When I read tripadvisor posts complaining about the long queues for tickets, hours-long wait to get up the cable car to Aiguille du Midi station (3777m), overpriced tickets, how bad weather foiled the best of plans etc etc, I realised those comments were true. Many moons later, when we reminisced, we realised how lucky we had been.
I’d bought the Montblanc Multipass online months before. My €208 package (€63/ticket + €3 fee/ticket + €10 postage) was almost lost in the mail (sent to a neighbour due to wrong address pasted). Thanks to my neighour’s Shelock-Homes -instinct, the package reached its rightful owner eventually.
The Aiguille du Midi station is only accessible in Summer/Autumn. Off season, the cable car goes up to Plan de l’Aiguille. Ok, I admit I didn’t do my homework properly so we were just plain lucky it was already open for summer that year (cable car was operating from 0630). Anyway, best to check before making plans. Refer here for the schedule and the prices.
We stayed in an Airbnb in central Chamonix (1035m) – not cheap but convenient – a 10-minute walk to the cable car station. We reached the cable car station at 0710, validated our tickets at the ticket window, then joined the queue for the next cable car at 0730 (every 15 minutes). Everything was done at a leisurely pace. No impossible crowds, no pushing, no irritated faces.
We arrived at Aiguille du Midi station at 0750; by 0900 we were done (it was cold!) and ready to take the cable car back down to Plan de l’Aiguille (2317m) for part 2 – hike to Montenvers. The weather was beautiful, the carriage was amost empty.
Morale of story: buy tickets online, stay in the heart of Chamonix, start early.
Aiguille du Midi – the effortless way to see Mont Blanc
The Aiguille du Midi (sounds like ‘eh-gwee zhu meezhee‘) is a 3,842m peak on the Mont Blanc massif. This ‘Peak of Midday’ (direct translation in English) is one of 22 major summits on the Mont Blanc massif. And Mont Blanc (4808m) is the lord of the peaks (here and in whole of EU).
It is an engineering marvel, to build a fort on a vicious sharp-edged peak. I salute the audacity of the men who thought of the idea, and they who made the vision a reality. And that was in the early-mid 1900s. For that alone, I would say, it was worth the price we paid.
At the station, we could get a 360 view of the alps and Mont Blanc at close quarters. I admit, I had a hard time imprinting the shape of the Mont Blanc peak into my mind. It was just … nondescript, compared to Fuji, Matterhorn or Machapuchare.
From a distance, we marvelled at the pint-sized climbers slowly making their way down to the snow valley below.
Spying on the Climbers
Once off the viewing decks above the cable car station, we got to a little ice cave where we saw climbers gearing up seriously – with ropes and ice picks. From the cave, they would walk out through a swinging door, almost like movie stars because of the ‘paparazzi’ crowded around the ddor. Except that instead of gala gowns, they donned technical climbing garb and the carpet was snow-white. Just as eye-catching, and way more ‘cool’.
It was kinda heart-thumping watching them step out onto the snow like they were going for a walk in the park.
We went up to the glass box – the Le pas Dan le Vide – but was scared off by the queue-that-seemed-neverending. Meekly, we decided to call it a day in favour of an early start to Montenvers.
Next – Hike Montenvers
Visited 4 July 2017