Aiguille du Midi
Chamonix’s most iconic peak and the start of the famous Vallée Blanche ski run.
The only way to access the top is by the spectacular Téléphérique de l'Aiguille du Midi which opened in 1955 and runs from Chamonix Sud to Plan d’Aiguille, with a second téléphérique to the summit. It holds the record as the highest vertical ascent ski lift in the world.
The lift station can be found in Chamonix Sud, an easy walk from the centre. If you want to get an early start or visit at a specific time it’s best to buy your tickets in advance and arrive early. In summer, if you have the time, you can travel to Italy via the Télécabine Panoramic Mont-Blanc and then on to the Skyway Monte Bianco down to Entrèves in Italy’s Aosta valley. The Télécabine Panoramic Mont-Blanc closes in the winter and anytime there is bad weather. You can return by the same method or take a bus via the Mont Blanc tunnel. It is essential to check all methods of transport are running, the weather and timings before embarking on this journey. The temperature at the top of the Aiguille du Midi drops below zero even in the height of summer and there is usually snow or ice underfoot, so take appropriate clothing. Be aware that ski lifts can break down or stop due to bad weather.
Once you arrive at the Téléphérique de l'Aiguille du Midi station you will find a mix of alpinists, paragliders, skiers, snowboarders, hikers and, of course, tourists. These are all crammed into the téléphérique together and it’s an exciting trip as the lift picks up a bit of speed over the pylons. After swapping to the second lift it’s a slower, steeper ascent to the summit.
On a good day, the viewing platforms offer some of if not the very best views in the Alps. You can see into Switzerland and Italy as well as back into France. You can witness the brave souls exiting onto l’arrête de l’Aiguille du Midi, heading for a day’s climbing or in winter taking the Vallée Blanche ski run. Even exiting the ice tunnel onto the arrête is not to be taken lightly. People are killed every year falling from the descent before their day has even started.
If you want to achieve the highest altitude, take the elevator to the top of the needle at an altitude of 3,842 metres. Alternatively, if you have a head for heights, you could try the ‘Step into the Void’, a glass box suspended above a sheer drop to the valley floor. There is a selection of snacks and drinks and various tourist knick-knacks to tempt you indoors, but the outside is where the Aiguille du Midi experience rises above all others.
From Issue 00 of the Super Alpine magazine
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