Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Iceland 2019: Report

After 6 prior trips to Iceland between ’98 and ’18 (mainly for trekking), I take the rest of the family on a sightseeing and hiking tour of the island around Easter. The trip has a dramatic start, which forces us to throw plans around entirely and opt for an alternative scenario. This alternative however turns out beautifully, and we are able to enjoy an incredible variety of landscapes under good conditions, while the country slowly awakes from the dark and cold winter months.

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LLT: Achouffe

A surprisingly strenuous 16 km hike with the “Lustige Lochtingterters” (LLT) around the village of Achouffe in the Belgian Ardennes. Nice river valleys with plenty of beaver activity and wonderful vistas over the hilly and forested landscape. We see one beaver swimming towards its burrow and later on I also spot a beaver in the thicket. Only of the first sighting I manage to get a (unfortunately very bad) shot.

Quite a chilly day for the end of April, with a high of 8°C and showers of rain and hail.

Pictures > Belgium 2019-04-27: Achouffe

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LLT: Lac de Virelles

This month’s hike with the “Lustige Lochtingterters” (LLT) takes me on a 18 km loop around the lake of Virelles, nearby the historial town of Chimay. The terrain is undulating and partly forested, and especially nice are the ubiquitous beds of early wildflowers. Strangely, the lake itself is hardly visible during the entire walk.

After the hike, I drive to Seloignes and from there hike through meadows and woods to a location where bivouacking is permitted. I pitch my tent and enjoy a cosy campfire until the evening falls. The reason for spending the night in a tent rather than returning home is that tomorrow I am scheduled to go packrafting a section of the nearby Viroin river…

Pictures > Belgium 2019-03-23: Virelles

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High Fens: Snowshoeing + Bivouacking

The highest spots in Belgium are to be found on the plateau of the High Fens, in the very east of the country. The region lies between Ardennes and Eifel and consists mainly of raised bogs, low grass- or wood-covered hills, moorland and forest. The highest point is Signal de Botrange, at a very modest 694 m. Despite its relatively low altitude, the area catches and retains quite a bit of moisture, which gives rise to temperatures that are lower than anywhere else in the country, by a substantial margin.

In winter there is often a quick succession of colder and warmer periods, and during cold snaps a snow cover of 20-50 cm (or more) can quickly, but temporarily, build up. During one of these cold snaps I spend a weekend snowshoeing and bivouacking the area around Baraque Michel. Temperatures are fairly steady between -4°C and -1°C, and snow lies 30-40 cm thick. The first day is rather bleak and foggy, but on the second day the sun gradually comes out and unveils a fairy-tale winter landscape!

Report > Belgium 2019: High Fens

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