The Freedom Trail - 2016
An unforgettable trek. A living memorial. A time for camaraderie. 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th July 2016
For the 23rd year the "Le Chemin de la Liberté Association" is organising its annual commemorative trek following in the footsteps of those escaping from Nazi oppression during World War II.
There is a choice of treks :
- The 4 day 'Classic Crossing' - 7th to 10th of July.
- The 2 day 'High Mountain Crossing' - 9th and 10th of July.
The technical responsibility of the hike is assured by volunteers of the Le Chemin de la Liberté Association with further technical support provided by the Eterlou Seixois, a hiking association which is a member of the Fédération Française du Milieu Montagnard (F.F.M.M.)
The organisers want every participant who starts the walk to cross the border and reach the finish in Spain on foot. This is not always possible due to too much snow in the high mountains (the final border crossing was abandoned in both 2013 and 2014) or because of adverse weather conditions (15 cm of snow on July 14 2002). The organisers reserve the right to alter the itinerary as was done in these years.
Another reason why participants do not make it to Spain on foot is because they have to drop out (12 in 2015). This is frustrating for the participants and complicates the organisation of the walk. Please read the following information closely and follow the advice as carefully as possible. This will help reduce the risk that you have to drop out.
The trek, limited to 120 participants, follows a route across the high Pyrenees and although it does not present any particular technical difficulties, it does include :
- an uphill section across a snow/ice field
- a short, steep section where a steel cable is provided for support and a short, level section with an exposed drop on one side
If you suffer badly from vertigo, this section may pose too much of a problem.
Although the trek does not present any particular technical difficulties, it is a tough physical and mental challenge and very tiring.
The average distance per day is 8.5 miles and the average height gain per day is approximately 3500 feet. Actual walking time each day is approximately 7 hours.
Rocky terrain, ruck sack weight and the weather conditions (heat, rain, cold...) all add to the demands on the body. If you suffer from a health condition and/or are on medication, and have any doubts about your ability to complete the trek, please ask your doctor for advice.
Don't forget that with advancing years, some physical capacities, such as endurance and the ability to recuperate, diminish.
Carrying too much weight is a very important cause of exhaustion and participants having to drop out. You should make sure your bag is as light as possible, taking only what is strictly necessary. Your ruck sack should not weigh more than 20% of your own body weight. Sort out what you are going to carry before you leave for France. Only carry the essentials. Walk around with your full pack on your shoulders and remember this will be on your back for an average of 7 hours each day. Weigh your full ruck sack and remember the 20% of you body weight rule.
Equipment needed :
Here is the basic equipment needed :
- A pair of walking boots offering protection/support for the ankle and with a sole that offers good grip. The boots should be worn in and in good condition. In 2015 three participants had soles detach from their boots on the first day of the trek
- 1 litre drink bottle
- 1 T-shirt and trousers (preferably synthetic material which dries easily)
- 1 fleece jacket for warmth
- 1 lightweight waterproof jacket (a poncho is not adapted to walk in mountains)
- A cap or a hat for the sun
- A pair of fleece gloves and a hat for warmth
- 1 change of clothes (T-shirt, trousers)
- Changes of underwear
- 1 little piece of soap
- Small tooth paste tube
- A tooth brush
- A towel (light weight and quick drying)
- Sun cream and sun glasses
- A pair of light shoes for the evenings
- A little toilet paper/small packet of wipes
- Some snack food (dry fruit, cereal bars ...)
- A European Health Insurance Card (which used to be called the E111) which is not out of date!
If completing the Classic Crossing (4 days) :
- Tent, sleeping bag and small gas stove. Gas canisters are available in St Girons. Spoon.
- Food for Friday evening, Saturday morning and Saturday lunch ( lunch for Sunday can be ordered from the refuge when booking for the walk)
If completing just the High Mountain Crossing (2 days) :
- Food for Saturday lunch ( lunch for Sunday can be ordered from the refuge when booking for the walk)
Those best suited to the hike, and those who will enjoy it most, are those with some experience of hill walking, who have a good level of basic fitness and are well equipped. Participants who start the trek but find themselves not fit enough and who slow the progress of the group too much, will be asked to abandon the trek and will be helped down to the valley floor. It will be the same for those found to have inadequate equipment for the forecast weather conditions. Those participants asked to leave the trek will not be entitled to a refund.
French legislation requires that participants of an event organised by an Association, must be members of that Association. The membership fee for the Le Chemin de la Liberté Association (20€) has to be paid when booking for the walk. Participants must also provide a medical certificate stating they are able to hike in mountainous terrain up to a maximum height of 2500m/7000 feet and must be insured for walking in the mountains. Insurance should cover helicopter rescue, repatriation costs, medical care and civil liability.
The second night of the 4 day Classic Crossing involves a 'wild camp' ie a campsite that has no showers or toilet facilities. We will camp next to a shelter used by a shepherd. His advice for going to the toilet is to move 100 metres from the shelter (where he spends the summer months). There is no need to dig a small hole for solid waste but the shepherd does not want to to see toilet paper or wipes left at the site. Although the advice in the past has been to burn toilet paper, this is actually very difficult to do in practice ! It is easier to put the paper or wipes inside a small plastic bag (or two !) that you carry for that purpose and carry the bag, along with your other rubbish, off the hill.
Program for the classic crossing.
Thursday July 7th : 8 hours of actual walking. Distance 23 km (14 miles). Height gain 1200 metres (3900 ft)
- 07h00 : ceremony before departure in St Girons at the bridge of the Chemin de la Liberté (390 m / 1300 ft). Roll call and distribution of name badges.
- 12h30 : arrival at the Col de l’Artigue (900 m / 3000 ft) in Sentenac d’Oust, ceremony at the Memorial to the passeur Louis Barrau. Buffet lunch is provided.
- 17h00 : arrival at the Memorial to the 'Evadés de France' at the hamlet of Aunac (750 m / 2460 ft) Ceremony and then road transfer of walkers to the village of Seix.
- 19h00 : reception followed by a drink at the Town Hall of Seix.
- 20h00 : evening meal at the Maison du Haut Salat. Hikers sleep in the gymnasium in Seix.
Friday July 8th : 6 hours 30 mins of actual walking. Distance 16 km (10 miles). Height gain 1120 metres (3700 ft).
- 07h00 : breakfast at the Maison du Haut Salat
- 08h00 : departure from Seix (510 m / 1700 ft)
- 12h00 : arrival at the Col de la Core (1395 m / 4600 ft), ceremony at the Memorial to the Passeurs followed by a buffet lunch.
- 17h00 : arrival at the Cabane de la Subéra (1499 m / 4900 ft), and the 'wild camp' site.
- 19h00 : aperitif (pre dinner drinks and snacks) offered by the organisation.
Saturday July 9th : 6 hours 30 mins of actual walking. Distance 13 km (8 miles). Height gain 1400 metres (4600 ft).
- 08h00 : light snack offered by the veterans of the district
- 08h30 : departure for the high mountains.
- 10h30 : ceremony by the British delegation on the spot where the Halifax bomber crashed (2100 m / 6900 ft) Steep ascent up to the Col des Crabérous (2382 m / 7800 ft) with a steep descent on the other side on a narrow path covered with loose stones.
- 13h00 : picnic lunch near the Cabane d’Espugue (2110 m / 6900 ft) Descent to the Etang (Lake) de Milouga (1959 m / 6400 ft), and then a steep ascent among large boulders (some use of hands may be necessary) before the gradient eases for the approach to the Col de Pécouch (2462 m / 8100 ft).
- 17h00 : arrival at the Refuge des Estagnous (2245 m / 7400 ft)
- 18h30 : aperitif and then meal (2 services if there are more than 90 persons), night at the Refuge.
Sunday July 10th : 6 hours of actual walking. Distance 13 km (8miles). Height gain 600 metres (2000 ft).
- 06h30 : breakfast
- 07h45 : descent towards the Round Lake/l'Etang Rond (1929 m / 6000 ft), then a tricky, steep passage (with steel cable for support) and a short , level section with an exposed drop on one side, towards the Long Lake/l'Etang Long (2125 m / 7000 ft). From this lake there is the final ascent to the border - la Pale de la Claouère (2522 m / 8300 ft), after a long ascent on a snow/ice field.
- 13h00 : picnic at the Etang de la Claouère in Spain (2230 m / 7300 ft) and then long descent towards the valley of the Noguéra Pallaresa (1480 m / 4800 ft)
- 16h00 : road transfer to Alos de Isil and Esterri d’Aneu.
- 18h00 : closing ceremony and meal at the gymnasium of Esterri. Showers are available.
- 21h30 : Departure by bus to go back to St Girons and Seix. Arrival after midnight !
Program for the high mountain crossing.
Saturday July 9th : 8 hours 30 mins of actual walking. Distance 19 km (12miles). Height gain 1620 m (5300 ft)
- 05h00 : departure by bus from the ancient railway station in St Girons.
- 05h30 : departure by bus from Place de l’Allée à Seix.
- 06h00 : start of the walk from the last bend before the Col de La Core (1360 m / 4600 ft)
- 08h00 : arrival at the Cabane de la Subéra (1499 m / 4900 ft) and light snack offered by the veterans of the district.
- 08h30 : the rest of the programme is the same as for the Classic Crossing.
The Classic Crossing / 4 days : 130€ + 20€ (membership fee for the Le Chemin de la Liberté Association)
This includes the following:
- Thursday : buffet lunch and road transfer from Aunac to Seix at the end of the day. Dinner. Night in the gymnasium.
- Friday : breakfast and buffet lunch.
- Saturday : dinner
- Sunday : breakfast and dinner. Road transfer to Esterri d’Aneu (at the end of the walk), and bus transfer from Esterri d’Aneu to St Girons (or Seix) after the reception/meal in Esterri.
The High Mountain Crossing / 2 days : 110€ + 20€ (membership fee for the Le Chemin de la Liberté Association)
This includes the following:
- Saturday : road transfer by bus from St Girons or Seix to the Col de la Core, dinner and night in the refuge.
- Sunday : breakfast, road transfer at the end of the trek to Esterri d’Aneu, dinner and road transfer from Esterri d’Aneu to St Girons (or Seix) after the reception/dinner. Arrival after midnight !
How to join the walk.
Contact the Chemin de la Liberté Museum :
Maison du Chemin de la Liberté
Boulevard Aristide Bergès
Tel : 05 61 66 35 68
Opening hours : from 10h00 to 12h00 and from 02h00 to 05h00 pm Monday to Friday
Important notice : Your booking cannot be processed unless it is accompanied by a cheque for the corresponding amount, a medical certificate attesting to your ability to hike in mountainous terrain up to an altitude of 2500 metres (about 8200 ft) and a copy of your insurance.
For more information.
Please contact :
Guy SERIS (President of Le Chemin de la Liberté Association)
Tel : 05 61 66 87 60
Paul DEBONS (who has overall responsibility for the trek)
Further reading :
'The Freedom Trail' by Scott Goodall.
Available at the Chemin de la Liberté and :
Museum and Inchmere Design Limited
Swan Close Studios
Swan Close Way
Oxfordshire OX16 5TE
Tel : 01295 661000
Fax : 01295 277939