solo in the Cirque of Solitude

by Rick McCharles, editor of besthike.com

» day 1 | day 2 | day 3 | cirque | day 4 | day 5 | day 6 | day 7 | advice |

The Cirque de la Solitude is the crux of the GR20, one of the best and toughest hikes in the world.

Certainly it was the toughest trek of my life.

Tom Fordyce in The Guardian:

… The Cirque de la Solitude is the most notorious single section of the entire GR20. People are so scared of it that they huddle in petrified groups the night before, exchanging horror stories …

The Cirque turns out to be both gorgeous and terrifying at the same time. After 800m of rope-free climbing up, there’s 300m of straight down – straight down as in sheer rock-face, without even any pretense of a path. As a sop to the cowardly, there are some old chains bracketed into the smooth granite. … there’s nothing but the occasional spiky outcrop between you and the valley floor 1,200m below. …

Europe’s toughest trek: Corsica’s GR20

See more Cirque photos on Flickr.

Yet the feared Cirque of Solitude turned out to be the highlight of my GR20.

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

I arrived late afternoon, the last 3 hikers (rock climbers) of the day having just finished crossing from the opposite direction. Each warned me of the seriousness of the traverse … in multiple languages.

Finally, alone, I dropped into the chasm.

descending into the Cirque

Chain assistance is essential when the rock is wet.

chains

In perfect conditions, I didn’t need them.

But I did need this on the ascent of the far side cliff, a steel ladder.

ladder

Moving slowly, carefully, I took about 2hrs to make the crossing, arriving at the far side just in time to ‘turn out the lights’.

author survives

Relieved to have achieved and survived, I was even more elated to have done it solitary.

Hikers joke about the name — Cirque of Solitude — as there is normally a log jam of folks bottle-necked at critical points. The main risk, in fact, is rock fall from someone above your fall line.

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This VIDEO gives a better idea of the challenge. Or this VIDEO (1min 30sec), in bad weather.

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Want to start planning your trek to Corsica?

Best Guidebooks in English:

• Trailblazer Corsica Trekking GR20 by David Abram (2008)
• Cicerone GR20: Corsica: The High-level route by Paddy Dillon (2010)

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