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One of the most amazing experiences of anyone's lifetime is to ride up the Aiguille du Midi cablecar/tramway. The tramway lifts you over 9,000 vertical feet in under 20 minutes. It is without doubt the most thrilling cable car (tramway) ride on earth. The ride is in two parts: the lower cable car, then a short walk connecting to the upper cable car. For some, the ride can be frightening. Expect chilly temperatures and near-freezing temperatures even during the warmest July days. (Chamonix was 81°F, 26°C, and at the Aiguille du Midi, at 11:30 am, it was 31°F, 0°C.!) Thus, make sure to bring warm clothes for the prevailing conditions up at altitude. It IS a winter wonderland up there, and summer skiing is possible year 'round up at altitude.
Do NOT take this ride if you suffer from vertigo or agoraphobia. Many people also have issues with altitude sickness...you are lifted from 3000 feet above sea level to over 12,000 feet above sea level -very, very quickly (20 minutes). Almost ALL persons will feel light-headed once arriving at the top (due to lower atmospheric oxygen levels at that altitude). There are several staircases up at the top; while walking up steps some folks feel a bit dizzy. Once at the top, it takes anywhere between 20-40 minutes to acclimate to the (3842 m) 12,605-foot altitude. People with heart conditions take note!
The views from up top, especially on a clear day, are unquestionably BREATHTAKING. Remember, you are lifted nearly two miles above the village of Chamonix, so you will almost feel as if you are in an airplane when looking down from the observatory. There are many places where the rocky, sheer cliffs drop down hundreds of feet below you. Quite a few people are visibly affected by this. You walk across a small, steel bridge that's hundreds of feet above the ground above a precipice. Also, the final 150 meters, the cable angles up at a very steep rake. The cable car is lifted nearly vertically (75° angle) during this pitch and a few folks were somewhat apprehensive.
Not recommended: optional (3 € additional charge) elevator ride up to the "needle tower" viewing station. Just 42m (135 feet) higher, the views aren't all that more impressive.
Strong suggestion: Do purchase the optional fare for the Helbronner summer gondola car ride! (only suggested in good weather, summer months only). Helbronner is yet another mid-mountain glacier viewing point. From the Helbronner station, you can then take yet ANOTHER lift down to Courmayeur, Italy! However, due to time limitations, this is not suggested. During very busy days, expect total round trip to be NOTHING LESS than three hours (cable car + summer gondola); it can be DOUBLE this during peak crowds.
Allow quite a bit of time for the entire tour: up to Aiguille du Midi, across to Helbronner and back to Aiguille du Midi, then back down to Chamonix. Try to depart Chamonix valley by 11 AM and avoid departing (Chamonix) after 2 PM. Afternoon haze can settle in making late afternoon viewing from up top not preferable. You will inevitably need to purchase tramway tickets at least ONE FULL DAY in advance during summer months, making sure you have checked the weather forecast. You can purchase the ticket several days in advance, however, do so only if very excellent weather is predicted. Again, weather forecasting isn't absolute, so please keep this in mind.
At Aiguille du Midi, there is a three to four star restaurant. This author did NOT dine there; it is pricey, but offers fantastic views especially IF you have a window seat. Suggestion: read other reviews regarding the dining experience here.
Other suggestions: bring ample supply of batteries for your digital or video camera. Also: mono-pod or tripod to steady your camera, as many views are to great distance and photographers will zoom to maximum lens capacity. Also, 5x - 8x binocular (or even 10x) is recommended. There are views to mountain peaks such as Zermatt's Matterhorn. On crystal clear days, bring sunglasses with UV protective lenses. At 12,000 feet, there is four times more UV radiation than at sea level. If you are sun-sensitive, and plan on being up at the higher elevations, wear ample sun protection. Skiers/mountaineers know the dangers of high elevation UV exposure.
Everyone will agree: take this ride and experience one of the most thrilling aerial tramway rides on earth. This is definitely a world-class experience!