Mont Blanc Valley Cable Car

Year:1958

Duration:4 years

Cost:Unknown

Country: France

What did this project achieve?

Build a cable car system high in the Alps

Linking two massive mountain peaks in the European Alps with a cable car system was the huge engineering challenge - completed 60 years ago. A big issue was how to build and engineer something in snowy mountains that are almost inaccessible to anyone other than local people.

The cable car system covers a total distance of about 5km, high above the Mont Blanc Tunnel which is used for traffic. It links the towns of Courmayer and Chamonix. The peaks they sit on are almost 4,000m high.

A view from the peak of Mont Blanc provides a clue to the engineering challenges involved

A view from the peak of Mont Blanc provides a clue to the engineering challenges involved

Difference the project has made

Before there was a cable car you could really only move between them if you were an experienced ski trekker or climber.

The cable cars made the mountains accessible to everyone and created a whole new tourism industry for skiers.

The cable car is a tourist attraction in itself. You can see spectacular Alpine scenery in a half hour trip.

It still holds the record as the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world – going from 1,000m to almost 4,000m.

How the cable car system was built

One of the engineering techniques used is the ‘suspended pylon’. This gives support to the cables across a huge span of 3,300m. This uses a system of transverse ropes anchored into rock.

A ground pylon wouldn’t have worked because it would have been crushed by the gradual, powerful movement of the glacier on the mountainside.

Engineers relied on local people, skilled at finding their way up and down the mountains to help with the build.

View from cable car towards the Pavillon du Mont Fréty, Italy. <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pavillon_du_Mont_Fr%C3%A9ty.jpg" target="_blank">Wikipedia</a>

View from cable car towards the Pavillon du Mont Fréty, Italy. Wikipedia

Fascinating facts

In some places the cables sag by 255m but doesn’t affect the cable cars’ movement

Across the Glacier du Geant the cable span between supports is almost 3,000m

People who made it happen

  • Designer: Vittorio Zignoli
  • Engineer: Dino Lora Totino

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