In which direction?
Should I start out at Conca in the South and walk towards the North, or should Calenzana be my starting point?
It is possible to do the trek in both directions. The majority of French walkers start in Calenzana, simply because this is how the original topo was written. The villages at the two extremes of the trail are Calenzana and Conca. I would think that a major factor for determining the sense of your trek would be which flights and airports you find the best prices for.
- In the two directions, you cover the same distance
- You will always start and finish by the sea
- The highest point you will traverse is 2600m
The highest most exposed part of the trail is in the North. If you are walking the trail early in the season ie end May to early June, you would be better to start in the South. A week to ten days can make a big difference for passing the cols that will be covered with snow.
Walking or Winter Mountaineering ?
The highest breches and cols are to be found in the North. (if you are planning to do the route whilst there is snow on the ground, you should be equipped and prepared for mountaineering. You will need a rope, crampons, snow shoes etc. This is a completely different challenge and requires some very specific skills)
Southern difficulty - In the South the most exposed part of the trail is between Bocca l'Agnone to Usciolu refuge and then Prati. The ridge is high, exposed and long. You are flirting with an altitude of 2000m, it ondulates and is a bit technical. In good weather conditions, the ridge is an absolute pleasure that offers wonderous scenery. However, in high winds and snow it is a completely different scenario.
Northern difficulty - Rather than long ridge walks, the difficulty in the North is high ridges/breches and plunging rocky descents. Since the seemingly permanent closure of the Cirque of Solitude, the highest part of the trail is situated on the Monte Cinto ridge at 2600m between the accommodations of Haut Asco and Tighiettu. If you want to do the entire trek you need to take into account your start date to make sure you are not traversing the ridge when there is snow.