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The Freedom Trail

Pyrenees

  • Where?

    France

  • Altitude

    2,522m

  • Duration

    7 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

  • FAQ's

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

Departure & Return

Duration

Price (excl. flight)

Price (incl. flight)

Start: 20 August 2018
End: 26 August 2018

Price without flights:  £1,095

20 August 2018

26 August 2018

7 days

£1,095

N/A

Start: 30 June 2019
End: 06 July 2019

Price without flights:  £1,095

30 June 2019

06 July 2019

7 days

£1,095

N/A

Included

  • 360 Mountain Guide
  • All transfers to and from Toulouse Airport
  • 1 night in chateau in St Girons
  • 1 nights stay in picturesque mountain gite
  • 1 night camping
  • 1 night’s stay in picturesque mountain refuge
  • 2 nights stay based on 2 sharing at the charming Papilio guest house (breakfast only)
  • Dinner on arrival and celebration meal
  • All camping equipment except that noted in the kit list

Not Included

  • Flights* (please see the FAQ’s for the pick-up / drop-off times in Toulouse)
  • Personal equipment
  • Insurance
  • Excludes tapas on way back from Spain
  • 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

Your guide will meet you at Toulouse Airport and transfer you to St Girons. During WW2, the town lay just inside the German imposed Border Exclusion Zone. Our accommodation for tonight is in the incredible Chateau de Beauregard. A chateau requisitioned by the Germans as their HQ for the region. This chateau that dates back to the XIX century has large quiet rooms, a spa, delightful gardens and swimming pool. We will have dinner at the Auberge d’Antan.

(D)

DAY 2 : Saint Girons (391m) – Aunac (766m)

Following an excellent breakfast, we’ll walk down to the Pont le Chemin de la Liberté (start point), inaugurated in 1995 after the old iron bridge was demolished for safety reasons. It was at this bridge that the train driver would sound his whistle, which was the signal for the evaders to jump from the moving train, where upon they were hastily collected by the Resistance and hurried into the woods. Today will be a longish, if relatively gentle warm up to this 4-day trek with only 375m of height gain.

Tonight we will stay at the rustic Gite d’Etape – set in a wonderful setting in the foothills above the village of Aunac. This communal gite includes hot showers and sit down loos!  We will spend the evening having a wonderful dinner al fresco with homegrown vegetables and being lulled to sleep by the owners’ donkeys!

(23km, 6-7hrs, 375m height gain)

(BLD)

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

We start our day walking through old Beech forests and along a section of the GR10, before climbing over a few easy cols up to the Cabane, which lies underneath the rock wall of Le Cirque de Lameza.

We will spend the night spent in the Cabane or in tents. We will only use tents if we cannot get into the Cabane, which operates on a first come first serve basis.

(16km, 6hrs, 733m height gain)

(BLD)

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

Today we stop to pay our respects to the crew of a Halifax bomber that crashed into the Pic de Lampau. Remains of the wreckage still litter the ground and there is a simple memorial plaque set into the rock. From here it is necessary to climb the snow filled (early in the season) gully leading to the Col de Craberous (2,382m) 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. En route we should see herds of Merens ponies, the distinctive black mountain pony of the Pyrenees and Griffon vultures with a possible sighting of Lammergeier with its vast 9-foot wingspan.

We will end the day at Le Refuge des Estagnous that lies amongst beautiful settings at an altitude of 2,245m. During our stay at this dormitory styled accommodation, we will have hot showers, a good dinner with Vino and spectacular sunset views.

(13km,  7-8hrs, 833m height gain)

(BLD)

DAY 5 : Refuge des Estagnous (2,245m) – Pont de Perosa (1,500m)

Road permitting. Else we will trek another 4kms to the Refuge de Fortet.

We descend to Lac Rond before a 200m climb and short, slightly airy traverse to the Etang Long. From here it is about an hour to the Frontier Col at 2,522m. We descend down to the Lac de Clauere for a dip and a bite to eat, before the final descent to the Noguera Palaresa river for a pick up by minibus. We then drive to Arties for a late tapas lunch and much needed beer!

We end the day with a transfer to the spa town of Bagneres de Luchon.

Tonight we will stay at the charming Papilio guest house -set in a stunning location with the most fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. The guest house has large comfortable rooms and a pretty garden where you can sit and enjoy the spectacular views.

We shall have enough provisions in our daypacks for a bite at the Lac de Clauere.

(7-8km, 5-7 hrs, 745m height loss)

(BD)

DAY 6 : Relaxing day in Bagneres de Luchon

Today is a free day in the wonderful spa town of Bagneres de Luchon. There are many lively bars and restaurants to spend away a lazy day. Or why not treat yourself to an hour in the hot caves of the themes.

We will spend the night in the charming Papilio guest house.

(B)

DAY 7 : Return home

Today we will start our journey back home with a transfer to Toulouse Blagnac Airport.

(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

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

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

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

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

Evening Wear

Evening clothes

Clothes for the evening such as casual shorts, T- shirts etc.

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

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

European travel adaptor

Matches

Candle

Duct tape

Penknife (optional)

Swimsuit/shorts

Knife, fork, spoon

Mug

Light weight mug that is not easy to break

Mess tin

Snacks

Although you will be fed well we do we advise bringing a small selection of energy bars. Have a couple per trekking day

Entertainment

iPod, book, Kindle etc.

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)

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 chateau / 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

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 be at the airport at 11.30 am on day one of the itinerary.

On the day you leave we will be dropping the team off at Toulouse airport for 2.30 PM

Please therefore find flights that work for these timings.

If there are any issues with this please let us know and we will also try and help however it might mean in getting a hire car/train or taxi to your start / finish point.

Bagneres de luchon is 1h 40 mins drive away.

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 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.

Electronics

Will I be able to get WiFi along the way?

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

The gite/refuge 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.

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 of the trip was friendly, intimate, efficient and definitely fun. I felt more like a friend than a client throughout.

Terry Lee, General, 2015
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