If ye like the nut, crack it.

… the need to get out, to test yourself, to flush out the system, and, above all, to have some fun.
– Al Alvarez, Feeding the Rat

We had no idea what to expect when we enrolled for the OMM, the Original Mountain Marathon a few months ago. Running through the Scottish hills, orienteering, two days with a bivouac after the first day, teams of two and no organised support. Let’s not select a distance we know we can handle, let’s push it a bit, feeding the rat.

Here we are, the end of October in Tweedsmuir. Last days it was good weather unlike Scotland. A lot of sunshine, no rain, a lot of wind. We were joking about forgetting the sunscreen. We go to sleep in a pasture near the Event Centre and wake up in mud-pool-paradise-for-waterbuffalos. When we enrolled we laughed about it: end of October, bad weather guaranteed. At this moment we would like to remain in bed, but hey, if ye like the nut, crack it.


This is our first OMM and we’ve no idea what to expect. The first thing we notice are the small backpacks worn by our competitors. It’s unbelievable that all the gear from the mandatory kit list fits in such a small backpack.
Until the moment we start, we don’t know which route we have to take. Each minute another team starts. When we’re finally in front row, we hear: “There are some last-minute changes. One of the landowners didn’t approve at the last moment. On your map there will be a hand-drawn change of route.” Then the horn blows, we punch our SI, get our map and move a few metres to discuss the route.


We come up with a good strategy for the first checkpoint, but once we’re past the forest, we enter a thick fog. Navigating is fine, but the terrain is ruthless. We slob through moorland, mud and low heath. The first day starts with rain, fog and heavy winds, but improves to a tiny bit of sunshine.


Until checkpoint 4 all checkpoints need to be visited in the correct order. Next we need to punch 3 checkpoints from a total of 5. Choice and order we may decide ourselves. To be honest, we’re already quiet tired. As real lowlanders we choose the checkpoints with the least amount of height difference, but a bit more distance. At the second optional checkpoint we meet another competitor. He’s still good to go, but his companion is whacked. They choose to go directly to the bivouac. We look at each other. What are we going to choose? We’re also very tired, but a no-punch means end of race. No, we’re not giving up, it’s going to be everything or nothing.


We arrive at the third optional checkpoint faster than expected. It’s already getting dark when we start our ascent. The next checkpoint is located in the adjacent valley. I can’t remember the last time I was so tired, three checkpoints to go. I eat a snack for energy. We see a another team walking up a different mountain ridge. No idea which course they do, but when we arrive at the ridge, we see that they are following our steps. We arrive at the next checkpoint in the dark. The moon just disappeared behind a thick layer of clouds, we’re lucky it doesn’t rain.

At this checkpoint we meet a number of other teams. Everyone puts on their headlamps and eats another snack. En route to the last two checkpoints, close to the bivouac. This time the plan is to walk straight west, climb two small fences and descend the valley of the bivouac. The terrain was difficult to walk in daylight, let alone by the light of only our headlamps. The teams support each other and with around eight people we walk the last stretch. It’s normal to support each other in the race, but it must have looked funny to the casual observer: Six hundred people choose voluntary to beat the clock and fight the elements. The last ones trying hard to find their route through the Scottish hills in darkness. The alternative, sitting in front of the telly with a beer sounds very pleasing.


We find the fences and the valley. The last two checkpoints, however, are unfindable in the darkness. The closing time of eight o’clock is near and two minutes past eight we enter the bivouac site. An exuberant group of volunteers welcomes us with hand clapping and cheering. Thanks guys! This is the end of our race, we’ve missed two checkpoints and we’re two minutes too late. Sadly.

We’re not disappointed about our results. We’re whacked, utterly empty. We’ve given all we got and enjoyed it. Now it’s the time to pitch our tent, cook, eat and sleep. We’re too tired to catch sleep easily.


At six o’clock a lonely bagpiper plays. Not long after starting he’s followed by the organisation waking everyone with a megaphone. In an hour the first teams start again. We’re lucky this weekend daylight savings changed to wintertime, giving us an extra hour of sleep.

As we’ve timed out in the race, we’re not going to participate in the second part of the race. The shortest way back to the Event Centre is 13 kilometres. Finally we can see where we’ve raced yesterday. The thick fog is gone and today we run a part of yesterday’s route in some sunshine and heavy winds.


The Original Mountain Marathon, what an experience. We were cold, wet, happy, tired, exhausted but also enthusiastic to carry on. We’ve given all we’ve got and look back satisfied. The atmosphere of this race is truly unique. We’re sure to enrol again, but for this year the rat has been fed.


Click here to see all photographs


(English subtitles available via the CC button.)



The first day we’ve ran 35 kilometres, the second day 13. In total we’ve gone 2670 metres up and down. 116 teams entered our course, 73 finished the first day. At the end of the second day only 42 finished, about one-third.

What could we’ve done better?

  • Run faster. Of course. But how to train for something you don’t know?
  • We saw a lot of people with much smaller backpacks than ours. A small comparison: our backpack weighted 9 kilos, the backpack of an Elite team member weighted only 6 kilos. We complied to the list of mandatory equipment and didn’t have much extra with us. We did notice some people combine the coat and sleeping bag or the running pants with rain trousers. It might save a few kilos but there’s still the question if you want to invest money in this very specific equipment.
  • We could have chosen a different set of optional checkpoints. We’ve chosen to go to AC, CD and AD, the least amount of elevation. Maybe it would have been better to go to AO, AC and CD. A bit more elevation, distance about the same, but more trails.

Alaska rocks


Two Cheechakos* travelling to the last Frontier

Most of our travelling we’ve done in Europe. This time we’re leaving for the other side of the world, to the last Frontier, the last wilderness: Alaska.

A frontier is never a place; it is a time and a way of life. Frontiers pass but they endure in their people.
– Hal Borland

We came here to experience this wilderness, the vastness that we don’t know in the small and crowded Europe. No map does justice to this vastness. We’re used to bring maps with a scale of 1:25 000, now we used maps with a scale of 1:225 000, the scale of a road map. We start to grasp the feeling of this scale when we leave Anchorage. At the end of the Knik Arm the landscape suddenly opens up: we enter a plain and see the mountains in the north. It takes over an hour by car before arriving at the foot of the mountain range. In the same amount of time we’ll pass through half of the Netherlands back home.

Later we walk the Kesugi Ridge east of the highest mountain of North America, Denali. A huge forest and the wide Chulitna river is located between the ridge and the Denali massif. Denali has its own micro climate like so many high mountains and wraps itself in fog and rain clouds for two-thirds of the time. We have been walking here for two days and could have had some beautiful views on the mountain, if only the mountain feels like taking off its thick grey coat. We only saw the foothills and some big glaciers. When Mount Hunter pierces through the fog, our jaws drop: We had no idea that such a mighty mountain was hidden in the clouds!

The next morning we walk back up to the ridge. We talk about last night: the loud wind made the tent fabric flap all night. That same wind luckily also brought us clear skies, the sun shines. Upon arrival at the ridge we receive the view we’ve hoped for the last days: Denali, almost one-and-a-half times higher than yesterday’s impressive Mount Hunter. We’re flabbergasted, how could this unbelievably high mountain have been hiding behind a few lousy clouds the previous days?


This exceeds our feeling of scale. We spontaneous decide to stay one day longer at Byers Lake, such an impression the landscape makes. When we’re in Talkeetna, 60 miles from here, Denali still towers above the landscape. Impressive.



It’s not only nature that impresses us at this side of the world. We’ve been touched most by the people here, but more on that later.

The Alaskan people are a population generally set apart by their unrestrained spirit and ability to make life happen in a most delightful manner under the some of the most un-delightful circumstances.
– Bob Huck

*) Cheechako, greenhorn, newcomer to the North (term developed during the Klondike years).


In Europa, we humans are always at the top of the food chain: all animals are afraid of us. The few bears that are left there are so shy that they are scared of their own shadows. Things are different in Alaska, that’s why we’ve been preparing well for bear country. Preparing is one thing, being there, experiencing and feeling it is something else.

We drive to our starting point near Kings River by shuttle bus. Don is our driver, baseball cap, big beard, checkered shirt and a little belly. He likes to talk a lot and tells a lot of jokes. “Hey guys, you know the difference between scat from a black bear and that of a grizzly? No? Black bear’s scat is filled with seeds, berries, etc. Grizzly’s is filled with bear bells, bear spray, hiking boots, …” He’s the one who laughs the loudest.

It’s still morning when we start walking to the woods. A thick forest. The wind blows and the leaves rustle. I can smell the pines. Though everything looks normal, our brains work overtime. Where are the binoculars? Is that a tree trunk over there or is it an animal? Do we have to use the bear bell here? In our heads the forest turns into an alley with big hairy monsters behind every bush, ready to scare the wits out of us. We see footprints and scat. Then we arrive at the fording place of the Kings River.



The idea is walk higher than the tree line the first day. That we won’t reach today. Charissa hasn’t had a relaxed moment the last hours. Let alone she’s able to enjoy this rough scenery. We take the tough decision to abandon the tour we’ve prepared so well and return to the tarmac.

While returning I immediately see a change in Charissa. She’s already more relaxed now, almost relieved, while we walk the same trail as just before. The feeling of this impenetrable forest is hard to image and impossible to approach rationally. Tom Waes once said: “Bear country, land of light sleep.”

We return and are being helped with making new plans. We’ll be walking more open terrain and we will meet some more people there. “More” in a relative sense. We’ll meet four people per day at most.

We walk the Resurrection Trail and are out of water. Fresh water is never far away, the trail runs along the Resurrection Creek. Charissa goes to get some water. “I see a bear, a black one!” The bear didn’t see us yet, we’re downwind so he didn’t smell us. He’s only about fifty yards away on the other side of the creek, he’s also thirsty. We shout but he still doesn’t notice us. He did hear something, but doesn’t know what, because he stands up tall to get a better view. The moment he sees us, he rushes off. We see the bushes shake a dozen yards from the riverbank when he runs through them. We’ve seen a bear, and he reacts exactly according to the book.



Bear country, land of light sleep.
– Tom Waes

I’ve had two moments of being ready to use my bear spray: the first time when I was getting some things from the tent and I was being sneaked upon by a dog. He suddenly emerged from the bushes with a lot of noise. Before I realized I was outside of the tent, bear spray ready in my hand. Later his owner said: “Maybe we should give him a bear bell, he has the tendency to sneak upon people.” Maybe a good idea indeed, for his own sake.

The second time I was squatting behind a bush to provide it with the necessary manure, when I heard a drumming noise. It sounded just like some heavy animal running towards me at full speed. I look up the mountain (pants still to my ankles) and I have the bear spray ready in my hand again. Nothing. When I look the other way I see Charissa cleaning her packraft from sand and small stones before packing. To remove the stones she drums on the bottom of the packraft with her hands…

At the beginning of the Resurrection Trail we meet an old Alaskan guy on a bicycle. “You guys have some bear protection with you? Just saw some blackies down the road, big ones.” He must have scared them away, because we didn’t see them. Or it was some fine Alaskan humour.


Before visiting Alaska we only knew the country from the Discovery Channel: prospectors, tuna fishermen, loggers, rough people in a rough country. How wrong could we be.

[…] it is the people of the place and the joy filled insanity that gave me years of adventure and laughter and who are the source of the memories that truly make my heart of hearts smile with abundance and an awesome gratitude.
– Bob Huck

There is no public transport by bus and only one rail road. When we wanted to go back to Anchorage from our first tour there was no other possibility than to hitch-hike. When making plans for later tours we get the advice: “You should hitch-hike your way across Alaska. It is easy, a lot of fun and you’ll meet a bunch of interesting people.” It couldn’t be more true.


The first day of our first trail was long, hard and filled with bear stress. We hitch-hiked our way to Palmer, one city before arriving in Anchorage. In theory we could have been in Anchorage within one hour. In practise we’ve tried to get a ride for over an hour without luck. We were exhausted and ready to look for a place to pitch our tent and try our luck tomorrow. Exactly at that moment a car pulls over and we met a guy who drives 90 miles to Anchorage and back, while living only fifteen minutes down the road. We were unbelievably grateful meeting him.

In total we’ve hitch-hiked nine times, almost 250 miles. All rides were with locals, the tourists in RVs all passed. We notice that the locals genuinely like giving you a ride and are interested to hear what you have been doing, where you’re from and how life is there. They, in turn, tell about their country, what they do and are proud of that. Maybe it’s the large distances between the villages, the ever changing weather, the strong hand of nature in this country that makes that people are more dependent upon each other and more willing to help each other (and two backpackers). For us this was a great experience and wonderful to meet so many people that are so open and proud of their country.


*) Sourdough, an old-timer in Alaska, a name that came from the fermented dough used by prospectors who didn’t have yeast.

A Word of Thanks

Alastair Humphreys once wrote: “Most of my memories of people are from the briefest of connections.” This journey our path has crossed the paths of numerous other people we would like to thank and although they were the briefest of connections these encounters will always be engraved in our memories.

Casey, thank you very much for the incredible ride at a moment that we were so exhausted.
Base Camp Anchorage: Eric, Nate, Ole, thanks for the great care, ideas for new trails and lending some walking poles when ours were gone.
Patrick & Harlow, thank you for the lighter when the one we brought broke, for the good ideas and the hospitable invite.
Terri, thanks for pulling over in the pouring rain to give two paddlers, wet to the skin, a ride.
Joel, thank you for the numerous inspiring talks over coffee.


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(English subtitles available via the CC button.)


Several maps of the surroundings of the Talkeetna Mountains
1 : 63000
Available from http://store.usgs.gov/

Maps of Alaska
DeLorme Alaska Atlas & Gazetteer
1 : 300000 tot 1 : 1200000
ISBN 0-89933-289-7

222: Denali National Park
National Geographic Trails Illustrated
1 : 225000

Backcountry Bear Basics, second editions
The mountaineers books
Dave Smith
ISBN 978-1-59485-028-8

Trails we walked

Trail along King River
Coastal Trail (by bicycle) in Anchorage
Around Spencer Lake, then packrafting Placer River
Resurrection Trail from Hope to Cooper Landing
Mount Marathon
Lost Lake Trail and Primrose Trail from Seward to Primrose
Kesugi Ridge Trail

La dernière légende

The GR571, a story in three parts. Part one led us through the valley of the Amblève. The second part took us through the valley of the Salm. Now, it’s time to visit the valley of the Lienne.


The subtitle of the GR, the Valleys of the Legends, refers to the many legends written about this area. In the first part we’ve met the devil of Fonds de Quarreux. This section is home to a fairy called Lienne and a golden goat.


Unfortunately we didn’t meet any of the two. Actually, we didn’t meet anyone while hiking these nice trails. The owner of the campsite in Targnon is surprised to see us when we arrive. In the last 28 years she has seen the number of people walking GRs diminish. What a shame, it is a beautiful trail, so close to home.



Passing by Fonds de Quarreux, the legend of the first section, we arrive back at Remouchamps.

Merci pour l’Ardenne Mystérieuse!





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GR571, Vallées des Légendes Amblève, Salm, Lienne
Topo-Guide du Sentier de Grande Randonnée
ISBN 2-9600450-6-8

21 amphibians on the Semois

It’s spring, the time for our yearly packrafting weekend with our Flemish friends of Hiking Advisor. This weekend we are found on the Semois.
We took our drysuits. As an experiment we’re going to use them as rain clothes as well, when needed. Of course it’s needed: whens leaving it is raining, so we dress in our sweat suits and walk to the Semois.


We put off the backpacks, eat and inflate packrafts. The green meadow is brightened with yellow, red, green and blue rafts. The first “rapid” can be seen from here which nourishes the doubt for some of the novices.

The weir at Cugnon is located a few kilometres downstream. After inspection and explanation of Joery and Willem a big part of the group crosses the weir over water. “It’s quite okay, how big is the chance that you have to swim over there?” At the moment the question is asked, it looks like a very remote chance. A few minutes later someone’s swimming in the water.

During the break we ascent the viewpoint and caves of Saint-Remacle. It’s only a short stretch to the bivouac zone from here.


We learn some things: Taking charcoal with you for barbecuing is a great idea for a weekend trip. There are many ways to bivouac, with a tent, a tarp or just using a packraft, some wood and a piece of aluminium foil.
Raindrops and the first mosquitoes are scared away by the camp fire. Being together around the fire we discuss cultural differences and exchange practical advices. Now we know why Debbie takes a Dutchman to the woods.


We wake up in fog which disappears quickly when the sun starts shining. We continue our sailing in beautiful weather. Between Dohan and Bouillon we eat in lovely sunshine. The last part on the water we build one big floating circle with all 21 packrafts, that just fits in the Semois. Arriving in Bouillon we build a leaning tower of Pisa with as many packrafts as possible.




Hiking Advisor, thanks again for organising this great event.

The idea of the packraft tripod is based on the one from the Deliverance team. A great idea, tack!

Semois at Bouillon: waterheight 71 cm and flow 19 m3/s


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Wax on, wax off

This spring I’ve done a waxing course to learn how to do the maintenance of our skis. A bit of skill is all you need to wax your own skis and doing it yourself is fun and saves some money. During this course you’ll not only learn how to wax, but also how skis are made and how to keep it in good shape.

The only tool which you definitely need and costs a lot of money is a trestle to mount your skis on when waxing. The skis shall not shuffle and the waxing makes quite a mess, so the kitchen table is not allowed to be used. With some scrap wood and a bit of closed-cell foam I’ve made a tool to attach to the workmate:



All you need to perform the maintenance of your skis fits in a small box:


The last thing you need is some time. Wax on, wax off (don’t forget to breath, very important)…





Vasa Sport – Het complete waxboek
3e druk, november 2013
Machiel Ittmann

Ski eller skøyter

Cautiously I step forward. A few meters back the snow changed into a sheet of ice. First it’s still relatively soft, the kind of ice you can kick steps into. Now it is hard and blue. We’re searching for small imperfections where the sole of our shoes has some grip. Another step further. I notice that I’ve slipped when I’m already on the ground and feel the acceleration of gliding over ice. Turning to my belly is astonishingly easy even with the heavy backpack. Automatically I brake on hands and feet like I’ve learnt years ago. I don’t notice any braking. Maybe on hands and knees? Nope, no difference. Suddenly I’m halted in a snow dune. When I look up, searching for Charissa, I see her gliding the same trajectory, halting next to me in the snow dune. Ski eller skøyter, skiing or skating?

This year we’re in Trollheimen for a week of skiing. We want to ski Trekanten, The Triangle. “According to the media all of Norway is going to ski for the Easter holidays. The ones that don’t go are pathetic. Statistics tell however, that less than ten percent of the Norwegians go for skiing.” (Source: Henk Brugman – Een Leven In Noorwegen) Trekanten is the most important tour for Easter for the people living nearby: a triangle through the valleys of Trollheimen. Beautiful views en route and two high passes according to Norwegian standards.


The first part is groomed and tracks are made. It’s Sunday and most Norwegians can be found cross-country skiing. A small tour to the staffed mountain hut, eat a meal there and then back home. A family trip with dog and children or perhaps as sports activity, like running in the Netherlands. A few times we’re almost blown from the trail, such heavy winds are blowing. Everywhere blown twigs and pineapples can be found. This is the only part of our route that has tracks.

Instead of Trekanten, The Triangle, for us it’s more like Linje, a line.

Suddenly in the evening, it’s quiet. All day long the wind was whistling and howling. Even in the Gjevilvasshytta the wind could be heard when suddenly it’s gone. In the morning it’s still gone when we leave. We ascend through the forest or at least we try. There’s so much ice that our skis don’t have any grip. We put on our ski-skins, not to remove them for the rest of the week. When we leave the forest, the wind picks up again, just like yesterday. This is what will be waiting for us the coming week: old snow with ice and drifting snow gathered in dunes.


We make a day trip to Grȧfjellet where we meet a herd of reindeer. In these conditions the route from Jøldalshytta to Trollheimshytta is too ambitious for us. We get up early, cross the frozen river and start the ascent along the Langfjellet massif. The snow changes into snow over ice into one big sheet of snowless ice. We should have brought our crampons. The higher we go, the more difficult it becomes. We don’t make it to the pass and return to Jøldalshytta. Instead of Trekanten, The Triangle, for us it’s more like Linje, a line.

Tomorrow he’ll get up early, he’ll ski 45 kilometres back home via the tracks.

When we return to Gjevilvasshytta the next day the wood stove is already burning. An elderly man, Yngvar will spend the night there. He’s skiing Trekanten and was at the Trollheimshytta yesterday. He brought no map as he knows the area well and took the southerly route to the cabin instead of our northerly route. Even with his 64 years of ski experience (Do your own math to find his age …) he found it one of his most difficult crossings. The way from Trollheimshytta to Gjevilvasshytta was as difficult as the one the day before: a small ridge crossing with descend took him three hours. In the beginning of the evening he’s a bit shy for he cannot speak English that easily. As soon as we put our map of the area on the table, he starts talking, very nice. Tomorrow he’ll get up early, he’ll ski 45 kilometres back home via the tracks.

Though normally we like to travel with our tent, the DNT cabins are our favourites in the winter. During this tour we meet other people in the cabins during three nights. Of course they are all Norwegians, Trollheimen is not well-known abroad. In the guest-books of the cabins we can find only a handful of foreigners each year. Last night we share the cabin with a Norwegian woman who speaks English very well. We learn a lot about Norway, the Norwegians and their culture.

17 18 25


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DNT, Uglant IT
Turkart 1 : 50 000

Henk Brugman – Een Leven In Noorwegen (Life in Norway)

Woudlopers Orienteering Run

It feels like we’re back at school. Last week we’ve made our homework, today is the day we have to perform. At half past nine the briefing starts, at five to ten we can collect our envelope. At ten o’clock we can finally start, we may open the envelope, the race has started! A week ago we received our homework. This time a 9 minute during YouTube movie. A part of the route could be seen in this movie, but partly the movie raises more question than that it answers. The briefing is similar. Are clues still clues if they only raise more questions?


In the envelope we find six pages with maps, a double-sided roadbook, two cards for the answers, a balloon and a string of wire with cheerfully coloured plastic caps. Enroute it surely will work out. We take half an hour to put the maps in the correct order, mark the coordinates on the maps and read the full roadbook. Then we’re off. It’s 13 degrees centigrade so we can’t call it a proper winter, but rain and heavy winds make it a bit cold and stormy.

Tired, satisfied and enriched with a great experience we drive homewards.

The start we recognize from the movie. Two special checkpoints in the pocket. At the second checkpoint we also see our first “false checkpoint”. We’ve been warned: in the surroundings of a real checkpoint there might be false checkpoints. When you write down the control number of a false checkpoint, you’ll get a time penalty. We’ll build up enough experience with time penalties the next six hours. According to the roadbook special C is located on a trajectory from checkpoint 3: “Go for 35 meters in 45 degrees / 40 meters in 350 degrees / 35 meters in 270 degrees / 65 meters in 165 degrees.” I wish we had drawn this beforehand. Once we arrive at CP 3 we find out the trajectory goes straight through some woodland and swamp. We make a quick calculation and conclude that we should end up back around CP 3. Unfortunately there are four checkpoints near CP 3, we choose the wrong one.


After some time of running, reading the map, interpreting instructions and sometimes a swig of water and a biscuit Charissa asks how long we’ve been busy since the start. I look at my watch: “Two and a half hours” Really?!? That long? We thought we were only racing for an hour. Half way through the race we have to shoot at bottles to get extra instructions and we have to sniff at trees. Unfortunately we don’t recognize the decoy. The deadline slowly comes closer. It’s not possible anymore to reach all checkpoints, so we take a shorter route to the end point.


Regularly we meet other people with maps in their hands, crossing the forest running. Are they lost or do they have a better strategy? How high will we score as newcomers? The deadline is set at four o’clock, time penalty when you arrive later. We take our last sprint. Slowly we start to feel the tiredness of our bodies. Twenty-three minutes later our time is stopped. Even the last kilometers to the starting point we continue running not to cool down too much.


Back at the start we changed our wet clothes and eat spaghetti with the other participants. Advice is exchanged, errors recognized. This is the moment the rain and cold are already forgotten and the tall tales start to emerge. The verdict: 13th overall and 4th in the mixed class. Tired, satisfied and enriched with a great experience we drive homewards. Is it already possible to reserve for next time?


Click here to see all photographs.



Of course we’ve reviewed our race and see what we can do better next time. We’ve ran twenty-seven kilometers in six hours and twenty-three minutes. That’s not much less than other teams. Some days after the race we received all results, which can be converted to a few nice graphs. One of the conclusions we can derive is that the teams that have a high score have few errors and are fast. No surprise, just build up the experience.


Another conclusion is that at the start almost everybody finds all checkpoints and makes few mistakes. In the second part a lot less checkpoints are found and more errors are made.

(More graphs can be found at the pictures.)

Bleau without bouldering

New year’s day 2015. The snow has just melted when we’re driving to Fontainebleau. The rain joins us however.

We’ve took our crash pad with us, but it stays in the car. We’re happy to make a nice stroll through Trois-Pignons: circuit des Belvévères. The next day it’s still raining and we go bouldering in the local boulder gym. The rain leaves and fog appears. The sandstone in this area becomes soft when damp. After the rain en fog of the last few days the rock is nowhere near dry. We can’t boulder, so we put up our slackline near l’Éléphant and run the T.G.L.

13 Slacklining near L’Éléphant

10 Slacklining

19 Parcours Larchant T.G.L.

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IGN Carte de Randonnée, 1 : 25000, 2417OT: Forêts de Fontainebleau et des Trois Pignons

Chez Bertrand, la deuxième fois cette année

When the last rainshowers leave the area, we start driving to our neighbours in the south. Last spring we started the GR571, Vallée des Légendes. Coloring leaves on the trees and a good weather forecast for the next days is a nice excuse to continue this route.


We leave the car in Trois-Ponts and walk along the Salm. A sneak preview for what we will encounter when we want to packraft this creek later this week.


The first night we do a painful discovery: our stove breaks down. We eat lukewarm macaroni and have no option to cook hot tea the next day.

We continue to Gouvy the next morning and return to the car. For the second time this year we eat at Bertrands, the well-known, local frieterie (sort of mobile snackbar) in Trois-Ponts. Like aways, it’s very busy.


The next day we arrive at the railway station at ten. Twenty past ten the train to Vielsalm will leave. Nineteen past ten an announcement is made. “Le train à Luxembourg […] de dix heures vingt […] Excusez-moi” We don’t understand everything that has been said. Something is said about the train we would like to catch, but what exactly, we missed. We wait for another five minutes and then walk back into the railway station. Previously three other people were waiting there, but now the railway station is empty. We find someone from the railway who tells us the train will not come.


Maybe a bus will leave in twenty minutes. According to the timetable route 142 will leave, but the sign near the busstop only indicates route 42a. We’re lucky, the bus arrives and this one will head for Vielsalm.


According to Ardennes’ terms the Salm is quite small and fast flowing. Contrary to most other rivers no canoes can be rented here. Fallen trees are therefore not cleared. For a few hours we enjoy the packrafting. We find seven floating soccer balls and have to step out of the packraft for six times to walk past fallen trees. One time the cows like us that much that they start running with us for two hunderd meters.


Water flow at the Salm: 3.2 m3/s. Barely enough for packrafting. We didn’t get stuck, but scratched the river floor quite some times.

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GR571, Vallées des Légendes Amblève, Salm, Lienne
Topo-Guide du Sentier de Grande Randonnée
ISBN 2-9600450-6-8

IGN Carte Topographique, 1:50 000, No 55: Durbuy
IGN Carte Topographique, 1:50 000, No 56-56A: Sankt Vith

Monkey climbing over the Swalm


Sunday afternoon, halfway through October. 23C has been measured at de Bilt, the highest temperature since people started to jot down this list in 1901.


It’s a beautiful afternoon to raft on the Swalm. One of the few patches of nature in the Netherlands with the least amount of human intervention.


The Swalm feels like monkey climbing in elementary school. A high level of flexibility is desired.


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It takes forty-five minutes to get from the railwaystation in Swalmen to the border with Germany. Expect a lot of fallen trees, you’ll need to get out of your boat quite regularly. The sailing will take longer than expected.
The water level was 37 cm when we ran it.