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The Freedom Trail

Pyrenees

  • Where?

    France

  • Altitude

    2,522m

  • Duration

    7 days

  • Weather

  • Physical

    P2

  • Technical

    T2

  • P2 - Prolonged walking over varied terrain. There may be uphills and downhills, so a good solid fitness is required. Expect to be able to do a 6 to 8 hour walk over undulating terrain with a few punchy uphill climbs carrying a pack up to 6kg in weight.

    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.

Brochure Enquire
  • Overview

  • Date & Prices

  • Pics & Vids

  • Itinerary

  • Kit List

  • FAQ's

Overview

The Feedom 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, and even a section of via ferrata. At the end we drive back over the border and enjoy a well earned drink in Luchon.

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

Departure & Return

Duration

Price (excl. flight)

Price (incl. flight)

Start: 15 July 2018
End: 21 July 2018

Price without flights:  £995

15 July 2018

21 July 2018

7 days

£995

N/A

Start: 09 September 2018
End: 15 September 2018

Price without flights:  £995

09 September 2018

15 September 2018

7 days

£995

N/A

Included

  • 360 Mountain Guide
  • Flights
  • All transfers to and from Toulouse Airport
  • 2 nights hotel accommodation in St Girons
  • A nights stay in picturesque mountain gite
  • A night camping
  • A nights stay in picturesque mountain refuge
  • Breakfast and dinner when based in St Girons
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner when on trek
  • All camping equipment except that noted in the kit list

Not Included

  • Personal equipment
  • 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 Toulouse

After a short flight from the UK we will arrive in Toulouse and transfer to St. Girons; a beautiful town set on Le Salat river. There will be some time to explore the town before dinner when we’ll sit down with the leader who will brief us on everything that is coming up over the next few days.

Night in hotel.

DAY Day 2 : St Girons

Free day to explore St Girons and to visit the museum that will help to put into context the trek we are about to embark on.

DAY 3 : St. Girons to La Ferme d’Esbintz

We start the day with a hearty traditional continental breakfast, load our rucksacks and take our first steps onto the Freedom Trail. St. Girons is where many refugees started this incredible journey over the Pyrenees to the safety of Spain and this part of the route leads us through beautiful forests and sleepy French villages. There is little altitude gain today but the path is steep at times and there are very few flat sections. Today is a good test of our stamina and is great preparation for the next couple of days.

Night in a gite.  Approx distance covered: 23km

DAY 4 : La Ferme d’Esbintz to Cabane Subera

After leaving La Ferme d’Esbintz  we start the long climb to the top of the Col de la Core (1,395m). On a hot day this can be particularly challenging with steep sections open to the glare of the sun. At the top we get the chance to catch our breath as we pay respects to the Passeurs – the local men and women who risked their lives by guiding the refugees to safety. From here the challenge increases as we leave the rutted unpaved road and join the trail that leads us into the mountains. As there is no road access, we must carry all of our own kit and be completely self-sufficient. The trail contours around the mountain and after a couple of hours we find ourselves at the Cabane Subera, a very basic shepherds hut where we can pitch our tents and settle down for the night.

DAY 5 : Cabane Subera to Refuge d’Estagnous

Today will be the biggest challenge of our journey as we encounter real mountainous terrain and gain more than 800m in altitude. Our efforts are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views from the Col de Craberous (2,382m) but as we ascend, we pass the site of the Halifax Bomber that came down in poor conditions in July 1945, killing all of the crew on board. There is still evidence of the wreckage scattered over the mountainside. A steep descent from the top of the Col de Craberous takes us over a huge boulder field and past crystal clear lakes as we make our way to the Refuge d’Estagnous that will feel like relative luxury after a night of camping.

Approx distance covered: 13km

DAY 6 : Refuge d’Estagnous to Spain and finish

Leaving the refuge we know we are only a few hours from the border with Spain that represented freedom for the escapees and the conclusion of the trek. An initial descent takes us to Lac Rond before our final ascent begins to the top of the Col de La Clauere or Freedom Col (2,522m). The path is exceptionally steep at times and there is a section of via ferrata or fixed cableway to assist us along the way. As we reach the summit we know we have made it, the journey is almost complete and we have reached our destination.

The final part of the trek is a descent into Spain where we meet our vehicles and head for a celebratory lunch before making our way to our hotel in Bagneres de Luchon for a few well earned drinks.

DAY 7 : Toulouse - UK

After our final breakfast in France, we load up the vehicles and make our way back to Toulouse for our flight home.

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

Approx. 55-65L capacity. Your day to day pack that you carry with your daily essentials (see FAQ’s), fitted with shoulder straps and importantly a waist belt

Waterproof rucksack cover

To protect rucksack from rain

Dry stuffsacks

Nylon rolltop bags (or even just large plastic 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

Small kit bag or light bag

This is for any kit you intend to leave at the hotel and could even simply be a heavy duty plastic bag

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

Silk is best for keeping the bag clean and you a little warmer

Sleeping mat

¾ length Thermarest will keep the weight down, but will be less useful in colder climates if you plan to do more trekking at altitude

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

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

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 / shirt to wear whilst walking

Quantity: 2

Gloves

Consider a light polartec pair for potential bad weather and evenings

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)

Tracksuit bottoms/comfortable trousers

A pair of lightweight tracksuit bottoms are nice to change into in the evenings for comfort or to sleep in if you feel cold

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

Hydration

Camelback 2L

These are the most practical as they are stored on your back and give easy access to water without removing your pack. Alternatively 2L worth of waterbottles will also suffice

Water purification

Purification tablets are better than any other system.  Highly unlikely to be needed.  Always good to have in your bag

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

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

Blister patches, plasters, antiseptic, painkillers; (see FAQ’s)

Personal medication

Keep this in your daysack

Misceallaneous

Trekking poles

These tend to be a personal preference but help with your stability and can dampen the pressure on the knees coming down hill

Ear plugs

For protection against the inevitable snorers!

Head torch

Bring spare batteries

Camera

Bring plenty of spare batteries and memory cards

Penknife (optional)

Snacks

You will be fed well and given snacks each day however we advise bringing a small selection as a little bit of comfort. Extra snacks can be bought en route if needed. Energy gels and protein bars are not suitable for this expedition

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

Take out travel insurance when you sign up and take a copy of your policy document

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)

While you do have travel insurance, this can save you paperwork and reduce upfront costs should you have a minor ailment or need to see a local GP if you already have one

FAQ's

Food and Water

Where do we get drinking water from?

Each morning you will fill your water bottles/bladder from the hotel / 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 in the refuges?

The food in the refuges 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.

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?

Yes, hot showers are available. There may be a small supplement for hot water.

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 fairly 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. The refuges also provide clean blankets so you could simply take a sleeping bag liner.

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?

A down jacket is not essential, a good thick fleece or jumper will suffice for the evenings.

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

I see our flights are included, do I have to fly from London?

We will happily look for flights for you from an airport more convenient to you, however there may be a small surcharge if these flights exceed the allocated flight budget.

Do I have to come back with the group or can I stay out for a few days?

You are welcome to stay out, please make the office aware of this when you book so we can reserve the correct flight for you.

Can I book my own flights?

You are welcome to book your own flights if you prefer, perhaps you would like to stay out a little longer at the end of the trek or do a little more travel around France. Contact the office and we will adjust your trip cost accordingly.

Insurance

Do I need special travel insurance for the trek?

You must carry individual travel insurance to take part in the trek. We cannot take you on the mountain without proof of insurance. For Freedom Trail you will need insurance that covers you for trekking to an altitude of 2,522m

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.

Electronics

Will I be able to get WIFI along the way?

The refuges generally don’t have wifi due to their remoteness, but you will be able to get it at the hotels at the start and finish.

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

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.

The organisation was impeccable and the support all through the expedition was amazing.

Paula Cairey, General, 2015
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