Leopold was born Belgium, away from the snow ridges. That didn’t stop him from “biting” in the mountains as a teenager. After a scout camp in the Alps, he began collecting Trekking experiences. Vercors, Mercantour, Vanoise, Norway… always in hiking-bivouac mode, with some friends. A constant on his vacation.
So when a friend offered Go on the GR20The A long-distance hiking trail that crosses Corsica from north to south, the 24-year-old student didn’t hesitate for long. Thibaud, a Belgian friend of the same age whom he had met in the scouts, signed with his eyes closed. This beginning of summer is heralded in great auspiciousness. But The adventure was about to turn tragic. That was in June 2015.
Seven years later, Leopold is obsessed with mountains. At 31, he works as a university researcher in Brussels, but he never misses an opportunity to go hiking. In June 2022, he returned to GR20. Daily Course Matin reported. Pour duration, he agreed to come back to his story. A way to pay tribute to his friend and the other six victims of this tragedy that left an indelible mark on the Corsican mountains.
Listen to our podcast with Leopold’s story from the player below or from Podcast Wall and via platforms Apple, Google, Spotify, Teaser :
“The GR 20 was not a challenge that bothered me for many years. To be honest, I had never heard of it. At that time, I was living in Strasbourg and I was doing internships in European companies. A friend named Yuri had the idea for this trek. The three of us set out with Diba. We took two weeks off. Finally, Yuri ruptured the cruciate ligaments in his knee and he was out. We continued the project together and planned to leave in early June.
Thibaut was also Belgian, originally from Brussels. He had started studying physiotherapy. He managed to get an Erasmus to study in Ireland, and was back in Belgium. He is very athletic and a true adventurer. I remember him leaving with a friend on a whim to attend the London Olympics. He was very resourceful and adventurous and had a great love for nature. In Ireland he made many excursions and expeditions. This was very common when we scouted as Belgians. France is nearby and we want to leave our flat country to reach somewhat more hilly lands.
Basically, Thibaut is a friend of a friend. We met on the Scouts ten years ago, but we never went on a big hike together. We were in the same university and we did our course preparations together. In Belgium, it’s called “siege week”, between the end of classes and the start of exams, in winter and summer. Each time, we stayed in the autonomous region for a couple of weeks, in a house in the Ardennes with Thibaut and other friends. It makes for some pretty strong friendships.
“We almost missed the flight”
We each prepared ourselves physically on our side. I ran the Strasbourg half-marathon a while back and we were in good shape. We met in Brussels a few days before departure to prepare the equipment. We had planned to do the GR20 semi-autonomously in two weeks. We had a tent, some food, a small stove and planned to refuel as we went. Our bags weighed between 10 and 15 kg.
We took off from Liège airport. The take off was a bit unbelievable, we had a traffic problem and we almost missed the flight. We found a friend who dropped us off at the last minute. We arrived at Ajaccio Airport at the end of the day on Sunday. The challenge was to reach the start of the GR located in Calenzana in the north. We were attacked by the French and then we slept in a camp at Corte. We had to wake up the manager who gave us a Corsican welcome, which was not always warm at first, then very nice. (laughs).
“A Form of Brotherhood in the Face of the Elements”
Monday morning, we wake up very early and a nice lady picks us up. Her name is Jeanine, just like my mother. She explains to us the soul of this island and drops us off at the start of the GR20 in Calenzana. So we left in the morning. Conditions are good, but the weather is not great and they are forecasting thunderstorms in the afternoon, so we don’t hang around. Five or six hours later, when the storm breaks, we reach the shelter of the Orde de U Biopu. We are glad to have escaped the great Trachy, as we say in Belgium.
We are in good shape. The first day, it’s only climbing, we test the legs. Thibaut starts in diesel mode, but he quickly catches up with me in length. We discover the atmosphere on the trail and chat for a few minutes with the hikers we meet. In the evening at the refuge, at the end of each stage, we make our first friendships with the people we will follow for days, at least for those walking at the same pace as us. In particular, we meet Arthur and Celine, a French couple from Nantes. They do the same training as physiotherapists and chiropractors. This first day is already very attractive, there is a form of camaraderie and brotherhood in the face of the elements.
“The beginning of the stage is very beautiful”
On the second day, we leave very early to double the stage and avoid the storms that always hit in the afternoon. This is a very technical part that develops through the edges. We reach Garossu resort very early at 11 am. At this point, we hesitate to leave, but the guard stops us. Bad weather was announced and the next stage was very technical. There are slippery boards in rainy weather.
As a result, we end our day very quickly and have a lot of time ahead of us. We sympathize with the other trekkers working in the direction of the fight against fraud, especially the group of three fellows, two Parisians and a boy from the Southwest. Together, we play cards and drink Pietra, the famous Corsican national beer.
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