Catching the sunrise at Mt Blanc

posted in: France, Hiking | 27

A trip to see Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe at 4810m is one of the must do’s in the French Alps but how can you do this in a day? Well, it is simple and you don’t have to hike. It’s just one cable car journey away. Here is our guide on how to spend the perfect day seeing the ‘White Mountain’ and how to do the cable cars with no hassle.

Chamonix, France
Which way to the mountains?

Chamonix

This mountain resort is located in the heart of the French Alps and is easily accessible by road and train and the nearest airport is Geneva (the French side of the airport, not the Swiss side). Chamonix is a splendid resort with plenty of accommodation for skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer, as well as shops, lakes, restaurants and bars. It is worth spending a few days here if planning to do some hikes or take some train rides up and down the other mountains nearby.

Chamonix, France
A view of the Alps from the centre of Chamonix
Chamonix, France
Chamonix
 Chamonix, France
Chamonix
Chamonix, France
Claire simply loves Chamonix
Chamonix, France
Lakes near Chamonix with a view of the mountain range.
Chamonix, France
Lakes near Chamonix

Aiguille du Midi and the journey to the summit

Everyone has heard of Mt Blanc but not Aiguille du Midi and can’t understand why we are even mentioning this other mountain. We do get asked if there is a cable car going up Mont Blanc and the simple answer is no. If visitors want to go up Mt Blanc, you will have to be a very experienced mountaineer with all the gear and possibly a permit. The nearest visitors are going to get if they take the cable car from Chamonix and go to the summit (3,842m) and take in the views from there.

Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
The cable car station in Chamonix
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
The cable car station in Chamonix

For the cable car here are some tips which will help visitors have a more enjoyable time as it does get busy during the peak season.

  • Get there early (I mean, really early, if possible, around sunrise is a good time to go) and buy your tickets (or even better, book them online). The queues after breakfast for the rest of the day are just simply crazy and will add on a lot of time to the day.
  • With the way the queuing system works in Chamonix, after buying the tickets, expect to wait up to twenty minutes before boarding the cable car (if boarding one of the first ones in the morning or during quiet periods otherwise the wait is a lot longer).
  • Whilst on the car, remember to take your backpacks or other bags off your back and put them on the floor. This frees up space for other people to get onto the car.
  • Take a jacket or a jumper even in the summer months. You will be above the clouds (if any) and it does get quite cold up there. Also be careful and check your breathing due to the altitude. If feeling light-headed, take a rest and don’t panic.
  • Also on the health side, take suntan lotion as the sun rays are pretty strong up here, even in the winter months.
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
Cable car between Plan de l’Aiguille and Aiguille du Midi
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
Cable car

Now the cable car journey is done in two parts. The first part is a pleasant journey to Plan de l’Aiguille (2,317m). Here there is a restaurant/bar which has a fantastic outdoor terrace where visitors can have a drink or a meal and take in the surrounding mountains above. Also from here there are a couple of hiking trails, the main one being the trail back to the cable car station in Chamonix where in the summer months there are lots of beautiful flowers to be seen and the smell of the alpine air whilst walking through the trees are a highlight.

Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
A view of the valley between Chamonix and Switzerland from Plan de l’Aiguille
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
Claire taking in the views from Plan de l’Aiguille
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
Danik chilling out at Plan de l’Aiguille

The second cable car from Plan de l’Aiguille to Aiguille du Midi is one of the best in the world we have come across. Without any support pillars, the cable car passes the Les Pelerins glacier before arriving on the northern face of the Aiguille du Midi. The cable car journey also holds the record as the highest vertical ascent from 1035m to 3842m (and didn’t we know it, when the cable car rocks when going underneath a pillar, the food in our stomachs kinda went up through our body but lucky no vomit came out).

Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
A view of the summit of Aiguille du Midi from the Plan de l’Aiguille

Aiguille du Midi – the summit

Once leaving the cable car, there is a footbridge which connects the station to the main building. From here there are several things to do and see.

Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
The cable car which goes between France and Italy.

There is the highest cable car journey in the world to do (for an extra fee) which connects France and Italy. Whilst doing this, visitors will get a fantastic panoramic view of Mt Blanc and the surrounding mountain summits of the French Alps. The journey is 5km long (3.2 miles) and finishes in Point Helbronner, however once there, there is another cable car to take visitors to Courmayeur, Italy where a different view of Mt Blanc can be taken in.

Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
We made it! Well, by cable car anyway

Most visitors will hit up the viewing platforms dotted around the building and all will have amazing views of Mt Blanc. However the other mountain peaks are equally impressive and gives the area a more dramatic feel. The best time to see this is either sunrise or sunset. We were lucky to catch the views during sunrise and whilst watching it, there were feelings of joy and a slight tear in the eyes. There were no word to describe this moment.

Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
Sunrise over the Alps (and lots of people already climbing the mountain)
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
Sunrise over the Alps
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
Sunrise over the Alps
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
Views to the east
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
There it is. Mt Blanc, in all it’s glory
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
Just had to get a selfie in with Mr Blanc.
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
The north tower at Aiguille du Midi
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
There is now a passageway with goes across the south face of the mountain to another fantastic terrace for views.
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
Looking out from the south face towards Switzerland
Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
A view of Chamonix from the upper terrace at Aiguille du Midi

A new feature to the building (but in peak season can have a bit of a waiting time to do this) is the Step into the Void where a panoramic viewing platform in a sheltered area with wide windows can be experienced. This will give visitors the chance to see the surrounding mountains even in bad weather.

Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
Claire has no fear!

There is also a cafeteria, snack bar and a restaurant in the building (the latter being one of the highest restaurants in the world). There is also a souvenir shop which sells postcards and stamps. If doing this, make sure to write them out up here and send it from the letterbox so the receiver gets a special postmark when delivered. Whilst wondering about, make sure to visit and see the museum displays which has many mountaineering memorabilia (and as the museum is located at 3,777m, this is the highest museum in the world).

Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
Breakfast after watching the sunrise over the French Alps

Afterthoughts

We spent a whole morning (around 4-5 hours) at the summit of Aiguille du Midi as we didn’t have time to do some hikes this time round. (Read below on Danik’s hike from Plan de l’Aiguille to Chamonix below). This would be the ideal amount of time to do all the queuing, the journey, the sightseeing, the shopping and having some food and drink. The cable car maybe one of the most expensive in the Alps but you do get your money’s worth here. This is an once in a lifetime experience, we were blown away with the breathtaking views and came back with memories we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

Aiguille du Midi and Mt Blanc (France)
Claire with Mt Blanc in the background

Hiking Plan de l’Aiguille to Chamonix

Our recent trip didn’t involve any hikes but however, this wasn’t Danik’s first time on the mountain. He came here previously back in 2009 and took in the hike from Plan de l’Aiguille to the cable car station in Chamonix. The trail looks like a simple, easy, quick hike down the mountain, it actually took about ninety minutes to two hours to complete. The terrain wasn’t hard but there were a few rocks lying about here, there and everywhere. What was more time consuming was checking out the views and taking every opportunity to get amazing captures with the camera. Here is how the hike turned out in photos and if visitors have the time (and are able to), then do allow time to do this fantastic hike. It’s good for all ages and a good bonding experience with children and to teach them nature as there were some birds, butterflies and other interesting creatures around. A great learning experience.

Hiking from Plan de l'Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix
Hiking from Plan de l’Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix
Hiking from Plan de l'Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix
Hiking from Plan de l’Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix
Hiking from Plan de l'Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix
Hiking from Plan de l’Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix
Hiking from Plan de l'Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix
A view of Chamonix
Hiking from Plan de l'Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix
A view of the Aiguille mountains from Plan de l’Aiguille du Midi
Hiking from Plan de l'Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix
Hiking from Plan de l’Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix
Hiking from Plan de l'Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix
Hiking from Plan de l’Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix

 

 

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27 Responses

  1. You are really, really high up! Any elevation sickness? The views are so spectacular! It looks like a wonderful area of France to visit 🙂

  2. From your pictures it looks like it is definitely worth being there at sunrise! Wow! Who would of thought there is a cabel car between France and Italy? I really want to go there!

  3. Such a beautiful area, I haven’t really explored France that much but Mt Blanc would definitely be a place I would go. You have some amazing photos and I would love to go up on the cable car (even though I’m a bit scared of heights!)
    Mellissa Williams recently posted…Top Alternative Cities To Incentivise And Inspire

  4. Wow, what stunning landscape, I would have loved to go up early to catch views like that. Visiting during wildflower season sounds like a bonus on being up there and enjoying the outdoors.

  5. My friend is in Chamonix right now posting gorgeous photos like these everyday. These are some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. I will definitely be going here next time I’m in France.
    Jennifer recently posted…My Mega Japan Bucket List Wins and Fails

  6. What a beautiful place to be able to watch the sunrise! I totally know what you’re feeling like: above the clouds with the sun slowly rising. There’s really no way to describe it. I’m glad you guys didn’t vomit while on the cable car. That would have really soured your experience (pun intended)!
    Rachelle recently posted…Eclipse 2017: Staring at the Sun and Off-Roading through the Fields

  7. Can’t wait to get lost in the French Alps next month – should be an awesome time!

  8. Some very good and detailed tips you have! Always wanted to explore the French Alps, especially during summer.

  9. Your pics are amazing. At first I was like, who wants to ride a gondola when you can just hang out in Chamonix. That town looked really cool. But then watching the different pictures as you went up the different levels and through the valleys to the peak just blew my mind. Good tips on getting up there early, bring a coat because I would have forgotten mine, and sending a postcard from up there to get the special post stamps.
    Eric Gamble recently posted…My Anti-Bucket List: Things I don’t want to do before I die

  10. What utterly beautiful views, though I’m not sure I could make it up there for sunrise, I imagine the views are spectacular at any time of the day. I could easily spend a few hours up there too.
    Kavey Favelle recently posted…Travel Quote Tuesday | Anaïs Nin

  11. It is already been a long time since we went to Chamonix but this post made us remember how much we actually liked it 🙂 The pictures you took during sunrise are beautiful and show the true beauty of nature. Thank you and greetings
    Amelie

  12. I went to Chamonix once for Christmas, it’s such a lovely town and the landscape around is beautiful. Your pictures remind of just how picturesque it was, although it was under a foot of snow. Great tips for seeing the mountains, getting up would be a struggle but worth it for those views.
    Katherine recently posted…Nine Museums You Must Visit in London

  13. This looks like a great way to do this rather than the hiking route. Those views of sunrise are spectacular too!

  14. Looks exciting and beautiful as well. I would love to make the trek to Mt Blanc, not sure how I will handle the coolness, but it looks like it is definitely worth the trip. The scenery is breathtaking.
    Travelwith2ofus recently posted…Priority Pass – Access To The Best Airport Lounges Worldwide

  15. I have never been to the (French) Alps but now that I have seen some amazing pictures of Mt Blanc here I also want to go to Chamonix and take that cable car! Great to know that Chamonix has some cool hikes in summer, I don’t ski but I love hiking . . .

  16. Megan Jerrard

    Thanks for the tips on taking the cable car – I’m certainly not an experience mountaineer, so am happy to jump on for a ride! Some seriously stunning views between Plan de l’Aiguille and Aiguille du Midi – I don’t think I would be able to put the camera down! Sounds like a pretty adventurous ride too, being the highest vertical ascent!

    Really great tip about wearing sunscreen – people don’t even think about this when they’re heading up to glacial heights, but you can actually gte burnt twice with the sun reflecting of the snow / ice. Glad you had a great time!

  17. Looks beautiful. I would love that view with breakfast. Great to know I wouldn’t have to hike, but can take the train to get up there. Especially if I am on limited time!
    Holly recently posted…Spending a Day in St. Louis, Missouri

  18. What a beautiful place to watch the most beautiful part of the day – sunrise! The pictures are really great and love the detailed post on things to be careful about. Often I forget the simple ones – like reaching early, wearing sunscreen etc 😛

  19. Your pics are gorgeous! They’re totally worth getting up that early. And your tips seem really helpful– I hate standing in long lines.

  20. Simply stunning. I’m wondering how many pictures you took and how many you selected to get to this shortlist 🙂 I’ slightly paranoid about cable cars, but this kind of landscape is best enjoyed from above, isn’t it?
    Punita Malhotra recently posted…One of the most spectacular drives hidden in Montenegro

  21. We’ve only been to Chamonix in the winter, and now I’m going to have to go back and see it while it’s green. I love taking a gondola up to do some hiking!
    Corinne recently posted…Searching For The Best Tarte Flambee in Alsace

  22. VERY cool! I loved your pictures. I am definitely a mountain girl and with the snow caps and that gorgeous scenery, I’m a fan!
    melody pittman recently posted…149 Things To Do At Walt Disney World

  23. Its a long time since i was in the Alps but these photos brought back many good memories of hiking days up there back in the 70’s. I would love to get back and watch the sunrise from up there.
    Dave (Silverbackpacker) recently posted…Lagangilang | Day Trips from Bangued, Abra

  24. The views of Mt. Blanc are really exquisite. Would love to take the cable car ride from France to Italy, must be an exhilarating experience. We have been to the Alps only on the Swiss side, but would love to get to the French Alps and feast our eyes on the mesmerizing spectacle of Mt. Blanc.

  25. Looks like you two had a fabulous time! And who wouldn’t in such a beautiful part of the world?! Thanks for sharing and happy travels 🙂
    Carmen Edelson recently posted…A Guide to Luxurious Marbella

  26. Amazing views! I am sure you can venture to mountain tops in other areas of the world, but to me I think of this as something that must be done in the Alps. It scares me a bit, but still, it must be done. It sounds like your entire day was amazing, and now I am really yearning to visit Chamonix!
    Roxanna recently posted…Vischering Castle- A Wasserschloss

  27. I love sea, but landscapes of mountain are amazing, i loved this post and these photos, it’s so interesting and now i want to visit all these places.😍

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