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Piz Badile (Cassin) and Cima Grande (Comic) advice please

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 Exile 30 May 2022

A friend and I are heading out to try either (or possibly both) the Cassin on the Piz Badile and the Comic on the Cima Grande this Summer. I have read a reasonable amount online, talked to some friends who have done them (a good while ago) found topos and watched various YouTube films of both routes, so have a reasonable idea of what we are getting into. We climb E2 on our home turf, which is the Lakes, fell run and have bigger route / long day out experience, although some of this is long in the past(!) We would aim for free ascents but have no issue pulling on some pegs if that was the sensible thing to do to move things along. We will be flying and camping so weight of what we take is a consideration. So, from those who know -

Rack - we were planning on a set of wires 1 - 10, a set of dragon cams to gold and 16 draws (some alpine draws.) Does this sound about right?

Ropes - we wondered about a triple rated 8.5mm OR single 9.1mm rope, and a 8mm half rope. (All 60m). We would climb the Cassin on one rope and take the 8mm with us for the North Ridge abseils. For the Comic we would probably climb on both ropes so the second didn't need to carry the half rope. Are these good ideas or are we over thinking it? Would 2x60m 8.5mm half ropes be fine / the way to go.

(I'm not keen on a tag line system for the amount of abseiling we would need to do, but could be persuaded... maybe...)

Has anybody gone off the back of the Piz Badile rather than abseiling the North Ridge? How big a deal is the walk back? How easy was hit booking?

What map did you use for the Piz Badile? (I'm assuming we can do the Comic with a guide book alone?)  Can somebody point me at it online? Did anybody get digital mapping for the area? If so what and how?

I know that the 'old' walk up to the hut below the Piz Badile has been effected by rockfall, so is now not used. Where is the new valley start point, and is the path easy enough to follow? 

What are good valley camping bases for both routes? 

We are thinking of taking a mountain marathon tent each (and possibly a tarp) for valley camping so we can take one of the tents for a mountain camp / bivi under the Piz Badile. Is this a better idea, to be closer to the route, than using the hut? (This obviously commits us to coming back down the North Ridge.) 

We are planning to fly to either Venice or Milan and hire a car. Has anybody recommendations / horror stories having done either of there? 

Many thanks in advance for your help. 

 dgbryan 30 May 2022
In reply to Exile:

"Has anybody gone off the back of the Piz Badile rather than abseiling the North Ridge?"

Both.  I would not abseil the North Ridge again.  It took us longer down than up & was a cluster ----.  The raps on the backside are straightforward, the Gianetti is a nice hut (as is the Sasc Fura, if you're using either) & there's fun stuff to do in the area.  I can't answer any of your other questions (walk up to the N. Ridge was pre-rockfall & you definitely didn't need a map).  Nice looking bivi spots near the base of the N. Ridge (which would be near the drop-off to the N. Face).  I have heard the walk back to the Swiss side is tough.  

In reply to Exile:

For the Cassin, we took two thin half ropes, 8.1mm, a set of friends up to blue with a few extra small/mediums and a set of wires. Theres some wandering pitches so alpine draws and half ropes certainly make it easier to avoid drag. 16 sounds like a lot of quickdraws, we certainly didn't take that many.

It was a very dry year so we didn't take any snow/ice gear and the approach ledge had one easily avoidable snow patch.

We camped at the campsite in Bondo which is as close as you can be, and then bivvied up on the mountain before the route using a lightweight tent. Our pal who had sustained a stupid injury and couldn't climb then walked back down with the bivvi kit whilst we climbed, but you could fairly easily pick it back up if you came down the North Ridge. 

Camping close to the start let us get a head start over the teams starting from the hut.

We abseiled off the back and stayed at the Gianetti before walking back to the car. We didn't book, arrived after dinner and found the hut was fully booked our with walkers. The guardian kindly made space in the dining room for us to sleep on the floor and gave us a beer. 

The hike over the Porcelanosa pass back to Bondo was absolutely harrowing and I wouldn't recommend it. 9 hours of the most unpleasant broken ground and scree. I would suck up the abseil down the North Ridge or stay at the Gianetti before getting a bus/taxi back to Bondo. 

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 GraMc 30 May 2022
In reply to Exile:

I've abbed the north ridge twice once after climbing it (as a green 20 year old) once after doing the cassin a couple of years ago.  it's totally fine as long as you are slick and have your wits about you, I think it maybe took us around 4-5 hours last time we did it. It also means you can bivvy at the base of the route and beat the hut crowds and then pick up on your kit on the way back down. The stations are all about 35 (!) meters apart, so 50meter ropes would work very well. 

 GraMc 30 May 2022
In reply to Exile:

Oh also ! When we were there we relaised folk were still using the original walk in so just did the same. Not sure if anything has changed since but it was much much shorter than the new route. There was a river crossing to do and a bit of navigating over the landslide debris but totally fine. Can't comment on the objective hazard from further Rockfalls / landslides but all the guides were using the same approach which would make me think it's not a total death trap

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In reply to Exile:

> Ropes - we wondered about a triple rated 8.5mm OR single 9.1mm rope, and a 8mm half rope. (All 60m). We would climb the Cassin on one rope and take the 8mm with us for the North Ridge abseils. 

Sounds OK.  If you are doing it on a single rope, just make sure you belay at the right place before the first 5c corner (bolts).  I ran two pitches together and ended up with a rope jammed under a flake at the bottom of the corner.  Everyone else seems to manage OK!

> Has anybody gone off the back of the Piz Badile rather than abseiling the North Ridge? How big a deal is the walk back? How easy was hut booking?

We were told that there's now a line of bolts allowing a direct abseil from near the summit shelter.  We didn't fancy experimenting and followed the normal decent to the Gianetti (make sure you traverse far enough right (facing down) to get to the cross about half-way down.  We opted for the pleasant walk down Val Masino - having been warned off the slog back over into Switzerland by more than one person who'd done it!

> I know that the 'old' walk up to the hut below the Piz Badile has been effected by rockfall, so is now not used. Where is the new valley start point, and is the path easy enough to follow?

The approach is clearly signed from Bondo up the forestry track 


 Jeff Ingman 30 May 2022
In reply to GraMc:

Our logistics in 2016 were a bit different for Piz Badile, because it was raining for a couple of hours in the middle of each day. We camped at Aquafragia on the Italian side of the border and then parked up at Bondo. Did the normal approach (a couple of weeks before the landslide) and stopped at the hut during the usual midday rain.

We set off mid afternoon and descended to the traverse ledge, went across to the route, climbing up to the original Cassin bivi where we did a no sleeping bags chilly doss. There are water trickles here. We left early next morning and did the slab variant because the upper grooves had verglass in the cracks. We descended over the back to the Gianetti (4 or 5 abs, we didn't take or need crampons) then continued down into Italy. We hitched a lift to Ardenno and got the train round to Chiavenna and back to the tent. My Slovenian partner was not prepared to abseil the north ridge or do the monster walk back to Bondo - he knew both of those ordeals well!

Your rack sounds right but we had 10 quickdraws. We used a beal joker 9.1 and a beal gully 7.3 both 60m.

It's a great route, hope you have a good time......Jeff

In reply to Exile:

A few answers (or at least some pointers) to your questions (having done the Comici and Brandler Hasse, and Another Day in Paradise - but NOT the Cassin):

- Ropes - I'd just stick with skinny half ropes - if you are carrying a second rope you might as well get the benefit! 

- Rack - sounds right but I'd add a second set of small wires for the Comici (think Stoney trad - a few laps on Alcasan would be a great simulation)

- Badile approach - we used the old approach a couple of months before the huge landslide and chortled at the warning signs from the over-cautious Swiss - how wrong we were! Having said that, it's a very handy way to the hut. We stayed in the hut (great spot) for ADIP and had the route to ourselves, but the mass start of the Cassin crew dashing for the front of the queue looked like an experience to avoid if possible, so your bivvy plan might be a winner - having said that, some friends of ours got so cold on the bivvy that they ended up just doing the ridge. Wrap up warm. 

- Comici grade - there have been other threads on the topic - I was in the middle of a Peak limestone purple patch and regularly climbing E3/4 when I did it, and thought it was well worth E3 free, and more importantly that there were a couple of moves where "just pulling on the gear" wasn't entirely straight forward. Solid E2 should get you through but don't underestimate it. 

One other thought:

- allow plenty of time for the descent off Cima Grande - it isn't obvious and you often get afternoon thunder storms.

During Lockdown I pulled together a zoom Slideshow for the Rucksack Club and Alpine Club on The 6 Great North Faces - available here for amusement, psyche and maybe a bit of beta. https://rucksackclub.org/?vimeography_gallery=1&vimeography_video=437624497

Also a write up of the BH: https://doughton.files.wordpress.com/2021/10/wp-1635495314146.pdf

... and ADIP https://rockaroundtheworld.co.uk/2017/07/15/another-day-in-paradise-ne-face-of-piz-badile/

Enjoy! Cheers, Dom 

In reply to Exile:

If abseiling the N Ridge, might be simpler to ab down Another Day in Paradise, if you can locate where it joins the N Ridge. We climbed AD in P, and abbed the N Ridge, which was a PITA, because of low angle.  We did that because of parties behind us, and also because I wanted to have a look at the N Ridge.

 RBK 30 May 2022
In reply to Exile:

> Rack - we were planning on a set of wires 1 - 10, a set of dragon cams to gold and 16 draws (some alpine draws.) Does this sound about right?

About right, you won't need all the draws on the Cassin but take lots for the Comici to clip the many pegs, some are a lot better than others!

> Ropes - we wondered about a triple rated 8.5mm OR single 9.1mm rope, and a 8mm half rope. (All 60m). We would climb the Cassin on one rope and take the 8mm with us for the North Ridge abseils. For the Comic we would probably climb on both ropes so the second didn't need to carry the half rope. Are these good ideas or are we over thinking it? Would 2x60m 8.5mm half ropes be fine / the way to go.

That's exactly what we did, 2 ropes on the Comici and climbed on a single on Cassin with leader carrying an 8mm, second had a small pack. There's more easy ground and bits of moving together on the Cassin so we found a single more efficient/ less effort in general.

> Has anybody gone off the back of the Piz Badile rather than abseiling the North Ridge? How big a deal is the walk back? How easy was hit booking?

The abseils down the North Ridge are fine if you're organised, I've been down it twice, just down climb some of the easier bits and consider lowering the first person out in places to save rope faff.... it is easier to find the anchors/ be slick if you've been up the North Ridge previously but the ring bolts are pretty obvious.

In reply to Trythallj:

If abseiling the N Ridge, might be simpler to ab down Another Day in Paradise,

I meant to suggest that too! We DID rap the line of ADIP having climbed it, and it was extremely convenient and speedy. The key point being if you can locate where it joins the N Ridge. I took a GPS fix for the top but can't find it I'm afraid

In reply to Exile:

All sounds about right; maybe another couple of cams in the hand-jam sizes for the wet VS cracks higher up the Comici. My only worthwhile piece of beta is that towards the bottom of the obvious line of descent on the Comici you come to a couple of bolts in the sidewall of a gully above a significant drop. Joined 60s from here will get you down. Joined 50s will not.

jcm

 Rory Shaw 30 May 2022
In reply to Exile:

I have done the walk back from the gianetti hut and really enjoyed it. It made a nice mountain journey. Up the north ridge down the south side and walk back round to pick up bivvy gear.

The gianetti hut was very nice and the guardian very accommodating and friendly. We took our own food and stove and used the winter room to cook in

 Tom Ripley 30 May 2022
In reply to Exile:

It’s a long time since I did the Cassin, but I’m pretty sure we took 50m half ropes. Personally I think a tag line would be too fiddly for this sort of thing, and seconding with another rope in your pack will just make seconding less fun.

You can always clip both ropes together, which makes things feel a bit more simple/single rope like.
 

I’d definitely take a blue camalot and maybes some doubles as they’re dead quick to place.

We bivied at the bottom, avoiding the hut crowds, and picked up our bivi gear on the way down, after rapping the north ridge. 

Don’t do what we did and leave your trainers at the base to save weight. My toes were very sore after going up the Cassin and down the N ridge in rock boots. 

Enjoy. It’s great.

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In reply to Exile:

Reading the post took me right back to my first alpine season in 1975. The Comici was the second route we did and although the exposure was awesome the climbing seemed OK for Peak limestone climbers. At that time we could lead up to E3/4, but we were never pushed. The descent is hard to follow and we were ambushed by a bad storm. Next we climbed the Cassin from a bivvy on the ledge. Brilliant climbing and protection was OK. No bolts or cams then. We went off the back and stayed at the hut, with the subsequent horrendous return walk. Ab the ridge! As an aside we then went on and climbed the Heckmair route on the Eiger, our first mixed route and a brilliant end to my first alpine season.

 Moacs 31 May 2022
In reply to Exile:

Can only answer a few. For Cassin:

Twin ropes. Fewer draws will be fine and could skip some cams.

Choose your poison on descent. The n ridge abbing is a horror, better to go over. But the walk back is also a horror - loose, long, exposed. I'd recommend hitching round tbh.

OP Exile 31 May 2022
In reply to Exile:

A collective thanks for all your comments, please keep them coming if anybody thinks of anything else. 

 GGD 12 Jun 2022
In reply to Exile:

Fair warning: - Some of the below could be considered beta so don't read on if that's an issue for you.

The only route I've climbed on the Cima Grande was the Comici, but I've climbed five routes on the Badile including the Cassin and the Nordkante, -I've also rappelled the Nordkante. 

Re grades:

Comici is fairly involved. It's extremely well pegged but feels 'traddy', maybe E3 with pegs given position and length. Both partner and I were climbing E4 at the time and on sighting 5.12- sport, and we were certainly glad to have grades in hand. We also had climbed together a fair amount in alps summer and winter, as well as Scotland. 

Cassin would be more manageable for an E2 leader. But I'm always cautious of comparing continental alpine rock to UK trad as it's not a very meaningful comparison. 

> Rack - we were planning on a set of wires 1 - 10, a set of dragon cams to gold and 16 draws (some alpine draws.) Does this sound about right?

In your position bin the big nuts, take only small to medium wires and maybe some offsets. Cams are useful up to BD#3 on both the Cassin and the Comici. Some doubles are likely helpful.

Small cams always useful BD #0.3-0.4 / Totem Black-Blue, 2 sets useful.

Comici you'll need 18 draws if you want to clip everything in situ on the crux pitch. Other pitches before the Constantini fork will easily eat 10-14 draws. We generally didn't place gear other than the clipping the pegs on these pitches.

> Ropes - we wondered about a triple rated 8.5mm OR single 9.1mm rope, and a 8mm half rope. (All 60m). 

Climbed the Comici on 60m 8.6mm single no complaints. Climbed with and belayed on a GriGri. Would use this set-up again on the route and have always advised others as such.

Climbed the Cassin on 80m 8.9mm single - extra length very useful climbing above the noon ledge where there's a long stretch of 5-5+ climbing to reach the exit chimneys, not much in the way of decent stances on this stretch, so easier just to get on with it. Climbed with and belayed on a GriGri, nice for a mix of simuling and pitching. Nordkante can also be rappelled on single 80m so pretty neat system.

> (I'm not keen on a tag line system for the amount of abseiling we would need to do, but could be persuaded... maybe...)

Carried a 6mm aramid tag on Comici. Rappels off the back are between ledge with some traverse in between stations. Would use this system again as means you rap on GriGris, given most of the rappels are down sub-vert gullies with crap in them, its nice to be able to set the rap on a GriGri. 

> Has anybody gone off the back of the Piz Badile rather than abseiling the North Ridge? How big a deal is the walk back? How easy was hit booking?

I've both desended the south face and the Nordkante. Returning from the Italian side is actually a pain, the walk is long, and the other option is public transport. Public transport requires you to be down in San Martino by 1/2pm latest if you want any chance of making it to Chiavenna that same eve from where you can hitch to Bondo. In August 2020 San Martino-Chiavenna, was a bus and two trains.

The Nordkante is in fact a relatively painless rappel (yes really!). I think many people assume it would be tricky having only climbed it, without actually trying it on ab. As mentioned above, an 80m single will allow you to rap the whole thing. Some of the infamy likely also comes from us Brits being shit at long multi-stage rappels.

When climbing on the Badile again, as I plan to later this summer, I will be rappelling the Nordkante. I also always advise others to do the same.

> What map did you use for the Piz Badile? (I'm assuming we can do the Comic with a guide book alone?)  Can somebody point me at it online? Did anybody get digital mapping for the area? If so what and how?

Badile - Sasc Fura hut well signposted from Bondo. On the route just assemble a collection of topos, all are a little different and none are perfectly corrrect but will get you up the thing. Climbing is fairly obvious, and route is mobbed so doesn't require much thinking!

Comici - Rockfax guidebook is fatally erroneous. Lots of errors on pitch lengths and descriptions. Descent gives the wrong lengths for the rappels, and directions. One place says to traverse 180m in one direction, when in fact is more like 200m in the opposite! 

> I know that the 'old' walk up to the hut below the Piz Badile has been effected by rockfall, so is now not used. Where is the new valley start point, and is the path easy enough to follow? 

Well signposted and easy to follow. Allow 5h30.

> What are good valley camping bases for both routes? 

Badile - Cap park in Bondo. Also slept in Church in St Moritz when it rained.

Comici - Waited until toll booth closed and slept in car on the other side.

> We are thinking of taking a mountain marathon tent each (and possibly a tarp) for valley camping so we can take one of the tents for a mountain camp / bivi under the Piz Badile. Is this a better idea, to be closer to the route, than using the hut? (This obviously commits us to coming back down the North Ridge.) 

I prefer bivvying, lighter and less faff. 

Hope useful, feel free to email/dm me for more info or specifics.

Post edited at 23:10
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 llanberis36 13 Jun 2022
In reply to Tom Ripley:

Can add to that great advice from Tom

in youthful exuberance I climbed it in a pair of Boreal Ninjas (the old styles)

still limp now 

but yes great flat bivvy near the base 

 kevin stephens 13 Jun 2022
In reply to Trythallj:

> If abseiling the N Ridge, might be simpler to ab down Another Day in Paradise, if you can locate where it joins the N Ridge. We climbed AD in P, and abbed the N Ridge, which was a PITA, because of low angle.  We did that because of parties behind us, and also because I wanted to have a look at the N Ridge.

I would not recommend trying to rap down ADIP from the North Ridge after climbing the Cassin. We climbed and enjoyed ADIP to the end of the difficulties and the last modern looking belay/rap bolts. The remaining climbing to the ridge looked like a diagonal scramble with older less inspiring bolts. I can see it being rather challenging and serious trying to find then do a diagonal rap down this final section to reach the top modern bolts. Even having climbed ADIP it was still a bit serious on the descent to spot and aim for the next belay/rap station, often with only a minimal ledge to clip in, pull through and re-thread. At the same time there was a cascade of falling rocks dislodged by people on the ridge, their trajectory seemed to be away from us but the noise from jagged rocks spinning in the air was scarey.

 henwardian 14 Jun 2022
In reply to Exile:

I did the Comici. On the Badile I did the North Ridge solo up and abseil down (no partner for the Cassin sadly).

Take two half ropes. Don't use a tag line.

You don't need a map for the Comici.

Just pick up a local walking map for the Cassin, it'll be about 5 euros or something, any of the available ones are going to be fine, the paths are good and obvious and it's not like you can miss the North Face.

I don't know about the walk off the Badile but abseiling the North Ridge takes ages, it took me as long to get down as it did to get up, so leave plenty of time.

I didn't book a hut for the Badile, it isn't necessary, just start walking up from the road end at 1am or so.

I didn't do any digital mapping.

Flying to Treviso lets you tack a day in Venice onto the end/start of the trip depending on weather - I thoroughly recommend it.

Flying to Milan lets you get stuck in traffic because there is a big crash on the motorway (because there are always crashes closing the motorways round Milan!).

There are plenty of obvious flat places to camp on the approach to the Cassin, it's entirely your choice whether to camp/hut or start from the parking.

Both of these routes are incredibly popular so expect that no matter what time you try to start, you will be in a serious queue situation. The Badile at least has other routes which climb the same face at a similar grade and offer just as much of the experience as the Cassin, I'd really encourage you to have some alternatives in mind so you can do another route on the day if you get to the start and there are 5 parties waiting to get going.

Don't underestimate the descent from the Comici, it is long, intricate and not that easy to follow in the dark and the rain (which, coincidentally was exactly how things were both times I was going down it).

Rack: I'm old-fashioned, unless it's a bolted route, I always take a standard-sized rack in the dolomites/alps and I've never regretted it. What size of rack that is depends on what you normally climb with. Having a few older slings and biners to leave behind when things get pear-shaped is a good idea if you don't want to be leaving your shiny stuff.

From what you say of your experience, it sounds like you might want to start off on a 6 or 8 pitch V or V+ first and then work your way up in grades and numbers of pitches. Personally the only time I was persuaded to try a big wall at my single-pitch on-sight limit, it did not go at all well! 

 Jeff Ingman 14 Jun 2022
In reply to Exile:

One other point prompted by henwardian's comments.....

....the Cassin is very popular but our strategy (weather related) of using Cassin's Bivi on the face meant that we missed the crowds. We did the first half of the route in late afternoon early evening, and the second half at first light arriving on top at 11am. A fantastic unintended consequence!

Hope you enjoy it...... Jeff


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