Going in a west-east direction, after Hoher Trieb / Cuestalta the main crest of Eastern Carnic Alps lowers considerably. Till Trogkofel / Creta di Aip mountains are not so much rocky, but grassy to their tops, even if some elevations exceed 2000 meters. And indeed, even if today Passo di Meledis, 1578 m, is not important, archeological findings prove that in ancient times it was a much more used connection between Paularo cauldron and Gail / Zilja valley.
From the main range towards the north, down to Gail / Zilja valley long side ridges deter, almost all of them rounded and grassy, appropriate for easy hikes and skiing. One such side ridge is also Hochwipfel. But on the main crest there are no higher summits in that area, the highest one is the big grassy Hochwipfel pyramid, where three grassy and partly rocky ridges culminate. Having no high neighbours close-by, Hochwipfel offers in a nice day a very broad panorama, which is just a little obscured towards the east with the mighty Trogkofel / Creta di Aip.
Hochwipfel is first of all a hiking mountain. Along the whole Carnic Main Crest goes the famous Karnischer Hoehenweg / Traversata Carnica - a multi-day, long-distance hike. I remember to read that Hochwipfel is also a very nice mountain for tour skiing, but when after the ascent I looked in my guidebook, it is there not mentioned at all. Very strange, because the slopes of Hochwipfel, although quite steep, are certainly appropriate for skiing. The area around Hochwipfel is also very appropriate for mountain biking. Many mountain roads and good paths, originating from ex military roads can bring you quite high, the total elevation gain from the valley of Gail / Zilja could exceed 1200 meters. And the last, but not least matter of interest - the area is well known by producing good cheese - the Gailtaler Almkaese ('Gail valley alpine cheese).
Close to the highest summit there are some more peaks to mention. South-west of the main summit, already on the main Carnic crest and so on the Austrian-Italian border, there is the rocky summit of Schulter / Creta di Lanza, 2057 m. It shows a picturesque, 150 meters high rocky wall towards the west, towards the east also Schulter is grassy. Towards the SE of Schulter there are some more rocky bumps in the main crest, unimportant for mountaineering. Towards the north and the east Hochwipfel is sending another two grassy ridges, culminating in two grassy summits, which are still above the timber line: Kirchbacher Wipfel, 1880 m, and Windschaufel, 2095 m.
For general overview, see the Carnic Alps group page and the Carnic Alps Main Ridge (East) subgroup page.
Gail / Zilja valley on the north can be reached from Villach (highway), driving towards the west. Paularo can be reached from Tolmezzo (highway), driving towards the north and then deterring north-east in Val Incarojo. Pontebba lies by the Udine-Villach highway.
Hochwipfel summit can be reached from three main directions (mountain roads on the northern side offer some more possibilities):
1. From Straniger Alm, 1492 m. The meadow can be reached by a narrow, but still solid mountain road, starting in Stranig in Gail / Zilja valley. It is opened for public traffic from June 1st till end of September. From Straniger Alm the mountain road continues to Klein Kordin Alm, 1624 m. I nowhere saw any signs prohibiting the drive, but it is a bit untasty to use noisy vehicles so high on nice mountains. This is the western approach.
2. The second approach from the Gail / Zilja valley brings you on Hochwipfel's eastern slopes. The mountain road starts in Rattendorf and brings you up on Rattendorfer Alm, 1531 m. I have no information about red tape and the opening /closing time.
3. The third approach comes from the south, from Passo del Cason di Lanza, 1552 m, which is reachable by a nice mountain road, which encircles Monte Zermula, thus connecting the towns of Pontebba and Paularo. The road is usually opened from end of April till end of October.
The summit of Hochwipfel can be reached also over a pathless terrain, but the majority of visitors ascend it by the two marked approaches.
By Karnischer Hoehenweg / Traversata Carnica you reach the small saddle south of Schulter, cca 1970 m. From there go towards the north on the notch between Schulter and Hochwipfel, an either over the SE slopes or by the SW ridge to the top. It's an easy hike (the SW ridge is steep and requires quite some attention), on steep grassy slopes attention is needed, especially in wet conditions. In winter ice pick is useful and the full equipment only if snow is very hard or icy. From Straniger Alm, 1492 m, 2 hours 15 minutes, from Klein Kordin Alm, 1624 m, 1 hour 45 minutes, from Rattendorfer Alm, 1531 m, 2 hours, from Passo del Cason di Lanza, 1552 m, 2 hours.
A tip for descent: From the notch between Schulter and Hochwipfel there goes a nice ravine down towards Klein Kordin Alm. In May 2007 it was still quite filled with snow, so I descended there, even if there's no path. Below, where the ravine gets steep and rocky, you need to exit it towards the right and then you descend further by nice meadows.
From the villages south of Kirchbach in Gail / Zilja valley mountain roads go up towards Hochwipfel. I have no information how much you can use them, there's no publicly opened mountain hut. There goes also the marked path No. 418, which should not be hard, but is long. From the valley some 4-5 hours. From Kirchbach over Kirchbacher Wipfel also a ski tour goes, and another one by the NE ridge. Both ski tours are demanding and require absolutely safe snow conditions.
You can see a detailed map (1:50.000) on-line on: http://www.austrianmap.at/.
There are no limitations. Some mountain roads which you can see on the maps are private and closed for public traffic.
On the surrounding alpine meadows there are many private huts, where you can eat and drink. The two bigger mountain huts, reachable by car, where you can also sleep are:
Straniger Alm, 1492 m. Managed by Sagmeister family, tel.: +43(4285)243. The hut has a few rooms, prices vary from 45€ to 75€.
Casera Cason di Lanza, 1552 m. It has 14 places and 6 places in winter room. Opened from start of May till end of October. Tel.: 042890928.
Hochwipfel can be ascended any time of the year. Very beautiful is autumn, but also spring and seasons when conditions for ski touring are good.
Guidebook and photomonography (in Slovenian): V. Pogačnik: Kar na Karnijce. Založba Narava, 2011.