June 11, 2014
The day’s hike, a long 8.5 hours, starts with a 600 meter climb up the mountain behind the refuge.
It’s relentlessly steep and requires scrambling up granite slabs in places, taking us two hours to reach the trail split near the top.
At this junction, the new French guide books take the route via Matalza lengthening the total number of stages to 16. We took the old route via u Furcinchese that climbs Monte Alcudina.
Another 45 minutes or so and we reach the summit with expansive views of the grass lands rolling down the valley against a back drop of distant snow-capped peaks.
The day was somewhat hazy but still we could see the high peaks of the trek to come.
The next part of the trek is a long descent first along a ridge and then turning to cross the valley and continuing the descent into the wooded area around
I Pedinieddi, an old refuge site where wild camping is allowed, followed by several stream crossings. While not as steep as the morning climb, the trail winds up and down through the woods and across more open areas.
It’s mildly interesting with burned out sections of craggy old trees.
Once the trail climbs back along a ridge the real fun of the day begins. Just when you’re tired and ready to be at the next refuge, the trail winds up and down through a granite ridge of boulders.
A challenging scramble reminiscent of the previous day’s climb through the pinnacles of the Aiguilles de Bavella. The ridge is quite long and tedious taking us another 2.5 hours to reach the refuge.
Usciolu is even more crowded than Asinau. It seems everyone heading in both directions stops here. The refuge is perched on the hillside with camping spaces descending down the hill with the better spots filling up quite quickly. Arriving shortly after 5PM, we had few options but managed to find a spot with a view near the bottom of the hill.
On a brighter note, the care taker has a large storeroom of supplies, including lots of bread, making it one of the better places to stock up. Facilities include two showers, two squat toilets, and a couple of sinks – inadequate for the number of people who were staying here in June. I can’t imagine what the summer must be like.
Dinner, only 10€, is served at 6:30PM at the store window. You buy your reservation chip ahead of time and at 6:30 you go to the window for your bowl of whatever. This night it was pasta and vegies, mostly carrots. I heard later that this is what they serve every night. Tasty enough but very basic. There is no breakfast service. Just buy supplies at the storeroom.
*Note: The GR20 consists of 15 or 16 stages over 118 miles, generally done north to south starting in Calenzana and ending in Conca. For this blog I’ve retained the commonly used stage numbers from the Cicerone Guide Book even though we did the stages out of order, starting in the south stages 15-10 and then restarting in the north 1-9.