Chamonix Walking - Walk 2 Plan d'Aiguille to Montenvers
This walk starts at the Aiguille du Midi cable car mid-station and traverses the 'Grand Balcon Nord' across to Montenvers and the Mer de Glace ('Sea of Ice' glacier).
The Mer de Glace at Montenvers is a popular tourist destination, as a little mountain train takes 'non-walkers' right up to the glacier, followed by an optional cable car trip down to a sculpted ice cave built into the glacier itself. There is also a crystal gallery and a small wildlife museum to enjoy, plus a café, restaurant and souvenir stalls.
Thetrek across to, and then descending down towards, the glacier is possibly one of the prettiest walks in Chamonix. The most picturesque route is to take the cable car to Plan d'Aiguille, follow the path across and up to a viewpoint called 'Le Signal', take the path leading down to Montenvers and then return to Chamonix on the little mountain train. A return ticket purchased at the Aiguille du Midi cable car station is valid for a return trip to Chamonix on the Montenvers train. It also allows you access to the ice cave at Montenvers.
Count approx 2 hours 30 for the traverse across from Plan d'Aiguille to Montenvers. There is no great difficulty on this route and it is worth taking your time, enjoying the views and stopping for a leisurely picnic en route!
Take the Aiguille du Midi cable car up to the first station, Plan d'Aiguille. Follow the path that leads down to the Refuge Plan d'Aiguille, a pretty little hut with striking bright redn shutters. Ignore the path leading down to Chamonix and head rightwards along the 'Grand Balcon Nord'. The path continues on stony moraine for a while, crosses a couple of streams and then gradually opens out into lush green mountainside. Both blueberries and marmots are abundant along this path, although the blueberries are easier to spot (and apparently taste nicer too!).
About two thirds of the way across there is a junction. Take the path leading off and up to the right for 'Montenvers via Signal'. The path winds its way up to 'Signal Forbes' (2198m / 7211ft), a magnificent viewpoint with a particularly impressive view of the Aiguille Verte. From here the path leads down the other side to Montenvers. As you descend the zigzag trail to Montenvers the view over the Mer de Glace glacier and the surrounding peaks is simply breathtaking, a truly spectacular sight!
At Montenvers it is worth stopping for a look at the crystal & wildlife museums and taking a trip down to the ice cave where the illuminated glacial colours give it a certain magical, enchanted feel. Then it's all aboard the little rack and pinion mountain railway train for a leisurely, scenic ride back down to Chamonix!
The full description of this Chamonix walk appears in Natalie Jennings's book, "Mont Blanc Wanderings", along with further suggestions to extend the walk into a full day's hike around Montenvers and Plan d'Aiguille.
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