Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Scandinavia 2019: Reports

It’s almost been one year, but I finally managed to get all 4 reports ready of last year’s early-season hiking / packrafting trip to Scandinavia:

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Flemish Ardennes: Makegemse Bossen

A 39 km family trip by bike via Eke, Vurste, Baaigem and Munte to a wooded area named “Makegemse Bossen”. In the woods we find a couple of beds of bluebells and some secluded ponds that are among the few in the province where 5 individual species of salamander have been spotted. The WWII bunkers on the 40 m high sandy ridge of Munte are a nice playground for the kids and offer a fine view of the surrounding area.

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Vinderhoutse Bossen

Vinderhoute is a community to the northwest of Ghent that is surrounded by quite a bit of greenery and several castle grounds. The area is currently being developed for outdoor recreation. Last week, the central wooded zone was opened to the public, after having been acquired from a private land owner some time ago.

We make a 36 km family cycling & hiking tour that takes us from home to Vinderhoute and back, passing scenic sections of the Leie river around Drongen. In Vinderhoute, we explore some of the new hiking trails.

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High Fens: Northeastern Bogs and Woods

A winter season totally unworthy of its name, this is unfortunately how the winter of 2019/2020 can be characterized… Since September’s memorable autumn trek in Norway, I therefore haven’t seen one single flock of snow, until I eventually end up in the northeastern High Fens one early-February Saturday. At least here there is 5 cm of wet and frozen snow above an elevation of 550 m…

I make a 31 km solo hike over muddy and slippery trails, through bogs and woods, while buzzards are circling overhead. What is especially striking in this area of the High Fens, is that it seems to be much less visited than the area around Botrange and Baraque Michel. I walk for hours and do not meet a single person, until I have lunch at a pic-nic table below the Steinbach creek, where I meet a party of 3.

Parking Grenzweg – Brachvenn – Imgenbroicher Venn – Steinley – Steinbach – Eschbach – Allgemeines Venn – Entenpfuhl – Nahtsief – Im Platten Venn – Mützenich – Kaiser Karls Bettstatt – Brachvenn – Parking Grenzweg

Pictures > Belgium 2020-02-08: High Fens

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LLT: Zedelgem

Winter has been abnormally warm thus far, but during a hike around Zedelgem with the LLT gang, temperature is merely +2°C. In addition, the weather is unfortunately again gray and foggy.

We start our ~15 km hike at the house of one of the members of the group, who happens to live right at the edge of the Vloethemveld woods. We learn about the former military facilities in the area, lend a hand to a tree planting campaign, and have our traditional aperitif and lunch outdoors.

Pictures > Belgium 2020-01-25: Zedelgem

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Packrafting Basse Lesse

The river Lesse is one of the most scenic in Belgium and the lower section between Houyet and Anseremme easily sees hundreds of paddlers on a nice summer’s day (water levels allowing, that is). In winter however, there is often not a soul…

On a frosty January morning, I put in at 10 am in Houyet for a solo descent. There are no technical difficulties on this part of the river, however since there is a good flow today, the current is not to be underestimated.

I pass the village of Gendron and subsequently paddle below the Furfooz rock formations. The fog of the morning hours starts to clear, and it becomes fairly sunny. Next on the trajectory are the rock needles of Chaleux, which are surprisingly spectacular when viewed from this angle, and are actually not something one would expect to find in Belgium.

The most impressive sight of the day is probably the castle of Walzin, which sits high above the river, on top of a vertical rock face. The castle stems from the 11th century, but has been rebuilt several times. Some parts are however still original.

I take out at the Villatoile camping, a bit before Anseremme. Since my plan is to hike all the way back to Houyet, there is absolutely no time to lose. I therefore cannot afford to take a break for lunch.

The return hike first takes me through the woods above the Walzin castle, while weather turns cloudy. I pass a lookout that offers a view towards the castle, and then one that looks over the river bend at Chaleux. As of Furfooz, the trail leads along the river and becomes very muddy.

Eventually, I arrive back in Houyet at 5:15 pm, after having travelled no less than 37 km by packraft and on foot (average travelling speed: 5.1 km/h). In order to make it back before dark, I was not able to take any breaks at all today, except for photo stops. So, a pretty intense day!

PS: I deliberately chose to hike back, whereas in this case, I just as well could have taken the train.

(Gendron: 24.74 m3/s)

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Promenade des Echelles

After having descended a section of the river Vierre by packraft in the morning, I drive to the village of Rochehaut, which sits high above a scenic bend in the river Semois. Although it is already 2 pm and days are short early January, there should still be enough time to do the so-called “promenade des échelles” or ladder hike. This hike is quite short (less than 6 km), but is still surprisingly strenuous as it steeply goes down and up the flanks of the Semois valley. At 4 places permanent ladders have been installed to conquer near-vertical rock faces.

It takes me 2 hours to complete the hike, including several photo stops (GoPro). Weather remains dark and gloomy, but the hike is still pleasant.

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Flemish Ardennes: Everbeek

The weather forecast calls for a sunny day, but that’s unfortunately not how New Year’s Day 2020 turns out in much of the Flemish lowlands. We don’t let ourselves be deterred by the conditions and make a misty and muddy 10 km family hike around the village of Everbeek-Boven in the Flemish Ardennes.

Pictures > Belgium 2020-01-01: Everbeek

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