The Aiguille du Midi is the highest lift accessed mountain in the world and the second most visited tourist site in France (after the Eiffel Tower). Departing from Chamonix at 1035m, two cable car rides take you to the impossibly perched Aiguille du Midi Station at a dizzying height of 3842m. It is the closest you can get to Mont Blanc without climbing. The lift is open all year round (except a short time in November for maintenace).
On the Alpenwild Tour du Mont Blanc Trip we visit the Aiguille du Midi cable car on the last day of the tour when we arrive back in Chamonix.
Plan de L’Aiguille
The first cable car takes you to the Plan de l’Aiguille (2317m). From here you can enjoy views of the imposing Chamonix Needles (Aiguilles) towering over you. The mid station is the starting point for alpinists who are skilled enough tackle the north face of the Aiguille du Midi. Keep an eye out below you as you ascend on the next cable car. You might just spot a few climbers on the classic Frendo Ravanel route.
It’s cold at the top!
Make sure you pack warm layers for the trip. Although it may be t-shirt weather in the valley, it is usually below 0.C at the summit. When you arrive at the top you will follow a corridor carved into rock and out onto a bridge. In winter, climbers abseil off this bridge on the right-hand side to reach ice climbing routes.
As you cross the bridge and climb the stairs to the viewing platforms, you will notice that your legs feel heavy and your breathing is faster than usual. This is completely normal at such an altitude if you aren’t acclimatised so don’t be alarmed!
Look out for alpinists
The viewing platforms afford incredible views of Mont Blanc and the glaciers below. On a clear day you can even see as far as the Matterhorn in Switzerland. For experienced alpinists, the Aiguille du Midi provides easy access to the nearby summits. You can watch climbers roping up and strapping on their crampons to walk down a snowy ridge to the glacier below. Many of them will be setting off for day-long climbs. Some will be heading out for a bigger adventure such as Mont Blanc (4810m). If you take some binoculars you will be able spot people winding their way up to the summit.
Coffee with a view
If you need to warm up, there is a café and a museum in the station. It’s well worth taking some time to marvel at the photos of workers who began constructing the cable car in the 1920s. The station and lift were finally completed in 1956 and it undergoes constant maintenance.
Step into the void
Built in 2013, the ‘step into the void’ allows visitors to experience what it feels like to look down at 1000m of exposure beneath their feet. The glass room with a glass floor is attached to the top most terrace of the Aiguille du Midi. Visitors can take it in turns to step inside and enjoy unobstructed views of the nearby peaks and glaciers and pose for a photo. There is usually a big queue so it’s worth getting an early lift to make sure you have time to visit.
Get there early in peak season!
In peak holiday season (both summer and winter) there can be very big queues for the Aiguille du midi. So get there early!