CHEMIN DE LA LIBERTE – PYRENEES
AN HISTORIC WORLD WAR 2 ESCAPE ROUTE ACROSS THE PYRENEES
TRIP SUMMARY: This was one of the three main Escape Lines in the Pyrenees used by Allied Servicemen and French ‘evaders’ trying to reach the Free French Forces in North Africa. The Chemin de la Liberté was less travelled than the Pat O`Leary Line centred on the Mediterranean coast at Marseilles, or the Comète Line which ran near Bayonne on the Atlantic Coast, but in total, some 2664 evaders and approximately 1000 downed British, US and other Allied airmen escaped over the Pyrenees and were imprisoned by the Spanish at Sort. Of these about 800 took the savagely tough crossing over the mountains of the Ariege to Spain and eventual freedom. The Trail was successfully used for 113 evasions in 1943 at its peak. Physically this was by far the hardest escape route of the three. The route was officially re-opened in 1994 but is probably less travelled today than it was during the war.
The Chemin is a superb, and fairly tough, 4-day trek through the foothills of the pre-Pyrenees and then into the high mountains of the Ariege before a spectacular descent into Spain. To have made this trek at night, under nourished, ill equipped and hunted by the Wehrmacht, Austrian Mountain troops and the Malice would have been a remarkable endeavour!