings.

What we do not have in Canada is the hut system that is available in Europe. There are very few back-country cabins and a smaller number that offer food, such as Skoki Lodge and Mt. Assiniboine Lodge. This makes it challenging to do long distance trekking, as you must carry your tent, gear and food. If you are lucky, you can get friends to meet you with resupplies, but it requires them to spend a day hiking in to a suitable drop point.

Concerning about the GR20, when did you hike there ? Which way ? Where did you start and finish ?

I hiked the GR20 with my daughter Emily, age 23. Because I am a full-time teacher and teach summer school, we had to go in August. We had a 12-day plan, starting on August 12th, hiking North – South. At the end, we planned to travel to Rome from Porto-Vecchio, and then fly home on Monday, August 27th. With one day in Rome and one travel day, we had one extra day for our hike. Since the hike went to plan, we decided to not double the last two stages. We stayed at Refuge de Palari, and used our extra day to have an easier last two days.

Emily flew into Bastia and took the train to meet me in Calvi. We stayed one night in Calvi before getting a taxi to the start of the trail in Calenzana. We finished in Conca ; after a nice lunch, we got a taxi to Porto-Vecchio, where we stayed overnight in a campground.

The Finish - Conca
The Finish – Conca

What was the context for hiking the GR20 ? How did you prepare yourself to this target ?

Hiking the GR20 was my daughter Emily’s idea. She was working in Great Britain on a two-year work visa and thought a backpacking trip would be a great way to end her two years in Europe. Emily had previously completed a long-distance hike, the John Muir Trail, in California, approximately 387 km over 23 days. My longest hike had been 95 km over five days. We made the decision to hike the GR20 in September of 2017, with our hike taking place in August 2018.

To prepare for the GR20, I approached the hike as if I was training for a sport competition. I ran two to three times a week with my dogs, and hiked one evening during the week and both days on the weekend. I am very lucky living in Canmore, as I have mountains I can hike right from my front door, which can give me up to 1,000 m of elevation gain in just 5 km. During the week, Emily, my wife and I would do an after-dinner hike of 2 – 2.5 hours, gaining around 500 m of elevation. On the weekend I would do full-day hikes both Saturday and Sunday. All my hiking was done with at least a 20 kg pack, to simulate the load I would have on the GR20. I did manage to get out and do two overnight backpacking trips in July prior to leaving for the GR20.

We gathered our information from two primary sources. First the website, Corsica for Hikers. Then we purchased the guide book, “Trekking the GR20 Corsica – The High Level Route” by Paddy Dillon.

What equipment did you bring ?

Backpack – Osprey Aether AG 85L – 2.4kg
Tent – Zpacks Duplex Two-Person Self-Standing Tent – 1.05 kg
Sleeping Bag – Marmot 10C – 1.9 kg
Sleeping Pad – 1 kg

Clothing :

Long-sleeve collared shirt (used for hiking, chosen to keep the sun off the skin)
Long-sleeve polypro shirt
T-shirt polypro
Warm leggings
Two pairs of socks
Rain jacket
Rain skirt (super light and small)
Extra sunglasses
Flip flops for walking around camp

Electronics :
SPOT – Emergency Locator Beacon
Cannon SLR Camera with 12-22mm Tokina lens

Solar Panel – for recharging small electronic devices :
Tablet :
– Used for travelling, electronic airline tickets, emailing home
– Used View Ranger mapping App for pinpointing our location

Other items included:

First aid kit
3L water bladder
1L water bottle
Frosty Paws (stuffed cat, family mascot, has come on all backpacking trips including Kilimanjaro)
Book “No Picnic on Mt. Kenya”. A family tradition on multi-day treks is for me to read a story out loud at night. Nice way to unwind after a day on the trail.

Base weight of backpack and equipment – 10.5 kg

We filled our water each morning at camp, we purified all our water with iodine tablets.

Weight of water each day – 4 kg

We carried all our food for breakfast and dinner and on-trail snacks. For breakfast, we ate oatmeal, dinner was store-bought freeze-dried food (Backpacker’s Pantry or Mountain House). For snacks we had one Power Bar per day, Logan Bread and dried fruit, which Emily prepared before we left. In our water bottles we added electrolytes each day (orange Gatorade). We purchased lunch from the Refuges and Bergeries, sometimes treating ourselves to a hot lunch of omelettes, usually local bread and cheese.

Weight of food to start the hike – 7.3 kg

Total weight of backpack and equipment – 22 kg

My pack on the left, Emily's on the right Day 1
My pack on the left, Emily’s on the right Day 1

I hiked in hiking shoes. They offered plenty of support and protection. My shoes were destroyed by the conditions of the hike, Emily’s Salomon hiking shoes only showed minimal wear from the hike.

Both of us hiked in a baseball cap and used a single hiking pole each.

While for some people our weight may seem high (Emily carried the equivalent without the camera), we did save money by carrying our food. Having our own tent gave us some flexibility on where we could camp. At the Refuge de Palari, we set up our tent near a cliff with an amazing view of the Mediterranean. In the morning, while making breakfast, we were treated to an absolutely stunning sunrise.

Sunrise Refuge de Palari
Sunrise Refuge de Palari

Hiking in North America, we have very few backcountry huts and no one provides tents for rent at campgrounds, so we are accustomed to carrying all our gear and being self-sufficient. We thought it was a real treat to not carry lunch and purchase it along the way.

Your positive feedbacks?

  • Trail and scenery were amazing. Never hiked a backpacking trail with as many chains and scrambling sections. Made for enjoyable hiking.
Composite photo of Emily scrambling on State 2
Composite photo of Emily scrambling on State 2
  • People we met on the way were all friendly and helpful.
  • Fun to see the diversity of people on the trail.
  • The view off of the Bocca Pisciaghia on day 2, with the ruggedness of Corsica extending into the distance was breath-taking.
Ian - hiking GR20 in Corsica
Ian – hiking GR20 in Corsica
  • Seeing the Milky Way from the both Refuge d’Orto di u Piobbu and Refuge de Tighjettu.
  • The red sunrises that we saw as a result of our early morning starts.
  • Spending a glorious adventure with my daughter.

Negative feedbacks ?

  • We had short, but heavy rainstorms on 6 of the 13 days. Once we realized that there was always a threat of afternoon thunderstorms, we adjusted our days to leave very early each day to arrive in camp before the rain.
  • It was cooler than I thought it would be. This was great for hiking, but I would have liked a light jacket and slightly warmer sleeping bag.

What was your favourite feedback ? And the worst ?

Favourite part of the trek was how different each day was. There was no worst feedback, the trip was amazing.

Which was your favorite stage, and your favorite shelter ?

Stage 2 (High Level Route) : Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carozzu. The view off the first bocca was amazing (as mentioned earlier) and traversing the rugged ridge that followed was fun. Stage 15, Refuge d’Asinau to Refuge de Palari, was a close second. The spires at the top of the Bocca de Pargulu and the scrambling made for a great day.

I simply love the setting at the Refuge de Tighjettu, such a beautiful place. The Bergerie Radule was very simple, but was situated in a wonderful setting, with big rock walls on three sides, a stream and waterfall, plus a lovely view of the valley.

Bergerie de Radule, our tent right of centre
Bergerie de Radule, our tent right of centre

If you should do again this hike, what would you change ?

I would plan to do the hike in 13 days as we ended up doing. But I would put two extra days into our schedule for a total of 15 days. If the hike goes to plan, just use the extra 2 days to explore Corsica. The reason is primarily in case we have to take a day off due to weather.

We had the threat of rain on day 3 leaving Refuge d’Asco Stagnu and heading up Monte Cinto. Many people took a shuttle that day and skipped the stage. We decided to make the attempt at hiking that day. We were successful in making it to Tighjettu, but were held up by rain for about one hour from the high point of the day, Bocca Crucetta and we were wondering if we would actually make it to Tighjettu. We had made the decision to attempt the stage, because we only had one spare day in our schedule, I did not want to use it so early on the hike, day 3, in case we needed it later.

I would take a light fleece or down jacket and a 0°C sleeping bag.

I would not make the trip to Rome, but stay in Corsica. This would make the end of the trip simpler. It was a lot of work to get to Rome, 18 hours of travel. This coming right after our hike, left us too tired to properly explore Rome.

Since I travelled from several time zones away, 8 hrs to be exact, I would travel to Europe for a couple of days to adjust to the time change. I woke up in the middle of the night for the first three nights. While I did get to see the Milky Way in the night sky, I was not fully rested for the next day’s hiking.

Milky Way Day 1 - Refuge d’Orto di u Piobbu
Milky Way Day 1 – Refuge d’Orto di u Piobbu

Which advices could you give to people whom are thinking to go for a GR20’s hike ?

Preparation is the key to a successful trek. The hiking is very tough, and that is well known. So you must prepare yourself physically as best you can. If you are nervous about the difficulty of the hike, do not double up Stage 2 and Stage 3. Separately they are short days, and doing them on different days allows you to work your way into the hike.
Utilize hiking poles. Many of the stages end with a steep downhill after a long day of trekking. Poles will help ease the impact on the knees. Especially important in the North section.
Remember to stop and look around. The trail passes through incredible scenery, need to take time to take it all in.
Weather permitting, take the High Level variants, it will provide better views.

Lac de Capitello Stage 7
Lac de Capitello Stage 7

Would you like to suggest something else ?

Tackle the hike one day at a time. Every day on the trail is a gift, embrace it.

Thank you Ian for this GR20 feedback ! That’s true, as you say, one of the best advise for this hike is to take enough time to enjoy it entirely ! All the other are so tue as well : weather forecasts and thunderstorm risk, low temperatures some nights or during running days, jetlagged specially after travelling from America, physical sport preparation need and so on ! Now, it’s time to visit your website and all your GR20 advises stage by stage. We hope to read you again later for a new GR20 hike ! Take care. Bye!

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