Chemin de la Liberté - The Freedom Trail, Pyrenees
Activity: 3.5 day trek, 1 free day for spa or exploring the area, museum visit in Vielha
Duration: 7 days, 6 night's accommodation
Price: £795 per person
Dates & Availability: Groups of 4 + people please enquire for group rates and availability ASAP for 2019
Not found the right date for you? Please enquire, we try to stay flexible and fit together small groups where possible. Our maximum group size is 25 on a maximum of 1:10 guide ratio. Please see our new site for booking this trip on https://freedomtrailtreks.com/
|FT 1/19||12-18 July 19||£795||Spaces|
|FT 2/19||31 July 19-6 August 19||£795||Limited spaces|
|FT 3/19||18-24 August 19||£795||Spaces|
|FT 4/19||1-7 September 19||£795||Spaces|
We also offer this trip starting on the same dates and finishing a day earlier, not including the rest day in Vielha for those who would like to go straight home.
Group Bookings & minimum numbers: If you have a minimum of 4 people we are happy to offer the trip on dates suitable to you. Guide ratio is maximum 1:10 so larger groups can be catered for if you would like to bring more people.
Fitness Level Needed: A challenging trip for those who can walk easily for 5-9 hours per day in the mountains. You can climb up to +1500m on the hardest day of this trek in mountainous terrain so please train for it and arrive fit to maximise your enjoyment. There are some bouldery steps and a section of wire protecting a short section of path on the final day.
Equipment: A full equipment list will be provided on booking. You will need: waterproofs; walking boots; a sleeping bag (carried for only half a day); trekking poles; and rucksack.
Walk Description: Every year, the "Chemin de la Liberté " trail inspires trekkers in the Pyrenees to make their own journey to commemorate the 782 Allied airmen and Jewish refugees who risked their lives on a 60km route escaping Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II through Ariège. In total there were over 33,000 successful escapes by Frenchmen alone. Of these, 3,000 never returned home. 6,000 allied service men (mainly aircrew) also escaped. Having reached the mountains the men were hidden in secret collecting areas and formed into groups ready for the final night ascent to the Spanish Frontier. Many trails sprang up in Ariège, only known to the particular guide or Passeur. At the beginning of 1943 due to increased German surveillance or betrayal by La Milice, ambushes along many trails became common.
Spectacular scenery makes for an inspirational experience along this famous route including seeing the memorial to the Halifax pilot and his crew and wreckage of their bomber at a height of 2200m which crashed in July 1945. A sense of sadness is felt to see the gleaming metal of the plane 80km off it's intended course.
We offer four day to six day itineraries along this fascinating World War II escape route best known through "Freedom Trail" by Scott Goodall.
"Imagine yourself during the war having to ask someone for help, even though you know they are risking their lives if they give it to you. If you are lucky and not turned in, there is still the long trail to negotiate, past German checkpoints and patrols with and the final climb over the Pyrenees into Spain. Most went at night just carrying what they had on them and picked up food from the land en route.
Think of the Jewish families who attempted the route just one step ahead of arrest and deportation to the death camps.
It has become a way of passing the idea of remembrance on down the generations”
What's included: Accommodation and food as specified in the programme; transport to and from Toulouse Blagnac on a single timed transfer per group; local transport as per the itinerary; and guiding by an International Mountain leader 1:10 maximum
What's not included: Flights; insurance; mountain snacks; phone calls; or any additional transport or accomodation needed if you have to leave the group for a medical or fitness reason
* In addition we provide this trek for large travel company partners, tailored to thier specific needs.
- St Girons
Day 1: Toulouse to St Girons or Seix
Collection at Toulouse and transfer to St Girons, where you are free to explore this lovely small town in the Ariège. Accommodation is provided in a 3 * hotel or an Auberge in Seix with fabulous restaurant.
Day 2: St Girons – Aunac or Esbintz
Trek approx 4 hours with morning museum visit
We take time to explore St Girons and visit the Chemin de la Liberté museum, which brings vividly to life some of the stories connected with our route. Look out for the bridge over the River Salat; escapees reportedly jumped from the train here when the guard blew his whistle, and it’s where many would have met their first passeur, the local guide who would take them over his section of the network.
We drive out of town to the start of our trek, taking a scenic road that winds through the valleys. We leave the road at La Soumere and start with a challenge to find the Louis Barreau memorial. After descending gradually, we make our final climb up to Aunac moving steeply through wooded terrain to a charming dormitory-style auberge where you will have the opportunity to sample some freshly grown produce and see roaming donkeys. (B,L,D)
Accommodation is provided in a night refuge/camp (760m)
Day 3: Aunac – Subera Hut
Trek approx 6-7 hours
After a hearty breakfast with wonderful views, we head off through forest on another long day of trekking. Our path takes us steeply up to the Col de le Core (1395m) – this is a fairly demanding ascent but the views around us are spectacular as we gain height. We pause here and admire the mountain scenery, taking a moment to pay our respects at the Col’s memorial to Passeurs. We contour around the mountain-side, getting a glimpse for the first time of the high mountain terrain that awaits us. In less than two hours we should reach Subera Hut, nestled in a high pasture meadow beneath the mountain Cirque. There are often cows grazing here, and we can hear the welcoming sound of their cow-bells from a distance.
We spend the night camping at the Subera Hut (1449m). Wild camp withminimal facilities. (B,L,D)
Day 4: Subera Hut – Estagnous Refuge
Trek approx 8 - 9 hours
A challenging day lies ahead of us today, as our trek heads into serious mountain terrain towards the Col de Craberous (2382m), passing the crash site of a British Halifax bomber. 80km off its intended route, it sadly crashed on a training flight in July 1945, killing all seven on board. Wreckage is left untouched out of respect, and a plaque commemorates the crew. We continue to climb to the top of the col and descend to Espugues refuge and towards a beautiful mountain lake for lunch. We’re likely to see wild horses in this area. As we near the snow-line, the scenery becomes more impressive; craggy peaks and towering cliffs, with patches of snow between the jagged rocks. It’s hard to imagine how those escaping France would have felt, making this journey in the dark and in fear of betrayal and capture. Rising up from the lake there are some bouldery steps where hands are needed and it's neccessary to put one or more walking poles away. After our last steep climb trends across over glacier scraped granite slabs up to the cap de pecouch. We descend over boulder-strewn slopes to the Estagnous refuge. (2245m). (B,L,D)
Day 5: Estagnous – Spanish border – Ax les Thermes
Trek approx. 6 hours; drive approx. 3.5 hrs
We set off from our hospitable refuge, and trek downhill to the lovely Lac Rond (1929m), stretching out any aching muscles in anticipation of the next challenge. Lac Long lies only about half an hour away, but is 200m above us, and the path to it is extremely steep. In places there is via ferrata cableway to assist. Once at Lac Long (2125m) the border at the Col de la Clauère is almost within sight. Our path crosses a deep gully, usually filled with snow, which provides an arduous slog to the top (2522m), where we gaze into Spain - another stunning view! We traverse across before descending on vague sheep track paths to reach a lake. This is swimable in on warmer days. Afterwards we continue the descent past some small waterfalls and an abundance of sunny side of the mountain flowers.
We are likely to feel a mix of relief and elation, as all that remains of our very challenging trek now is a relatively gentle descent over grassy slopes to the end at Borde de Perosa. We get into our waiting transport and drive back to France and the lovely spa town of Ax les Thermes and break the journey at Puigcerda for dinner.
Accommodation will be provided either in a Gite a Chez Arran, with a pool and relaxation area, or a hotel in Ax les Thermes. (B,L)
Day 6: Free day Ax-les-Thermes
Today is free to relax! Ax-les-Thermes is a lovely old spa town, and a spa is the perfect way to treat yourself after the rigours of the past few days! The sulphurous hot springs have been used since Roman times. There are also many cafés to visit, and plenty to see if you feel like a gentle wander around town. We meet again in the evening for a slap-up dinner to celebrate our huge achievements. (Lunch and dinner not included)
Accommodation will be provided either in a Gite a Chez Arran, with a pool and relaxation area, or a hotel in Ax -es-Thermes. (B)
Day 7: Morning departure to Toulouse
We are free until it’s time to transfer to Toulouse Airport for our flight home (Lunch not included). (B)