28 Aug – 2 Sep 2021
Hiking the Freedom Trail across the Ariege Pyrenees
|INCLUDED||4 days of guided hiking|
5 nights bed and breakfast
4 packed lunches
|4 evening meals|
Transfer back from Spain
Local luggage transfer
|NOT INCLUDED||Flights||Airport transfer|
|OPTIONS||Transfer from Toulouse||Additional nights accommodation|
This Freedom Trail guided walking holiday is a wild, beautiful and thought-provoking multi day mountain trek on which you’ll be following in the footsteps of those escaping persecution in WW2.
History of the Freedom Trail
In the early years of the second World War, France was split into two – an occupied zone in the north and the free zone to the south. The free southern zone was an area of hope for civilians and military service personnel fleeing Nazi brutality.
Victims of discrimination (Jews, foreigners, resistance workers), escaped prisoners of war, shot down airmen, the aim of all of these people was to escape the oppression in France. They did this by crossing the border into Spain where they still ran the risk of being captured by officers of General Franco”s regime.
Well-organised escape lines across the mountains of the Pyrenees with their numerous high passes and thickly wooded foothills were developed. They were operated not only by French groups but also Dutch, British, Polish and Belgians. They succeeded in transferring both people and also sensitive military information and documents to their allies across the border.
One of the main escape routes was from Saint Girons in the Ariege Pyrenees. This trek became known as the Chemin de la Liberté or Freedom Trail.
In hiking the freedom trail you will be following in the footsteps not only of fit young men but also of women and children and the elderly too. Along the route you can”t fail to be moved by the sheer enormity of the journey that they undertook.
Outline itinerary for your Hike the Freedom Trail holiday
You’ll arrive at your hotel where your guide will meet you to explain in more detail about the Freedom Trail and what to expect from your experience. After an excellent evening meal you’ll retire to bed for a good night’s sleep before your adventure begins.
Distance: 9kms Walking Time: 3-4 hours
Your first day of walking will take you from the little village of la Sounere up to the little mountainside community of Aunac via the Col d’Artigue.
You’ll have lunch and a moment of contemplation at the monument that was erected in memory of 19 year-old Louis Barrau. He was a ‘passeur’ who was betrayed, captured and shot by the Germans as he made his way along the route you are following.
Your overnight will be at the little auberge at Aunac which used to be a meeting place for escapees during WW2. Enjoy a superb home-cooked meal before a good nights sleep in preparation for a big day tomorrow.
Distance: 16kms Walking Time: approx 6 hours.
After a breakfast with spectacular views you look forward to a day of challenging walking. You’ll rapidly reach the majestic scenery of the high mountains as you climb from Aunac at 766m to the Cabane de Subera at 1499m.
The path rises steeply to the Col de la Core (1,395 m) where you’ll enjoy a buffet lunch that’s provided by your support team. You’ll collect your kit for the night before continuing your hike, contouring around the mountainside to the Cabane de Subéra (1,499 m) which you’ll reach after just 2 hours.
You’ll wild camp tonight in tents provided by your guides but first enjoy a superb 3 course meal that is provided for you.
Distance: 13kms Walking Time: 8-9 hours
Today, you head up into serious mountain terrain The ascent becomes very much steeper and after two hours of climbing you’ll arrive at the base of the Pic de Lampau. Here, you’ll see the wreckage of a British Halifax bomber whose seven crew members died when their aircraft crashed into the mountain on the 19th of July 1945.
The climb continues over the Col de Crabérous (2,382 m) and descends to the Cabane d’Espugue (2,110 m) where you’ll enjoy a picturesque lunch.
Then, after passing the lake or l’Étang de Cruzous, there is a stiff climb to the Col de Pécouch (2,494 m), followed by a final descent to the Refuge des Estagnous (2,245 m), where you’ll spend the night.
Distance: 20kms Walking Time: 7 hours
Today, from the shelter of the refuge that saved thousands of lives during WW2, you will descend at first to l’Étang Rond (the Round Lake 1,929 m), then climb very steeply up to l’Étang Long (the Long Lake 2,125 m).
The Spanish frontier is reached after a testing climb up to the Col de Claouère at 2,500 m. This is followed by a steep descent into Spain to reach the River Noguera Pallaresa where a track winds along a valley to the village of Alos d’Isil (1,200 m) and the end of your trek.
You will be collected by minibus and driven the 1h to your 3* hotel in Vielha. Enjoy a tapas dinner and cocktails to celebrate the end of your trek.
After a good night’s sleep you’ll be transferred either back to Toulouse airport for your flight home or back to the auberge at which you spent your first night to collect your car.