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Haute-Savoie (French Alps)Montenvers

The Montenvers is a 3 mile railway that runs from the base of the Mont Blanc to the Mer de Glace glacier in the French Alps. The half mile climb starts in the Alpine town of Chamonix (3,418 ft) and ends at the Montenvers station (6,276 ft). Once at the top you’ll have great views of the Mer de Glace and surrounding mountains.

The Montenvers starts near the regular train station in Chamonix, look for the Montenvers signs. Once at the top you can take a cable car and then stairs down to the Mer de Glace. You’ll then be able to walk inside the glacier. As the Mer de Glace has gotten smaller over the years, stairs have been added so that visitors can still access the glacier. The walk down is fine but be prepared for the walk up!

Once at the Mer de Glace, depending on the time of year you might notice lots of skiers arriving. They skied the Vallée Blanche, a 10.5 mile slope that starts near the Aiguille du Midi. This means that it’s possible that on the way up the Montenvers is almost empty but full on the way down.

The Montenvers station has a souvenir shop; there is also a hotel (with a restaurant) and small wildlife museum – Expostion Faune Apline. Follow the signs for access.

The Montenvers is a rack or cog railway. Meaning there is a third toothed rail. Without this third rail the train could never make it to the top or go down slow enough to be safe as the climb is very steep.

Construction on the Montenvers started in 1906 and was finished in 1909. The railway was electrified in 1953. Near the Montenvers station in Chamonix you can see steam engine No. 6 on display. It was restored in 1973.

The Montenvers runs year round. Trains leave about every 30 minutes or in the winter when there are enough passengers. There is a yearly closure for maintenance, check the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc web site for more information. A round trip ticket is 25€ (2011 prices). This includes the cable car down and a visit to the Mer de Glace.

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