Getting to the top of Aiguille du Midi to catch a glimpse of Mont Blanc was without a question a must do experience when we were hiking in Chamonix this past summer. Roughly 21 years ago, my own dad summited this mighty beast being one of the thousands who attempt to climb Mont Blanc every year. Given the three-generational trip, it seemed fitting to show my 14-year-old son the top of the peak his grandfather conquered and I was equally as curious to see it for myself.
After hiking to the top of Le Brévent across the valley from Mont Blanc, we decided to spend our second day hiking in Chamonix along the stunning panoramic Grand Balcon Nord on Mont Blanc. This high alpine trail can either start at the top of Montenvers (you can take a train ride up) or you can begin as we did at the Plan de l’Aiguille (the first gondola stop on the way up to the top of Aiguille du Midi. The 6.1 kilometer hike zigzags along the side of Mont Blanc affording stunning views of the surrounding Alps and even Mont Blanc if you begin from the Montenvers/Mer de Glace direction.
After we purchased our gondola tickets, we learned that it is most economical to purchase a multi-day gondola pass. You can purchase 1,2, 3 or 6 day passes on the Mont Blanc MultiPass which covers all 8 areas in the Mont Blanc Massif (even including the train ride up to Montenvers). It is a great deal and a must-have as you will certainly want to ride as many gondolas as possible to get all of the incredible views. Best of all, it is unlimited so you can hop on and off taking time off your hike or else just ride the gondola up to get some photos if the weather is nice. Despite our mistake in not purchasing the multi-day pass from the start, we did get our money’s worth over the next two days in Chamonix.
Our plan of attack for the day was to first ride the gondola all the way to the top of Aiguille du Midi (3842 m/12,605 ft) for magnificent high alpine views of Mont Blanc, and then to continue back down to the midway point at Plan de l’Aiguille (2317 m) where we would get off and begin our hike along the Grand Balcon Nord to Montenvers.
As we began our ascent, the sky was a robin’s egg blue with a few white fluffy clouds hovering about. The day seemed to be much better than the day before when we were hiking at Le Brévent in a thick layer of irritating fog. Since this was the prized view we were desperately waiting to see we hoped the fog wasn’t going to jeopardize our chance of seeing Mont Blanc up close.
While the views along the way were nothing short of spectacular, to our dismay, the clouds swept in just as we arrived at the top of Aiguille de Midi. I was so disappointed! We’d have to wait it out and see if we got lucky.
It was surprisingly cold up on top (although of course we had been warned at the bottom of the gondola). Since we weren’t going to have any views anytime soon, we decided to wander around a bit and my Dad showed us where the launching off point is for those daring enough to attempt the summit of Mont Blanc.
I took one look at the wall of ice you had to navigate and decided there was no way I’d ever even consider this kind of climb. One slip, and you fall down thousands of feet to your death. In fact, the hike to summit Mont Blanc is one of the most dangerous hikes in Europe. The hike can be quite perilous in the wrong conditions and without the right guide.
Since the weather was still not clear, we decided to have lunch in the cafe located inside the station at Aiguille du Midi in hope that more time would improve our chances of seeing the top. While we were enjoying a delicious lunch on top of the world, suddenly the clouds broke away and uncovered the glorious, white snowy top of Mont Blanc. We rushed outside to snap a few photos of her magic and beauty.
It was definitely worth the wait! We were in for a real treat on our hike along the Grand Balcon Nord. Stay tuned….