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The north face of Monte Disgrazia (3678m) in the Central Swiss Alps, seen here in late winter conditions. The new Baletti route, Combi (IV/4 5.10a, 450m to ridge, Baletti-Corti, 2007), climbs the triangular mixed buttress left of the daunting central serac on the face (which was climbed direct in 1960 by Alde, Ferrario, Mauri and Piazza: TD+/ED1 and 70-90 degrees, depending on conditions, 650m). The long spur on the left descending from the summit is the Corda Molla (AD+, 500m, Bonola-Corti-Corti, 1928), one of the best mixed routes of its type and standard in the Alps. The less-striking spur towards the right side of the face is the Spigolo Inglese (D/D+, 500m to ridge, 650m to summit, Ling-Raeburn, 1910), and the open depression to the right again is (because every mountain worth its salt has to have one) the Supercouloir (ED1, 600m, della Santa/Riva, 1983). [Photo] Lindsay Griffin

At the start of the autumn the Lecco alpinist, 53-year-old Benigno Baletti, added yet another route (reportedly his eighteenth!) to Monte Disgrazia (3678m), one of the major high peaks of the Central Swiss Alps. The Disgrazia massif lies between the Bregaglia and Bernina, and at first sight would appear simply to represent the eastern end of the Bregaglia. However, geologists consider it a small but separate range, and who are we to argue (the rock is in fact serpentine rather than granite). On the wild, remote but historic north face, Baletti and his younger companion, Valerio Corti, climbed Combi up the steep 450-meter triangular mixed buttress left of the central serac.

The line, which is Baletti’s third on the buttress, lies between his 1997 route, The Ghost, climbed with his wife Giovanna Cavalli, and his 2005 route Via degli Amici (5.9/5.10 A0, 85 degrees, Baletti-Casiraghi). On Combi the two Italians first had to negotiate a surprisingly difficult rimaye, after which they climbed a magnificent goulotte, four pitches long, 75 degrees and on occasions no more than 40cm wide. Two compact rock pitches with poor protection led to 70-degree terrain and the crest of the classic Corda Molla Ridge at ca. 3450m. Overall, the route was felt to be sustained, with ice/mixed difficulties of IV/4 and rock to 5.10a. Baletti, perhaps all too familiar with the summit environment, opted not to continue up the Corda Molla Ridge to the top but descended the crest to the Oggioni Hut.

The north side of Disgrazia is vast, but the true north face is defined as lying between the north-northeast or Corda Molla ridge to the left (AD+, 500m, Bonola-Corti-Corti, 1928), a brilliant mixed route of a quality equal to any other of its standard in the Alps, and the Spigolo Inglesi to the right–an unfortunate misnomer as its first ascensionists were two of Scotland’s foremost ice climbers (D/D+, 500m, Ling-Raeburn, 1910). The Spigolo was the first route on the north side, a significant achievement for the era (with still a relatively small number of repeats). Other well-known Italian alpinists, whose names adorn the north side’s first-ascents list include Renato Casarotto and Carlo Mauri.

The upper tower on the southeast face of the Torre del Moai, Cameraccio valley, Bregaglia. showing the final four-and-a-half pitches of Religion Rebel (5.12d and one point of aid, 10 pitches, Barbieri-Foglino-Panizza-Ongaro-Pavan-Sommaruga-Spennacchi, 2007). The crux is passing the huge roof/alcove on the right. [Photo] Lindsay Griffin

To the west of Disgrazia lies the wild Cameraccio valley and the Torre Darwin, where we recently reported the hard new aid route by Gabor Berecz and Thomas Tivadar (see the September 26, 2007 NewsWire). A little north of the Darwin stands the curious Torre del Moai (aka Torrione Moai), a ca. 2700m granite tower named by the first ascensionists, Guerini and Frosi, in 1973 after its likeness to the Easter Island statues. Although the upper golden turret is relatively small, it stands on an extensive plinth, giving a sheer southeasterly aspect of around 250 meters. It is also the most conspicuous feature on the east side of the Cameraccio crest. Routes such as Amanda Lear (5.10c/d, 7 pitches, Masa-Merizzi-Miotti, 1977), Bandeiras (5.10c, 6 pitches, Maspes-Vannuccini, 1990) and Il Guardiano dell’Isola (5.10c obl., 9 pitches) sneak off below the steep upper tower, failing to continue a direct line up the compelling headwall, no doubt daunted by the impressive roofs.

Local activist Giovanni Ongaro took this challenge head on, and in 2006 he began a line between Bandeiras and Il Guardiano. He returned this summer with Barbieri, Foglino, Panizza, Pavan, Sommaruga and Spennacchi to complete Religion Rebel, which has ten sustained pitches on compact slabs and superb, exposed cracks, complusory difficulties of 5.11b and a crux eighth pitch, high on the final tower, of 5.12d. Although this pitch went free entirely, the climbers were unable to dispense with a single point of aid on Pitch 3 (5.11c). This excellent climb compliments Ongaro’s 2006 route, Per Giovani Meteore, on the neighbouring Rhombus to the left, another ten-pitch free climb on steep compact granite with a crux of 12d. The routes feature bolt and piton protection, but only where it is impossible to use nuts and Friends.