Piz Badile is less than 10km from the Mello Valley (as the crow flies), but it’s an hour and a half drive round and across the Swiss border to the village of Bondo followed by a 5km drive up the toll road (best CHF10 I ever spent!) to the start of the walk in to the Sasc Fura hut. The guidebook says 1hr45 up to the hut so we were surprised to find ourselves there in about 55 minutes, and I celebrated with an afternoon of sunbathing on the terrace whilst Jim went to recce the approach to the route.
The NE face of Piz Badile was the main objective of the trip, and we were in two minds whether to do the classic Cassin route or the more modern Another Day In Paradise (harder, more sustained, a bit shorter and importantly much less popular!) The hut full of 43 climbers, the majority of whom were after the Cassin, helped make our minds up, together with the fact that we could rap the route to get down ADIP whereas everyone I know who’s done the Cassin and descended the N ridge has had an epic and / or a benightment.
After a very decent dinner and a 4am start we made good time up to the notch and were at the foot of the route by about 6.45 having traversed the largely snow free ledge.
Gazing out, we couldn’t help but feel smug at the queues either side on the Cassin and the ridge, whilst we had the entire face in between entirely to ourselves.
The route starts with a bang – pitch 1 off the terrace is the crux and given 6b/c depending which guide you use. Not the ideal warmup before 7am when it’s close to freezing and you can barely feel your fingers. Happily it’s my kind of crimpy climbing and the pitch is fairly well bolted (comparatively… half a dozen in 30m!) The rock is outstanding, very compact knobbly granite, with little scope for natural protection.
As we gain height, difficulties ease and bolts become less frequent. Towards the top you get perhaps 2 or 3 in 50m and the rock quality tails off a bit too. You clearly can’t afford to slip, so that’s not an issue, and the biggest problem is route finding – you can spend a long time combing a blank wall for the next stance!
The views down and across to the ridge are stunning.
With the “north wall” actually facing NE, and the slabby nature of the rock, you get sunshine until about 1pm (longer on the Cassin). Whilst the conditions look idyllic (and importantly there was zero rain forecast) we were accompanied by a 30mph northerly wind which must have had the windchill temperature below freezing. By 1.45 after 15 pitches and 7 hours we’d hit the top of the wall and were ready to start rapping (all tentative plans to push on and bag the summit has been shelved with the cold – we’re climbers not mountaineers anyway!) A couple of hours later and we were back in approach shoes, and a couple of hours after that we were supping a well-earned beer!