Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


Leave a comment

High Fens: Statte, Polleur and Hoëgne

A 32.1 km solo day hike up and down the slightly frosty, but entirely snow-free, High Fens. I start in Solwaster at 9 am and return at 5 pm, yielding a fine 4 km/h average hiking speed, taking into account a break for lunch and many photo stops.

Solwaster – Rocher de Bilisse – Rau de Statte – Wihonfagne – Baraque Michel – Bouquet Bastin – Botrange – Fagne de Polleur – Rau de Polleur – Hoëgne – Parfondsbois – Solwaster

Pictures > Belgium 2019-12-29: High Fens

DSC_0001

DSC_0015

DSC_0037

DSC_0042

DSC_0049

DSC_0059

DSC_0067

DSC_0070

DSC_0071

DSC_0072

DSC_0078

DSC_0081

DSC_0083

DSC_0087

DSC_0096

DSC_0099

DSC_0102

DSC_0150

DSC_0158

DSC_0166

DSC_0188

DSC_0199

DSC_0219

DSC_0234

DSC_0244

DSC_0250

DSC_0257

DSC_0271

DSC_0278

DSC_0296

DSC_0299


Leave a comment

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)

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3981.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3982.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3983.JPG

DCIM100GOPROG0014000.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4010.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4012.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4014.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4017.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4018.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4025.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4027.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4028.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4031.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4032.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4033.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR4039.JPG


Leave a comment

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…

20191207_093155

20191207_094106

20191207_094143

20191207_095822

20191207_100011

20191207_100541

20191207_104721

20191207_110703

20191207_111435

20191207_112052

20191207_111451

20191207_113637

20191207_113719

20191207_115157

20191207_121057

20191207_121325

20191207_121954

20191207_122753

20191207_123158

20191207_125557

20191207_125630

20191207_130607

20191207_130758

20191207_131512

20191207_132206

20191207_134836

20191207_134848

20191207_141307

20191207_141320

20191207_141524

20191207_141530

20191207_141632

20191207_142046

20191207_142225

20191207_142416

20191207_142711

20191207_142748

20191207_143022

20191207_143805

20191207_143855

20191207_143903

20191207_144307

20191207_151134

20191207_151644

20191207_151704


Leave a comment

Packrafting Ourthe & Houille: Videos

The videos of recent packrafting adventures in the wintry hills and woods of the Belgian Ardennes are ready. I must say: quite a bit of work to sift through all the footage, keep the best parts, throw away unsteady sequences, etc. Especially the Houille videos were a challenge in this respect, given that the descent was often a true obstacle run, and shooting decent footage was hence not always my primary concern…

Ourthe Orientale

Descent of the eastern Ourthe from Houffalize to the Nisramont lake (~14 km).

Lac de Nisramont

Paddling (and swimming!) the partly ice-covered Nisramont lake to the main dam (~4 km).

Ourthe Occidentale

Descent of the western Ourthe from Berguèmes to the Nisramont lake (~20 km).

Houille 1

Houille from Vencimont to the dam before the fish farm.

Houille 2

Houille from the dam before the fish farm to Moulin de Bourseigne.

Houille 3

Houille from Moulin de Bourseigne to the take-out below Felenne.

Houille dam

Slow-motion footage of me jumping a dam on the Houille (video courtesy of Glen Dickinson).


Leave a comment

Packrafting Ourthe Orientale & Occidentale

A gorgeous sunny and windless day at the very end of December. The thermometer indicates -5.5°C and Evert, Jelle and I put our packrafts into the frigid water of the eastern fork of the Ourthe river (Ourthe Orientale), just outside the village of Houffalize. The idea is to descend the river until the Nisramont lake, and then paddle the length of the lake until the main dam. It’s quite a bit colder than expected, so there’s at least a tad of doubt in the minds of some of us about the general feasibility of our undertaking…

A while later we are floating down the river, from one small rapid to the next. Icicles are hanging from tree branches above the water line and frost on grass and pine trees is glistering in the sun. The water that splashes onto the bow of my boat and onto my jacket and paddle instantly freezes. The cold however is soon forgotten since the river offers a very fine doze of packrafting fun!

We reach the Nisramont lake, port around a dam, and paddle the east branch until the confluence of the 2 river forks, where we have lunch while Evert as usual demonstrates the efficiency of his dry suit by taking a swim into the icy water.

After lunch we continue until the main dam, and have to cross several sections where water is covered with a flimsy layer of ice. The closer to the dam, the thicker the ice, and towards the end it is a bit of an ordeal to get through.

We take out, load our gear into Evert’s van, pick up my car at the put in location, and drive to Houffalize where we park. We strap on our backpacks and hike into the hills and woods until a so-called “pole camping” location. We put up our tents, have dinner, and enjoy the warmth of a wood fire until later in the evening, while in the distance the cries of owl and fox can be heard.

After a generally quiet but frosty night we wake up to a completely different type of weather: it’s foggy, and drizzle onto a still firmly frozen soil has created very slippery conditions. Jelle and I therefore have to take care while descending back to the parking lot, where Evert has spent the night in the relative comfort of his van.

The plan for today is to packraft the western fork of the Ourthe river (Ourthe Occidentale). We park my car at the confluence of the 2 river forks, and then drive with Evert’s van to the put in location in the hamlet of Berguème.

The descent of this fork of the river is at least as enjoyable as yesterday’s, and we again float from one small rapid to the next. Albeit less cold than yesterday, much of the landscape is still covered with frost. Signs of beaver activity are omnipresent, and we spot birds such as great egret and buzzard.

We have lunch at the dam that marks the start of the Nisramont lake (porting required), and afterwards paddle the western branch of the lake until the location where my car is parked.

In conclusion: a very memorable overnight packrafting trip with a good mix of fun fast-flowing rivers, still lakes, beautiful scenery and adventure!

Descent Ourthe Orientale: 18.2 km. Descent Ourthe Occidentale: 20 km. Discharge at the Nisramont dam:  ~16m3/s on both days.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1298.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1309.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1307.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1316.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1319.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1322.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1330.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1333.JPG

GOPR1332.jpg

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1348.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1368.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1372.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1375.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1376.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1385.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1390.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1393.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1392.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1395.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1413.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1416.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1417.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1419.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1422.JPG