Thursday, September 9, 2010

I Want My Freedom

Part of my work involves helping several schools deliver their Duke of Edinburgh programme. There is a group at one of the schools, who want to walk an old WWII escape route, from France into Spain, as their gold qualifying expedition in 2011.

This route is called 'The Freedom Trail' or 'Le Chemin de la Liberté'. I have recently walked a 4 day segment of the trail to be able to tell the group more about it. Just like Duke of Edinburgh gold qualifiers, I was self sufficient - carrying all I needed for the trek (tent, sleeping bag, food, stove etc)

Day 1. Seix (500m), Col de la Core (1395m), Cabane de la Subra (1499m).
Distance 19km. Ascent 1079m

In the distance, Col de la Core

Gentle introduction with some road walking. So lush and green. Friendly shepherd and his partner at the cabane looking after the cattle for the summer.

Day 2. Cabane de la Subra (1499m), Col de Craberous (2382m), Cabane des Espugues (2110m), Col de Pécouch (2462m), Refuge des Estagnous (2245m)   
Distance 10km. Ascent 1386m
Merens horse

 Col de Pécouch, looking towards Refuge Estagnous and Lac Rond.

Great day. Marmot watching a highlight! Merens horses as well. Awesome views.

Day 3. Cabane Estagnous (2245m), Mont Valier (2838m), Cabane Estagnous (2245m), Etang Long (2125m), Col de la Clauere (2382m), Cases de Bonabe (1400m), Port/Col de Salau (2087m)
Distance 18km. Ascent 1562m
Early morning view from the col before the Mont Valier summit
Lac Rond
Ascent of Mont Valier without full pack. Great views. The blue of Lac Rond is unreal. Some snow on approach to Spanish border. See herd of isards from col, a golden eagle and many vultures. Route markings less clear in Spain.
N.B. A long day. An alternative would have been to cut out the ascent of Mont Valier. Another alternative would be to keep the ascent of Mont Valier and camp just over the Spanish border. This would shorten day 3 and day 4 could be cut as well (see below). There is the option to stay at the refuge.

Day 4. Port/Col de Salau (2087m), Salau (850m), Seix (500m)
Distance 21km. Ascent 0m
Early morning light looking into Spain from Col de Salau
Shepherd herding his sheep
Great light this morning. Passed shepherds herding sheep.
N.B. Route includes 14km of road walking between Salau to Seix beside River Salat. Pleasant enough, but it might have been better to finish at Salau, where there was a nice café, and arrange transport to Seix.

Interested in summer treks like this? Take a look at what Pyrenees Mountain Adventure has to offer here.

There is more information about the Duke of Edinburgh award here.

"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity..."  John Muir, 1898

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