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 to 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.  :P 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.

Zmutt ridge, Matterhorn (D, III+)

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Between 8-9 Sept 2009, together with Silvia Murgescu we have climbed Matterhorn North-West ridge, aka “Zmutt”, starting from Schonbiel hut.  For descend, we’ve rappelled down the Hornli ridge.

Our climb up to Matterhorn summit (4478m) via Zmutt took us 24 hours, as we encountered difficulties in finding the proper route in the lower part (between Zmutt glacier and the actual ridge). So, I strongly recommend to start climbing Zmutt from Hornli hut and not from Schonbiel hut! It requires a long traverse on ice to get into the ridge, but it saves a lot of time in terms of route finding.

Zmutt was our desired climb for the summer of 2009. As we had a 2 weeks vacation, our plan was to start by climbing Eiger via  Mitelegi ridge, then climb Mont Blanc via  3 Monts  (to get acclimatized) and then… the most wanted Zmutt. And that’s what we did.

Climbing Zmutt:

On 7 Sept 2009, we left our tent in Zermatt camping and started the approach to Schonbiel hut (2694m). This was a 4 hours easy trekking route. We took food and gas with us, as we were at the end of vacation and didn’t have too much money to spend in a Swiss hut.




We asked the lady warden from Schonbiel hut about the route condition and we found that 3 weeks ago it was climbed by another team starting from Schonbiel. 

The rest of the day we kept hydrating and sleeping preparing for the next day climb: 1940m to the top of Matterhorn and then descend via Hornli ridge and come back to the hut to recover our big backpacks.

Topo for Zmutt ridge you can see below. The line in red is what you have to climb if you start from Schonbiel to get into the ridge. See also the descriptions:


In the morning of 8 Sept 2009 we left Schonbiel hut at 2 am, descended right on the clear path to Zmutt Glacier. Here we had some problems in finding our way up trough dozens of crevasses at the light of our torches. Topo says we had to follow the watercourse in the left and access the ridge from that point. But  as we tried to find a better place where to pass the bergschrund, we found ourselves a little bit too high from the watercourse. Anyway, we’ve decided to climb the wall diagonally left to get into the watercourse. The climb was horrible, with all the rock disintegrating around us. We’ve switched to climbing shoes and climbed a chimney trying to put some protections for the moral. It was dangerous and it took us a lot of time.

We’ve got up into the ridge only at noon.  10 hours from the hut to this point… it was clear to us we will not make it in time to the top and down in the same day. 

We followed the ridge by climbing around and upon a series of teeth with one rappel necessary. We found some pegs here and one rope that was abandoned. 

The surrounding was excellent. We could admire  Dent Blanche in the background and the Lion ridge on our right.  

Here we are at the Carrel Gallery (by which Carrel traversed from the Italian ridge). From this point, the batteries from our little camera went off.  As I left my DSLR at the Schonbiel hut, from here on, we don’t have any more pictures.

The loose rocks up in the Carrel Gallery made us switch again to climbing shoes. We’ve reached Matterhorn summit at 2.00 am, after 24 hours of effort. We’ve put all our close on and starting the descend via Hornli ridge.  At some point we sow many torches coming up the Hornli and we thought maybe the rescue team think we need help and come for us.  (The batteries from Silvia’s torch were exhausted and the torch was starting to give light clipping signals – we considered this was the reason that made them coming).

We felt guilty and didn’t know how to make them stop. At some point, we realized they are not rescue teams, but climbing parties up the Hornli ridge. They were all like running a marathon, climbing very fast. The first team didn’t have time even to respond to our <Hello!>.  Why are they so desperate? Himmm…

When we got to Solvey refuge (8:30 am), we stopped to warm in the sun.  A mountain guide gave me something to drink as my lips were dry. Silvia decided to descend faster and get quicker to Hornli hut for some drinking water. At 11 a clock we took a nap in the front of Hornli hut. At 16.00 we leave to Schonbiel hut, where we get in another 4 hours.

The warden from Schonbiel asked us about our health, as she watched us up on Zmutt trough the binocular in the previous day.

See more about this on Silvia’s site, here.

Fil à Plomb (TD-, III, 4+, M4, 700m)

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After climbing Ginat, we still had some time for a one-day route. So, on 31 March 2012 we’ve aimed for “Le Fil à Plomb” in Rognon du Plan, see the topo here. It’s a 700 m ice route, in the Aig du Midi N Face.

We took the first cabin from Chamonix (7.30 am) up to the intermediate station- Plan de l’Aiguille (2340 m), passed the bergschrund at 8.50 am, climbed the route and exit in the notch by Rognon du Plan (3601 m) at 11.50 am.

The main reason for climbing fast (3 hours) was: We were worried about loosing the last cabin descend to Chamonix, as the next day we had an airplane back to Romania.

It was Saturday, and the route was very busy: 8 or 10 teams maybe. It felt like running a marathon, simul climbing all the way up except the crux (40 m ice at 85°-90°). See the film below:

Fil à Plomb Topo, the line of the route is in red (this photo is not my property):

In front of us many teams approaching Fil a Plomb:

Silvia on the left. From this point we rope up.

Passing the bergschrund…

Passing over 2 teams.

From this point, we could see the crux in front of us. 2 teams are already there.

Me starting to climb the crux. Not to bad at all, the route is heavily frequented, you only have to hook with your ice axes.

Looking down the crux pitch: ropes all over the place.

Exiting the ice fall…

That’s our destination… Aig du Midi.

Reaching another 2 teams from behind… up there we can see the exit.

The final push up on easy ground.

2 italian teams in the notch.

There is Silvia coming.

Me getting some sun. Photo by Silvia.

Silvia enjoying the view…

Rognon du Plan in the background.

A lot of people at Aig du Midi.

Enough with the rush. Now we have time to make picture and admire the view.

Silvia in this wonderful land.

Skiers on their way to Vallee Blanche.

Last steps to Aig du Midi. Beautiful places left behind…we feel a little bit sad for leaving.

But we hope to come back in the next vacation. :P

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