Monte Disgrazia from the north-northeast. (A) East Summit (3648m). (B) Central Summit (3650m). (C) Main Summit (3678m). (D) North face. (1) The approximate line of Moonlight (VI [5.9] and 75 degrees, 450m of climbing, Balatti-Cavalli, 2008). (2) The narrow curving couloir cutting through 1 is Hypergoulotte (ED1, 95 degrees and V [5.7], 330m, Balatti-Ranaglia, 1989). (3) Couloir dell’Insubordinato (D/D+, 65 degrees max, 300m, Casarotto-Federico-Gogna-Mario-Mauri-Molin, 1979). (4) The classic Corda Molla Ridge (AD+, 500m, first integral ascent Bonola-Corti-Corti, 1928). [Photo] Lindsay Griffin
The October 31, 2007 NewsWire reported a new route on Monte Disgrazia (3678m), a major high peak in the Swiss Central Alps, by the Italian alpinist Benigno Balatti. Astonishingly this was his eighteenth new route on the mountain, a record indeed. However, this summer 54-years-old Balatti returned to add his nineteenth, a rock and ice line on the north-northeast face above the upper Ventina Glacier.
The Disgrazia throws a long ridge southeast from the main summit, crossing a 3650m central top and the 3648m east summit to reach the Passo Cassandra. The ridge was first followed integrally to the summit in 1913 by one of the great legends of Italian mountaineering, Aldo Bonacossa. The north-northeast face of this ridge is between 300 and 400 meters high and features a prominent snow/ice couloir leading to the gap between the east and central summits: the Couloir dell’Insubordinato, climbed in 1979 by the all-star team of Casarotto, Federico, Gogna, Mario, Mauri and Molin (D/D+, 65 degrees max, 300m). Splitting the walls of the face to the left is a much narrower couloir leading to a point just right of the east summit. This is the Hypergoulotte, climbed in 1989 by none other than Balatti (with Marco Ranaglia) at ED1 (95 degrees and some rock at UIAA V [5.7]).
This summer Balatti, with his wife Giovanna Cavalli (completing her ninth new route on the peak), climbed the ice slope left of the Hypergoulotte to a triangular rocky island. From there they were planning to climb directly up mixed ground to the summit, but mist suddenly descended on the mountain, and Balatti thought it prudent to follow a more obvious line. With an intimate knowledge of the peak, he decided to slant right across the Hypergoulotte to reach a pronounced rock rib, which he followed on excellent serpentine (Disgrazia is formed from serpentine, rather than the granite of the neighboring Bregaglia) with pitches from IV+ to VI (5.5-5.9). The new route, which also had 75-degrees ice and 450m of climbing, was named Moonlight.
Higher than any mountain in the Bregaglia by nearly 300 meters and considered by many to be one of the most beautiful summits in the Alps, Disgrazia translates from the Italian as “disaster,” but the name is commonly thought to be a corruption of Desglascia or Disghiacca, which most probably relates to continuous icefall from the northern flanks.
It will come as no surprise that Balatti now has at least five routes to his name on this particular facet of Disgrazia. Apart from Moonlight and Hypergoulotte, he also climbed Minigoulotte to the central summit with Daniela Gaddi in 1989 (90 degrees and V [5.7], 330m), Papygoulotte on the main summit also in 1989 (his third new route on the face in the space of one month) with Caesar Alippi, his wife Cavalli and Ranaglia (70 degrees, 350m), and Ice for Breakfast, again with his wife, in 1993.
We look forward to hearing of his twentieth new route, if not this autumn, then maybe next year.