Just about every visit we make to Chamonix involves at least one trip up the Aiguille du Midi cable car to look at the marvellous views. Sometimes, only with a guide, I ski the Vallee Blanche. And once, also guided, I climbed Mont Blanc du Tacul and was back in Chamonix for a late lunch! (I think the guide was hungry.) It is on our annual pass so we do not have to find the 45.60 Euros per person that the return trip costs at present. This seems quite expensive for a 20 minute ride, but it is an exceptional experience.
Actually, today the lift is closed because of the high winds at altitude. Down in the valley it is gloomy with rain and snow which is due to continue overnight and tomorrow.
The Aiguille du Midi lift was built in 1955 and held the world record for about 20 years as the worlds highest cable car. It still, according to local information, holds the world record for the highest vertical ascent from 1035 m to 3842 m. The longest cable car ride in the world appears to be in China, covering a distance of 7.4 km and an ascent of 1279 m.
There is an alternative to taking this Tianmen Chan cable car, a path with 999 steps with no platforms for rest stops.
The Mérida Cable Car was the world’s highest cable car in Venzuela. It started at 1,640 m and finished at 4,765 m. It comprised 4 cable cars sections and covered 12.5 km. It was opened in 1960 and it was closed in 2008 having reached the end of its operational life.
Despite the apparently precarious nature of cable car lifts they are very safe ways of transport. There have been, however, a few spectacular accidents. I had heard previously about the cable car incident in Italy in February 1998 when a U.S. military aircraft flew too close and cut the cable. This happened in Cavalese, Italy. But I had not heard that a French military aircraft did the same thing in August 1961 to the Telecabine Panoramic Mont-Blanc. This cable car connects the Aiguille du Midi with Pont Helbronner in Italy. If anything the Telecabine Panoramic is more spectacular than the Aiguille du Midi. It only runs from May to September and is extremely popular.