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Grand Balcon Nord, Plan de l'Aiguille to Montenvers

Hike from the Aiguille du Midi to the Mer de Glace

featured in Hiking & walking routes Updated

Skirting along the north side of the valley, both the access and departure points of this walk are served by the lift system, making it one of the most accessible high altitude hikes.

This hike starts with a ride on the world-famous Aiguille du Midi cable car. You only need to go to the mid-station but we recommend going all the way to the top first and then coming back to the Plan de l'Aiguille.

Step outside the cable car station at Plan de l'Aiguille and follow the hiking signs for Montenvers. Dropping down past the Refuge du Plan de l’Aiguille, the path then veers off horizontally to the right to La Tapia (not to Chamonix via Plan du Trois or Pre du Rocher). Once on this path, you can pretty much always see the route ahead meaning minimal opportunity to take a wrong turn. Look out for donkeys beside the refuge, they can often be found grazing here and are quite friendly.

Don’t forget to take a break to admire the views of the Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc which will always be behind you in this direction. Having passed the sign to the Chalets du Blaitière (and continued straight on), the next junction you come to will give you a choice of route.

To the left is a shorter but very narrow path that leads to Montenvers across steep gullies which can be dangerous if snow covered. This route is not recommended if you have young children with you or if you are unsure of heights as the path drops away sharply in places.

The better route to take (and the most scenic) is the path that climbs up to the right to the Signal Forbes (2,198m). The additional effort is repaid in amazing views of Les Drus and the Mer de Glace that the other route does not offer. Once at the top, the path continues down to the Montenvers view point and the railway station.

Worth knowing

This route can often still be covered in snow up until early summer, so ask for advice at the lift station if you want to do this hike in spring.

Watch out for

The Aiguille du Midi cable car is not advisable for children under three years as the sudden change in air pressure can be too much for their ears.

Who should go

Despite being at fairly high altitude and amongst very dramatic scenery, this hike is actually not too challenging and is suitable for anyone who has a reasonable level of fitness and is steady on their feet. It is the perfect half-day activity if you only have limited time in Chamonix as you get to see two of the most popular tourist attractions and do an incredibly beautiful hike as well.

What to bring

You won't need a map for this hike, as it is so well signposted. It is exposed for much of the route, so sunscreen and sunglasses are advised. High altitude can increase your chances of dehydration, so bring some water and remember to keep sipping.

What to see

Start your hike by taking the Aiguille du Midi cable car all the way to the top station at 3,842m; from here you can see the French, Swiss and Italian Alps, as well as look out over the famous Vallee Blanche. You'll look down at the crevasses and seracs of the glaciers and maybe even see some mountaineers setting off on an expedition. There are numerous viewing terraces, as well as "Step Into The Void", a glass cube suspended high above the mountains.

At the end of your hike you'll come to the Mer de Glace, the largest glacier in France. Depending on the time of year, you can go down into the glacier itself and visit the ice grottoes. There is also a crystal gallery, a "glaciorium", a café and the Grand Hotel des Montenvers to visit while you're there. You can then take the historic Montenvers train back down to Chamonix.

Where to lunch

There are cafes both at Plan de l'Aiguille and at Montenvers, as well as the panoramic restaurant at the top of the Aiguille du Midi and the Grand Hotel des Montenvers. There are also plenty of lovely picnic spots along the way.


Map of the surrounding area