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The Freedom Trail

France, Spain Trek INTENSE
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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.


The Freedom Trail

7 DAYS
  • 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 stories connected 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 another 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 to passeurs. 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 back to France and the lovely spa town of Ax les Thermes.

    Trek approx. 6 hours; drive approx. 3 hours

  • Today is free to relax! Ax les Thermes is a lovely old spa town, and a spa is the perfect way to treat yourself after the rigours of the past few days! The sulphurous hot springs have been used since Roman times. There are also many cafés to visit, and plenty to see if you feel like a gentle wander around town. We meet again in the evening for a slap-up dinner to celebrate our huge achievements.  (Lunch and dinner not included)

  • We are free until it’s time to transfer to Toulouse Airport for our flight home.  (Lunch not included)

Freedom Trail for Royal British Legion

7 DAYS
Retrace the steps of WW2 soldiers as you follow the Freedom trail escape route. Join us on the poignant adventure and support our work for the Armed Forces community.  
  • 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 stories connected 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 another 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 to passeurs. 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 back to France and the lovely spa town of Ax les Thermes.

    Trek approx. 6 hours; drive approx. 3 hours

  • Today is free to relax! Ax les Thermes is a lovely old spa town, and a spa is the perfect way to treat yourself after the rigours of the past few days! The sulphurous hot springs have been used since Roman times. There are also many cafés to visit, and plenty to see if you feel like a gentle wander around town. We meet again in the evening for a slap-up dinner to celebrate our huge achievements.  (Lunch and dinner not included)

  • We are free until it’s time to transfer to Toulouse Airport for our flight home.  (Lunch not included)


Prices may vary depending on date.

  • Available pricing options

    Fundraising Option
    Registration Fee £199 Fundraising target £2,200 Tour Cost - Airline Taxes - Contact Us
    Part - Payment Option
    Registration Fee £199 Fundraising target £1,700 Tour Cost £250.00 Airline Taxes - Contact Us
    Full Payment Option
    Registration Fee £199 Fundraising target - Tour Cost £1,100 Airline Taxes - Contact Us

    Pricing Explained

    Registration Fee (i)
    Payable on booking

    Fundraising Target (i)
    Paid 10 or 6 weeks prior to trip departure

    Trip Cost (i)
    Payable 8 or 4 weeks prior to trip departure

    WHAT'S INCLUDED

    • All transport from London to Toulous return
    • All meals except where specified, accommodation & camping equipment
    • Discover Adventure leaders; doctor with group of 15 or more participants; local mountain guides, cooks & drivers
    • Local support and back-up equipment
    • Entry to any sites included in itinerary

    WHAT'S EXCLUDED

    • Four meals except where specified 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 Conditions

     

    Download Challenge Details
  • Available pricing options

    Fundraising Option
    Registration Fee £199 Fundraising target £2,200 Tour Cost - Airline Taxes - Book now
    Part - Payment Option
    Registration Fee £199 Fundraising target £1,700 Tour Cost £250.00 Airline Taxes - Book now
    Full Payment Option
    Registration Fee £199 Fundraising target - Tour Cost £1,100 Airline Taxes - Book now

    Pricing Explained

    Registration Fee (i)
    Payable on booking

    Fundraising Target (i)
    Paid 10 or 6 weeks prior to trip departure

    Trip Cost (i)
    Payable 8 or 4 weeks prior to trip departure

    WHAT'S INCLUDED

    • All transport from London to Toulous return
    • All meals except where specified, accommodation & camping equipment
    • Discover Adventure leaders; doctor with group of 15 or more participants; local mountain guides, cooks & drivers
    • Local support and back-up equipment
    • Entry to any sites included in itinerary

    WHAT'S EXCLUDED

    • Four meals except where specified 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 Conditions

     

    Download Challenge Details
  • Available pricing options

    Fundraising Option
    Registration Fee £199 Fundraising target £2,100 Tour Cost - Airline Taxes - Contact Charity

    Pricing Explained

    Registration Fee (i)
    Payable on booking

    Fundraising Target (i)
    Paid 10 or 6 weeks prior to trip departure

    Trip Cost (i)
    Payable 8 or 4 weeks prior to trip departure

    Download Challenge Details
  • Available pricing options

    Fundraising Option
    Registration Fee £199 Fundraising target £2,250 Tour Cost - Airline Taxes - Book now
    Part - Payment Option
    Registration Fee £199 Fundraising target £1,750 Tour Cost £250.00 Airline Taxes - Book now
    Full Payment Option
    Registration Fee £199 Fundraising target - Tour Cost £1,125 Airline Taxes - Book now

    Pricing Explained

    Registration Fee (i)
    Payable on booking

    Fundraising Target (i)
    Paid 10 or 6 weeks prior to trip departure

    Trip Cost (i)
    Payable 8 or 4 weeks prior to trip departure

    WHAT'S INCLUDED

    • All transport from London to Toulous return
    • All meals except where specified, accommodation & camping equipment
    • Discover Adventure leaders; doctor with group of 15 or more participants; local mountain guides, cooks & drivers
    • Local support and back-up equipment
    • Entry to any sites included in itinerary

    WHAT'S EXCLUDED

    • Four meals except where specified 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 Conditions

     

    Download Challenge Details
  • Available pricing options

    Fundraising Option
    Registration Fee £199 Fundraising target £2,250 Tour Cost - Airline Taxes - Book now
    Part - Payment Option
    Registration Fee £199 Fundraising target £1,750 Tour Cost £250.00 Airline Taxes - Book now
    Full Payment Option
    Registration Fee £199 Fundraising target - Tour Cost £1,125 Airline Taxes - Book now

    Pricing Explained

    Registration Fee (i)
    Payable on booking

    Fundraising Target (i)
    Paid 10 or 6 weeks prior to trip departure

    Trip Cost (i)
    Payable 8 or 4 weeks prior to trip departure

    WHAT'S INCLUDED

    • All transport from London to Toulous return
    • All meals except where specified, accommodation & camping equipment
    • Discover Adventure leaders; doctor with group of 15 or more participants; local mountain guides, cooks & drivers
    • Local support and back-up equipment
    • Entry to any sites included in itinerary

    WHAT'S EXCLUDED

    • Four meals except where specified 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 Conditions

     

    Download Challenge Details

Detailed Information

  • 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 do not always use the same airline for each destination; if you wish to know the probable carrier please call for details. 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.

  • Some accommodation (in hotels or camp) will be twin-share. Please tell us if you know somebody else on the trip that you would like to share with and we will try our best to accommodate your request. If you don't know anyone else in the group don't worry, we always pair you up with someone of the same gender, and a similar age where possible. We do not charge a single supplement if you are a solo traveller.

    On some nights we are likely to sleep in more communal accommodation such as dormitories, huts, local homestays or monasteries, depending on the trip, and you may be sharing with a larger number of participants or the whole group; this type of accommodation cannot always be single-sex.

  • Accommodation is in a mix of family-run hotels, mountain refuges, and camping. 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!

  • The food provided is plentiful, often local in style and freshly-cooked, and will give you plenty of energy. Sometimes we enjoy a buffet-style lunch-stop, other times we might have packed lunches. On some trips we stop at small local restaurants. Dinners are generally eaten in camp or at the hotel, depending on accommodation. In some regions there may be less variety than you are used to, and in others fresh meat or produce can be harder to come by. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally on travel / free days, giving you the opportunity to explore and try other culinary experiences! There is always something to suit different budgets.

    Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Please do not expect as much variety as you would have access to at home – we may be in very rural or remote areas and among people of a different culture who may not understand your requirements, however willing they are to help. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat we strongly recommend you bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Please feel free to ask us for advice.

  • 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. They are also trained in expedition first aid. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader. Usually leaders are based in the UK or other English-speaking countries and lead for us regularly throughout the year in many different countries. In some instances, trips are led by in-country guides with a wealth of knowledge about the region; they have been trained by us to provide the level of support expected on a Discover Adventure trip.

  • Our local support crew is made up of local guides, assisted by drivers, porters, cooks and other support staff, depending on the type of trip. Local guides know the area well, and are a great source of knowledge about local lifestyles. The Discover Adventure crew work closely with the local crew to ensure your trip runs smoothly and safely. In some destinations we work together as a team with local guides to help set up or break camp, or prepare meals. Your leader will arrange a collection of tips for the local support crew at the end of your trek, and you will be provided with a guideline amount in advance. Tipping is not obligatory, but once you see how hard they work on your behalf you will be happy to donate something!

  • Your luggage, food, water and equipment is transported for you from one night-stop to the next. If there is easy road access this is done by vehicle; if not porters, mules or even camels might carry your bags, depending on the destination and terrain.

    Space is limited and hard-sided luggage is not suitable, so it is essential that your kit is packed in a soft bag, rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. You should also bring a small daypack to carry for items needed during the day as you will not have access to your main luggage until the evening.

  • 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.

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.

  • This is designed to be a challenge, and it is vital that you train sufficiently for it. We will supply you with a thorough training guide once you have registered. We expect all participants to train hard in advance, but we respect everyone’s limits and do not expect everyone to maintain the same pace. Inadequate training is likely to have an impact not just on your chances of completing the challenge, but enjoying it too - and we want you to have the time of your life!

    Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. 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 may 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.

  • Entry requirements vary depending on your destination and nationality. It is your responsibility to ensure your passport is valid, and any visas are obtained in good time. Check the FCO’s advice on entry requirements for your destination to be sure. To find out if you need a visa you can check requirements on our website; please ensure you allow plenty of time.

    Your routine UK schedule of vaccinations should be up-to-date (especially tetanus). We recommend you check Fit For Travel for further details. You should always check with a GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.


Testimonials

Hazel


Awesome experience in challenging conditions but loved every minute trekking in the Pyrenees

Julie


The trip was amazing, its the first time I personally have ever undertaken such a trek and I have truly found my adventurous gene!!  I can't wait for the next challenge.

Trek Training Weekend

Snowdon_Training_Trekking

£160 Special Offer - Only when you book at the same time as registering for your main challenge

Discover Adventure Trek Training Weekends take place in Snowdonia National Park, Wales. This training weekend is designed to put you through your paces to enable you to gauge fitness levels and gain advice from our experienced leaders.

MORE INFORMATION

GRADE | intense (4)

Trip grades range from Challenging (1) to Extreme (5).

INTENSE trips involve particularly challenging terrain and tough conditions, usually at altitude. As well as good fitness and stamina, they demand a determined approach and total commitment.

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