Walkabout World

Escape! to the Hills

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Summary
A week's supported trekking in the French/Catalan Pyrenees from the heart of Cathar country over the frontier ridge of the Pyrenees and into Catalunya.

We are trekking in the footsteps of the last Cathar people, who fled the persecution of the Inquisition in the 14th century, abandoning their homes, crossing wild country and high mountain passes to reach Catalunya.


Overview
7 days of trekking, plus an arrival day and a departure day.
3 nights in Hotels. 5 nights in Gites d’Etape - simple but comfortable accommodation catering for passing hikers.
Baggage transfer provided, leaving you to enjoy the trek carrying only what you need for the day.
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Highlights
3 Cathar era castles: The Chateaux de Foix, Roquefixade and Montsegur- as featured in the popular Languedoc series of historical novels by Kate Mosse.
Take the road less travelled into a charming little visited area.
Cross high mountain passes on foot, as our predecessors have done for at least 1000 years
Warm hospitality in tiny remote villages left behind by the passage of time in rural SW France
Home to nature, including wolves, bearded vultures and the timid european brown bear
Opportunity to relax and enjoy the Roman style baths in the spa town of Ax-les-Thermes
Relax your hard-working feet in natural hot springs at the side of the trail



Detailed Itinerary
Day 1. Arrival ( Sat)
Meet at Toulouse Airport, transfer to town of Foix. Free time to visit town or the medieval castle.
Night in hotel. Dinner included

Day 2. Foix to Chateau de Roquefixade
17km, 1000m ascent, 600m descent, max altitude 935m, 6 hours
Trekking through forests and open pastures to the village dominated by a ruined clifftop Chateau.
Night in gite d’etape. Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 3. Chateau de Roquefixade to Chateau de Montsegur
Climb through tranquil pastures and woodlands to reach the Chateau de Montsegur, site of the famous siege and enduring symbol of Cathar resistance to the Inquisition.
Night in hotel. Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.
Day 4. Chateau de Montsegur to Comus
13.2 km, 850m ascent, 576m descent, max altitude 1190m, 5 hours
Via the deep limestone Gorges De La Frau we access the remote Plateau de Sault.
Night in gite d’etape. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 5. Comus to Ascou.
21km, 900m ascent, 1100m descent, maximum altitude 1650m, 8 hours
We cross the agrarian Plateau de Sault passing villages left behind by the onwards march of time. Then we cross the Col d’ljou with panoramic views of the high mountains we’ll soon approach.
Night in gite d’etape or transfer to Ax les Thermes and night in hotel. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 6. Ascou to Merens
17.5km, 1050 m ascent, 915m descent, max altitude 1770m 7 hours
We descend into the Oriege valley before tackling the ascent of the Col de Joux (1702) and descend to the charming village of Merens in the Ariege valley.
Night in gite d’etape. Breakfast lunch and dinner.
Day 7. Merens to L’Hospitalet pres l’Andorre
14.5km, 1220m ascent, 897m descent, max altitude 2333m, 7-8 Hours
We encounter natural hot springs where we can dip our feet in the soothing pools. The big mountain days are upon us, a hanging valley leads to our challenge of the day- overcoming the Porteille des Besines (2333m). Once over the pass hidden lakes and mountain forests lead to the village of Hospitalet, constructed to shelter travellers from the storm on the high passes.
Night in Hotel or gite d’etape. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 8. Hospitalet to Porte- Puymorens
10km, 600m ascent, 540m descent, max altitude 2045m 4 hours
Our final push takes us over the Col de Puymorens a pass on the main divide of the Pyrenean ridge which separates Catalunya from the northern Pyrenees. A trade route for 1000 years the col which offered escape to the fated Good Men, signals an end to our pilgrimage.
After lunch we take a train to Ax-les-Thermes, historic spa town with its Roman style thermal baths. For an afternoon of recovery and a celebration evening meal.
Night in a hotel at Ax-Les-Themes.Breakfast lunch and dinner.
Day 9. Tranfser to Toulouse airport (Sun)
Breakfast included

Dates and Prices 2020
October 3rd to 11th
£1050 per person (Single Supplement £200)

What’s Included?
Transfer to and from Toulouse Airport
7 days trekking guided by a local qualified international leader
Baggage transfer during the trek
8 nights accommodation. 8 Breakfasts, 8 dinners, 7 lunches

What's Not Included:
Drinks, entry fees to historical sites, costs incurred outside of the itinerary
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Accommodation & Meals
3 nights in Hotels. 5 nights in Gites d’Etape - simple but comfortable accommodation catering for passing hikers.
Evening meals are taken in local restaurants.
Picnic lunches are taken outside during the walk
Grading
Moderate/Challenging
This trek can be characterised as an expedition with a light bag and simple comfortable lodgings
A-B trekking itinerary, 14-21km per day, approximately 1000m of ascent per day most days
5-8 hours walking per day including breaks.
Terrain good mountain paths, sometimes rocky and or muddy
Boots with ankle support necessary