Montenvers Mer de Glace
Step into the pages of history !
The Montenvers rack railway starts from Chamonix and, in 20 minutes and in total safety, reaches the bottom of the Mer de Glace (1,913 m), France’s largest glacier (7km long, 200 m thick). This historic site marked the start of Alpine tourism in the 19th century and offers a panoramic view of famous peaks such as Les Drus and Les Grandes Jorasses.
The tour of the “Grotte de glace” (Ice Cave) takes visitors into the very heart of the glacier. Re-sculpted every year (the ice cave and gondola have 2 periods of closure one in the fall and one in spring, please check before your visit), it describes the life of mountain people in the early 19th century. It can be entered either by a walk of around 20 minutes on a footpath, or by gondola lift. NB: There are 398 steps from the arrival of the gondola lift to the entrance to the cave.
The “Galerie des cristaux” (Crystals Gallery) with its collection of items from Mont Blanc is also included in the tour.
Hill-walks include the hike from Montenvers to Plan de l'Aiguille via the Grand Balcon Nord hill-walking trail, and also the return descent down to Chamonix via Les Planards or Les Bois village.
There are two choices for eating: either fast food at the railway station buffet or else a Savoie or traditional meal in the Grand Hôtel in Montenvers, a place full of history and authenticity built in 1880.
In the summer, the hotel serves its original main purpose, i.e., accommodating mountaineers, travellers and adventurers, just as it did in the late 19th century. With its nine rooms and its dormitory, it has retained the charm and simplicity of bygone days.
The biggest glacier in France
From Montenvers, everybody can reach the Mer de Glace which offers an extraordinary natural spectacle. With a surface area of 40 km2 and at 7 km long, the Mer de Glace is the biggest glacier in France. Its width varies between 700 and 1,950 m and on average the ice is 200 m thick and can sometimes exceed 400 m. The Mer de Glace advances at 90 m per year, and at up to 130 metres in places! In summer, you can look down on the roped teams of mountaineers moving about the glacier on crampons. Until the end of the 19th century, the Mer de Glace could be seen from Chamonix. Today, it has receded, living proof of the climate change that is affecting our planet.
The epic of the little red train
At the dawn of the third millennium, this hundred-year-old train is demonstrating a sparkling vitality.
- 1908 : Inauguration of the line. The journey lasts 55 minutes.
- 1946: At Montenvers, a cave is hollowed out of the glacier to allow tourists to explore the interior in complete safety and without a guide.
- 1953: The line is electrified.
- 1960: Construction of a telecabin to take people down to the Mer de Glace from Montenvers.
- 1993: Opening of the line in winter courtesy of the construction of a para-avalanche.
Organise your visit :
The trip on the train lasts 25 minutes (one way)
The total visit (grotto included) lasts 2 or 3 hours on average (train included), it can be up to twice as long on peak days.