Another Marathon Trek, Another Giant Pack: Louis-Philippe Loncke Returns

Belgian adventurer Louis-Philippe Loncke has completed his latest giant backpack adventure, a 623km trek across the heart of the French Alps. Loncke hiked the alpine section of the Grande Randonnée 5 (GR5) trail without outside support in just under 24 days.

Starting in the French resort city of Nice in mid-July, Loncke traced a line north over 34,200m of elevation gain to the shores of Lake Geneva. Along the way, the Belgian took in several summits and passes that are well known to fans of the Tour de France, such as the Col du Galibier (2,642m), and the Col de la Colombière (1,613m).

Map of the Grande Traversee Des Alpes, the alpine section of the GR5 trail

The route. Image: Louis-Philipe Loncke


Pack schlepper extraordinaire

In recent years, Loncke has made a name by heaving a heavy pack along established trails such as the Kungsleden, and across the Pyrenees. Although routine hikes for the experienced backpacker, Loncke takes on the added difficulty of shunning outside support and traveling with everything he needs in his behemoth pack.

Mont Blanc catches some evening light

Mont Blanc catches some evening light. Photo: Louis-Philippe Loncke


This year was no different, as the Belgian adventurer left Nice with a payload of 34kg, 18.5kg of which was food. That’s relatively light for Loncke, who schlepped 62kg across Tasmania in 2018. Perhaps most impressive, Loncke managed to demolish 72 Clif bars over this most recent trek. Even the most ardent lover of energy bars will surely recognize these rolled oat bricks serve better as a construction material than for replenishing a hungry hiker.

A backpacking resting on the ground with alpine mountains the background

The pack hiding 72 Clif bars. Photo: Louis-Philipe Loncke


It wasn’t all plain sailing for the experienced Loncke. After only four days, the shoulder strap on his pack broke, which he promptly lashed back in place with some string. A couple of days later, a tent peg sliced open one of the walls of his tent in heavy winds.

Perhaps more debilitating, yet somewhat humorous to imagine, was the fact that Loncke had to re-inflate his air mattress every 30 minutes throughout the night, after it punctured somewhere along the journey.

Loses six kilos

After 24 days on the trail, Loncke had lost six kilos in weight and one toenail, and must be in need of a good teeth cleaning. The experienced Belgian is a slave to weight saving. He shunned both toothbrush and toothpaste for the best part of a month.

Louis-Philippe Loncke pictured with moody mountains in the background

Loncke fully loaded on the trail. Photo: Louis-Philippe Loncke


The irrepressible adventurer — and his obviously steely spine — remains undeterred by monster pack long-distance hiking. (Leo Houlding, take note.) He already has in mind an unsupported crossing of Iceland in winter as a future objective.

Ash Routen

Ash Routen is a writer for ExplorersWeb. He has been writing about Arctic travel, mountaineering, science, camping, hiking, and outdoor gear for 7 years. As well as ExplorersWeb, he has written for Gear JunkieRed Bull, Outside, The Guardian, and many other outlets. Based in Leicester, UK, Routen is an avid backpacker and arctic traveler who writes about the outdoors around a full-time job as an academic.