Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Scandinavia 2019: Reports

It’s almost been one year, but I finally managed to get all 4 reports ready of last year’s early-season hiking / packrafting trip to Scandinavia:

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Vinderhoutse Bossen

Vinderhoute is a community to the northwest of Ghent that is surrounded by quite a bit of greenery and several castle grounds. The area is currently being developed for outdoor recreation. Last week, the central wooded zone was opened to the public, after having been acquired from a private land owner some time ago.

We make a 36 km family cycling & hiking tour that takes us from home to Vinderhoute and back, passing scenic sections of the Leie river around Drongen. In Vinderhoute, we explore some of the new hiking trails.

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LLT: Zedelgem

Winter has been abnormally warm thus far, but during a hike around Zedelgem with the LLT gang, temperature is merely +2°C. In addition, the weather is unfortunately again gray and foggy.

We start our ~15 km hike at the house of one of the members of the group, who happens to live right at the edge of the Vloethemveld woods. We learn about the former military facilities in the area, lend a hand to a tree planting campaign, and have our traditional aperitif and lunch outdoors.

Pictures > Belgium 2020-01-25: Zedelgem

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Promenade des Echelles

After having descended a section of the river Vierre by packraft in the morning, I drive to the village of Rochehaut, which sits high above a scenic bend in the river Semois. Although it is already 2 pm and days are short early January, there should still be enough time to do the so-called “promenade des échelles” or ladder hike. This hike is quite short (less than 6 km), but is still surprisingly strenuous as it steeply goes down and up the flanks of the Semois valley. At 4 places permanent ladders have been installed to conquer near-vertical rock faces.

It takes me 2 hours to complete the hike, including several photo stops (GoPro). Weather remains dark and gloomy, but the hike is still pleasant.

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Flemish Ardennes: Everbeek

The weather forecast calls for a sunny day, but that’s unfortunately not how New Year’s Day 2020 turns out in much of the Flemish lowlands. We don’t let ourselves be deterred by the conditions and make a misty and muddy 10 km family hike around the village of Everbeek-Boven in the Flemish Ardennes.

Pictures > Belgium 2020-01-01: Everbeek

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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

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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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