Did you know about the Mont Blanc Cable Car? Seriously, a cable car will take you most of the way up the highest mountain in Western Europe within a few minutes. Never heard of it? No- neither had we!
It all started 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 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 home town. Quelle Chance!
They settled into the back with Jade and the three of them chatted happily- as teenagers do when they’re not feeling self-conscious. This coulple had been packpacking/ hitchhiking their way around France for the summer and were 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 of 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 Mont Blanc??” we asked, convinced we had misunderstood.
“Oh yes. There is the Mont Blanc Cable Car which takes you up the mountain. It’s beautiful. You must go.”
I immediately start to Google. Turns out there is indeed a Mont Blanc Cable Car, it takes you nearly 4000m up Mont Blanc and the views are spectacular. We reprogrammed the Sat Nav to take us to the nearest car park to (after we’d dropped the kids off.) Turns out we had already been driving past Mont Blanc, so it wasn’t far out of our way.
The girl (I really should remember her name- so bad of me!) was so excited that we were going 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. If you want to see more about how we find places to camp/ park up for the night, click here.
HOWEVER, important learning point- not all places listed on the sites 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 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 mountain, 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!!
Eventually we managed to find somewhere to turn, but before that 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- we figured this one would be likely to still be there.
Eventually, 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. We tried to park as far away from everyone else as possible- (we’re sociable like that!)- but the whole site was pretty busy. There’s a place to fill up 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.
So, here is everything you need to know about the Mont Blanc Cable Car.
Getting up there:
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 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
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. We launched our drone a little walk away – you can see the spectacular footage on the video. Some people do 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 to Chamonix.
Your ticket for Chamonix- Plan du Aiguille is timed. Obviously, we hadn’t booked in advance so we got up early 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!
The Mont Blanc Cable Car- going up!
Both cable cars are pretty big- taking around 20-30 people in each trip. They run every 10-15 minutes in summer.
From Chamonix, the journey to Plan du Aiguille is roughly 5 minutes and you can start to see the spectacular scenery unfold before you.
At the Plan, you disembark the cable car, which then returns to Chamonix, and you wait for the one up to Aiguille. This trip takes 5-10 minutes and there is no supporting pillar- so the car can sway a little more than on the first stage.
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.
At the viewing platform, 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. Afterwards, you can walk inside the terrasse and ascend the final 42m by lift to reach 3842m.
Up here, you can experience the higher viewing platform and also ‘The Void’- which is a glass box they bolted onto the 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??
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 was her day off. We left the green elephant trinket with a colleague- we do hope she got it!
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 Mont Blanc Cable Car Panoramic 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. Guess we’ll just have to go back!! 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 Panoramic cable car.
- Wear WARM clothes. We were there in mid July. It was sunny. But it was also FREEZING up at the top. We didn’t bring warm clothes as we were expecting to be sunbathing- so we wore a LOT of summer layers and it still wasn’t really enough.
- 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- the costs.
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 water)
Fuel for journey to get there – 38.94€
Mont Blanc Cable Car- 180€
Souvenirs & Postcards- 40€
Breakfast in the cafe- 12€
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.