|Aiguille du Midi|
The Aiguille du Midi in summer
|Elevation||3,842 m (12,605 ft)|
|Prominence||310 m (1,020 ft) |
|English translation||Needle of the Mid-day|
|Language of name||French|
|Location||Haute-Savoie, Rhône-Alpes, France|
|Mont Blanc Massif|
|Age of rock||Tertiary|
|First ascent||4 August 1818 by Antoni Malczewski, J. M. Balmat and 5 guides|
The Aiguille du Midi (French pronunciation: [ij dy midi]) is a 3,842-metre-tall (12,605 ft) mountain in the Mont Blanc massif within the French Alps. It is a popular tourist destination and can be directly accessed by cable car from Chamonix that takes visitors close to Mont Blanc.
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 to 3,842 m (3,396 to 12,605 ft). There are two sections: from Chamonix to Plan de l'Aiguille at 2,317 m (7,602 ft) 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 (9,200 ft) - in 20 minutes, costing around EUR60 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 fall to -10 °C (14 °F), 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. The view is 1,035 m (3,396 ft) straight down, and one can see Mont Blanc to the south. A further tourist attraction called "Le Tube" opened in 2016. It consists of an enclosed tubular walkway that completely circles 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 (11,358 ft)) at the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif. Pointe Helbronner is served by another cable car, Skyway Monte Bianco, to Entrèves, 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:
View along the Cosmiques Ridge toward Refuge des Cosmiques