Summits as far as the eye can see… This is one of the best meadow-traversing, ridge-walking, view-granting hikes along the Venediger High Trail, bringing you close to prominent peaks such as Hoher Eicham, Großer and Kleiner Hexenkopf, Säulkopf and Rauhkopf. Sure, the terrain is rugged. And yes, the trail has some steep ups and downs. But the tread is good, the vertical suffering short-lived and the scenery gorgeous. Culminating on a ridge named Eselsrücken, literally, ‘the back of a donkey’, the hike gives a panoramic payoff of jagged peaks and emerald ridges that will leave you momentarily paralyzed. From the ridge, it’s a short walk down to Bonn-Matreier-Hütte Hut, a beautiful shingle-clad shelter that is your base for the night.
A rewarding one hour walk takes you from Eissee Hut to Eissee Lake, a pristine and clear Alpine lake flanked by rocky peaks. Wrapped in stunning scenery, Bonn-Matreier-Hut sits on a ridge of the southern flank of Eicham Range. One of the finest viewing outposts in the area, the hut will leave your head spinning as you try to identify a seemingly infinite array of peaks spread out before you: from close-ups of Lasörling Range all the way to the Dolomites and Schober Range. If the weather is clear, you’ll even have wonderful views of 2,864-metre Triglav, Slovenia’s tallest mountain.
Peak baggers may want to nab the pinnacle of 3,371-metre Hoher Eicham Peak; the trail furiously works its way up to the top of Hoher Eicham from Bonn-Matreier-Hut. Noted for being one of the most striking Three-Thousanders of Venediger Range, with four ridges spreading in all directions, grade II-III climbing and rock scrambling awaits intrepid ones. The climb from the hut to the summit takes some 3.5 hours to complete.
From Eissee Hut, descend a few metres to get to the signpost of the Venediger High Trail, heading left to the eastern slopes of Timmeltal Valley. The traverse of Hexenkopf Peak’s southwest ridge follows an easy contour; then you will tackle the west ridge of Hoher Eicham Peak. After a pleasant and almost level first section, get down to business. Climbing steeply, the trail furiously works its way up the west flank of Wunwand, assisted by stone steps and a fixed anchoring system of cables. The trail switchbacks up, traversing a tussock slope on its one-kilometre way to Wunwand’s southwest ridge. In this area, a trail branches off to Wallhornalm Alpine Pasture Hut in Timmeltal Valley; the High Trail, however, continues along a tussock slope south of Wunwand and rounds a minor spur of Wunspitze’s south ridge. Another 30-minute climb takes you to a niche; slightly above the trail divides, running left to Obere Wunalm and right to Untere Wunalm. The route of the Venediger High Trail runs high above Virgental Valley. The way eases, then climbs again, this time to mount the ridge of Eselsrücken, which is the gateway to Großes Niltal Valley. A sharp little gully has to be descended in 15 switchbacks, below which you go down to a boulder field, crossing rivulets of Nilkees Glacier. From here, the trail reveals Bonn-Matreier-Hut that is your destination. A well-maintained trail, beautifully crafted with stone steps, brings you to this stately shingle-clad shelter that is renowned for serving hearty specialties, which are perfect to gather new strength after the efforts of the day.