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Visit Mont Blanc, France
Mont Blanc sits between the Aosta Valley in Italy and the Haute Savoie in France. Although the summit is officially on the French-Italian border, some French maps show the summit as being within France. But the Italians have never recognised this claim.
Mont Blanc (in French) or Monte Bianco (in Italian), meaning "white mountain" is the highest mountain in Western Europe rising to 4,810 m (15,781 ft) above sea level. This ranks Mont Blanc, France, as the eleventh highest mountain in the world.
I visited the Mont Blanc massif in August 2007, on a crystal clear day (mostly), taking the big cable car up from Chamonix, and then the small cable car across to the Italian border. It was an awe-inspiring experience so I thought I would share some of the many photos I took that day. I'm not a mountaineer so I didn't climb to the summit (which is dangerous and requires skill and training) but spent a good few hours at the tourist platform on the "Aiguille du Midi" and then at the smaller centre on the Italian border.
The trip starts at the cable car station in Chamonix, which is just off the main road and well signposted. There is a big car park but it does get full and we parked on the side of the road with hundreds of others visiting Mont Blanc, France.
From Mont Blanc, France To Helbronner, Italy
The ride across to the Italian border in the little four-seater cable cars is amazing and worth the extra money. You can see bleak but stunning snow, ice and rock terrain from the safety of a cable car while looking at the climbers picking their way across the snow and ice below you.
On the day I visited, the fog came down briefly on the Italian border but that just added to the atmosphere.
Mont Blanc, France - Serious Snow And Ice
The Mont Blanc massif is a serious training ground for climbers planning to climb to the summit and also preparing for bigger climbs elsewhere. It is a very dangerous place with deep crevasses in the ice and snow, which is why they are roped together for some safety. That said, as I write this in June 2009, it has been reported that two French climbers died on the ice field when they fell into a crevasse.
If you are interested in physical geography and remember learning all about glaciers, when you visit Mont Blanc, it all comes to life. It's all there, the crevasses, lateral morains, and so on (sorry to get technical!) And it all can be seen from the relative comfort of a little cable car gondola hanging above the ice. The cable car stops a few times on the journey across to Helbronner so you can really appreciate the view and take some once-in-a-lifetime photos.
Visiting Mont Blanc, France? Some Books To Help You
Aiguille Du Midi
The Aiguiile du Midi tourist centre is where most visitors spend a few hours just taking in the mountain scenery. It is the top station for the cable cars up and down the mountain and can get very busy in the middle of the day. I went up the mountain at about 10 am to avoid the rush.
There are several viewing platforms, the inevitable tourist shop and cafe, and it is a great place just to soak up the mountain atmosphere. Quite often you can watch climbers on the nearby rock faces - some of them make it look so easy, you can forget how dangerous it is.
You may experience a little breathlessness at first (I did) caused by the thin air at this altitude, but after a few minutes it usually passes.
The Story Of The Aiguille Du Midi Cable Car
1905 :two Swiss engineers, Feldmann and Srub, draw up a plan to connect thehamlet of Les Pèlerins to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi, with a combination of cable lifts and a funicular railway.
1909 : the Compagnie Française des Funiculaires develops the proposals.
1924 :the first section - Les Pèlerins-La Para – is opened, and in 1927 thesecond section - La Para - Les Glaciers – is commissioned. This funicular railway was the highest in the world when it opened.
1951 :AnItalian engineer, Count Monte Dino Lora Totino, is asked to devise anew plan because the war and the opening of the Planpraz-Brévent cable-car cause the funicular railway to be closed to the public.
1954 : the initial section of the newroute is opened. The second section, with a difference in level of1500 m without any pylons, requires great determination to complete. Thirty mountainguides from Aosta and Chamonix take two days to drag a cable 1700m long and weighing more than a tonne to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi.
1955 : the cable-car is completed and the work on the "Panoramic" cable-car begins - to be opened in 1958.
Chamonix - Mont Blanc Map
The cable car back down to Chamonix can get a little busy later in the day, which is another reason to make an early start. Back in Chamonix there is the selection of tourist shops, bars and cafes you would expect in such a tourist town. We found a bar and had a drink and a bite to eat - it made the perfect end to a wonderful day.
If you're looking for a ferry crossing to France, you can find information on the revitalised Dover Boulogne Ferry crossing here. It now has the largest cross channel catamaran on the route.