Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chemin de la Liberté/Freedom Trail -Top 10 Magic Mountain Moments (Summer 2013)

Yesterday it was grey and overcast and the rain did not stop. I found myself thinking back to the Pyrenees Mountain Adventure treks this summer along the Chemin de la Liberté/Freedom Trail. Four groups attempted to cross the Pyrenees mountains and everyone who started made it into Spain.

Here are my top 10 favourite magic mountain moments from the four treks. They are in no particular order:

1. The Border Crossing. Starting from St Girons, the border is crossed on day 4. After much effort, hardship and determination we are at the border and can pass from France into Spain. A great moment for everyone who made the crossing.

The Dos group from Holland celebrate reaching the French/Spanish border. Freedom is very close...

2. Polly Bagging. Sliding down a safe snow slope using a large plastic bag as a tobogan. This was great fun and an ideal way to release the tension that had built up descending the steep snow slope directly below the border.

3. Louis Barrau Memorial. Killed by the Nazis aged 18, a memorial has been erected by the barn where he was shot. Someone picked wild flowers from the meadow next to the barn and placed them on the memorial. They had a son of similar age. A beautiful gesture in a beautiful setting.

Great view across to the high Pyrenees from near where Louis Barreu was killed.

4. The Scenery. It is not just the spectacular scenery of which there is plenty.......

Mont Valier dominates the high mountain stages of the Chemin de la LIberté (Freedom Trail) is the group finding the time to stop, look up and enjoy the views. To soak up the scenery they were immersed in.

Soaking up the scenery towards the end of the Freedom Trail (Chemin de la Liberté)

5. The Silence. Ten minutes silence at the border. No wind, no words. Time too reflect. 'Find beauty; be still.' We had. We were.

The view back into France showing the route of the Freedom trail (Chemin de la Liberté) as it climbs up to the border

6. The Shadows. Griffon vultures flying above us, close enough to cast shadows that raced across the ground where we were.

7. The Summit. Only one group chose the optional extra day at Refuge Estagnous to ascend Mont Valier which dominates day 3 and 4 of the trek. The weather was grey and overcast. Visibility was poor and it was cold. Having reached the summit, the clouds parted and for a short time we were rewarded with tremendous views.

Summit view from Mont Valier the mountain that towers above the Estagnous Refuge and the route of the Freedom Trail (Chemin de la Liberté)

A Pyrenees Mountain Adventure group on the summit of Mont Valier

A similar thing happened with the same group the day before. Starting out in poor weather, we eventually find ourselves above the cloud and out of trouble.

8. The Support. The Chemin de la Liberté/Freedom Trail  is tough. It was great to see the shared hardship brings people together. I saw new friendships form and old friendships strengthened. I saw kindness and care. People helping each other through difficult times - whether a difficult section of path, a drop in morale or fatigue.

9. The Storm. At Refruge Estagnous, which is spectacularly located in the high mountains, the sunsets can be unforgettable. What was more memorable for me happened after most people had returned inside after the sun had set. In the fading light, far in the distance, dark storm clouds were being illuminated from inside by lightning but because of the distance the thunder could not be heard.

10. The Omelette. At the Gite de Rouze I had an omelette with wild, girolle mushrooms picked from the local forest. I know that at the end of a hard days walking any food tastes good but the best omelette ever!

Thanks to everyone who trekked with Pyrenees Mountain Adventure along the Chemin de la Liberté/Freedom Trail in 2013. It was a pleasure to share the journey with you.

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