Our family recently traveled to Chamonix France and the absolute highlight of the trip was visiting the Aiguille Du Midi. It was easily the most amazing mountain top experience I have ever had without having to utilize my ice-axe and crampons.
Even though it was summer time, many of the ski lifts, trams and mountain trains were still operating. We purchased a 3 day all access pass that included a trip up to Aiguille Du Midi and we can’t recommend it enough!
So, what exactly is Aiguille Du Midi? Aiguille Du Midi is an observation and mountaineering access point perched high above the Chamonix valley at an elevation of 12,605 feet. It’s comprised of a series of buildings, bridges, tunnels and elevators carved into a solid granite spire which will require two cable car rides to reach. The attraction is extremely popular with some holidays seeing over 2,300 tourists a day.
My 12 Year Old Son’s Thoughts on ADM…
I asked my 12 year old son Jacob to write up some of his thoughts on the experience. Here’s what he had to say:
“Getting there – Our route to Chamonix was simple. We flew from the US to Frankfurt, and from there to Geneva. Then, we took an hour and-a-half shuttle ride to our hotel in Chamonix. The shuttle was pretty nice, but the bus we took on the way out was more comfortable.
Transportation throughout Chamonix is easy, and they have a great train and bus system. To get on the ADM tram, you just have to buy a pass. Once on the top of ADM, you may have limited time. If the cable car is especially busy, then you will only get an hour and a half to explore and sight see, before coming down. In our case, we had no problems, and got unlimited time.
Location – ADM is located in the French alps, next to Mt. Blanc and other monumental peaks. The cable car is based in the village of Chamonix, a ski town and recreational paradise. ADM is also connected to the Italian town of Courmayeur, via several additional cable car systems across vast sheets of snow and ice.
Who it’s for – I recommend this trip to people who love 360 degree views, and feeling on top of the world, without having to do an insane hike. I didn’t look in one direction and not see endless sky and terrain. This was an amazing feeling and it almost made me want to climb other mountains, but not quite.
The tram, although stuffy, took away the need for ice-axe climbing and crampons. It is probable that the tram was built for just that. Also, the tram makes it good for people who aren’t quite as athletic, crazy, and daring as some.
The cable car ride experience – When I first saw the person limit for the cable car, then looked at the amount of standing room, it seemed ridiculous how many people the operators would try to fit in.
Apparently, the lift operators don’t want anyone to be left behind. So, they cram riders in pretty tight, every square inch of the car. This is probably not that bad compared to trains or buses in countries like China or India, but it was not enjoyable.
When to go/weather – The times are always fluctuating, and the best time to go is right when it opens. You will avoid all of the crowds, and the lines will be nonexistent. While I went in late August, it doesn’t matter what time of year you go, as the mountains get dusted with snow year round and you will always have spectacular glacial views.
Before your trip, you can make sure you go when it is supposed to be sunny, because good weather will improve the experience.
One of the things you don’t want to do is go when it’s cloudy. Cloudy skies mean no amazing views and nothing to look at. In Chamonix, clouds often roll in during the afternoon, so aim for just after opening time, around 8:40am or 9:00. Check the weather before planning your trip, as you can’t change the weather when you get there.
Waiting in line and what to expect – Be willing to wait in line for an indefinite time, excitement skyrocketing, hop in a cable car and ride packed in worse than sardines in a can while hanging 1,000 feet above the earth, swinging from 4 inch cable.
You’ll experience amazing views of one of Europe’s most visited mountains. If you are susceptible to altitude sickness, this is definitely not the right adventure for you. Drink plenty of water, and bring some good snacks, as these help symptoms of altitude sickness lessen.
This attraction includes a two part tram/cable car ride from the village of Chamonix up to Aiguille Du Midi. “ADM” as it is also called, is actually two rock spires neighboring Mont Blanc that have been hollowed out and used as a source of tourism. ADM looks like a mountain was cut in half and sharpened to points.
Don’t forget to take off your coat before entering the tram, or the sheer amount of people will roast you.
Upon arrival at the summit, there are many panoramic viewing points to walk around to. They feel a little flimsy, especially when there is just a centimeter of metal between you and death. The mountain’s amenities include a gift shop, a movie room, restaurant, and a ‘clear box’ viewing point. A hollowed out shaft used by an elevator takes visitors up to the highest viewing point, and ‘Into the Void’.
Into the Void is a plexiglass box that lets tourists stand on ‘thin air’, suspended over a sheer cliff with seemingly nothing below them. ADM also has access for mountaineers to the greater Mont Blanc Massif. Another cable car system connects to the Italian side of the Alps. ADM is part of the Mont Blanc Multi-pass, and can be paired with many different lifts in the valley.
We talked to several different families waiting in line for ‘Into the Void’. It was easy to connect with other English-speakers, and ask them where they had come from. It was fun to see how people came from literally everywhere around the world to ADM.
What to bring – Also, bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and wear a hat, as snow and high altitudes increase the sun’s harmful UV rays. Bring warm clothes, because it gets very frigid up high, but be ready to take off layers on the suffocating tram ride.
The best and worse – The worst part of ADM was getting altitude sick. It happened to me after riding up the elevator to the uppermost point. I felt dizzy and sick to my stomach too. Luckily, we had some trail mix and water, or it might have been serious. I only began to feel better coming down on the cable car, but the views were definitely worth it.
The most amazing part was the scenery. To the west of ADM is Mt Blanc with snow piled up on top of it. To the north is a vast ice-plain with several jagged peaks, traversed by the cable car to the Italian side of the massif. To the south, green valleys and the French city of Chamonix. To the east, more massive peaks. The views were breathtaking and I definitely recommend the experience.”
I really had fun reading my son’s thoughts on the ride up to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi. The views are spectacular but the cable car ride can be a bit intense with how many people they cram into each trip. Also, do be aware of the high altitude and cold up top. Drink plenty of water and be prepared to cut your trip short and head back down as soon as possible if altitude sickness symptoms start to occur.
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David Parnell is the founder and lead editor at Trail and Summit, who enjoys writing on a wide range of topics from travel trailers to trail running. He’s an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.
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