Aiguille du Midi
|Aiguille du Midi|
The Aiguille du Midi in summer
|Elevation||3,842 m (12,605 ft)|
|Prominence||310 m (1,020 ft) |
|Translation||Needle of the Mid-day (French)|
|Location||Haute-Savoie, Rhône-Alpes, France|
|Parent range||Mont Blanc Massif|
|First ascent||4 August 1818 by Antoni Malczewski, J. M. Balmat and 5 guides|
The Aiguille du Midi (3,842 m / 12,605 ft) is a mountain in the Mont Blanc massif within the French Alps. It is a very popular tourist destination and can be directly accessed by cable car from Chamonix. It receives half a million visits a year and puts visitors as close to Mont Blanc as they can without having any mountaineering experience.
The idea for a cable car to the summit, the Téléphérique de l'Aiguille du Midi, was originally proposed around 1909, but did not come into operation until 1955 when it held the title of the world's highest cable car for about two decades. It still holds the record as the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world, from 1,035 m to 3842 m. There are two sections: from Chamonix to Plan de l'Aiguille at 2,317 m and then directly, without any support pillar, to the upper station at 3,777 m (the building contains an elevator to the summit). The span of the second section is 2,867 m (1.781 mi) measured directly, but only 2,500 m (1.6 mi) measured horizontally. Thus it remains the second longest span width, measured directly. The cable car travels from Chamonix to the top of the Aiguille du Midi – an altitude gain of over 2,800 m – in 20 minutes, costing around €57 for an adult-ticket from Chamonix and back.
The Aiguille summit contains a panoramic viewing platform, a café and a gift shop. Even in summer, temperatures in the open viewing areas can reach -10 °C, and visitors require both warm clothing and protection from very bright sunlight. Because of the danger, tourists are unable to leave the visitor facilities on the Midi's summit. However, mountaineers and skiers are able to pass through a tunnel to reach the steep and extremely exposed ice ridge to descend to the glacier below.
In December 2013, a glass skywalk called "Step into the Void" opened at the top of the Aiguille du Midi peak (3842 meters high). The view is 1035 meters straight down, and one can see Mont Blanc to the south. A further tourist development currently under construction (as at 2015) is 'Le Pipe' – a tubular walkway that will completely circle the summit.
During summer months only, the Vallée Blanche Cable Car crosses "peak-to-peak" from Aiguille du Midi to Pointe Helbronner (3,462 m) at the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif. Pointe Helbronner is served by another cable car, Skyway Monte Bianco, to the village of La Palud near the Italian town of Courmayeur in the Aosta Valley. This makes it possible to travel "by air" from Chamonix, France to Courmayeur, Italy – a route normally traversed by the highway running through the Mont Blanc Tunnel.
A number of routes for fit, experienced mountaineers can either start or finish at the Aiguille du Midi, although the nearby Cosmiques Refuge is the best starting point for the longer routes:
- Arête des Cosmiques (also known as the Cosmiques Ridge) is a short, mixed rock and ice route which can be reached from the Midi station and which returns there in an unusual manner, exiting from the top of a ladder onto the Midi station viewing platform. It is very popular, and therefore busy, and is often used as an alpine training climb as it requires all-round mountaineering skills. Graded at PD+ to AD, the round-trip can easily be completed from Chamonix in one day. First ascent by George and Maxwell Finched on 2 August 1911
- Midi-Plan traverse traverse from the Aiguille du Midi to the Aiguille du Plan, either returning to the cable car, or descending the Mer de Glace from the 'Plan' to the Requin Hut or continuing to Montenvers.
- Mont Blanc du Tacul Usually done from the Cosmiques Hut, but fit parties sometimes take the first morning telepherique and descend from the 'Midi'. Alternatively it can be combined with a return to the cable car station via an ascent of the Cosmiques ridge.
- The Traverse of Mont Blanc, also known in French as La Voie des Trois Mont Blancs or just La Traversée, is a long route, graded at PD+ which starts from the Cosmiques Hut. This popular route is less exposed to danger than the Gouter Route, but under certain conditions both Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit can develop slopes with very high avalanche risk.
- The Vallée Blanche ski run is a 20 km long, unmarked off-piste ski route which begins very steeply from the Aiguille du Midi station and, because of its complexity across crevassed glaciated terrain and need for route-finding, is best undertaken with a mountain guide.
The name "Aiguille du Midi" is alleged to translate literally as Needle of the Mid-day on the basis that the mountain lies south-east of Chamonix and, when seen from in front of one of the town's churches, the sun passes over its summit around noon.
The account should be treated as apocryphal as, by definition: the sun would reliably be seen from the church to pass over at noon only if the mountain were due south.
View along the Cosmiques Ridge toward Refuge des Cosmiques
- Swisstopo map
- "Aiguille du Midi 3842m - Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France". www.chamonix.net. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
- Carrel, François (24 July 2015). "Mont Blanc vs Monte Bianco". www.liberation.fr. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
- Berne, Laurent (2012). L'aventure du premier téléphérique de France. St.-Etienne: ICE. p. 15. ISBN 9782746641556.
- "Aiguille du Midi & cable car, Chamonix". www.chamonet.com. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
- "La Vallee Blanche Ski Area". www.chamonet.com. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
- Will Coldwell,Step into the Void: the glass skywalk at the top of the French Alps – in pictures, The Guardian, 19 December 2013.
- Coldwell, Will (19 December 2013). "Step into the Void: the glass skywalk at the top of the French Alps – in pictures". theguardian.com. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
- "L'Aiguille du Midi bientôt dotée d'un " tube " qui fera le tour du site". Le Monde. 5 August 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- "Arête des Cosmiques". www.summitpost.org. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
- "Midi-Plan". www.summitpost.org. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
- "Mont Blanc du Tacul". www.summitpost.org. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
- Griffin, Lindsay (1991). Mont Blanc Massif Volume 2. London: Alpine Club. p. 55. ISBN 0900523581.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aiguille du Midi.|
- Website telepherique Aiguille du Midi
- 360° aerial panorama from Aiguille du Midi (note: many peaks are wrongly labelled)
- Panoramic virtual tour from top of Aiguille du Midi
- (Photos) 'Top of France' Photojournal from short stay at the Téléphérique de l'Aiguille du Midi
- (YouTube video) Climbing Cosmiques Ridge from Aiguille du Midi