Grafted onto a thin rock spire towering over the historic mountain town of Chamonix, France, is the cathedral-like top station of the Aiguille du Midi cable car standing sentinel below Mont Blanc. The two-stage lift soars from 1,035 meters to 3,778 meters (3,396 feet to 12,395 feet). It goes over forests, glaciers, ice cliffs and predatory crevasses, offering the highest vertical ascent of any lift in the world.
The 20-minute journey rewards light-headed tourists with high-altitude panoramas and offers alpinists access to the wilds of the Mont Blanc massif. To reach the famous Vallee Blanche glacier, skiers walk through an ice tunnel and rope up to scramble down a knife-edge before descending 20 kilometers to Chamonix.
On a pinnacle above the lift station is a viewing platform where thrill-seekers can access a glass box -- known as "Step into the Void" -- with the Bossons glacier 1,000 meters below.
Did you know? Mont Blanc was first climbed on August 8, 1786 by Jacques Balmat and doctor Michel Paccard. The first ascent by a woman was in July 1808, when Maria Paradis summitted, with Balmat as her guide. www.chamonix.com