On 17./18. September 2019 succeeds Marcel Schenk and David Hefti the first free ascent of the climbing route Free Nardella on Piz Badile. This is probably the most difficult free climbing route on Badile. The route was first reached by four Italians in technical climbing in the year 1973 and has been repeated twice since then.
The northeast pier on the Piz Badile is probably the wildest and most repellent corner in Bergell. Only the ascent from the south side, over the Colle del Cengalo, involves more than two thousand meters of climb. Then it is abseiled seven times in the faded Klucker Couloir on the north side. There is no turning back after the fourth abseil length. The path leads only over the summit.
Waiting for the perfect day
Everything has to be right for this tour; we were already aware of this during the planning and information search. After some research and a meeting with Danielo Valsecchi, who managed the first and so far only winter walk, we found out that the route has only two repetitions. The idea of trying this old route in free climbing became a plan, a plan that would only work out in the best conditions. This is how the summer goes by. At the beginning of september it is snowing. The season at Piz Badile seems to be over.
But suddenly we might have a chance for a try. Slowly the snow melts in the Bergell. So we decide to break up.
Taken awake by aching fingers
We wake up again and again. One, because we're cold because of the biting north wind, the other because the fingers and the rest of the body are hurting from the hardships of the last two days. However, we are in a good mood on our portaledge, which hangs like a liferaft at the end of the big trouble. The day before, as a team, we were able to climb all the difficult pitches freely. Teamwork is a must on this route.
After the long ascent and the first, relatively simpler section, the center piece challenged us. Over several pitches, the wall is vertical to slightly overhanging and offers incredible climbing.
Old hook material requires the highest concentration
The existing hedge is hair-raising. The old hooks are anything but reliable. They can be partially removed by hand or simply break off when looking up with the hammer. It requires full concentration. We try to supplement the protection as well as possible with mobile security devices. Rather, it is the psychological stress in the lead, which brings us here to the limit, as the pure climbing difficulties. After two persistently difficult pitches, we take a break on the portaledge and eagerly study the next pitch. Over several overhangs the line leads straight up. Many questions arise. «Is there enough grip for free climbing? »« Can be reasonably secured? " and and and…
"It is rather the psychological burden in the lead, which brings us here to the limit."
Vertical to slightly overhanging climbing
Questions that can only be answered if we try. So Mäse gets ready. Already after the first climbing meters, the pulse is felt to be over two hundred. Difficult climbing with not quite optimal protection bring Mäse to the limit. After about fifteen meters, the largest roof comes. Under the edge of the roof, a perfect knee-jamming can be made and thus a recovery is possible. After the roof we continue on small ledges and after 35 meters comes the cheering cry: «Stand». We are on course to reach our goal. Another demanding rope length brings us under a slightly overhanging plate, which has only very little structure.
The free-climbing dream is shaking
It's already after 18.00 clock. We're already on 14 hours and it's getting dark in less than an hour. In short, the mood is dropping, because the record does not look really rock-solid. We discuss a possible variant of the stand on the right and hope to find rock with more structure. The first climbers have simply drilled themselves directly over the smooth wall by means of a hook ladder.
"After a few hefty bouldering moves on razor-sharp handles, David jubilantly holds the edge above the plate."
David wants to check out the plate before the bivouac and climbs up the old hook, he cleans some structures and says he wants to try it once. After a few hefty bouldering moves on razor-sharp handles, David jubilantly holds the edge above the plate. Now it is clear that it is possible. David climbs on. Twenty minutes later and with a pretty exposed version, David is in the dark at the next stand at the end of the big trouble.
Climbing in the forehead lamp light
In the light of the headlamp Mäse rises. He can hardly believe it, with every move he has the feeling to overthrow right away but the grip is so perfect because of the refreshing north wind that he sticks to his fingers and toes. Once at the top, the relief is huge. With numb fingers we set ourselves up for the night with the knowledge to have the main difficulty behind us.
The supposedly easy way to the summit
After a more or less relaxed night, we take it easy the next morning. We do not expect much difficulty in the last five pitches to the summit. This appearance is deceptive, so we are confronted after a short time with snow and ice and the climbing challenge us to the last meter. Around lunchtime we stand with bag and bag on the summit. Relief and joy are huge, but there is still a long descent waiting for us.
About the climbing route Free Nardella (7b +, 7a obl. Expo!)
First ascent of "Via Nardella" (V, A3, 900m) by Elio Scarabelli, Tiziano Nardella, Daniela Chiappa and Giulio Martinelli from 9. - 13. September 1973.
At the first free ascent on the 17. & 18. In September 2019, David Hefti and Marcel Schenk will choose a more direct entry-level version over the first two pitches of "Via Hiroshima" (6a, 6c +), thus reaching the Via Nardella intersection systems. At two stands, they supplement the existing old bolts with a new one each.
Topo of the route Free Nardella
Video: First free ascent of the multi-pitch route Free Nardella at Piz Badile
+ + +
Credits: picture and text www.govertical.ch