Le téléphérique de l'Aiguille du Midi is the "gateway to the high Alps," the lift brings you to 3,842m elevation in twenty minutes.
The station is a maze (you can visit all of the areas shown in the picture). An elevator gets you to the very top.
The railing on the left side of this photograph takes you to another viewing area. The station may be on rock but is doesn't feel like your feet are on the ground. Much of the time you are walking on a metal grate, suspended high above the ground below. Just thinking about it now makes me nervous.
And then there were the people who built it in 1955...
These are part of the blueprints, which look like something you would see in a spaceship.
I am inside now so it isn't quite as cold. Outside is 0°C, so winter gear is required.
Chamonix is known as the "death sports capital of the world." These people are gearing up (joining hundreds more) to hike and rappel and climb.
This is one point of exit/entry but some just climb right over railings.
Honestly, I don't see how roping yourself to another person is the best plan. The person you are roped to is not better off than you are. I heard the idea is that if one person slips on one side of the mountain on one end of the rope the other person jumps off of the mountain on the other side to balance out the weight.
This is where I was earlier, where le téléphérique drops you off.
It is so beautiful.
Mont Blanc is behind me, the completely white mountain on the right on the photograph.
Looking down on Glacier des Bossons.
I don't know what is wrong with me, I mustered up the courage to take the Panoramic Mont Blanc to Point Helbronner in Italy, which is only open four months during the year, during summer.
If you look closely you can see a guy in a blue shirt rock climbing under the station.
I was shaking uncontrollably as I got on. Why do I do this to myself?
I know why, for the experience and the views, but sometimes I impress myself since just minutes prior I was holding onto the railing while walking at the station as if that would help me if the whole thing collapsed. It would be better if I stopped thinking about these things but that is the wonderful thing about acrophobia, you don't think rationally.
The little black specks in the snow are people. These are the nice people who would volunteer to find my dead body in this gondola when the cable breaks, I thought to myself.
Mer de Glace glacier.
30 minutes later I almost made it to Italy. More people were preparing to hike, I suppose deciding who will jump if someone slips.
The Alps have wonderful minerals, some people spend their lives searching for these specimens.
I stayed for at least an hour, enjoying a few espressos.
This is Monte Bianco (because I am on the Italian side).
When a grey cloud started coming up the mountain, enveloping the station, I felt claustrophobic and decided it was time to head back. I did, after all, have a hike planned for today.
An avalanche waiting to happen.
But don't tell the black specks (walking up the mountain, and also towards the bottom of the picture).
I returned to Plan de l'aiguille, which is the half way point between the summit and the base (Chamonix) for lunch. It was Old World fusion, a baguette, chedder cheese (made for baguettes, long and skinny) and hass avocado.
The hike was from the mid way station to Montenvers, where there is a train that goes down the mountain to Chamonix (this is all included in the price of a round trip ticket to Aiguille du midi as it is a common hike).
When I say common there was virtually no one around, but the trail is well traveled.
After three hours I was at the other side of Mer de Glace glacier, and I was just in time to get the last train back to Chamonix.