8th April 2023
It is a must-visit spot on any trip to Chamonix. If you are doing the Vallee Blanche take the time to look round or if the ski route is not your cup of tea then it is well worth a visit in its own right. NEW
There is an interesting mix of people heading from Chamonix at 1,035m to the Aiguille at 3,842m.
Some will need fur hoods to keep warm, while others will need full alpinist kit to stay alive.
The journey itself is an absolute treat – here is the first ride of a two-stage cable car journey from from Chamonix to Plan de l’Aiguille at 2,317 m.
The next leg is a near-vertical ascent to the summit without any support pillar for the cable car, to the upper station at 3,777m.
The views from the top will take you breath away – literally.
There is 45% less oxygen at 3,842m than at sea level so it pays to take things slowly and breath deeply.
Here’s Mont Blanc and some other surrounding peaks:
At the top the skiers and snowboarders head off to the Vallee Blanche and its routes down.
The first section is a steep descent on a roped path with skis on back and crampons on feet.
That’s where they are heading.
This time PlanetSKI is not skiing, but taking the time to enjoy the Aiguille du Midi itself.
The idea for a cable car to the summit was originally proposed around 1909 but did not come to fruition until 1955.
The main man behind the project was the Italian, Dino Lora Totino.
He was later the driving force behind the construction of the Mont Blanc tunnel that was completed in 1965.
The Aiguille du Midi cable car held the title of the world’s highest cable car for 20-years.
It still holds the record as the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world, from 1,035m to 3,842m.
The lift and the whole structure itself is an engineering marvel.
The Aiguille du Midi is visited by 450,000 people each year.
In December 2013, a glass skywalk called ‘Step into the Void’ opened at at the top of the peak.
It has proved hugely popular.
The valley looks a long, long way away.
It is – 2,807m.
The Aiguille du Midi sits in the Mont Blanc Massif, an area that extends from France in Switzerland and Italy.
It is 30km long and 15km wide with over twenty 4,000m peaks and 90 active glaciers.
The first ascent of the Aiguille du Midi was made by Count Fernand de Bouille on August 5th 1856.
The first ascent of nearby Mont Blanc was made on August 8th 1787 by Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard – their statues are in the town square.
Their equipment was basic – a blanket, a few provisions, thermometer, a barometer, a compass and some poles.
Since then many hundreds of thousands of people have reach the summit.
Up to 30,000 people each year with 200 people a day making it in the summer months
The record number of ascents of Mont Blanc is held by the mountain guide, Rene Claret- Tournier – 530.
Inside there are all sorts of exhibitions and information points celebrating alpinism and the history of the area.
There is nowhere in the Alps quite like it.
For the practical details on a visit to the Aiguille du Midi, including prices and booking tickets, then see here.
PlanetSKI is in Chamonix on the first leg of our Spring ski road trip.
We have been skiing and reporting on the snow conditions here:
Tomorrow we are back on snow in the Chamonix Valley – visiting Le Tour and Vallorcine.
Shortly we’ll be posting a full-length article on our trip to Chamonix.
We had planned a 3-day visit, but we have already extended it to 5-days.
That’s the joy of a ski road trip with time on our hands.
Fancy a few more pictures of the Aiguille du Midi?
Looking out there are skiers heading up towards Mont Blanc.
Cutting sharp zig-zag trakcs as they gain altitude.