World Capital of Mountaineering
Since the conquest of Mont Blanc by Jacques Balmat and Michel Gabriel Paccard in 1786, the countless summits of the massif (mountain range) have continued to be coveted by all who visit them. Mainly initiated by wealthy English guests engaging the services of the valley guides, Alpine mountaineering has gradually modernized to overcome the greatest difficulties of the steepest walls. Those hardy enough to do so have always pushed back the limits of the impossible and enabled such successful exploits as the north face of Walker Peak (1938) and the Linceul (1968) in the Grandes Jorasses, the south-west pillar of the Petit Dru (1955) the northern corridor of Dru (1973) or the south face of the Fou (1963).
The history of Chamonix, infused with the feats of Terray, Rébuffat, Cassin, Bonatti, Desmaison Hemming or Bérault, was shaped to the rhythm of prowess being forged here in this massif.
Today, the evolution of the practice has led to climbers frequenting the chutes and ice falls, but the great classics like the ascension of Mount Blanc remain highly sought-after itineraries. According to one’s abilities, everyone can enjoy the fabulous experience of a mountain trek in this unique setting.
FIRST VISITORS TO CHAMONIX VALLEY
When William Windham and Richard Pocock, two young English aristocrats, discovered the Priory of "Chamouni" in 1741, they did not suspect that their story of this small mountain village and its “ice” would spread throughout Europe.
When it did, it was the financially comfortable European families, mostly English, who began to arrive “on holiday” to admire the mysterious Mer de Glace. (The concept of “vacation” and “holiday pay” did not yet exist.) It was at this time that the valley’s hunters of crystal and hunters of game, became, at the request of this new clientele, their “guides”. That's how the Chamoniards came to call their visitors “Les Monchus” (which in the local Old French dialect means “Gentlemen”).
FROM “CHAMOUNI” TO CHAMONIX
The first inn opened its doors in 1770 and heralded the beginning of a simultaneous development of the hotel industry and ascents into the Mont Blanc Range. The conquest of Mont Blanc by Jacques Balmat and Michel Gabriel Paccard in 1786 achieved the demystification of the peaks that dominate the Valley and sealed the fate of the small mountain town.
The influence of the writings of pre-romantic and romantic authors also served to lessen fear and apprehension toward the summits, depicting the mountain as an expression of nature preserved.
The first luxury hotel was built in 1816, followed by three real palaces that arose amid peaceful fields of oats and rye in the valley. The craze of summer tourism brought forth the creation of the Compagnie des Guides in 1821, and the construction of cogwheel tracks for the Montenvers train in 1908. Six years later, there came to be 39 hotels in the valley!
The development began with the construction of a motor road between Chamonix and Geneva, built during the reign of Napoleon III. The railway arrived in Chamonix in 1901. The development of the rail network allowed for opening up the valley in winter and paved the way for winter sports, including Dr Payot as the forerunner in the municipality.
MOUNTAIN ACCESSIBLE TO ALL, ALL YEAR
It is the organization of the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix in February 1924 which enshrined it as a ski resort. Chamonix knows therefore a rapid development with the construction of many ski lifts including the famous cable cars Glacier (now obsolete to the right of the current route of the Aiguille du Midi) and Planpraz, followed by the Brevent, the Aiguille du Midi and the Flégère. Today Chamonix has become a city and a privileged crossing point with Italy via the Mont Blanc tunnel.
MOUNTAIN CITY, AN ALPINE EXCEPTION
Chamonix has expanded under the influence of tourism and has grown with the influence of various architectural styles and periods. This aspect of its growth has provided the city with a rich and diverse heritage, between tradition and modernity. Along the walks, we discover churches, Protestant chapels dating back centuries, hotels and palaces of the “golden age”, “Art Deco” façades, old traditional farmhouses, colossal villas, chalets of various styles, modern buildings. The city is an aggregate composed of various architectural layers, giving it an unclassifiable originality for a mountain town.
In Chamonix, there is not only skiing and mountaineering, there is also shopping, with shops open every day, all year round!
A wide range of shops and prestigious brands will make you dream!
Sporting goods, but also fashion, a Chanel boutique, perfumeries, jewelry, leather goods, decoration, mountain antiques, old books or current ones on the history of mountaineering.
And of course, to savour your evening meal, local produce. Wines, liquors, jams, many delicious cheeses, mountain meats, local specialty sausages. A real treat!
Summer sports activities
WALKING: 300 KM OF TRAILS
Petit Balcon Sud - The small south balcony: approximately 1,200 meters from Chamonix to Argentière, via Les Tines, along the golf course,
with perhaps a stop at
* la Buvette-Crèmerie du Paradis des Praz (next to the golf course, to the Praz-de-Chamonix)
* The Buvette-Crèmerie de la Floria, covered in 4,000 feet of flowers each year,
a virtual symphony of flowers—about 3 hours in the forest,
can be experienced in either direction.
Grand Balcon Sud - The large south facing balcony: about 2,000 meters
starting at Animal park of Merlet (Coupeaus) and going to the Col des Montets through the White Lake and Lake Cheserys (many chamois and ibex) and a spectacular view across the Mont Blanc chain and the Mer de Glace, through
duration about 5 hours.
short version: crossing
* Plan-Praz (intermediate station of the Brevent)
* Flégère (middle station of the cable car to the Index)
magnificent views across the Mont-Blanc chain facing you.
this is beautiful
can be done in one direction or the other.
duration about 3 hours
Petit Balcon Nord - The small north balcony: approximately 1,200 meters from Chamonix to Le Tour (at the far end of the Chamonix valley), in the forest.
duration about 3 hours at the foot of Chamonix Needles, may be in one direction or the other.
Grand Balcon Nord - The far north balcony: about 2,000 meters
Plan de l'Aiguille (middle station of the Aiguille du Midi)
Montenvers / Mer de Glace
careful not to be too late if you want to go down with the Montenvers train.
duration about 3 hours at the foot of Aiguilles de Chamonix, may be in one direction or the other.