The ‘Chemin de la Liberte’ was the toughest of several escape routes across the Pyrenees during the Second World War. During the Second World War more than 33,000 civilians and 6000 allied servicemen climbed over the peaks of the Pyrenees from France to escape Nazi occupation and regain their liberty in neutral Spain.

How long does it take to walk the Chemin de la Liberte?

The Chemin de la Liberte, or Walk to Freedom, has been an official way-marked walk since 1994 and can be completed as an excellent and challenging 4-5 day hike staying in huts, or the walk can be shortened to 3 days starting higher up the trail.

The Route of the Chemin de la Liberte

Day 1: Saint-Girons to Aunac

  • Saint-Girons (391 m) to the hamlet of Aunac (766 m).
  • Distance: 23 km.
  • Time: about 8 hours.

The starting point is at the southern entrance to the city, on the site of an old iron bridge (replaced today by a concrete bridge) which was the main rallying point for fugitives during the occupation.

You walk through tracks and paths to pass though the village of Ouerdes. Pass between peaks of Pic des Corbeaux (799m) and Tuc de la Pelade (791m). You continue to rise past a couple of caves (Gouffre du Figuier & Gouffre du Sauvajou). You pass to the south of the peaks of Carbouères and Tuc des Sucadères to reach the road at the hamlet of Sengouagneich. You soon leave the road to go across country to Alos.

You pass between (to the north of) Pic de la Quère and (south of) Le Rus at 890m before slowly descending to Seix.

At the Col d’Artigues (880 m); there is a plaque which recalls the tragic death of a 19-year-old smuggler: Louis Barrau, denounced, captured and murdered by the Germans.

The following accoumadation is available at Seix:

  • Auberge du Haut Salat
  • Hotel Les Rives du Haut Salat

Day 2: Aunac to Subéra hut

  • Aunac (766 m) to the Subéra hut (1,499 m).
  • Distance 16 km.
  • Time: about 6 hours.

It is from here that the serious things will begin to get harder; we quickly tackle the high mountains and their majestic scenery, bits of paradise in good weather, but a foretaste of hell in the storm!

After passing the Esbints stopover lodge, you climb to the Col de la Core (1,395 m); from there we descend by road for 300 m and at the first bend we take the path on the right which leads, after the Casabède hut, to the Col de Soularil (1,579 m), then to the Subéra hut (1,499 m) where we stop to sleep (in tents)

Some walkers start from the nearby Col de la Core.

Day 3: Subéra to Estagnous refuge

  • Subéra hut (1,499 m) to the Estagnous refuge (2,245 m).
  • Distance: 13km.
  • Time: about 8 hours.

The slope becomes noticeably steeper; after two hours of climbing, you arrive under the peak of Lampau,.

A plaque has been erected in memory of the 7 members of the English crew of the nearby Halifax of which debris remain. It crashed into the mountain here on July 19, 1945.

After ascending Crabérous pass (2,382 m) you descend to the Espugue hut (2,110 m); then, by the pond of Cruzous your ascend to the collar of Pécouch (2,494m) before finally going down again to the refuge of Estagnous (2,245 m) where you will spend the sleep for the night.

http://refuge-les-estagnous.com/en/home/ Half Board €44.50

Day 4: Estagnous refuge to Alos de Izil

  • Estagnous refuge (2,245 m) to Alos de Izil (1,200 m).
  • Distance: 20km.
  • Time: about 7 hours.

From this refuge (which was a life-saving a stopover during the war!), which was left abandoned for a long time, although now restored, you descends to the Round Pond (1,929 m) before ascending back up to the Long Pond (2,125 m). After a further long and painful ascent you reach the Spanish border at Col de Claouère (2,500 m). An interminable descent takes us to the banks of the Noguera Pallaresa, from where we quickly reach Alos d’Izil (1,200 m), the end of this long walk.

References

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15690262

How to get here?

Best bet is to fly to Toulouse Airport. Often you can get flights from regional UK airports like Bristol for £30 – £50. There is a train from Toulouse every 2 hours which costs under £20.