Chemin de la Liberté - Freedom Trail, Ariège Pyrenees 6 Day Trek
Activity: 3.5 day trek, 1 free day for spa or exploring the area, museum visit
Duration: 7 days, 6 night's accommodation
Price: £795 per person
Dates & Availability:
24 - 31 July 17, 7 nights
|Private trip, spaces|
|FT 4/17||5-11 August 17||£795||Available|
|FTL 5/17||12-18 August 17||£795||Available|
2 - 8 September 17, 6 nights
|FT 8/17||11- 17 September 17||Private trip, spaces|
|FT 9/17||18-24 September 17||Private trip, spaces|
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. Do contact us for August 2017 dates if you are interested and would like to work together.*
- St Girons
- Elang milouga
- Estagnous refuge
- Etang de clavera
- Borde de perosa
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. Accommodation is provided in a hotel. (Lunch is not included)
Day 2: St Girons – Aunac
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.
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 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 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).
Day 4: Subera Hut – Estagnous Refuge
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, which 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. 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 involving some bouldery steps we cross a col to descend to the Estagnous Refuge (2245m) for the night.
Day 5: Estagnous – Spanish border – Ax les Thermes
Trek approx. 6 hours; drive approx. 3.5 hrs
We set off from the Estagnous 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 style cables 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 valley, usually filled with snow, which provides an arduous slog to the top (2522m), the border with Spain. It’s hard to imagine how the escapees from France would have felt at this moment, having survived the mountain crossing. 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.
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.
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).