Vallée Blanche Aerial Tramway

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The Vallée Blanche Cable Car (Italian: Funivia dei Ghiacciai) (French: Télécabine Panoramic Mont-Blanc), (previously Télécabine de la Vallée Blanche), is a passenger cable car between Courmayeur (Italy) and Chamonix (France) by passing over the Mont Blanc massif, in the Alps. The project was by Vittorio Zignoli of Polytechnic University of Turin. No helicopters were used, and all the workers were chosen among locals and alpine guides. After a construction period of four years, it began service in 1958.

Punta helbronner 1.jpg

The cable car connects the Aiguille du Midi and the Pointe Helbronner with each other over a distance of some 5 km (3.1 mi).

It has fixed track cables (one each direction) carrying 12 groups of 3 small cabins each which are pulled by a haulage rope of 10,200 m (33,500 ft) in a single loop.

The cabins take some 30 to 35 minutes for the whole distance including 5 short stops corresponding the stops of the cabins in the stations at either end.

The cabins run from the Aiguille du Midi station (3,778 m (12,395 ft)) over a stretch of 1,684 m (5,525 ft) to the Gros Rognon station (3,536 m (11,601 ft)), whereby it crosses the Vallée Blanche, a glacier, and snow valley. The Gros Rognon station is purely technical, it contains the counterweights of the fixed cables and the rails bending the horizontal direction of the cables by some 8° to the right.

Behind the Gros Rognon it crosses the glacier Glacier du Géant and spans a length of 2,831 m (9,288 ft) without support. Although the cables sag by some 255 m (837 ft), the cabins still have a clearance of some 300 m (980 ft) to the glacier underneath.

Between the rocks of the Large and the Small Flambeau three 315 m (1,033 ft) long steel cables are installed, which take over the role of the cable support (Pylône suspendu / Suspended Support Pillar). During construction, it was decided to build this unique configuration, because the glacier is unsuitable as the location of high tower construction. Between the anchors of these cables at either side, there is a difference in altitude of 136 m (446 ft) and furthermore, these cables have a horizontal inclination of some 23° to the direction of the tramway.

From this support the cable car runs to the Pointe Helbronner, also at 3,466 m (11,371 ft), again with a span of 447 m (1,467 ft).

On 29 August 1961, the cable car was badly damaged when a Republic F-84F Thunderstreak of the Armée de l'Air tore its hauling cable. Three cars crashed and six people were killed. The pilot landed his damaged plane safely. The upward cable was undamaged, but 81 others had to wait hours for rescue.


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