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.
Mont Blanc, France, Comments
bigmikeh (author) from UK on April 15, 2013:
Hope you have a great trip.
Robert Clarke from UK on March 27, 2013:
Great hub Mike. I'm flying to Geneva next month and we want to go to Mont Blanc for the day. I'm looking at hiring a car as the price is good. I cam across your hub through a Google search. Finding a cheap place to stay seems to be the biggest problem!
bigmikeh (author) from UK on June 09, 2012:
LetitiaFT from Paris via California on May 22, 2012:
Hi, I just got back from Mont Blanc (the foot, not the summit!). Great pics and article. Just linked to it. Thanks.
bigmikeh (author) from UK on December 23, 2011:
kali - there is snow on the mountains all year round, but not in the valleys.
kali on December 22, 2011:
Amazing photos! is this a good place to vacation with children? (9 and 6) is there snow all year round? we are thinking of traveling at the end of september.
bigmikeh (author) from UK on June 12, 2011:
Thanks for your comment manique. Pleased you had a wonderful trip to Mont Blanc.
manique on June 07, 2011:
Good photos we visted the mountain in may2011 it was a wonderful trip
bigmikeh (author) from UK on February 27, 2011:
Hello LL. I don't know the answer to your question. We travelled on the cable car to the border but I don't know if you can enter Italy and stay. You will find more info here on the official site
LL on February 26, 2011:
I like your article and photos a lot. I plan a trip to Paris and Italy. Is it possible to take a train to Chamonix, stay overnight, get on the cable car in the morning, go all the way to Asota, Italy, and take the train at Asota to Milan?
bigmikeh (author) from UK on January 21, 2011:
The cable car climbs almost 3,000 metres, in two sections, and takes about a 20 minute ride.
HS on January 19, 2011:
How long is the cable ride?
bigmikeh (author) from UK on January 15, 2010:
Thanks Beautybabe for your kind comments. So pleased I brought back so many happy memories.
BEAUTYBABE from QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA. on January 15, 2010:
This made me feel like I was back in France when I was 24. I went on one of thos Contiki Trips and went Mont Blanc, France. I was dared by someone to go on the cable car up along the Italian Border, because I am scared of heights. I went a short distance and started to panic, as well I lost my shoe. So I have a shoe entombed somewhere in the Mont Blanc Masstif, . It was a truly amazing sight from standing on one of the places where you can view the icecaps, so romantic too. We had a couple on our trip, he proposed to his girlfriend on the cable cars on the way to Italy over the border. Everyone cheered for them. Isn't that great, your pictures are simply so breathtaking, they capture these beautiful assets of the lovely France so well, well done and thank you for the memories. Beautybabe.
bigmikeh (author) from UK on December 10, 2009:
Thanks Harlan - it's a beautiful area with so much to see!
Jonathan Lewis from San Francisco on December 09, 2009:
Really enjoyable hub. I was there in 2007 about the same time you were. What struck me were all the paragliders around. Same at Lake Annecy. Good memories.
bigmikeh (author) from UK on September 08, 2009:
My pleasure, Vizey
Vizey on September 08, 2009:
Wow , Your pictures are beautiful. I can say for sure that France is no doubt one of the most beautiful countries of the world. thanks for clicking these beautiful pictures.
bigmikeh (author) from UK on August 05, 2009:
roezer - yes the heights are enough to make your head spin but after you've been up there a while, it starts to feel more comfortable.
Torster - it's beautiful, stunning, breath-taking - in fact almost indescribable.
Torster from Pa on August 05, 2009:
wow! i saw mont blanc from the swiss side, i can only imagine how beautiful it is being right on it!
roezer from Ireland on August 05, 2009:
I agree very nice pictures although some of those heights would make your head spin and it must be a very long way down
bigmikeh (author) from UK on July 18, 2009:
Pleased you like the photos, euro-pen. All taken in summer 2007 on a good cell phone!
euro-pen from Europe on July 18, 2009:
Very fine hub. Awesome photos. I have been in Chamonix twice (Winter plus Summer). It's absolutely amazing there. Your photos brought some good memories.