Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Packrafting the Ghent Waterways

An after-work evening paddle with Glen and Evert through the historic center of the city of Ghent.

We put in at Korenlei, first paddle back and forth to Rabot, and then make a counterclockwise circumvention of the heart of the city. We pass through the vaults below Laurent square, descend the slide at the Scaldis locks and regain the 1.20 m height difference by portaging the St-Joris locks. Sun sets and the nicely lit historic buildings add an extra dimension to the trip…

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Packrafting Leie

21 km of paddling on the river Leie, from Astene via Sint-Martens-Latem, Drongen and Sint-Denijs-Westrem to the marina at the other side of the Ringvaart. Departure at 9:30 am and arrival at 3:30 pm. No noticeable current but some waves and swell caused by the parade of pleasure yachts that typically starts around 11 am on any sunny Sunday during the summer season…

Fairly strenuous physical exercise, lots of greenery and many older and newer posh riverside dwellings.

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Packrafting Punta d’Omigna

Punta d’Omigna is a scenic cape on the west coast of the island of Corsica. It has nicely restored remains of a Genoese tower, and is located between the Pero and Chiuni beaches, in the vicinity of Cargèse.

Packrafts are not really made for the open sea, but that doesn’t mean it is not possible to use them on a trip close to the coast. During a recent family trip to Corsica I therefore put in at the Pero beach. My plan is to paddle around Punta d’Omigna, and take out at the Chiuni beach. The return trip to the put-in location will be on foot.

There is a 5 m/s sea breeze, which is not a problem in terms of head wind, but it does cause quite a bit of swell. I’m fairly sensitive to sea sickness, nausea hence starts to set in after a while. I round the cape with care, do not experience problems, and then turn towards the Chiuni beach supported by a nice tail wind.

The return hike is easy and scenic, and after 12 km and 4 hours, I arrive back at the put-in location, in time for a swim with the rest of the family.

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Scandinavia 2019

Another memorable Scandinavia experience at the end of June and beginning of July:

  • In Denmark I do some short walks on Tornby beach and pay a visit to the massive dunes surrounding (and almost engulfing) the Rubjerg Knude lighthouse. I spend the night on an official remote forest bivouac spot, which is a new experience for me in this country.
  • On the border between Norway and Sweden, I do an adventurous and physically strenuous 8-day trek including packrafting through the adjacent protected areas of Långfjället, Rogen and Femundsmarka. Nights are spent wild camping, and as usual I have to negotiate endless boulders, tree roots, marshes, … while walking.
  • I subsequently head further into Sweden and do a fairly comprehensive 1-day exploration of Sonfjället NP on foot. This park consists of a mountainous area surrounded by extensive forests, and hosts Europe’s densest population of brown bear.
  • Finally, I end up in Skuleskogen NP at the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia. Skuleskogen is part of the so-called Höga Kusten, where since the last ice age the land has risen 300 m from the sea. I do a 2-day trek during which I walk most of the park’s trails.

Full-blown reports including pictures will follow in due time, here is however a sneak preview:

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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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Packrafting Viroin

Another fun outdoor weekend across the language border. After a hike around the lake of Virelles on Saturday and a night spent bivouacking in the forests around Chimay, I meet Glen and Jelle in Dourbes on Sunday morning. The plan is to paddle the Viroin river down to Treignes. Turns out we are lucky to be here today rather than yesterday, since the 3rd Saturday of March the river is apparently not open for paddling due to the start of the trout fishing season!

The Viroin region offers scenic landscapes and well-preserved quaint old villages. The Viroin river today has a good flow and paddling is pleasant. What is disturbing though are the large quantities of organic (tree logs) and inorganic (plastic) debris along the river. Apparently, plastic and other types of waste are a problem quite typical of this river. It’s a shame, really.

We have to port twice due to obstructions. At the old bridge of Vierves there is a huge pile of tree logs, but luckily there seems to be a non-obstructed passage to the left.

After 3.5 hours including a long break we reach the picturesque village of Treignes. Much sooner than expected, since according to all references Dourbes-Treignes is a 20 km stretch, but according to my GPS it is in reality only 13 km. A bit of a mystery…

Weather during the weekend is mostly cloudy but dry. Around 13°C on Saturday and 11°C on Sunday.

(Treignes: 10.3 m3/s)

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