Climbing Mount Vodno
Out and About Around Skopje, Part I
Although North Macedonia’s capital Skopje has a population of over 600,000, you can still find some peace and quiet close to the city. Two natural attractions are right on the doorstep: Mount Vodno and Matka Canyon. And if you choose to visit them in the middle of winter, you pretty much get them to yourself. I did, and I did.
The 1066 metre high snow-covered Mount Vodno lies to the south-west of Skopje, and provides an impressive backdrop to the city. Rugged up and carrying a daypack with water and food, I set off one bracingly cold winter’s morning to the walk the 45-odd minutes to the foot of the mountain.
Seperating and wrapping your recycling is a good thing to do, and you might also provide a street dog with an insulated and comfy place to sleep
Leaving busy inner Skopje behind I soon reached the leafy southern ‘burbs, and upon arriving at the base of Vodno, I came across a helpful information board. It included a map and details about each of the different routes up the mountain. It also provided these useful tips:
I wasn’t sure whether the first piece of advice was meant as a general rule for healthy living, or whether rangers at Mount Vodno consistently came across people on the track who had paused for a break and then forgotten how to walk.
I decided to keep it in mind during my time on Vodno, just to be on the safe side. Keen to improve the overall physical and psychological condition of my personal organism, I picked a route and started the ascent.
After about 40 minutes of steady climbing through forest and light snowcover I reached Middle Vodno, possibly named as it is about half way up the mount.
From this point, which is also accessible by car, there is a chairlift that runs the rest of the way to the top (presumably to cater for those who decided to have break at Middle Vodno in order to ‘hydrate and eat food rich in carbohydrates’ and then promptly forgot how to walk). From Middle Vodno the snow got deeper, and I had the mountain to myself.
‘Hansel,’ she said, ‘we cannot stay here. We must escape now, today, into the woods!’
Although I wasn’t far from Skopje, I felt a million miles away from the bustle of the city. An hour and a half later, I reached the top, and the view was a ripper.
There were a few Macedonians up on the summit enjoying the view, and kids zipping down little slopes on their toboggans. I wandered around for a while, taking in all the alpine-ness, then found a sunny spot for lunch. Despite the warmth of the winter sun the wind was a bastard, and it was pretty cold sitting still. After a quick bite I got moving again, taking a different route back down the mountain.
Risking mobility amnesia
Apart from falling on my arse after slipping on the track’s icy, compacted snow, the descent was uneventful. I met a dog and its owner on the way down, the pup charging through the snow sending it flying in all directions. I thought a dog could not be happier than when it’s chasing a ball, but now I reckon a run through the snow is possibly the best fun a dog can possibly have.
Climbing Mount Vodno was definitely a highlight of my time in Skopje. Solo remote hiking in mid-winter has its obvious challenges, so a day walk close to town where you still get the sense of peace that only nature can provide is a nice alternative.
I’m off to explore Matka Canyon next, so I’ll let you know what I find.
See more about Mount Vodno here
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