The Aiguille du Midi is the highest point that can be accessed by cable car in the Chamonix valley. The station stands at 3,842m and is situated directly across from Mont Blanc.
The Aiguille du Midi is the closest most non-climbers can get to Mont Blanc and offers unrivalled views over the massif, the glaciers and Chamonix valley, not to mention a large chunk of the Alps and surrounding countries.
The cable car holds the world record for the highest vertical climb and is a two-stage journey originating from the valley floor at 1,035m. The first leg rises sharply over dense forests before the tree-line slowly gives way to tundra and the cable car plateaus into a gentle amble to Plan de l’Aiguille at 2,317m. Here visitors can optionally exit and hike [in summer] to the top station of Montenvers railway, located at the foot of the Mer de Glace, with views of the Glacier des Bossons, Aiguille Verte, the Drus and the Aiguilles de Chamonix. From this point you take the second car to the summit.
First constructed in 1955, the two stage cable car takes passengers from the valley floor to its dizzy heights in around 30 minutes.
The second stage of the journey, from the mid-station at Plan de l'Aiguille, is a ridiculously steep ascent to the top station of Piton Nord at 3,778m, a ride made all the more impressive by its lack of supporting pillars. A single cable lifts visitors in a seamless flight over Les Pelerins glacier up the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi to the terminus, impossibly perched on the Piton Nord.
It’s difficult to convey just how impressive this cable car is. Viewed from below it seems to hang in a void, suspended in nothingness as the cable lines merge into the distant granite face. You feel an overwhelming sense of awe as you traverse effortlessly up the Aiguille, ancient glacial flows spilling down the vertical sides below you, ears popping more than once on the climb. From the mid station to the summit is 1,461m – an elevation greater than the UK’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis at 1345m – yet the cable car soars to the top station in just ten minutes.
Stepping out at the top you’re faced almost immediately with a narrow supporting bridge which connects the Piton with the Aigulle itself, spanning high above the 55 degree Cunningham Couloir. Sufferers of vertigo, take note – this is the first of many challenges you’ll encounter on this trip. Also worth noting is the wind. Nine times out of ten it’s incredibly windy and you’ll also notice a marked difference in temperature from the valley floor. Temperatures drop 1°C per 150m and with Chamonix at an elevation 1,035m and the top of the Aiguille at 3,842m, there’s a palpable chill at the summit. To save you brain-strain arithmetic, this equates to a temperature change somewhere in the region of 19°C from the valley floor. And this is without factoring the effects of wind chill. Wrap up warm, it's cold up there even in summer (-31.2°C was the coldest recorded temperature at the summit). Visitors should also take appropriate eye wear as the sun’s strength is amplified greatly at altitude and compounded by reflection off the snow and ice.