Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Another glorious Easter skiing holiday

A late season skiing holiday in the French Alps always gives a good chance of fabulous weather, pleasant temperatures, and strong contrasts between early summer conditions at lower elevations and good ski fun higher up the mountains. This is exactly what we encountered during our family holiday mid-April in La Plagne: sunny weather all week long, mild temperatures, and skiing from the glacier at 3170 m down to 1350 m.

Pictures > France 2017-04: La Plagne


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Bois de Wallers

In the center of the densely populated and heavily industrialized north of France are the woods of Wallers-Arenberg. These woods are best known for a horrible stretch of cobble stones that leads through them, and is often the place where the cycling classic of Paris-Roubaix is decided.

Although April is nearing its end, weather unfortunately seems to have taken a turn for the worst, and it is therefore a rather dull and chilly day when I join the Lustige Lochtingterters on a 25 km hike through the area.

Pictures > France 2017-04-22: Bois de Wallers


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Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure

The Eau d’Heure lake system sits on the border between the Belgian provinces of Hainaut and Namur, and is the result of damming the little river by the same name.

Now that spring has officially arrived, I decide to join the Lustige Lochtingterters on a 18 km circumvention of the largest lake in the system. The weather is brilliantly sunny, and the lake’s deep blue to turquoise waters induce visions of Scandinavia and far-away tropical destinations …

Pictures > Belgium 2017-03-25: Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure


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Soaking up the sun on the High Fens

Last Sunday I again spent the entire day on the High Fens, from the crack of dawn until sunset. In contrast to last week, the weather was brilliantly sunny, and hiking went like a breeze since snow had nicely settled in the meantime. I walked around 30 km and to my surprise only met very few other hikers, except for the area around Baraque Michel, which is inevitably always quite crowded.

Due to a rather extreme case of temperature inversion, it was only -6°C on the highest summits in the morning, while at the same time in sheltered valleys merely 100 m lower (e.g. Helle) temperature dropped below -17°C.

Baraque Michel – Noir Flohai – Geitzbusch – Petit Bongard – Helle – Herzogenhügel – Spohrbach – Brackvenn – Spohrbach – Herzogenhügel – Helle – Pont Marie-Anne Libert – Noir Flohai – Baraque Michel

Pictures > Belgium 2017-01-22: High Fens

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A rough and tough snow slog

Ever wondered about good ways to test physical fitness? Well, here’s an idea: consider a 20 km snowshoe slog through half a meter of freshly fallen snow … That’s what I did on Sunday on the high plateaus in the east of the country, and it was seriously tough.

I started my ordeal at Mont Rigi and plodded along the Polleur, Bayehon and Ghaster creeks. Especially the trail along the latter was virtually impossible, and at a certain point I had to give up by steeply climbing out of the valley towards a track in a more reasonable condition.

The weather was pretty murky with a couple of snow showers. Not overly cold though.

Mont Rigi – Polleur – Setai – Bayehon – Ghaster – Bayehon – Setai – Polleur – Mont Rigi

Pictures > Belgium 2017-01-15: High Fens

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Vintage macro lens experimentation

Blogs about trekking and outdoor adventures typically focus quite a bit on gear. I’ve never been into gear much, hence I have not been writing about this aspect. This post about photography is therefore a bit unusual.

Anyway, the nice thing about somewhat more upscale Nikon DSLR cameras is their ability to mount vintage lenses from the 1970’s / 1980’s. Support is near perfect with FX cameras, but with my D90 DX camera, there is only partial support. This means that it is only possible to shoot in manual mode, i.e. by setting aperture and exposure manually.

I have recently been playing around with a NIKKOR 105 mm f/4 lens mounted on my D90. This lens was probably manufactured in the late 1970’s and has manual focus. In combination with the manual setting of aperture and exposure this hence gives a 100% manual experience. Under controlled conditions (cf. indoor) results are quite good. Taking such a lens on a trek seems a rather impossible task though, not only because of the totally manual shooting process, but also because of the sheer weight of the lens …

Pictures > Test Macro Lens

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Seeing off 2016 in Hochsauerland

2016 has been a pretty intense year: I spent a total of 15 weeks abroad, for business and pleasure combined.

The year started with a business trip to Hørsholm (Denmark) in February, followed in April by a skiing holiday in Tignes (France) and a business trip to Girona (Spain). In May I made a short trek through the French Ardennes, and in June I subsequently went trekking through the Rogen (Sweden), Trollheimen (Norway) and Rondane (Norway) mountains. End of June I made a business trip to Aarhus (Denmark) and in July we had a family holiday in Denmark, Sweden and Finland. End of August I did the Hellismannaleið and Laugavegurinn treks in Iceland, and the entire month of September was spent in Quebec for business. In November / December I made another 2 business trips to Aarhus (Denmark), and finally, at the very end of December we had a short family holiday in Hochsauerland.

The region of Hochsauerland around the well-known wintersports resort of Winterberg is mostly made up of dark forests and gentle hills in the 700-800 m range. Highest summit is Langenberg at 843 m. Although the weather wasn’t always very favorable, and quite a bit of time was spent indoors, I did manage to do some hiking, mostly along the northern section of the Rothaarsteig long-distance path:

  • Hike 1 (15.4 km): Ruhrquelle – Küstelberg – Hildberg – Grönebach – Ruhrquelle
  • Hike 2 (29 km): Hochheide – Langenberg – Bruchhausen – Langenberg – Hochheide – Clemensberg
  • Hike 3 (9.5 km): Hochheide – Clemensberg – Langenberg – Hochheide

Pictures > Germany 2016-12: Hochsauerland

I don’t know what 2017 will have in store, but of course I’m hoping for some challenging treks and other types of interesting outdoor (micro-)adventures …

Best Wishes to everyone and Happy Trails!

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