Explore 360

The Freedom Trail

Pyrenees

  • Where?

    France

  • Altitude

    2,522m

  • Duration

    6 days

  • Weather

  • Physical

    P3

  • Technical

    T2

  • P3 - This trip is physically tough. Frequent exercise is necessary to prepare properly for this expedition. Regular walking mixed with training at the gym to build up endurance and cardiovascular fitness is key. Expect to be able to do 8 hour days in hilly and often steep train, carrying a pack of 6-10kg in weight with the occasional extra long day.

    Visit our Grading Information page for a full overview.

  • T2 - Consider this a trek, although there may be occasion to use hands for short sections of easy scrambling. No previous climbing or trekking experience is necessary.

    Visit our Grading Information page for a full overview.

  • Overview

  • Date & Prices

  • Pics & Vids

  • Itinerary

  • Kit List

  • FAQs

Overview

The Freedom Trail also known as the Chemin de la Liberté marks one of several escape routes used by Frenchmen, Jews and crashed RAF airmen escaping German-occupied France over the Pyrenees into Spain.  Our challenging 4-day trek takes us on a historical journey from France to Spain through the stunning Pyrenees with amazing views every step of the way. With a free day at the end to relax in the beautiful mountain town of Bagnères de Luchon.

This trail begins in Saint Girons, trekking through the forest into the foothills of the Pyrenees. We then begin climbing towards the Cabane Subera high in the peaks of the Ariège before continuing towards the Col de Craberous (2,382m). The crash site and memorial of an old Halifax bomber reminds us of the wartime significance of the route amid stunning Pyrenean panoramas, clear mountain lakes worthy of a refreshing dip, wild horses, deep gullies and exhilarating ridges. To have made this trek at night, under-nourished, ill-equipped and hunted by the Wehrmacht, Austrian Mountain troops and the Milice would have been a remarkable endeavor!

Throughout this historical Pyrenean trek that commemorates the bravery of others, you’ll be accompanied by a knowledgeable and experienced guide who will make sure you immerse yourself fully into the experience knowing that the day- to-day logistics are taken care of.

Photo credit : 360 Expedition Leader Emma Linford

Find out more
The Freedom Trail, Pyrenees The Freedom Trail, Pyrenees

Date & Prices

For private trips or bespoke itineraries inc. different dates, please contact the 360 office on 0207 1834 360.
A monthly payment plan is possible, please contact the office to chat through the options.

For private trips or bespoke itineraries inc. different dates, please contact the 360 office on 0207 1834 360.
A monthly payment plan is possible, please contact the office to chat through the options.

Departure & Return

Duration

Price (excl. flight)

Price (incl. flight UK-UK)

Start: 09 July 2023
End: 14 July 2023

Price without flights:  £825

09 July 2023

14 July 2023

6 days

£825

N/A

Included

  • 360 Mountain Guide
  • All transfers to and from Toulouse Airport
  • 1 night in a cosy local Auberge in Seix or Arige
  • 1 nights stay in picturesque mountain gite
  • 1 night camping
  • 1 night’s stay in picturesque mountain refuge
  • 1 nights stay based on 2 sharing in a Vielha hotel (breakfast only)
  • All camping equipment except that noted in the kit list
  • 15% discount at Cotswold Outdoor
  • Monthly payment plan, on request

Not Included

  • Flights* (please see the FAQ’s for the pick-up / drop-off times in Toulouse)
  • Personal equipment
  • Dinner on arrival and departure, and lunch on the last day (due to many restaurant choices and varied flight arrival/departure times)
  • Insurance
  • Snacks, alcohol, laundry and other items of a personal nature
  • Any additional costs associated with leaving the expedition early

Pics & Vids

Itinerary

DAY 1 : Arrive Saint Girons

You will be met at Toulouse Airport and transferred to either Seix or Ariege, depending on the hotel/auberge that has been booked.

Depending on your flight arrival time you will have the chance to either walk around Seix or visit Tarascon sur Ariege Evades memorial. 

Toulouse was a major gathering point for the crossing of the Pyrenees and many fugitives gathered in the Hotel de Paris, managed by Monsieur and Madame Montgelard, who were both eventually captured and deported to concentration camps in Germany; only Madame Montgelard returned. From here, escapees headed both to Tarascon Sur Ariege and St Girons to begin their escapes into Andorra or Spain.

There are plenty of options for dinner depending on your arrival time and we are happy to give recommendations, though we will also reserve a table at a central restaurant for anyone wishing to join.

DAY 2 : La Soumere - Aunac (766m)

Following a hearty breakfast, we will often visit the Chemin de la Liberté museum in the morning in St Girons, and then transfer to La Soumere for the start of our trek.

Our walk will be approximately 3 to 4 hours, taking lunch at the Louis Barreau memorial on the way. After lunch 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!

Tonight, we will stay at a rustic auberge, in a wonderful setting in the foothills above the village of Aunac, near to what used to be the main meeting place for escapees.

(BLD)

DAY 3 : Aunac (766m) – La Cabane de Subera (1,499m)

We start our day walking through old beech forests, preparing for a long day of trekking. Our path takes us steeply up to the Col de la Core (1,395m), a fairly demanding ascent, but the views around us are spectacular as we gain height.

Here, we will enjoy a buffet lunch and collect our kit for tonight. The hardest part of today’s trek is behind us as we hike around the mountain, getting a glimpse of the terrain that awaits us, before climbing over a few easy cols up to the Cabane, set in pasture meadows, underneath the rock wall of Le Cirque de Lameza.

Of course, those escaping from France had no such luxuries as huts or tents, but tonight we immerse ourselves in history and take our shelter in either the rustic shepherds hut (cabane) or in tents. This is wild camping, with no facilities, as we spend the night under the stars, with the gentle ringing of goats’ bells across the mountain and, if it’s been a chilly day, the shepherd’s fire to keep us warm.

(Approx. 16km, 6-7hrs, 733m ascent)

(BLD)

DAY 4 : La Cabane de Subera (1,499m) – Le Refuge des Estagnous (2,245m)

A challenging day lies ahead of us today, as our trek heads into serious mountain terrain. We stop to remember the crew of a British Halifax bomber that crashed into the Pic de Lampau during a training flight in July 1945, killing everyone on board. Remains of the wreckage still litter the ground, untouched out of respect, and there is a simple memorial plaque set into the rock.

From here, we climb the gully leading to the Col de Craberous (2,382m), which may be snow filled early in the season, before a steep descent for 300m and then a succession of lakes and boulder fields to reach the Col de Pouech above the manned Refuge of Estagnous.

As we near the snow-line, the scenery becomes more impressive; craggy peaks and towering cliffs, with patches of snow between 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.

The path can be uneven under foot, and rising from the lake there are some boulder-strewn areas where at times we may have to stow one or both walking poles and use our hands for balance over the rockier sections. However, there are plenty of breaks and the scenery balances the effort, with chances to see herds of Merens ponies (the distinctive black mountain pony of the Pyrenees), and Griffon vultures circling overhead, with a possibility to sight the Lammergeier with its vast 9-foot wingspan.

We will end the day at Le Refuge des Estagnous, set in a stunning location at an altitude of 2,245m. During our stay at this dormitory styled accommodation, we will have hot showers, a hearty dinner, and spectacular sunset views.

(Approx. 8-9hrs, 833m ascent)

(BLD)

DAY 5 : Refuge des Estagnous (2,245m) – Spanish Border - Vielha

We set off from our hospitable refuge and descend to the lovely Lac Rond (1,929m), 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 style cableway to assist on the path. 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 (2,522m), where we gaze into Spain – another stunning view! We traverse across, before descending on vague sheep track paths to reach a lake, swimmable on warmer days (or cooler, if you don’t mind the sudden chill!). Afterwards, we continue our descent past some small waterfalls and an abundance of flowers on the sunny side of the mountain. We get into our waiting transport and drive to the delightful Spanish ski resort of Vielha, where it’s cobbled streets, tapas bars and museum await. Again, there are a plethora of restaurants and we will leave you to take your pick, whether that’s tapas and a beer, or a full 3-course meal!

(Trekking time approx. 6-7 hrs. Transfer to Vielha approx 1 hour)

(BL)

DAY 6 : Depart Toulouse

We have the morning free to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and enjoy the magnificent town of Vielha until it’s time for our transfer to Toulouse Airport for our flight home.

(B)

These are subject to minor changes depending on flight arrival and departure times, weather, group dynamics and fitness and so on, but the itinerary outlined provides an excellent indication of the trek and what you will experience.

Kit List

Bags & Packs

Rucksack

A 60-65L rucksack with a good waist belt.  To carry all your kit and a proportion of you week’s food allocation along with your crampons, helmet, ice axe etc.

Waterproof rucksack cover

To protect rucksack from rain

Dry stuffsacks

Nylon rolltop bags that keep fresh clothing and other important items like passports and iPods dry in the event of a total downpour that seeps into your kitbag. Good for quarantining old socks.

Please note that many countries are now banning plastic bags. We would always advise buying re-usable nylon rolltop bags for keeping your kit dry (and sustainability).

Sleeping Gear

Sleeping Bag 3 season

You should get a sleeping bag rated to 0C and choose a sleeping bag that functions within the comfort rating of this temperature. A silk sleeping bag liner will enhance this rating on the coldest nights

Sleeping bag liner

This is optional – but a liner will add warmth on a cooler night, or give a lighter layer for warmer nights.

Sleeping mat

We do provide sleeping mats for the camping night, but some trekkers prefer to bring their own for additional comfort and layering.

Headwear

Warm headgear

This can be a warm hat, beanie, balaclava, anything to reduce the heat loss from your head

Wide brimmed hat

Keeps the sun off exposed areas like ears and the nape of the neck

Buff/Scarf

Essential for protection from the sun and dust

Sunglasses

Worth spending money on good UV filters.  Julbo is our preferred supplier

Sunblock

Essential for protection from the sun

Lip salve

Sun cream will not work on your lips and they are very susceptible to burn without proper protection

Upper Body

Base layer

This is the layer closest to the skin and its principal function is to draw (wick) moisture and sweat away from the skin. You can also get thermal base layers for use at higher altitudes that provide an additional insulative layer while still drawing sweat during times of high exertion

Mid layer

These are typically lightweight microfleeces or similar technology that provide varying degrees of warmth and insulation without being overly bulky or heavy to pack. Ideally to have a windstopper function

Quantity: 2

Gilet (optional)

Optional – A great low volume additional layer to keep your core warm, whether down, primaloft or fleece

Waterproof jacket (Outer layer)

A good Goretex Hardshell jacket provides effective defence against wind and rain as your outermost layer

T-shirts / Trekking tops

A couple of t-shirts or loose fitting (non-cotton) trekking tops / shirts to wear whilst walking

Quantity: 2

Gloves

Consider a light polartec pair for potential bad weather and evenings and a thicker pair if the weather were to turn

Quantity: 2

Lower Body

Waterproof overtrousers

Like the jacket, an essential piece of kit to stay dry and should also be Goretex

Trekking trousers

These tend to be polyester so they dry quickly after a shower and weigh little in your pack. Consider perhaps a pair with detachable lower legs as an alternative to shorts

Shorts

An alternative to trekking trousers if you prefer walking in shorts. Note that the trails often become overgrown and prickly plants can scratch your exposed legs (consider gaiters)

Underwear

How many pairs you take is entirely up to you

Feet

3-4 season walking boots

Well worn in 3-4 season waterproof boots with mid to high ankle support

Trekking socks

Spare laces

Just in case

Gaiters (Optional)

To protect the tops of your footwear from harsh conditions and to provide some added insulation

Hydration

Water bottle/Camelback

1L capacity either in a water bottle or Camelback

Water purification

Although generally all water is boiled some prefer to double up and add purification tabs as well. Always good to have in your bag

Evening Wear

Evening clothes

A dry set for evenings in the auberge or camp, if it’s been a wet day, plus something casual for the evenings in town.

Comfortable trainers / flip flops / crocks

For the camp life and evenings

Toiletries

Wash kit

Keep it simple on the mountain. Essentials are toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant. Moisturiser is advisable, everything else is a luxury!

Travel towel

Travel towels from the likes of Lifesystems are perfect

Wet wipes

Preferably biodegradable, these are great for washing when modern shower facilities become a thing of the past

Alcohol gel

A must have for good camp hygiene

Insect repellent

For early stages and once back down

Toilet paper

Provided on the mountain but a spare in your daysack may be useful if you need to hide behind a rock between camps

Nappy sacks or dog poo bags

Only needed to bag your toilet paper if you are caught short in between refuges and for keeping your rubbish tidy

Medications

Personal first aid kit

The 360 med kits are designed to be used in emergencies and akin to an A&E rather than a pharmacy on Expeditions so please come prepared with useful meds for yourself such as painkillers (Ibuprofen if you can take it and a Paracetamol) plus blister plasters, plasters, antiseptic, rehydration sachets and any muscle rubs you wish to use.

Personal medication

Keep this in your daysack

Documentation

Dental check up

We recommend you have a dental check-up before your trip. New fillings can be an issue at altitude if there is an air pocket left in the gap

Travel insurance

Copy of own travel insurance details.  And relevant contact numbers.

We have a partnership with True Traveller and would recommend that you contact them when looking for travel insurance for your trip with 360. However, it is vital that you ensure that the insurance cover they offer is suitable for you, taking your personal circumstances (items to be insured, cancellation cover, medical history) into account. Many other insurance providers are available and we do recommend that you shop around to get the best cover for you on the expedition you are undertaking.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance for your intended trip.  To include medical evacuation and coverage up to the maximum altitude of this trip.

Passport

Don’t forget this! Your passport should have at least 6 months validity.  With your passport expiry date at least six months after the final day of travel.

EH1C (formerly E111)

If you are eligible and it is available, it is worth having a UK Global Health Insurance Card or GHIC (which replaces what was the European Health Insurance Card / EHIC). If you don’t already have one, details to apply for one are here.

Do check with your insurance whether your medical costs would be paid, in the unlikely event that you need medical treatment whilst you are away, if you are not covered by a GHIC.

FAQs

Food and Water

Where do we get drinking water from?

Each morning you will fill your water bottles/bladder from the gîte / refuge. We pass streams in various places that you can top up from if you should run out, so take purification to add to it in the form of silver chloride or chlorine.

What is the food like on the trek?

The food in the refuge and gites is plentiful and of very good quality, often using locally sourced ingredients. Breakfasts consist of pastries, fresh bread and jams and you can expect a three course meal in the evenings. On our wild camping night we’ll be eating expedition food, but we can still take into account dietary preferences!

Can allergies be catered for?

Absolutely, please inform the office of any allergies or intolerances and we will ensure that these are taken into account on the trek.

Accommodation

What are the gîtes and refuges like?

Each have dorm style accommodation but each person will have their own bed (bunk). It is worth remembering that these places are not designed for luxury but rather a safe place to rest whilst in the mountains. They are clean and comfortable and are a great place for socialising with like-minded trekkers.

Can you get a hot shower there?

Hot showers are available at the refuge. There may be a small supplement for hot water. Of course, at your hotel and gite accommodation, there are bathroom and shower facilities. There are no showers available on the night at the shepherds hut.

What is the camping night like?

For many, it’s a chance to experience something totally new,

This is wild camping, with no facilities, so we’ll find sheltered spots for toileting and it will be a night around the fire and under the stars. We have tents or there is the opportunity to sleep inside the shepherd’s hut – it’s a unique experience, though very basic, with simple mattresses on platforms.

The Trek

How tough is this trek?

Just because we’re in Europe and reasonably close to home, it doesn’t mean that you’re undertaking a gentle walk in the hills! This is a challenging trek with significant altitude gain and some long days, including a fixed rope on a steeper section. Worth thinking about when you consider that the escapees of the war had none of this assistance, and often did all the walking in the dark to avoid capture!

Health and Safety

What happens if there is an issue on the trek with a client – a fall or an illness?

360 Expeditions have conducted detailed risk assessments and put the necessary plans in place to cope with any accidents or illness whilst out on the trek. Our expedition leaders are highly qualified and experienced mountain leaders who hold expedition first aid qualifications and are used to working in remote environments. Their training, allows them to deal with situations quickly and safely. Should someone find themselves requiring further medical attention, the leader will organise for that individual to be taken from the trail and transferred to the nearest hospital. The leader and the 360 office team will also be on hand to offer guidance and support for insurance claims and contacting next-of-kin.

Is there any risk of altitude sickness?

There is no risk of altitude sickness on  this trek.

Kit

What sleeping bag do I need?

The idea is to be as comfortable and warm as possible for the night and henceforth to ensure plenty of sleep for the arduous days ahead. A 3 season sleeping bag with comfort rating of 0C will do the trick just fine.

What boots do we need?

Because of the huge variety of terrain encountered walking in these mountains it is very important to wear the right footwear. Boots should be sturdy, waterproof, insulated against cold temperatures and offer adequate ankle support. In addition it is highly recommended that your boots are well worn in to prevent the formation of blisters. A wide range of suitable boots are on the market and further advice as to which brand names are available can be found online or at your local outdoor store. The leather / Goretex combinations are endless and each with their merits. Our best advice is to try them on – if you think they’re comfortable, and will be for several hours a day, buy them. It is not necessary to buy technical boots with crampon clips as crampons are not used for climbing this trek.

Do we need crampons and ice-axes?

You will not need crampons and ice axes for this trip.

How much weight will I be carrying in my rucksack?

You will only have to carry your own kit for most of the trip but on one day you will need to carry some camping equipment and extra food supplies. For this reason you should pack as lightly as possible and only bring the essentials. You can expect your pack to weigh around 10kg when fully loaded so ensure you train with this in mind and get used to carrying a rucksack for long periods of time.

Do I need a down jacket?

Though many trekkers bring one, a down jacket is not essential, a good thick fleece or jumper layers will suffice for the evenings. You will need good waterproofs though, in case of a downpour!

The Weather

What is the weather like?

During the day temperatures can be warm and can even reach to the mid 20 C. In the evening higher up, it could drop to below freezing and have a distinct chill in the air.

As you will be trekking in a mountain environment, the weather can rapidly change for the worse so you need to be prepared for all conditions. Even in good weather it is not uncommon to have short heavy downpours or heavy snowstorms.

Travel

Flights aren’t included what time should I arrive and depart to Toulouse?

We haven’t included flights as this gives you options from the UK. There are many flights that come to Toulouse daily from many different airports.

We will advise you at the time of booking on the pick up and drop off times, along with suggested flights.

Insurance

Do I need special travel insurance for the trek?

You must carry individual travel insurance to take part in the expedition. We cannot take you on the mountain without proof of insurance.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance for your intended trip to include, at a minimum, medical evacuation and coverage up to the maximum altitude of this trip.

Your insurance details are requested on the booking form, however this can be arranged at a later date. 360 Expeditions will be requesting your insurance details 8 weeks before your departure.

Training

Any tips on how a trekker can maximise their chances of success?

The 360 training programs have been devised to be expedition specific. Use these as a guide but also feel free to contact us for individual advice on how to best incorporate the best suitable fitness program with your own lifestyle.

Several excellent training plans can also be found online to prepare you for this ascent. Check the thorough advice offered by UpHill Athlete.

Electronics

Will I be able to get WiFi along the way?

You will be able to get WiFi at the guest house / hotel at the start and finish.

The gite/refuges generally don’t have WiFi due to their remoteness.

Is there mobile reception?

Mobile phones work in most places on this trek but there are a couple of areas where you may struggle to get reception.

Can I charge my phone/iPod during the trek?

The gîte/refuge do have electricity so you will be able to plug things in to charge, but depending on how busy the gite/refuge is, you might find yourself competing for a socket with other guests.

We use PowerTraveller for our power packs and solar charges and would highly recommend them!

What plug sockets do you have?

France and Spain use the continental two pin with earth prong, adapters are readily available from many outlets before you leave the UK.

From the moment I first contacted 360, they have been a class apart from any other company I have dealt with. They have a passion for trekking and climbing and really care about their clients. This comes across in everything they do.

Ian White
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