Have you heard about the Panoramic Mont Blanc Cable Car? A cable car ride which takes you most of the way up Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe? The Aiguille du Midi at Chamonix? The Step into the Void (or Pas de la Vide as the French say) – a glass box hanging out into thin air over the side of Mont Blanc?? Never heard of any of it? No- neither had we!
How we found out about the Chamonix Cable Car
Our story starts with a hitchhiker. Two, actually.
We set off on our journey to explore the Italian Lakes and within 5 minutes we passed a young couple on the roadside asking to hitch a lift. We had loads of space in our motorhome, so we decided to stop- to their endless gratitude. They didn't speak much English, but between us all we worked out where they wanted to go- turns out we were driving straight past their hometown. Quelle Chance!
They settled into the back of the motorhome with Jade and the three of them chatted happily- as teenagers do, even when they don't speak a common language. These kids had been exploring France. They'd been up to Paris for three days, done a multi-day trek around Mont Blanc and were now on their way home for Grandmother's birthday. We were happy to be making their lives a little easier. Mr WB insisted on driving them almost to their front door- not sure I'm going to let him pick up a hitchhiker again- we could end up millions of miles out of our way!! 😉
However, this random encounter totally changed the planned start of our holiday. The young girl's best friend worked at a cafe at the top of Mont Blanc. “A Cafe up the mountain Mont Blanc??” we asked, convinced we had misunderstood.
“Oh yes! You go up the Aiguille du Midi. There is the Mont Blanc Cable Car which takes you up the mountain. It's beautiful. You must go.”
I immediately started to Google. Turns out there is indeed a Panoramic Mont Blanc Cable Car, which takes you nearly 4000m up the Aiguille du Midi (on the side of Mont Blanc) and the views are spectacular. It leaves from Chamonix, in the French Alps, and there's motorhome parking right at the bottom. We figured the Italian lakes could wait for a day- we were going up a mountain!
Motorhome Parking at the Mont Blanc Cable Car in Chamonix
The girl (I really should remember her name- so bad of me!) was so excited that we were going to the Aiguille du Midi that she gave Jade a small green elephant trinket to give to her friend Sasha. Jade, having a heart of gold, was even more determined to find Sasha and give her the gift.
Several hours later, after successful drop off of two grateful hitchhikers, we arrived at Les Houches, which was a car park we had found on Park4night.
HOWEVER, important learning point- not all places listed on sites like Park4night or Campercontact are up to date. We merrily heading for our selected place, not even worrying as the streets got smaller and narrower…. until we found ourselves going up the side of Mont Blanc, quite literally, in our 7m motorhome with our motorbike trailer on the back. The houses were beautifully cute- traditional French/ Swiss ski chalets- but they all had overhangs which the motorhome would NOT get under, so we took up the entire road as we crawled up this mountainside, looking for the promised car park.
Turns out the promised car park no longer existed.
Which in a car is not a problem… but where on earth do you turn a massive motorhome, with trailer, around on a tiny mountain street?? We had no choice but to keep going up and up!!
Eventually, we managed to find somewhere to turn around, but then we needed to find somewhere else to head for. We consulted our websites again (luckily we still had 3G signal) and decided to head for a big motorhome car park in Chamonix, at the foot of Aiguille du Midi- we figured this one would be likely to still be there!
Finally, 9 hours after we set off that morning, we pulled into the aire Chamonix Mont Blanc. We were greeted with around 100 motorhomes, campers, converted vans and a few cars- yet there was still plenty of room for us. There's a place to fill up with fresh water and empty grey water, but nowhere to empty toilets and there is only one water filler for the entire site- so pick your time to use it wisely.
Aiguille du Midi Cable Car- Chamonix
Riding the Mont Blanc Cable Car- what to wear and bring
I'll admit, we were NOT prepared for this. We were heading to the Italian lakes in August- not up a mountain. Heck, I didn't even have a proper coat in the motorhome- that was a lesson learnt! Even in the height of summer, it is COLD up a mountain. There's snow EVERYWHERE and it's barely 5 degreesC – even though it was 25 degrees at the bottom! Learn from our mistakes- if you're planning to visit the Aiguille du Midi, bring coats, hats, scarves, gloves and warm clothing!
Panoramic Mont Blanc Cable Car- Ticket Price and info
The part of Mont Blanc you ascend is called the Aiguille du Midi (the Midday Needle) and it's actually TWO cable cars to get all the way up. The Panoramic Mont Blanc Cable Car holds the world record for the highest vertical ascent of a cable car- from 1035m (Chamonix) to 3842m at Aiguille du Midi.
In Chamonix, (the town at the bottom) you can buy tickets all the way up to Aiguille du Midi OR only tickets to the halfway point called Plan du Aiguille.
- REMEMBER to buy a return ticket unless you fancy a really really long walk!!
- Anyone over 14 is an adult and prices per Adult were 61.50€ EACH in July 2017. Yes, that is expensive, but your ticket does include entry to The Void (more on that later) and we decided it was worth it to go up a mountain.
- A family of 2 adults and 2 children can get their tickets slightly cheaper, as can seniors.
- You can also buy a multi-pass if you're going to be in the area for a while and want to go up several times.
- Children under 3 are FORBIDDEN, and it is a trip not recommended for children under 5.
- For more details and opening times, click here
Plan du Aiguille
You change cable cars at Plan du Aiguille. (2317m) There is a small cafe which I believe is only open in the summer. This is also a great place to take lots of photos of the Aiguille du Midi. Some people walk down the mountain from here, but please remember it is an actual MOUNTAIN- not something to go for a wander on without appropriate kit. One potential day excursion is to walk from here to Montenvers Train Station and Mer de Glace in order to catch the train back down to Chamonix.
Your ticket for the ride from Chamonix- Plan du Aiguille is timed. Obviously, we hadn't booked in advance so we got up early (6am!) and managed to get tickets for the very next departure at around 7am. This was brilliant for several reasons. Firstly, we avoided the queues which were already building that early and secondly we were high enough up the mountain to catch the sun rising over the peaks, which was just spectacular! If we ever go back again, I would do exactly the same thing. Watching the mountains turn golden with the sun and the sky get bluer was a really special experience- even if we were getting frostbite from the lack of gloves!! 🙂
Panoramic Mont Blanc Cable Car Ride
Both cable cars are pretty big- taking around 20-30 people on each trip. They run every 10-15 minutes during summer.
From Chamonix, the journey to Plan du Aiguille is roughly 10 minutes and you can start to see the spectacular scenery unfold before you.
At the Plan, you disembark the first cable car, which then returns to Chamonix, and you wait for the one up to the Aiguille du Midi. This trip takes 10-15 minutes and there is no supporting pillar- so the car can sway a little more than on the first stage. (Jade was unimpressed by this!)
At the top of the Aiguille du Midi
Once you disembark at the top, remember you are nearly 4000m up a mountain. You'll feel the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere, so try not to do what I did and go bouncing up the stairs to see the view- within about 5 steps I was breathless and struggled to recover for a few minutes. It's a weird feeling- especially if like me you'd never felt it before!
Aiguille du Midi Viewing Platform
Up at the viewing platform, which is reached by climbing some rickety looking steps (Jade was unimpressed by these too!) you can see the Matterhorn (4478m), the Monte Rosa (4634m) the Grand Combin (4314m) and several glaciers. Often, during the summer season, it is possible to spot climbers tackling this face of the Aiguille du Midi- we actually saw their tents where they had been sleeping/ resting before the big ascent- that was really fun to watch. I can't imagine how that must feel- knowing you're about to climb up and stand at the highest Mountain in western Europe. What an achievement!
After you've finished with the viewing platform, which was quicker than I would have liked but the wind was cold and we were FREEZING, you walk inside the terrasse and ascend the final 42m by lift to reach 3842m.
Step into the Void
For clarity, the viewing platforms are outside and are NOT the same as the “Void” – which is a glass box bolted onto the side of the Aiguille du Midi upper terrasse in December 2013. Brave visitors can step into this void- which makes it look like you are standing on air above the mountain…. which you kinda are! Are you brave enough to step into the void??
All walls are glass, including the floor, so you can see the incredible drop beneath you! All of us summoned our courage- even Jade, which impressed us. Before you can step into the void, you need to put on very sexy slippers over your shoes, which stops the box being damaged. The friendly attendants will take some photos of you with the most amazing view behind you! You can go in individually or together- but we close individually to avoid unnecessary strain on the glass!
Watch the video of our trip up Aiguille du Midi and us standing in the Void!
Just click the link below:
The restaurant at the Aiguille du Midi
On the North Tower, there is the 3842 restaurant, which does the BEST pain chocolat and hot chocolate- or maybe that was the altitude getting to us??!! But sitting there, with that view and eating our delicious breakfast was absolutely magical. Three hot chocolates and 3 pain chocolate came to 12€- which isn't the cheapest but with a seat in one of the highest restaurants in the world, we expected it to cost a lot more!
It was this cafe where the infamous Sasha worked- but, unfortunately, it turns out it was her day off. What a shame!! Jade was gutted that our mission was a failure. We left the green elephant trinket with a colleague- we do hope she got it!
Aiguille du Midi Postbox- the highest postbox in the world!
There is also a gift shop here for the obligatory souvenir- and why not send yourself and your loved ones a postcard from one of the highest postboxes in the world! Aiguille du Midi has its own stamp- we sent ourselves one and it's a great reminder of a special day.
The Panoramic Mont Blanc Cable Car Gondola
There is an additional (third) cable car which runs from the top of Aiguille du Midi, across the Alps and into Italy. We didn't even know this existed! It sounds incredible- but you need your passport to ride it, which is bizarre as you don't need your passport to cross between France & Italy. Still, rules are rules and we missed out on this, which was a shame. If you're interested, prices are around 32€ return in summer 2018. More information and opening times can be found here.
Mont Blanc Cable Car- Things to remember:
- Take your passport if you want to ride the Mont Blanc Panoramic cable car.
- Wear WARM clothes. We were there in mid July. It was sunny. But it was also FREEZING up at the top.
- Make sure your camera/ phone is charged. You're going to want it.
- Take sunglasses– the glare from the snow is pretty bright.
- This trip is FORBIDDEN for children under 3 & not recommended for children under 5.
The Mont Blanc Cable Car- costs for visiting
As always, we like to be transparent with you about what our trips have cost us. As previously mentioned, this trip is pretty expensive for something which essentially lasted only 4 hours, but it was so incredible we'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Here's our breakdown for the night before & day of the trip:
- Car Park- 10€ (with free refill on fresh water)
- Fuel for the journey to get there – 38.94€
- Mont Blanc Cable Car ride- 180€
- Souvenirs & Postcards- 40€
- Breakfast in the cafe- 12€
- TOTAL- 280.94€
Have you ever visited the Mont Blanc Cable Car? Would you stand in ‘The Void'? Let me know below- I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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