BMG Route Choice: Piz Badile North Ridgeby Bruce Goodlad - BMG May/2012
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In this regular feature from the British Mountain Guides, Bruce Goodlad from Mountain Adventure Company shows us the classic North Ridge of the Piz Badile, Bregalia, Switzerland.
The North ridge of the Piz Badile has to be one of the most compelling lines in the Alps; a perfect line of granite soaring into the sky. Combine that with a beautiful valley base a nice hut and brilliant rock and you have one of my favourite alpine routes.
Descent: You can abseil back down the route but this is incredibly awkward as the terrain isn't steep enough to abseil easily. Your rope gets caught continuously and it will take about as long to go down as it did to go up. Trust me I have done it twice! It is far better to descend the south Face to the Gianetti hut then walk back round to the Saas Fura hut the next day.
Guide book & Map: There are a few guide books that cover the Bregalia. Schweiz Plaisir Sud by Jurg von Kanel has the best Topo. Solo Granito by Mario Sertori and Guido Lisignoli is great and the Alpine Club Bernina and Bregalia guide by Lindsay Griffin also works. The map is the 1:25,000 Sciora map ref 3084
Valley base: Bondo is the a beautiful little village at the base of the Badile. It has a great camp site (though it is next to a sawmill which isn't great if you want a lie in). Vicosoprano is a couple of km away and has a camp site and a selection of hotels.
Approach: The North ridge is approached via the Saas Fura hut. To get to the hut you drive (or walk) up a toll road from Bondo then hike for about 2hrs to the hut. There are bivi sites higher up on the approach to the mountain. From the hut an obvious track leads up through a section of forest then boulders to an area of slabs below the ridge proper.
Above the notch the the route trends left onto the flank for a couple of pitches before gaining the crest of the ridge. Once on the ridge the route finding is pretty obvious until about half height where you need to move right into a squeeze chimney behind a large block then climb the crux pitch back left. Higher up you need to keep an eye out for a triangular overhang where you move right and up a groove to avoid being sucked onto the north face. With the topo it is all pretty obvious.
Best tactics for an ascent: It is possible to climb the route and make the descend the south face with a single 50m rope. This makes the belay change overs much faster. Most of the pitches are 30-40m so a longer rope will have you handling more rope on each belay. All the belays are in situ (door knocker style bolts) so using a reverso type plate straight into the anchor can speed things along.
It is worth being first out of the hut and walking quickly to get to the route ahead of the crowds as the route can be very popular. If you stay in the hut there will usually be people bivying who will beat you to the route but if you climb fast you can get out in front and it feels like you have the route to yourself.
Depending on the conditions you may need an axe and crampons to get back from the Gianetti hut back to the car, check the conditions with the hut guardian to confirm if you need them. If you do make them as light as possible.
Season: It is possible to climb the ridge as soon as it is clear of snow but it can be cold being north facing, late June to early September can be the best months.
Rack: 50m rope, set of nuts 1-10, cams 1,2,3 7 quick draws 4 8ft slings. A helmet, axe and crampons light mountaineering boots and comfy rock boots plus your usual mountain clothing
Descent: The easiest descent is down the south face to the Gianetti hut from the summit scramble down a series of ledges then make an abseil down a chimney, scramble down some more then make another ab onto a big ledge if you head right you will pick up a series of abseils which take you to easier ground. There is ab tat all over the place here so it is difficult to find the best line but it is easy enough to sketch it together. It is also possible to scramble down on the left but you are exposed to stonefall from parties above if you do this.
After a night in the Gianetti hut hike back to the Saas Fura over the Porcellizzo and Trubinasca passes this takes about 5hrs.
The purity of line on the North Ridge combined with the quality of the rock make for an amazing outing. The views are superb looking out over the jagged peaks of the Bregalia.
Bruce Goodlad is an IFMGA guide living full time in the Alps. He guides and instructs all aspects of mountaineering and skiing and is the author of the book Alpine Mountaineering - Essential knowledge for budding alpinists by Pesda Press.