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Chamonix gondola and fear of heights

I'll be visiting Chamonix this fall and understand that the Aiguille du Midi gondola ride is a must-do. I have a fear of heights and am not sure I'll be able to do it. Is there anyone out there with a fear of heights that has managed to do this ride and enjoy it?

Posted by
689 posts

I know quite a few skiers who have a fear of heights, but they suck it up and take gondolas and chairlifts anyway (I always feel for them, gripping on to the sides of the gondola!). So it is done.

Posted by
10344 posts

Yes, for someone who is uneasy in extremely high places, the Aiguille du Midi gondola ride may not be the place where you want to starting working on your fear of heights. Here's why:

Click Here for Photo

It's the world's highest vertical ascent gondola ride, going up and down over nine thousand feet, almost two vertical miles, from Chamonix to the top in 20 minutes.

It gets my vote as world's most exciting gondola ride, but only if you like that kind of thing.

If you look closely at the jpg in the above link, you'll see the the town, in the upper left of the photo, more than 9000 feet below the point that the photo was taken from!

As you go over the edge on the descent, you are looking down at the town almost two vertical miles below you. Due to the foreshortening effect of the photo, the actual scale is difficult to appreciate. Going down is more intimidating than going up.

Posted by
1319 posts

Thanks, Kent. Rick outlines several hikes in his book that I'd love to do too, if I can't do the gondola. Did you do any of the hikes around Chamonix?

Posted by
368 posts

You could always just keep your eyes closed the whole time. :)

Posted by
1319 posts

I have no idea about elevation change as I haven't hiked in the mountains before. I'm in pretty good shape, no worries there.

Posted by
1319 posts

Probably no more than moderate difficulty.

Posted by
1293 posts

Grier- I have had a fear of heights and I have ridden the Aguille Du Midi twice. Actually, I have a harder time with the claustrophobia, since it is one big lift that they stuff people into. At 5 foot 2, it can be very miserable if I am in the middle. Having said that, it is worth it. The worst part of the trip is the second 1/2. You might consider going up to the first stop and hiking over to the Mer De Glace area from there. (On the Upper Balcon) It is a great hike. We also rode a lift up and hiked the Balcon on the other side. Both of these trips are in Rick's book and the lifts were about the same as a chairlift at a ski resort. As I said earlier, the "scariest" part of the Aguille Du Midi is the second half. (BTW about 5-7 years ago I decided to not let my phobia's get in the way of doing what I dreamed of doing. Since then I have ridden dozens of roller coasters...after 45 years of refusing to ride any. Phobias can be overcome...but you have to challenge them over and over again to do it. I still struggle with heights a little, but it has gottan a lot better. Sorry for the sermon, but it is from one "phobic" to another. (I know how hard it can be) My brother-in-law has a fear of heights as well, but went up the Aguille Du Midi. He hated the second part, but said later he would not have missed it. Good luck.

Posted by
2023 posts

I have a fear of heights but on a recent trip to Switzerland convinced myself to try a( 2 person) gondola ride. It was a 20 minute ride and the fact that it went rather slowly made it doable--no sudden rapid speed. I would try to do it but then again two miles up is high up. Maybe you can take a calming pill/tranquilizer? That is what I would do--it may be regrettable if you don't try it. Also, if there is a group in there with you there will be lots of jokes and laughter which will help. Have a great trip!

Posted by
1319 posts

Thanks so much for your responses. I'm hoping to do the ride without tranquilizers (although that's what my sister recommended too) and your stories give me confidence!

Posted by
5678 posts

It is a wonderful trip. Please let us know how you do. I'm not fond of heights, but my sister has a lot of trouble, so I'd love to be able to encourage her to try this sometime. BTW the balcony walk is wonderful. If you decide that the gondola is too much, take the train up and walk up to the Glacier view from their. The walk along the balcony was the high point literally and figuratively of my last trip to France. Pam

Posted by
2349 posts

Kent is being very tactful in suggesting that you may want to start smaller in overcoming your fear of heights. You need to be honest with yourself. Will you get through this challenge with willpower and a few giggles and feel stronger afterwards? Or is there a strong chance that you will have an anxiety attack that may endanger you and others? Even if you don't endanger others, you don't want to irritate strangers at that height!

By the way, Kent, that video made my stomach drop, and I ain't even askeared of heights!

Posted by
59 posts

Kent that video was great. I just added a new adventure for my next trip France in 2010...thanks

Posted by
1319 posts

Here's an update: The day we were in Chamonix, the Aiguille du Midi was closed for most of the day due to 100 km winds at the top. They did open it around noon to the midway stop and I did that ride and enjoyed the views. The winds were expected to be high the following day too. I'll have to go back sometime to make the trip to the top. Many thanks to all who responded.

Posted by
10344 posts

Grier: Thanks for the update on this, I well remember your original post. The weather in the Alps often does not cooperate with travelers' plans, as you found out--just the nature of mountain weather. At least you got part way up.

Posted by
32244 posts

Kent,

Is that video available anywhere else? I can't seem to get it to work. It displays a message that says "Soapbox not available in your market" (whatever that is???).

Posted by
10344 posts

Several people have said they'd like to see the video clip of going over the edge of the Aiguille du Midi on the gondola, the one I originally posted, but the clip originally posted is no longer available.

So instead, for your viewing enjoyment, here's two clips of the world's highest vertical ascent gondola ride (9000 feet). The first shows why they shut the gondola down in high winds, audio in French but no translation needed:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gPBstF1DX4

And here's one from Rick that also shows the Chamonix gondola

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Cs16w0tvDg