Chamonix is not too far from La Clusaz, and with plenty of tourist attractions such as the cog railway and the Mer de Glace glacier and ice caves, it’s a great place to take visitors. My current visitors from Australia wanted to go to the Aguille du Midi, which in 2012 costs €45.60 per person to take two cable cars, including the one pictured, to the building at the top (also in the picture). From there, you can pay another €3 just to go up the lift. And for a further €25-odd, you can take the little gondolas/télélcabines/bubbles, pictured below with its predecessor shown in red beneath it, to the Helbronner peak in Italy.
How can any place justify such a cost?
This is one of the few places in France that can.
The Aguille du Midi is more than just a lookout point. As you can see from the photo on the left, the transport to the top is dwarfed by its surroundings. The cable car starts at the mid-station down near that round, blue lake on the left: it reaches the top minutes later, with a final steep incline against the cliff face and glacier. It’s impressive. But wait, there’s more.
At the mid-station, you can get out and walk around that lake and discover flora and fauna on the walk tracks all around. And on each of the cable cars, you can giggle as the passengers gasp at each small drop after the cable car passes a pylon. But wait, there’s more.
At the top, you can lean over the edges without any safety barriers blocking your view. In fact, you might even see some mountain climbers with their ice peaks and crampons climbing over the barriers as they end their climb. But wait, there’s more.
In the mini-labyrinth of caves (blasted through the rocks), you’ll find the multimedia exhibition. It showcases the sports that have been performed on the peak, including tightrope walking and base jumping. You can watch videos and read some cool stories about some really daring people. Kids aren’t disappointed either, with buttons to press to make the different peaks light up on a 3D map of the peaks. But wait, there’s more.
In fact, there’s much more: rock formations; an ice tunnel; views of the Chamonix valley kilometres below; wooden bridges with slats wide enough that you can look through to the huge drop beneath you (or, if you’re like me, hurry across as quickly as possible to reach solid ground again); climbers and campers in action; views of the Aravis (I’m biased here in mentioning that, but the Col des Aravis, Porte des Aravis and the top of La Balme chairlift are all very visible); a view of the Matterhorn in Switzerland; glass showing the engineering of the cable car; butterflies at 3842 metres above sea level; glaciers; snow; awesome nature in general.
So is l’Aguille du Midi worth it? A bit fat YES from me!