Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Packrafting Ourthe Moyenne

One week after Easter, I am back at the Ourthe river, however not (only) for hiking, but rather for packrafting. During the past week, there has been considerable snow and rainfall, and the flow of the river has therefore risen to good levels, possibly for the last time this season.

The plan for the day is to paddle from Nisramont to Maboge and return on foot via Le Cheslé and Le Hérou. Joining me on this trip are fellow adventurers Evert and Tom.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast for the day is not good. Even tough we are April 11th, temperature down by the river will hover around +2C, whereas higher up the plateaus it will be around freezing. Precipitation will be constant and consist of rain, sleet and snow.

We put in at the Nisramont bridge and start paddling while sleet is coming down abundantly. We reach the rocks at Le Hérou and pass by the rock scrambling trail (secured by a chain) that we will have to descend on the way back.

We pass a number of smaller rapids, attempt to do some wave surfing, and eventually end up at the rapids at Les Ondes, which are the most “technical” on this stretch of the river. With the current flow, the rapids are good fun and we do them a good number of times.

In the meantime, sleet has turned to rain and on the remaining section to the take-out in Maboge we set a good pace. We reach Maboge after noon, but don’t bother taking a break for lunch, as the weather nor the environment are inviting to do so. We rather start hiking as quickly as possible in order not to get cold.

Eventually, we end up on top of the rocky outcrop of Le Cheslé and as the rain temporarily lessens, we have lunch whilst admiring the panorama. After lunch, it is then quickly onto Le Hérou by following the valley rim.

At Le Hérou, we take the very wet and slippery rock scramble trail down to the river, and at this point all that is left to do is follow the river back to the put-in. Sometime after 5 pm, we finally get back to the car after a trip of 27.5 km.

On the drive back, we cross the heights of Baraque de Fraiture (652 m) and end up in scenery that looks very much wintry. We make a couple of short stops to enjoy the snow and then take on the remainder of the drive home while weather conditions quickly improve.

(Nisramont: 13 m3/s rising to 16 m3/s during the course of the day)


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Packrafting Ourthe Moyenne

A 28+ km solo day trip on a gorgeous November Sunday. The trip leads through one of the best parts of the Belgian Ardennes and consists of a descent of a section of the river Ourthe by packraft (Nisramont to Maboge), followed by a return hike on foot.

When I put in below Barrage de Nisramont at 9:30 am temperature is around freezing and conditions are foggy. Weather however is supposed to turn sunny later in the day. The descent is generally easy with a couple of small insignificant rapids, however at the location known as Les Ondes there is one rapid that requires some more attention. Halfway the descent, clouds break and it becomes sunny as predicted, with a temperature of 5°C.

I arrive in Maboge at 11:30 am and stow away my packraft while having a quick bite. Indeed, there is no time to lose as the return hike is pretty strenuous and I prefer to return before dusk.

I leave the village of Maboge, more or less follow the river, and then hike up to remains of an ancient Celtic fortress known as Le Cheslé de Bérismenil. After a steep descent, I return to the river, pass the rapids at Les Ondes, and hike up to the rocks at Le Hérou. I take a short rest, have something to eat, and start the descent back to where my car is parked, passing the picturesque village of Ollomont on the way.

I get back at 4:30 pm after 7 hours of paddling / hiking. Sun has already disappeared from the river valley, and temperature is sinking fast.

(Discharge at Nisramont: 9.5 m3/s)

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Packrafting Ourthe Moyenne

A 29.4 km packrafting trip on the middle section of the Ourthe river on a sunny April Sunday, together with Mathias and Dominic.

We paddle from Maboge to Hampteau, passing the lovely town of La-Roche-en-Ardenne with its medieval castle, and then continue on foot to Hotton, as the stretch between Hampteau and Hotton is – surprisingly – not open for paddling.

The river has a good flow and temperature is well above 15°C. We start around 10 am after a small hiccup, and arrive at 3 pm on the dot, while thunder clouds start moving in.

(Durbuy: 13 m3/s)

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