The Aiguille du Midi is Chamonix's most iconic peak and the start of the famous Vallée Blanche ski run as well as many climbs, including Mont Blanc from the nearby Cosmiques Refuge. The easiest way up is by the spectacular Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi cable car, which opened in 1955 and runs from Chamonix centre to Plan d’Aiguille, with a second cable car to the summit. It holds the record as the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world.
The cable car is 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. The French are not big on queuing. It's worth noting the temperature at the top drops below zero even in the height of summer and it's mostly snow or ice underfoot. More problematic is the cable car will stop in bad weather and it's not unknown for cable cars to break down.
At the cable car station, it's 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 cable car picks up a bit of speed over the pylons. After swapping to the second cable car it’s a slower, steeper ascent to our destination.
On a good day, the viewing platforms offer some of, if not the very best views in the high 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. The Vallée Blanche is a 20km, 2,700m double black descent, passing through the wild side of the valley and its glaciers, seracs and crevasses. It ends at Montenvers unless the snow is exceptional and a route back to Chamonix can be traversed. A guide is required. 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 lift to the top of the needle at 3,842m 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. In summer, if you have the time and the lift is running, you can travel to Italy via Pointe Helbronner and then on the Skyway Monte Bianco cable car down to Entrèves in the Aosta valley. The Helbronner lift runs from Aiguille du Midi to Pointe Helbronner and is not without its share of problems. As well as closing in the winter and often also at other times due to bad weather, it has been the scene of several accidents. You can return via a bus and the Mont Blanc tunnel if or come back via the lift. Planning is essential for this journey.