Expedition hikers

Expedition hikers – hiking in extreme places and under extreme conditions, where quitting is not an option

By Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Drawing of two expedition hikers, in extreme weather
Expedition hikers, mastering the extreme

Hiking in remote locations, to the top of the highest mountains, around Alaska or across wind blasted deserts. Expedition hiking is one of the most extreme kinds of hiking. It is a place where you need to be able to survive, with what you know, and what you got, like you where out in space

Expedition grade gear

Expedition hikers care more about if their hiking gear is easy to repair and long lasting, than its weight. Expedition tents, cooking gear and clothes are much heavier, than the (as expensive) ultra light, thin stuff the ultra race hikers use.  Because expedition hikers most often can’t rely on a support team to step in and replace things, or get them out if something goes wrong.

Know-how, stamina and persistence

Expedition hikers combine a number of abilities and skills that it takes many years to master. Knowing both the techniques, the limits of the gear and the alternative options if something fails. But maybe most important, expedition hikers need to know how to keep sharp and keep going, even though the going gets worse than unbearable.  And even if it means you have to let go of what you know and what you thought you should, and were able to.

Dyke trails against extreme weather

Creating new types of hiking trails to protect us from climate change

Drawing and text by Frits Ahlefeldt

Drawing of a dyke climate coastal climate trail
Climate trails are both good for us, for taste, for biodiversity and for protecting against extreme weather and flooding

There is a lot of things to like about climate trails, they can give more people better access to nature, help thrive, health and active lifestyle and wild food can be grown along them, for everybody to enjoy. And climate trails can also stop storm surges under the extreme weather, predicted to hit coastal areas all over the world, much more often in the future

Extreme weather often means extreme water

Extreme water can come from several places

By Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Drawing of different sources of extreme water, from above, from the ground, from the sea and from inland
Flooding by extreme water from above, from inland, the ground or / and the sea

We need to know more about extreme water to protect our communities, cities and trails. Basic is that the water most often come from one or several of sources simultaneously:

  • Water from above – extreme snow and rain can flood a place sudden and fast.
  • Water from below – when water rise from the ground the result can come sudden or slow and have devastating consequences, rising ground water often cause mud-slides and even make houses pop out of the ground. Worse – there is nowhere the water can drain off to. So the effects can be long lasting and are very difficult to prevent
  • Water from the sea – Sea surges and storm floods can cause huge tsunami like waves, that can destroy and cause destruction and erosion in hours, that under normal weather would take many years
  • Water from the landscapes and rivers – places can be flooded from extreme weather days away, as rivers rise and the water start pushing through the terrain, destroying anything that stands in its way

Viking house inspiration sketch for shelter

Traditional natural architecture watercolor

House watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt

Back in time buildings was made with local materials and fitted into the landscapes like the most natural thing. This viking house is one of my inspiration watercolor sketches for taking architecture closer to nature

drawing of a small hut with grass roof
Viking house traditional architecture

Concept for solar powered vertical farming eco house

Sustainable architecture can – and need to be designed much more extreme

Drawing, concept and text by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

With more and more people on the planet we need to rethink the ways we build cities and use resources, three things that can be combined in a new generation of architecture are:

concept drawing of an extreme green building with solar power, rain water collection and vertical wall gardens
Extreme green eco building concept
  1. Solar powered roofs
    This is going mainstream with a lot of huge global companies investing money in new kind of energy collecting roofs
  2. Integrated food production
    With new technology, vertical gardens, and better monitored farming, it is possible to grow a lot of food on and around a house. The benefits are many, from saving money, getting better relationships, better health, reduced stress and reconnecting much better to our food and at the same time reduce the load we place on the rest of the planet.
  3. Using roofs to collect rain water
    This has not been much used yet in modern architecture, but it can help buffer the water flow of the cities and stop flooding, by working almost as a kind of sponge, securing water under heavy rain and extreme weather, and then slowly releasing the water, for plant and food growth.

Concept sketch of one of a billion ways a green house could look

Here is just a fast concept sketch where I work with how these three elements, solar roofs, water collection and growing food might be combined

Drawing of a green eco house with solar cells, water reservoir and vertical gardens
Combining solar power, water collection, food growing and social space in architecture

Finding new ways of designing houses and cities is part of the work to take pressure of the landscapes to help thrive, biodiversity and sustainability at the same time

Daydreaming up radical sustainable architecture

Sometimes my concepts for eco-futuristic new building types looks weird

Sketching up sustainable cities, between the hiking trails
Concept, idea and text / drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Not really sure how I came up with this, wanted to integrate an urban farming idea, with a water-reservoir / pool, using the water from the roof, and then feeding a cascade of water running down the side of the building to make it more self sufficient in providing its own food… because if the cities can provide more of their own food, the surrounding landscapes can be used for other things 🙂 

Drawing of a radical green urban eco house by Frits ahlefeldt
Urban farming concept with its own rainwater supplied pool

Urban sidewalk gardening

Making cities more walkable by growing food along the sidewalks

When locals take over the sidewalks and start growing free flowers and food the whole city can be transformed and the importance of the sidewalks raised to a whole new level, producing food, herbs and flowers, as well as becoming a new generator of thrive and communication between locals and visitors

Text and free drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Drawing of growing food along the sidewalks in the cities
Urban sidewalk food is free garden

Read more about the “Foodisfree” movement on their Facebook page

Fishermen in the old inn

Sketching up spaces you can find yourself in on a coastal hike

Ink drawing and text by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

One of the special things about coastal hiking is to enter into the old, small fishing villages and meet worlds unchanged and thriving, like a hundreds year ago, one of them is often the old sailors pub.

Ink drawing of sailors in an old pub
Ink sketch of fishermen in the old inn

To be colored up with watercolors… Part of drawings about coastal communities and their many special places

Watercolor notes from an old coastal community

Ertholmene watercolor sketches

Ertholmene is a tiny, ancient coastal community, behind old canons and gigantic granite fortification walls, on some very, very small islands, out in harsh climate, situated in the middle of the Baltic Sea, half way between Scandinavia, Russia, Poland and Germany

Watercolors and text by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

I went out to the Ertholmene islands with my watercolors and tent to study the trails, walls, old stone cottages and a very, very special place:

The Ertholmene exploration is part of my Danish Coastal Hiking Trail project

Here are some of the watercolors so far:

Watercolor of ChristiansOe fort, ertholmene, Baltic Sea
Watercolor sketch Ertholmene, Baltic Sea
Traditional Herring Fish Smokehouses on Ertholmene
Traditional Herring Fish Smokehouses on Ertholmene
Old Defense tower with Canons, Ertholmene, called: "Little Tower"
Old Defense tower with Canons, Ertholmene, called: “Little Tower”
Watercolor of small granite stone cottage on Ertholmene ( Christiansoe )
Classic old granite cottage, Ertholmene

From car park to National park. A storytelling idea

Making wild nature and hiking trails visible in urban reality through placing scale models

By Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Could we “park”  models of national and local nature parks, in parking lots, to help people connect to them?


drawing of a car sized nature model in a car lot
Idea for an art-project: placing scale models of close by national parks in car lots

 Today most city and urban people see a lot of car parks and very few national parks… so I wondered: Could we move small scale models of the national and wildlife parks right into the car parks, to show people a different place to go to, tell stories about and to relate to?

The idea is simply to make car sized scale models of the national parks and place them in parking lots, mall centers, city squares etc. So when people went shopping or went to work in the city they would pass by these 3D models of very different natural worlds and be able to see how they can be hiked and enjoyed… and then they would start to talk about and to relate, first to the models and then to the real thing…

A lot of scale models of cities, historical quarters etc. all-ready exist. But as we today live in cities and need to strengthen our understanding of nature and the landscapes, the idea is to take this tradition of building small models of worlds, and extend it to models of national parks, placed in an urban context to make nature visible even in the middle of towns.

In mountain areas you can often find such models of the mountains with trails shown.  Hikers and locals use them both to understand the landscapes better, to see where they have been and to remember, to tell stories, give advice and connect their experiences to the different locations.

What could be great to do is to take these nature scale models and place them in the cities, so people can see how close and connected we often are to nature and the trails just outside town.

The models could be made of wood, bronze or other material and maybe even have the different places, villages and scenic points drawn up and secured by a clear coating. People would be able to explore them, meet around them and they would stand out both as sculptures and as a new kind of map connecting us better to nature outside the cities and malls.

For a second or a minute people could stop in front of the model and daydream / plan following very different, rough mountain and coastal trails in real life…  Or when they came back from the hike, they could go over to the model to remember and recall the experiences, maybe together with friends or family that have yet to see these places, to tell the stories and help them head out themselves.

The idea is to find new ways  to spark and tell stories of how we can connect and relate to nature, the trails and landscapes, even from inside cities.

Walking to a landmark and back trails

Connecting cities with special places

Drawing and note by Frits Ahlefeldt

drawing of a hiking trail to a lighthouse
Connecting the cities of tomorrow to special places along hiking trails

There is something special about heading out of town on foot, to head for one of those places, where the “feeling” of a place is very strong.  Places like lighthouses, old castle or church ruins, temples, mountain tops, waterfalls, legendary trees, views and caves etc. all qualify

These trails are one of the great trail archetypes and many cities have several of these walking pivotal points close by, just waiting to be explored much more.  The challenge is often for the city planners and trail designers to open their eyes to how important this is and find and create good walking trails to connect the people in the cities to these magical places.

When it happens it can empower people and create thrive and a feeling of identity in the cities in very strong ways.

The reality of hiking trails vs resorts

When out hiking reality often change, in resorts… not so much

Text and CreativeCommons By-NC-ND drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Drawing of a backpacker looking at a resort
Hiking versus Resorts

When hiking you see the places you pass through from many perspectives, from the mountains, the forests and endless beaches, but often when hiking, you also see the industrial areas surrounding the cities, the clear-cut forest areas, the mines, the falling apart farm buildings and the old car wrecks, you pass through the poor fishing villages and the forgotten mountain monasteries, where visitors seldom come, because there are no smooth roads leading the buses to them

When hiking you get to be part of a reality that most often is free and can be shared by everybody. Even the poorest can afford to walk, and they can do it as well as all the rest.

When we walk we all share the experiences literally on “equal footing”, no matter background and bank-account.

The resorts are a different experience,  they are most often illusions carefully designed, build and run as bulletproof comfort-zones, to please those who are rich enough to afford them, most often at grave costs to the rest… So next time you want to go somewhere for real: pick a hiking trail, not a resort, and bring a backpack, not a Pina Colada… 😉

Hiking trails in green cities

Thinking inside the Box for a Change

Designing sustainable urban environment has long been a challenge, but by making walking the starting point of the design of new architecture and re-designs in the huge cities, we can start thinking up very different and much greener cities… simply by starting with the connections instead of the buildings

CreativeCommons drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Drawing of a nature architecture cityscape, with design from boxes
Green hiking city – thinking inside the box, for a change

Hiking trails or roads?

Walking vs driving drawing

CreativeCommons drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Sometimes it is as simple as what you do is what you get, so if this is the view from the driver seat of your car and you don’t like it, be part of the solution, instead of the problem… get out and walk instead 🙂 

Make a change, start walking instead. CreativeCommons By-ND Drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt
Make a change, start walking instead. CreativeCommons By-ND Drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt


The smart city is walkable

Rethinking the reversed reality of the city

CreativeCommons drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Drawing of a hiker, standing in nature, looking at a reversed city
It’s time to reverse the city back into context

One of the largest challenges ahead is how to put the growing cities back into the landscapes, making them a natural part of nature. Hiking trails is a unique way of doing this and our technology might soon be so advanced that we don’t need to surround ourselves with an ever growing amount of cars, offices and clumsy machinery to connect and thrive anymore

One of the things you learn on long distance hiking trails is how little you need of machinery to thrive… You can do just fine without a dishwasher, tumble dryer, wide screen TV, Vacuum cleaner, electrical toilet brush, microwave… this and 15 pair of shoes

But hiking is also changing, as more and more hikers connect to digital spaces online, while hiking. Spaces that we can use to keep updated and connected to our network of friends, no matter how far away from the cities and each other we are. Maybe these virtual places can, in strange ways, give everybody the freedom to walk away from the reversed reality in the artificial steel and concrete cocoons of industrial city architecture.

Connecting the smart city to nature

Could it be that we are at the edge of creating a new city, architectural and dwelling logic, that combine new use of technology with new shared understandings? And that these new understandings can work as pathways to reconnect better, both to each other and to nature – and that hikers are already doing this?

Maybe this is not even a new understanding at all, but an ancient understanding… the nomadic understanding of doing more with less, of walking together, while dwelling on a path of stories, relationships and connections.

Putting the cities back into context

How well you can walk in and out of a city and how good, safe and healthy this walk feels, is a very good indicator for how well a city is to live and be in. And this logic also work the other way around so when you reverse the cities back to be better and more exciting to walk in, and connect them better to the landscapes around them, you create better, healthier and smarter cities for all.

Free texted version of the drawing (no changes please) 🙂