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Montag, 13. August 2012

Pizzo Badile - Via Cassin (6a)

Im Sommer 2008 konnte ich mit Kathrin Ricardo Cassins berühmte Route durch die NE-Wand des Pizzo Badile begehen. Ein unvergessliches Erlebnis und ein perfekter Tag. Selber mit diversen Topokopien unterwegs, und mit keiner davon restlos zufrieden, fertigte ich in den Tagen danach selbst eine Skizze an. Wir hatten mit eigenen Augen einen üblen 20m-Sturz mit anschliessender Helikopter-Rettung beobachten müssen, weil sich eine Seilschaft in ungutes Gelände verstiegen hatte. Meine Hoffnung war ein Stück weit, derlei Missgeschick zukünftig verhindern zu können, und dem Kletterer eine möglichst akkurate Vorstellung des Routenverlaufs zu geben. Auch heute noch ist diese Toposkizze aktuell und immer wieder erreicht mich ein dankendes Feedback dafür.  Darum präsentiere ich an dieser Stelle gerne nochmals mein Topo (PDF) zur Cassin-Route am Pizzo Badile. Viel Spass Euch allen, die Cassin ist echt eine Traumroute, welche eine Begehung auf jeden Fall lohnt!

Topo (PDF) zur Cassin-Route am Pizzo Badile

Update vom Sommer 2020: lange Jahre war mein Fotoreport unserer Begehung der Cassin auf einer alten Website einsehbar. Das ist nun schon eine Weile nicht mehr so. Da die Popularität dieser Route und auch dieses Blogbeitrags ungebrochen ist, wird der alte Report an dieser Stelle reaktiviert. Der Text ist ganz offensichtlich auf Englisch und wurde im 2008 verfasst. Es kommt immer erst jeweils das Bild und unterhalb die zugehörige Beschreibung.

That's where it all starts: the Capanna Sasc Furä. In 2008 it could be quickly reached from the end of the road above Bondo in about one hour of hiking over a steep, but very well maintained trail. As you may be well aware, this is no longer the case after the big rockslide from Piz Cengalo... and it now takes much more effort to get to Sasc Furä. The hut itself is nice and the wardens were very friendly, just the dorm beds were quite narrow. Behind you already see our goal: Pizzo Badile. The north ridge separates the sunny NW-face from the shady NE-face. The Cassin route leads through the latter.

And that's when it all starts. We set the alarm clock to 4am and left the hut by around 4.40am. We did the first 700m of elevation gain to P.2590 still in the dark. The terrain is mostly easy up to that point, just at the end some scrambling is required. There is no well established trail, but it's not too difficult to find your way: just head straight up all the time.

From P.2590, which we reached around 6am, you have to traverse some ledges towards the center of the NE face. This involves some sketchy downclimbing and a first rappel. Then, you have to traverse over smooth and wet slabs under a big neve. That's quite delicate, so that we belayed a pitch there (the day after our climb, a Russian climber fell about 60m there and suffered from life threatening injuries). Also, there is always the slight risk that the neve either collapses or slides down just in the very moment you are under it... this has also led to accidents in the past.

After the neve, some more traversing/scrambling is required, but the terrain gets a little easier and less exposed again. However, there was a quite competitive atmosphere, since everybody wanted to get on the route first... That's also the reason why I don't have any pictures of the traverse. Finally, at  around 7.15am we started with the first pitch.

There were five parties in front of us and around seven or eight more following. The crowds all seemed to do the Rebuffat diedre, a (nowadays common) variation to the original start of Ricardo Cassin. So it was logical for us to choose the Cassin start, which is a bit harder. The first couple of moves into the crack are in the 5c range. They are protected by 2 old pegs.
Here Kathrin is following our second pitch. Still off of the nowadays common route, I took a direct up some slabs. They were smoother than I first thought (maybe 5a/5b) and protection was marginal. But it paid off in the sense that at belay 2 of the nowadays common route, we had bypassed two parties and had advanced to position 4 in the queue.

We then simu-climbed until the first 5c+ pitch, which follows a steep dihedral. Not really hard, but not overly simple either. Some old pegs are in-situ there, but a few pieces have to be placed. As this is the first harder/steeper bit after some easy terrain, expect a bunch-up there. So it was the case and actually 3 parties were simultaneously leading the pitch. So never say that speed climbing is an unimportant skill! Fortunately, everybody was in good humour and all went well.

The last 2 parties that were in front of us then took a wrong turn. After the first 5c+ pitch, they first climbed too high towards Cassin's first bivy site. Then, they overcompensated their mistake with a long traverse to the left a definitely got off route. So after only 4 pitches of climbing, we had taken the lead and from now on could enjoy the route in solitude, without ever sharing a belay station with another party again!

However, be aware of the fact that routefinding in the NE face of Pizzo Badile is far from easy. The terrain looks (and actually is) climbable just about everywhere. There is hardly any in-situ gear that guides you, and if you find fixed gear, you are not necessarily on route. The bolted belays, they don't help with routefinding at all. They are each at least 50m apart and often hidden, too.

One of the two Polish climbers who used to be in front of us and then traversed off route took a bad fall and had to be rescued by helicopter. It wasn't half an hour earlier that I had still small talked to him on the belay in a good mood. To be quick, he lead in a rather bold style, almost without placing pro at all. I even had made a remark about how dangerous his climbing was, but he overplayed it. He then either slipped or broke a hold, so that he fell for about 20m. I watched it and it looked truly horrible, because he tumbled and hit the rock multiple times, totally out of control. We feared the worst, but fortunately the climber had no life threatening injuries.

We continued, and this is Kathrin following in pitch 8, graded 5a. The climbing in the Cassin route is not overly hard on "our" sport climbing scale. It's more an alpinistic challenge: routefinding, marginal protection, the length of the route. The rock is of good, sometimes even excellent quality. But nevertheless, there is one or the other loose flake and each ledge holds some "missiles". It wasn't an issue for us who were leading the pack at that point, but I guess with careless climbers above, rockfall could be problematic.

One then reaches the big ledge (called "Cengia Mediana"). Don't fool yourself that this is the halfway mark, it's at most at one third from the start to the summit and the climbing above is harder. Some advice for routefinding: you have to traverse the ledge almost to its left end, i.e. straight under the big roof, which is about 50m above. The belay is then about 10m higher at the beginning of the obvious dihedral.

The following pitch is the crux (6a). First, some old pitons can be clipped, then some cams are required. Finally, the dihedral has to be left early enough (after about 25m of climbing) towards the right. Don't go too high, even though there is more in-situ gear!

You then have to follow a faint ramp that traverses up and right. Climb over a tiny dihedral system and towards the obvious, big and steep corner. The bolted belay station is at its beginning and is not visible before you are there. Note that this pitch is close to 50m long.

The second pitch after "Cengia Mediana" follows the steep and impressive corner that nevertheless passes quite easily (several old pitons, 5b). After it ends, you again follow some sort of ramp (see Kathrin doing it) to the right and up. The belay bolts again are not visible from below, and the pitch is again 50m.

As mentioned, the rock quality is often excellent with very textured and structured granite. The slab routes here on the NE face of Pizzo Badile must be awesome to climb! However, the Cassin route mostly follows a classical line with dihedrals, cracks and chimneys. But I bet that "Another Day in Paradise" in the same face must be stellar...

This is Kathrin following the 4th pitch after "Cengia Mediana". It first takes a horizontal crack to the left. Then you have to head up, more or less taking the way of least resistance (no in-situ gear). The tower to the left and below Kathrin is the second bivy site of Cassin.

Note that the bolted belay isn't there (where you would maybe expect it), but about 15m higher, pretty much straight above. I found it to be a little "off route", i.e. to the right of the easiest line of climbing. The length of this pitch is again almost exactly 50m.

From the belay above the 2nd Cassin bivy, the route is obvious. Just follow the crack line towards the infamous chimney system. It starts with a benign crack (visible to the left of Kathrin's legs). Although there were some intermediate belay possibilities on pitons (really old and crappy ones, though), we decided to simu-climb for about 20-30m, such that I could make it to the next bolted belay. It's on the right of the crack and just before the start of the V-shaped section, about 70-80m from the last one...

The first pitch in the chimney that Kathrin is climbing here is quite awkward. It's the V-shaped part and if you stay in its ground, you will inevitably get jammed, stuck the rope and struggle. On the other hand, staying on the outside might be easier, but the you cannot place any protection at all... really I wish I had a movie of myself doing it, though it could well have a parental advisory mark ;-)

After the first belay in the chimney (which is an OK bivy site), it gets wider. The climbing is steep with bulges to pass, but surprisingly easy (a few pitons, around 5a/b), and it's again almost 50m to the next bolts. Not that this was the only pitch that we were in the shade. Here, it was quite chilly, but for the entire rest of the route, we were in the sun and (certainly for a north face), it was nicely warm, such that we could climb in T-shirts.

From the belay after the bulges pitch, there is another half of a pitch in the chimney (pitons, 5b). After about 20m you reach a narrow ledge, from where you can find pitons in really every direction. Note the climber below Kathrin just shortly before reaching that ledge. The "correct" route (i.e. the one which has bolted belays) goes straight up after the chimney and first offers face climbing, aiming for a prominent fissure. 

After the exit from the chimney, it's about 100 more climbing meters to reach the ridge, followed by another 4-5 pitches of easier climbing to the summit. The ambiance here was absolutely stellar, we felt closer to the sky than to earth. It had taken us a bit less than 8 hours to tackle the ~25 pitches from the start of the Cassin route to the summit. 

Almost down again! We descended over the south side which involves some exposed scrambling first and later some rappels from the prominent shoulder above Kathrin. Apparently, one can also abseil over the sunny slabs from higher up, but this requires 2x60m ropes (which we did not have). The downclimb to the Gianetti hut took us around 2.5 hours.

Many parties try to (or have to) head home after an ascent of Pizzo Badile as quickly as possible. That's a bit of a pain in the ass, since the way back from the south side to Bondo is long and quite laborious, no matter which option you choose. It's certainly much nicer if you have some extra time and do not need to rush. There are some excellent climbing objectives from Rifugio Gianetti, so it certainly pays off to spend a couple of extra nights there. That was exactly our plan and for the day after the Cassin, we had the objective of scaling this sawtooth named Dente della Vecchia.

The route we chose is named Polident (6a+, 7 pitches). It offers leisurely and well protected climbing in excellent rock. For is it was the ideal choice to savour our ascent of the Cassin even more. The approach is short, the climbing pleasant and the summit offers an ideal place for a long rest.

This very characteristic quartz vein is another prominent feature of the Polident route. In case you were still hungry after only 7 pitches of climbing, there are a couple of more routes on Dente della Vecchia (see the Plaisir Sud guidebook).

This is shortly before reaching the top on Polident. Other objectives from the Gianetti hut involve climbing Punta Torelli, Pizzo Cengalo or even Pizzo Badile again over one of the routes on the south side. So many things still to do there...

The area around Rifugio Gianetti also offers some cool blocs for bouldering. Of course I couldn't resist to pull some hard moves as well. This project with a sit start kept me busy for a little longer, I would guesstimate it around Fb 7A. Just in time for dinner I managed a successful ascent, maybe even a first ascent?!?

We spent a second night at Rifugio Gianetti and then, due to a poor weather forecast, decided to head back to Bondo/Switzerland again. It's quite a long hike in mountain terrain over the two passes Porcellizzo and Trubinasca. However, we did not just want to walk, but do some climbing again. A very nice option to shorten the hike is to climb the route Castelli Romani (6b, 5 pitches) in the SE face of Pizzo Porcellizzo (the one in the left half of the picture above!). From the top of this route, it's just a short scramble down the backside and you are already at Passo Porcellizzo. What better than this?!? Rather than hiking the pass, we climbed it!

Some impressions from Castelli Romani, I cannot recall all details after that much time. In any case, it's a nice route in good rock with adequate bolt protection and homogeneous difficulties. It had been opened just a few days before our ascent, I had spotted the freshly drawn topo in the logbook at Rifugio Gianetti. So perhaps we did even the first repetition of the route.

This picture was taken in Val Codera, must have been somewhere in the vicinity of the Bivacco Pedroni. The Castelli Romani route led to the ridge in the left half of the picture. We then downclimbed to the V-shaped dip in the ridge which is Passo Porcellizzo. The downclimb on its north side (i.e. the snow line in the couloir) is quite rugged. Early in the season, it may even require crampons and an ice axe. On the day of our descent, we could avoid any snow contact, so in fact we had hauled the alpine gear over Pizzo Badile in vain (but we had just followed the inaccurate advice from the hut keeper at Sasc Furä...). However, even if you don't have to touch snow on the descent from Porcellizzo, it's alpine terrain which is steep with lots of loose scree, instable blocks and the like... not exactly the most fun part of a Badile ascent and return.

This is the contuation towards Passo Trubinasca. Though it looks quite demanding from this perspective, there is a well-worn trail and you get to the V-shaped dip quite easily. 

This is the last part to Passo Trubinasca. As you can see, it's well marked and there are even some chains and cables.

At this point, we were already approaching the Sasc Furä again and watch the impressive NW face of Pizzo Badile. It also hosts a number of routes which are only rarely done. However, I'm sure that a route such as Ringo Starr would provide a faboulous challenge! It's supposed to be of similar difficulties than the Cassin, but without bolted belays and certainly without the crowds of the Cassin route. The disadvantage of the NW face however is that it's shady and cold in the morning.

After coming back from the mountains, we checked into a hotel in Soglio. After some long climbing and walking days and some nights in the dorm beds of mountain huts, this was exactly the right decision. We refuelled at the breakfast buffett, then took a few leisurely hours and made plans...

And the plan was to hike to the Sciora hut on the very same afternoon to spend the night there and climb on the famous Bügeleisen on the next day. Unfortunately, after the big rockslide the hut is now closed, the access to it via Valle Bondasca is off limits and even climbing at Bügeleisen does not seem like a good idea any longer.

Here's the Bügeleisen on the Pizzi Gemelli. Our objective was Cuore di Ferro, a recent sport route that leads through the shady NE face, directly to the summit of Bügeleisen. Much more popular at those times was the normal route on Bügeleisen, leading over the sunny arete.

However, with an early start, also the NE face of Bügeleisen provides ample sunshine and cozy temperatures, at least for what is called a north face in alpine environment at more than 3000m of elevation. As you can see here, the rock is textured and structured - superb!

We had great pleasure in the route and managed a free ascent. You can find my original report (in German) here. In short summary, it praises the beauty of this 14 pitch route with 530 meters of climbing an difficulties up to 6c, but also states that the bolt protection is rather sparse. 

'nuff said, that was just a stellar trip!

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