Piz Badile via Cassin (TD, 6a, 800m)


*Topo for Cassin route in Piz Badile, you can find here.

The NE face of Piz Badile is considered one of the six great north faces of the Alps. The clasic “Cassin route” was first climbed in July 1937 by Riccardo Cassin, V. Ratti and G.Esposito who joined forces with the Como team (M. Molteni and G. Valsecchi, who both died, first on the summit and the second just before reaching the hut).

We’ve climbed it on 23 July 2012 (Silvia Murgescu and Catalin Pobega – Romanian mixed team)  and descended next day by rappeling via Norkdante. During the night, we slept in the small yellow refuge situated on top of Piz Badile.

A short film with our climb on Cassin (click on HD for a better quality):

Our story:
We’ve plan to spend a “one-week” vacation in the Alps, this time not in the Chamonix area, but far more East, in the Bregaglia range. Our destination was Promontogno -close to San Moritz. The trip started: Romania-Milano (by airplane), then Milano-Lecco-Colico-Chiavenna (by train), and finally Ciavenna-Promontogno (by bus). From there, we hiked up with heavy backpacks for couples of  hours.

The journey took us all day, but in the evening we could pitch our tent 40 min passed Sasc Fura Hut. We found a nice spot for bivouac with green grass and water. Towards South, we had a nice view upon the NE face of Piz Badile. Cassin route being our target for the next day.

23 July 2012, we woke up at 5 am and started to approach Cassin. It was quite late, as the other teams (that spent the night in the hut) were already in front of us.

The ledge where Cassin route starts was dry, only a block of ice that you could easily avoid. Our trail running shoes were perfect, no mountain boots needed.

At 7.15 am, Silvia starts leading the first pitch of Cassin, the Rebuffat Deidre.
The 2nd pitch starts the left traverse and here is where we passed over Regis and his partner (French team). Along the route, the French team climbed with quite the same speed, so we could dialog and become friends.

It was my turn to lead now. I’ve belayed at some pitons with slings. It was an intermediate belay station, the only one without bolts in the entire route. (See the topo!)

From this point if you continue up and left in the traverse, you find yourself out of the route. And this is what 2 Italian teams in front of us did. After debating with the French team and Karlis (a guy from Latvia who was climbing rope solo) we decided to go back 6-10 m (right) and then straight up. An abandoned rope could be seen at that point. The direction was good and Silvia (that was leading) found the next belay station on bolts. The picture was done from the intermediate belay station (pitons) showing the good direction of the route.

Two simul-climbing pitches will get us into the “Cengia Mediana”, a wide ledge that cross the NE face of Piz Badile horizontally. Silvia (green spot) and Italians (yellow spots).

The upper yellow spot shows the Italians have climbed again too high and got out of the route. Don’t climb up into the roof, but start the right traverse when you are at 1/2 distance below the roof. See the topo!

Me and Silvia waiting for the other teams to move on (photo by Regis). Karlis (the guy with the eyeglasses) has also joined us at the belay station.

Me leading the 5c+ pitch (photo by Karlis). The climb follows the dihedral for 25 m, then traverse right (see my upper explanation). There are some pegs in place, but you also have to place your own protection (cams and nuts).

Silvia exiting the 5c+ pitch. You can feel the route exposure when you look back. 🙂

The second 5c+ pitch is mine. Another dhiedral to climb and then you  need to turn left around a roof where you will find a sling to grab (just in case you cannot free it).

Climbing the chimney was Silvia’s delight. She did it in an excellent manner, not by squeezing inside the chimney, but by spreading legs she could climb it outside.

Silvia climbing with style.  😛 Photo by Regis (Thank you!)

3 more pitches and we finish climbing the Cassin route by exiting into the North Ridge.

Siliva was so happy to see the sun on North Ridge, as we got quite cold into the last pitches of N face. It was 6.30 pm.

From there we simul-climbed up to Piz Badile summit where we get at 7.45 pm.

We spent the night sleeping into the small yellow refuge (situated next to Piz Badile summit). It was me,  Silvia and Karlis, who got into the refuge exactly at the dark.

The next morning, we left the refuge at 6.00 am and start descending via North Ridge. We got down to our tent after 6 hours with no incident.

The equipment we used:
-two 50m half-ropes (rappeling down the Norkante we did 25 m rappels, but also downclimbed in some points), a set of cams + a set of nuts, 12 quickdraws
-a bivy sack each (250g). Fortunately, we didn’t have to use it!
-a down light jacket each (350g)
-a light rucksack each(Osprey Talon 33l) that included a 2.0 litre camelbak
-trail running shoes for the approach (We had the information from Sasc Fura Hut about the conditions. If you plan to descend via South, to Gianeti hut, you will need the mountain boots.

Important –  The rappels via Nordkante takes at least 5-6 hours during daylight and it’s quite impossible to spot the rappel anchors during the night if you are there for the first time. So, plan your descend wise!

*Read Silvia’s story here.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. chris
    Jul 25, 2013 @ 23:21:20

    great report and video, thanks! actually all of your reports are exhaustive and interesting!


  2. Ales
    Oct 08, 2013 @ 15:38:35

    Hi Daniel, I would like to ask you if you can write me by Email. I would like to talk with you directly. Do you have no email contact on this website.
    Thank you


  3. Rob
    Nov 08, 2014 @ 11:31:41

    Great pic’s,great video. Good info. All reminded me of my ascent.


  4. Lawrence Smoker
    Apr 19, 2015 @ 15:31:23

    Great narrative, photos (especially of Sylvia climbing the chimney) and video. Thanks Daniel.


  5. walter dowlen
    Aug 07, 2016 @ 10:28:26

    Cheers Daniel. Your account of the Cassin was excellent and took me back to 1962 when I did the route.There were no bolts then but dozens of pitons.As the climb was very popular
    (9 parties in 4 days) we decided to bivouack and did so on a good ledge just before the first diedre.We climbed in boots as we were descending to the Gianetti hut.We were carrying
    sacs of about 10 kilos due to our bivvy gear.My friend Tony when leading the pitch above the
    Cengia took his sac off and hung it on a piton so I had to do the pitch with a 20kilo load! I found this hardest on the whole climb.We were lucky not to have heard a forecast for storms
    on the Badile from midday.As a result we were alone on the face.We only heard about the forecast when we were in the Gianetti hut.The storms arrived just before midnight.
    Two years later when I was again in the area there were 3 bodies on the Cassin who had all been killed in a thunderstorm! The Casin remains as my most diddicult Alpine route.
    Happy days Walter


    • Colin Mitchell
      Aug 28, 2017 @ 21:41:08

      Are you the Walter Dowlen teaching in Carlisle early 1960s? If so it is good to hear you talking about climbing. It was 1962 when I went to do the Cassin route but after a few days in the hut did the north ridge in thunderstorms…..stupid.
      Remember Steve Ruddick? You were his inspiration.
      I remember you picking me up hitching to Keswick.
      I have a house in the Haute Savoie And enjoy the surroundings and walking


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