Saturday, August 13, 2011

Piz badile, Cassin

Okay, I still didn't publish the video of our Piz Badile climb.
Here, the whole story in words with the video :)

August 04. 2011 13:00h.


Today I’m going to tell you about an adventure. An experience that went good, was beautiful but so tireing and demanding that it was something to remind of, for the rest of your life.

We learned, we thought, we improved and now hopefully got better then we were before.

Restday, that is what we needed. The climbing had not been very demanding, but our fingers were tired and our bodies felt heavy. And where better can you take such a day then in Italy on the side of a big lake.


So we drove from Stampa, our bouldering area back to Italy, Chiavenna and Lago di Mezzola. Thats where we met Thijs and Linda. They we’re on the lakeside with their campervan next to ours. Thijs loves fishing and caught a big carper in the lake, figuring two minutes later that he’s not allowed to fish there. Too bad, cause he braught me on the idea to go fishing as well. No fish for us we thought. But with all the fun we had they invited us for dinner. And loads of wine. So we still ate carper that night.

We relaxed, got a sunburn/or tan and packed our bags for the trip. Carefully we weighted all our stuff. Twenty kilos was what we had as a maximum. So all that was heavy went out. No sleepingbag liner, no rain trousers, no downjacket, no big camera, we even shortened ourselves on some food.

Speedwalking up hill

On August the 1st, Switzerlands National day we went up. The weather finally looked good enough to get into the higher mountains. First over the to the hut Sass Füra. In just one hour we reached the hut. Fast! We were totally surprised about our speed. The average walking time from Laret is 1hr and 45 minutes. We took some water, freshened our boiling heads, asked for the latest weatherforecast and figured yesterday was the only day the route had been climbed in July due to the snowy weather. Tomorrow would be a different story, more grouped had planned to do the same as we did... a bit further, for at about 1hr we walked to find the perfect bivouac spot: a big rock covering us from rain and wind.

A night with rain

We made up our beds, took our evening dinner, put on the alarm and fell asleep around 8. Well sleep, I didn’t sleep at all because Dennis and me wanted to ly next to each other, way more romantic then everyone with his own bivouac stone. Resulting in me having a hobbely bobbely bed and a sweet Dennis who rolled over every two minutes because his brand new Thermarest mat was leaking...again.

Around 2 in the night it started. Raining, pouring out of the sky, dripping on the side of the big rock but it didn’t get us wet. Though the rock we wanted to climb would be wet...for sure...damn. All the way up there after weeks of waiting and still not able to go up.

Early and late morning

4 ‘o clock. The alarm rung. Time to wake up.

I was already awake. Didn’t really sleep. The rock would be wet we thought. No reason to get up and go climbing.

Around 5 we heard people walking by. The Swedes who we met on the parking passed our rock as well. We asked if the rock was dry. They told us it was quite ok actually. We doubted and decided to go late. So all the groups would be far up in the route and we had all the time to ‘run’ up the line.

8 o clock. Time to take breakfast. It almost felt like sportsclimbing! Waking up late, taking some breakfast. Bags already packed. And off we went. In between 9 and 9:30 we were at the bast of the route. After some scrambling and light climbing.

People told us we’d need an axe and crampons but later the hüttenwird (refuge warden) told us there was no need for such stuff. Lucky we only took one pair of crampons for the two of us instead of the whole load.

The rock, except of the scramble and the snow, was dry and sticky.

The start

And there we started. I had the first pitch.

Piz Badile

Cassin route on the North East wall abseil over the North ridge.

We wanted to climb the Cassin route, so we had a 5c as starter of our meal.

The start of 800m climbing to the top of the Piz Badile.

All went okay, we found all the belays found an old rope, some rescue bolts, loads of old pitons.

We took one rack of cams from 0.2-3 (Black Diamond sizes) and a set of offset nuts. That was more then enough.

Traffic jams...

Though...enough for us we figured later when we saw people trying to protect the pitches with a placement every 1,5 meters...

Just before the trickier pitches we were stopped. Over 3 ropegoups waiting on one belay and more then 3 other groups in the two pitches above...

I was already surprised I saw people climbing just one pitch ahead of us. Weird...didn’t they start hours ahead of us?

We had no option but waiting. And thats what we did. Watching the mountains, the clouds, the climbers, and we got bored. So we started taking pictures of each other. We even got cold whilst we were sitting in the sun. We wrapped an emergency blanket around us to warm up. Over three hours we sat and waited. Finally, finally it was our turn. The pitch was a bit harder, around 6a and a bit tricky as it had some wet patches. But no reason for a climber to climb this in let’s see 3:20 hrs = 3x60+20= 200min/3x2climbers=200/6=33,33minutes! The pitch wasn’t even that long. Less then 45m, which would be average I guess.

We found an old alu box, probably had a topo inside one day, but not anymore.

And on we went, and waited...again...

It was my turn to climb and so I did. I climbed, and climbed and figured I climbed the corner way too far. Meaning I climbed 2 pitches in once. Shit. Although, shit. Next to me, on the official bolted belay there was the last rope groups just getting ready to leave! Uhhh.

So we waited again. Got onto the route again, Dennis turn to climb and landed on a crowded belay.

I decided to climb left of the actual route just before the chimney passages. A 5a or some. I ran up, passed the belay and made my own belay on a cam and a piton just before the chimney.

Crippled Polish climbers

On the belay before Dennis figured why this Polish group was so slow. They were climbing with a group of 4. One lead all the pitches, carefully placing gear every 2metres or less. He was experienced you could see, but was insecure. Two of the group fell somewhere in the start of the route, injuring themselves. But that didn’t come out of nothing: one had never been in the mountains before, another had not been climbing for three years and the fourth one injured his ankle in a fall. No wonder they were so slow. And by the way: what the fuck were they thinking?! Not been climbing for three years and set this route as your first, or never been in the mountains before and have this one as your first?! We should be angry, and afterwards we were a bit, they delayed us so much! In total we had over 4 hours delay because of this group and maybe another hour because of all the parties above us. 5 hours... We counted the climbing time every time so we were quite sure about the actual delay time we had.

Chimney struggling

Now, the chimneys. Wet and tricky weird climbing. The kind of climbing you’ll never find in your local gym. It was like crack, piaz, wide, offwidth, twisted climbing and hard to secure. But so cool to try! For sure, altough the pitches were wet, these were the three star pitches of the Cassin route.

Again I climbed on far too far in the chimney and made a belay with a sling on a big piece of rock. It was nice, technical climbing, smearing with your feet, carefully placing your hands in the wet crack. I later saw the bolted belay far underneath on the right side of the crack. Too bad.

A tricky but beautiful slab, the last pitch

It was Dennis turn on what turned out to be the last pitch. As there were still groups above us so we went right on the face of the wall. A slab, but a rare nice one. Dennis first travesed to the right, finding a place to put in some gear. A small .2 size cam, going almost straight up, finding some thing cracks for small nut placements. Carefully holding yopur fingers around the grainte knobbles and placing your feet on the big chrystals. Exposed, technical, but beautiful!

On the 'top'

And suddenly we were there. On the Nordkante of the Piz Badile. Dennis made a belay on a big abseil ring. 7:30 it was when I reached Dennis belay. Damn, so late! No time to go on for the top. Or should we bivouac in the cabin on top of the Badile? No evening dinner with, just some bars and water, probably busy with Polish climbers and other slow climbers...hmmm, no let’s just abseil as we planned.

Abseiling adventure

We hung the rope in the ring, attached the tagline and abseiled down. Luckily we found a ring almost every time, until it became darker. The sun went down, beautifuly, hiding behind the mountains in the distance colouring the sky orange-pink. We went down the wrong side, not knowing the exact Nordkante line, landing in abseils on pitons. Hmmm, not to good we thought, but hope in our own experience made us go on. Headlights on, searching for the next belay. Frustrated of all the knots in our tagline, we went on. Only once our rope got stuck, only once in I-don’t-know-how-many-abseils.

But the darker it got, the less light I had. My batteries were low. We decided to replace them with the emergency batteries in our kit, but those were not too good either, maybe the old ones were even better, so we changed them back again.

The stars were beautiful, amazing to see the double Milkyway the pole star and all the other star-groups so bright on the sky. It helped me quite a bit, when the mist dragged down, up again and down again zeeping along the mountain covering it in a soft white blanket. “The Italians are cooking pasta” I told Dennis, a joke I got from an old Austrian mountain guide.

One moment we found a big ledge, some snow on one side, a fully made bivouac on the other. We looked at each other, shall we? Shall we just stay here and wait for the light?

But tempting as it was we knew we had to go on. What if it would start to rain, what if there came lighting and thunder, what if...? We were a bit cold, sleeps, wanting our warm sleepingbags.

So on we went and suddenly I found a ring again! Was I lucky or were we just thinking logical? And the next abseil, Dennis found a ring again, and another one!


But then, we we should almost be at the base of the route on 2950m. We got lost again, shit, no abseil around here, no ring...We were tired, just wanted to sleep.

Suddenly we found an emergency blanket, hidden in between two loose rocks, we took it, sat on it, to cover us from the wet grassy ledge and took the other one we had used before. We covered us in it and sat there. Dennis sat good enough to fall asleep, I sat and watched the stars. Getting, even with the blanket, too cold to fall asleep.

After some time, over an hour, maybe two, we were sure we should go on. We tied a little rope around a rock, made our abseil and went on. We traversed a bit, and climbed over the egde, back onto the Nordkante. I went down on and on, sure to find the base of the route soon. And there, it was suddenly! The saddle, the edge on where the Cassin and the Nordkante were. We were there!

At the base

A light shined in our faces, wondering what we were doing there so late in the night, it was another group of Polish climbers, bivouacing at the saddle. We abseiled on more time, and climbed down the gully, went over the snow patches and walked through the boulder field. Finally we found our bivouac. Warm sleepingbags waiting for us.

We made dinner, evening dinner. Took our sleepingbags, made a new ledge, not too close to each other. And Dennis took all that was soft and warm to make a nice bed. His mat was flat, so anything to cover his back from the hard rocks was put under the mat, clothes, ropes, bags. Within ten minutes we were asleep. Sleeping on till at about eleven. Once we woke up, my phone was ringing, again. Unknown number, again. I took up, beep beep, beep, and the one who called hung up again. The fifth time that day, draining the battery of my phone with all the useless calling and hanging up again. Annoying, Who dares to call me when I’m climbing?

The morning, after a good night sleep

We took breakfast and packed our bags.

We walked down, leaving the Badile in the mist behind us. We felt pretty okay and it didn’t take us long to get to the hut, refresh our faces and walk down to Laret. We parked the van a bit lower on a flat place and were happy to find some nice French dudes who offered us coffee and later cake.

We spent the day eating cake, talking about all the French routes that should be climbed by us and our new French friends and we watched the rain and thunder over the Badile. Realising we chose the best day of the season to get onto the route.

We ate dinner, a huge dinner full with sun-dried, tomatoes, pesto, olives, courgette, pasta and even more pasta.

And then we slept, until the next morning. The Badile still covered in mist and later rain, no need for us to stay around. Up to somewere else, but what? Where? Would France be drier, or maybe the Central alps? In the Chiavenna climbing shop (good shopm friendly people!) they helped us with info about the Hiroshima route on the Badile. The 3 Effe shop owner had the number of the one who opened the route, better info you couldn’t get. Should we stay, wait for better weather? Or leave, leave...we drove to Chur.

1 comment:

Chris Withers said...

Great read! I'm planning on doing the Cassin next summer, so was googling around and found your blog.