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Wild horses grazing

Stan Bowley Pyrenees Freedom Trail 6 days France, Spain

Trek
Trek
Communal
Communal
Terrain
Terrain
RED 1
Grading


About the Challenge

This beautiful and demanding trek in the Pyrenees follows the Freedom Trail, or ‘Chemin de la Liberté’, one of the toughest WW2 escape routes from Nazi-occupied France into Spain. Local people risked their lives to help 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 on remote trails reaching approx. 2500m. 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 commemorates the bravery of others.


Itinerary

Stan Bowley Pyrenees Freedom Trail


BESPOKE 6 DAYS
A demanding WW2 escape route trek from France over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain, in aid of The Stan Bowley Trust
  • We fly to Toulouse and transfer to St Girons, where you are free to explore this lovely small town in the Ariège. Look out for the bridge over the River Salat; escapees reportedly jumped from the train here when the guard blew his whistle, and it’s where many would have met their first passeur, the local guide who would take them over his section of the network. Time permitting, we recommend you visit the town’s excellent Chemin de la Liberté museum, which brings vividly to life some of the storiesconnected with our route. Night hotel.

    (Lunch not included)

  • We drive out of town to the start of our trek, taking a scenic road that winds through the valleys. Our trailhead leaves the road and takes us through woodland on a good path. This is only a half-day walk to save our energy for the strenuous days ahead, but it’s not an easy stroll! We don’t reach any high elevations, but there are plenty of steep gradients as we head deeper into the mountains – there’s very little flat on today’s terrain. The path climbs steeply up again towards the end, taking us to Aunac, where there’s a memorial to the Évadés de France (escapees of France). Night refuge / camp (760m).

    Trek approx. 4 hours

  • After a hearty breakfast with wonderful views, we head off through forest on a long day of trekking. Our path takes us steeply up to the Col de le Core (1395m) – this is a fairly demanding ascent but the views around us are spectacular as we gain height. We pause here and admire the mountain scenery, taking a moment to pay our respects at the col’s memorial topasseurs. We also meet our vehicles and collect our kit for tonight, which we must carry to the hut as there’s no access by vehicle. From now on we’ll be carrying our own gear, though we travel lighter after tonight’s camp. The hardest part of today’s trek is behind us, and we contour around the mountain-side, getting a glimpse for the first time of the terrain that awaits us. It should take us 2-3 hours to reach Subera Hut, set in pasture meadows at the foot of towering mountain cliffs. There are often cows grazing here, and we can hear the welcoming sound of their cow-bells from quite a distance. Night camp (1449m).

    Trek approx. 6 - 7 hours

  • A challenging day lies ahead of us today, as our trek takes us into serious mountain terrain. We are headed for the Col de Craberous (2382m), but first pass the crash site of a British Halifax bomber, 80km off its intended route, it sadly crashed on a training flight in July 1945, killing all seven on board. Wreckage is left untouched out of respect, and a plaque commemorates the crew. We continue to climb and descend, usually steeply, and enjoy a relatively level walk alongside a beautiful mountain lake. We’re likely to see wild horses in this area. As we near the snow-line, the scenery becomes more impressive; craggy peaks and towering cliffs, with patches of snow between the jagged rocks. It’s spectacular, but not a hospitable landscape, especially in bad weather; 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. After our last steep climb, we descend over boulder-strewn slopes to our refuge. Night refuge (2245m).

    Trek approx. 8-9 hours

  • We set off from our hospitable refuge, and trek downhill to the lovely Lac Rond (1929m), 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’s a fixed cable to assist us. 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 (2522m), where we gaze into Spain. It’s hard to imagine how the escapees from France would have felt at this moment, having survived the mountain crossing. We are likely to feel a mix of relief and elation, as all that remains of our very challenging trek now is a relatively gentle descent over grassy slopes to the end of the trailhead above the village of Esterri de Aneu. We get into our waiting transport and drive to our accommodation for the night in Vielha.

    Trek approx. 6 hours; drive approx. 1 hour

  • We are free until it’s time to transfer to Toulouse Airport for our flight home.

    (Lunch not included)



Dates & Prices

Prices may vary depending on date.


 

WHAT'S INCLUDED

  • All transport from London to Toulouse return
  • All meals except where specified, accommodation & camping equipment
  • Discover Adventure crew
  • Local guide/s, support and back-up equipment
  • Entry to any sites included in itinerary

WHAT'S EXCLUDED

  • Any meals specified 'not included' in the itinerary 
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal spending money, souvenirs & drinks
  • Tips for the local support crew
  • Sleeping bag and sleeping mat
  • Inbound airport departure tax (no tax applied at the time of writing)
  • Fees for any optional sites, attractions or activities (eg. museum or spa)
  • Any applicable surcharges as per Terms and Condition


Detailed Information

  • 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 communication devices (eg phones, radios and/or emergency satellite phones), medical kit and other safety apparatus appropriate to the destination. Our leaders always have access to our 24-hour emergency UK back-up. They 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 medical questionnaires and travel insurance as appropriate - is all done with your safety in mind.

  • We have a Passenger Portal which will give you more details of the challenge itself. It also enables you to see any outstanding information we need, the countdown to your challenge departure, see your outstanding balance, make payments and update your contact details. You can access this via the following link - Passenger Portal Log in.


Preparing for the Challenge

  • We plan our trips around the optimal weather conditions, but could still be exposed to bad weather at any time. It is vital you are prepared for all conditions. 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.

    If you are still to buy some kit don’t forget that Cotswold Outdoor, Snow and Rock, Cycle Surgery and Runners Need offer all Discover Adventure participants 15% off any purchases you make with them. Please ask us for the code if you do not have this already.