08/01/2014 | by Nina Zietman
Route: Chamonix town centre, roughly 1050 metres high, to the top of a rock spine near an obvious plateau on Mt Blanc at 3842 metres. A vertical rise of nearly 3 kilometres!
Highest point above the ground: Technically this lift never gets higher than 70 metres above the ground, but for the top section of the journey the ground in question is a cliff of about 80 degrees steepness and 500 metres in height – a fall down which would be unspeakably hideous.
Age: Originally built in the 50′s (the bottom lift station has a cable car museum), the current lift was installed in the late 1980′s.
What happens? The first section from the town to the mid station is a breeze. Then, when you look at the almighty, pylon-free chasm you’re about to cross to get to the top station, your pants fill.
Danger: High winds, rocks falling off the cliff, temperature differences in the cables, avalanches and cornice falls, plus classic French overcrowding that pushes the car beyond its weight limit. What more do you need?
Random fact: The immense building at the top was built to look like a needle. The Aiguille du Midi translates as ‘the midday needle’ because from Chamonix town centre the sun shines directly behind the spiky rock outcrop at midday.
Chance of it coming off the cable: In 2001 the cable frayed, meaning they could only use one side of the lift. Gulp.
Don’ get on… if you hate heights. It’s pretty much the scariest lift in the world. But if you can do it then you’ll have no problems with the Brevent cablecar on the other side of the valley.