I’m lucky to live in Chamonix. Home to many world class climbing routes with quick and easy access, its a climbing mecca. The problem is everyone knows this. As a result, climb one of Cham’s popular classic in the summer and you’ll often find yourself jostling for position with several other parties. This can detract from the experience to say the least. Thankfully though there remains some excellent routes out that have easy access yet for one reason or another slip under the radar. The Afanasieff-Bodin is one of these. Situated on Mont Blanc du Tacul, it’s an incredibly aesthetic 500m gully with varied, fun climbing up to grade 4 ice. With just a two hour approach, its also easily do-able in a day from first lift by a team comfortable at the grade. Last week, Pat and I went to give it a go. As hoped for, we had the gully all to ourselves with no sign of other parties having recently been there. The climbing was just as good as we’d hoped for too; never particularly hard, but always fun.
The source of inspiration. The Afanasieff-Bodin features on the front cover of Damilano’s Snow, Ice and Mixed guidebook. With a photo like this on the guidebook for ice routes in the Mont Blanc massif, it cries out to be climbed. However, for every person who climbs this route you’ll find dozens crammed into the similarly graded Chéré Couloir just round the corner.
The line in full. The Afanasieff-Bodin takes the middle-right gully. [Photo: Alexandre Buisse, www.alexbuisse.com]
Pat traverses the north-west face of Mont Blanc du Tacul on the approach.
At the top of the approach gully. The gully is a bit difficult to find visually, but with an accurately calibrated altimeter is easy to get to (look out for a cairn). Its this small bit of navigation work that probably puts off many teams.
The Aiguille du Midi and Chamonix 3000m below. I never get tired of this view!
Pat looks up at the Afanasieff-Bodin. The climb kicks off with some easy scrambling (3c) before you step foot onto the snow and ice.
Myself climbing in the lower part of the gully. The first couple of hundred metres are good fun: varied snow and ice up to 70 degrees but never sustained and mostly moderate-angled. [Photo: Pat Brownlie]
Pat approaches the half-way point and our first belay on the route.
Pat leads off into the sun. It was nice to be able to belay on an ice route with just a base layer and lightweight gilet!
Pat with the Aiguille de Saussure to his side. A hundred metres or so beyond Pat lies the two crux pitches. They are both around 20m long with short sections at 85 degrees.
3 hours after starting we reached the top, psyched to have climbed such a fun line and relieved to know we’d be making it down well in time for the last cable car to Chamonix.
Overall, its a great route that deserves many more visits but fortunately doesn’t receive them. If you fancy climbing it though, get on it soon. With a heatwave currently gripping Chamonix it wont be long until it’s out of condition for the summer.
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