The Aiguille du Midi is a 3842m peak in the Mont Blanc massif of the French Alps. This is the closest you can get to the summit of Mont-Blanc without hiking or climbing.
The Aiguille du Midi is the highest mountain peak served by an aerial lift system. The name translates literally to "Needle of the Mid-day". The mountain lies to the south-east of Chamonix and when viewed from in front of the church it indicates that it is noon when the sun passes over its summit.
The Aiguille du Midi is an extremely popular attraction with nearly half a million visitors per year. It is open all year round, except for the annual maintenance period in November (that can vary around two or three weeks) and during extremely bad weather conditions.
The Aiguille du Midi is an ideal starting point of the Three Monts route to ascend Mont-Blanc. The intermediate point, Plan de l'Aiguille (2,317m), is the mid station of the Aiguille du Midi cable car and is an access point for off piste skiing and ski touring in the winter season, hiking, rock climbing, paragliding in the spring, summer and autumn seasons.
A great day excursion is to walk from the Plan d'Aiguille to the Montenvers Train Station and Mer de Glace and take the train back down to Chamonix (or vice-versa).
The Aiguille du Midi Cable Car - Journey, Prices, Dates
The Aiguille du Midi cable car leaves from the centre of Chamonix Town (1035m) up to the summit of the Aiguile du Midi (3842m). You can see here the 2015 Aiguille du Midi Cable Car opening closing dates and times and summer - winter prices for the Aiguille du Midi lift, Montenvers train and the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car to Point Helbronner.
It is a two-stage journey. The first leg brings visitors to the Plan de l'Aiguille (2,317m). The second stage, without any support pillar, traverses Les Pelerins glacier before rising up the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi at the top station (3778m). A footbridge connects the cable car top station with the Central Piton terrace. An elevator inside the rock rises the visitor the final 42m to the top terrace at an altitude of 3,842m.
From the terraces of the Aiguille du Midi, there is a departure point for the Panoramic Mont Blanc cable car, the highest cable car in the world, which connects France to Italy. The 5km journey goes across the Mont Blanc Massif, from the Aiguille du Midi to Point Helbronner. From Point Helbronner, the Funivie cable car line descends into the La Palud area of Courmayeur, Italy. Rebuilt and re-opened in 2015, the Italian top station is a nice place to visit, with a sunny terrace with 360 degree views of the Mont Blanc massif, and a different perspective of the mountains.
The Aiguille du Midi cable car holds the world record for the highest vertical ascent: 2807m (from 1035m to 3842m). This is the closest you can get to the Mont Blanc on a lift system. From here, there is no cable car to the summit of Mont Blanc.
The Aiguille du Midi Complex - Restaurants and Services
The station of the Aiguille du Midi has several terraces where visitors can take in the spectacular views of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps.
Among other peaks, Dome du Gouter (4304m), Refuge Vallot (4362m), Mont Maudit (4465 m), Mont Blanc du Tacul (4248m) and, of course, the summit of Mont Blanc (4810m) can be seen.
On a clear day, it is possible to see the Matterhorn (4478m), the Monte Rosa (4634m) and the Grand Combin (4314m). Often, during the summer season, it is possible to spot climbers on their way up this face towards the summit of the Aiguille du Midi.
At the North Tower, there is a cafeteria and a snack bar open year round. In summer, the "3842" Restaurant is open. Situated at an altitude of 3842m, this is one of the highest restaurants in the world. Gourmet and regional food is on the menu.
The Aiguille du Midi has its own postage stamp and a letterbox. Postcards and stamps are available in the souvenir shop, open all year round.
At the cable car departure arrival/departure point, there is a History Area featuring the story of the station. Also, the machinery of the lift system is showcased through glass windows.
The Central Tower is circled by a a galleried walkway that connects the Rebuffat terrace with the terrace Mont-Blanc. From the terraces, one can view the Geant glacier and the Bossons glacier.
Also, there are the Espace Vertical and the Espace Mont-Blanc areas. The Espace Vertical has been created in a 80m² cave, carved into the rock. The museum displays climbing and mountaineering memorabilia. Situated 3777m from sea-level, it is the highest museum in the world. The Espace Mont-Blanc is a covered waiting area with large windows and photo galleries.
From the top terrace (3,842m) the view of the Alps is incredible.
There is a panoramic viewing platform and a sheltered area with wide windows enabling visitors to gaze at the view even in bad weather. The brave ones can... Step into the Void!
History of the Aiguille du Midi Cable Car
The Aiguille du Midi gondola was first thought of by two Swiss engineers in 1905. Their plan was to link the hamlet of Les Pelerins with the summit of l'Aiguille du Midi. The project met technical problems and was abandoned. Four years later a French company, Funicular Railways, made a new attempt and the first section Les Pelerins - La Para was opened in 1924.
The second section La Para - Les Glaciers was completed three years later. It was then the highest cable car in the world - a title held for about two decades. With the outbreak of the WWII and the opening of the Planpraz to Brevent cable car, the popularity of the Aiguille du Midi diminished and it was closed in 1951. An Italian engineer, Count Dino Lora Totino, was called in to rebuild and extend the cable car.
Four years and a lot of hard work later, the new Aiguille du Midi cable car was finally completed. It was entirely renovated in 1991.
In 2011, the CMB began an ambitious project to renovate the Aiguille du Midi. A new base station was completed in 2012. The “Espace Vertical” was delivered in June 2012 and the “Step into the Void” in December 2013. Also, stairwells, walkways and waiting areas have been refurbished and numerous photo galleries have been set. The entire project is estimated at 7 million euros.