As I write the old cable car station at the top of the Glacier Rond is being demolished. At a cost of about 100,000€ the site is to be “returned to nature” by dismantling the remaining structure. As a pedestrian tourist you wouldn’t even know it existed let alone which direction to look to find it. You would have passed the old lift if you were climbing the Cosmique Arrete.
The inspiration of Alfred Cachat, the original lift (also known as “Telepherique des Glaciers”) departed from Les Pelerins. The lift was abandonned in 1951. The lower stage of the lift was used in the first ever 1924 Winter Olympics for competitors to access the bobsleigh track. The track was obliterated in the 1980’s by avalanche but sections of the carved granite run can still be found in the forest between the two lower stations. The last section of the old lift went from the Glaciers up to the Col du Midi (3542m) and was finished in 1940. The present Aiguile du Midi lift was completed in 1954.
The Chamonix valley is steeped in history and it seems a shame that parts of it are dasappearing. A couple of years ago we did a history tour of Chamonix run by the tourist office. It was fascinating and a few stories have stuck with me. One is about the building of the Montenvers train. Some farmers from the valley had become Mountain Guides, taking visitors by mule up to see the Mer de Glace glacier. As the new train was going to threaten their livelihood they were none to chuffed. The engineers would lay down tracks during the day and the farmers would go and rip them up at night and chuck them down the hill. In the end the train brought more visitors to the valley and also more work for the Mountain Guides.
A client in the chalet passed on an old article in High Magazine of the Battle of the Vallee Blanche in 1945 for which the old lift played a most important part. You can download the pdf of the article below.