Aiguille du Midi 3842m – Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France
The Aiguille du Midi is a mountain in the massive Mont Blanc within the French Alps. It is a very popular tourist destination and can be directly accessed by cable car from Chamonix.
At Aiguille du Midi you will discover a whole new world, a world of ice, snow, silence, stunning peaks and frightening heights. You will feel the altitude having its toll on your body, requiring you to breathe heavily.
You will get a sense of what it is like to be a mountaineer struggling with the weather-elements to conquer harsh mountaintops.
Standing at the top of Aiguille du Midi sparks your imagination and makes it easier to picture what it must have been like for the first explorers who endured the hardships of this environment to reach the summit of Mt Blanc.
If you are lucky you will see a spectacular collapse of an ice tower (a serac-fall) where a building-sized ice-tower slowly tips over and shatters into millions of small pieces of shooting ice.
Things to do
The main attraction at the top of the Aiguille du Midi is to take in the might of the surrounding. There are several terraces with coin-operated binoculars from which you have a 360 degree view of the glaciers, the mountain-faces and the houses of Chamonix dotted in the valley bellow.
Mountain views – You are close to Mt Blanc, Europes highest mountain (4810m), the closest distance that you can get to by lift-access. The views extend far into the French, Italian and Swiss Alps. You have a clear view of peaks such as Dome du Gouter (4304m), Mont Maudit (4465 m) and Mont Blanc du Tacul (4248m).
On a clear day you see see the iconic Swiss beauty of a mountain Matterhorn (4478m) 600km away, Europes second highest mountain on the border between Switzerland and Italy, Monte Rosa, (4634m) and Grand Combin (4314m) in Switzerland.
Ice tunnel and extreme sports – The top of Aiguille du Midi also offers other attractions such as walking through a chilling tunnel of blue ice and arriving onto a small platform at the base of a steep ridge that is regularly frequented by back-country skiers, alpinists and climbers making their way to their runs or climbs walking slowly and carefully along the ridge attached to each other by ropes and with clinking metal devices attached to their waists.
Step into the void – For the daring visitor there is the ’Step into the Void’, an airy glass box shooting out into the thin mountain air.
Museum and photo gallery – The top of Aiguille du Midi also hosts the highest museum in the world, in a dark cave mountaineering artefacts are on display.
There is also a small photo-gallery displaying the faces of some of the people who have braved the harsh Chamonix mountains.
Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola – If you want an even more spectacular view of the glacier and mountains you can take a 5 km long gondola ride with the ”Panoramic Mt Blanc Gondola”, open from May until the end of September. From this 4-seat gondola you enjoy views of crevasses, ice-falls, rock faces and alpinists for 30 minutes until you arrive at Helbronner in Italy. The operation of this lift is highly weather dependent and closes if the wind is too strong or if the visibility is not good enough.
Food, drink and souvenirs
The building also hosts a cafeteria and souvenir shop that are open year round. In the summer the fine-dining restaurant ”3842” is open serving regional foods.
Aiguille du Midi – History
The Aiguille du Midi cable car was first thought of by Swiss engineers around 1905. In 1924 a cable car between Les Pelerins, in the outskirts of Chamonix, and La Para opened. In 1927 the second cable car opened, taking visitors from La Para to the glacier next to Aiguille du Midi. At the time this was the highest cable car in the world.
Because of WWII and the opening of the Brevent lift, the popularity of the Aiguille du Midi lift diminished and it closed in 1951.
In 1955 the current day Aiguille du Midi cable car opened and was again the highest cable car in the world, a title it held for about two decades. Still to this day it is the cable car that takes passengers the largest number of vertical meters in the world.
How to get to the top of The Aiguille du Midi from Chamonix
The ticket office is located right outside the lift, on the right hand side of the building. In July and August the lines can be long, so it is advisable to make ticket reservations online in advance at Montblanc Natural Resort. Reservations are only available during these two months. You need to make your reservations at least one week in advance and pick up the tickets at the ticket office.
In the busy season everyone gets a departure time for which you should arrive 10 minutes beforehand. If you buy a return ticket you will also be given a boarding card for the return trip specifying your cabin number.
The cable ride from Chamonix to the top of the Aiguille du Midi is divided into two stages, at 2,310m you will change cable-cars. Each cable-car ride takes 10min, but you also need to take into account time for transferring. In all the one-way trip takes about 30min.
All including calculate a total of 2-4 hours for the round-trip journey from Chamonix to the top of Aiguille du Midi.
At the intermediate cable-car station, Plan de l’Aiguille, there are toilets and a summer time snack bar and terasse. Within a 10 min walk there is a lovely mountain restaurant, Refuge du Plan, which serves food and drinks with spectacular views and mountain atmospehere. Plan de l’Aiguille is the starting point for a few magnificent hikes of various lengths.
How to get to the Aiguille du Midi lift station
The Aiguille du Midi lift departs from a beautful building near the center of Chamonix, about 300m from Chamonix’s main shopping street, Rue du Dr Poccard.
The Aiguille du Midi lift stations nearest bus-stop is the Chamonix Sud bus station about 250m away. This is Chamonix’s main bus stop and you can catch busses to virtually anywere in the Chamonix valley and multiple locations outside the valley including Geneva, Switzerland and Aosta, Italy.