Made it, Ma: Top of the World!

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In terms of drama, scale and majestic beauty, few areas in Europe can rival the Italian Dolomites

"Rasciesa trail along the Italian Dolomites in Val Gardena"

For us, one way of rating the quality of our hikes is simply to count the number of pictures that we have brought home.

On some of our hikes in the past, we have made no more than 20 or 30 shots, sometimes with half of them showing the same motive – a lake or a particularly picturesque water mill, let’s say. After hikes like that, it can be difficult to pick the six or seven photos that are the bare minimum for a viable post – and to find something meaningful to say about them, too.

At the other end of the scale, there are hikes that leave us simply speechless, but for the exact opposite reason.

Read also: The Hub of the Dolomites

From our first hike in the Val Gardena of the Dolomites, we brought home at least 200 pictures, and is rare to find two shots that closely resemble one another.

How can one convey all these impressions with a dozen picks and as many paragraphs? One can’t – not only because there have been so many impressions, but also because they were so rich in variety, ranging from picture-postcard views of Alpine villages …

"Ortisei in Val Gardena in the Italian Dolomites"

… and alpine farms …

"An alpine farm up on the Rasciesa trail in Val Gardena"

… via impressions from the “lowlands” with their lush mixed-forest vegetation …

"A forest in Val Gardena, in South Tyrol"

… and from the “prairies” beyond the tree line (an altitude of around 2000 metres) …

"A prairie high up in the South Tyrol, Italian Dolomites"

… to breathtaking panoramas featuring views of different mountains (this one shows the Langkofel, the Sassolungo, that tops the 3000 meter mark) …

"Langkofel peeking through the clouds in the Italian Dolomites in South Tyrol"

… and rock formations like the Geisslerspitzen. (The sky was slightly overcast on the day of our hike, which is not unusual in the Alps, certainly not in the autumn. Still, we could see two of the Geisslerspitzen’s “four tops” – not the whole Motown bill, but enough to make us happy all the same.)

"Geisslerspitzen rock formation in the Italian Dolomites"

And finally, the climax of our trip: impressions from the (particularly graphic) gipfelkreuz – the “summit cross” – on top the mountain that we actually climbed ourselves …

"Gipfelkreuz in the Rasciesa trail in the Italian Dolomites"

… the Raschötz (Rasciesa), 2283 m high, a proper Alpine peak. (Please note that we did this without any oxygen mask, artificial stimulants or help from sherpas. Are you watching, Reinhold Messner?)

Our hike had been organized by the guides of Hotel Adler, who also led our 50-strong-party up the summit and back, but there is no reason why you should not be able to do this on your own.

"Pauli, Thaddaeus, Verena in the Italian Dolomites hike"

Pauli, Thaddäus and Verena: hiking guides for Hotel Adler Dolomiti, premier hiking hotel in Val Gardena

Just take the Mountain Lift (make sure to take the right lift, the one labelled Raschötz/Rasciesa: there are two others in town!), riding it all the way up to an altitude of 2093 metres, and then follow hiking trail no. 35 before making a left turn into trail no. 31 at the intersection.

Continue straight from here all the way to the Radschötz summit (which is marked by the cross), pay a visit (a few steps down) to the Chapel of the Holy Cross …

"Chapel of the Holy Cross on Radschötz summit in the Italian Dolomites"

… and make your way to the cabin, where, during the hiking season, you can have a light meal or a drink. (They will even serve you an espresso, although it may not have the full-bodied taste of a proper Italian coffee: you cannot produce the right amount of water pressure at this altitude.)

From the Rasciesa cabin, take route no. 35 back to the mountain lift. You can decide now either to take the lift down or, if you still have enough oxygen in your pack, to walk all the way back – in which case, you should follow route no. 9 and later route no. 5 straight to St Ulrich.

Read also: The Hills are Alive

Where those two routes meet, at roughly the half-way point of the descent, you will find the intermediate station of another mountain lift, the one up the Seceda, where you can change your mind if your tired legs (and knees: the way down is rather steep at times) make you regret that you did not take the lift option at the top station of the Raschötz lift.

Except for the descent, the trail is easy, without steep or long climbs, and excellently marked throughout – in red and white, always indicating the number of the trail you are on.

"Clear trail markers on the Radschötz trail in the Dolomites in South Tyrol"

Up on the mountain, you will find a dense network of different trails that frequently intersect, so you can vary your itinerary and invent your own route.

Just be aware that some of the trails may be more physically taxing than others – and do not forget that the high Alps are, in general, a hostile environment. Do not even think of going for a walk in the mountains without enough water, a rain jacket – and, above all, a proper map.

This is just one of the hikes that are organised by Hotel Adler Dolomiti, the premier hiking hotel in Val Gardena, for their guests. We were fortunate to have been invited by the hotel to experience the wide range of services they offer active holiday makers like us. It is worth mentioning here that around 80% of visitors in Hotel Adler Dolomiti are returning guests who, like us, have found the services it offers to be faultless.

Don’t miss our report on the next guided hike we took. Get our free updates via email, or follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.

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