Chemin de la Liberté - Freedom Trail, Ariege Pyrenees
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.
Dates & Availability: Trips available Mid July - October. If you would just like to fisit the Halifax bomber memorial site we offer this from June.
|FT 2/17||31 July - 5 August 17||Private trip|
|FT 5/17||12 - 17 August 17||£675||Spaces|
|FT 6/17||19-24 August 17||£675||Spaces|
|FT 7/17||8-12 September 17||£695||Spaces|
|FT 7/17||11-17 September 17||Private trip|
Group Bookings & minimum numbers: Guide ratio is maximum 1:10 but larger groups can be catered for if you would like to bring more people. 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. We stay as flexible as possible and also offer this trip to large tour operator groups.
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.
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.
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
Special packages: We also offer guide and transport only options
* In addition we provide this trek for large travel company partners, tailored to thier specific needs. Do contact us for August 2017 dates if you are interested and would like to work together.*
Day 1: Toulouse to St Girons
Collection at Toulouse and transfer to St Girons, where you are free to explore this lovely small town in the Ariège. Auberge accomodation in Seix.
Day 2: La Soumere - Aunac
Chemin de la Liberte museum visit may be arranged on request or visit to a passeur monument or optional day 1 walk from La Soumere - Aunac (3hrs) starting 3pm including Louis Barreau memorial. Overnight accommodation is provided at Aunac Auberge or Auberge. Dinner 7pm. (B,L,D)
Day 3: Aunac – 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. We pause here and admire the mountain scenery, taking a moment to pay our respects at the Col’s Memorial to Passeurs. We also meet our vehicles and collect our kit for tonight, which we must carry to the hut as there’s no access by vehicle. 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 mountain cliffs. There are often cows grazing here, and we can hear the welcoming sound of their cow-bells from quite a distance. 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 takes us into serious mountain terrain. We are headed for the Col de Craberous (2382m), but first pass 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 and descend, usually steeply, and enjoy a fairly level walk alongside a beautiful mountain lake. 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 spectacular, but not a hospitable landscape, especially in bad weather; 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. After our last steep climb, we descend over boulder-strewn slopes to our refuge. We spend the night at the Estagnous Refuge (2245m). (B,L,D)
Day 5: Estagnous – Spanish border – Ax les Thermes or St Girons
Trek approx. 6 hours; drive approx. 4.5 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 are via ferrata cableway and ropes to assist us, though no technical experience is needed – just fit bodies and determination! 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. It’s hard to imagine how the escapees from France would have felt at this moment, having survived the mountain crossing. 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. Alternatively we can transfer you back to Toulouse Blagnac or stay the night in Arties before your airport transfer the next day. (B,L)
Day 6: Depart Toulouse
Morning transfer to Toulouse Airport from Arties or Ax les Thermes. (Lunch not included)