The starting point in Italy, on the edge of Courmayeur having taken a bus from Chamonix through the impressive Mont Blanc tunnel.  The timings off the out-of-season bus services worked out much better for a start on the Italian side.


The trip up the Italian side on the Funivie Monte Bianco involved three sections with increasingly smaller and more rickety cabins.  The first stage from the base station a La Palud (a short bus journey from Courmayeur) took us up to the Pavillon du Mont Fréty [45 49 46 N, 6 57 1 E] at 2170 m.

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Views from the Pavillon station (L) west, (R) north and east along the (Italian) Val Ferret.

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The Giardino Botanico Alpino Saussurea, just next to the Pavillon station, claims to be Europe’s highest botanical garden.  Tending an alpine garden in such glorious surroundings is surely not a hard life!


View down from the 3rd ascent stage to the Rifugio Torino station.  The connected building to the left is a newer larger mountain refuge.


The final stop of the Funivie was Punta Helbronner at literally dizzying height of 3462 m.  The station sits on the French-Italian borderline.  The crucifix more obviously belongs on the Italian side!


The station contained a small and not terribly spectacular mineral gallery.  But this specimen of an asbestos mineral was interesting.


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Views from the Helbronner viewing platform: (L) north and east to La Vallée Blanche with the spike of the Dent du Géant (giant’s tooth) to the right, (R) west to a range including the curiously named Les Dames Anglaises (the English Ladies).


The cabins of the spectacular Vallée Blanche Aerial Tramway from Punta Helbronner to the Aiguille du Midi.

Crevasses Crevasse

Crevasses in the glaciers viewed from the cableway.

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Alpinistes in the Vallée Blanche – specks in the vast landscape.


On the final approach to the Aiguille du Midi – the impressive sight of climbers making their way up the vertical face of the “Piton”.


The spectacular Aiguille du Midi cablecar station (3842 m).

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The Cosmiques ridge with (R) climbers.  The Cosmiques refuge was built in the 1930s for the study of cosmic rays (hence the name).


Mont Blanc with the Cosmiques ridge in the foreground.

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Climbers on Mont Blanc.  Look carefully on full pictures!


Alpinistes approaching the Aiguille.


View down the Bossons Glacier, one of the steepest glaciers in the Alps.  In the 19th C the glacier extended all the way down into the valley, but has shrunk back by over a kilometre since.


Refreshment hut at the Plan de l’Aiguille [45 54 6 N, 6 53 6 E] – the intermediate station on the descent back to Chamonix.


The Aiguille du Dru seen viewed from le Signal, on the south balcon walking route between Plan de l’Aiguille and Montenvers [45 55 55 N, 6 55 4 E].


La Mer de Glace – the glacier that helped turn Chamonix into a major tourist destination.  Like the Bossons glacier, this once descended into the valley (as far as the picturesque hamlet of Les Bois), but has been steadily retreating.  The meltwater from the glacier is used to power a small hydroelectric plant.


The Montenvers railway station in Chamonix.  The Montenvers railway is a rack railway that connects Chamonix with the Mer de Glace at Montenvers.


Back in Chamonix.  Entrance of the Protestant (Eglise Réformée) church.  Curiously these are referred to as “temples”.


Bridge across the Arve in the centre of Chamonix.

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Mont Blanc at dusk from the balcony of the hotel room with (R) the Aiguille du Midi visible on the left.

Chamonix II