About the challenge
This beautiful and demanding trek in the Pyrenees takes us from France over the high mountains into Spain. Our route follows the Freedom Trail, or Chemin de la Liberté, one of the toughest WW2 escape routes from Nazi-occupied France. Local people risked their lives to help the thousands of allied servicemen and Jewish refugees fleeing to safety, and we pass plaques and memorials dedicated to their bravery. The trek is arduous and steep, taking us through spectacular scenery of cirques, rocky ridges, beech forests and mountain lakes. We walk on remote trails, reaching 2522m before we descend into Spain. Whenever the going gets tough, we have only to think of those who undertook the same paths in fear of their lives to find the determination to continue.
This is an incredible trek with a poignant undertone – a personal challenge which also commemorates the bravery of others.
Dates & prices
|Departs||Days||Charity||Availability||Registration fee||Fundraising target||Payment option|
|24 Jul 2017||7||Open challenge||Spaces||£199||+||£2100||Or||£1050||Book now|
|11 Sep 2017||7||Open challenge||Spaces||£199||+||£2100||£1050||Book now|
|23 Jul 2018||7||Open challenge||Spaces||£199||+||£2200||£1100||Book now|
|10 Sep 2018||7||Open challenge||Spaces||£199||+||£2200||£1100||Book now|
Trek World War Two escape route from France into Spain
Remote trails through striking Pyrenean landscapes
Pass poignant plaques and memorials to those who risked their lives
Chance to unwind in iconic spa town
Day 1: Fly to Toulouse
Day 2-3: Undulating trekking through alpine meadows and forest to steep col and on to camp
Day 4-5: Challenging days over rugged mountain passes, past crash site of Halifax bomber; steep ascent past lakes to Spanish border
Day 6-7: Free day to relax in Ax les Thermes; flight departs
What makes it intense?
Challenging mountain trekking to 2500m
Some scrambling over boulders and possible snow-fields
Carry your own kit on remotest part of trek
Camping and remote mountain huts
Chance to unwind in iconic spa town
Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.
The cost includes all accommodation is included as well as all flights and transport; camping equipment (except sleeping bag and sleeping mat); all meals except four as specified in the itinerary, and entrance to any sites visited as part of the itinerary. Any airline fuel supplement is also included in the cost. Experienced Discover Adventure leaders and doctor (depending on final group size) are also included, along with a local support crew of mountain guides and drivers.
It does not include personal travel insurance, four meals as specified, tips for local crew, or international departure tax if applicable. It also does not include any entrance fees to any optional sites or attractions. Remember to allow extra for drinks, souvenirs and other personal expenses. Please note that costs may fluctuate and we have no control over any changes. We strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.
Group flights leave from London Heathrow or Gatwick, (we regret that we are unable to book connecting flights) and are booked through Discover Adventure Ltd under ATOL licence 5636. By travelling with Discover Adventure you are protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are most likely to fly with British Airlines. However, we don’t always fly with the same airline so this is a guideline only. You will usually receive confirmed flight details several months before departure. Our itineraries are always based on current flight schedules and are therefore subject to change by the airline. If you prefer to book your own flights please ask us for a land-only cost.
Accommodation is in a mix of family-run hotels, mountain refuges, and camping; tents and hotel rooms are usually twin-share. Mountain huts are clean and comfortable considering their remote location; sleeping arrangements are dormitory-style. We endeavour to use smaller rooms and keep them single-sex, but please be aware this may not always be possible, especially at busy times. Camping facilities are basic, but with incredible views!
All food is included except for four meals as specified. Generous packed lunches are provided when trekking. The three-course dinners in the refuge are wonderful!
Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Bear in mind that being vegetarian is not generally well-understood in France, so meals may not be as varied as you are used to. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat you may wish to bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Please feel free to ask us for advice. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally when we are in towns or cities and you are free to explore and try other culinary experiences! There is always something to suit every budget.
Discover Adventure Crew
Your trip will be led by experienced Discover Adventure leaders. Our leaders are selected for their experience in harsh wilderness environments, knowledge of travel in remote areas, friendliness and approachability, sense of humour and ability to safely and effectively deal with any situation that arises. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader.
All our leaders are from the UK or other English-speaking countries. Most work for us on an ad-hoc basis and have ‘real’ jobs in-between trips! We never send our leaders to the same destination for months on end – we want them to be as enthusiastic about your trip as you are. Although our leaders are trained in expedition first-aid, they are accompanied by an expedition doctor or medic (dependent on group size), who is there to look after the well-being of the whole group and deal with any incidents. They help the leaders to ensure the trip runs smoothly and encourage you when things get tough. The number of crew looking after you will depend on the final size of your group, but at Discover Adventure we pride ourselves on our high leader: trekker ratio and believe it leads to greater trip enjoyment as well as excellent trip safety.
Because of the lack of road access in this remote part of the Pyrenees, we will carry a light sleeping-bag for use in the refuge towards the end of the trek. There is also a section of approx. 1.5-2 hours where we will be carrying our tents and food for the night. The rest of the time we carry only what we need during the day. We therefore recommend you use a good quality adjustable rucksack which fits you well and you have carried while training.
Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and emergency mobile phones, medical kit and other safety apparatus where necessary. They always have access to our 24-hour emergency back-up in the UK. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate.
Pre-trip administration – such as compulsory medical questionnaires and travel insurance – is all done with your safety in mind.
Preparing for the challenge
Walking terrain is varied, with paths through valleys, forest, and mountain pastures. The trek is very hilly, with some steep rocky ascents and descents. There is likely to be some walking over snow and boulders, and it can be very exposed. On the last day there is a short section with via ferrata and ropes to assist with the steep gradient, your guides will carry extra equipment to clip you on should you feel you need extra security. The highest altitude reached is 2522m. The last two days are particularly demanding, and you will need to have trained hard or be a regular, fit walker of long distances and tough terrain to complete this challenge; you should also be used to carrying a substantial rucksack. This is a very remote area and there is no road access after the second day of trekking, so trekkers continuing past this point will need to be mentally prepared and very determined. We strongly recommend you have ample experience of mountain walking in the UK/overseas before taking part.
Because of the twisting, undulating terrain, it’s impossible to give accurate daily distances. It’s also much more useful when training to think about the hours you need to walk, and the type of terrain you will be trekking over! We are always happy to talk through the trip in more detail with you if you are worried about your fitness at any stage.
Clothing & Equipment
We are travelling through remote mountains where we could be exposed to bad weather at any time so be prepared for all weathers and temperatures. Weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice.
Temperatures can vary widely, though generally it should be warm and sunny; rain is always a possibility and it may be blustery. Cold winds are common when high up on the mountains.
Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. We expect all participants to train hard in advance to achieve this challenge, but we respect everyone’s limits. We design our challenges so that everyone can go at their own pace: this is not a race. For logistical and safety reasons we sometimes need to re-group, so the front-runners will find themselves waiting for the slower ones. Please relax, and remember that this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and earn sponsorship.
Passport & Visa
A valid ten-year passport is essential for travel in France and Spain and must be valid for at least 6 months from entry. Your passport must be carried with you at all times in the mountains. There is no visa requirement for UK citizens or other EU members. Other nationalities should check entry requirements.
We insist that you have had a Tetanus injection in the last ten years, and highly recommend protection against Polio. You should always check with a GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.
Worldwide Sustainable Tourism
Long before ‘Responsible Tourism’ became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through.
Discover Adventure Projects
We are supporting a tree-planting project in Peru and a children’s home in Tanzania on a long-term basis. If you would like to ‘give something back’ please consider donating £5 to our projects when you sign up.
We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them.
Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with TCV and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Volunteer today at www.tcv.org or call 01302 388883.