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The North Ridge of the Piz Badille in Switzerland’s Bregaglia range has been called the Finest Route Of Its Grade in the Alps. Soaring 3,000 feet on splitter granite up one of Europe’s most infamous peaks, the route tips the scales at only 5.6. But, it’s an exposed 5.6 up a rampart that drops precipitously down the North Face to the left, and the south face to the right. The North Face proper is one of the Alps’ classics via the Cassin route, scene of the wall’s first ascent in 1937 and subsequent tragedy when two of the team’s four members perished from exposure and exhaustion on the descent. First climbed in 1923 by the Swiss alpinists Walter Risch and Alfred Zürcher, the North Ridge is less heady than the North Face and should be, along with The Nose and Lotus Flower Tower, on every climber’s tick list. It’s just that good.
Most parties begin the North Ridge before first light to beat afternoon storms and tag the summit after a long day. On September 10, Filip Babicz, 38, of Poland raced up the route in less time than it takes most of us to quaff a latte. Wearing rock shoes and carrying just a chalk bag, Babicz raced up the ridge zipping by roped teams to reach Piz Badile’s summit in just 42 minutes 52 seconds, a time you have to see to believe.