On our last day in Courmayeur, we decided to take in the stunning surroundings of the Alps from the top of the Skyway Monte Bianco. Opened in 2015, the Skyway Monte Bianco whisks passengers up to the top of Punta Helbronner at 3466 meters/11371 feet where you can get a bird’s eye view of the entire Mont Blanc Massif. After two days of hiking in Courmayeur’s two valleys, Val Ferret and Val Vény along the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB), I wanted to show my son from high up above where we had been and where we were headed over the next week hiking along the TMB. We also planned to go to the top of Aiguille du Midi on the French side at the end of our trip when we were in Chamonix.
The “Road to the Sky” as they call it, is not cheap. Round trip tickets start at 52E for adults and 28E for children under 17. Then it is an additional 31 E to take the Panoramic Mont Blanc from Punta Helbronner to Aiguille du Midi, and another fee on the French side to continue down to Chamonix. Since we were short on time, we decided to only take the cable car to Punta Helbronner and back. However, as soon as we lifted off into the clouds and saw the sensational scenery around us, we realized it was worth every euro to ride up to the top of the sky.
70 Years in the making
The first cable car was built over 70 years ago by Count Dino Lora Totino, a visionary, wool industrialist and alpine enthusiast, who dreamed of linking France and Italy together via cable car. The project was approved in 1940 and construction of the first section began in 1941 but was interrupted by WWII. Construction resumed in 1946 after the end of the war up, to Rifugio Torino at an altitude of 3,329 m and the first Monte Bianco Cableways were open to the public in 1947. Meanwhile, the construction began in Chamonix, France and the cable car to Aiguille du Midi was completed and open to the public in 1956. The final link between the two countries was finished in 1958. For decades, tourists, hikers, mountaineers and locals alike used the cable cars. Yet it was time to renovate. In 2012 work began to replace the old cable system with the birth of the brand new, beautiful Skyway Monte Bianco completed in May 2015.
At the Base
The base of Skyway Monte Bianco is at 1300 meters/4265 feet in the valley of Courmayeur. As you wait in line to board the Skyway, you are reminded to bring warm clothing and layers for the top as the temperature at Punta Helbronner is surprisingly cold. Once you board the Skyway, you swiftly rise up to the first stop at the Pavillion station (2173 m/7129 ft) and can continue on all the way to the top at Punta Helbronner.
A Map of the Route
When we reached the top, we were disappointed to be completely in the clouds. One thing I learned quickly about the Alps is that the weather constantly changes and if you are patient, the clouds most likely will blow away.
After snapping a few photos, we decided to wait it out in the cafe and had a delicious lunch. Then finally the clouds began to lift and we caught our first glimpse of Mont Blanc.
After taking a lot of photos, it was time to return back down to the Pavillion station where we got off to visit the botanical garden.
The Pavillion – 2173 m/7129 ft
If you get off at the Pavillion station, there are plenty of beautiful options to hike. You can follow the Brenva Glacier/Belvedere Trail or else the Brenva Glacier Pavillion-Prou trail. Unfortunately, we did not have time for a hike as we were heading to another city in Italy. We were able to hike at this level on the Chamonix side and it was magnificent.
We had time for a short visit to the Saussurea Botanical Garden which features over 900 of alpine species of plants from all over the world. Then it was a few more photos before heading back down and saying goodbye to Courmayeur.
I could hardly wait to continue our tour around Mont Blanc. Our next stop would be slightly off the tour in the town of Aosta however we would find a treasure of a hike to explore the following day.
If you go:
Check out www.montebianco.com for detailed prices/schedules and information.
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