Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions

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Iceland 2018: Report

The report of my 200 km solo trek through the Icelandic highlands during the second half of August has been uploaded. In fact, given the sheer number of pictures, I decided to split it in 3 parts: the first is an account of the hike from Landmannalaugar to Langisjór, the second of the return hike from Langisjór to Landmannalaugar (via a different route), and the third of day hikes around Landmannalaugar itself.











Iceland 2018: Fjallabak to Langisjór (and back!)

10 days, 200 km walked, 7300 m climbed, countless rivers forded, 2500 pictures taken: these are some of the statistics of this year’s Iceland solo adventure…

Two years ago or so I came across the blog of outdoor photographer Alex Nail and was immediately taken by his rendition of one of Iceland’s hidden gems, i.e. the Langisjór lake. Although Langisjór measures no less than 20 km and is hence one of the largest lakes in the country, it is hardly known to the general public due to its remoteness and notoriously barren climate. Truth be said, until I read Alex Nail’s blog, I had actually never heard of Langisjór myself either…

More or less around the same time fellow Belgian hiker Kasper Geuns and his partner Charlotte post on their outdoor blog an account of a trek covering Langisjór, the Eldgjá area, Fjallabak NP, and the well-known Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails. I take an interest in some day hiking a trajectory similar to Kasper’s, however excluding Laugavegur since I have already hiked it twice (i.e. in 1998 and 2016).

During the second half of August 2018 I finally find the opportunity to take on the intended challenge. Taking into account bus schedules (which late August are a bit less favorable than earlier in the season), I decide to start in Landmannalaugar, hike to Langisjór, and then return to Eldgjá to catch a bus back to Landmannalaugar. Thanks to growing confidence during the course of the trek however, I eventually forget about the plan to catch a bus in Eldgjá, and hike all the way back to Landmannalaugar!

Given that I lost 4 kg of body weight during the trek, I guess it is fair to say it was one of the more challenging I did so far. Daytime highs were around 6°C mostly and except for 2 days of rain, weather was quite reasonable with a fair amount of sunshine. From a photographic point of view, this trek was probably one of the best ever, thanks to an almost endless succession of absolutely stunning and extremely varied landscapes.

Of course, a full report of the trek will follow in due time. Below are just a couple of randomly chosen pictures that hopefully give some idea of the variety of landscapes.


















Packrafting Le Marais Audomarois

“Le marais audomarois” is an extensive area of marshes just outside the town of St-Omer in the north of France. Last time this region was invaded by the sea was around the era of Charlemagne, but since then most of it has been made suitable for agriculture. What remains is a vast and rather unstructured network of waterways (named “watergangs” by locals) that offers numerous options for paddle tours.

I take to the water around 10:00 am at the ISNOR water sports center in the village of Clairmarais. After a circumvention of the Romelaëre pond, I make a tour nearby the village of Salperwick, and finally a tour close to the village of Le Doulac. I get back around 4:00 pm, after having paddled 21.9 km.

Typical about this area are not only the canals, but also the rather shabby and disparate habitation throughout the marshes. Some dwellings can be reached via small backroads and funny bridges, others can only be reached by boat.

The network of canals can be very confusing, so I have to rely on my GPS to stick to the right trajectory. In principle most of the important canals have a strategically located wooden signpost with their (usually old-Flemish) names, but the signs are often weathered and hence illegible.








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Packrafting & Hiking the Leie Region

A bit of a strange impromptu packrafting and hiking trip in the Leie region on Sunday, 30.2 km in all. I first paddle from the Astene drawbridge to the public jetty in Sint-Martens-Latem, subsequently hike home for lunch, hike back to the jetty, and finally hike all the way to where my car is parked in Astene.







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A Good Deed at Sunset

On one of those great many tropical evenings of the summer of 2018 I make another after work packrafting trip on the Oude Leie in Astene (Deinze). As usual the atmosphere created by the sun setting over the placid water is mesmerizing, it is therefore with regret that I notice 3 empty bottles of wine floating around in the water. As a result of the gorgeous weather youngsters have been partying all summer long by the shores of the old river branch, which as such is perfectly fine since summer and youth indeed need to be celebrated. What is however not fine is that some apparently find joy in throwing empty bottles into the otherwise surprisingly clean water. My good deed of the day is therefore to collect those bottles and expedite them to the nearest waste bin once back ashore…






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Iceland 2017: Video

Video footage from my 117 km – 5 day solo trek around Kerlingarfjöll and along Kjalvegur, in the barren Icelandic interior.

The video is far from a comprehensive rendition of the trek, as it only features a limited number of sights along the way. I was quite busy hiking, navigating and taking pictures, and hence shooting video footage was only low priority.

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Iceland 2016: Videos

Finally got around compiling videos from the raw footage that I shot during last year’s Hellismannaleið / Laugavegurinn trek in Iceland.

Due to time constraints hiking was quite intense, and consequently shooting video footage was not very high on my priority list. The videos however do give a fairly good idea of the landscapes and conditions that I encountered during this amazing trek.