Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Packrafting the Grøtåa river (Part 2/2)

Towards the end of my 5 day – 125 km solo trek through Femundsmarka I returned to the Grøtåa river for some relaxed paddling on its lower section. In the meantime the weather had turned for the better and I much enjoyed both the river and the camp I had established in the vicinity of mount Kratlvola. Fine weather and low winds unfortunately also mean mosquitoes in these areas, so a headnet was unfortunately in order.

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Packrafting the Grøtåa river (Part 1/2)

Grøtåa is a small, remote river in the backcountry of Norway’s Femundsmarka National Park, practically on the border to Sweden. The 3rd week of June I did a 5 day – 125 km solo trek through Femundsmarka, during which I descended parts of Grøtåa by packraft.

The source of Grøtåa is the Grötvallsjön lake, which is situated on Swedish soil, above the tree line. The river starts as a narrow and shallow current that meanders through reindeer grazing grounds and marshland. Afterwards it makes a drop and enters the Femundsmarka heartland with several nice flat and wide sections.

I started the descent of Grøtåa only meters away from its source. Due to the narrow and shallow first section of the river, I was initially in for a bumpy ride, with a need for short portages every now and then. Especially at the fence that keeps the Norwegian and Swedish reindeer herds apart, portaging was inevitable. Although without danger, I guess some might say packrafting this part of the river is a bit crazy, and I therefore wouldn’t be surprised if I were the first to attempt it…

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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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