Planning A Hiking Trip To the Ortler

The Ortler, photo by John Mason

The Ortler mountain, or ‘King Ortles’ as it’s known by mountaineers and folklorists, is one of the most impressive mountains in the eastern Alps. With its peak being 3905 m above sea level, it’s the highest mountain in the Italian province of Tyrol. The Ortler towers above the other mountains in the Ortler Range, and offers some of the most impressive views. So it’s definitely one you want to conquer.

As any keen mountaineer will know though, with such an impressive mountain comes the opportunity not just for breath-taking views, but for extreme adventure. Whether that be killer hikes, summer climbing, or winter skiing, the Ortler is a great destination for any passionate mountaineer.

Villages on and around the Ortler

There are a couple of different villages and towns around the mountain that make good starting points for hikes. These towns and villages are also where you can expect to find some of the best accommodation whilst visiting the mountain. If you are looking for fine hotel, these are worth checking out:

Stelvio Residence is located there, where nature has still preserved its authenticity: in the village of Trafoi, within the Stelvio Natural Park, with a breathtaking view of an amphitheater of the most beautiful and impressive mountains in South Tyrol / Südtirol: the Ortles group which geologically belongs to the "Engadine Dolomites". Hotel Meublè Sertorelli Reit , a few steps from the center , from the ski facilities and the Bormio thermal baths , is the solution for those who want a B & B in Bormio welcoming and private. A pleasant and refined atmosphere, thanks also to the modern interior design , to the use of woods, stone, lights and soft colors, will help to make your stay unforgettable. Hotel Nives is located directly in the village center of Sulden am Ortler at 1,900 meters above sea level , at the foot of the highest mountain in South Tyrol, making it your ideal starting point for skiing in winter and hiking in summer. In winter , the free ski shuttle stops in front of our hotel and takes you to the ski lift, 500 meters away, and in summer you can start your hikes directly from Hotel Nives


Trafoi Village Trafoi Photo by iLMeteo

The village of Trafoi is a truly idyllic location, situated at the foot of the Ortler. With a population of only 90 people, it’s a great place to stay if you’re looking for somewhere quiet and remote, where you can relax after a day of adventure.

It’s a great base for those looking to fit in as many hikes or winter sports as possible during their stay. It’s the starting point for many of the most popular hikes around the Ortler, and it even has its own ski area, making it the perfect place to visit if you’re into winter sports.

During the summer, people also enjoy cycling around the area, especially on the Stelvio Pass Road which can be easily reached from Trafoi.

So whilst the village may be small, its ideal location and quaint atmosphere makes it a popular stop for those visiting the Ortler.

Sulden, or Solda

Sulden near Ortler Sulden photo by Armin Kübelbeck

Solda is a great town if you’re hoping to see not just the Ortler, but other impressive summits like Gran Zebru and Monte Cevedale.

The town is located in the middle of a National Park, so its definitely one of the most scenic towns around the Ortler. The town is nestled deep in the Ortler Range, so you can enjoy green open space and peaceful lakes, with an incredible mountain backdrop. There’s also 14 glaciers in the Ortler Range, some of which can be reached from Solda.

With a population of 400, it’s a bigger location than Trafoi, and much more geared towards exploration of the Ortler Range and of course the Ortler itself. There are clearly signposted hiking trails that start in Solda, and trail up through the mountains, many of which pass by mountain huts and cabins.

So if you’re hoping for a hiking holiday, it’s the place to be. You can easily navigate self guided walks, or if you wanted to join a tour this is the meeting point for many walking tours.

As if that wasn’t reason enough that this town is the place to be, in winter there are also 44km of ski slopes. And in summer, climbing is all the rage in Solda.

Reaching the summit of the Ortler

Those that want to go all the way and make it to the very top of King Ortler should expect a challenging climb. That being said though, there are different routes of different difficulties, some of which are some of the most popular routes in the eastern Alps.

The normal route

First off, there’s the ‘normal route’, which is one of the easiest routes, but is still fairly challenging. It takes around two or three days to complete, and is a mixed climb, graded PD+ (slightly difficult).

The first leg of the journey is from Solda to the Payer Hut on the North Ridge, following Trail 4. This takes about 3-5 hours, depending on the conditions, and brings you to just above 3000 m. This part of the journey isn’t difficult at all if you’re used to mountain hikes. It’s graded T3-, and there’s a good footpath for most of the way. However, if you fancy shortening this part of the hike, and saving your energy for day two, the summit day, you can always get the Langenstein chairlift which will bring you part of the way up.

Mountain hut - tabaretta hut Tabaretta hut

Following Trail 4, or Trail 4A if you got the lift up, you’ll pass Tabaretta Hut, which is a great pit stop if you need a break or refreshment. You can enjoy a drink or a bite to eat on their balcony, overlooking the mountains and distant lakes. It’s also possible to stay at the Tabaretta Hut, but this isn’t usually done by those following the normal route. The preferred Payer Hut can be reached from the Tabaretta Hut by Via Ferrata if you have the proper gear.

The second part of the journey is where things get a little trickier. This day will be the ‘summit day’, trekking from the Payer Hut to the summit and back in around 8-11 hours. Be prepared for rock climbing, as this part of the route involves third grade rock climbing if you want to reach the top. There’s going to be a lot of rock and ice, which makes for an interesting climb, but one that requires caution.

One thing to note with this route is that it’s the most popular route up the Ortler, so it can get fairly busy, especially during the summer months.

The East Ridge route (Hintergrat)

This route is perhaps the most impressive route up the Ortler, offering stunning views and difficult climbs. It’s an AD graded climb with snow and ice slopes up to 65 degrees. There’ll also be rock climbing in the fourth grade.

Mountain hut - Hintergrat Hut Hintergrat Hut

Before you can start this climb, you’ll need to reach the Hintergrathuette (Hintergrat Hut), a cosy little mountain refuge above Sulden. You can hike the hut from Solda and spend the night in surprisingly comfortable beds (for a mountain hut).

From the hut, it’s a mixed route up to the summit, some stretches being fairly easy, others involving rock climbing in the fourth grade.

The descent can be just as challenging as the climb up, so leave the hut early in the morning (around 4:30am latest), so that you’ll have plenty of time to take the climb at your own pace, enjoy the views, and get down before dark. You can descend via the normal route, rather than going back the way you came.

Facts About Ortler.

Ortler is a mountain found at the Italian Alps right at South Tyrol, Italy. Standing at 3905m above sea level. The mountain stood out among other mountains in the Eastern Alps outside the Bernina Range. This peak also stood out among other mountains found in the range of the same name. One of the prominent peaks worth climbing at the Southern Limestone Alps. South Tyrol's unofficial hymn, the Bozner Bergsteigerlied, immortalized this summit by calling it "König Ortler". Its closest noted peak discussed in this site is Piz Bernina.

How to get to the peak of Ortler?

First off, brace yourself for a mixed climb in terms of difficulty. This happens after reaching the last stopover before the peak, Payer Hut. You can drive from Solden, South Tyrol. Drive northwest using Via Forestale. Go forward to SS622. Drive for 1.4km to reach Haupstrasse at Via Principale. Turn left to reach the Payer Hut.

What to expect at Ortler?

The mixed climb part is relatively advanced. Having companions familiar with the glacial terrain is highly advisable. The upper part of the route could go as steep as 40 degrees. Have the right equipment from crampons to ice axes to get the climbing part right. Get some additional pointers from the Payer Hut reservations desk itself by calling them at +39 0473 613 010.
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