A Decidedly Damp Italy Part 2


We had one route in mind: the Nordkante on Piz Badile. A 1000m long line of immaculate granite.  It's the sort of route that gets people saying "the finest route in the Alps" and that sort of thing.

The only trouble was that it was raining.

Another trouble was that the route starts in Switzerland and finishes in Italy.  So while it rained we sat in the colourful Kandaluna cafe in San Martino in the Val de Mello and discussed logistics.  We stared at the guidebook. It was in German, so the staring didn't help that much.  We looked at the walk around to Switzerland. It was a long walk, had two high passes and might need crampons. We looked at the trip around via public transport. It looked like a ball-ache.

The next morning we woke up to sunshine and decided to hire a bouldering mat. According to a plaque, bouldering was invented here. It must be tricky to pin down when a climber first started training/messing around on boulders. We had a fun morning in a meadow by a river trying our hand at bouldering. The hard routes were too scary and hard. The easy routes were too scary and hard.  But we got used to the granite.

In the afternoon we decided to go and climb something proper. A four pitch route called Tunnel Diagonal. The hardest bit was finding it as our German guidebook had drawn a lake in the wrong place on a map. The climb was great and whet our appetites for more.

But the rain returned.

Rather than mope about in the rain we walked up to the Omio hut and spent the night there. It was a good move. Getting up high gave us a boost. This is what we'd come for: Mountains!

In the morning it was still raining. We had a leisurely breakfast, read our books, felt frustrated by the rain, and then walked down to the valley again.

After a night in a swanky mountaineering centre accommodation, we felt frustrated, so we walked back up. This time we took our climbing stuff and planned to stay in the Giannetti hut for a few days and see what we could get done.

We arrived in rain, had a beer in the hut, and then decided to go and look at the first pass on the route around to Switzerland.  Without our packs it was fun walking up to the gully and then tramping up the snow and climbing up the gap where the snow met the rock wall.  It was fairly precarious stuff without crampons but doable. The Swiss side , when we reached it, looked unpleasant.  Without crampons it would be a long, nerve-racking descent.  We went back for dinner. The forecast for the next day was reasonable. We decided to get up early and have a go at the descent route for the Nordkante. The Via Normale up the South ridge of Piz Badile.

In the morning it was windy but with clear skies. We stood outside in the wind. It really was windy.  We set off.  Getting off the ground was the most difficult route finding, but from there there was a set of abseil rings, painted arrows and red blobs to follow and we climbed the route quickly.  At the top the wind had disappeared and the cloud was gone. We had fantastic views across the Alps. Monte Disgrazia was especially impressive.  We had our lunch, took photos, had a look at the orange bivouac and saw people climbing the ridge.

We were a bit disappointed. Perhaps that should have been us. We'd missed our weather window.

We couldn't feel to bad because we were on top of an amazing mountain, with incredible scenery, in brilliant weather.  We set off down. It would have been easy to down climb the route, but we decided to get some practise of multi-pitch abseiling. This was surprisingly good fun and we were pretty satisfied with our improving slickness.  We were back down at the hut mid-morning and had a beer.

Two British mountain guides showed up a few hours later, they'd climbed the Nordkante and we chatted to them asking about the route and getting information for "next time".

The next day the rain, as predicted, returned. We set off for a walk over a pass to the Omio hut and then back down.

Again, weather had forced us to make a decision and we just hadn't felt confident to attempt the route while it was unsettled.  We made a good decision and when we go back, we know a lot more and will be well prepared.  We've got unfinished business.

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