I’ve got a secret for all you long-distance hikers, mountaineers and expedition seekers. A real insider tip from my home area…
As long as time can remember, the 50 majestic peaks surrounding the Villgratental valley have formed a beautiful heart shape. But it wasn’t until December 1988, that two East Tirol mountaineers made the first ascent and hiked around the mountains’ romantic ridges. With 5500-meters of altitude in the ascent alone, 100-km of hiking to cover and 50 peaks to summit, it was by no means an easy feat but, with the expedition accomplished, a new route was born. The original high-altitude route is un-signposted and is still considered a secret amongst climbing circles – reserved for experienced alpinists, it’s a technical and physically demanding route which involves challenging rock faces and difficult climbs.
The Ace of Hearts tour:
Twenty years after the first ascent, a signposted trail that’s suitable for all abilities has been created: the Ace of Hearts Tour. Broken down into six daily stages, the route guides you through forests, meadows and high alpine terrain, following the heart-shaped collection of mountains around the Villgratental valley. What makes this tour so special is that each stage follows particular theme. For example: During Stage 1 – Alp Way: from Außervillgraten and Reiterstube – you pass beautiful Alpine pastures which give outstanding views of the Villgratental valley; and during Stage 5 – Border Land: Limestone and Innervillgraten – you hike along the border of neighbouring South Tirol, with a magnificent panorama of the Sesto Dolomites. A detailed description of all stages can be found at www.hochpustertal.com.
The Ace of Hearts Tour takes you through rare and unspoilt countryside; it’s a treat for anyone who loves seclusion and wants to experience a true mountain paradise which fills every one of your senses. Even better, each stage returns to the valley at the end of each day, where a great choice of traditional restaurants and accommodation awaits – the perfect end to a day on the trail.
The Ace of Hearts Tour has been carefully planned for hikers who wish to walk without a guide. However, if you’d prefer to enlist the help of a local expert, expect your days to be enriched with the fascinating folk stories of the Villgratental – of which there are plenty.
The Villgratental is also the ideal starting point for countless summit hikes, to peaks below 3000-meters, and there’s a good variety of choice for all abilities. Many of the footpaths and huts in the Außervillgraten area are managed by Austrian Alpine Club, and so are well maintained with huts subject to strict criteria regarding originality, tradition and culture.
I hope my blog post has enticed you to come and experience this unique long-distance hiking trail for yourself, or to explore some of the many other hiking routes my home area has to offer. Come and visit Villgrater, where we have nothing but a pristine landscape of 50 fantastic peaks that make for an unforgettable mountain experience.