GR20 Stage 9* – Refuge de l’Onda to Vizzavona, Corsica, France

June 26, 2014

GR20 Stage 9 day 15

Compared to the previous afternoon the night was calm. We slept soundly and woke to a magnificent sunrise framed by thunderheads. An ominous sign, but for the moment at least the skies were clear.

GR20 Stage 9 day 15

After breakfast the clouds were already starting to descend from the mountain tops.

GR20 Stage 9 day 15 GR20 Stage 9 day 15 GR20 Stage 9 day 15

It’s a long hard climb from the refuge up a grassy ridge with cows grazing on the slopes. Several false tops dampen my mood.

GR20 Stage 9 day 15

Nearing the top, or just another false top, we climb into the clouds.

GR20 Stage 9 day 15 GR20 Stage 9 day 15

A short ways past this point we climb up above the clouds for the first time on the trail.  Stunning vistas with the peaks poking through the clouds and streaks of blue above. In the distance the peaks of stage 7, the highest point on the trail, are visible.

GR20 Stage 9 day 15 GR20 Stage 9 day 15

It’s a long way up to the high point of the day at Punta Muratello; the way down, however, is never ending.

GR20 Stage 9 day 15

Half shrouded in perpetual clouds the descent is not the most scenic.

GR20 Stage 9 day 15 GR20 Stage 9 day 15

A long slog, first quite steep with numerous rock scrambles, stony patches and slab crossings. On and on, the sunless sky wears on me as fatigue sets in.

GR20 Stage 9 day 15

Finally off the mountain, the trail hits the river. It’s still not as pleasant as previous days. The forest is less appealing, the track remains rocky and quite steep in sections.

GR20 Stage 9 day 15

Just after the footbridge are some great pools and cascades, still the surrounding forest remains dark and uninviting. Down, down, down, we continue the slog.

GR20 Stage 9 day 15

All of a sudden we hit Cascade des Anglais – a picturesque series of falls so proportional it looks planned. The perfect photo ending to the GR20.

GR20 Stage 9 day 15

A group of six French hikers that we’ve encountered repeatedly in the last week are on a nearby rock. One of the women runs over to say hi and offer us a local biscotti. “Freshly made just this morning”, she proudly explains. Probably the best, or certainly the freshest, I’ve ever tasted.

From here it is an uphill climb to Hotel d’Oro. The guide book and posted sign say 15 minutes, more like 25 very long minutes.

*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.

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