So this spring I did something I haven’t done in years, 18 to be exact. I went hiking with a group of people. And of all the people I know, I went with my highschool gang of friends. Women who have mildly teased me about my love of the outdoors and my geeky fascination about hiking gear, for more than ten years. Suddenly out of the blue, possibly influenced by a few glasses of red wine, they not I suggest we should all go hiking together. Texts are sent out to the girls who are not with us at the time, I secretly doubt that this will still seem like “the greatest idea ever!” in the morning when the wine infused optimism has left the system. But to my great delight they are still keen after coffee the next day and responses from the remaining two friends come back very positive. So appearently we are now going hiking together… Cue dread on my part when I realize I’m now responsible for planning and making sure that their first experience of hiking is positive, safe and exciting. Luckily it’s fall and I’m the only one with gear that can manage winter temps in our area, we’re definetly not going winter hiking for their first experience of hiking. So a trip in spring is planned, we doodle, we message back and forth, a weekend at the end of march is agreed on. And then alas something comes up, and now the trip is planned for april, and I’m secretly quite happy because winter drags out longer than anticipated and I’ve been watching the weather forecast and some nights it’s double digits freezing temps and oh my god, oh my god… oh my god… And now it’s april and we’re all meating at the central station after work and we’re going. Weather should be above freezing at night and sunny during the day and I feel confident.. somewhat confident at least 🙂
Söderåsen, which translates as the southern ridge, is… well it’s a ridge or a number of ridges that stretch across the landscape and look quite stark in the otherwise predominantly flat landscape of southern Sweden. In addition it is one of the largest uninterrupted expanses of protected leaf shedding forest in northern europe.
What this all translates into for us city dwelling people of Copenhagen, Denmark – a country so pancake flat we call a hill that rises only 147m(482ft) above the sea Himmelbjerget (Sky mountain). Himmelbjerget incidedentally is also the name of the place where Bifrost the rainbow bridge that connects the realm of the gods with earth ends. Now I don’t know about you, but I personally imagine that a mountain would have to be a bit taller than 147m to reach into the skies and connect us mere mortals to the gods. But then I’m not a believer and maybe a magic rainbow bridge can be as long as it has to be 😉
What I’m trying to get at here, is that Söderåsen offers quite the wilderness experience for the average Dane and is very easy to get to from Copenhagen, at a reasonable price. It’s not quite the Alps, but then again nothing is. It is however a perfect weekend getaway and a great way of introducing people to hiking. You get the illusion of wilderness while never being too far from a train/bus ride home if things go sideways.
It took us a little under two hours to get to Kvidinge station and cost us 123dkk(14,7₤/16,5€/19$) one way. Prices depend on time of day and what kind of tickets you get.
Maps and navigation
Söderåsen is part of Skåneleden, specifically the part called Ås – Åsleden. They offer plenty of info on the different stages/sections of the trail. Where you’ll find campsites, water, maps and more.. An alternative to the Skåneleden site is going straight to the source and printing out maps from the national mapping service site www.lantmateriet.se. Like the two other Scandinavian countries they offer free printable maps of the entire country. I myself have in later years shifted from paper maps to having the route on my phone, using a combination of the app Maps.me and the routing site Gpsies. But I still double/triple check routes on the official site and at Läntmateriet.
Normally I’d have chosen to start our hike from Åstorp the small town in the top left corner. But it’s spring so we’re a bit limited on time before the sun sets and I’d really prefer to get to the shelter before dark. I don’t want to scare away the newbies 😉 So instead we take the train one more stop to Kvidinge and walk the 4km(2,5miles) to the first shelter. Which is situated near what I gather is a scouting hut, which is also where the outhouse and a water tap is located. Considering we’re carrying not only beer and wine, but also whiskey, whip cream, sour cream and a kilo of chili sin carne ready to reheat, it’s probably a good thing that we’re taking the shorter route.
The setting sun make for some very nice lighting during our short evening stroll. And the mood among the group is positive, smeared with a bit nervous excitement, mostly on my part. I desperately want them to have a good time.
There’s a couple at the shelter already, sleeping bags rolled out and everything. We’ve not brought tents, I wasn’t really expecting to see anyone out this early in the season, but then I’d planned for late march and we’re now two weeks into april and the weather has been absolutely stunning the last week. We can just about squeeze the five of us in beside the two of them. But they’ve brought a tent and I get the sense they would actually rather be alone than spoon with the five of us. I feel slightly like we’ve chased them out of the shelter and try to offer them a beer to make up for it, no takers.
So we crack open our box wine, which is now just a misshaped bladder stuffed to the outside of one rucksack, reheat or chili sin carne, and settle in for the night. Hygge is definetly happening even if one of the girls has come out sans sleeping mat. I’ve got two extra at home – how could this have happened? We drink Irish coffee and when my sleeping mat deflates during the night I hardly notice, apparently all I need is a good pillow and a bit of alcohol.
Is going to be our longest day at about 20km(12-13miles). I’ve hiked for so many years by myself not taking breaks, just motoring on trying to get in as many kilometers as I can, challenging myself to press on just a little bit further. That I feel very unsure how much is too much for someone new to hiking. The terrain is not too challenging but the trail rises and falls quite a lot. Is 20km too much? We’re all young and healthy, some of us are quite fit, I cycle 80-120km strecthes with two of the girls on a semi-regular basis. Everyone cycles to work obviously, we’re all capable, but not all us workout equally much. I find myself offering to carry more and more of the food and beer, why did we bring so many beers, what were we thinking.
Despite my worrying, everyone seems to be doing fine, joking around, drinking coffee and eating oatmeal spiced up with pieces of banana and slices of apple that I’ve dried in the dehydrator, oh and someone has brought dates and raisins, what a feast.
We get going a bit later than what I would’ve liked, worrying as I am about the distance we need to cover. But really everything is absolutely fine, everyone is having fun, nothing to worry about. Except now I’m worrying that I’m slowly turning into my father, micromanaging our summer holidays and getting stress induced headaches in the process.
The weather really is exceptionally fine this morning, not two weeks ago snow was still covering the whole of northern Zealand and now I feel like I should’ve brought shorts it’s so hot out.
I’ve divided the day into two, first stretch involves a bit gravel road through farmland and forrest before really getting into Söderåsen and meeting our first views of the ravines when we hit klöva hallar. That’s the squiggly bit on the right side of the map below. Lunch is planned for next shelter at Krika skog where there is also supposed to be access to a water pump/tap. Temperatures sore as we near midday and everyone is running low on water. I have of course brought water purification pills, but they taste a bit iffy and there should be water at Krika skog so we ration our water. Along the route we meet and talk to the couple from last night and everyone takes time to enjoy the views. I make the apparent mistake of telling one of the girls the exact milage of the day and how far along the route we’ve come, and am jokingly told by another that this was a mistake, she should never be given exact numbers, but always lured on with vage indications that maybe we’re almost there. They all laugh at this. I may have known these girls since highschool, but at times like these I’m reminded that they’ve known each other since their first day of school. Maybe not so much has changed since childhood excursions and asking if “we’re there already, I’m thirsty… my feet hurt”. Well some things have changed, I’m not grasping someones sweaty palm lest I should wander off, and I’m having beer for lunch today, because the water tap has run dry and we need what’s left of our water for cooking.
Lunch, served today with a side of luke warm beer, is vegetarian instant rice noodle packs with powdered coconut milk and a soy/siracha mixture I’ve brought along in a oversize eyedripper bottle. Everyone is chuffed. Packs and backs are drying in the sun, shoes are off and people are generally relaxing and having a good time. We might just make it out of here in high spirits after all.
After lunch we fill up on water at the next creek crossing and I dump purifying pills into everyones bottles. Crisis averted.
We power on through the afternoon, moving ever deeper into the forest, taking a short rest break for snacks and coffee. And then, just before our feet start hurting and when the skies start turning a bit grey threatening rain, we reach our destination Klåverödsdammen. A smal odly shaped lake where we jokingly talked about skinny dipping when temps were supposed to be freezing. Around this lake there are not one but two shelters. And just to the south at a really very small lake Svartesjö there is even a third shelter. And yet all three are in use, I’ve never met this many people when out hiking before now, what is the meaning of this madness. At the first shelter two fellow Danes have rolled out there sleeping mats, but this shelter is huge and theres more than enough room for them and the five of us. Besides, the second shelter is taken by a group of pre-teen scouts and their troop leader, not a better alternative to say the least. The shelter by Svartesjö is quite small, so we wouldn’t fit, with two people already there. I left the girls at the first shelter and ran around the lake to check the other two. Sweaty and no closer to solitude we roll out our sleeping gear and start dinner just as it starts raining softly. The light is fading and our fire whilst quite feisty when you consider it’s raining, is smoking quite a lot, so we give up and move under cover in the shelter.
Dinner is a thick filling tomato and lentil soup, intense powerful tomato flavour served with pasta, sour cream and Parmesan cheese. No one is going to bed hungry on this hike.
We play cards and share out whiskey, wine, beer and apparently port, when did we agree to bring port. The two men, father and son, are training for a summer hike in one of the Northern Norwegian or Swedish national parks, I don’t remember which, either way they are wild and rough and I’m sure it’ll be quite the adventure. I talk with them about lightweight alternatives, they’re working to lighten their packs. The son is a cook and very envious of my dehydrator, he might get one so they can loose the canned goods at least.
I wake before the rest, I know I won’t be able to get back to sleep, so I slip out of my sleeping bag and go for a walk around the lake. All night the rain has poured down outside the shelter and now the I’ve woken to some mythical damp, drenched and foggy forest covered in green moss, boulders and red leaves. Everything is washed out eerie and very beautiful.
I set up for morning coffee and everyone gets up at their own pace, we enjoy the silence and the view of the lake, the far end swallowed up by the fog.
Today we’re hiking the most scenic part of Söderåsen. You could say I’ve saved the best for last. This whole hike is designed to sway the rest of the group into loving hiking. We’ve done cosy camp life with lots of food and drink, we’ve done the hard day of hiking but we survived, and now comes the wow factor. A short hike over some relatively tough terrain, hiking down ravines alongside a river and up the side of another for some great views. And I’ve arranged so we’ll end up at the restaurant at the bottom for a hot meal, real toilets and a swift bus ride to the nearest trainstation and then home to civilization.
Down, down and up, up, up and then once more down to the bottom of the ravine at Skäralid. And in between a completely saturated landscape a little extra wild this morning due to the rain and the fog hanging over the park.
We’ve lots of time so we take in the views and savour our last bit of nature.
Spoiler alert! I know my charm offensive has worked, we’ve already set a date for another hike, they’re hooked. But of course why wouldn’t they be – hiking is great 🙂 Next up a summer hike, who knows this time we might actually get to swim a bit. Maybe a hike by the sea this time.