Piz Badile – The first classic North Face route (TD, 6a 800m)

 

A complete route description with GPS coordinates and everything you need to know from my ascent via the Cassin route.

 

In the following I will go through:

  • Summary
  • The plan
  • The whole trip (with many details)
  • The timings
  • Gear to bring (and not to bring)
  • GPS positions that are good to have

 

Summary:

What a great classic with good rock and perfect friction. Even though the technical sections is fairly easy it is a long climb and you need to be able to move in a decent pace if you like to get down to your tent the same day. The sun during the first couple of hours gives you a warm start. The route finding can be a little challenging sometimes but the decent via the north ridge is tiresome. Many fantastic moves and I remember especially three great sections. The start with the 5c crack and 5a slab. The crux pitch and the exit chimneys. A long day out…

 

The Plan:

Day 1: Find a spot for our tent as close to the ridge as possible and inspect the wak-in from the ridge.

Day 2: Walk in to the route in darkness, climb the first difficult part in the first light, simul climb the easy sections and descent via the North ridge.

Day 3: If we were to slow on the route up we would go for the bivy by the top and descent the day after.

 

The whole trip:

 

The approach from the car parking to our campsite:

Normally I always have my GPS with a planned route because I hate to waste time walking the wrong way but this time I felt pretty confident that it would be all right. We started out early from the parking lot where there is a sign and a map towards the Sasc Füra hut. This was very nice due to the sun that was a real “ hard hitter” this day. The trail up to the hut is very obvious and I would say that it is impossible to go the wrong way. From the hut you actually need to go straight through the two hut buildings with the toilets on your right hand and the main building on your left. In between there is a little trail that goes up towards Badile. We were a little confused here since there are no signs but we just asked some people and then we were “back on track”.

 

From the hut there is a very well marked trail with blue painting but after an hour or so the track continues on the big boulders. There are some cairns that gives you the direction. The last 30 min you just need to follow the logical way up going from rock to rock.

 

On the way up to the campsite

 

We passed a couple of potential campsites because I had been told that there was a couple of them far up – and there was:-)

 

We found the absolutely closest campsite to the ridge and made it a little bigger and nicer and afterwards we inspected the route in and found the anchor on the other side of the ridge that you need to rappel down from to gain the traverse in to the route.

 

When we looked down on to the three snowfields, one of them very big, they looked difficult to pass.

 

The route with each sector described
The route with each sector described

 

Summit day:

The walk-in: (Red track on photo)

We left at exactly 4AM since we had calculated that it would take about an hour to walk in to the technical sections. The sun would come up at 5:15. We found the rappel anchor very fast and gained the long traverse with the two snowfields. Luckily they were fairly easy to pass. two of them we could crawl under and the other we could go around. It was a little bit wet and very exposed when we had to pass the side but it was okay.

 

After the snowfields there were a 15-20m chimney with some 4a that we free climbed in our shoes. We took the right line. It was easy but I got a little surprised here since I had not read anything about this passage. A little more scrambling up and we came to a place were the traverse continued down. I was certain that we should not continue down but we could not find the “horn with slings” that gives you the beginning of the Rébuffat diedre. After a couple of minutes my buddy Mikkel found the “horn with slings” and from here it was easy to be sure of the little crack line with a couple of rusty pitons that goes up at the Cassin start.

 

The Climbing: (Blue track)

I started up the 5c crack that still had a little moisture from the night. When I put my first foot up on a little ledge it actually slipped because of the moisture so I had to take my precautions. It was only two or three movements and then it got a lot easier. But the difficulties are right in the beginning and it is what you can see from the bottom.

 

We simul climbed the first four pitches with ropemans and the moisture quickly disappeared when the sun came up, so when I got to the 5a unprotected slab section after around 60m I had gained the thrust in my feet again. Just smearing up with a couple of “no hands” moves this was easy with the crumbly surface that gives absolutely great friction.

 

The diagonal leftwards cracks were easy to protect with a couple of friends and the rock itself.

 

 

Orange track:

Here the route finding begins. This section begins just after we passed behind a big rock that almost feels like a rock tunnel. From here it is possible to belay from an anchor. I climbed this with no one else in the front to lead the way and I had my doubts about whether I had to keep high or low. Because I knew that it was important not to get too high up towards “Cassins first bivy”. So I climbed up and down trying to read the route cause I knew from my topo that there should be a “horn with slings” as my next anchor point. But it was not there. Instead I found an anchor after around 25m. At this point two very fast guide parties where just behind. We tried to find the “horn with slings” but it must somehow have vanished down the face. All the other information’s were correct and with the guides in front I continued up and left under the roof.

 

From the missing “horn with slings” we simul climbed up the next pitch for about 70m to a very good anchor just before the “flake/dihedral 5a up on the left”. After this there are a couple of easy pitches up to a big and easy ledge that you have to traverse left as low as possible and then climb a little up to reach the anchor.

 

Green track:

At this point we were completely alone on the face again. The guides were gone….

 

From this point there comes some very pleasant climbing with some very enjoyable steep slab climbing, a little bit of handjamming, awesome rock and great cruise speed.

 

But first there comes a very important detail on the first pitch after the big ledge when you climb up the dihedral. After around 25m there is a kind of hidden section going up to the right. I was very aware of this section so I spent a lot of energy finding the right spot climbing the dihedral up to the right and the following flakes / fainted ramp up to the right. Two pitches up from the big ledge comes the crux pitch. Here comes a very nice dihedral with a little roof that goes out to the left. I remember a couple of nice hand jams and since I knew that this was the crux pitch I stopped up just beneath the roof to read the foot placements and sent in a friend and then continue. Again there was some good foot placements and something good for the hands and fingers. It is probably more mental when you know that; know is the crux!

 

After the crux pitch we simul climbed the next 120m of 5a pitches up to where the last section begins – The chimneys and the exit pitches.

 

The crux pitch

 

The last section: Yellow track

You look straight up in this very exact line of a chimney and it all starts with a very awkward and strenuous V-shaped chimney.

 

The V-shaped chimney

 

After that comes a very nice one and both is graded 5b but the V-shaped felt more difficult.

 

The nice chimney

 

Just after the chimney I got unsecure about the route finding since my topo told me something that I did not could make up. I was been told that there was a “swiss route” graded 6a+ just straight up. My topo told me to gain an anchor point 50m to the right after the chimney and continue slightly to the left of the dihedral after the anchor point.

 

After around 50-60 meters there was no anchor point. My buddy was belaying me from the last anchor in the chimney. But there was a very nice “horn with an old sling”. So it was easy to belay from here. When he came up we talked a lot about the route and tried to sort it all out. At this point I believed that I had climbed too far up and was heading for the 6a+ section. I could see that the next pitch was probably the very last pitch and it looked pretty easy so I climbed up the dihedral and followed the weak line at the top to the left that gained the ridge. A belay anchor on top of the ridge came to my sight. I believe that the grade of this last pitch was around 5a/5b. It was defiantly not 4b as the topo said and defiantly not 6a+. But maybe I took the wrong way. The other parties behind followed us and did not complain. 🙂

 

So to sum it up, it is actually just following the most logical way straight up after the chimney. Do not turn left or right. Just go straight up and follow the weak line to the left just under the ridge.

 

The descent via the North ridge:

No matter how you do the descent there will be some kind of tricky logistical bump on the way. We decided to go via the North ridge.

 

Our plan was to get down as fast as possible and hopefully the same day. We topped out the route at exactly 14:00 and left down the ridge 30 minutes later.

 

Going down – The first rappel.

 

The way down is exactly as you can expect. Too much rope handling, slow progress and tricky route finding. The ridge is just not steep enough. The first three or four anchor points was easy but then we – I guess – came out on the wrong side of the ridge. The anchor points got sparser and suddenly there were no one.

 

From this point we wasted more than an hour, maybe two.

 

I searched and I searched but there was nothing at all. Then I found this little spear and I say again – it was little. But it was just big enough to get a little sling around that both of us could hang from.

 

Then we pulled the rope down and of course it got stuck right in this moment. Then we pulled the other robe to get it free from the little anchor sling and suddenly it had a big knot on it. Now we could not get to the knot. Long story short… I had to kind of free climb up and tie me in. Climb up to the rope that was stuck, put in a friend, tie me in again and then my buddy could control me down on the rope that ran through the friend.

 

I actually found this yellow Black Diamond friend on our way down and it fitted perfectly where the robe was stuck so I guess it was “meant to be”.

 

When we were done with this little detour we saw people on the ridge above us. Now we could climb up and gain the ridge and then follow the true way down behind all the other parties.

 

I believe that we also took the wrong way around the ridge on the last section since the anchors got more “un civilized” here and the last couple of rappels was again very odd. Maybe it is just the way it is. But I have drawn in two arrows on the map that I believe must be better options. The first arrow is defiantly true since I remember this wall of a rock we had to go either right or left around. It was a lottery and we actually talked about which way to go. I got to choose since “my feeling” told me right around (When you look down) – My feeling was wrong.

 

Timings:

1h 25min: From the car park to Sasc Füra (Alt. 1904m)

1h 50min: From Sasc Füra to the North ridge campsite (Alt. 2460m)

20min: From the campsite to the North ridge – starting point

 

Summit day:

1h: From campsite to the Cassin start

9h: Climbing the Cassin route

30min: On the top of the route

6h 30min: Down to the campsite

17 hours in total

 

Gear:

We brought 11 friends pre extended with quickdraws and ten nuts

4 quickdraws (If you like to clip in all the old rusty pitons then bring eight)

4 slings with karabiners (60cm)

2 ropemans

 

With the knowledge I have now I would bring:

7 friends with the biggest a yellow size 2 (Black Diamond) and then going down from there.

5 nuts – no tiny ones (I only used one single nut on the final pitch and I forced my self to do it)

4 quickdraws (I do not clip the old rusty pitons myself – false security – better set a friend. But many pitons are fine, and there is a few new ones)

4 slings with karabiners (60cm and one 120cm for the traverses)

2 ropemans

 

5 friends: Just to give you an idea of how much gear I used on the 50m crux pitch. The last 25 meters was very easy.

 

2 liters of water with energizer in it

Thin down jacket

Softshell windbreaker jacket

Approach shoes

5 gels and 7 energy bars

Emergency bivi version light (not ultra light)

Headlamp

GPS (So that I would be able to find our campsite in darkness on the way down)

 

I was happy with above.

 

GPS – positions (Datum is WGS-84 and pos. format is D° M.M’)

 

N46° 18.908’ – E009° 34.963’: Sasc Füra hut – Just were the trail up to Badile starts – 1917m

N46° 18.206’ – E009° 35.125’: Our campsite (Room for two small tents) – 2461m

N46° 18.087’ – E009° 35.193’: Where to cross the ridge. Just follow the obvious track down to the right and you will see the anchor 25meters down – 2576m

N46° 17.789’ – E009° 35.167’: Topout point Cassin route – 3219m

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