I promised this post a while back but didn’t get around to writing it with all the amazing offers I was busy getting going for you all!
At the start of September, we rounded off a couple of weeks in Valle del’Orco and Val di Mello with an ascent of the Piz Badile. The North Ridge has been on my wish list for a while and it was great to do a more mountaineering style ascent at the end of a cragging trip. We were aiming for a fast-and-light approach, with one day from the bivi, up, down and back to the road. As you’ll see, we slightly underestimated that!
From Bondo we drove up the toll road (free of charge thanks to the ticket machine not working!), parked up and hiked in past the Saas Fura Hut and continued for another 45 minutes or so to some lovely bivi spots under the ridge. Settling down for the night we had a chat to another group of Brits who had done the Cassin the previous day and walked back from the Gianetti Hut (on the south side of the mountain) that day, who confirmed to us that we wouldn’t need crampons or axes for the walk back if we did decide to go down that way after all. We’d planned on putting them in just-in-case, but opted not to after this conversation – possibly not the best plan!
After the typical toss-and-turn night of a bivi, very jealous of the other guys’ tent, we set off just before first light with only one set of headlamps ahead of us, a team we later learned were heading for the Cassin – though given the faff they had on the lower slabs I’m not sure if they ever made it! Soloing up the slabs is totally fine, though I was glad I had approach shoes rather than boots on, and we quickly gained the col and continued until the ground got a little steeper.
Opting to simul-climb the ridge rather than pitch it was of debatable merit. The first 300-400m went quickly, making good time ahead of parties from the hut below us, and we were able to do a good chunk of it in approach shoes. After this we were slowed down by a slight detour onto the west face (getting lured in by abseil stations then having to retreat!) and simul-climbing on the ridge became less effective with some wandering pitches and plenty of rope drag; we switched to pitches at some point in this which proved more efficient on this terrain.
The top section of the ridge does seem to go on forever, especially when you’re getting tired and the cloud’s coming in! A quick lunch stop later and spirits returned, and the summit was soon reached. Over the last part of the ridge we’d had a discussion about our descent and decided that going back down the north ridge was bound to end in stuck ropes and endless faff, so we dropped down to the Gianetti Hut instead and spent the night there. The descent was easy, though we were glad of a guided party descending ahead of us making the route finding easy, we would have struggled with the small topo we had I think.
The following day we walked back over the Porcellizzo and Trubinasca passes. Everything I’d read made this out to be a nice little wander over some Alpine paths – the Porcellizzo Pass certainly wasn’t! Descending the far side of it did seem to take forever and was on loose gravel on wet glacial slabs – not very nice going! Crampons may have helped a bit as we did have to skirt some snow patches, though most of the snow was steep and frozen enough to warrant an axe as well. Next time we’re just going back down the ridge! The next pass was much nicer (and complete with cables) and before too much longer we were back at the car and starting the long drive back to the UK.