Ah the famous Aiguille Du Midi!
Let me start at the start. You need to take the cable car from Chamonix City for Aiguille Du Midi – the famous mountain in the French Alps from where you not only see the famous Mont Blanc, but also the Alps of the French, Swiss and Italians. And let me warn you in advance, the cable car is like no other you would have taken in the past, anywhere else in the world. Here’s why — The cable car from Chamonix to Aiguille Du Midi holds the record for being the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world!! It bloody goes from a 1,035 m to 3842 m!!! Swish!! Chicken-hearted, people with vertigos, Shoo!!! Go away! This climb is not for you!!
As I said, it starts from Chamonix and reaches Plan de l’Aiguille which is at 2,317 m. Now, from here the cable car goes directly to the upper station at 3,777 m without any support pillar!!! Goosebumps and adrenaline rush galore, if you manage to brave this, you will be suitably rewarded. One of the best rides of my life and one that I won’t forget easily, the fainthearted in our car were white faced till we reached the summit. The mid-point, at Plan de l’Aiguille, is an excellent place to step out and take some photos of the amazing surrounding valley and the peaks. The Alps come to life in the winters for sure. The top was completely covered in cloud and we could see the cable car disappearing as if going to an unknown world… something out of science fiction movies!! The weather was awful, it had snowed heavily the previous night and was drizzling. This meant that the official visibility was zero. But can bad weather stop a traveller? Nah!!!
We reached the top after the long cable car ride and could hardly see anything outside. A blizzard was roaring away and the temperature was down to -23° cel. Ask me if I was suitably dressed? No!! Can a Mumbaikar even calculate -23° cel, let alone buy clothes for that mercury level!!! The cold was almost beating us — it was tough even posing for photos outside. Snow snow snow everywhere, we got glimpses of the peaks just as clouds cleared off for a few seconds every now and then. It was just like the movies – explorers in the Arctic or Antarctic.
Lured by the prospects of getting photos at this amazing destination, some of us braved the chill (Is there any better word for it at beyond -20 degrees, ‘Chill’ seems mild) and stepped out to the decks for the view (breath-taking) and photos (for show-off and proof!). And I got back before I froze!!But will you believe this? Even in this inclement weather, there was staff cleaning the walkway on the slopes… in the middle of nowhere!! Some sense of responsibility and professionalism!!
On our way back, it cleared somewhat and we took the opportunity to hang around at Plan de l’Aiguille for 15-20 minutes as the view was absolutely spellbinding. There was a small pub right in the middle of nowhere, on the side of the peaks!! ‘Course you need your shots of tequilla to be able to survive that temperature!!
And as we sat carefully on the ledge surrounding the slope, scared to even look down, a skier went close to the edge, threw down his skis, stepped on them, stood on the ledge and jumped off from the cliff!! All in less than 5 seconds!! We simply stared with our mouth wide open, unable to move our limbs. We didn’t even have the guts to look down the cliff to see where we went. Now that’s a true Braveheart!!! Do they do the same from the top of Mont Blanc as well? I wondered.
The ride down was as interesting … the steep descent surprising most of the tourists. ‘An evening to remember’, by all means!! ‘Top of Europe’ was beautiful. I sure want to do it again!!!
Also read about Chamonix (France)