The history of the GR20
The origins of the GR20 can be found as early as the 1950s, when Jean Loiseau, an architect passionate about walking and nature, published his Itinéraires de Corse (Corsican itineraries) which already listed paths and trails used nowadays for the GR20.
Then, in 1965, Guy Degos, an engineer working for the departmental committee of agriculture, came up with a new project. He dreamt of an itinerary starting from Calvi and ending in Porto-Vecchio.
He soon gave the task to Michel Fabrickant who quickly became in charge of the whole project. This mountaineer in love with the “Isle of Beauty” remembered Loiseau’s book about the different trails that he’d walked in Corsica and favoured it as his main source of inspiration to publish his own Guidebook on Corsican Mountains.
Five years later, Fabrickant’s team set up the first few markings of the “Fra Li Monti” itinerary. The GR20 was born. Public opinion was very much doubtful that this itinerary would really work, but the creation of the Natural Regional Park of Corsica in 1972 quickly dispelled people’s doubts. It also emphasized the importance of such a project, especially considering the rural depopulation that many villages were facing in the 1970s. From then on, the GR20 acquired a political and economic dimension and soon became the symbol of rural life and Corsican Mountains.
In order to strengthen the project, the Natural Regional Park started renovating old mountain huts and building new refuges for this grande randonnée.
In the early days when the first few mountaineers walked the GR20, it was clear that such a rocky and technical trail was aimed at experienced hikers used to practice self-sufficiency.
The GR20 today
Since the 1990s, the GR20 has become popular amongst hiking communities worldwide. It is now thought to be one of the most beautiful treks in the world. Its popularity is mainly due to local agencies promoting Corsica’s mountains in the past few years in order to attract travelers from abroad.
With extreme sports becoming more and more popular, the GR20 has also become a running race and playground for many athletes, pushing themselves to the limit.
The actual record for completing the GR20 was set by the Spanish trail runner, Kilian Jornet in 2009 who finished the race in 32h, 54min, 02s. The French runner, Emilie Lecomte, remains the female record holder to this day. In 2012, she crossed the finish line in under 42 hours (41h 22mins 10s).