Day Trip to Chamonix, France
During research for our 2013 European Trip, we knew that we were going to be within "day trip" distance from Chamonix and Lake Annecy - so we made sure to research the route, what to do and where to park. As our initial adventure was to ride the Aiguille du Midi cable car, which has a parking lot on the southern side of the D-1506 highway. We also found that a large number of Chamonix visitors warned new visitors to arrive early - both for parking and to insure that one could be on one of the first cable cars. The crowds grow quickly in the summer! As an example, our early arrival resulted in us getting onboard the second cable car, later when we returned we saw that the waiting line was now at least a mile long.
WARNING: This is not an inexpensive cable car! A single adult round trip ticket (in 2013) costs 63€. We have read that the prices are different now (2022), but the weather can impact whether the cable car will be allowed to operate. Do your own research and be aware that early arrivals at the base station are crucial.
NOTE: This is the highest vertical-ascent cable car of any in the world! It transports visitors from 3,400 feet in Chamonix, France, to over 12,600 feet by the time they arrive at the upper reaches of Aigulle du Midi. The views from the cable car are fantastic, however once you reach the mid-station and change to the next cable car, your views may become restrictive due to weather and/or clouds.
The Chamonix Valley
These are the kinds of spectacular views you can enjoy from the slopes of Aiguille du Midi! The road back to Annecy is at the left of this image, and you can see some of the ski areas on the far side of the valley above Chamonix Village.
These are the types of views that are available from the mid-mountain station of the cable car system, the valley below and Chamonix Village make a beautiful picture.
Image Credits: The image above is the property of Ximonic via Wikipedia Commons. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.
Cable Car Ascent to Aigulle du Midi
Taken from the cable car window, looking out at the sheer cliffs of Aiguille du Midi. The cable car has a mid-point stop, such that the steepest ascent is made from that location, rather than from the valley floor below.
This cable car ride is not for the faint of heart. It feels like you are climbing to the heavens and the car sways back and forth as you ascend.
Click here to visit a website that has good information on prices, descriptions and other useful data for your trip.
You can see how the cable car cables are ascending into the clouds above in this picture right? The top station is somewhere up in those clouds! You can see a descending cable car in the center left area of image # 2 above.
Click here to see a really good video of the cable car ascending, it is not our video (thank you Nigel Billingham), but it is very good - and - you will be able to see why this is the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world!
Aiguille du Midi Peak
This is a 3,842 meter peak in the Mont Blanc massif of the French Alps. This is the closest you can get to the summit of Mont Blanc without climbing. You can tell where Mont Blanc is by virture of the direction these photographers are facing.
Once at the top, it is not only cold, but mostly clear and you are above the clouds. The surrounding mountains are all snow covered, and attracted the photographers who rode up with us.
Mont Blanc (just south of Aiguille du Midi) is the highest mountain in the Alps and the highest in Europe west of Russia's Caucasus peaks. It rises 4,808.7 meters (15,777 ft) above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence.
Way, way down in the distance in the valley below, is the village of Chamonix (right center of image # 2). Doesn't this picture give you a great idea of just how high up we were! As the Plan de l'Aiguille (cable car mid-point station) is at 2,317 meters (7,602 feet) and since we were just below the station, I would guess that we were sitting at probably 7,500 feet above sea level when we took this picture.
We were perched on a small cliff, just below the cable car mid-station, and you can see the cable car towers on the right side of image # 2.
Descent back to Chamonix Village
On the way back down our cable car was filled by a very large tour group which was
taking up every available inch & wanting even more, so we decided to get off at the mid-mountain station and explore.
Here we were walking below the station, where we could get a great view of the descending cable cars & the valley way below us.
Getting off the crowded cable car and exploring, turned out to be a good decision, as we got a chance to view Chamonix from an incredible location and to have a quick snack as well.
NOTE: There is a ticket called the spécial randonée ticket, which gives you a ride to the top but you have to exit the cable car at the mid-point station and hike down to Chamonix.
A picture of our youngest son Jeremy, as we paused due to the relative lack of oxygen at that altitude and the steepness of the hike.
This is a picture of my wife, as all of us had to stop to catch our breath. The oxygen at this altitude is a bit thin!
These donkeys were grazing along our hiking path, seemed as though the altitude did not bother them as much as it did us!
The above pictures were taken as we had exited the mid-point cable car station, the Plan de l'Aiguille at 2,317 meters. The cable car second stage traverses the Les Pelerins glacier before rising (nearly vertically without towers) up the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi to the top station (3,778 meters).
Once the cable car arrives at the top, a footbridge connects the cable car top station with the Central Piton terrace. An elevator inside the rock then takes the visitor the final 42m to the top terrace at an altitude of 3,842 meters.
Back to the Cable Car
After a snack, we hiked back up to the mid-mountain station to catch the cable car back to the Chamonix Valley.
Doesn't look very steep does it? I can assure you that it was! Or perhaps it was because we are not only walking up a steep hill and that hill is 7,500 feet above sea level.
The cable car on the right side of the building is headed back down to the Chamonix Valley, and the Aiguille du Midi cable cars depart from the left side of the building.
Cable Car Crowds
As we hiked nearer to the mid-mountain station, the ascending cable cars were not far above us, providing for a good "Kodak moment".
Note to potential Aiguille du Midi cable car visitors: See how big that cable car is? It is always packed to the roof (50 to 60 passengers) in the summer time, and the ticket window line is always very long, you must get there early or you will wind up standing in a long line waiting for those people who got there earlier, to clear out and catch their cable car ride.
The river runs right through through the middle of Chamonix, and since the river is fed by ice melt from the entire Arve Valley, you can see how full & fast the river is flowing. The Arve eventually joins the Rhone River in Geneva, Switzerland.
This view is looking south along the River Arve from Place Balmat bridge, while we were hunting for a place to get a cold drink.
Jacques Balmat Memorial Front Side
This bronze statue in the Chamonix’s main square, was built in 1887 to commemorate the centenary of the first ascent of Mont Blanc. Seen from behind, it is dramatic; two men, one of them pointing to Mont Blanc with an outstretched arm. You can sense the celebration inherent in the stance. Image #2 is that same statue from behind it and you can more easily discern that the man is pointing at Mont Bla
Jacques Balmat Memorial Back Side
The climbers who first ascended Mont Blanc were Jacques Balmat, a Chamois hunter and crystal collector, and Dr Michel Gabriel Paccard, a Chamonix doctor. However, this statue is of Jacques Balmat and his financier Horace Bénédict de Saussure. Another statue nearby this one, commemorates Dr. Paccard.
NOTE: Image is the property of Jean-Pol Grandmont via Wikipedia
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