The Aiguille du Midi towers over the Chamonix Valley, dominating the skyline with its tall antenna tower, which sits on top of the viewing platform building, visible from pretty much everywhere in and around Chamonix.
Aiguille du Midi is the highest point that it’s possible to reach in Chamonix by cable car, bringing you in to what feels almost like touching distance of the summit of Mont Blanc – though in fact that summit is still some considerable distance higher up and inaccessible to anyone other than via serious mountain expedition.
Aiguille du Midi is the most popular attraction in Chamonix. In fact I read somewhere when we were there that it was the most-visited natural tourist destination in the whole world. I have no idea if that’s true but, even if not, it gives you an idea of just how popular an attraction it is – and understandably so as it’s a spectacular place, which no visit to Chamonix is complete without seeing.
We were here in the summer and were keen to get up here on the brightest, clearest day of the week, which of course everyone else was too – so on the day with the best weather forecast we headed to the cable car station to find enormous queues for the ticket desks.
The Aiguille du Midi cable car operates differently from the rest of the Chamonix lift system. It’s not part of the Mont Blanc ‘multi pass’ lift pass, so even if you have a multi pass, you need to buy tickets for the Aiguille du Midi in addition (although the multi pass will get you up to the half way ‘Plan de L’Aiguille’ station).
When it’s busy (which is certainly was when we visited in July) you buy tickets for a pre-booked departure time so, after queuing for our tickets, we had time to head over to the town centre for a cup of coffee and a waffle in the sun before making our way back to the cable car station in time for our scheduled departure.
Be prepared at peak times for a lot of jostling and elbowing with the 75 or so other passengers that cram in to the cabin – of which there are two, simultaneously ferrying visitors up and down the mountain.
It takes about 30-minutes to reach the summit and it can be a bit of an uncomfortable ride, stood packed in to the cable car, toe-to-toe with all the other passengers and their back-packs and climbing sticks but there is a stop half-way and, particularly if you get to stand at the side by the windows, the views are more than enough to take your mind off it!
The ride is fast – and the final stages feel almost impossibly steep, the cable running almost vertically up the face of the mountain. Beware also a point, about half-way, at which the car swings over one of the support pylons and lurches like a rollercoaster leaving your stomach in your mouth for a moment!
On a different day, we were sat having lunch underneath this point near the Plan de L’Aiguille and could hear the cabin-loads of passengers all screaming above us as they swung unexpectedly over the pylon!
The first thing you notice, stepping out of the cable car at the top is that it’s now freezing cold! We left the valley floor in temperatures of 30-degrees and half-an-hour later, we were stepping out on to an ice-coated floor with thick walls of snow around us. It should really go without saying, given that the summits of all the peaks surrounding Chamonix are topped with snow, but be sure to dress for ice cold temperatures at the top, even if it’s a boiling hot summer day down below.
The Aigiulle du Midi station itself is a man-made building consisting of several viewing platforms, a gift shop, a restaurant and the ‘spike’ radio antenna tower above, which is the bit that’s most visible from down in the valley.
But the main attractions are of course the incredible, breathtaking views, which are totally unlike those from anywhere else in the Chamonix region.
You get a stunning aerial view of Chamonix valley below and the mountains at the opposite side of the valley. You’re also as close as it’s possible to get (without climbing) to the Mont Blanc summit – the ultimate highest peak in the whole of Europe.
When we were up here we watched strings of climbers picking their way from a base camp of tents up a treacherous looking ridge on their way to the Mont Blanc summit.
On the opposite side to the Chamonix valley there are views over the Alps towards Italy, with a cable car (operating I believe in the summer only) that can take you from Aiguille du Midi over to Pointe Helbronner in Italy.
It’s a superb viewpoint from where you can see pretty much the whole of the Chamonix valley from high up in the clouds. No matter what other trails and lifts you take around Chamonix – and all of them have amazing views – none of them have quite the same impact as viewing the region from Aiguille du Midi.
We’re not entirely sure how good and worthwhile it is coming up here on a cloudy day, as both times we’ve visited it’s been pretty much clear. Having said that, much of the time the Aiguille du Midi summit is above the clouds and it’s a real magical view looking down from above on the top of the clouds beneath you.
One other minor point to bear in mind is that, at the summit, you’re in the realms of pretty serious high altitude mountain territory, which can cause some altitude sickness or breathing difficulty in some people. Most people are fine – but I definitely felt myself getting pretty out of breath just walking up a small flight of stairs. It’s no real problem though and the experience of coming up here and the views to be had from the top of the Aiguille du Midi make it an extremely worthwhile trip.