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Classic North Face - Cassin Route on the Piz Badile

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New blog from the Castle Shop staff!


The North Faces of the Alps.

The storm was due at 6pm, we would wake at 3.30am, get to the start of the route by 6am, then climb the Cassin Route (900 meters) of the Piz Badile by early afternoon. The abseils down the North Ridge would take up the rest of the day, hopefully we’d get most of the way down before we got caught in the rain, thunder and lightening.

We had the luxury of a modern phone with an accurate weather forecasting app; we also had modern lightweight equipment and sound weatherproof clothing. The route was a known quantity and we were able to climb quickly.

When Riccardo Cassin set out to climb it in July 1937 with V Ratti and G Esposito they had none of the above. Unknown to them Mario Molteni and Giuseppe Valsecchi were already established on the route; with similar goals they soon joined forces. Unfortunately it turned into an alpine epic as once committed to the route there was little chance of retreat and no way to know what weather was coming. A ferocious storm blew in. They battled their way upwards over three days. Molteni died on summit and Valsecchi died on the descent just before the safety of the hut. They opened up a beautiful route; it’s an elegant line with some perfect pitches on it. Cassin went on to open up many more great routes that we enjoy today.

My one concern was that Badile means spade or shovel which came about because of the appearance of the mountain when viewed from Val Bregalia. A crucial part of the climb comes near the top via a series of strenuous chimney pitches in the middle of the shovel. In a storm rainfall is funnelled down the face turning the chimneys into a river. I didn’t want to get caught in them.

This first ascent and the magnificent shape of the Badile turned it into a classic and the Cassin Route of NE Face of the Badile was cemented into being one of the six great north faces of the Alps.

The other five north faces are the Eiger via the 1938 route, immortalised in the book The White Spider by Heinrich Harrer, the Grand Jorasses via another classic Cassin line and the Matterhorn which was the first one climbed in 1931, by the Schmid brothers. These are the hardest of the six and they make up the classic alpine trilogy. The last two are the North Face of the Dru and the Cima Grande.

At 2.30am I woke, too early, I was too excited. At 3.30am we got up for breakfast at 4am, we started the route at 6am topping out at 2pm. It took us seven long hours to abseil down the North Ridge and a further hour or more to get back to the hut; we reached the car park at midnight and fell asleep there and then. The next day at 7am the rain on our faces woke us. The storm arrived later than expected.

The Castle Shop is made up of a number of enthusiastic climbers who take part and embraced all forms of climbing since the best way to know the equipment we sell and to enjoy our sport is to use it across all the various genres of climbing; indoor, competitions, traditional, sport, bouldering, ice, alpinism, Scottish winter, single pitch, multipitch, big walls, going up, going sideways but trying never to go down too quickly!