A magical trip

What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

From seeing the mountains as we flew in, to an afternoon on the beach when we arrived to the first dinner on the first day the build-up to the trip is fabulous. The scenery is wonderful from day 1 and although it changes every day is really breathtaking in places. Having the Cirque so early on is a highlight and the last day, although long and hard is really a wonderful climax. The trip builds up nicely to the final crescendo, climbing up among the Aguille de Bavella, all aches go away. As we hit the col and saw the sea there was a rainbow in the valley. A wonderful sight.

What did you think of your group leader?

Our leaders were Tug and Chris. Together these two guides are a fabulous team. My memories of Tug are leading from the front telling jokes, helping and inspiring us all on when we were tired, and leading us all to a laundry on our rest day (bliss to have some clean clothes). Not to mention carrying melons as a treat for us. Chris was amazingly experienced and he always chose the right routes and had the right plan for every day. We all loved his understated briefings about the next day just before dinner. He made us all tea on his stove by a river on the way to Corte. Often Chris took the rear helping along the slower team members and patiently encouraging them, although he was equally as capable of pushing the pace at the front. Together Tug and Chris were fabulous, their leadership was crucial to us enjoying the experience so much despite the hard work. Thanks Chris for swapping packs on the last stretch down from the Cirque!

Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

The Cirque is wonderful, but is not as scary as the internet suggests because the steep bits are broken up into small sections. Also the guides instill a lot of confidence. Being organised with the kit and getting mentally prepared for me was almost more important than absolute fitness. Carrying too much weight is a killer. I took 2 very heavy sleeping bags and regretted it. Get a light 2 season (I went in early September). I took lots of snacks and didn't need many. Maybe 1 bar or snack a day. What I really needed was High-5, re-hydration tablets. I took an old ruc-sac and regretted it. I upgraded to an Osprey in Corte-much more comfortable. Hydration is an issue. Half the group or more used Camelbak's and swore by them. Either way you could need to carry up to 2-3 litres of water each a day, some days less. A head torch was vital. Organising the bag is key as often there isn't much room in the huts and often not much time either before dinner. The turn around time in the morning is very limited too and often you are doing this by head torch. I found lots of medium and large Ziplock bags useful for this. Other people used lots of drysacks. Toilet roll, wipes and hand sanitiser are useful too.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I had plantar fasciatus before I went and worried that it would stop me. With worn-in boots, stretching and orthotic soles it was no problem. Other people suffered from swollen knees. Lots of ibuprofen tablets and cream were taken and it seemed to help. Walking poles seemed to help everyone. We did it when it was warm, however, there was one day when the weather looked as if it was about to turn and that reminded me that a warm hat and a thin pair of gloves even in the summer would be a good idea. Finally, a big thanks to Tug, Chris and Exodus for such a great trip.