The spider from Lecco
The member of the climbing club the Spider (Ragni) group from Lecco (Club Alpino Italiano) Riccardo Cassin is one of the greatest alpinist of this century. He was born on the 2nd of January 1909 in the village San Vito di Tagliamento in Furlania. When he was three years old his father went with the big ship to America in search for better life. In the year 1926 he went to the city Lecco looking for the job. He stayed in Lecco and his strong will helped him to reach his own aims. His days were hard. He attended the evening school. Before the school he had twelve hours long work. In his book Fifty years of alpinism he said that the beautiful nature around the lake Lago di Como and the mountains above had created his big love. His first mountain trip was on the mountain Monte Resgone, , the mountain that crowns the city of Lecco. Two weeks later he began his first climbs in the group of the Grignetta mountains. Among many new climbs on the surrounding mountains I mention only the one in the south and southeast face of Corna de Medale. On this trip he had first accident in the mountains. The rock fell on his head and he also injured a knee. After the three weeks spended in the hospital he was ready again for climbing. From this accident he made a decision that he will only climb with those climbers who are good and serious.
Through the first years of climbing it was realy hard for him. The long day job from the Monday to Saturday and climbing on Sundays. When he came to the work on Monday he said that it was realy hard to work because he was so tired from the long prevoius day in mountains. But the mountains gave him a strong character.
In year 1932 he visited the Dolomites for the first time. Two years after this visit he climbed his first big route. This route goes over the south-east face of the Piccolissima Lavaredo. In the year 1935 he and Vittorio Ratti made stunning success. They climbed the south-east pillar of Torre Trieste in Civetta. Later in 1935 in real battle with the German climbers he made another masterpiece. With his friend Ratti climbed the mighty north face of Cima Ovest of Lavaredo. This powerul face took them three days of climbing. With this ascent he became a national idol.
In year 1937, a successful climb over the north-east face of Piz Badile. He, Vittorio Ratti, Gino Eposito and two men, Molteni and Valsecchi joined the company during the first night. During the second night in the wall a terrible storm started. First it was only raining later in the third day started to snow. The descent down the Italian side was hard because of hard, snowstorm and poor visibility. Molteni and Valsecchi were physically and psychologically snapped. Cassin was carrying Molteni all the way down through the climb. But both, Molteni and Valsecchi did not survive. The huge success turned to the tragedy. This was the only time when someone died climbing with Cassin.
In July 1938 he made another masterpiece. This ascent is the hardest climb that he made. With two friends, Esposito and Tizzoni, he climbed the mighty north face of Grandes Jorasses over the Walker spur. Before he climbed it he had never seen the face. This style of climbing was characteristical for him. So to come below the face, check the best possibility and just climb it. Nothing was too hard for him. The route is still one of the greatest and hardest routes in the Alps. During this ascent he spent 82 hours on the mountain. Thirteen days before Anderl Heckmair was successful in the north face of Eiger. So the last three problems of the Alps were climbed just before the Second World War.
The Cassin climbing activity was stopped because of the war. After the war he went on many expeditions to Himalaya, Andes, Alaska and Caucas. He was the guide of a second Italian expedition to the Karakorum. The aim was unclimbed face of Gasherbrun IV. The 7980m high mountain was successfully conquested. In 1961 with the expedition called "City of Lecco", Cassin and some other climbing friends were successful in the south face of Mount McKinley. This was the first ascent over the south face. From June to July 1960 he was the member of the expedition in the Andes on the mountain Jirishanca. All members reached the summit.
In the year 1975 he was a guide of the expedition that had big plans. They wanted to climb a powerful south face of the fourth highest mountain Lhotse. But the expedition was not successful because of the dangerous condition and difficulty.
When he was 78 years old he made of many revisits of his route on Piz Badile. Riccardo Cassin is the honorary president of the C.A.I. section of Lecco, the president of the Spider group, the honorary member of the many alpine clubs. He got many awards and he is also the honorary citizen of Lecco. Today his famous company still makes climbing equipment.
The mountains always represent to Cassin a big love. The mountains give him important knowledge and feelings in his life. He just loves the game of light, shadows, air and sun.
What does mean the fifty years of non stop alpinism to Cassin? It means expectation, beliefs, prospects, pleasure, wishes…
He is a GREAT man!