9/12/2013 – GR20 Day 7 Auberge du Ballone->Carozzu according to Jamie
8.25 miles (13.5k), 5,600 feet gained (1700m), 5,000 feet lost (1600m), 9 hours and 30 minutes
Today started early. We ate Nutella on bread in the tent after hitting the snooze once. We took a bathroom break in the dark before packing up inside of the tent and heading out. My legs were still tired from the day before and so was my head. We made decent time to Tighjettu and quickly moved on. As he got higher the weather got worse and so did morale. Due to my slower pace we got passed by a few groups, Ryan's pet peeve. This resulted in a small spat over the speed we were going. After what seemed like an hour of angry silence, Ryan gave me my poles back for a flatter section as a peace offering. 8 days on the trail before any true tension is pretty good and now at least we've gotten that out of the way. Soon we were at the beginning of the Cirque de la Solitude, the part of the GR that many hikers dread. The descent was steep but we made good time and finally arrived at the first set of chains. While helpful, they were absolutely not necessary for the most part and the most dangerous part was the rock fall from those above. We were soon across the Cirque to the other set of chains going back out.
All in all it was easier than expected but was definitely the place with the least Solitude on the whole route. Also as a note, we passed back almost everyone who had passed us previously. Perhaps I can use this next time Ryan's pet peeve occurs :-). Once over this part of the route it was time to decide if we would have an easy day and end at Haut Asco as originally planned, or take the old GR20 route bypassing the ski resort and double up again to Carozzu. Though the rest day would have been nice, we were both determined to make Day 9 and 10 easier. Plus, every resort we've encountered on the trail has sub-par camping facilities and I am holding out until Calvi for my shower with soap. Taking this "shortcut" turned out to be a great idea. The old GR20 was still well marked and stayed mostly on a ridge with great views. It also allowed us to get the solitude we had missed in the Cirque. I highly recommend this variation. We summited Mt. Punta Culaghia on the way and caught our first glimpse of Calvi in the distance. Oh how we are longing for the beach!
While the route has been amazing and we are still in great spirits, we are also ready to be done. Honestly, one of the main motivations to stay on the trail for 10 days and not hike out tomorrow has to do with the fact that the world outside of the mountains is more expensive. Also, it will be really nice to (hopefully) soak up the sun at a mountain hut and relax and take it all in...move a bit slower (getting to the refuges late after a double day doesn't allow for that as much). Anyways, shortly after the summit we stopped for lunch. Snacking was brief as I ate too fast and almost didn't keep lunch down...and the clouds began to move in. Soon we regained the main GR20 and began the long descent into the valley. It was tiring and again views of Calvi tempted us. We encountered more chains low in the valley and crossed a wobbly bridge before making it to the refuge. We secured a tent and dinner. I took a cold shower before a Pietra. We ran back into Bryce, who we had met earlier on the trail, and talked for a bit about our paths on the GR20. Dinner was filling and not horrible, though we had to reencounter the chestnut cake we mistakenly bought as a snack (not great). We sat next to a Belgian couple at dinner and made good conversation for 2 hours. Now it is time for sleep. Looking forward to sleeping in!