Why Dirty Boar & the Hautes Fagnes?
The Dirty Boar story started the weekend of 16-17 April 2016. That weekend, we (Jens, Hans & Tom) headed out to the UK (Kielder Forest) to participate at the Dirty Reiver, UK's first/biggest gravelgrinder.
The Dirty Reiver turned out to be a tough ride in changing weather. But the scenery, organisation and people were so good that all the suffering was soon forgotten.
On the way back home after the event and over a few beers we decided to organise a gravel endurance ride in our home country (Belgium). Update: In 2018 we went back to the Dirty Reiver to enjoy the event again. You can find the story of our trip at RideWithGPS
It was quickly decided that the Hautes Fagnes area would be the arena for our ride as it has all the ingredients to make it a tough but rewarding gravel ride.
The Hautes Fagnes are a plateau region in the province of Liège, in the east of Belgium, between the Ardennes and the Eifel highlands. It stretches from Liège (in the west) to Germany (in the east) and the dark forested hills of the Ardennes surround the southern part. So the Hautes Fagnes are not the (h)Ardennes :-) The Hautes Fagnes are located next to the Eifel hills, which stretch east from the German border. Together they form the large Deutsch–Belgischer Naturpark. Since we are so close, our ride will probably cross the border and pay a visit to our neighbours.
The Hautes Fagnes are the largest nature reserve in Belgium. It is rich in flora and fauna, some of which have become rare and threatened. So we need to treat it with respect and care during the ride.
The highest point of the area, at 694 meters above sea level, is the Signal de Botrange near Eupen. it is also the highest point in Belgium. A stone staircase of 6 meters high was built here so that 700 meters was reached. Being such an important landmark, we will make sure we pass by. It's then up to you if you climb the stone staircase, so you can say you have really been at the highest point of Belgium. How about that for bragging rights!
We call it the Dirty Boar because, well, you (might) get dirty and the wild boar is one of the typical animals of the area.
You probably now wonder, what is the weather like over there?
Well, the Hautes Fagnes are one of the wettest and coldest parts of Belgium. It is frequently shrouded in mist and low cloud. It has a subalpine climate with strong winds and fierce winters, which are occasionally subarctic. The Fagnes plateau intercepts clouds brought by the prevailing Atlantic winds, and this results in a lot of precipitation, with an average of 1.400mm of rain per year (the average for the whole of Belgium is 750mm/year).
But don't start looking yet for gravelrides in Spain. From experience we know that the weather is usually good (in a Belgian kind of way) in September.
And if you want to ride on of our training rides, the weather is usualy acceptable from April-May until October.
Because it's one of the coldest places in Belgium (the lowest temperature recorded was −23.6 °C), the Hautes Fagnes are one of the best ski areas in Belgium. So it's fitting our departure is at the ski slope of Ovifat. In the worst case we can ski instead of ride.