Chemin de la Liberté - Freedom Trail, Ariege Pyrenees
Duration: 3.5 days trekking, 5 nights accomodation, 2 nights auberge, 1 night 3* hotel, 1 night high mountain refuge and 1 night wild camp.
Price: from £695 per person but reduced group rate for 6+ people. Most of our reservations are for groups or large tour operators.
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 Ariege. 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 Ariege, 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.
If you have a group who would like your own tailored package staying in auberge, hotel or even camping at the beginning and end we stay flexible to meet your needs! In guiding and providing logistics for this route we have helped over 200 people raise money for charity in achieving this challenge.
Duration: 3.5 days trekking, 5 nights accomodation 1 night 3* hotel, 1 night Auberge, 1 night wild camp, 1 night high mountain refuge, 1 night Auberge or 2* Hotel.
Price: £695 We offer many of these trips for groups so if you are 6+ people please get intouch for our group rate. The largest group we have taken is 30 people. We have taken charity fundraising groups, families and groups of work colleagues on this amazing challenge.
Dates & Availability: Trips available Mid July - October. If you would just like to fisit the Halifax bomber memorial site we offer this from June. Please note these are booking up quickly for 2018 and 2019.
Meeting point: The meeting point is Toulouse Blagnac airport unless you are already in France. If this is the case we will meet you in St Girons or Seix.
Departures: This is usually from Toulouse Blagnac airport or we can drop you off at your car in St Girons should you wish.Please request dates or look for our scheduled departures on https://freedomtrailtreks.com/
* Want to bring a group in July or September 2019 or 2020 please ask for availability now
Group Bookings & minimum numbers: Guide ratio is maximum 1:10. We stay as flexible as possible and also offer this trip to large tour operator groups of up to 30 people. A minimum trip number is 4 people for the trip to run. If you bring a group of 4 we can offer a discount and offer trips on your requested dates when we are available. This is our most popular trek and we already have 3 treks scheduled in September 2018 with another two pending so please do contact us soon if you are interested.
Fitness Level Needed: A challenging trip for those who can walk easily for 5-8 hours per day in the mountains. On the hardest day you should be able to ascend +1500m in a day. There some bouldery steps along the way and a section of cable way along the path for a short distance to reach Spain. We can advise you on how to progress your fitness and train for this trip. This trek is challenging.
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. Where possible we make sure you are only carrying a day sack and offer a supported camp en route.
Food: You will have a packed lunch provided each day except the buffet lunch at the col de core
Reductions: If you are a small group and wish to carry tents for example and do it in the lowest cost way we can still help providing minimal logistics for a reduced price - just ask!
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 a qualified International Mountain leader 1:10 maximum ratio, wild camp support, transfer of bags from location to location on the first 2 nights.
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
Why us? We have done this trip with well over 150 people and are super familiar with ways to help you get the most from your trip as well as knowing the history well and having a great team to deliver it. We are flexible (within the constraints of the route) and are experienced with dealing with charity groups, families and tour operators. Join us for a wild experience!
- Col de Clauere
Day 1: Toulouse to St Girons
Collection at Toulouse Blagnac airport and transfer to St Girons and Seix which takes approximately 1.5hrs. You are free to explore this lovely small town. Auberge accomodation in Seix or 3 hotel in St Girons (please confirm your preference.)
Day 2: La Soumere - Aunac or Esbintz
We visit the Chemin de la Liberte museum in the morning in St Girons and then walk from La Soumere - Aunac (3.5hrs) taking lunch at the Louis Barreau memorial. After this we contour down and round before making the final ascent to Aunac on a forested path around a curious cone shaped mountain. It is easy to see how people could remain well hidden in this terrain! Overnight accommodation is provided at Aunac Auberge which used to be a meeting place for escapees or Esbintz depending on the size of our group. Dinner 7pm. (B,L,D)
Day 3: Aunac or Esbintz – Subera Hut (1499m)
Trek approx 6-7 hours
After a hearty breakfast with wonderful views, we head off through the forest for a 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. Here we enjoy a buffet lunch and collect our kit for tonight. The hard part of today’s trek is behind us as we contour around the mountain-side, getting a glimpse for the first time of the terrain that awaits us. In less than two hours we should reach Subera Hut, set in pasture meadows at the foot of towering cliffs. There are often cows grazing here, and we can hear the welcoming sound of their cow-bells. Night camp at the Subera Hut (1449m). (B,L,D)
Day 4: Subera Hut – Estagnous Refuge (2240m)
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 – Vielha (transfer back to St Girons also possible)
Trek approx. 6-7 hours; drive approx. 1 hour to Vielha
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 get into our waiting transport and drive to the Spanish ski resort of Viehlha. 3* hotel. Alternatively we can transfer you back to St Girons. 3* hotel. (B,L)
Day 6: Depart Toulouse
Morning transfer to Toulouse Blagnac Airport from Arties. (Lunch not included) (B)
NB We can also start this trek from Esbintz refuge, meeting you in the morning of day 3 if you have limited time or a smaller budget and would like to start from there. You only really miss out on the Louis Barreau memorial. If you would like a more luxurious finish this is also possible with 4* hotels with pool in Vielha. We are happy to tailor a package to suit your group.