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Gourmandizing instead of snoring

Sepp stays on top. When the hikers have long reached the valley, Sepp Kahn puts pen to paper in the candlelight. At around 1,500 metres above sea level, high above Westendorf, the 62-year old Tyrolean with an unruly beard is once again spending summer as an Alpine herdsman and dairyman on the Lower Lärchenbergalm, enjoying the evening hours when the cattle has been fed and the guests disappeared. By day, the farmer by conviction and writer by passion, who is renowned well beyond the borders of his native land as an Alpine writer and author of thought-provoking contemplations and exciting crime novels, is happy to welcome his visitors with a Tyrolean snack. Sepp's farm is one of the many stops on a new journey through the Tyrolean mountains to be negotiated on foot, without having having to forego too much comfort and amenities. Because the Kitzbüheler Alpen Trail – KAT Walk in short – is the newest long distance hiking trail in the Alps. And the one with the most amenities.

That’s because it is targeted at the army of leisure hikers who may want to enjoy the impressive mountains of Tyrol up close for once and from a different perspective, but eschew the mattress dorms and noisy sleeping neighbours. Thus the luggage transport from one stop-over to the next and cable cars to take the odd shortcut contribute to the convenience of this trail.

Gourmandizing instead of snoring, hotel instead of hut, is the motto of this hiking trail, which as of this summer will stretch from Hopfgarten via Brixental, Kitzbühel and St. Johann in Tirol all the way to Fieberbrunn in Pillerseetal over a distance of 108 kilometres in six stages. "It's not a walk in the park", stresses Gernot Riedel, Managing Director of the Tourism Association St. Johann in Tirol,"Daily stages with up to 1,200 meters difference in altitude certainly require some walking experience". He launched this new route together with his colleagues from the neighbouring associations of Pillerseetal, Hohe Salve and Brixental, all united under the roof of the Kitzbüheler Alpen. As opposed to other long distance hiking trails, aimed primarily at those with alpine experience, neither a head for heights nor absolute sure-footedness are required here. "The KAT Walk is intended to", adds his colleague Max Salcher, "bring joy exactly to those who have never dared to venture out out on such a trail." That's why the stages are also suitable for those who just want to get a taste of the concept, or you can pick just individual legs of the trail.

At every turn, this Tour de Tirol opens up the alpine world with its many faces. Like the stately farms of Penningberg at the start in Hopfgarten, where the first stage to Kelchsau begins. It leads through forests and meadows, offering wonderful views of the Hohe Salve, the Kitzbüheler Horn, the Wilder Kaiser and the Wildseeloder mountains. "This is hiking with the best of views", explains Stefan Astner, Managing Director of the Holiday Region Hohe Salve and one of the founders of the KAT Walk, who has absolutely nothing in common with his namesake who shines at fashion shows.

Here, the way and its stories are the goal. True nuggets of wisdom and subtle humour can be found in the writings of Alpine writer Sepp Kahn, who with some luck you can meet on the second leg at his summer residence on Lower Lärchenbergalm. Kahn or Kitz – the differences on this trail could not be greater. Because on the fourth day, after a longer stage through the world of alpine roses, the attractions are those of the legendary Streif downhill run, including the Ganslernalm gourmet restaurant by the finish. Those who know about alpine skiing know what they're in for. Because the stage from Aschau to Kitzbühel promises unadulterated World Cup feeling. This is ensured not least by presentation boards placed all along the likely most famous racecourse in the world, providing an insight into the infamous sections of this downhill run. Hiking trail number 26 leads downhill at lightning speed, providing an idea of just how steep and dangerous this racecourse really is. Kitzbühel is the next stop, where hikers can expect a somewhat different flair than at the previous stops. But here, too, you can find cosy inns and B&Bs for those who'd rather not exchange rustic Tyrolean treats for caviar.

When leaving Kitzbühel the next day, the trail quickly leads up into another world, along Adlerhütte mountain inn and Trattalm to Kitzbüheler Horn, the region's conspicuous landmark. The 360-degree panoramic view is well worth the effort. "This is the stage with the best views by far", reports "landlord" Gernot Riedel. The sixth stage is the last, leading from St. Johann in Tirol across the Adlerspoint-Plateau through the realm of the alpine pastures all the way to the KAT final destination of Fieberbrunn in PillerseeTal. "We are not just the destination, but also the beginning", explains Florian Phleps, Managing Director of the Tourism Association PillerseeTal. Because the trail could be easily walked in the other direction, too.

What makes this trail so special is the indulgence by the wayside. There's hardly a stage that doesn't offer some very special delicacies. Thus culinary experiences beckon in Brixental under the name of "KochArt". KochArt-establishments are committed to using only local produce of the highest quality and to reviving traditional dishes. On stage three, it's the alpine roses that can be found near Westendorf in one of the alpine regions with the highest density of these wonderful flowers. Indulgence is also guaranteed in St. Johann at Ludwig Stranzky, the brewmaster of the local Huber craft-brewery. High up in the brewhouse you can find a true gem – the Turmstüberl with its terrace and craft beer, with direct access to the brewery cellar. And those who have completed the sixth stage should not miss out on Gidi's show distillery in Fieberbrunn. Premium brandy sommelier Gidi Treffer will introduce you to the world of high-end brandies, which he makes from ancient local fruit varieties like red Pichl-pear and Eigelsbacher pear. Just as therapeutic, in particular when suffering from aching muscles, is a visit to the oldest mountain pine distillery in the world, to be found in St. Ulrich by Lake Pillersee. A guided tour of the distillery and a visit to the in-house museum provide many a clue to the healing power of herbs. Accordingly invigorated, why not plan the next stage of the KAT Walk?

A free flyer provides concise details of the new KAT Walk long distance hiking trail, where to stop off and how to get your luggage forwarded.

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