Sunday, July 17, 2011

Freedom Trail Success

The idea originally came from a student at a school in Canterbury in Kent. From relatives who lived in the Pyrenees he discovered that an old WWII escape route from France to Spain had been turned into The Freedom Trail. Was it possible to walk this for his Duke of Edinburgh Gold Expedition over 4 days and 3 nights?

A year ago, after being asked the question, the Duke of Edinburgh coordinator at the school contacted me and the trip began to take shape. During the following year the group had many meetings and spent many hours studying their maps - finalising their route  and their route cards. In September 2011 they spent a week in Snowdonia  to complete their training expedition. Read the blog entry here: Wet and Windy Wales

July 2011, the group arrives at Toulouse Airport and the Qualifying Expedition is about to start.

Bethmale Lake

There is a orientation morning around the Col de la Clore and the Lac de Bethmale. Getting used to packing the ruc sack and carrying it again and a chance to discover what has been left back in England. For one group member it is his waterproofs! The afternoon is spent in the Freedom Trail Museum in St Girons. We have been using a guide book to the Freedom Trail by Scott Goodall and although we miss the author who has just left as we arrive, we are lucky enough to meet one of the real life escapees from the book. Paul Broué escaped into Spain in 1943 along the Freedom Trail when he was 19 to avoid being sent to Nazi Germany as forced labour.

Day 1 starts in St Girons with the camp site at Aunac.

Team Jumpy at the Start Point in St Girons

Day 2 is from Aunac via the Col de la Clore to the Cabane de Subera (a shepherds hut). Both groups set up their tents just before the rain storm arrives.

Blue Team at the Col de la Clore.

Day 3 is from the Cabane de Subera  to the Refuge Estagnous. Poor visibility and light rain for most of today. The Blue Team decide to make up an alternative route from Cabane des Espugues and get themselves into trouble. Remembering their training they walk a compass bearing to the col where I am waiting,  even 'aiming off' to be sure to not miss the col. Textbook stuff! As usual they arrive together showing good team spirit.

Staff Team at Refuge d'Estagnous

Day 4 is from Refuge d'Estagnous to Isil - the day when the frontier between France and Spain is finally crossed.

The Blue Team at the Border with View Back into France

Heading Into Spain and 'Freedom'

Well done to both teams for completing the Freedom Trail and a big thank you to all the staff that helped.
Just wanted to say a huge thanks for all of your hard work, the trip really would not have happened without you! It was an amazing expedition and I hope at some point I can come back to the Pyrenees, whether its with a group or on my own. Again,  thank you. 

Lucy, Duke of Edinburgh Coordinator.

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