The major preoccupation of the thirties for all the best European climbers was the conquest of the six most difficult north faces in the Alps: the Lavaredo, Badile, Dru, Matterhorn, Eiger, and Grandes Jorasses.
The Piz Badile (shovel) is a gigantic granite peak on the Italian-Swiss border, and its northwest face is indeed a smooth and almost vertical wall of rock closely resembling the back of an upturned shovel, including a huge central groove in its exact center that runs halfway up the wall toward the sharp transverse summit ridge. The Badile was first climbed in 1937 by the Italian climber Riccardo Cassin (accompanied by Esposito and Ratti). They succeeded in reaching the top on their first attempt, but it took them three days. Two Lecco climbers, Molteni and Valsecchi, were independently attempting the face, but were in difficulties and joined Cassin’s three-man rope after the first bivouac. All five reached the summit as a single team in a blizzard after two more terrible days on the face, but Molteni and Valsecchi both died from exposure soon afterward during the descent. These two young men were experienced climbers, and their deaths serve to emphasize what a serious undertaking the Badile was in those days. To climb such a face and survive took great skill and extraordinary endurance.