Information we could have used beforehand.
Transportation from Geneva
The absolute best way to get from Geneva to Chamonix is to go to chamexpress.com and spend 25 euro on a van ride directly to where you want to go. They speak english, and you can schedule a pickup time and place online.
The train is an absolute and total clusterfuck, with transfers by foot, tram, bus, broken fare machines that only take swiss frank coins, and pissy conductors that only take euros. AVOID at all costs.
The bus is only marginally better than the train.. it only runs twice a day around 8 and 4, costs 35 euro, and makes tons of stops along the way.
The Aiguille du Midi Station
It’s 40 euros for a telepherique ticket that takes up up then back down (on the same date or later), 60 to get to the Torino hut (Italy side) and back and 32 for the “Alpinist Pass” which takes you halfway up (so you can climb a route on the north face of the Midi) then back down from the top. The first lift up in the morning is at about 7 or 8, and the last one down is at 5:30.
Cosmiques Hut Info
The Cosmiques hut costs 32 euro per night which includes breakfast (50 if you want dinner too). It’s easy to cook dinner outside on the porch and melt snow to save money… if you really want to save money, bivying downhill from the hut seems to be allowed. There were usually about 5-6 tents set up down there.
Cosmique hut breakfast consists of: a big bowl of coffee (or hot chocolate), bread butter and jam, cereal and granola, and infinite orange juice (hydrate for free! because water is 5 euros per 1.5 liters!). Another important note: .75 liters of wine is 13 euros.
The hut has easy access to: the Cosmiquess Arete, the south face of the Midi, the Triangle du Tacul, east face of Tacul (800m ice routes).
Call from town and reserve a bed (buy a phone card from a shop and use pay phones all over town).
Coffee: is super expensive in France! like 3.50 euros at a cafe. That’s $4.94 as of right now. At McDonald’s it’s 1.80, at a bakery near the Midi Station it’s 80 cents at a machine, but it tastes pretty good. At Mojos sandwich shop it’s 2.50.
Internet: free wifi at McDonald’s and at a bar by the Les Arolles campground. There’s an internet cafe with 6 computers at Mojos sandwich shop which charges 10 cents/minute, on the honor system.
[Update April 2011] Mojos is gone! No more cheap sandwiches and internet
Food: There are a couple of sandwich/burger shops in town ~ 5 euros. Chambre 9 by the train station has 9 euro awesome tortellini, and 10 euro beer or wine pitchers.
The mountain guide office is by the church and open from 9:15 AM – noon, then from 3 – 6:15 or so. You can read guidebooks and photocopy them for 20 cents. There’s a huge diorama of the Mt. Blanc Massif which is good for visualizing routes. You can ask them about conditions and the’ll tell you if your plan is insane/stupid or not. The weather is posted outside every day with a 3 day outlook. Also there are ledgers inside for partner finding and route beta/conditions.
Gear: there are tons of shops with everything. The Technique Extreme (also known as the Discotheque Extreme) has super cheap prices (maybe stuff is fake?), but it’s close to camp and the Midi station.