Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions

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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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Where Semois becomes Semoy

A short 2.5 day – 45 km solo trek through the French Ardennes early May, along GR16 from Monthermé (F) to Bohan (B) and back.

Weather was splendid and the Semois river (spelled “Semoy” in France) was a sight for sore eyes. For the first time in my life I had the pleasure of spotting a wildcat, which shows how surprisingly quiet and unspoiled this area is.

Monthermé – Longue Roche – Roche à 7 Heures – Roc La Tour – Roche aux Corpias – Naux – Robertsart – Failloué – Bois Jean – Bohan – Bois Jean – Failloué – Robertsart – Naux – La Gire – La Lyre – Monthermé

Pictures > France 2016-05: Ardennes


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Unseasonable colors on the crest of the Vosges Mountains

2 solo hikes in the French Vosges Mountains, under unseasonably warm, sunny and hence snow-less conditions.

  • Hike 1 (27 km): Col de la Schlucht – Lac Vert – Lac du Forlet – Lac Noir – Lac Blanc – Les Chaumes – Col de la Schlucht
  • Hike 2 (13 km): Col de la Schlucht – Sentier des Roches – Les Trois Fours – Hohneck – Spitzkoepfe – Hohneck – Col de la Schlucht

Pictures > France 2015-12: Vosges



Descent of “Gorges de l’Ardèche”

During a recent family holiday I made a 32 km descent of “Gorges de l’Ardèche” in southern France by packraft. Although canoeing on the Ardèche river is extremely popular during the summer season, it is not entirely trivial, in contrast to the equally popular Dordogne river in the same area.

I started paddling at 8 am in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc and had the river to myself for the first 8 km. Afterwards I was joined by some of the canoers taking on the 24 km descent. Much to my surprise it only took me until 2:15 pm to arrive at the “Sauze” beach in Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche, where the gorge ends (including 2 short breaks).

Although the water level was quite low, packrafting did not pose real problems. I only had to get out of the raft twice, once at Vallon-Pont-d’Arc soon after departure, and once at Les 3 Eaux. Albeit inexperienced with any form of whitewater, I got through all rapids without problems, except for one. At La Dent Noire I didn’t really take the sign hinting to keep to the right to heart, and was hence shortly thrown out of the raft by the current. No harm done however, except for the fact that I lost my hat …