Morocco’s Toubkal Circuit – day 4

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info | video

Once again the guided hiking group nearby was up and gone before I’d even woken up.

I started up into a very cool gorge section. It was dark and hazy.

This is Azib Imi n’Ouassif (2841m), a crossroads of several gorges where some people camp.

From here it’s a steep climb to the pass at Tizi n’Ouanoums.

Escapee goats live on these inhospitable cliffs. There’s not much to eat.

It was a bit of a relief to reach the second high pass of the circuit. From here it was all downhill … at least while carrying full pack.

Descending the pass was supposed to be a bit treacherous. As I crossed it wasn’t all that bad.

I could see some of the Iceland group having lunch at the bottom. By the time I got there they had begun climbing a secondary trail up the other side to the 2nd / 3rd highest peaks in north Africa. Their guide stayed back having hurt his ankle. In fact he sent the group cook as guide in his stead.

I had some lunch too. Then, with plenty of time, followed. Weather looked good.

The scramble to one Ouanoukrim summit — Ras Ouanoukrim (4083m) — in a hail storm turned out to be the highlight of the entire circuit. We had a blast.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

I hustled over to another lump of a peak — Timzguida (4089m) — which we later found out to be 5m higher.

In fact my phone had it (wrongly) at 4100m.

I left a Summit Stone.

Once safely down, the others headed off briskly (as they always did) to rejoin their group. One of the men, Dorfi, had once led a 3 week horse trek across Iceland. This weather was nothing to him. He wore a wool sweater under a waterproof poncho on that trip. Never got wet.

In no rush I walked slowly downhill to Toubkal Refuge (3207m).

I’d plan to wild camp again … until I saw the massive complex. It looked intriguing.

As it was raining too I decided to camp at Refuge Mouflon and sign up for the 7pm dinner. It was pretty good.

I charged my batteries in Mouflon after dinner and watched an episode of Better Call Saul on my phone as I waited. Then headed out into the rain to my tent.

day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info | video

Harder Ridge, Switzerland – best day hike on Earth?

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

  • dangerous
  • 10 hours
  • at least 18km on sharply defined ridge
  • should absolutely never be attempted when wet
  • plenty of exposure on both sides
  • frequent scrambling required
  • Brienz to Interlaken with rail assistance getting up to and descending from the ridge

Don’t hike the other direction. Logistics are easier starting in Brienz. And it’s safer as the last 2 hours (when your legs are tired) is on easier trails. 

I got up early in Interlaken, ready for my free hostel breakfast starting 7am.

Every half hour a train runs from Interlaken to Brienz for 8.20 francs (2018).

Happily I made the first steam train 8:36am — from Brienz to Brienzer Rothorn Station. It’s been making this run since 1891.

Price is reduced to 28 francs for the first train (2018) to encourage folks to get as early a start as possible on their hike.

At 9km / hour it takes an hour to get to the top of the ridge 2351m.

If clear, you can enjoy distant views over to Jungfrau highest peaks; the Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Schreckhorn, Finsteraarhorn.

I climbed up to the viewpoint. This is as far as most tourists hike.

Looking down on Brienzer Rothorn Station.

At 10am I started to walk back to Interlaken. I would have about 11.5 hours to make the last teleferico down from Harder Kulm Restaurant. Otherwise I’d have to walk down in the dark.

You can’t really get lost. Follow the ridge no matter what.

The weather was perfect.

You have Brienz lake on one side …

… and Swiss foothills on the other.

I loved it instantly.

Most of the time the ridge is not all that intimidating.

It often looks worse than it turns out to be.

I’d heard everyone who comes up here sees ibex. … Are these ibex?

This adventure is more popular with trail runners than with hikers as they can easily make it in less than 10 hours.

I took very few breaks. Other than checking the GPS on my phone, I had no idea whether I was moving quickly enough to finish in time.

Each time I’d climb a high point on the ridge, even higher points would come into view.

I don’t think I saw another person over the first 5 hours.

Sadly I seemed to be a lot closer to Brienz than Interlaken.

There are sections with stairs, cable and chain assistance. These would be most useful when down climbing in wet conditions.

Hmm … I might finally be past half way.

I tried to quicken my pace on the easiest sections.

There are many more day hikers on the Interlaken end of the ridge. They assured me I’d make it on time.

Interlaken

The last 2 hours stays on the ridge, but you are mostly in the trees. It was the least interesting section … but I was pleased to have less exposure as my legs got tired.

Here it is at last. Harder Kulm Restaurant.

The last funicular descends at 9:10pm. If it’s busy they may run until 9:40pm.

I gladly paid 16 francs and found the short trip down very interesting.

It was dark by the time we arrived Interlaken.

And I was quite dehydrated. I’d brought only 1.5 litres with me. I could have used about 3 litres.

When I got back to the hostel I announced it was the best day hike of my life.

Click PLAY or see if I look happy on YouTube.

best way to hike Lofoten Islands, Norway

Lofoten is without question one of the best hiking destinations in the world.

Bunes Beach hike

But it’s remote.

Also, Norway is very expensive.

The gateway for most people is the town of Bodø, the end of the train line north. It’s often cheaper and easier to fly as the train is a 17 hour overnight journey.

From Bodø you have options. If you don’t have your own transportation easiest is to make a loop by ferry and bus.

Take the fast passenger ferry Bodø to Svolvær. About 4 hours.

Your first hike should be Fløya & Devil’s Gate. The trailhead is about a half hour walk from the ferry landing.

From Svolvær you would take buses or hitchhike the only highway west through islands A to V to F to M. 

M Moskenes (Moskenesøya) has the best hiking. Save it for last.

Reine is the best base town for Moskenes. You can do 3-4 awesome hikes out of the same town.

From the village of Å (the last letter of the Norwegian alphabet) you can catch the slow ferry back to Bodø. About 4 hours.

By far the best hiking guidebook is Hiking the LOFOTEN ISLANDS by Kristin Folsland Olsen. Published 2017 in English, it will help you decide which hikes to do. Most are day hikes and many are scrambles. No need to order it online. It’s widely available on the islands.

The weather is dreadful. For any 7 day period during the hiking season you may have several days of serious wind and rain. These should be rest days if you have time.

If you have your own vehicle — or decide to rent a car — you can go when and where you want. That’s ideal.

related – travel 2 walk – trip report: Norway – Bødo & Lofoten Islands, August 2017

 

Norway’s Lofoten Islands – Reinebringen alternative Topp 730

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

The most famous hike on the Lofoten Islands — Reinebringen — was closed for the 3rd season in a row.

Happily, my guide book (2017) by Kristin Olsen recommended an alternative.

There’s a longer, muddier route to hike up to the coffin above Reine.

From there you can walk the ridge and scramble up to two different peaks, one unnamed but called on some maps Topp 730.

Best would be to have your own kayak or raft to get to the end of Djupfjorden. I didn’t … so had to walk the muddy shoreline from the bridge.

I camped near this point on my return, atop a huge flat boulder.

I’d been warned this section was worst. It was.

But the elixir of life kept me going.

Goal #1 was the red cabin at the end of the fjord.

From there you scramble as best you can to the top of the waterfall. No trail. I was with a French couple at this point.

It was a pleasure to reach the lake and easier scrambling.

It was another beautiful day well above the Arctic Circle.

I was super happy to reach the coffin. Gorgeous views.

There’s no real reason to go on.

But everyone up there, including me, went scrambling the cliff edge.

Finally I sat down to enjoy the vista and my Mexican pizza.

Everyone but me headed up left to this peak. An easy walk-up.

I went instead for the steeper scramble to my right of the coffin.

Though there was some exposure, it was a blast.

I left a Summit Stone.

A local hiker who had been there before looped down on the closed old Reinebringen trail, avoiding the Nepali construction team.

When I saw them working far below I finally turned back, not wanting to risk rock fall.

What a fantastic hiking day.

This is why I made the long trip to the remote Lofoten Islands.

hiking the Pulpit, Norway

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles. 

  • 7.6km (4.8mi)
  • round-trip 3-4 hours plus Pulpit time
  • elevation differential 334m (1,096 ft)

Preikestolen (English: «Preacher’s Pulpit», «Preacher’s Chair» or «Pulpit Rock’») … is a steep cliff which rises 604 metres (1,982 ft) above the Lysefjorden. …

Tourism at the site has been increasing in recent years, with between 150,000 and 200,000 visitors in 2012 …

It’s crowded on a sunny day in August.

And it’s certainly going to get more crowded now that Tom Cruise was here.

If you want to have the Pulpit all to yourself, tent up there and go late evening or early morning. Tenting is legal, but not on the Pulpit itself.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

… authorities have opted not to install fencing or other safety devices as they felt it would detract from the natural beauty of the site and the fact that fatalities at the site are extremely rare …

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Up top I realized I’d left my good camcorder and tripod on my rent-a-car in the very busy parking lot. Surprise, surprise … it was still there when I got back 4 hours later.

related – Victoria’s trip report

tough hike to Kjeragbolten, Norway

trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Every hiker has seen photos of the boulder wedged into a Kjerag mountain crevasse above a Norwegian fjord.

That’s 984m (3,228ft) high. It’s a popular site for BASE jumping.

A Russian BASE jumper was walking up at the same time as myself — some like to jump close to sunset — but he kept climbing past this spot to something more exciting.

I’d never heard it was a tough hike to get there.

Here’s the start of the easiest ascent from Øygardsstølen visitors center.

It’s 4-6 hour return over beautiful rocky terrain. Some scrambling. Very slippery. There are plenty of chain assists. I used many of them even in dry weather.

By comparison I would say this is much more challenging than Half Dome in Yosemite. And there are all kinds of inexperienced tourists with poor footwear.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Surprisingly, it sounds like nobody has ever fallen to their death from Kjeragbolten. (Not counting BASE jumpers.)

The boulder is not as death defying as the photos make it look.

In fact, the scramble down a rocky creek to get there is as difficult as climbing out on to that boulder.

Kjeragbolten itself is a 5-cubic-metre (180 cu ft) glacial deposit …

It is a popular tourist destination and is accessible without any climbing equipment. …

Yes, I was pretty happy to finally get here.

If you have a fear of heights, this might not be the best hike for you.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

More photos.

Ptarmigan Cirque, Alberta

I was born in Calgary, Alberta close to Banff. If you asked me to recommend the best day hike out of the city it would be Ptarmigan Cirque.

Hike Bike Travel:

It’s a 3.6 kilometre loop (if you include the interpretive trail) with 210 metres of elevation gain. There is the option to hike a section of the scramblers trail that heads for Mt. Rae.

For a short hike it delivers a tremendous variety of scenery – including coniferous forests, high alpine meadows, mountains and waterfalls. It’s the perfect hike to take your out of town guests who want a taste of the mountains without spending a full day in them – and it’s a great one for families too. …

Ptarmigan Cirque Hike In Kananaskis Country

The trailhead is off Highwood Pass (2,206m), getting you to elevation easily.