The GR20 Trek – The infamous Cirque De La Solitude

The infamous Cirque De La Solitude is regarded as one of the hardest stages on the GR20 trek in Corsica. This might also stem from its reputation as much as its actual toughness. Check out my earlier posts about why you should do this multi-day trek and what you need to get through it.

Looking down into the Cirque De La Solitude

Looking down into the Cirque De La Solitude

The stage begins in the ski resort of Ascu (if you’re walking the route north to south) where you climb up to Bocca Tumasginesca. However we didn’t actually do it like this, we doubled stages three and four together and avoided Ascu by taking the Old GR20 route from Bocca di Stagnu. Some guide books will still describe this way as an alternative and it’s quite easy to do and very much worth it as it goes up over some beautiful mountains with great views either side. You simply have to find the trail as the first few trail marks have been rubbed out, after that it’s easy except for the occasional marks that have been overgrown. The old refuge is no longer there (legend has it that it was burnt down by the Corsican mafia to increase summer business at the ski resort) so you must double if taking this route or camp up near the start of the Cirque de La Solitude. Remember that wild camping is technically illegal though this can give you a head start on the Cirque, a good thing as you’ll find out later.

When you arrive at Bocca Tumasginesca (2183m) you get your first view of the Cirque. Here you descend a bit over 200m (vertical distances) into it and then cross over and climb about 250m up to Bocca Minuta at 2218m. This part of the stage will take you two hours to complete. However there will be times when other climbers (coming from either way) will mean you have to stop and wait, this can extend this section to almost four hours in some cases. Be careful, especially on the longer south side, of falling rocks, they may be small but they pick up a lot of speed and could do a lot of damage (I almost got one in the head).

Starting the descent - photo by Mauro Cappelletti

Starting the descent – photo by Mauro Cappelletti

The chains down (or up) almost vertical sections are what makes this look so daunting, in fact sometimes the chains are more of a hindrance than a help as you think you need to use them but really don’t. You don’t need any technical climbing skills for this section (or any others on the route) but it pays to be prepared to scramble up, over and around rocks with little footholds especially when you take into account your heavy pack. We did this in the warmer months and so everything was dry, but in winter or the wet, the Cirque would be a very tough and dangerous climb. There was still snow down in the valley where there’s not much sun but not on the trail itself.

Val and me climbing out of the Cirque - Photo by Mauro Cappelletti

Val and me climbing out of the Cirque – Photo by Mauro Cappelletti

It really depends on the person and the day how you feel about the Cirque De La Solitude. Many will tell you it’s crazy tough, many will say it’s not as bad as they had heard – you won’t know yourself until you go and I say GO! The GR20 was one of the most rewarding treks I’ve done. For some more inspiration check my post of GR20 teaser photos.

Remember to check out my current adventures by following me on instagram.

Valerie climbing out of the Cirque

Valerie climbing out of the Cirque

Would love to hear what you thought of the Cirque De La Solitude, leave your thoughts below.


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