Hello Marianne, could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Marianne Bohr and I’m a travel writer. My husband, Joe and I raised our two children in Maryland and moved to Park City, Utah when we retired at the end of June 2016. We decided to do the GR20 to celebrate our 60th birthdays and our 35th wedding anniversary in August 2016.
Have you ever gone for a hike?
Yes, my husband and I love to hike and have done many in the US and Europe with our children as they were growing up. Some of our favorite hikes are the Grand Canyon (rim-to-rim), any hike in Sedona, Arizona, Upper Yosemite Falls, The Samaria Gorge on Crete and the Tour du Mont Blanc.
You wrote a book about the GR20. Could you please let us know more about it?
Yes, my book is called “The Twenty: The Highs and Lows of Hiking Across Corsica on Europe’s Toughest Footpath“.
It will be published in the Fall of 2020. My husband and I were about to turn sixty and we wanted to challenge what it meant to grow old. The book is part travelogue and part memoir about our difficult journey across a rugged island of stunning beauty little known outside Europe. Very few Americans even know that Corsica is part of France.
It’s a narrative about hiking, about aging, about accepting the finite journey of life, and about the intimate friendship of a long-term marriage that is tested in unexpected ways. The GR20 provides the crucible for exploring what it means to be an aging woman in a youth-focused culture, a physically fit person whose limitations are getting the best of her, and a partner in a marriage in which one of them, one day, will have to “go first.”
Concerning about the GR20, when did you hike there ? Which way ?
My husband and I hiked The Twenty north to south in August 2016. We went with an outfitter, KE Adventures. There were seven of us in our group plus a French guide and we started in Calenzana and ended in Conca.
What was the context for hiking the GR20 ? How did you prepare yourself to this target?
Being avid hikers, we had heard about the GR20 while doing the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2012. We had done the TMB to celebrate our 55th birthdays and decided that we would do the GR20 for our 60th birthdays. We hike often, but did about six months of serious training before we arrived in Corsica so we would be in shape.
What about the equipment?
We each had a 45-litre Osprey pack and 2-litre water bladders with filters. We also carried a one-litre water bottle for extra hydration. Our sleeping bags were the Big Agnes brand and we used the sleeping pads and tents provided by the refuges. Bed bugs were a big problem, so we never stayed in the refuge buildings. We bought and ate breakfasts and dinners at the refuges and carried lunches prepared by the refuges to eat en route. Our guide had a large supply of snacks (nuts, fruit, cookies) and we each carried a bag of these.
We had two sets of hiking clothes so we could always wash one set and wear the other. We had hiking shoes for the day and a pair of flip-flops for the evening. We just wore t-shirts to bed, I had a light sundress and my husband had gym shorts and a t-shirt for dinners. We also had a warm layer, a hat and gloves, and foul weather gear, all of which we needed because on two days we had rain/hail/snow.
Still snow-covered part on the way ?
There was very little snow on the trail in August 2016, so we did not have to deal with it at all.
Your positive feedbacks?
- Being in good physical shape is very important, but you also must be mentally prepared. As our guide told us, your power will be in your legs but also in your head.
- We met so many nice people from all over Europe and enjoyed speaking with them on the trail and at the refuges.
- The views were breathtaking and gorgeous, especially the stars at night. I have never before or since seen such stars.
- I loved how fit I felt at the end of every day. Going to bed never felt so good!
Your negative feedbacks ?
We ate too much couscous for the first two days!
What was your favourite feedback? And the worst ?
- Favorite: I saw a salamander for the first time!
- Worst: The hike ended very suddenly and we weren’t prepared for it emotionally.
Which was your favorite stage, and your favorite shelter ?
Stage two was my favorite (Refuge Ortu di u Pobbio to Refuge de Carrozu) because as I wrote in my book: We’ve now reached the highlight of our second day—a precipitous promontory at over 6,500 feet, the Bocca Piccaia, beside which serrated peaks flank Ladroncellu, a deep, constricted gorge. Astonishing towers of angular rock sprout like successive rows of teeth biting into the sky. Everything about this geological marvel is vertical.
Without a doubt, my favorite refuge was the hostel at Vizzavona. I loved our room of bunkbeds that we shared with fellow hikers, the terrace and bar (the white wine was delicious) and enjoyed walking down to the train station.
If you should hike there again, what would you change?
I would take our adult children with us because I’m sure they would be thrilled by the experience. There’s nothing else I would change. It was strenuous but was close to a perfect two weeks in the mountains.
Which advices could you share with people whom are thinking to hike the GR20?
If you are not confident about making sure you have everything you need or are afraid of getting lost, go with an outfitter in a group. Absolutely take a pair of comfy sandals/flip-flops with you for the mornings/evenings.
Would you like to suggest something else?
Take a small journal to capture your thoughts and experiences.
Thank you so much Marianne for your feedback! What a good idea to celebrate an important birthday range by hiking such an intense adventure! I’m already expecting what could be the next one in August 2021 for your 40th wedding anniversary 😉 During the wait, we are going to have a book to read soon 😉 Please let us know when it will be published, I’m sure it will help many English speakers to prepare the GR20! All the best for your book!