Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Packrafting Houille

Another murky but luckily mostly dry December day when Evert, Jelle and I put in at Vencimont for a descent of the river Houille. Back in January we did the same descent, but took out somewhere below Felenne, before entering into France. This time we intend to continue across the border, to a location downstream of the village of Landrichamps, where we have our second car parked.

Temperature is around 6°C and after several recent rainy episodes the flow of the river is just below the allowed maximum. The descent is therefore fast and exciting, and several portages are required due to fallen trees and beaver dams. Generally, concentration needs to remain high due to tree branches, rapids, low bridges (I even take a swim at one of these), and small dams.

One location at a meadow just before entering Landrichamps is particularly dangerous, as there is barb wire across the entire river bed. Luckily red & white tape has been stuck it, so it is not entirely invisible. The situation nonetheless is rather unacceptable.

After slightly more than 4 hours and 18.5 km of paddling, we arrive at the take-out. Tired, but content.

(Felenne: 7.87 m3/s)

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Packrafting IJzer

A 20 km solo trip on a pretty murky but nevertheless dry December Saturday.

I put in at 9:30 am in Roesbrugge and paddle the river IJzer upstream towards the French border. The river soon narrows, and I spot several bird species such as common cormorant, kingfisher and coot. I meet an obstruction consisting of tree logs, plant residues and – unfortunately – plastic junk, but manage to get through.

I enter into France, meet another manageable obstruction and notice that the counter current substantially increases. I arrive at the bridge under the D947 departmental road, and – contrary to what is mentioned in online reports – do manage to continue. Eventually I however meet another obstruction just before the confluence with Ruisseau d’Houtkerque, decide not to conquer it, and head back.

The downstream paddle back to Roesbrugge is quite a bit less strenuous and quite a bit faster than the upstream paddle. I get back at 12:30 pm, decide not to take a rest, and just continue to Stavele. The river is wider now, but still scenic.

I arrive at the drawbridge in Stavele, and although in principle I still would have time to continue to Elzendamme or even Fintele, I take out since a nasty wind starts blowing. I have lunch, and hike back to Roesbrugge where I arrive at 3:15 pm.

Unfortunately: forgot to take my head strap, so no PoV GoPro footage, only low quality cell phone shots…

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Packrafting Amblève

A 35 km solo trip on another sunny November Sunday. The trip consists of a descent of the river Amblève by packraft from Stavelot via Coo to Pont de Cheneux, followed by a relatively strenuous return hike. In Coo a portage of a couple of hundred meters is mandatory in order to bypass a well-known 13 m waterfall.

Temperature is -2°C when I put in at 9:30 am just downstream from the main bridge in Stavelot. The river has a good flow, after recent snow melt on the plateau of the High Fens. One hour later I already find myself in Coo. After a 30 minute break spent on portaging and admiring the waterfall, I continue paddling until Pont de Cheneux, where I arrive at 11:30 am.

The return hike takes me back to Stavelot across hills and valleys, while temperature rises to a pleasant 8°C. I set a good pace and return just after 4:30 pm, before darkness sets in.

(Stavelot: 11.5 m3/s)

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