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Title: The Ascent of the Matterhorn
Author: Whymper, Edward
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          [Illustration: Cover]

                              THE CORNER.”]

                               THE ASCENT


                             THE MATTERHORN


                              EDWARD WHYMPER

                         [Illustration: Vignette]


              Toil and pleasure, in their natures opposite, are yet linked
                         together in a kind of necessary connection.—LIVY.


_All rights are reserved_


In the year 1860, shortly before leaving England for a long continental
tour, the late Mr. William Longman requested me to make for him some
sketches of the great Alpine peaks. At this time I had only a literary
acquaintance with mountaineering, and had even not seen—much less set foot
upon—a mountain. Amongst the peaks which were upon my list was Mont
Pelvoux, in Dauphiné. The sketches that were required of it were to
celebrate the triumph of some Englishmen who intended to make its ascent.
They came—they saw—but they did not conquer. By a mere chance I fell in
with a very agreeable Frenchman who accompanied this party, and was
pressed by him to return to the assault. In 1861 we did so, with my friend
Macdonald—and we conquered. This was the origin of my scrambles amongst
the Alps.

The ascent of Mont Pelvoux (including the disagreeables) was a very
delightful scramble. The mountain air did _not_ act as an emetic; the sky
did _not_ look black, instead of blue; nor did I feel tempted to throw
myself over precipices. I hastened to enlarge my experience, and went to
the Matterhorn. I was urged towards Mont Pelvoux by those mysterious
impulses which cause men to peer into the unknown. Not only was this
mountain reputed to be the highest in France, and on that account was
worthy of attention, but it was the dominating point of a most picturesque
district of the greatest interest, which, to this day, remains almost
unexplored! The Matterhorn attracted me simply by its grandeur. It was
considered to be the most thoroughly inaccessible of all mountains, even
by those who ought to have known better. Stimulated to make fresh
exertions by one repulse after another, I returned, year after year, as I
had opportunity, more and more determined to find a way up it, or to
_prove_ it to be really inaccessible.

The chief part of this volume is occupied by the history of these attacks
on the Matterhorn, and the other excursions that are described have all
some connection, more or less remote, with that mountain or with Mont
Pelvoux. All are new excursions (that is, excursions made for the first
time), unless the contrary is pointed out. Some have been passed over very
briefly, and entire ascents or descents have been disposed of in a single
line. Generally speaking, the salient points alone have been dwelt upon,
and the rest has been left to the imagination. This treatment has spared
the reader from much useless repetition.

In endeavouring to make the book of some use to those who may wish to go
mountain-scrambling, whether in the Alps or elsewhere, prominence has been
given to our mistakes and failures; and to some it may seem that our
practice must have been bad if the principles which are laid down are
sound, or that the principles must be unsound if the practice was good.
The principles which are brought under the notice of the reader are,
however, deduced from long experience, which experience had not been
gained at the time that the blunders were perpetrated; and, if it had been
acquired at an earlier date, there would have been fewer failures to

My scrambles amongst the Alps were a sort of apprenticeship in the art of
mountaineering, and they were, for the most part, carried out in the
company of men who were masters of their craft. In any art the learner,
who wishes to do good work, does well to associate himself with master
workmen, and I attribute much of the success which is recorded in this
volume to my having been frequently under the guidance of the best
mountaineers of the time. The hints and observations which are dispersed
throughout the volume are not the result of personal experience only, they
have been frequently derived from professional mountaineers, who have
studied the art from their youth upwards.

Without being unduly discursive in the narrative, it has not been possible
to include in the text all the observations which are desirable for the
general reader, and a certain amount of elementary knowledge has been
pre-supposed, which perhaps some do not possess; and the opportunity is
now taken of making a few remarks which may serve to elucidate those which

When a man who is not a born mountaineer gets upon the side of a mountain,
he speedily finds out that walking is an art; and very soon wishes that he
could be a quadruped or a centipede, or anything except a biped; but, as
there is a difficulty in satisfying these very natural desires, he
ultimately procures an alpenstock and turns himself into a tripod. This
simple implement is invaluable to the mountaineer, and when he is parted
from it involuntarily (and who has not been?) he is inclined to say, just
as one may remark of other friends, “You were only a stick—a poor
stick—but you were a true friend, and I should like to be in your company

                   [Illustration: Point of Alpenstock]

Respecting the size of the alpenstock, let it be remarked that it may be
nearly useless if it be too long or too short. It should always be shorter
than the person who carries it, but it may be any length you like between
three-fifths of your height and your extreme altitude. It should be made
of ash, of the very best quality; and should support your weight upon its
centre when it is suspended at its two ends. Unless shod with an iron
point it can scarcely be termed an alpenstock, and the nature of the point
is of some importance. The kind I prefer is shown in the annexed
illustration. It has a long tang running into the wood, is supported by a
rivetted collar, and its termination is extremely sharp. With a point of
this description steps can be made in ice almost as readily as with an

A volume might be written upon the use of the alpenstock. Its principal
use is as a third leg, to extend one’s base line; and when the beginner
gets this well into his head he finds the implement of extraordinary
value. In these latter times the pure and simple alpenstock has gone out
of fashion, and mountaineers now almost universally carry a stick with a
point at one end and an axe-head at the other. A moveable axe-head is
still a desideratum. There is a pick-axe made at Birmingham with a
moveable head which is better than any other kind that I have seen, but
the head is too clumsy to be held in the hand, and various improvements
will have to be effected in it before it will be fit for use in
mountaineering. Still, its principle appears to me to be capable of
adaptation, and on that account I have introduced it here.

          [Illustration: Birmingham pick-axe with moveable head]

                     [Illustration: Russian furnace]

After the alpenstock, or axe-alpenstock, it is of most importance for the
mountaineer to supply himself with plenty of good rope. Enough has been
said on this subject in different parts of the narrative, as well as in
regard to tents. Few other articles are _necessary_, though many others
are _desirable_, to carry about, and amongst the most important may be
reckoned some simple means of boiling water and cooking. At considerable
altitudes above the tree-line, it is frequently impossible to carry up
wood enough for a camp-fire, and nothing but spirits of wine can be
employed. The well-known and convenient so-called “Russian furnace” is the
most compact form of spirit lamp that I know, and wonders can be effected
with one that is only three inches in diameter. In conjunction with a set
of tins like those figured here (which are constructed to be used either
with a wood fire or over a spirit lamp), all the cooking can be done that
the Alpine tourist requires. For prolonged expeditions of a serious nature
a more elaborate equipage is necessary; but upon such small ones as are
made in the Alps it would be unnecessarily encumbering yourself to take a
whole _batterie de cuisine_.(1)

                       [Illustration: Cooking tins]

Before passing on to speak of clothing, a word upon snow-blindness will
not be out of place. Very fine language is sometimes used to express the
fact that persons suffer from their eyes becoming inflamed; and there is
one well-known traveller, at least, who, when referring to snow-blindness,
speaks habitually of the distressing effects which are produced by “the
reverberation of the snow.” Snow-blindness is a malady which touches all
mountain-travellers sooner or later, for it is found impossible in
practice always to protect the eyes with the goggles which are shown
overleaf. In critical situations almost every one removes them. The
beginner should, however, note that at great altitudes it is not safe to
leave the eyes unprotected even on rocks, when the sun is shining
brightly; and upon snow or ice it is indispensable to shade them in some
manner, unless you wish to be placed _hors de combat_ on the next day.
Should you unfortunately find yourself in this predicament through the
intensity of the light, there is no help but in sulphate of zinc and
patience. Of the former material a half-ounce will be sufficient for a
prolonged campaign, as a lotion compounded with two or three grains to an
ounce of water will give relief; but of patience you can hardly lay in too
large a stock, as a single bad day sometimes throws a man on his back for

                     [Illustration: Snow spectacles]

The whole face suffers under the alternation of heat, cold, and glare, and
few mountain-travellers remain long without having their visages blistered
and cracked in all directions. Now, in respect to this matter, prevention
is better than cure; and, though these inconveniences cannot be entirely
escaped, they may, by taking trouble, be deferred for a long time. As a
travelling cap for mountain expeditions, there is scarcely anything better
than the kind of helmet used by Arctic travellers, and with the eyes well
shaded by its projecting peak and covered with the ordinary goggles one
ought not, and will not, suffer much from snow-blindness. I have found,
however, that it does not sufficiently shade the face, and that it shuts
out sound too much when the side-flaps are down; and I consequently adopt
a woollen headpiece, which almost entirely covers or shades the face and
extends well downwards on to the shoulders. One hears sufficiently
distinctly through the interstices of the knitted wool, and they also
permit some ventilation—which the Arctic cap does not. It is a useful
rather than an ornamental article of attire, and strangely affects one’s

                        [Illustration: Arctic cap]

For the most severe weather even this is not sufficient, and a mask must
be added to protect the remainder of the face. You then present the
appearance of the lower woodcut, and are completely disguised. Your most
intimate friends—even your own mother—will disown you, and you are a fit
subject for endless ridicule.

                  [Illustration: The complete disguise]

The alternations of heat and cold are rapid and severe in all high
mountain ranges, and it is folly to go about too lightly clad. Woollen
gloves ought always to be in the mountaineer’s pocket, for in a single
hour, or less, he may experience a fall in temperature of sixty to eighty
degrees. But in respect to the nature of the clothing there is little to
be said beyond that it should be composed of flannels and woollens.

Upon the important subject of boots much might be written. My friends are
generally surprised to find that I use elastic-side boots whilst
mountaineering, and condemn them under the false impression that they will
not give support to the ankles, and will be pulled off when one is
traversing deep snow. I have invariably used elastic-side boots on my
mountain expeditions in the Alps and elsewhere, and have found that they
give sufficient support to the ankles and never draw off. My Alpine boots
have always been made by Norman—a maker who knows what the requirements
are, and one who will give a good boot if allowed good time.

It is fully as important to have proper nails in the boots as it is to
have good boots. The quantity is frequently overdone, and when there are
too many they are absolutely dangerous. Ice-nails, which may be considered
a variety of crampon, are an abomination. The nails should be neither too
large nor too numerous, and they should be disposed everywhere
irregularly—not symmetrically. They disappear one by one, from time to
time; and the prudent mountaineer continually examines his boots to see
that sufficient numbers are left.(3) A handkerchief tied round the foot,
or even a few turns of cord, will afford a tolerable substitute when nails
cannot be procured.

If the beginner supplies himself with the articles which have been named,
he will be in possession of all the gear which is _necessary_ for ordinary
mountain excursions, and if he uses his plant properly he will avoid many
of the disagreeables which are looked upon by some as almost unavoidable
accompaniments of the sport of mountaineering. I have not throughout the
volume ignored the dangers which are real and unavoidable, and say
distinctly that too great watchfulness cannot be exercised at great
altitudes. But I say now, as I have frequently said before, that the great
majority of accidents which occur to mountaineers, especially to
mountaineering amateurs in the Alps, are not the result of unavoidable
dangers; and that they are for the most part the product of ignorance and
neglect. I consider that falling rocks are the greatest danger which a
mountaineer is likely to encounter, and in concluding these prefatory
remarks I especially warn the novice against the things which tumble about
the ears of unwary travellers.



                                CHAPTER I.



                                                                Pages 1-12


                               CHAPTER II.

                       THE ASCENT OF MONT PELVOUX.



                               CHAPTER III.





                               CHAPTER IV.





                                CHAPTER V.




                               CHAPTER VI.





                               CHAPTER VII.




                              CHAPTER VIII.




                               CHAPTER IX.




                                CHAPTER X.




                               CHAPTER XI.





                               CHAPTER XII.




                              CHAPTER XIII.

                     THE ASCENT OF THE DENT BLANCHE.



                               CHAPTER XIV.




                               CHAPTER XV.




                               CHAPTER XVI.




                              CHAPTER XVII.




                              CHAPTER XVIII.




                               CHAPTER XIX.




                               CHAPTER XX.

                      THE DESCENT OF THE MATTERHORN.




*A.* THE DEATH OF BENNEN                                        301
*C.* NOTE ON THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN IN FRANCE                     304
*D.* SUBSEQUENT HISTORY OF THE MATTERHORN                       304
*F.* TABLE OF ASCENTS OF THE MATTERHORN                         316
*H.* PROFESSOR TYNDALL AND THE MATTERHORN                       325

                          LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

                  The Drawings were made on the Wood by
W. G. SMITH, C. J. STANILAND, and J. WOLF; and were Engraved by J. W. and
                             EDWARD WHYMPER.

                         FULL PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS.

 1.   “THEY SAW MASSES OF ROCKS, BOULDERS AND      _Frontispiece._
 2.   OUTLINES OF THE MATTERHORN FROM THE           _To face page_    44
 3.   THE MATTERHORN, FROM NEAR THE SUMMIT OF                    „    46
 4.   “THE CHIMNEY”                                              „    76
 5.   “IN ATTEMPTING TO PASS THE CORNER I                        „    78
 6.   A CANNONADE ON THE MATTERHORN (1862)                       „    84
 7.   “THEY SCATTERED IN A PANIC WHEN SALUTED BY                 „   107
 8.   THE CRAGS OF THE MATTERHORN, DURING THE                    „   120
      STORM, MIDNIGHT, AUGUST 10, 1863
 9.   THE CLUB-ROOM OF ZERMATT IN 1864                           „   202
10.   THE MATTERHORN FROM THE RIFFELBERG                         „   227
11.   SECTIONS OF THE MATTERHORN                                 „   230
12.   FOG-BOW, SEEN FROM THE MATTERHORN ON JULY                  „   288
      14, 1865
13.   THE HUT ON THE EASTERN FACE (ZERMATT SIDE)                 „   309
14.   GEOLOGICAL SECTION OF THE MATTERHORN                       „   324

                               IN THE TEXT.

 1.   POINT OF ALPENSTOCK                                            vii
 2.   BIRMINGHAM PICK-AXE WITH MOVEABLE HEAD                        viii
 3.   RUSSIAN FURNACE                                               viii
 4.   COOKING TINS                                                    ix
 5.   SNOW SPECTACLES                                                  x
 6.   ARCTIC CAP                                                      xi
 7.   THE COMPLETE DISGUISE                                           xi
 8.   BEACHY HEAD                                                      1
 9.   THE DEVIL OF NOTRE DAME                                          2
10.   THE CHURCH IN DIFFICULTIES                                       5
11.   AT THE ST. BERNARD                                               6
12.   THE VILLAGE OF BIONA                                             7
13.   CROSSING MONT CENIS                                              9
14.   “GARIBALDI!”                                                    10
15.   A BIT OF THE VILLAGE OF ZERMATT                                 12
16.   BRIANÇON                                                        13
17.   MONT PELVOUX FROM ABOVE LA BESSÉE                               19
18.   THE GRAND PELVOUX DE VAL LOUISE                                 21
19.   BUTTRESSES OF MONT PELVOUX                                      26
20.   PORTRAIT OF THE LATE R. J. S. MACDONALD                         29
21.   OUTLINE TO SHOW ROUTE UP MONT PELVOUX                           31
22.   THE BLANKET BAG                                                 38
23.   NATURAL PILLAR NEAR MOLINES                                     40
24.   PORTRAIT OF THE LATE J. J. BENNEN                               48
25.   PORTRAIT OF JEAN-ANTOINE CARREL                                 51
28.   THE AUTHOR’S MOUNTAIN TENT                                      62
29.   CLIMBING CLAW                                                   72
30.   ROPE AND RING                                                   73
31.   AT BREIL (GIOMEIN)                                              79
32.   THE MATTERHORN FROM BREIL                                       85
33.   “BUT WHAT IS THIS?”                                             88
36.   STRIATIONS PRODUCED BY GLACIER-ACTION                           97
37.   CHAMOIS IN DIFFICULTIES                                        102
38.   “CARREL LOWERED ME DOWN”                                       108
39.   PORTRAIT OF THE LATE CANON CARREL OF AOSTA                     109
40.   PORTRAIT OF MONSIEUR FAVRE                                     121
41.   CROSSING THE CHANNEL                                           123
42.   PORTRAIT OF THE LATE MICHEL-AUGUSTE CROZ                       125
43.   PLAN TO SHOW ROUTE                                             128
45.   PORTRAIT OF MELCHIOR ANDEREGG                                  138
46.   MAP OF THE BRÈCHE DE LA MEIJE, ETC.                            140
47.   DIAGRAM TO SHOW ANGLE OF SUMMIT OF MEIJE, ETC.                 142
48.   THE VALLON DES ETANÇONS                                        143
49.   MAP OF THE CENTRAL DAUPHINÉ ALPS                               146
51.   OUTLINE TO SHOW ROUTE UP POINTE DES ECRINS                     156
53.   A NIGHT WITH CROZ                                              164
54.   A SNOW COULOIR                                                 169
55.   PORTRAITS OF MR. REILLY ON A WET DAY                           184
56.   OUR CAMP ON MONT SUC                                           185
57.   ICE-AVALANCHE ON THE MOMING PASS                               198
58.   SUMMIT OF THE MOMING PASS                                      200
59.   FACSIMILE OF A LETTER FROM CROZ                                208
62.   PORTRAIT OF LESLIE STEPHEN                                     215
63.   THE BERGSCHRUND ON THE DENT BLANCHE                            217
64.   PORTRAIT OF T. S. KENNEDY                                      222
66.   MY TENT-BEARER—THE HUNCHBACK                                   234
67.   THE GRANDES JORASSES AND THE DOIRE TORRENT                     237
68.   THE SUMMIT OF THE COL DOLENT                                   241
69.   MY ICE-AXE                                                     243
70.   KENNEDY ICE-AXE                                                244
71.   LESLIE STEPHEN ICE-AXE                                         244
72.   CRAMPON                                                        245
73.   PORTRAIT OF CHRISTIAN ALMER                                    248
74.   ON THE MER DE GLACE                                            249
75.   WESTERN SIDE OF THE COL DE TALÈFRE                             255
76.   GLISSADING                                                     257
77.   THE WRONG WAY TO USE A ROPE ON GLACIER                         263
78.   THE RIGHT WAY TO USE A ROPE ON GLACIER                         264
79.   “CROZ! CROZ!! COME HERE!”                                      279
80.   THE SUMMIT OF THE MATTERHORN IN 1865                           281
81.   THE ACTUAL SUMMIT OF THE MATTERHORN                            284
82.   ROPE BROKEN ON THE MATTERHORN                                  287
83.   DIAGRAM OF FOG-BOW                                             289
84.   PORTRAIT OF MONSIEUR ALEX. SEILER                              290
85.   THE MANILLA ROPE BROKEN ON THE MATTERHORN                      292
86.   THE “SECOND” ROPE BROKEN ON THE MATTERHORN                     293
87.   THE ENGLISH CHURCH AT ZERMATT                                  294
88.   THE END                                                        298
89.   THE CHAPEL AT THE SCHWARZSEE                                   310


                 _To be placed at the end of the Volume._

            1. THE MATTERHORN AND ITS GLACIERS (_in colours_).


The body of the work has been printed by Messrs. WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS;
         and the separate Plates have been printed by the AUTHOR.

                       THE ASCENT OF THE MATTERHORN

                       [Illustration: BEACHY HEAD.]

                                CHAPTER I.

On the 23d of July 1860, I started for my first tour in the Alps. As we
steamed out into the Channel, Beachy Head came into view, and recalled a
scramble of many years ago. With the impudence of ignorance, my brother(4)
and I, schoolboys both, had tried to scale that great chalk cliff. Not the
head itself—where sea-birds circle, and where the flints are ranged so
orderly in parallel lines—but at a place more to the east, where the
pinnacle called the Devil’s Chimney had fallen down. Since that time we
have been often in dangers of different kinds, but never have we more
nearly broken our necks than upon that occasion.

In Paris I made two ascents. The first to the seventh floor of a house in
the Quartier Latin—to an artist friend, who was engaged, at the moment of
my entry, in combat with a little Jew. He hurled him with great good-will,
and with considerable force, into some of his crockery, and then
recommended me to go up the towers of Notre Dame. Half-an-hour later I
stood on the parapet of the great west front, by the side of the leering
fiend which for centuries has looked down upon the great city, and then
took rail to Switzerland; saw the sunlight lingering on the giants of the
Oberland; heard the echoes from the cow-horns in the Lauterbrunnen valley
and the avalanches rattling off the Jungfrau; and crossed the Gemmi into
the Valais.

                 [Illustration: THE DEVIL OF NOTRE DAME.]

I was bound for the valley of Saas, and my work took me high up the Alps
on either side; far beyond the limit of trees and the tracks of tourists.
The view from the slopes of the Weissmies, on the eastern side of the
valley, 5000 or 6000 feet above the village of Saas, is perhaps the finest
of its kind in the Alps. The full height of the three-peaked Mischabel
(the highest mountain in Switzerland) is seen at one glance; 11,000 feet
of dense forests, green alps, rocky pinnacles, and glittering glaciers.
The peaks seemed to me then to be hopelessly inaccessible from this

I next descended the valley to the village of Stalden, and went up the
Visp Thal to Zermatt, and stopped there several days. Numerous traces of
the formidable earthquake-shocks of five years before still remained;
particularly at St. Nicholas, where the inhabitants had been terrified
beyond measure at the destruction of their churches and houses. At this
place, as well as at Visp, a large part of the population was obliged to
live under canvas for several months. It is remarkable that there was
hardly a life lost on this occasion, although there were about fifty
shocks, some of which were very severe.

At Zermatt I wandered in many directions, but the weather was bad, and my
work was much retarded. One day, after spending a long time in attempts to
sketch near the Hörnli, and in futile endeavours to seize the forms of the
peaks as they for a few seconds peered out from above the dense banks of
woolly clouds, I determined not to return to Zermatt by the usual path,
and to cross the Gorner glacier to the Riffel hotel. After a rapid
scramble over the polished rocks and snowbeds which skirt the base of the
Théodule glacier, and wading through some of the streams which flow from
it, at that time much swollen by the late rains, the first difficulty was
arrived at, in the shape of a precipice about three hundred feet high. It
seemed that it would be easy enough to cross the glacier if the cliff
could be descended; but higher up, and lower down, the ice appeared, to my
inexperienced eyes, to be impassable for a single person. The general
contour of the cliff was nearly perpendicular, but it was a good deal
broken up, and there was little difficulty in descending by zigzagging
from one mass to another. At length there was a long slab, nearly smooth,
fixed at an angle of about forty degrees between two wall-sided pieces of
rock. Nothing, except the glacier, could be seen below. It was an awkward
place, but I passed it at length by lying across the slab, putting the
shoulders stiffly against one side, and the feet against the other, and
gradually wriggling down, by first moving the legs and then the back. When
the bottom of the slab was gained a friendly crack was seen, into which
the point of the baton could be stuck, and I dropped down to the next
piece. It took a long time coming down that little bit of cliff, and for a
few seconds it was satisfactory to see the ice close at hand. In another
moment a second difficulty presented itself. The glacier swept round an
angle of the cliff, and as the ice was not of the nature of treacle or
thin putty, it kept away from the little bay, on the edge of which I
stood. We were not widely separated, but the edge of the ice was higher
than the opposite edge of rock; and worse, the rock was covered with loose
earth and stones which had fallen from above. All along the side of the
cliff, as far as could be seen in both directions, the ice did not touch
it, but there was this marginal crevasse, seven feet wide, and of unknown

All this was seen at a glance, and almost at once I concluded that I could
not jump the crevasse, and began to try along the cliff lower down; but
without success, for the ice rose higher and higher, until at last further
progress was stopped by the cliffs becoming perfectly smooth. With an axe
it would have been possible to cut up the side of the ice; without one I
saw there was no alternative but to return and face the jump.

Night was approaching, and the solemn stillness of the High Alps was
broken only by the sound of rushing water or of falling rocks. If the jump
should be successful,—well; if not, I fell into that horrible chasm, to be
frozen in, or drowned in that gurgling, rushing water. Everything depended
on that jump. Again I asked myself, “Can it be done?” It _must_ be. So,
finding my stick was useless, I threw it and the sketch-book to the ice,
and first retreating as far as possible, ran forward with all my might,
took the leap, barely reached the other side, and fell awkwardly on my

The glacier was crossed without further trouble, but the Riffel,(5) which
was then a very small building, was crammed with tourists, and could not
take me in. As the way down was unknown to me, some of the people
obligingly suggested getting a man at the chalets, otherwise the path
would be certainly lost in the forest. On arriving at the chalets no man
could be found, and the lights of Zermatt, shining through the trees,
seemed to say, “Never mind a guide, but come along down, I’ll show you the
way;” so off I went through the forest, going straight towards them. The
path was lost in a moment, and was never recovered. I was tripped up by
pine-roots, tumbled over rhododendron bushes, fell over rocks. The night
was pitch dark, and after a time the lights of Zermatt became obscure, or
went out altogether. By a series of slides, or falls, or evolutions more
or less disagreeable, the descent through the forest was at length
accomplished; but torrents of formidable character had still to be passed
before one could arrive at Zermatt. I felt my way about for hours, almost
hopelessly; by an exhaustive process at last discovering a bridge, and
about midnight, covered with dirt and scratches, re-entered the inn which
I had quitted in the morning.

                [Illustration: The church in difficulties]

Others besides tourists get into difficulties. A day or two afterwards,
when on the way to my old station, near the Hörnli, I met a stout curé who
had essayed to cross the Théodule pass. His strength or his wind had
failed, and he was being carried down, a helpless bundle and a ridiculous
spectacle, on the back of a lanky guide; while the peasants stood by, with
folded hands, their reverence for the church almost overcome by their
sense of the ludicrous.

I descended the valley, diverging from the path at Randa to mount the
slopes of the Dom,(6) in order to see the Weisshorn face to face. The
latter mountain is the noblest in Switzerland, and from this direction it
looks especially magnificent. On its north there is a large snowy plateau
that feeds the glacier of which a portion is seen from Randa, and which on
more than one occasion has destroyed that village. From the direction of
the Dom (that is, immediately opposite) this Bies glacier seems to descend
nearly vertically. It does not do so, although it is very steep. Its size
is much less than formerly, and the lower portion, now divided into three
tails, clings in a strange, weird-like manner to the cliffs, to which it
seems scarcely possible that it can remain attached.

                    [Illustration: At the St. Bernard]

Arriving once more in the Rhone valley, I proceeded to Viesch, and from
thence ascended the Eggischorn; on which unpleasant eminence I lost my way
in a fog, and my temper shortly afterwards. Then, after crossing the
Grimsel in a severe thunderstorm, passed on to Brienz, Interlachen, and
Bern; and thence to Fribourg and Morat, Neuchâtel, Martigny, and the St.
Bernard. The massive walls of the convent were a welcome sight as I waded
through the snow-beds near the summit of the pass, and pleasant also was
the courteous salutation of the brother who bade me enter. He wondered at
the weight of my knapsack, and I at the hardness of his bread. The saying
that the monks make the toast in the winter that they give to tourists in
the following season is not founded on truth; the winter is their most
busy time of the year. But it _is_ true they have exercised so much
hospitality, that at times they have not possessed the means to furnish
the fuel for heating their chapel in the winter.(7)

Instead of descending to Aosta, I turned aside into the Val Pelline, in
order to obtain views of the Dent d’Erin. The night had come on before
Biona was gained, and I had to knock long and loud upon the door of the
curé’s house before it was opened. An old woman, with querulous voice, and
with a large goître, answered the summons, and demanded rather sharply
what was wanted; but became pacific—almost good-natured—when a five-franc
piece was held in her face, and she heard that lodging and supper were
requested in exchange.

                  [Illustration: THE VILLAGE OF BIONA.]

My directions asserted that a passage existed from Prerayen, at the head
of this valley, to Breil,(8) in the Val Tournanche, and the old woman, now
convinced of my respectability, busied herself to find a guide. Presently
she introduced a native, picturesquely attired in high-peaked hat, braided
jacket, scarlet waistcoat, and indigo pantaloons, who agreed to take me to
the village of Val Tournanche. We set off early on the next morning, and
got to the summit of the pass without difficulty. It gave me my first
experience of considerable slopes of hard steep snow, and, like all
beginners, I endeavoured to prop myself up with my stick, and kept it
_outside_, instead of holding it between myself and the slope, and leaning
upon it, as should have been done. The man enlightened me; but he had,
properly, a very small opinion of his employer, and it is probably on that
account that, a few minutes after we had passed the summit, he said he
would not go any further and would return to Biona. All argument was
useless; he stood still, and to everything that was said answered nothing
but that he would go back. Being rather nervous about descending some long
snow-slopes, which still intervened between us and the head of the valley,
I offered more pay, and he went on a little way. Presently there were some
cliffs down which we had to scramble. He called to me to stop, then
shouted that he would go back, and beckoned to me to come up. On the
contrary, I waited for him to come down; but instead of doing so, in a
second or two he turned round, clambered deliberately up the cliff, and
vanished. I supposed it was only a ruse to extort offers of more money,
and waited for half-an-hour, but he did not appear again. This was rather
embarrassing, for he carried off my knapsack. The choice of action lay
between chasing him and going on to Breil, risking the loss of my
knapsack. I chose the latter course, and got to Breil the same evening.
The landlord of the inn, suspicious of a person entirely innocent of
luggage, was doubtful if he could admit me, and eventually thrust me into
a kind of loft, which was already occupied by guides and by hay. In later
years we became good friends, and he did not hesitate to give credit and
even to advance considerable sums.

My sketches from Breil were made under difficulties, for my materials had
been carried off. Nothing better than fine sugar-paper could be obtained,
and the pencils seemed to contain more silica than plumbago. However, they
_were_ made, and the pass(9) was again crossed, this time alone. By the
following evening the old woman of Biona again produced the faithless
guide. The knapsack was recovered after the lapse of several hours, and
then I poured forth all the terms of abuse and reproach of which I was
master. The man smiled when called a liar, and shrugged his shoulders when
referred to as a thief, but drew his knife when spoken of as a pig.

                   [Illustration: CROSSING MONT CENIS.]

The following night was spent at Courmayeur, and the day after I crossed
the Col Ferret to Orsières, and on the next the Tête Noire to Chamounix.
The Emperor Napoleon arrived on the same day, and access to the Mer de
Glace was refused to tourists; but, by scrambling along the Plan des
Aiguilles, I managed to outwit the guards, and to arrive at the Montanvert
as the Imperial party was leaving: the same afternoon failing to get to
the Jardin, but very nearly succeeding in breaking a leg by dislodging
great rocks on the moraine of the glacier.

                       [Illustration: “GARIBALDI!”]

From Chamounix I went to Geneva, and thence by the Mont Cenis to Turin and
to the Vaudois valleys. A long and weary day had ended when Paesana was
reached. The inn was full, and I was tired, and about to go to bed, when
some village stragglers entered and began to sing. They sang to Garibaldi!
The tenor, a ragged fellow, whose clothes were not worth a shilling, took
the lead with wonderful expression and feeling. The others kept their
places, and sang in admirable time. For hours I sat enchanted; and, long
after I retired, the sound of their melody could be heard, relieved at
times by the treble of the girl who belonged to the inn.

The next morning I passed the little lakes, which are the sources of the
Po, on my way into France. The weather was stormy, and misinterpreting the
patois of some natives—who in reality pointed out the right way—I missed
the track, and found myself under the cliffs of Monte Viso. A gap that was
occasionally seen, in the ridge connecting it with the mountains to the
east, tempted me up; and, after a battle with a snow-slope of excessive
steepness, I reached the summit. The scene was extraordinary, and, in my
experience, unique. To the north there was not a particle of mist, and the
violent wind coming from that direction blew one back staggering. But on
the side of Italy, the valleys were completely filled with dense masses of
cloud to a certain level; and there—where they felt the influence of the
wind—they were cut off as level as the top of a table, the ridges
appearing above them.

I raced down to Abries, and went on through the gorge of the Guil to Mont
Dauphin. The next day found me at La Bessée, at the junction of the Val
Louise with the valley of the Durance, in full view of Mont Pelvoux; and
by chance I walked into a cabaret where a Frenchman was breakfasting, who,
a few days before, had made an unsuccessful attempt to ascend that
mountain with three Englishmen and the guide Michel Croz of Chamounix;(10)
a right good fellow, by name Jean Reynaud.

The same night I slept at Briançon, intending to take the courier on the
following day to Grenoble; but all places had been secured several days
beforehand, so I set out at two P.M. on the next day for a seventy-mile
walk. The weather was again bad; and on the summit of the Col de Lautaret
I was forced to seek shelter in the wretched little hospice. It was filled
with workmen who were employed on the road, and with noxious vapours which
proceeded from them. The inclemency of the weather was preferable to the
inhospitality of the interior. Outside, it was disagreeable, but grand;
inside, it was disagreeable and mean.(11) The walk was continued under a
deluge of rain, and I felt the way down—so intense was the darkness—to the
village of La Grave, where the people of the inn detained me forcibly. It
was perhaps fortunate that they did so; for, during that night, blocks of
rock fell at several places from the cliffs on to the road with such force
that they made large pits in the macadam. I resumed the walk at half-past
five the next morning, and proceeded, under steady rain, through Bourg
d’Oysans to Grenoble, arriving at the latter place soon after seven P.M.,
having accomplished the entire distance from Briançon in about eighteen
hours of actual walking.

This was the end of the Alpine portion of my tour of 1860, on which I was
introduced to the great peaks, and acquired the passion for
mountain-scrambling, the development of which is described in the
following chapters.

             [Illustration: A BIT OF THE VILLAGE OF ZERMATT.]

                        [Illustration: BRIANÇON.]

                               CHAPTER II.

                       THE ASCENT OF MONT PELVOUX.

            “Thus fortune on our first endeavour smiles.”

The district of which Mont Pelvoux and the neighbouring summits are the
culminating points,(12) is, both historically and topographically, one of
the most interesting in the Alps. As the nursery and the home of the
Vaudois, it has claims to permanent attention. The names of Waldo and of
Neff will be remembered when men more famous in their time will be
forgotten; and the memory of the heroic courage and the simple piety of
their disciples will endure as long as history lasts.

This district contains the highest summits in France, and some of its
finest scenery. It has not perhaps the beauties of Switzerland, but has
charms of its own; its cliffs, its torrents, and its gorges are
unsurpassed; its deep and savage valleys present pictures of grandeur, and
even sublimity, and it is second to none in the boldness of its mountain

The district includes a mass of valleys which vie with each other in
singularity of character and dissimilarity of climate. Some the rays of
the sun can never reach, they are so deep and narrow.(13) In others the
very antipodes may be found; the temperature more like that of the plains
of Italy than of Alpine France. This great range of climate has a marked
effect on the flora of these valleys. Sterility reigns in some; stones
take the place of trees; débris and mud replace plants and flowers: in
others, in the space of a few miles, one passes vines, apple, pear, and
cherry trees, the birch, alder, walnut, ash, larch, and pine, alternating
with fields of rye, barley, oats, beans, and potatoes.

The valleys are for the most part short and erratic. They are not,
apparently, arranged on any definite plan. They are not disposed, as is
frequently the case elsewhere, either at right angles to, or parallel
with, the highest summits; but they wander hither and thither, take one
direction for a few miles, then double back, and then perhaps resume their
original course. Thus, long perspectives are rarely to be seen, and it is
difficult to form a general idea of the disposition of the peaks.

The highest summits are arranged almost in a horse-shoe form. The highest
of all, which occupies a central position, is the Pointe des Ecrins; the
second in height, the Meije,(14) is on the north; and the Mont Pelvoux,
which gives its name to the entire block, stands almost detached by itself
on the outside.

The district is still very imperfectly known; there are probably many
valleys, and there are certainly many summits which have never been
trodden by the feet of tourists or travellers; but in 1861 it was even
less known. Until quite recently there was, practically, no map of it;(15)
General Bourcet’s, which was the best that was published, was completely
wrong in its delineation of the mountains, and was frequently incorrect in
regard to paths or roads.

The mountainous regions of Dauphiné, moreover, are not supplied, like
Switzerland, Tyrol, or even the Italian valleys, with accommodation for
travellers. The inns, when they exist, are often filthy beyond
description; rest is seldom obtained in their beds, or decent food found
in their kitchens, and there are no local guides worth having. The tourist
is thrown very much on his own resources, and it is not therefore
surprising that these districts are less visited and less known than the
rest of the Alps.

Most of the statements current in 1861 respecting these mountains had been
derived from two authors(16)—M. Elie de Beaumont and the late Principal J.
D. Forbes. Their works, however, contained numerous errors in regard to
the identification of the peaks, and, amongst others, they referred the
supremacy to the Mont Pelvoux, the highest point of which they termed the
Pointe des Arcines, or des Ecrins. Principal Forbes erroneously identified
the high peak seen from the valley of St. Christophe, with that seen from
the valley of the Durance, and spoke of both as the Mont Pelvoux, and M.
de Beaumont committed similar mistakes. In point of fact, at the time when
M. de Beaumont and Forbes wrote their respective memoirs, the proper
relation of the Mont Pelvoux to the neighbouring summits had been
determined by the engineers employed on the survey for the map of France,
but their observations were not then accessible to the public, although
they had evidently been seen by M. de Beaumont. This party of surveyors,
led by Captain Durand, made the ascent of Mont Pelvoux from the side of
the Val d’Ailefroide—that is, from the direction of Val Louise—in 1828.
According to the natives of the Val Louise, they got to the top of the
second peak in height, and remained upon it, lodged in a tent for several
days, at a height of 12,904 feet. They took numerous porters to carry wood
for fires, and erected a large cairn on the summit, which has caused the
name of Pic de la Pyramide to be given to their summit.

In 1848, M. Puiseux made the ascent from the same direction, but his Val
Louisan guide stopped short of the summit, and allowed this courageous
astronomer to proceed by himself.(17)

In the middle of August 1860, Messrs. Bonney, Hawkshaw, and Mathews, with
Michel Croz of Chamounix, tried to ascend the Pelvoux, likewise from the
same direction. These gentlemen spent several days and nights upon the
mountain; and, encountering bad weather, only attained a height of 10,430

M. Jean Reynaud, of whom mention has been made in the preceding chapter,
accompanied the party of Mr. Mathews, and he was of opinion that the
attempt had been made too late in the season. He said that the weather was
usually good enough for high mountain ascents _only_ during the last few
days of July, and the first ones of August,(18) and suggested that we
should attempt to ascend the mountain in the following year at that time.
The proposition was a tempting one, and Reynaud’s cordial and modest
manner made it irresistible, although there seemed small chance that we
should succeed where a party such as that of Mr. Mathews had been beaten.

At the beginning of July 1861, I despatched to Reynaud from Havre,
blankets (which were taxed as “prohibited fabrics”), rope, and other
things desirable for the excursion, and set out on the tour of France;
but, four weeks later, at Nîmes, found myself completely collapsed by the
heat, then 94° Faht. in the shade, and took a night train at once to

Grenoble is a town upon which a volume might be written. Its situation is
probably the finest of any in France, and the views from its high forts
are superb. I lost my way in the streets of this picturesque and noisome
town, and having but a half-hour left in which to get a dinner and take a
place in the diligence, was not well pleased to hear that an Englishman
wished to see me. It turned out to be my friend Macdonald, who confided to
me that he was going to try to ascend a mountain called Pelvoux in the
course of ten days. On hearing of my intentions, he agreed to join us at
La Bessée on the 3rd of August. In a few moments more I was perched in the
banquette _en route_ for Bourg d’Oysans, in a miserable vehicle which took
nearly eight hours to accomplish less than 30 miles.

At five on a lovely morning I shouldered my knapsack and started for
Briançon. Gauzy mists clung to the mountains, but melted away when touched
by the sun, and disappeared by jerks (in the manner of views when focussed
in a magic lantern), revealing the wonderfully bent and folded strata in
the limestone cliffs behind the town. Then I entered the Combe de Malval,
and heard the Romanche eating its way through that wonderful gorge, and
passed on to Le Dauphin, where the first glacier came into view, tailing
over the mountain-side on the right. From this place until the summit of
the Col de Lautaret was passed, every gap in the mountains showed a
glittering glacier or a soaring peak; the finest view was at La Grave,
where the Meije rises by a series of tremendous precipices 8000 feet above
the road.(19) The finest distant view of the pass is seen after crossing
the Col, near Monêtier. A mountain, commonly supposed to be Monte Viso,
appears at the end of the vista, shooting into the sky;(20) in the middle
distance, but still ten miles off, is Briançon with its interminable
forts, and in the foreground, leading down to the Guisane, and rising high
up the neighbouring slopes, are fertile fields, studded with villages and
church spires. The next day I walked over from Briançon to La Bessée, to
my worthy friend Jean Reynaud, the surveyor of roads of his district.

All the peaks of Mont Pelvoux are well seen from La Bessée—the highest
point, as well as that upon which the engineers erected their cairn.
Neither Reynaud nor any one else knew this. The natives knew only that the
engineers had ascended one peak, and had seen from that one a still higher
point, which they called the Pointe des Arcines or des Ecrins. They could
not say whether this latter could be seen from La Bessée, nor could they
tell the peak upon which the cairn had been erected. We were under the
impression that the highest point was concealed by the peaks which we saw,
and would be gained by passing over them. They knew nothing of the ascent
of Monsieur Puiseux, and they confidently asserted that the highest point
of Mont Pelvoux had not been attained by any one. It was this point we
wished to reach.

            [Illustration: MONT PELVOUX FROM ABOVE LA BESSÉE.]

Nothing prevented our starting at once but the absence of Macdonald and
the want of a bâton. Reynaud suggested a visit to the postmaster, who
possessed a bâton of local celebrity. Down we went to the bureau; but it
was closed: we halloed through the slits, but no answer. At last the
postmaster was discovered endeavouring (with very fair success) to make
himself intoxicated. He was just able to ejaculate, “France! ’tis the
first nation in the world!” which is a phrase used by a Frenchman at times
when a Briton would begin to shout, “We won’t go home till
morning”—national glory being uppermost in the thoughts of one, and home
in those of the other. The bâton was produced; it was a branch of a young
oak, about five feet long, gnarled and twisted in several directions.
“Sir,” said the postmaster, as he presented it, “France! ’tis the
first—the first nation in the world, by its”—he stuck. “Bâtons?” I
suggested. “Yes, yes, sir; by its bâtons, by its—its,” and here he could
not get on at all. As I looked at this young limb, I thought of my own;
but Reynaud, who knew everything about everybody in the village, said
there was not a better one, so off we went with it, leaving the official
staggering in the road and muttering, “France! ’tis the first nation in
the world!”

The 3rd of August came, and Macdonald did not appear, so we started for
the Val Louise; our party consisting of Reynaud, myself, and a porter,
Jean Casimir Giraud, nicknamed “little nails,” the shoemaker of the place.
An hour and a half’s smart walking took us to La Ville de Val Louise, our
hearts gladdened by the glorious peaks of Pelvoux shining out without a
cloud around them. I renewed acquaintance with the mayor of “La Ville.”
His aspect was original, and his manners were gracious, but the odour
which proceeded from him was dreadful.

Reynaud kindly undertook to look after the commissariat, and I found to my
annoyance, when we were about to leave, that I had given tacit consent to
a small wine-cask being carried with us, which was a great nuisance from
the commencement. It was excessively awkward to handle; one man tried to
carry it, and then another, and at last it was slung from one of our
bâtons, and was carried by two of us, which gave our party the appearance
of a mechanical diagram to illustrate the uses of levers.

At “La Ville” the Val Louise splits into two branches—the Val d’Entraigues
on the left and the Vallon d’Alefred (or Ailefroide) on the right; our
route was up the latter, and we moved steadily forwards to the village of
La Pisse, where Pierre Sémiond lived, who was reputed to know more about
the Pelvoux than any other man. He looked an honest fellow, but
unfortunately he was ill and could not come. He recommended his brother,
an aged creature, whose furrowed and wrinkled face hardly seemed to
announce the man we wanted; but having no choice, we engaged him and again
set forth. Walnut and a great variety of other trees gave shadow to our
path and fresh vigour to our limbs; while below, in a sublime gorge,
thundered the torrent, whose waters took their rise from the snows we
hoped to tread on the morrow.

             [Illustration: THE GRAND PELVOUX DE VAL LOUISE.]

The Pelvoux could not be seen at La Ville, owing to a high intervening
ridge; we were now moving along the foot of this to get to the châlets of
Alefred, or, as they are sometimes called, Aléfroide, where the mountain
actually commences. From these châlets the subordinate, but more
proximate, peaks appear considerably higher than the loftier ones behind,
and sometimes completely conceal them. But the whole height of the peak,
which in these valleys goes under the name of the “Grand Pelvoux,” is seen
at one glance from its summit to its base, six or seven thousand feet of
nearly perpendicular cliffs.

The châlets of Alefred are a cluster of miserable wooden huts at the foot
of the Grand Pelvoux, and are close to the junction of the streams which
descend from the glacier de Sapenière (or du Selé) on the left, and the
glaciers Blanc and Noir on the right. We rested a minute to purchase some
butter and milk, and Sémiond picked up a disreputable-looking lad to
assist in carrying, pushing, and otherwise moving the wine-cask.

Our route now turned sharply to the left, and all were glad that the day
was drawing to a close, so that we had the shadows from the mountains. A
more frightful and desolate valley it is scarcely possible to imagine; it
contains miles of boulders, débris, stones, sand, and mud; few trees, and
they placed so high as to be almost out of sight; not a soul inhabits it;
no birds are in the air, no fish in its waters; the mountain is too steep
for the chamois, its slopes too inhospitable for the marmot, the whole too
repulsive for the eagle. Not a living thing did we see in this sterile and
savage valley during four days, except some few poor goats which had been
driven there against their will.

It was a scene in keeping with the diabolical deed perpetrated here about
four hundred years ago—the murder of the Vaudois of Val Louise, in the
cavern which was now in sight, though high above us. Their story is very
sad. Peaceful and industrious, for more than three centuries they had
inhabited these retired valleys in tranquil obscurity. The Archbishops of
Embrun endeavoured, though with little success, to get them within the
pale of their church. Their efforts were aided by others, who commenced by
imprisonments and torture,(21) and at last adopted the method of burning
them by hundreds at the stake.(22)

In the year 1488, Albert Cattanée, Archdeacon of Cremona and legate of
Pope Innocent VIII., would have anticipated the barbarities which at a
later date roused the indignation of Milton and the fears of Cromwell;(23)
but, driven everywhere back by the Waldenses of Piedmont, he left their
valleys and crossed the Mont Genèvre to attack the weaker and more thinly
populated valleys of the Vaudois in Dauphiné. At the head of an army which
is said to have been composed of vagabonds, robbers, and assassins (who
had been tempted to his banner by promises of absolution beforehand, of
being set free from the obligation of vows which they might have made, and
by the confirmation of property to them which they might have wrongfully
acquired), as well as regular troops, Cattanée poured down the valley of
the Durance. The inhabitants of the Val Louise fled before a host that was
ten times their number, and took up their abode in this cavern, where they
had collected provisions sufficient for two years. But intolerance is ever
painstaking; their retreat was discovered. Cattanée had a captain who
combined the resources of a Herod to the cruelty of a Pelissier, and,
lowering his men by ropes, fired piles of brushwood at the entrance to the
cavern, suffocated the majority, and slew the remainder. The Vaudois were
relentlessly exterminated, without distinction of age or sex. More than
three thousand persons, it is said, perished in this frightful massacre;
the growth of three hundred and fifty years was destroyed at one blow, and
the valley was completely depopulated. Louis XII. caused it to be
re-peopled, and, after another three centuries and a half, behold the
result—a race of monkeys.(24)

We rested a little at a small spring, and then hastened onwards till we
nearly arrived at the foot of the Sapenière glacier, when Sémiond said we
must turn to the right, up the slopes. This we did, and clambered for
half-an-hour through scattered firs and fallen boulders. Then evening
began to close in rapidly, and it was time to look for a resting-place.
There was no difficulty in getting one, for all around there was a chaotic
assemblage of rocks. We selected the under side of a boulder which was
more than fifty feet long by twenty high, cleared out the rubbish, and
then collected wood for a fire.

I have a pleasant recollection of that camp-fire. The wine-cask had got
through all its troubles; it was tapped, and the Frenchmen seemed to
derive some consolation from its execrable contents. Reynaud chanted
scraps of French songs, and each contributed his share of joke, story, or
verse. The weather was perfect, and our prospects for the morrow were
good. My companions’ joy culminated when a packet of red fir was thrown
into the flames. It hissed and bubbled for a moment or two, and then broke
out into a grand flare. The effect of the momentary light was magnificent;
the mountains all around were illuminated for a second, and then relapsed
into their solemn gloom. One by one our party dropped off to sleep, and at
last I got into my blanket-bag. It was hardly necessary, for although we
were at a height of at least 7000 feet, the minimum temperature was above
40° Fahrenheit.

We roused at three, and made a start at half-past four. Giraud had been
engaged as far as this rock only, but as he wished to go on, we allowed
him to accompany us. We mounted the slopes and quickly got above the
trees, then had a couple of hours’ clambering over bits of precipitous
rock and banks of débris, and, at a quarter to seven, got to a narrow
glacier—Clos de l’Homme—which streamed out of the plateau on the summit,
and nearly reached the glacier de Sapenière. We worked as much as possible
to the right, in hopes that we should not have to cross it, but were
continually driven back, and at last we found that over we must go. Old
Sémiond had a strong objection to the ice, and made explorations on his
own account to endeavour to avoid it; but Reynaud and I preferred to cross
it, and Giraud stuck to us. It was narrow—in fact, one could throw a stone
across—and it was easily mounted on the side; but in the centre swelled
into a steep dome, up which we were obliged to cut. Giraud stepped forward
and said he should like to try his hand, and having got hold of the axe,
would not give it up; and here, as well as afterwards when it was
necessary to cross the gullies filled with hard snow, which abound on the
higher part of the mountain, he did all the work, and did it admirably.

Old Sémiond of course came after us when we got across. We then zigzagged
up some snow-slopes, and shortly afterwards commenced to ascend the
interminable array of buttresses which are the great peculiarity of the
Pelvoux.(25) They were very steep in many places, yet on the whole
afforded good hold, and no climbing should be called difficult which does
that. Gullies abounded among them, sometimes of great length and depth.
_They_ were frequently rotten, and would have been difficult for a single
man to pass. The uppermost men were continually abused for dislodging
rocks and for harpooning those below with their bâtons. However, without
these incidents the climbing would have been dull—they helped to break the

We went up chimneys and gullies by the hour together, and always seemed to
be coming to something, although we never got to it. The outline sketch
will help to explain the situation. We stood at the foot of a great
buttress—perhaps about 200 feet high—and looked up. It did not go to a
point as in the diagram, because we could not see the top; although we
felt convinced that behind the fringe of pinnacles we did see there was a
top, and that _it_ was the edge of the plateau we so much desired to
attain. Up we mounted, and reached the pinnacles; but, lo! another set was
seen,—and another,—and yet more—till at last we reached the top, and found
it was only a buttress, and that we must descend 40 or 50 feet before we
could commence to mount again. When this operation had been performed a
few dozen times, it began to be wearisome, especially as we were in the
dark as to our whereabouts. Sémiond, however, encouraged us, and said he
knew we were on the right route,—so away we went once more.

               [Illustration: BUTTRESSES OF MONT PELVOUX.]

It was now nearly mid-day, and we seemed no nearer the summit of the
Pelvoux than when we started. At last we all joined together and held a
council. “Sémiond, old friend, do you know where we are now?” “Oh yes,
perfectly, to a yard and a half.” “Well, then, how much are we below this
plateau?” He affirmed we were not half-an-hour from the edge of the snow.
“Very good; let us proceed.” Half-an-hour passed, and then another, but we
were still in the same state,—pinnacles, buttresses, and gullies were in
profusion, but the plateau was not in sight. So we called him again—for he
had been staring about latterly, as if in doubt—and repeated the question.
“How far below are we now?” Well, he thought it might be half-an-hour
more. “But you said that just now; are you sure we are going right?” Yes,
he believed we were. Believed! that would not do. “Are you sure we are
going right for the Pic des Arcines?” “Pic des Arcines!” he ejaculated in
astonishment, as if he had heard the words for the first time. “Pic des
Arcines; no! but for the pyramid, the celebrated pyramid he had helped the
great Capitaine Durand,” &c.

Here was a fix;—we had been talking about it to him for a whole day, and
now he confessed he knew nothing about it. I turned to Reynaud, who seemed
thunderstruck. “What did he suggest?” He shrugged his shoulders. “Well,”
we said, after explaining our minds pretty freely to Sémiond, “the sooner
we turn back the better, for we have no wish to see your pyramid.”

We halted for an hour, and then commenced the descent. It took us nearly
seven hours to come down to our rock; but I paid no heed to the distance,
and do not remember anything about it. When we got down we made a
discovery which affected us as much as the footprint in the sand did
Robinson Crusoe: a blue silk veil lay by our fireside. There was but one
explanation,—Macdonald had arrived; but where was he? We soon packed our
baggage, and tramped in the dusk, through the stony desert, to Alefred,
where we arrived about half-past nine. “Where is the Englishman?” was the
first question. He was gone to sleep at La Ville.

We passed that night in a hay-loft, and in the morning, after settling
with Sémiond, posted down to catch Macdonald. We had already determined on
the plan of operation, which was to get him to join us, return, and be
independent of all guides, simply taking the best man we could get as a
porter. I set my heart on Giraud,—a good fellow, with no pretence,
although in every respect up to the work. We were disappointed; he was
obliged to go to Briançon.

The walk soon became exciting. The natives inquired the result of our
expedition, and common civility obliged us to stop. But I was afraid of
losing my man, for it was said he would wait only till ten o’clock, and
that time was near at hand. At last I dashed over the bridge,—time from
Alefred an hour and a quarter. A cantonnier stopped me, saying that the
Englishman had just started for La Bessée. I rushed after him, turned
angle after angle of the road, but could not see him; at last, as I came
round a corner, he was also just turning another, going very fast. I
shouted, and luckily he heard me. We returned, reprovisioned ourselves at
La Ville, and the same evening saw us passing our first rock, _en route_
for another. I have said we determined to take no guide; but, on passing
La Pisse, old Sémiond turned out and offered his services. He went well,
in spite of his years and disregard of truth. “Why not take him?” said my
friend. So we offered him a fifth of his previous pay, and in a few
seconds he closed with the offer. This time he came in an inferior
position,—we were to lead, he to follow. Our second follower was a youth
of twenty-seven years, who was not all that could be desired. He drank
Reynaud’s wine, smoked our cigars, and quietly secreted the provisions
when we were nearly starving. Discovery of his proceedings did not at all
disconcert him, and he finished up by getting several items added to our
bill at La Ville, which, not a little to his disgust, we disallowed.

This night we fixed our camp high above the tree-line, and indulged
ourselves in the healthy employment of carrying our fuel up to it. The
present rock was not so comfortable as the first, and, before we could
settle down, we were obliged to turn out a large mass which was in the
way. It was very obstinate, but moved at length; slowly and gently at
first, then faster and faster, at last taking great jumps in the air,
striking a stream of fire at every touch, which shone out brightly as it
entered the gloomy valley below, and long after it was out of sight, we
heard it bounding downwards, and then settle with a subdued crash on the
glacier beneath. As we turned back from this curious sight, Reynaud asked
if we had ever seen a torrent on fire, and told us that in the spring the
Durance, swollen by the melting of the snow, sometimes brings down so many
rocks that, where it passes through a narrow gorge at La Bessée, no water
whatever is seen, but only boulders rolling over and over, grinding each
other into powder, and striking so many sparks that the stream looks as if
it were on fire.

We had another merry evening with nothing to mar it; the weather was
perfect, and we lay backward in luxurious repose, looking at the sky
spangled with its ten thousand brilliant lights.

            ... “The ranges stood
  Transfigured in the silver flood,
  Their snows were flashing cold and keen,
  Dead white, save where some sharp ravine
  Took shadow, or the sombre green
  Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black,
  Against the whiteness at their back.”(26)

         [Illustration: Portrait of the late R. J. S. Macdonald]

Macdonald related his experiences over the café noir. He had travelled day
and night for several days in order to join us, but had failed to find our
first bivouac, and had camped a few hundred yards from us under another
rock, higher up the mountain. The next morning he discerned us going along
a ridge at a great height above him, and as it was useless to endeavour to
overtake us, he lay down and watched with a heavy heart until we had
turned the corner of a buttress, and vanished out of sight.

Nothing but the heavy breathing of our already sound asleep comrades broke
the solemn stillness of the night. It was a silence to be felt. Nothing?
Hark! what is that dull booming sound above us? Is that nothing? There it
is again, plainer—on it comes, nearer, clearer; ’tis a crag escaped from
the heights above! What a fearful crash! We jump to our feet. Down it
comes with awful fury; what power can withstand its violence? Dancing,
leaping, flying; dashing against others; roaring as it descends. Ah, it
has passed! No; there it is again, and we hold our breath, as, with
resistless force and explosions like artillery, it darts past, with an
avalanche of shattered fragments trailing in its rear! ’Tis gone, and we
breathe more freely as we hear the finale on the glacier below.(27)

We retired at last, but I was too excited to sleep. At a quarter-past four
every man once more shouldered his pack and started. This time we agreed
to keep more to the right, to see if it were not possible to get to the
plateau without losing any time by crossing the glacier. To describe our
route would be to repeat what has been said before. We mounted steadily
for an hour and a half, sometimes walking, though more frequently
climbing, and then found, after all, that it was necessary to cross the
glacier. The part on which we struck came down a very steep slope, and was
much crevassed. The word crevassed hardly expresses its appearance—it was
a mass of formidable séracs. We found, however, more difficulty in getting
on than across it; and, thanks to the rope, it was passed in safety. Then
the interminable buttresses began again. Hour after hour we proceeded
upwards, frequently at fault, and obliged to descend. The ridge behind us
had sunk long ago, and we looked over it, and all others, till our eyes
rested on the majestic Viso. Hour after hour passed, and monotony was the
order of the day. When twelve o’clock came we lunched, and contemplated
the scene with satisfaction; all the summits in sight, with the single
exception of the Viso, had given in, and we looked over an immense
expanse—a perfect sea of peaks and snow-fields. Still the pinnacles rose
above us, and opinions were freely uttered that we should see no summit of
Pelvoux that day. Old Sémiond had become a perfect bore to all; whenever
one rested for a moment to look about, he would say, with a complacent
chuckle, “Don’t be afraid, follow me.” We came at last to a very bad
piece, rotten and steep, and no hold. Here Reynaud and Macdonald confessed
to being tired, and talked of going to sleep. A way was discovered out of
the difficulty; then some one called out, “Look at the Viso!” and we saw
that we almost looked over it. We worked away with redoubled energy, and
at length caught sight of the head of the glacier as it streamed out of
the plateau. This gave us fresh hopes; we were not deceived; and with a
simultaneous shout we greeted the appearance of our long-wished-for snows.
A large crevasse separated us from them; but a bridge was found; we tied
ourselves in line, and moved safely over it. Directly we got across, there
rose before us a fine snow-capped peak. Old Sémiond cried, “The pyramid! I
see the pyramid!” “Where, Sémiond, where?” “There; on the top of that

          [Illustration: Outline to show route up Mont Pelvoux]

There, sure enough, was the cairn he had helped to erect more than thirty
years before. Where was the Pic des Arcines which we were to see? It was
nowhere visible—there was only a great expanse of snow, bordered by three
lower peaks. Somewhat sadly we moved towards the pyramid, sighing that
there was no other to conquer; but hardly had we gone two hundred paces,
before there rose a superb white cone on the left, which had been hidden
before by a slope of snow. We shouted, “The Pic des Arcines!” and inquired
of Sémiond if he knew whether that peak had been ascended. As for him, he
knew nothing, except that the peak before us was called the pyramid, from
the cairn he had, etc. etc., and that it had not been ascended since. “All
right then—face about,” and we immediately turned at right angles for the
cone, the porter making faint struggles for his beloved pyramid. Our
progress was stopped, in the sixth of a mile, by the edge of the ridge
connecting the two peaks, and we perceived that it curled over in a lovely
volute. We involuntarily retreated. Sémiond, who was last in the line,
took the opportunity to untie himself, and refused to come on; said we
were running dangerous risks, and talked vaguely of crevasses. We tied him
up again, and proceeded. The snow was very soft; we were always knee-deep,
and sometimes floundered in up to the waist; but a simultaneous jerk
before and behind always released one. By this time we had arrived at the
foot of the final peak. The left-hand ridge seemed easier than that upon
which we stood, so we curved round to get to it. Some rocks peeped out 150
feet below the summit, and up these we crawled, leaving our porter behind,
as he said he was afraid. I could not resist the temptation, as we went
off, to turn round and beckon him onwards, saying, “Don’t be afraid—follow
me,” but he did not answer to the appeal, and never went to the top. The
rocks led to a short ridge of ice—our plateau on one side, and a nearly
vertical precipice on the other. Macdonald cut up it, and at a quarter to
two we stood shaking hands on the loftiest summit of the conquered

The day still continued everything that could be desired, and, far and
near, countless peaks burst into sight, without a cloud to hide them. The
mighty Mont Blanc, full seventy miles away, first caught our eyes, and
then, still farther off, the Monte Rosa group; while, rolling away to the
east, one unknown range after another succeeded in unveiled splendour;
fainter and fainter in tone, but still perfectly defined, till at last the
eye was unable to distinguish sky from mountain, and they died away in the
far-off horizon. Monte Viso rose up grandly, but it was less than forty
miles away, and we looked over it to a hazy mass we knew must be the
plains of Piedmont. Southwards a blue mist seemed to indicate the
existence of the distant Mediterranean; to the west we looked over to the
mountains of Auvergne. Such was the panorama; a view extending in nearly
every direction for more than one hundred miles. It was with some
difficulty we wrenched our eyes from the more distant objects to
contemplate the nearer ones. Mont Dauphin was very conspicuous, but La
Bessée was not readily perceived. Besides these places not a habitation
could be seen; all was rock, snow, or ice; and, large as we knew were the
snow-fields of Dauphiné, we were surprised to find that they very far
surpassed our most ardent imagination. Nearly in a line between us and the
Viso, immediately to the south of Chateau Queyras, was a splendid group of
mountains of great height. More to the south an unknown peak seemed still
higher; while close to us we were astonished to discover that there was a
mountain which appeared even higher than that on which we stood. At least
this was my opinion; Macdonald thought that it was not so high, and
Reynaud that it was much about the same elevation as our own peak.

This mountain was distant a couple of miles or so, and was separated from
us by a tremendous abyss, the bottom of which we could not see. On the
other side rose this mighty wall-sided peak, too steep for snow, black as
night, with sharp ridges and pointed summit. We were in complete ignorance
of its whereabouts, for none of us had been on the other side. We imagined
that La Bérarde was in the abyss at our feet, although it was in reality
beyond the other mountain.(28)

We left the summit at last, and descended to the rocks and to our porter,
where I boiled some water, obtained by melting snow. After we had fed, and
smoked our cigars (lighted without difficulty from a common match), we
found it was ten minutes past three, and high time to be off. We dashed,
waded, and tumbled for twenty-five minutes through the snow, and then
began the long descent of the rocks. It was nearly four o’clock, and, as
it would be dark at eight, it was evident that there was no time to be
lost, and we pushed on to the utmost. Nothing remarkable occurred going
down. We kept rather closer to the glacier, and crossed at the same point
as in the morning. Getting _off_ it was like getting _on_ it—rather
awkward. Old Sémiond had got over—so had Reynaud; Macdonald came next,
but, as he made a long stretch to get on to a higher mass, he slipped, and
would have been in the bowels of a crevasse in a moment had he not been

It was nearly dark by the time we had crossed, yet I still hoped that we
should be able to pass the night at our rock. Macdonald was not so
sanguine, and he was right; for at last we found ourselves quite at fault,
and wandered helplessly up and down for an hour, while Reynaud and the
porter indulged in a little mutual abuse. The dreary fact, that, as we
could not get down, we must stay where we were, was now quite apparent.

We were at least 10,500 feet high, and if it commenced to rain or snow, as
the gathering clouds and rising wind seemed to threaten, we might be in a
sore plight. We were hungry, having eaten little since 3 A.M., and a
torrent we heard close at hand, but could not discover, aggravated our
thirst. Sémiond endeavoured to get some water from it. Although he
succeeded in doing so, he was wholly unable to return, and we had to
solace him by shouting at intervals through the night.

A more detestable locality for a night out of doors it is difficult to
imagine. There was not shelter of any kind; it was perfectly exposed to
the chilly wind which began to rise, and it was too steep to promenade.
Loose rubbly stones covered the ground, and had to be removed before we
could sit with any comfort. This was an advantage, although we hardly
thought so at the time, as it gave us some employment, and, after an
hour’s active exercise of that interesting kind, I obtained a small strip
about nine feet long, on which it was possible to walk. Reynaud was
furious at first, and soundly abused the porter, whose opinion as to the
route down had been followed rather than that of our friend, and at last
settled down to a deep dramatic despair, and wrung his hands with frantic
gesture, as he exclaimed, “Oh, malheur, malheur! Oh misérables!”

Thunder commenced to growl, and lightning to play among the peaks above,
and the wind, which had brought the temperature down to nearly
freezing-point, began to chill us to the bones. We examined our resources.
They were six and a half cigars, two boxes of vesuvians, one-third of a
pint of brandy-and-water, and half-a-pint of spirits of wine: rather scant
fare for three fellows who had to get through seven hours before daylight.
The spirit-lamp was lighted, and the remaining spirits of wine, the brandy
and some snow, were heated by it. It was a strong liquor, and we wished
for more of it. When it was consumed, Macdonald endeavoured to dry his
socks by the lamp, and then the three lay down under my plaid to pretend
to sleep. Reynaud’s woes were aggravated by toothache; Macdonald somehow
managed to close his eyes.

The longest night must end, and ours did at last. We got down to our rock
in an hour and a quarter, and found the lad not a little surprised at our
absence. He said he had made a gigantic fire to light us down, and shouted
with all his might; we neither saw the fire nor heard his shouts. He said
we looked a ghastly crew, and no wonder; it was our fourth night out.

We feasted at our cave, and performed some very necessary ablutions. The
persons of the natives are infested by certain agile creatures—rapid of
motion, numerous, and voracious. It is dangerous to approach too near, and
one has to study the wind, so as to get on their weather-side. In spite of
all such precautions my unfortunate companion and myself were being
rapidly devoured alive. We only expected a temporary lull of our tortures,
for the interiors of the inns are like the exteriors of the natives,
swarming with this species of animated creation.

It is said that once, when these tormentors were filled with an unanimous
desire, an unsuspecting traveller was dragged bodily from his bed! This
needs confirmation. One word more, and I have done with this vile subject.
We returned from our ablutions, and found the Frenchmen engaged in
conversation. “Ah!” said old Sémiond, “as to fleas, I don’t pretend to be
different to anyone else,—_I have them_.” This time he certainly spoke the

We got down to La Ville in good time, and luxuriated there for several
days; played many games of bowls with the natives, and were invariably
beaten by them. At last it was necessary to part, and I walked to Abries,
by way of Mont Dauphin and the gorge of the Guil towards Monte Viso, while
Macdonald went to Briançon.

I have not attempted to conceal that the ascent of Mont Pelvoux is of a
rather monotonous character; the view from its summit can, however, be
confidently recommended. A glance at a map will show that, with the single
exception of the Viso, whose position is unrivalled, it is better situated
than any other mountain of considerable height for viewing the whole of
the Western Alps.

Our discovery that the peak which is to be called the Pointe des Ecrins
was a separate and distinct mountain from Mont Pelvoux—and not its highest
point—gave us satisfaction, although it was also rather of the nature of a

On our return to La Bessée we wrongly identified it with the peak which is
seen from thence to the left of the Pelvoux. The two mountains bear a
considerable resemblance to each other, so the mistake is not, perhaps,
unpardonable. Although the latter mountain is one that is considerably
higher than the Wetterhorn or Monte Viso, it has no name; we called it the
Pic Sans Nom.

It has been observed by others that it is improbable the French surveyors
should have remained for several days upon the Pic de la Pyramide without
visiting the other and loftier summit. If they did, it is strange that
they did not leave some memorial of their visit. The natives who
accompanied them asserted that they did not pass from one to the other; we
therefore claimed to have made the ascent of the loftiest point for the
first time. The claim, however, cannot be sustained, on account of the
ascent of M. Puiseux. It is a matter of little moment; the excursion had
for us all the interest of a first ascent; and I look back upon this, my
first serious mountain scramble, with more satisfaction, and with as much
pleasure as upon any that is recorded in this volume.

A few days later, I left Abries to seek a quiet bundle of hay at Le
Chalp—a village some miles nearer to the Viso. On approaching the place,
the odour of sanctity became distinctly perceptible; and on turning a
corner the cause was manifested—there was the priest of the place,
surrounded by some of his flock. I advanced humbly, hat in hand, but
almost before a word could be said, he broke out with, “Who are you?”
“What are you?” “What do you want?” I endeavoured to explain. “You are a
deserter; I know you are a deserter; go away, you can’t stay here; go to
Le Monta, down there; I won’t have you here,” and he literally drove me
away. The explanation of his strange behaviour was, that Piedmontese
soldiers who were tired of the service had not unfrequently crossed the
Col de la Traversette into the valley, and trouble had arisen from
harbouring them. However, I did not know this at the time, and was not a
little indignant that I, who was marching to the attack, should be taken
for a deserter.

So I walked away, and shortly afterwards, as it was getting dark, encamped
in a lovely hole—a cavity or kind of basin in the earth, with a stream on
one side, a rock to windward, and some broken fir branches close at hand.
Nothing could be more perfect: rock, hole, wood, and water. After making a
roaring fire, I nestled in my blanket bag (an ordinary blanket sewn up
double round the legs, with a piece of elastic riband round the open end),
and slept, but not for long. I was troubled with dreams of the
Inquisition; the tortures were being applied—priests were forcing fleas
down my nostrils and into my eyes—and with red-hot pincers were taking out
bits of flesh, and then cutting off my ears and tickling the soles of my
feet. This was too much; I yelled a great yell and awoke, to find myself
covered with innumerable crawling bodies. They were ants; I had camped by
an ant-hill, and, after making its inhabitants mad with the fire, had
coolly lain down in their midst.

                     [Illustration: THE BLANKET BAG.]

The night was fine, and as I settled down in more comfortable quarters, a
brilliant meteor sailed across full 60° of the cloudless sky, leaving a
trail of light behind which lasted for several seconds. It was the herald
of a splendid spectacle. Stars fell by hundreds; and not dimmed by
intervening vapours, they sparkled with greater brightness than Sirius in
our damp climate.

The next morning, after walking up the valley to examine the Viso, I
returned to Abries, and engaged a man from a neighbouring hamlet, an
inveterate smoker, and thirsty in proportion, whose pipe never left his
mouth except to allow him to drink. We returned up the valley together,
and slept in a hut of a shepherd, whose yearly wage was almost as small as
that of the herdsman spoken of in Hyperion by Longfellow; and the next
morning, in his company, proceeded to the summit of the pass which I had
crossed in 1860. We were baffled in our attempt to get closer to the
mountain. A deep notch(29) with precipitous cliffs cut us off from it. The
snow-slope, too, which existed in the preceding year on the Piedmontese
side of the pass, was now wanting, and we were unable to descend the rocks
which lay beneath. A fortnight afterwards the mountain was ascended for
the first time by Messrs. Mathews and Jacomb, with the two Croz’s of
Chamounix. Their attempt was made from the _southern_ side, and the
ascent, which was formerly considered a thing totally impossible, has
become one of the most common and favourite excursions of the district.

The night of the 14th of August found me at St. Veran, a village made
famous by Neff, but in no other respect remarkable, saving that it is one
of the highest in Europe. The poor inn gave the impression of great
poverty. There was no meat, no bread, no butter or cheese; almost the only
things that could be obtained were eggs. The manners of the natives were
primitive. The woman of the inn, without the least sense of impropriety,
stayed in the room until I was fairly in bed, and her bill for supper,
bed, and breakfast, amounted to one and sevenpence.

               [Illustration: NATURAL PILLAR NEAR MOLINES.]

In this neighbourhood, and indeed all round about the Viso, the chamois
still remain in considerable numbers. They said at St. Veran that six had
been seen from the village on the day I was there, and the innkeeper
declared that he had seen fifty together in the previous week! I myself
saw in this and in the previous season several small companies round about
the Viso. It is perhaps as favourable a district as any in the Alps for a
sportsman who wishes to hunt the chamois, as the ground over which they
wander is by no means of excessive difficulty.

The next day I descended the valley to Ville Vieille, and passed near the
village of Molines, but on the opposite side of the valley, a remarkable
natural pillar, in form not unlike a champagne bottle, about sixty feet
high, which had been produced by the action of the weather, and, in all
probability, chiefly by rain. These natural pillars are among the most
remarkable examples of the potent effects produced by the long-continued
action of quiet-working forces. They are found in several other places in
the Alps, as well as elsewhere.

The village of Ville Vieille boasts of an inn with the sign of the
Elephant; which, in the opinion of local amateurs, is a proof that
Hannibal passed through the gorge of the Guil. I remember the place,
because its bread, being only a month old, was unusually soft, and, for
the first time during ten days, it was possible to eat some, without first
of all chopping it into small pieces and soaking it in hot water, which
produced a slimy paste on the outside, but left a hard untouched kernel.

The same day I crossed the Col Isoard to Briançon. It was the 15th of
August, and all the world was _en fête_; sounds of revelry proceeded from
the houses of Servières as I passed over the bridge upon which the pyrrhic
dance is annually performed,(30) and natives in all degrees of inebriation
staggered about the paths. It was late before the lights of the great
fortress came into sight; but unchallenged I passed through the gates, and
once more sought shelter under the roof of the Hotel de l’Ours.

                               CHAPTER III.


          “What power must have been required to shatter and to sweep away
                   the missing parts of this pyramid; for we do not see it
                     surrounded by heaps of fragments; one only sees other
          peaks—themselves rooted to the ground—whose sides, equally rent,
            indicate an immense mass of débris, of which we do not see any
          trace in the neighbourhood. Doubtless this is that débris which,
            in the form of pebbles, boulders, and sand, covers our valleys
                                                         and our plains.”
                                                              DE SAUSSURE.

Two summits amongst those in the Alps which yet remained virgin had
especially excited my admiration. One of these had been attacked
numberless times by the best mountaineers without success; the other,
surrounded by traditional inaccessibility, was almost untouched. These
mountains were the Weisshorn and the Matterhorn.

After visiting the great tunnel of the Alps in 1861, I wandered for ten
days in the neighbouring valleys, intending, presently, to attempt the
ascent of these two peaks. Rumours were floating about that the former had
been conquered, and that the latter was shortly to be attacked, and they
were confirmed on arrival at Chatillon, at the entrance of the Val
Tournanche. My interest in the Weisshorn consequently abated, but it was
raised to the highest pitch on hearing that Professor Tyndall was at
Breil, and intending to try to crown his first victory by another and
still greater one.

Up to this time my experience with guides had not been fortunate, and I
was inclined, improperly, to rate them at a low value. They represented to
me pointers out of paths, and large consumers of meat and drink, but
little more; and, with the recollection of Mont Pelvoux, I should have
greatly preferred the company of a couple of my countrymen to any number
of guides. In answer to inquiries at Chatillon, a series of men came
forward, whose faces expressed malice, pride, envy, hatred, and roguery of
every description, but who seemed to be destitute of all good qualities.
The arrival of two gentlemen with a guide, who they represented was the
embodiment of every virtue, and exactly the man for the Matterhorn,
rendered it unnecessary to engage any of the others. My new guide in
_physique_ was a combination of Chang and Anak; and although in acquiring
him I did not obtain exactly what was wanted, his late employers did
exactly what _they_ wanted, for I obtained the responsibility, without
knowledge, of paying his back fare, which must have been a relief at once
to their minds and to their purses.

When walking up towards Breil,(31) we inquired for another man of all the
knowing ones, and they, with one voice, proclaimed that Jean-Antoine
Carrel, of the village of Val Tournanche, was the cock of his valley. We
sought, of course, for Carrel; and found him a well-made, resolute-looking
fellow, with a certain defiant air which was rather taking. Yes, he would
go. Twenty francs a day, whatever was the result, was his price. I
assented. But I must take his comrade. “Why so?” Oh, it was absolutely
impossible to get along without another man. As he said this, an evil
countenance came forth out of the darkness and proclaimed itself the
comrade. I demurred, the negotiations broke off, and we went up to Breil.
This place will be frequently mentioned in subsequent chapters, and was in
full view of the extraordinary peak, the ascent of which we were about to

It is unnecessary to enter into a minute description of the Matterhorn,
after all that has been written about that famous mountain. Those by whom
this book is likely to be read will know that that peak is nearly 15,000
feet high, and that it rises abruptly, by a series of cliffs which may
properly be termed precipices, a clear 5000 feet above the glaciers which
surround its base. They will know too that it was the last great Alpine
peak which remained unscaled,—less on account of the difficulty of doing
so, than from the terror inspired by its invincible appearance. There
seemed to be a _cordon_ drawn around it, up to which one might go, but no
farther. Within that invisible line gins and effreets were supposed to
exist—the Wandering Jew and the spirits of the damned. The superstitious
natives in the surrounding valleys (many of whom still firmly believe it
to be not only the highest mountain in the Alps, but in the world) spoke
of a ruined city on its summit wherein the spirits dwelt; and if you
laughed, they gravely shook their heads; told you to look yourself to see
the castles and the walls, and warned one against a rash approach, lest
the infuriate demons from their impregnable heights might hurl down
vengeance for one’s derision. Such were the traditions of the natives.
Stronger minds felt the influence of the wonderful form, and men who
ordinarily spoke or wrote like rational beings, when they came under its
power seemed to quit their senses, and ranted, and rhapsodised, losing for
a time all common forms of speech. Even the sober De Saussure was moved to
enthusiasm when he saw the mountain, and—inspired by the spectacle—he
anticipated the speculations of modern geologists, in the striking
sentences which are placed at the head of this chapter.

The Matterhorn looks equally imposing from whatever side it is seen; it
never seems commonplace; and in this respect, and in regard to the
impression it makes upon spectators, it stands almost alone amongst
mountains. It has no rivals in the Alps, and but few in the world.

The seven or eight thousand feet which compose the actual peak have
several well-marked ridges and numerous others.(32) The most continuous is
that which leads towards the north-east; the summit is at its higher, and
the little peak, called the Hörnli, is at its lower end. Another one that
is well-pronounced descends from the summit to the ridge called the Furgen
Grat. The slope of the mountain that is between these two ridges will be
referred to as the eastern face. A third, somewhat less continuous than
the others, descends in a south-westerly direction, and the portion of the
mountain that is seen from Breil is confined to that which is comprised
between this and the second ridge. This section is not composed, like that
between the first and second ridge, of one grand face; but it is broken up
into a series of huge precipices, spotted with snow-slopes, and streaked
with snow-gullies. The other half of the mountain, facing the Z’Mutt
glacier, is not capable of equally simple definition. There are
precipices, apparent, but not actual; there are precipices absolutely
perpendicular; there are precipices overhanging: there are glaciers, and
there are hanging glaciers; there are glaciers which tumble great _séracs_
over greater cliffs, whose débris, subsequently consolidated, becomes
glacier again; there are ridges split by the frost, and washed by the rain
and melted snow into towers and spires: while, everywhere, there are
ceaseless sounds of action, telling that the causes are still in operation
which have been at work since the world began; reducing the mighty mass to
atoms, and effecting its degradation.

           [Illustration: THE MATTERHORN FROM THE NORTH-EAST.]

                              (10,899 FEET)]

Most tourists obtain their first view of the mountain either from the
valley of Zermatt or from that of Tournanche. From the former direction
the base of the mountain is seen at its narrowest, and its ridges and
faces seem to be of prodigious steepness. The tourist toils up the valley,
looking frequently for the great sight which is to reward his pains,
without seeing it (for the mountain is first perceived in that direction
about a mile to the north of Zermatt), when, all at once, as he turns a
rocky corner of the path, it comes into view; not, however, where it is
expected; the face has to be raised up to look at it; it seems overhead.
Although this is the impression, the fact is that the summit of the
Matterhorn from this point makes an angle with the eye of less than 16º,
while the Dom, from the same place, makes a larger angle, but is passed by
unobserved. So little can dependence be placed on unaided vision. The view
of the mountain from Breil, in the Val Tournanche, is not less striking
than that on the other side; but, usually, it makes less impression,
because the spectator grows accustomed to the sight while coming up or
down the valley. From this direction the mountain is seen to be broken up
into a series of pyramidal wedge-shaped masses; on the other side it is
remarkable for the large, unbroken extent of cliffs that it presents, and
for the simplicity of its outline. It was natural to suppose that a way
would more readily be found to the summit on a side thus broken up than in
any other direction. The eastern face, fronting Zermatt, seemed one
smooth, inaccessible cliff, from summit to base. The ghastly precipices
which face the Z’Mutt glacier forbade any attempt in _that_ direction.
There remained only the side of Val Tournanche; and it will be found that
nearly all the earliest attempts to ascend the mountain were made upon the
southern side.

The first efforts to ascend the Matterhorn of which I have heard, were
made by the guides, or rather by the chasseurs, of Val Tournanche.(33)
These attempts were made in the years 1858-9, from the direction of Breil,
and the highest point that was attained was perhaps as far as the place
which is now called the “Chimney” (cheminée), a height of about 12,650
feet. Those who were concerned in these expeditions were Jean-Antoine
Carrel, Jean Jacques Carrel, Victor Carrel, the Abbé Gorret, and Gabrielle
Maquignaz. I have been unable to obtain any further details respecting

The next attempt was a remarkable one; and of it, too, there is no
published account. It was made by the Messrs. Alfred, Charles, and
Sandbach Parker, of Liverpool, in July 1860. These gentlemen, _without
guides_, endeavoured to storm the citadel by attacking its eastern
face(34)—that to which reference was just now made as a smooth,
impracticable cliff. Mr. Sandbach Parker informs me that he and his
brothers went along the ridge between the Hörnli and the peak until they
came to the point where the ascending angle is considerably increased.
This place is marked on Dufour’s map of Switzerland 3298 mètres (10,820
feet). They were then obliged to bear a little to the left to get on to
the face of the mountain, and, afterwards, they turned to the right, and
ascended about 700 feet farther, keeping as nearly as was practicable to
the crest of the ridge, but, occasionally, bearing a little to the
left—that is, more on to the face of the mountain. The brothers started
from Zermatt, and did not sleep out. Clouds, a high wind, and want of
time, were the causes which prevented these daring gentlemen from going
farther. Thus, their highest point was under 12,000 feet.


The third attempt upon the mountain was made towards the end of August
1860, by Mr. Vaughan Hawkins,(35) from the side of the Val Tournanche. A
vivid account of his expedition has been published by him in _Vacation
Tourists_;(36) and it has been referred to several times by Professor
Tyndall in the numerous papers he has contributed to Alpine literature. I
will dismiss it, therefore, as briefly as possible.

Mr. Hawkins had inspected the mountain in 1859, with the guide J. J.
Bennen, and he had formed the opinion that the south-west ridge(37) would
lead to the summit. He engaged J. Jacques Carrel, who was concerned in the
first attempts, and, accompanied by Bennen (and by Professor Tyndall, whom
he had invited to take part in the expedition), he started for the gap
between the little and the great peak.(38)

                   [Illustration: J. J. BENNEN (1862).]

Bennen was a guide who was beginning to be talked about. During the chief
part of his brief career he was in the service of Wellig, the landlord of
the inn on the Æggischhorn, and was hired out by him to tourists. Although
his experience was limited, he had acquired a good reputation; and his
book of certificates, which is lying before me,(39) shows that he was
highly esteemed by his employers. A good-looking man, with courteous,
gentlemanly manners, skilful and bold, he might, by this time, have taken
a front place amongst guides if he had only been endowed with more
prudence. He perished miserably, in the spring of 1864, not far from his
home, on a mountain called the Haut de Cry, in the Valais.(40)

Mr. Hawkins’ party, led by Bennen, climbed the rocks abutting against the
Couloir du Lion, on its south side, and attained the Col du Lion, although
not without difficulty. They then followed the south-west ridge, passed
the place at which the earliest explorers had turned back (the
Chimney),(41) and ascended about 300 feet more. Mr. Hawkins and J. J.
Carrel then stopped, but Bennen and Professor Tyndall mounted a few feet
higher. They retreated, however, in less than half-an-hour, finding that
there was too little time; and, descending to the Col by the same route as
they had followed on the ascent, proceeded thence to Breil, down the
Couloir instead of by the rocks. The point at which Mr. Hawkins stopped is
easily identified from his description. Its height is 12,992 feet above
the sea. I think that Bennen and Tyndall could not have ascended more than
50 or 60 feet beyond this in the few minutes they were absent from the
others, as they were upon one of the most difficult parts of the mountain.
This party therefore accomplished an advance of about 350 or 400 feet.

Mr. Hawkins did not, as far as I know, make another attempt; and the next
was made by the Messrs. Parker, in July 1861. They again started from
Zermatt; followed the route they had struck out on the previous year, and
got a little higher than before; but they were defeated by want of time,
shortly afterwards left Zermatt on account of bad weather, and did not
again renew their attempts. Mr. Parker says—“In neither case did we go as
high as we could. At the point where we turned we saw our way for a few
hundred feet farther; but, beyond that, the difficulties seemed to
increase.” I am informed that both attempts should be considered as
excursions undertaken with the view of ascertaining whether there was any
encouragement to make a more deliberate attack on the north-east side.

My guide and I arrived at Breil on the 28th of August 1861, and we found
that Professor Tyndall _had_ been there a day or two before, but had done
nothing. I had seen the mountain from nearly every direction, and it
seemed, even to a novice like myself, far too much for a single day. I
intended to sleep out upon it, as high as possible, and to attempt to
reach the summit on the following day. We endeavoured to induce another
man to accompany us, but without success. Matthias zum Taugwald and other
well-known guides were there at the time, but they declined to go on any
account. A sturdy old fellow—Peter Taugwalder by name—said he would go!
His price? “Two hundred francs.” “What, whether we ascend or not?”
“Yes—nothing less.” The end of the matter was, that all the men who were
more or less capable showed a strong disinclination, or positively
refused, to go (their disinclination being very much in proportion to
their capacity), or else asked a prohibitive price. This, it may be said
once for all, was the reason why so many futile attempts were made upon
the Matterhorn. One first-rate guide after another was brought up to the
mountain, and patted on the back, but all declined the business. The men
who went had no heart in the matter, and took the first opportunity to
turn back.(42) For they were, with the exception of one man, to whom
reference will be made presently, universally impressed with the belief
that the summit was entirely inaccessible.

We resolved to go alone, and anticipating a cold bivouac, begged the loan
of a couple of blankets from the innkeeper. He refused them; giving the
curious reason, that we had bought a bottle of brandy at Val Tournanche,
and had not bought any from him! No brandy, no blankets, appeared to be
his rule. We did not require them that night, as it was passed in the
highest cow-shed in the valley, which is about an hour nearer to the
mountain than is the hotel. The cowherds, worthy fellows, seldom troubled
by tourists, hailed our company with delight, and did their best to make
us comfortable; brought out their little stores of simple food, and, as we
sat with them round the great copper pot which hung over the fire, bade us
in husky voice, but with honest intent, to beware of the perils of the
haunted cliffs. When night was coming on, we saw, stealing up the
hill-side, the forms of Jean-Antoine Carrel and the comrade. “Oh ho!” I
said, “you have repented?” “Not at all; you deceive yourself.” “Why then
have you come here?” “Because we ourselves are going on the mountain
to-morrow.” “Oh, then it is _not_ necessary to have more than three.” “Not
for _us_.” I admired their pluck, and had a strong inclination to engage
the pair; but, finally, decided against it. The comrade turned out to be
the J. J. Carrel who had been with Mr. Hawkins, and was nearly related to
the other man.

               [Illustration: JEAN-ANTOINE CARREL (1869).]

Both were bold mountaineers; but Jean-Antoine was incomparably the better
man of the two, and he is the finest rock-climber I have ever seen. He was
the only man who persistently refused to accept defeat, and who continued
to believe, in spite of all discouragements, that the great mountain was
not inaccessible, and that it could be ascended from the side of his
native valley.

The night wore away without any excitement, except from the fleas, a party
of whom executed a spirited fandango on my cheek, to the sound of music
produced on the drum of my ear, by one of their fellows beating with a
wisp of hay. The two Carrels crept noiselessly out before daybreak, and
went off. We did not start until nearly seven o’clock, and followed them
leisurely, leaving all our properties in the cow-shed; sauntered over the
gentian-studded slopes which intervene between the shed and the Glacier du
Lion, left cows and their pastures behind, traversed the stony wastes, and
arrived at the ice. Old, hard beds of snow lay on its right bank (our left
hand), and we mounted over them on to the lower portion of the glacier
with ease. But, as we ascended, crevasses became numerous, and we were at
last brought to a halt by some which were of very large dimensions; and,
as our cutting powers were limited, we sought an easier route, and turned,
naturally, to the lower rocks of the Tête du Lion, which overlook the
glacier on its west. Some good scrambling took us in a short time on to
the crest of the ridge which descends towards the south; and thence, up to
the level of the Col du Lion, there was a long natural staircase, on which
it was seldom necessary to use the hands. We dubbed the place “The Great
Staircase.” Then the cliffs of the Tête du Lion, which rise above the
Couloir, had to be skirted. This part varies considerably in different
seasons, and in 1861 we found it difficult; for the fine steady weather of
that year had reduced the snow-beds abutting against it to a lower level
than usual, and the rocks which were left exposed at the junction of the
snow with the cliffs, had few ledges or cracks to which we could hold. But
by half-past ten o’clock we stood on the Col, and looked down upon the
magnificent basin out of which the Z’Mutt glacier flows. We decided to
pass the night upon the Col, for we were charmed with the capabilities of
the place, although it was one where liberties could not be taken. On one
side a sheer wall overhung the Tiefenmatten glacier. On the other, steep,
glassy slopes of hard snow descended to the Glacier du Lion, furrowed by
water and by falling stones. On the north there was the great peak of the
Matterhorn,(43) and on the south the cliffs of the Tête du Lion. Throw a
bottle down to the Tiefenmatten—no sound returns for more than a dozen

  *   *   *   “how fearful
  And dizzy ’tis, to cast one’s eyes so low!”


But no harm could come from that side. Neither could it from the other.
Nor was it likely that it would from the Tête du Lion, for some jutting
ledges conveniently overhung our proposed resting-place. We waited for a
while, basked in the sunshine, and watched or listened to the Carrels, who
were sometimes seen or heard, high above us, upon the ridge leading
towards the summit; and, leaving at mid-day, we descended to the cow-shed,
packed up the tent and other properties, and returned to the Col, although
heavily laden, before six o’clock. This tent was constructed on a pattern
suggested by Mr. Francis Galton, and it was not a success. It looked very
pretty when set up in London, but it proved thoroughly useless in the
Alps. It was made of light canvas, and opened like a book; had one end
closed permanently and the other with flaps; it was supported by two
alpenstocks, and had the canvas sides prolonged so as to turn in
underneath. Numerous cords were sewn to the lower edges, to which stones
were to be attached; but the main fastenings were by a cord which passed
underneath the ridge and through iron rings screwed into the tops of the
alpenstocks, and were secured by pegs. The wind, which playfully careered
about the surrounding cliffs, was driven through our gap with the force of
a blow-pipe; the flaps of the tent would not keep down, the pegs would not
stay in, and it exhibited so marked a desire to go to the top of the Dent
Blanche, that we thought it prudent to take it down and to sit upon it.
When night came on we wrapped ourselves in it, and made our camp as
comfortable as the circumstances would allow. The silence was impressive.
No living thing was near our solitary bivouac; the Carrels had turned back
and were out of hearing; the stones had ceased to fall, and the trickling
water to murmur—

  “The music of whose liquid lip
  Had been to us companionship,
  And, in our lonely life, had grown
  To have an almost human tone.”(44)

It was bitterly cold. Water froze hard in a bottle under my head. Not
surprising, as we were actually on snow, and in a position where the
slightest wind was at once felt. For a time we dozed, but about midnight
there came from high aloft a tremendous explosion, followed by a second of
dead quiet. A great mass of rock had split off, and was descending towards
us. My guide started up, wrung his hands, and exclaimed, “O my God, we are
lost!” We heard it coming, mass after mass pouring over the precipices,
bounding and rebounding from cliff to cliff, and the great rocks in
advance smiting one another. They seemed to be close, although they were
probably distant, but some small fragments, which dropped upon us at the
same time from the ledges just above, added to the alarm, and my
demoralised companion passed the remainder of the night in a state of
shudder, ejaculating “terrible,” and other adjectives.

We put ourselves in motion at daybreak, and commenced the ascent of the
south-west ridge. There was no more sauntering with hands in the pockets;
each step had to be earned by downright climbing. But it was the most
pleasant kind of climbing. The rocks were fast and unencumbered with
débris; the cracks were good, although not numerous, and there was nothing
to fear except from one’s-self. So we thought, at least, and shouted to
awake echoes from the cliffs. Ah! there is no response. Not yet; wait a
while, everything here is upon a superlative scale; count a dozen, and
then the echoes will return from the walls of the Dent d’Hérens, miles
away, in waves of pure and undefiled sound; soft, musical, and sweet. Halt
a moment to regard the view! We overlook the Tête du Lion, and nothing
except the Dent d’Hérens, whose summit is still a thousand feet above us,
stands in the way. The ranges of the Graian Alps—an ocean of mountains—are
seen, at a glance, governed by their three great peaks, the Grivola, Grand
Paradis, and Tour de St. Pierre. How soft, and yet how sharp, they look in
the early morning! The mid-day mists have not begun to rise; nothing is
obscured; even the pointed Viso, all but a hundred miles away, is
perfectly defined.

Turn to the east, and watch the sun’s slanting rays coming across the
Monte Rosa snow-fields. Look at the shadowed parts, and see how even
they—radiant with reflected light—are more brilliant than man knows how to
depict. See, how—even there—the gentle undulations give shadows within
shadows; and how—yet again—where falling stones or ice have left a track,
there are shadows upon shadows, each with a light and a dark side, with
infinite gradations of matchless tenderness. Then, note the sunlight as it
steals noiselessly along, and reveals countless unsuspected forms;—the
delicate ripple-lines which mark the concealed crevasse, and the waves of
drifted snow; producing each minute more lights and fresh shadows;
sparkling on the edges and glittering on the ends of the icicles; shining
on the heights and illuminating the depths, until all is aglow, and the
dazzled eye returns for relief to the sombre crags.

Hardly an hour had passed since we left the Col before we arrived at the
“Chimney.” It proved to be the counterpart of the place to which reference
has been made at p. 3; a smooth, straight slab of rock was fixed, at a
considerable angle, between two others equally smooth.(45) My companion
essayed to go up, and, after crumpling his long body into many ridiculous
positions, he said that he would not, for he could not, do it. With some
little trouble I got up it unassisted, and then my guide tied himself on
to the end of our rope, and I endeavoured to pull him up. But he was so
awkward that he did little for himself, and so heavy that he proved too
much for me, and after several attempts he untied himself, and quietly
observed that he should go down. I told him he was a coward, and _he_
mentioned his opinion of me. I requested him to go to Breil, and to say
that he had left his “monsieur” on the mountain, and he turned to go;
whereupon I had to eat humble pie and ask him to come back; for, although
it was not very difficult to go up, and not at all dangerous with a man
standing below, it was quite another thing to come down, as the lower edge
overhung in a provoking manner.

The day was perfect; the sun was pouring down grateful warmth; the wind
had fallen; the way seemed clear, no insuperable obstacle was in sight;
yet what could one do alone? I stood on the top, chafing under this
unexpected contretemps, and remained for some time irresolute; but as it
became apparent that the Chimney was swept more frequently than was
necessary (it was a natural channel for falling stones), I turned at last,
descended with the assistance of my companion, and returned with him to
Breil, where we arrived about mid-day.

The Carrels did not show themselves, but we were told that they had not
got to any great height,(46) and that the “comrade,” who for convenience
had taken off his shoes and tied them round his waist, had managed to let
one of them slip, and had come down with a piece of cord fastened round
his naked foot. Notwithstanding this, they had boldly glissaded down the
Couloir du Lion, J. J. Carrel having his shoeless foot tied up in a pocket

The Matterhorn was not assailed again in 1861. I left Breil with the
conviction that it was little use for a single tourist to organise an
attack upon it, so great was its influence on the morals of the guides,
and persuaded that it was desirable at least two should go, to back each
other when required: and departed with my guide(47) over the Col Théodule,
longing, more than before, to make the ascent, and determined to return,
if possible with a companion, to lay siege to the mountain until one or
the other was vanquished.

                               CHAPTER IV.


            “’Tis a lesson you should heed,
                Try, try, try again.
            If at first you don’t succeed,
                Try, try, try again.
            Then your courage should appear,
            For if you will persevere
            You will conquer, never fear.
                Try, try, try again.”

The year 1862 was still young, and the Matterhorn, clad in its wintry
garb, bore but little resemblance to the Matterhorn of the summer, when a
new force came to do battle with the mountain, from another direction. Mr.
T. S. Kennedy of Leeds conceived the extraordinary idea that the peak
might prove less impracticable in January than in June, and arrived at
Zermatt in the former month to put his conception to the test. With stout
Peter Perrn and sturdy Peter Taugwalder he slept in the little chapel at
the Schwarzensee, and on the next morning, like the Messrs. Parker,
followed the ridge between the peak called Hörnli and the great mountain.
But they found that snow in winter obeyed the ordinary laws, and that the
wind and frost were not less unkind than in summer. “The wind whirled up
the snow and spiculæ of ice into our faces like needles, and flat pieces
of ice a foot in diameter, carried up from the glacier below, went flying
past. Still no one seemed to like to be the first to give in, till a gust
fiercer than usual forced us to shelter for a time behind a rock.
Immediately it was tacitly understood that our expedition must now end;
but we determined to leave some memento of our visit, and, after
descending a considerable distance, we found a suitable place with loose
stones of which to build a cairn. In half-an-hour a tower six feet high
was erected; a bottle, with the date, was placed inside, and we retreated
as rapidly as possible.”(48) This cairn was placed at the spot marked upon
Dufour’s Map of Switzerland 10,820 feet (3298 mètres), and the highest
point attained by Mr. Kennedy was not, I imagine, more than two or three
hundred feet above it.

Shortly after this Professor Tyndall gave, in his little tract
_Mountaineering in 1861_, an account of the reason why he had left Breil,
in August 1861, without doing anything.(49) It seems that he sent his
guide Bennen to reconnoitre, and that the latter made the following report
to his employer:—“Herr, I have examined the mountain carefully, and find
it more difficult and dangerous than I had imagined. There is no place
upon it where we could well pass the night. We might do so on yonder Col
upon the snow, but there we should be almost frozen to death, and totally
unfit for the work of the next day. On the rocks there is no ledge or
cranny which could give us proper harbourage; and starting from Breuil it
is certainly impossible to reach the summit in a single day.” “I was
entirely taken aback,” says Tyndall, “by this report. I felt like a man
whose grip had given way, and who was dropping through the air.... Bennen
was evidently dead against any attempt upon the mountain. ‘We can, at all
events, reach the lower of the two summits,’ I remarked. ‘Even that is
difficult,’ he replied; ‘but when you have reached it, what then? The peak
has neither name nor fame.’”(50)

I was more surprised than discouraged by this report by Bennen. One half
of his assertions I knew to be wrong. The Col to which he referred was the
Col du Lion, upon which we had passed a night less than a week after he
had spoken so authoritatively; and I had seen a place not far below the
“Chimney,”—a place about 500 feet above the Col—where it seemed possible
to construct a sleeping-place. Bennen’s opinions seem to have undergone a
complete change. In 1860 he is described as having been enthusiastic to
make an attempt, and in 1861 he was dead against one. Nothing dismayed by
this, my friend Mr. Reginald Macdonald, our companion on the Pelvoux—to
whom so much of our success had been due, agreed to join me in a renewed
assault from the south; and, although we failed to secure Melchior
Anderegg and some other notable guides, we obtained two men of repute,
namely, Johann zum Taugwald and Johann Kronig, of Zermatt. We met at that
place early in July, but stormy weather prevented us even from passing to
the other side of the chain for some time. We crossed the Col Théodule on
the 5th, in thoroughly unsettled weather—rain was falling in the valleys,
and snow upon the mountains. Shortly before we gained the summit we were
made extremely uncomfortable by hearing mysterious, rushing sounds, which
sometimes seemed as if a sudden gust of wind was sweeping along the snow,
and, at others, almost like the swishing of a long whip: yet the snow
exhibited no signs of motion, and the air was perfectly calm. The dense,
black storm-clouds made us momentarily expect that our bodies might be
used as lightning-conductors, and we were well satisfied to get under
shelter of the inn at Breil, without having submitted to any such

We had need of a porter, and, by the advice of our landlord, descended to
the chalets of Breil in search of one Luc Meynet. We found his house a
mean abode, encumbered with cheese-making apparatus, and tenanted only by
some bright-eyed children; but as they said that uncle Luc would soon be
home, we waited at the door of the little chalet and watched for him. At
last a speck was seen coming round the corner of the patch of firs below
Breil, and then the children clapped their hands, dropped their toys, and
ran eagerly forward to meet him. We saw an ungainly, wobbling figure stoop
down and catch up the little ones, kiss them on each cheek, and put them
into the empty panniers on each side of the mule, and then heard it come
on carolling, as if this was not a world of woe: and yet the face of
little Luc Meynet, the hunchback of Breil, bore traces of trouble and
sorrow, and there was more than a touch of sadness in his voice when he
said that he must look after his brother’s children. All his difficulties
were, however, at length overcome, and he agreed to join us to carry the

In the past winter I had turned my attention to tents, and that which we
had brought with us was the result of experiments to devise one which
should be sufficiently portable to be taken over the most difficult
ground, and which should combine lightness with stability. Its base was
just under six feet square, and a cross-section perpendicular to its
length was an equilateral triangle, the sides of which were six feet long.
It was intended to accommodate four persons. It was supported by four
ash-poles, six feet and a half long, and one inch and a quarter thick,
tapering to the top to an inch and an eighth; these were shod with iron
points. The order of proceeding in the construction of the tent was as
follows:—Holes were drilled through the poles about five inches from their
tops, for the insertion of two wrought-iron bolts, three inches long and
one quarter of an inch thick. The bolts were then inserted, and the two
pairs of poles were set out (and fixed up by cords), to the proper
dimensions. The roof was then put on. This was made of the rough,
unbleached calico called forfar, which can be obtained in six-feet widths,
and it was continued round for about two feet, on each side, on to the
floor. The width of the material was the length of the tent, and seams
were thus avoided in the roof. The forfar was sewn round each pole;
particular care being taken to avoid wrinkles, and to get the whole
perfectly taut. The flooring was next put in and sewn down to the forfar.
This was of the ordinary plaid mackintosh, about nine feet square; the
surplus three feet being continued up the sides to prevent draughts. It is
as well to have two feet of this surplus on one side, and only one foot on
the other; the latter amount being sufficient for the side occupied by the
feet. One end was then permanently closed by a triangular piece of forfar,
which was sewn down to that which was already fixed. The other end was
left open, and had two triangular flaps that overlapped each other, and
which were fastened up when we were inside by pieces of tape. Lastly, the
forfar was nailed down to the poles to prevent the tent getting out of
shape. The cord which was used for climbing served for the tent; it was
passed over the crossed poles and underneath the ridge of the roof, and
the two ends—one fore and the other aft—were easily secured to pieces of
rock. Such a tent costs about four guineas, and its weight is about
twenty-three pounds; or, if the lightest kind of forfar is used, it need
not exceed twenty pounds. When it was fastened up for transport it
presented the appearance shown in the portrait of Meynet at p. 234, and it
could be unrolled and set up by two persons in three minutes; a point of
no small importance during extreme weather.

      [Illustration: Diagram to show manner of fastening tent-poles]

               [Illustration: THE AUTHOR’S MOUNTAIN TENT.]

This tent is intended, and adapted, for camping out at high altitudes, or
in cold climates. It is not pretended that it is perfectly waterproof, but
it can be made so by the addition of mackintosh to the roof; and this
increases the weight by only two and a half pounds. It is then fit for
general use.(52) It may be observed that the pattern of this tent is
identical in all essential points with that arrived at (after great
experience) by Sir Leopold M’Clintock for Arctic work, and frequent use by
many persons, under varied conditions, has shown that the pattern is both
practical and substantial.

Sunday, the 6th of July, was showery, and snow fell on the Matterhorn, but
we started on the following morning with our three men, and pursued my
route of the previous year. I was requested to direct the way, as none
save myself had been on the mountain before. I did not distinguish myself
upon this occasion, and led my companions nearly to the top of the small
peak before the mistake was discovered. The party becoming rebellious, a
little exploration was made towards our right, and we found that we were
upon the top of the cliff overlooking the Col du Lion. The upper part of
the small peak is of a very different character to the lower part; the
rocks are not so firm, and they are usually covered, or intermixed, with
snow, and glazed with ice: the angle too is more severe. While descending
a small snow-slope, to get on to the right track, Kronig slipped on a
streak of ice, and went down at a fearful pace. Fortunately he kept on his
legs, and, by a great effort, succeeded in stopping just before he arrived
at some rocks that jutted through the snow, which would infallibly have
knocked him over. When we rejoined him a few minutes later, we found that
he was incapable of standing, much less of moving, with a face corpse-like
in hue, and trembling violently. He remained in this condition for more
than an hour, and the day was consequently far advanced before we arrived
at our camping-place on the Col. Profiting by the experience of last year,
we did not pitch the tent actually on the snow, but collected a quantity
of débris from the neighbouring ledges, and after constructing a rough
platform of the larger pieces, levelled the whole with the dirt and mud.

Meynet had proved invaluable as a tent-bearer; for—although his legs were
more picturesque than symmetrical, and although he seemed to be built on
principle with no two parts alike—his very deformities proved of service;
and we quickly found he had spirit of no common order, and that few
peasants are more agreeable companions, or better climbers, than little
Luc Meynet, the hunchback of Breil. He now showed himself not less
serviceable as a scavenger, and humbly asked for gristly pieces of meat,
rejected by the others, or for suspicious eggs; and seemed to consider it
a peculiar favour, if not a treat, to be permitted to drink the
coffee-grounds. With the greatest contentment he took the worst place at
the door of the tent, and did all the dirty work which was put upon him by
the guides, as gratefully as a dog—who has been well beaten—will receive a

A strong wind sprang up from the east during the night, and in the morning
it was blowing almost a hurricane. The tent behaved nobly, and we remained
under its shelter for several hours after the sun had risen, uncertain
what it was best to do. A lull tempted us to move, but we had scarcely
ascended a hundred feet before the storm burst upon us with increased
fury. Advance or return was alike impossible; the ridge was denuded of its
débris; and we clutched our hardest when we saw stones as big as a man’s
fist blown away horizontally into space. We dared not attempt to stand
upright, and remained stationary, on all fours, glued, as it were, to the
rocks. It was intensely cold, for the blast had swept along the main chain
of the Pennine Alps, and across the great snow-fields around Monte Rosa.
Our warmth and courage rapidly evaporated, and at the next lull we
retreated to the tent; having to halt several times even in that short
distance. Taugwald and Kronig then declared that they had had enough, and
refused to have anything more to do with the mountain. Meynet also
informed us that he would be required down below for important
cheese-making operations on the following day. It was therefore needful to
return to Breil, and we arrived there at 2.30 P.M., extremely chagrined at
our complete defeat.

Jean-Antoine Carrel, attracted by rumours, had come up to the inn during
our absence, and after some negotiations agreed to accompany us, with one
of his friends named Pession, on the first fine day. We thought ourselves
fortunate; for Carrel clearly considered the mountain a kind of
_preserve_, and regarded our late attempt as an act of _poaching_. The
wind blew itself out during the night, and we started again, with these
two men and a porter, at 8 A.M. on the 9th, with unexceptionable weather.
Carrel pleased us by suggesting that we should camp even higher than
before; and we accordingly proceeded, without resting at the Col, until we
overtopped the Tête du Lion. Near the foot of the “Chimney,” a little
below the crest of the ridge, and on its eastern side, we found a
protected place; and by building up from ledge to ledge (under the
direction of our leader, who was a mason by profession), we at length
constructed a platform of sufficient size and of considerable solidity.
Its height was about 12,550 feet above the sea; and it exists, I believe,
at the present time.(53) We then pushed on, as the day was very fine, and,
after a short hour’s scramble, got to the foot of the Great Tower upon the
ridge (that is to say, to Mr. Hawkins’ farthest point), and afterwards
returned to our bivouac. We turned out again at 4 A.M., and at 5.15
started upwards once more, with fine weather and the thermometer at 28°.
Carrel scrambled up the Chimney, and Macdonald and I after him. Pession’s
turn came, but when he arrived at the top he looked very ill, declared
himself to be thoroughly incapable, and said that he must go back. We
waited some time, but he did not get better, neither could we learn the
nature of his illness. Carrel flatly refused to go on with us alone. We
were helpless. Macdonald, ever the coolest of the cool, suggested that we
should try what we could do without them; but our better judgment
prevailed, and, finally, we returned together to Breil. On the next day my
friend started for London.

Three times I had essayed the ascent of this mountain, and on each
occasion had failed ignominiously. I had not advanced a yard beyond my
predecessors. Up to the height of nearly 13,000 feet there were no
extraordinary difficulties; the way so far might even become “a matter of
amusement.” Only 1800 feet remained; but they were as yet untrodden, and
might present the most formidable obstacles. No man could expect to climb
them by himself. A morsel of rock only seven feet high might at any time
defeat him, if it were perpendicular. Such a place might be possible to
two, or a bagatelle to three men. It was evident that a party should
consist of three men at least. But where could the other two men be
obtained? Carrel was the only man who exhibited any enthusiasm in the
matter; and he, in 1861, had absolutely refused to go unless the party
consisted of at least _four_ persons. Want of men made the difficulty, not
the mountain.

The weather became bad again, so I went to Zermatt on the chance of
picking up a man, and remained there during a week of storms.(54) Not one
of the better men, however, could be induced to come, and I returned to
Breil on the 17th, hoping to combine the skill of Carrel with the
willingness of Meynet on a new attempt, by the same route as before; for
the Hörnli ridge, which I had examined in the meantime, seemed to be
entirely impracticable. Both men were inclined to go, but their ordinary
occupations prevented them from starting at once.(55)

My tent had been left rolled up at the second platform, and whilst waiting
for the men it occurred to me that it might have been blown away during
the late stormy weather; so I started off on the 18th to see if this were
so or not. The way was by this time familiar, and I mounted rapidly,
astonishing the friendly herdsmen—who nodded recognition as I flitted past
them and the cows—for I was alone, because no man was available. But more
deliberation was necessary when the pastures were passed, and climbing
began, for it was needful to mark each step, in case of mist, or surprise
by night. It is one of the few things which can be said in favour of
mountaineering alone (a practice which has little besides to commend it),
that it awakens a man’s faculties, and makes him observe. When one has no
arms to help, and no head to guide him except his own, he must needs take
note even of small things, for he cannot afford to throw away a chance;
and so it came to pass, upon my solitary scramble, when above the
snow-line, and beyond the ordinary limits of flowering plants, when
peering about, noting angles and landmarks, that my eyes fell upon the
tiny straggling plants—oftentimes a single flower on a single
stalk—pioneers of vegetation, atoms of life in a world of desolation,
which had found their way up—who can tell how?—from far below, and were
obtaining bare sustenance from the scanty soil in protected nooks; and it
gave a new interest to the well-known rocks to see what a gallant fight
the survivors made (for many must have perished in the attempt) to ascend
the great mountain. The Gentian, as one might have expected, was there;
but it was run close by Saxifrages, and by _Linaria alpina_, and was
beaten by _Thlaspi rotundifolium_, which latter plant was the highest I
was able to secure, although it too was overtopped by a little white
flower which I knew not, and was unable to reach.(56)

The tent was safe, although snowed up; and I turned to contemplate the
view, which, when seen alone and undisturbed, had all the strength and
charm of complete novelty. The highest peaks of the Pennine chain were in
front—the Breithorn (13,685 feet), the Lyskamm (14,889), and Monte Rosa
(15,217); then, turning to the right, the entire block of mountains which
separated the Val Tournanche from the Val d’Ayas was seen at a glance,
with its dominating summit the Grand Tournalin (11,155). Behind were the
ranges dividing the Val d’Ayas from the Valley of Gressoney, backed by
higher summits. More still to the right, the eye wandered down the entire
length of the Val Tournanche, and then rested upon the Graian Alps with
their innumerable peaks, and upon the isolated pyramid of Monte Viso
(12,643) in the extreme distance. Next, still turning to the right, came
the mountains intervening between the Val Tournanche and the Val
Barthélemy: Mont Rouss (a round-topped snowy summit, which seems so
important from Breil, but which is in reality only a buttress of the
higher mountain, the Château des Dames), had long ago sunk, and the eye
passed over it, scarcely heeding its existence, to the Becca Salle (or, as
it is sometimes called, Bec de Sale),—a miniature Matterhorn—and to other,
and more important heights. Then the grand mass of the Dent d’Hérens
(13,714) stopped the way; a noble mountain, encrusted on its northern
slopes with enormous hanging glaciers, which broke away at mid-day in
immense slices, and thundered down on to the Tiefenmatten glacier; and
lastly, most splendid of all, came the Dent Blanche (14,318), soaring
above the basin of the great Z’Muttgletscher. Such a view is hardly to be
excelled in the Alps, and _this_ view is very rarely seen, as I saw it,
perfectly unclouded.(57)

Time sped away unregarded, and the little birds which had built their
nests on the neighbouring cliffs had begun to chirp their evening hymn
before I thought of returning. Half mechanically I turned to the tent,
unrolled it, and set it up; it contained food enough for several days, and
I resolved to stay over the night. I had started from Breil without
provisions, or telling Favre—the innkeeper, who was accustomed to my
erratic ways—where I was going. I returned to the view. The sun was
setting, and its rosy rays, blending with the snowy blue, had thrown a
pale, pure violet far as the eye could see; the valleys were drowned in
purple gloom, whilst the summits shone with unnatural brightness: and as I
sat in the door of the tent, and watched the twilight change to darkness,
the earth seemed to become less earthy and almost sublime; the world
seemed dead, and I, its sole inhabitant. By and by, the moon as it rose
brought the hills again into sight, and by a judicious repression of
detail rendered the view yet more magnificent. Something in the south hung
like a great glow-worm in the air; it was too large for a star, and too
steady for a meteor; and it was long before I could realise the incredible
fact that it was the moonlight glittering on the great snow-slope on the
north side of Monte Viso, at a distance, as the crow flies, of 98 miles.
Shivering, at last I entered the tent and made my coffee. The night was
passed comfortably, and the next morning, tempted by the brilliancy of the
weather, I proceeded yet higher in search of another place for a platform.

                      [Illustration: Climbing claw]

Solitary scrambling over a pretty wide area had shown me that a single
individual is subjected to many difficulties which do not trouble a party
of two or three men, and that the disadvantages of being alone are more
felt while descending than during the ascent. In order to neutralise these
inconveniences, I devised two little appliances, which were now brought
into use for the first time. One was a claw—a kind of grapnel—about five
inches long, made of shear steel, one-fifth of an inch thick. This was of
use in difficult places, where there was no hold within arm’s length, but
where there were cracks or ledges some distance higher. The claw could be
stuck on the end of the alpenstock and dropped into such places, or, on
extreme occasions, flung up until it attached itself to something. The
edges that laid hold of the rocks were serrated, which tended to make them
catch more readily: the other end had a ring to which a rope was fastened.
It must not be understood that this was employed for hauling one’s-self up
for any great distance, but that it was used in ascending, at the most,
for only a few yards at a time. In descending, however, it could be
prudently used for a greater distance at a time, as the claws could be
planted firmly; but it was necessary to keep the rope taut, and the pull
constantly in the direction of the length of the implement, otherwise it
had a tendency to slip away. The second device was merely a modification
of a dodge practised by all climbers. It is frequently necessary for a
single man (or for the last man of a party) during a descent, to make a
loop in the end of his rope, to pass it over some rocks, and to come down
holding the free end. The loop is then jerked off, and the process may be
repeated. But as it sometimes happens that there are no rocks at hand
which will allow a loose loop to be used, a slip-knot has to be resorted
to, and the rope is drawn in tightly. Consequently it will occur that it
is not possible to jerk the loop off, and the rope has to be cut and left
behind. To prevent this, I had a wrought-iron ring (two and a quarter
inches in diameter and three-eighths of an inch thick) attached to one end
of my rope. A loop could be made in a moment by passing the other end of
the rope through this ring, which of course slipped up and held tightly as
I descended holding the free end. A strong piece of cord was also attached
to the ring, and, on arriving at the bottom, this was pulled; the ring
slid back again, and the loop was whipped off readily. By means of these
two simple appliances I was able to ascend and descend rocks, which
otherwise would have been completely impassable for a single person. The
combined weight of these two things amounted to less than half-a-pound.

                       [Illustration: Rope and rin]

It has been mentioned (p. 55) that the rocks of the south-west ridge are
by no means difficult for some distance above the Col du Lion. This is
true of the rocks up to the level of the Chimney, but they steepen when
that is passed, and remaining smooth and with but few fractures, and still
continuing to dip outwards, present some steps of a very uncertain kind,
particularly when they are glazed with ice. At this point (just above the
Chimney) the climber is obliged to follow the southern (or Breil) side of
the ridge, but, in a few feet more, one must turn over to the northern (or
Z’Mutt) side, where, in most years, nature kindly provides a snow-slope.
When this is surmounted, one can again return to the crest of the ridge,
and follow it, by easy rocks, to the foot of the Great Tower. This was the
highest point attained by Mr. Hawkins in 1860, and it was also our highest
on the 9th of July.

This Great Tower is one of the most striking features of the ridge. It
stands out like a turret at the angle of a castle. Behind it a
battlemented wall leads upwards to the citadel.(58) Seen from the Théodule
pass, it looks only an insignificant pinnacle, but as one approaches it
(on the ridge) so it seems to rise, and, when one is at its base, it
completely conceals the upper parts of the mountain. I found here a
suitable place for the tent; which, although not so well protected as the
second platform, possessed the advantage of being 300 feet higher up; and
fascinated by the wildness of the cliffs, and enticed by the perfection of
the weather, I went on to see what was behind.

The first step was a difficult one. The ridge became diminished to the
least possible width—it was hard to keep one’s balance—and just where it
was narrowest, a more than perpendicular mass barred the way. Nothing
fairly within arm’s reach could be laid hold of; it was necessary to
spring up, and then to haul one’s-self over the sharp edge by sheer
strength. Progression directly upwards was then impossible. Enormous and
appalling precipices plunged down to the Tiefenmatten glacier on the left,
but round the right-hand side it was just possible to go. One hindrance
then succeeded another, and much time was consumed in seeking the way. I
have a vivid recollection of a gully of more than usual perplexity at the
side of the Great Tower, with minute ledges and steep walls; of the ledges
dwindling down and at last ceasing; and of finding myself, with arms and
legs divergent, fixed as if crucified, pressing against the rock, and
feeling each rise and fall of my chest as I breathed; of screwing my head
round to look for hold, and not seeing any, and of jumping sideways on to
the other side. ’Tis vain to attempt to describe such places. Whether they
are sketched with a light hand, or wrought out in laborious detail, one
stands an equal chance of being misunderstood. Their enchantment to the
climber arises from their calls on his faculties, in their demands on his
strength, and on overcoming the impediments which they oppose to his
skill. The non-mountaineering reader cannot feel this, and his interest in
descriptions of such places is usually small, unless he supposes that the
situations are perilous. They are not necessarily perilous, but I think
that it is impossible to avoid giving such an impression if the
difficulties are particularly insisted upon.

About this part there was a change in the quality of the rock, and there
was a change in the general appearance of the ridge. The rocks (talcose
gneiss) below this spot were singularly firm; it was rarely necessary to
test one’s hold; the way led over the living rock, and not up rent-off
fragments. But here, all was decay and ruin. The crest of the ridge was
shattered and cleft, and the feet sank in the chips which had drifted
down; while above, huge blocks, hacked and carved by the hand of time,
nodded to the sky, looking like the grave-stones of giants. Out of
curiosity I wandered to a notch in the ridge, between two tottering piles
of immense masses, which seemed to need but a few pounds on one or the
other side to make them fall; so nicely poised that they would literally
have rocked in the wind, for they were put in motion by a touch; and based
on support so frail that I wondered they did not collapse before my eyes.
In the whole range of my Alpine experience I have seen nothing more
striking than this desolate, ruined, and shattered ridge at the back of
the Great Tower. I have seen stranger shapes,—rocks which mimic the human
form, with monstrous leering faces—and isolated pinnacles, sharper and
greater than any here; but I have never seen exhibited so impressively the
tremendous effects which may be produced by frost, and by the
long-continued action of forces whose individual effects are barely

It is needless to say that it is impossible to climb by the crest of the
ridge at this part; still one is compelled to keep near to it, for there
is no other way. Generally speaking, the angles on the Matterhorn are too
steep to allow the formation of considerable beds of snow, but here there
is a corner which permits it to accumulate, and it is turned to
gratefully, for, by its assistance, one can ascend four times as rapidly
as upon the rocks.

The Tower was now almost out of sight, and I looked over the central
Pennine Alps to the Grand Combin, and to the chain of Mont Blanc. My
neighbour, the Dent d’Hérens, still rose above me, although but slightly,
and the height which had been attained could be measured by its help. So
far, I had no doubts about my capacity to descend that which had been
ascended; but, in a short time, on looking ahead, I saw that the cliffs
steepened, and I turned back (without pushing on to them, and getting into
inextricable difficulties), exulting in the thought that they would be
passed when we returned together, and that I had, without assistance, got
nearly to the height of the Dent d’Hérens, and considerably higher than
any one had been before.(59) My exultation was a little premature.

About 5 P.M. I left the tent again, and thought myself as good as at
Breil. The friendly rope and claw had done good service, and had
smoothened all the difficulties. I lowered myself through the Chimney,
however, by making a fixture of the rope, which I then cut off, and left
behind, as there was enough and to spare. My axe had proved a great
nuisance in coming down, and I left it in the tent. It was not attached to
the bâton, but was a separate affair,—an old navy boarding-axe. While
cutting up the different snow-beds on the ascent, the bâton trailed behind
fastened to the rope; and, when climbing, the axe was carried behind, run
through the rope tied round my waist, and was sufficiently out of the way.
But in descending, when coming down face outwards (as is always best where
it is possible), the head or the handle of the weapon caught frequently
against the rocks, and several times nearly upset me. So, out of laziness
if you will, it was left in the tent. I paid dearly for the imprudence.

The Col du Lion was passed, and fifty yards more would have placed me on
the “Great Staircase,” down which one can run. But on arriving at an angle
of the cliffs of the Tête du Lion, while skirting the upper edge of the
snow which abuts against them, I found that the heat of the two past days
had nearly obliterated the steps which had been cut when coming up. The
rocks happened to be impracticable just at this corner, so nothing could
be done except make the steps afresh. The snow was too hard to beat or
tread down, and at the angle it was all but ice. Half-a-dozen steps only
were required, and then the ledges could be followed again. So I held to
the rock with my right hand, and prodded at the snow with the point of my
stick until a good step was made, and then, leaning round the angle, did
the same for the other side. So far well, but in attempting to pass the
corner (to the present moment I cannot tell how it happened) I slipped and

                     [Illustration: “THE CHIMNEY.”

The slope was steep on which this took place, and was at the top of a
gully that led down through two subordinate buttresses towards the Glacier
du Lion—which was just seen, a thousand feet below. The gully narrowed and
narrowed, until there was a mere thread of snow lying between two walls of
rock, which came to an abrupt termination at the top of a precipice that
intervened between it and the glacier. Imagine a funnel cut in half
through its length, placed at an angle of 45 degrees, with its point below
and its concave side uppermost, and you will have a fair idea of the

The knapsack brought my head down first, and I pitched into some rocks
about a dozen feet below; they caught something and tumbled me off the
edge, head over heels, into the gully; the bâton was dashed from my hands,
and I whirled downwards in a series of bounds, each longer than the last;
now over ice, now into rocks; striking my head four or five times, each
time with increased force. The last bound sent me spinning through the
air, in a leap of fifty or sixty feet, from one side of the gully to the
other, and I struck the rocks, luckily, with the whole of my left side.
They caught my clothes for a moment, and I fell back on to the snow with
motion arrested. My head fortunately came the right side up, and a few
frantic catches brought me to a halt, in the neck of the gully, and on the
verge of the precipice. Bâton, hat, and veil skimmed by and disappeared,
and the crash of the rocks—which I had started—as they fell on to the
glacier, told how narrow had been the escape from utter destruction. As it
was, I fell nearly 200 feet in seven or eight bounds. Ten feet more would
have taken me in one gigantic leap of 800 feet on to the glacier below.

The situation was sufficiently serious. The rocks could not be left go for
a moment, and the blood was spirting out of more than twenty cuts. The
most serious ones were in the head, and I vainly tried to close them with
one hand, whilst holding on with the other. It was useless; the blood
jerked out in blinding jets at each pulsation. At last, in a moment of
inspiration, I kicked out a big lump of snow, and stuck it as a plaster on
my head. The idea was a happy one, and the flow of blood diminished. Then,
scrambling up, I got, not a moment too soon, to a place of safety, and
fainted away. The sun was setting when consciousness returned, and it was
pitch dark before the Great Staircase was descended; but, by a combination
of luck and care, the whole 4800 feet of descent to Breil was accomplished
without a slip, or once missing the way. I slunk past the cabin of the
cowherds, who were talking and laughing inside, utterly ashamed of the
state to which I had been brought by my imbecility, and entered the inn
stealthily, wishing to escape to my room unnoticed. But Favre met me in
the passage, demanded “Who is it?” screamed with fright when he got a
light, and aroused the household. Two dozen heads then held solemn council
over mine, with more talk than action. The natives were unanimous in
recommending that hot wine (syn. vinegar), mixed with salt, should be
rubbed into the cuts. I protested, but they insisted. It was all the
doctoring they received. Whether their rapid healing was to be attributed
to that simple remedy, or to a good state of health, is a question; they
closed up remarkably quickly, and in a few days I was able to move


                   [Illustration: AT BREIL (GIOMEIN).]

It was sufficiently dull during this time. I was chiefly occupied in
meditating on the vanity of human wishes, and in watching my clothes being
washed in the tub which was turned by the stream in the front of the
house; and I vowed that if an Englishman should at any time fall sick in
the Val Tournanche, he should not feel so solitary as I did at this dreary

The news of the accident brought Jean-Antoine Carrel up to Breil, and,
along with the haughty chasseur, came one of his relatives, a strong and
able young fellow named Cæsar. With these two men and Meynet I made
another start on the 23rd of July. We got to the tent without any trouble,
and on the following day had ascended beyond the Tower, and were picking
our way cautiously over the loose rocks behind (where my traces of the
week before were well apparent) in lovely weather, when one of those
abominable and almost instantaneous changes occurred, to which the
Matterhorn is so liable on its southern side. Mists were created out of
invisible vapours, and in a few minutes snow fell heavily. We stopped, as
this part was of excessive difficulty, and, unwilling to retreat, remained
on the spot several hours, in hopes that another change would occur; but,
as it did not, we at length went down to the base of the Tower, and
commenced to make a third platform, at the height of 12,992 feet above the
sea. It still continued to snow, and we took refuge in the tent. Carrel
argued that the weather had broken up, and that the mountain would become
so glazed with ice as to render any attempt futile; and I, that the change
was only temporary, and that the rocks were too hot to allow ice to form
upon them. I wished to stay until the weather improved, but my leader
would not endure contradiction, grew more positive, and insisted that we
must go down. We went down, and when we got below the Col his opinion was
found to be wrong; the cloud was confined to the upper 3000 feet, and
outside it there was brilliant weather.

Carrel was not an easy man to manage. He was perfectly aware that he was
the cock of the Val Tournanche, and he commanded the other men as by
right. He was equally conscious that he was indispensable to me, and took
no pains to conceal his knowledge of the fact. If he had been commanded,
or if he had been entreated to stop, it would have been all the same. But,
let me repeat, he was the only first-rate climber I could find who
believed that the mountain was not inaccessible. With him I had hopes, but
without him none; so he was allowed to do as he would. His will on this
occasion was almost incomprehensible. He certainly could not be charged
with cowardice, for a bolder man could hardly be found; nor was he turning
away on account of difficulty, for nothing to which we had yet come seemed
to be difficult to _him_; and his strong personal desire to make the
ascent was evident. There was no occasion to come down on account of food,
for we had taken, to guard against this very casualty, enough to last for
a week; and there was no danger, and little or no discomfort, in stopping
in the tent. It seemed to me that he was spinning out the ascent for his
own purposes, and that although he wished very much to be the first man on
the top, and did not object to be accompanied by any one else who had the
same wish, he had no intention of letting one succeed too soon,—perhaps to
give a greater appearance of _éclat_ when the thing was accomplished. As
he feared no rival, he may have supposed that the more difficulties he
made the more valuable he would be estimated; though, to do him justice,
he never showed any great hunger for money. His demands were fair, not
excessive; but he always stipulated for so much per day, and so, under any
circumstances, he did not do badly.

Vexed at having my time thus frittered away, I was still well pleased when
he volunteered to start again on the morrow, if it should be fine. We were
to advance the tent to the foot of the Tower, to fix ropes in the most
difficult parts beyond, and to make a push for the summit on the following

The next morning (Friday the 25th) when I arose, good little Meynet was
ready and waiting, and he said that the two Carrels had gone off some time
before, and had left word that they intended marmot-hunting, as the day
was favourable for that sport.(62) My holiday had nearly expired, and
these men clearly could not be relied upon; so, as a last resort, I
proposed to the hunchback to accompany me alone, to see if we could not
get higher than before, though of reaching the summit there was little or
no hope. He did not hesitate, and in a few hours we stood—for the third
time together—upon the Col du Lion. It was the first time Meynet had seen
the view unclouded. The poor little deformed peasant gazed upon it
silently and reverently for a time, and then, unconsciously, fell on one
knee in an attitude of adoration, and clasped his hands, exclaiming in
ecstasy, “Oh, beautiful mountains!” His actions were as appropriate as his
words were natural, and tears bore witness to the reality of his emotion.

Our power was too limited to advance the tent, so we slept at the old
station, and starting very early the next morning, passed the place where
we had turned back on the 24th, and, subsequently, my highest point on the
19th. We found the crest of the ridge so treacherous that we took to the
cliffs on the right, although most unwillingly. Little by little we fought
our way up, but at length we were both spread-eagled on the all but
perpendicular face, unable to advance, and barely able to descend. We
returned to the ridge. It was almost equally difficult, and infinitely
more unstable; and at length, after having pushed our attempts as far as
was prudent, I determined to return to Breil, and to have a light ladder
made to assist us to overcome some of the steepest parts.(63) I expected,
too, that by this time Carrel would have had enough marmot-hunting, and
would deign to accompany us again.

We came down at a great pace, for we were now so familiar with the
mountain, and with each other’s wants, that we knew immediately when to
give a helping hand, and when to let alone. The rocks also were in a
better state than I have ever seen them, being almost entirely free from
glaze of ice. Meynet was always merriest on the difficult parts, and, on
the most difficult, kept on enunciating the sentiment, “We can only die
once,” which thought seemed to afford him infinite satisfaction. We
arrived at the inn early in the evening, and I found my projects summarily
and unexpectedly knocked on the head.

Professor Tyndall had arrived while we were absent, and he had engaged
both Cæsar and Jean-Antoine Carrel. Bennen was also with him, together
with a powerful and active friend, a Valaisan guide, named Anton Walter.
They had a ladder already prepared, provisions were being collected, and
they intended to start on the following morning (Sunday). This new arrival
took me by surprise. Bennen, it will be remembered, refused point-blank to
take Professor Tyndall on the Matterhorn in 1861. “He was dead against any
attempt on the mountain,” says Tyndall. He was now eager to set out.
Professor Tyndall has not explained in what way this revolution came about
in his guide. I was equally astonished at the faithlessness of Carrel, and
attributed it to pique at our having presumed to do without him. It was
useless to compete with the Professor and his four men, who were ready to
start in a few hours, so I waited to see what would come of their

Everything seemed to favour it, and they set out on a fine morning in high
spirits, leaving me tormented with envy and all uncharitableness. If they
succeeded, they carried off the prize for which I had been so long
struggling; and if they failed, there was no time to make another attempt,
for I was due in a few days more in London. When this came home clearly to
me, I resolved to leave Breil at once; but, when packing up, found that
some necessaries had been left behind in the tent. So I went off about
midday to recover them; caught the army of the Professor before it reached
the Col, as they were going very slowly; left them there (stopping to take
food), and went on to the tent. I was near to it when all at once I heard
a noise aloft, and, on looking up, perceived a stone of at least a foot
cube flying straight at my head. I ducked, and scrambled under the lee
side of a friendly rock, while the stone went by with a loud buzz. It was
the advanced guard of a perfect storm of stones, which descended with
infernal clatter down the very edge of the ridge, leaving a trail of dust
behind, with a strong smell of sulphur, that told who had sent them. The
men below were on the look-out, but the stones did not come near them, and
breaking away on one side went down to the Glacier du Lion.(65)

I waited at the tent to welcome the Professor, and when he arrived went
down to Breil. Early next morning some one ran to me saying that a flag
was seen on the summit of the Matterhorn. It was not so, however, although
I saw that they had passed the place where we had turned back on the 26th.
I had now no doubt of their final success, for they had got beyond the
point which Carrel, not less than myself, had always considered to be the
most questionable place on the whole mountain. Up to it there was no
choice of route,—I suppose that at no one point between it and the Col was
it possible to diverge a dozen paces to the right or left, but beyond it
it was otherwise, and we had always agreed, in our debates, that if it
could be passed success was certain. The accompanying outline from a
sketch taken from the door of the inn at Breil will help to explain. The
letter *A* indicates the position of the Great Tower; *C* the “cravate”
(the strongly-marked streak of snow referred to on p. 76, and which we
just failed to arrive at on the 26th); *B* the place where we now saw
something that looked like a flag. Behind the point B a nearly level ridge
leads up to the foot of the final peak, which will be understood by a
reference to the outline facing p. 44, on which the same letters indicate
the same places. It was just now said, we considered that if the point *C*
could be passed, success was certain. Tyndall was at *B* very early in the
morning, and I did not doubt that he would reach the summit, although it
yet remained problematical whether he would be able to stand on the very
highest point. The summit was evidently formed of a long ridge, on which
there were two points nearly equally elevated—so equally that one could
not say which was the highest—and between the two there seemed to be a
deep notch, marked *D* on the outlines, which might defeat one at the very
last moment.

          [Illustration: A CANNONADE ON THE MATTERHORN (1862).]

                [Illustration: The Matterhorn from Breil]

My knapsack was packed, and I had taken a parting glass of wine with
Favre, who was jubilant at the success which was to make the fortune of
his inn; but I could not bring myself to leave until the result was heard,
and lingered about, as a foolish lover hovers round the object of his
affections, even after he has been contemptuously rejected. The sun had
set before the men were descried coming over the pastures. There was no
spring in their steps—they, too, were defeated. The Carrels hid their
heads, and the others said, as men will do when they have been beaten,
that the mountain was horrible, impossible, and so forth. Professor
Tyndall told me they had arrived _within a stone’s throw of the summit_,
and admonished me to have nothing more to do with the mountain. I
understood him to say that he should not try again, and ran down to the
village of Val Tournanche, almost inclined to believe that the mountain
was inaccessible; leaving the tent, ropes, and other matters in the hands
of Favre, to be placed at the disposal of any person who wished to ascend
it, more, I am afraid, out of irony than from generosity. There may have
been those who believed that the Matterhorn could be ascended, but,
anyhow, their faith did not bring forth works. No one tried again in 1862.

Business took me into Dauphiné before returning to London, and a week
after Tyndall’s defeat I lay one night, after a sultry day, half-asleep,
tossing about in one of the abominations which serve for beds in the inn
kept by the Deputy-Mayor of La Ville de Val Louise; looking at a strange
ruddiness on the ceiling, which I thought might be some effect of
electricity produced by the irritation of the myriads of fleas; when the
great bell of the church, close at hand, pealed out with loud and hurried
clangour. I jumped up, for the voices and movements of the people in the
house made me think of fire. It _was_ fire; and I saw from my window, on
the other side of the river, great forked flames shooting high into the
sky, black dots with long shadows hurrying towards the place, and the
crests of the ridges catching the light and standing out like spectres.
All the world was in motion, for the neighbouring villages—now
aroused—rang out the alarm. I pulled on my shirt, and tore over the
bridge. Three large chalets were on fire, and were surrounded by a mass of
people, who were bringing all their pots and pans, and anything that would
hold water. They formed themselves into several chains, each two deep,
leading towards the nearest stream, and passed the water up one side, and
the empty utensils down the other. My old friend the mayor was there, in
full force, striking the ground with his stick, and vociferating, “Work!
work!” but the men, with much presence of mind, chiefly ranged themselves
on the sides of the empty buckets, and left the real work to their better
halves. Their efforts were useless, and the chalets burnt themselves out.

The next morning I visited the still smouldering ruins, and saw the
homeless families sitting in a dismal row in front of their charred
property. The people said that one of the houses had been well insured,
and that its owner had endeavoured to forestall luck. He had arranged the
place for a bonfire, set the lower rooms on fire in several places, and
had then gone out of the way, leaving his wife and children in the upper
rooms, to be roasted or not as the case might be. His plans only partially
succeeded, and it was satisfactory to see the scoundrel brought back in
the custody of two stalwart gensdarmes. Three days afterwards I was in

                   [Illustration: “BUT WHAT IS THIS?”]

                                CHAPTER V.


            “How like a winter hath my absence been
            From thee, the pleasure of a fleeting year!”
                      W. SHAKESPEARE.

I crossed the Channel on the 29th of July 1863, embarrassed by the
possession of two ladders, each twelve feet long, which joined together
like those used by firemen, and shut up like parallel rulers. My luggage
was highly suggestive of housebreaking, for, besides these, there were
several coils of rope, and numerous tools of suspicious appearance, and it
was reluctantly admitted into France, but it passed through the
custom-house with less trouble than I anticipated, after a timely
expenditure of a few francs.

I am not in love with the douane. It is the purgatory of travellers, where
uncongenial spirits mingle together for a time, before they are separated
into rich and poor. The douaniers look upon tourists as their natural
enemies; see how eagerly they pounce upon the portmanteaux! One of them
has discovered something! He has never seen its like before, and he holds
it aloft in the face of its owner, with inquisitorial insolence. “But
_what is_ this?” The explanation is only half-satisfactory. “But what is
_this_?” says he, laying hold of a little box. “Powder.” “But that it is
forbidden to carry of powder on the railway.” “Bah!” says another and
older hand, “pass the effects of Monsieur;” and our countryman—whose
cheeks had begun to redden under the stares of his fellow-travellers—is
allowed to depart with his half-worn tooth-brush, while the discomfited
douanier gives a mighty shrug at the strange habits of those “whose
insular position excludes them from the march of continental ideas.”

My real troubles commenced at Susa. The officials there, more honest and
more obtuse than the Frenchmen, declined at one and the same time to be
bribed, or to pass my baggage until a satisfactory account of it was
rendered; and, as they refused to believe the true explanation, I was
puzzled what to say, but was presently relieved from the dilemma by one of
the men, who was cleverer than his fellows, suggesting that I was going to
Turin to exhibit in the streets; that I mounted the ladder and balanced
myself on the end of it, then lighted my pipe and put the point of the
bâton in its bowl, and caused the bâton to gyrate around my head. The rope
was to keep back the spectators, and an Englishman in my company was the
agent. “Monsieur is acrobat then?” “Yes, certainly.” “Pass the effects of
Monsieur the acrobat!”

These ladders were the source of endless trouble. Let us pass over the
doubts of the guardians of the Hôtel d’Europe (Trombetta), whether a
person in the possession of such questionable articles should be admitted
to their very respectable house, and get to Chatillon, at the entrance of
the Val Tournanche. A mule was chartered to carry them, and, as they were
too long to sling across its back, they were arranged lengthways, and one
end projected over the animal’s head, while the other extended beyond its
tail. A mule when going up or down hill always moves with a jerky action,
and in consequence of this the ladders hit my mule severe blows between
its ears and in its flanks. The beast, not knowing what strange creature
it had on its back, naturally tossed its head and threw out its legs, and
this, of course, only made the blows that it received more severe. At last
it ran away, and would have perished by rolling down a precipice, if the
men had not caught hold of its tail. The end of the matter was that a man
had to follow the mule, holding the end of the ladders, which obliged him
to move his arms up and down incessantly, and to bow to the hind quarters
of the animal in a way that afforded more amusement to his comrades than
it did to him.

I was once more _en route_ for the Matterhorn, for I had heard in the
spring of 1863 the cause of the failure of Professor Tyndall, and learnt
that the case was not so hopeless as it appeared to be at one time. I
found that he arrived as far only as the northern end of “the shoulder.”
The point at which he says,(66) they “sat down with broken hopes, the
summit within a stone’s throw of us, but still defying us,” was not the
notch or cleft at D (which is literally within a stone’s throw of the
summit), but another and more formidable cleft that intervenes between the
northern end of “the shoulder” and the commencement of the final peak. It
is marked E on the outline which faces p. 44. Carrel and all the men who
had been with me knew of the existence of this cleft, and of the pinnacle
which rose between it and the final peak;(67) and we had frequently talked
about the best manner of passing the place. On this we disagreed, but we
were both of opinion that when we got to “the shoulder,” it would be
necessary to bear down gradually to the right or to the left, to avoid
coming to the top of the notch. Tyndall’s party, after arriving at “the
shoulder,” was led by his guides along the crest of the ridge, and,
consequently, when they got to its northern end, they came to the top of
the notch, instead of the bottom—to the dismay of all but the Carrels. Dr.
Tyndall’s words are, “The ridge was here split by a deep cleft which
separated it from the final precipice, and the case became more hopeless
as we came more near.” The Professor adds, “The mountain is 14,800 feet
high, and 14,600 feet had been accomplished.” He greatly deceived himself;
by the barometric measurements of Signor Giordano the notch is no less
than 800 feet below the summit. The guide Walter (Dr. Tyndall says) said
it was impossible to proceed, and the Carrels, appealed to for their
opinion (this is their own account), gave as an answer, “We are porters;
ask your guides.” Bennen, thus left to himself, “was finally forced to
accept defeat.” Tyndall had nevertheless accomplished an advance of about
400 feet over one of the most difficult parts of the mountain.

There are material discrepancies between the published narratives of
Professor Tyndall(68) and the verbal accounts of the Carrels. The former
says the men had to be “urged on,” that “they pronounced flatly against
the final precipice,” “they yielded so utterly,” and that Bennen said, in
answer to a final appeal made to him, “‘What could I do, sir? not one of
them would accompany me.’ It was the accurate truth.” Jean-Antoine Carrel
says that when Professor Tyndall gave the order to turn _he_ would have
advanced to examine the route, as he did not think that farther progress
was impossible, but he was stopped by the Professor, and was naturally
obliged to follow the others.(69) These disagreements may well be left to
be settled by those who are concerned. Tyndall, Walter, and Bennen, now
disappear from this history.(70)

      [Illustration: An arch of the aqueduct in the Val Tournanche]

The Val Tournanche is one of the most charming valleys in the Italian
Alps; it is a paradise to an artist, and if the space at my command were
greater, I would willingly linger over its groves of chestnuts, its bright
trickling rills and its roaring torrents, its upland unsuspected valleys
and its noble cliffs. The path rises steeply from Chatillon, but it is
well shaded, and the heat of the summer sun is tempered by cool air and
spray which comes off the ice-cold streams.(71) One sees from the path, at
several places on the right bank of the valley, groups of arches which
have been built high up against the faces of the cliffs. Guide-books
repeat—on whose authority I know not—that they are the remains of a Roman
aqueduct. They have the Roman boldness of conception, but the work has not
the usual Roman solidity. The arches have always seemed to me to be the
remains of an _unfinished_ work, and I learn from Jean-Antoine Carrel that
there are other groups of arches, which are not seen from the path, all
having the same appearance. It may be questioned whether those seen near
the village of Antey are Roman. Some of them are semicircular, whilst
others are distinctly pointed. Here is one of the latter, which might pass
for fourteenth-century work, or later;—a two-centred arch, with mean
voussoirs, and the masonry in rough courses. These arches are well worth
the attention of an archæologist, but some difficulty will be found in
approaching them closely.

We sauntered up the valley, and got to Breil when all were asleep. A halo
round the moon promised watery weather, and we were not disappointed, for,
on the next day (August 1), rain fell heavily, and when the clouds lifted
for a time, we saw that new snow lay thickly over everything higher than
9000 feet. J.-A. Carrel was ready and waiting (as I had determined to give
the bold cragsman another chance); and he did not need to say that the
Matterhorn would be impracticable for several days after all this new
snow, even if the weather were to arrange itself at once. Our first day
together was accordingly spent upon a neighbouring summit, the Cimes
Blanches; a degraded mountain, well known for its fine panoramic view. It
was little that we saw; for, in every direction except to the south,
writhing masses of heavy clouds obscured everything; and to the south our
view was intercepted by a peak higher than the Cimes Blanches, named the
Grand Tournalin.(72) But we got some innocent pleasure out of watching the
gambolings of a number of goats, who became fast friends after we had
given them some salt; in fact, too fast, and caused us no little annoyance
when we were descending. “Carrel,” I said, as a number of stones whizzed
by which they had dislodged, “this must be put a stop to.” “Diable!” he
grunted, “it is very well to talk, but how will you do it?” I said that I
would try; and, sitting down, poured a little brandy into the hollow of my
hand, and allured the nearest goat with deceitful gestures. It was one who
had gobbled up the paper in which the salt had been carried—an animal of
enterprising character—and it advanced fearlessly and licked up the
brandy. I shall not easily forget its surprise. It stopped short, and
coughed, and looked at me as much as to say, “Oh, you cheat!” and spat and
ran away; stopping now and then to cough and spit again. We were not
troubled any more by those goats.

More snow fell during the night, and our attempt on the Matterhorn was
postponed indefinitely. As there was nothing to be done at Breil, I
determined to make the tour of the mountain, and commenced by inventing a
pass from Breil to Zermatt,(73) in place of the hackneyed Théodule. Any
one who looks at the map will see that the latter pass makes a
considerable détour to the east, and, apparently, goes out of the way. I
thought that it was possible to strike out a shorter route, both in
distance and in time, and we set out on the 3rd of August, to carry out
the idea. We followed the Théodule path for some time, but quitted it when
it bore away to the east, and kept straight on until we struck the moraine
of the Mont Cervin glacier. Our track still continued in a straight line
up the centre of the glacier to the foot of a tooth of rock, which juts
prominently out of the ridge (Furggengrat) connecting the Matterhorn with
the Théodulehorn. The head of the glacier was connected with this little
peak by a steep bank of snow; but we were able to go straight up, and
struck the Col at its lowest point, a little to the right (that is to say,
to the east) of the above-mentioned peak. On the north there was a
snow-slope corresponding to that on the other side. Half-an-hour took us
to its base. We then bore away over the nearly level plateau of the
Furggengletscher, making a straight track to the Hörnli, from whence we
descended to Zermatt by one of the well-known paths. This pass has been
dubbed the Breuiljoch by the Swiss surveyors. It is a few feet higher than
the Théodule, and it may be recommended to those who are familiar with
that pass, as it gives equally fine views, and is accessible at all times.
But it will never be frequented like the Théodule, as the snow-slope at
its summit, at certain times, will require the use of the axe. It took us
six hours and a quarter to go from one place to the other, which was an
hour longer than we would have occupied by the Théodule, although the
distance in miles is less.

It is stated in one of the MS. note-books of the late Principal J. D.
Forbes, that this depression, now called the Breuiljoch, was formerly
_the_ pass between the Val Tournanche and Zermatt, and that it was
abandoned for the Théodule in consequence of changes in the glaciers.(74)
The authority for the statement was not given. I presume it was from local
tradition, but I readily credit it; for, before the time that the glaciers
had shrunk to so great an extent, the steep snow-slopes above mentioned,
in all probability, did not exist; and, most likely, the glaciers led by
very gentle gradients up to the summit; in which case the route would have
formed the natural highway between the two places. It is far from
impossible, if the glaciers continue to diminish at their present rapid
rate,(75) that the Théodule itself, the easiest and the most frequented of
all the higher Alpine passes, may, in the course of a few years, become
somewhat difficult; and if this should be the case, the prosperity of
Zermatt will probably suffer.(76)

Carrel and I wandered out again in the afternoon, and went, first of all,
to a favourite spot with tourists near the end of the Gorner glacier (or,
properly speaking, the Boden glacier), to a little verdant flat—studded
with _Euphrasia officinalis_—the delight of swarms of bees, who gather
there the honey which afterwards appears at the _table d’hôte_.


On our right the glacier-torrent thundered down the valley through a gorge
with precipitous sides, not easily approached; for the turf at the top was
slippery, and the rocks had everywhere been rounded by the glacier,—which
formerly extended far away. This gorge seems to have been made chiefly by
the torrent, and to have been excavated subsequently to the retreat of the
glacier. It seems so because not merely upon its walls are there the marks
of running water, but even upon the rounded rocks at the top of its walls,
at a height of seventy or eighty feet above the present level of the
torrent, there are some of those queer concavities which rapid streams
alone are known to produce on rocks.


A little bridge, apparently frail, spans the torrent just above the
entrance to this gorge, and from it one perceives, being fashioned in the
rocks below, concavities similar to those to which reference has just been
made. The torrent is seen hurrying forwards. Not everywhere. In some
places the water strikes projecting angles, and, thrown back by them,
remains almost stationary, eddying round and round: in others,
obstructions fling it up in fountains, which play perpetually on the
_under_ surfaces of overhanging masses; and sometimes do so in such a way
that the water not only works upon the under surfaces, but round the
corner; that is to say, upon the surfaces which are _not_ opposed to the
general direction of the current. In all cases _concavities_ are being
produced. Projecting angles are rounded, it is true, and are more or less
convex, but they are overlooked on account of the prevalence of concave

Cause and effect help each other here. The inequalities of the torrent bed
and walls cause its eddyings, and the eddies fashion the concavities. The
more profound the latter become, the more disturbance is caused in the
water. The destruction of the rocks proceeds at an ever-increasing rate;
for the larger the amount of surface that is exposed, the greater are the
opportunities for the assaults of heat and cold.

When water is in the form of glacier it has not the power of making
concavities, such as these, in rocks, and of working upon surfaces which
are not opposed to the direction of the current. Its nature is changed; it
operates in a different way, and it leaves marks which are readily
distinguished from those produced by torrent-action.

The prevailing forms which result from glacier-action are more or less
_convex_. Ultimately, all angles and almost all curves are obliterated,
and large areas of flat surfaces are produced. This perfection of abrasion
is rarely found, except in such localities as have sustained a grinding
much more severe than that which has occurred in the Alps; and, generally
speaking, the dictum of the veteran geologist Studer, quoted below, is
undoubtedly true.(77) Not merely can the operations of extinct glaciers be
traced in detail by means of the bosses of rock popularly termed _roches
moutonnées_, but their effects in the aggregate, on a range of mountains
or an entire country, can be recognised sometimes at a distance of fifteen
or twenty miles from the incessant repetition of these convex forms.

We finished up the 3d of August with a walk over the Findelen glacier, and
returned to Zermatt at a later hour than we intended, both very sleepy.
This is noteworthy only on account of that which followed. We had to cross
the Col de Valpelline on the next day, and an early start was desirable.
Monsieur Seiler, excellent man, knowing this, called us himself, and when
he came to my door, I answered, “All right, Seiler, I will get up,” and
immediately turned over to the other side, saying to myself, “First of
all, ten minutes more sleep.” But Seiler waited and listened, and,
suspecting the case, knocked again. “Herr Whymper, have you got a light?”
Without thinking what the consequences might be, I answered, “No,” and
then the worthy man actually forced the lock off his own door to give me
one. By similar and equally friendly and disinterested acts, Monsieur
Seiler has acquired his enviable reputation.

At 4 A.M. we left his Monte Rosa Hotel, and were soon pushing our way
through the thickets of grey alder that skirt the path up the right bank
of the exquisite little valley which leads to the Z’Muttgletscher.

Nothing can well seem more inaccessible than the Matterhorn upon this
side; and even in cold blood one holds the breath when looking at its
stupendous cliffs. There are but few equal to them in size in the Alps,
and there are none which can more truly be termed _precipices_. Greatest
of them all is the immense north cliff,—that which bends over towards the
Z’Muttgletscher. Stones which drop from the top of that amazing wall fall
for about 1500 feet before they touch anything; and those which roll down
from above, and bound over it, fall to a much greater depth, and leap
well-nigh 1000 feet beyond its base. This side of the mountain has always
seemed sombre—sad—terrible; it is painfully suggestive of decay, ruin, and
death; and it is now, alas! more than terrible by its associations.

“There is no aspect of destruction about the Matterhorn cliffs,” says
Professor Ruskin. Granted;—when they are seen from afar. But approach, and
sit down by the side of the Z’Muttgletscher, and you will hear that their
piecemeal destruction is proceeding ceaselessly—incessantly. You will
_hear_, but, probably, you will not _see_; for even when the descending
masses thunder as loudly as heavy guns, and the echoes roll back from the
Ebihorn opposite, they will still be as pin-points against this grand old
face, so vast is its scale!

If you would see the “aspects of destruction,” you must come still closer,
and climb its cliffs and ridges, or mount to the plateau of the
Matterhorngletscher, which is cut up and ploughed up by these missiles,
and strewn on its surface with their smaller fragments; the larger masses,
falling with tremendous velocity, plunge into the snow and are lost to

The Matterhorngletscher, too, sends down _its_ avalanches, as if in
rivalry with the rocks behind. Round the whole of its northern side it
does not terminate in the usual manner by gentle slopes, but comes to a
sudden end at the top of the steep rocks which lie betwixt it and the
Z’Muttgletscher; and seldom does an hour pass without a huge slice
breaking away and falling with dreadful uproar on to the slopes below,
where it is re-compacted.

The desolate, outside pines of the Z’Mutt forests, stripped of their bark,
and blanched by the weather, are a fit foreground to a scene that can
hardly be surpassed in solemn grandeur. It is a subject worthy of the
pencil of a great painter, and one which would tax the powers of the very

Higher up the glacier the mountain appeared less savage although not less
inaccessible; and, about three hours later, when we arrived at the island
of rock, called the Stockje (which marks the end of the Z’Muttgletscher
proper, and which separates its higher feeder, the Stockgletscher, from
its lower and greater one, the Tiefenmatten), Carrel himself, one of the
least demonstrative of men, could not refrain from expressing wonder at
the steepness of its faces, and at the audacity that had prompted us to
camp upon the south-west ridge; the profile of which is seen very well
from the Stockje.(78) Carrel then saw the north and north-west sides of
the mountain for the first time, and was more firmly persuaded than ever
that an ascent was possible _only_ from the direction of Breil.

Three years afterwards I was traversing the same spot with the guide Franz
Biener, when all at once a puff of wind brought to us a very bad smell;
and, on looking about, we discovered a dead chamois half-way up the
southern cliffs of the Stockje. We clambered up, and found that it had
been killed by a most uncommon and extraordinary accident. It had slipped
on the upper rocks, had rolled over and over down a slope of débris,
without being able to regain its feet, had fallen over a little patch of
rocks that projected through the débris, and had caught the points of both
horns on a tiny ledge, not an inch broad. It had just been able to touch
the débris, where it led away down from the rocks, and had pawed and
scratched until it could no longer touch. It had evidently been starved to
death, and we found the poor beast almost swinging in the air, with its
head thrown back and tongue protruding, looking to the sky as if imploring

We had no such excitement as this in 1863, and crossed this easy pass to
the châlets of Prerayen in a very leisurely fashion. From the summit to
Prerayen let us descend in one step. The way has been described before;
and those who wish for information about it should consult the description
of Mr. Jacomb, the discoverer of the pass. Nor need we stop at Prerayen,
except to remark that the owner of the châlets (who is usually taken for a
common herdsman) must not be judged by appearances. He is a man of
substance; he has many flocks and herds; and although, when approached
politely, is courteous, he can (and probably will) act as the _master_ of
Prerayen, if his position is _not_ recognised, and with all the importance
of a man who pays taxes to the extent of 500 francs per annum to his

                 [Illustration: CHAMOIS IN DIFFICULTIES.]

The hill-tops were clouded when we rose from our hay on the 5th of August.
We decided not to continue the tour of our mountain immediately, and
returned over our track of the preceding day to the highest châlet on the
left bank of the valley, with the intention of attacking the Dent d’Erin
on the next morning. We were interested in this summit, more on account of
the excellent view which it commanded of the south-west ridge and the
terminal peak of the Matterhorn, than from any other reason.

The Dent d’Erin had not been ascended at this time, and we had diverged
from our route on the 4th, and had scrambled some distance up the base of
Mont Brulé, to see how far its south-western slopes were assailable. We
were divided in opinion as to the best way of approaching the peak.
Carrel, true to his habit of sticking to rocks in preference to ice,
counselled ascending by the long buttress of the Tête de Bella Cia (which
descends towards the west, and forms the southern boundary of the last
glacier that falls into the Glacier de Zardesan), and thence traversing
the heads of all the tributaries of the Zardesan to the western and rocky
ridge of the Dent. I, on the other hand, proposed to follow the Glacier de
Zardesan itself throughout its entire length, and from the plateau at its
head (where my proposed route would cross Carrel’s) to make directly
towards the summit, up the snow-covered glacier slope, instead of by the
western ridge. The hunchback, who was accompanying us on these excursions,
declared in favour of Carrel’s route, and it was accordingly adopted.

The first part of the programme was successfully executed; and at 10.30
A.M. on the 6th of August, we were sitting astride the western ridge, at a
height of about 12,500 feet, looking down upon the Tiefenmatten glacier.
To all appearance another hour would place us on the summit; but in
another hour we found that we were not destined to succeed. The ridge
(like all of the principal rocky ridges of the great peaks upon which I
have stood) had been completely shattered by frost, and was nothing more
than a heap of piled up fragments. It was always narrow, and where it was
narrowest it was also the most unstable and the most difficult. On neither
side could we ascend it by keeping a little below its crest,—on the side
of the Tiefenmatten because it was too steep, and on both sides because
the dislodgment of a single block would have disturbed the equilibrium of
all those which were above. Forced, therefore, to keep to the very crest
of the ridge, and unable to deviate a single step either to the right or
to the left, we were compelled to trust ourselves upon unsteady masses,
which trembled under our tread, which sometimes settled down, grating in a
hollow and ominous manner, and which seemed as if a little shake would
send the whole roaring down in one awful avalanche.

I followed my leader, who said not a word, and did not rebel until we came
to a place where a block had to be surmounted which lay poised across the
ridge. Carrel could not climb it without assistance, or advance beyond it
until I joined him above; and as he stepped off my back on to it, I felt
it quiver and bear down upon me. I doubted the possibility of another man
standing upon it without bringing it down. Then I rebelled. There was no
honour to be gained by persevering, or dishonour in turning from a place
which was dangerous on account of its excessive difficulty. So we returned
to Prerayen, for there was too little time to allow us to re-ascend by the
other route, which was subsequently shown to be the right way up the

Four days afterwards a party of Englishmen (including my friends, W. E.
Hall, Craufurd Grove, and Reginald Macdonald), arrived in the Valpelline,
and (unaware of our attempt) on the 12th, under the skilful guidance of
Melchior Anderegg, made the first ascent of the Dent d’Erin by the route
which I had proposed. This is the only mountain which I have essayed to
ascend, that has not, sooner or later, fallen to me. Our failure was
mortifying, yet I am satisfied that we did wisely in returning, and that
if we had persevered, by Carrel’s route, another Alpine accident would
have been recorded. Other routes have been since discovered up the Dent
d’Erin. The ascent ranks amongst the more difficult ones which have been
made in the Alps.(79)

On the 7th of August we crossed the Va Cornère pass,(80) and had a good
look at the mountain named the Grand Tournalin as we descended the Val de
Chignana. This mountain was seen from so many points, and was so much
higher than any peak in its immediate neighbourhood, that it was bound to
give a very fine view; and (as the weather continued unfavourable for the
Matterhorn) I arranged with Carrel to ascend it the next day, and
despatched him direct to the village of Val Tournanche to make the
necessary preparations, whilst I, with Meynet, made a short cut to Breil,
at the back of Mont Panquero, by a little pass locally known as the Col de
Fenêtre. I rejoined Carrel the same evening at Val Tournanche, and we
started from that place at a little before 5 A.M. on the 8th, to attack
the Tournalin.

Meynet was left behind for that day, and most unwillingly did the
hunchback part from us, and begged hard to be allowed to come. “Pay me
nothing, only let me go with you;” “I shall want but a little bread and
cheese, and of that I won’t eat much;” “I would much rather go with you
than carry things down the valley.” Such were his arguments, and I was
really sorry that the rapidity of our movements obliged us to desert the
good little man.

Carrel led over the meadows on the south and east of the bluff upon which
the village of Val Tournanche is built, and then by a zig-zag path through
a long and steep forest, making many short cuts, which showed he had a
thorough knowledge of the ground. After we came again into daylight, our
route took us up one of those little, concealed, lateral valleys which are
so numerous on the slopes bounding the Val Tournanche.

This valley, the Combe de Ceneil, has a general easterly trend, and
contains but one small cluster of houses (Ceneil). The Tournalin is
situated at the head of the Combe, and nearly due east of the village of
Val Tournanche, but from that place no part of the mountain is visible.
After Ceneil is passed it comes into view, rising above a cirque of cliffs
(streaked by several fine waterfalls), at the end of the Combe. To avoid
these cliffs the path bends somewhat to the south, keeping throughout to
the left bank of the valley, and at about 3500 feet above Val Tournanche,
and 1500 feet above Ceneil and a mile or so to its east, arrives at the
base of some moraines, which are remarkably large considering the
dimensions of the glaciers which formed them. The ranges upon the western
side of the Val Tournanche are seen to great advantage from this spot; and
here the path ends and the way steepens.

When we arrived at these moraines, we had a choice of two routes. One,
continuing to the east, over the moraines themselves, the débris above
them, and a large snow-bed still higher up, to a kind of _col_ or
depression to the _south_ of the peak, from whence an easy ridge led
towards the summit. The other, over a shrunken glacier on our north-east
(now, perhaps, not in existence), which led to a well-marked _col_ on the
_north_ of the peak, from whence a less easy ridge rose directly to the
highest point. We followed the first named of these routes, and in little
more than half-an-hour stood upon the Col, which commanded a most glorious
view of the southern side of Monte Rosa, and of the ranges to its east,
and to the east of the Val d’Ayas.

                            EXCITED COMRADE.”]

Whilst we were resting at this point, a large party of vagrant chamois
arrived on the summit of the mountain from the northern side, some of
whom—by their statuesque position—seemed to appreciate the grand panorama
by which they were surrounded, while others amused themselves, like
two-legged tourists, in rolling stones over the cliffs. The clatter of
these falling fragments made us look up. The chamois were so numerous that
we could not count them, and clustered around the summit, totally unaware
of our presence. They scattered in a panic, as if a shell had burst
amongst them, when saluted by the cries of my excited comrade; and plunged
wildly down in several directions, with unfaltering and unerring bounds,
with such speed and with such grace that we were filled with admiration
and respect for their mountaineering abilities.

The ridge that led from the Col towards the summit was singularly easy,
although well broken up by frost, and Carrel thought that it would not be
difficult to arrange a path for mules out of the shattered blocks; but
when we arrived on the summit we found ourselves separated from the very
highest point by a cleft which had been concealed up to that time: its
southern side was nearly perpendicular, but it was only fourteen or
fifteen feet deep. Carrel lowered me down, and afterwards descended on to
the head of my axe, and subsequently on to my shoulders, with a cleverness
which was almost as far removed from my awkwardness as his own efforts
were from those of the chamois. A few easy steps then placed us on the
highest point. It had not been ascended before, and we commemorated the
event by building a huge cairn, which was seen for many a mile, and would
have lasted for many a year, had it not been thrown down by the orders of
Canon Carrel, on account of its interrupting the sweep of a camera which
he took to the lower summit in 1868, in order to photograph the panorama.
According to that well-known mountaineer the summit of the Grand Tournalin
is 6100 feet above the village of Val Tournanche, and 11,155 feet above
the sea. Its ascent (including halts) occupied us only four hours.

                [Illustration: “CARREL LOWERED ME DOWN.”]

I recommend any person who has a day to spare in the Val Tournanche to
ascend the Tournalin. It should be remembered, however (if its ascent is
made for the sake of the view), that these southern Pennine Alps seldom
remain unclouded after mid-day, and, indeed, frequently not later than 10
or 11 A.M. Towards sunset the equilibrium of the atmosphere is restored,
and the clouds very commonly disappear.

I advise the ascent of this mountain not on account of its height, or from
its accessibility or inaccessibility, but simply for the wide and splendid
view which may be seen from its summit. Its position is superb, and the
list of the peaks which can be seen from it includes almost the whole of
the principal mountains of the Cottian, Dauphiné, Graian, Pennine, and
Oberland groups. The view has, in the highest perfection, those elements
of picturesqueness which are wanting in the purely panoramic views of
higher summits. There are three principal sections, each with a central or
dominating point, to which the eye is naturally drawn. All three alike are
pictures in themselves; yet all are dissimilar. In the south, softened by
the vapours of the Val d’Aoste, extends the long line of the Graians, with
mountain after mountain 12,000 feet and upwards in height. It is not upon
these, noble as some of them are, that the eye will rest, but upon the
Viso, far off in the background. In the west and towards the north the
range of Mont Blanc, and some of the greatest of the Central Pennine Alps
(including the Grand Combin and the Dent Blanche) form the background, but
they are overpowered by the grandeur of the ridges which culminate in the
Matterhorn. Nor in the east and north, where pleasant grassy slopes lead
downwards to the Val d’Ayas, nor upon the glaciers and snow-fields above
them, nor upon the Oberland in the background, will the eye long linger,
when immediately in front, several miles away, but seeming close at hand,
thrown out by the pure azure sky, there are the glittering crests of Monte

             [Illustration: THE LATE CANON CARREL, OF AOSTA.]

Those who would, but cannot, stand upon the highest Alps, may console
themselves with the knowledge that they do not usually yield the views
that make the strongest and most permanent impressions. Marvellous some of
the panoramas seen from the greatest peaks undoubtedly are; but they are
necessarily without those isolated and central points which are so
valuable pictorially. The eye roams over a multitude of objects (each,
perhaps, grand individually), and, distracted by an embarrassment of
riches, wanders from one to another, erasing by the contemplation of the
next the effect that was produced by the last; and when those happy
moments are over, which always fly with too great rapidity, the summit is
left with an impression that is seldom durable, because it is usually

No views create such lasting impressions as those which are seen but for a
moment, when a veil of mist is rent in twain, and a single spire or dome
is disclosed. The peaks which are seen at these moments are not, perhaps,
the greatest or the noblest, but the recollection of them outlives the
memory of any panoramic view, because the picture, photographed by the
eye, has time to dry, instead of being blurred, while yet wet, by contact
with other impressions. The reverse is the case with the bird’s-eye
panoramic views from the great peaks, which sometimes embrace a hundred
miles in nearly every direction. The eye is confounded by the crowd of
details, and is unable to distinguish the relative importance of the
objects which are seen. It is almost as difficult to form a just estimate
(with the eye) of the respective heights of a number of peaks from a very
high summit, as it is from the bottom of a valley. I think that the
grandest and the most satisfactory standpoints for viewing mountain
scenery are those which are sufficiently elevated to give a feeling of
depth, as well as of height, which are lofty enough to exhibit wide and
varied views, but not so high as to sink everything to the level of the
spectator. The view from the Grand Tournalin is a favourable example of
this class of panoramic views.

We descended from the summit by the northern route, and found it tolerably
stiff clambering as far as the Col. Thence, down the glacier, the way was
straightforward, and we joined the route taken on the ascent at the foot
of the ridge leading towards the east. In the evening we returned to

There is an abrupt rise in the valley about two miles to the north of the
village of Val Tournanche, and just above this step the torrent has eaten
its way into its bed and formed an extraordinary chasm, which has long
been known by the name Gouffre des Busserailles. We lingered about this
spot to listen to the thunder of the concealed water, and to watch its
tumultuous boiling as it issued from the gloomy cleft, but our efforts to
peer into the mysteries of the place were baffled. In November 1865, the
intrepid Carrel induced two trusty comrades—the Maquignaz’s of Val
Tournanche—to lower him by a rope into the chasm and over the cataract.
The feat required iron nerves, and muscles and sinews of no ordinary kind;
and its performance alone stamps Carrel as a man of dauntless courage. One
of the Maquignaz’s subsequently descended in the same way, and these two
men were so astonished at what they saw, that they forthwith set to work
with hammer and chisel to make a way into this romantic gulf. In a few
days they constructed a rough but convenient plank gallery into the centre
of the _gouffre_, along its walls; and, on payment of a toll of half a
franc, any one can now enter the Gouffre des Busserailles.

I cannot, without a couple of sections and a plan, give an exact idea to
the reader of this remarkable place. It corresponds in some of its
features to the gorge figured upon page 96, but it exhibits in a much more
notable manner the characteristic action and extraordinary power of
running water. The length of the chasm or _gouffre_ is about 320 feet, and
from the top of its walls to the surface of the water is about 110 feet.
At no part can the entire length or depth be seen at a glance; for,
although the width at some places is 15 feet or more, the view is limited
by the sinuosities of the walls. These are everywhere polished to a
smooth, vitreous-in-appearance surface. In some places the torrent has
wormed into the rock, and has left natural bridges. The most extraordinary
features of the Gouffre des Busserailles, however, are the caverns (or
_marmites_ as they are termed), which the water has hollowed out of the
heart of the rock. Carrel’s plank path leads into one of the greatest,—a
grotto that is about 28 feet across at its largest diameter, and 15 or 16
feet high; roofed above by the living rock, and with the torrent roaring
50 feet or thereabouts below, at the bottom of a fissure. This cavern is
lighted by candles, and talking in it can only be managed by signs.

I visited the interior of the _gouffre_ in 1869, and my wonder at its
caverns was increased by observing the hardness of the hornblende out of
which they have been hollowed. Carrel chiselled off a large piece, which
is now lying before me. It has a highly polished, glassy surface, and
might be mistaken, for a moment, for ice-polished rock. But the water has
found out the atoms which were least hard, and it is dotted all over by
minute depressions, much as the face of one is who has suffered from
smallpox. The edges of these little hollows are _rounded_, and the whole
surfaces of the depressions are polished nearly, or quite, as highly as
the general surface of the fragment. The water has eaten more deeply into
some veins of steatite than in other places, and the presence of the
steatite may possibly have had something to do with the formation of the

I arrived at Breil again after an absence of six days, well satisfied with
my tour of the Matterhorn, which had been rendered very pleasant by the
willingness of my guides, and by the kindliness of the natives. Still, it
must be admitted that the inhabitants of the Val Tournanche are behind the
times. Their paths are as bad as, or worse than, they were in the time of
De Saussure, and their inns are much inferior to those on the Swiss side.
If it were otherwise there would be nothing to prevent the valley becoming
one of the most popular and frequented of all the valleys in the Alps. As
it is, tourists who enter it seem to think only about how soon they can
get out of it, and hence it is much less known than it deserves to be on
account of its natural attractions.

I believe that the great hindrance to the improvement of the paths in the
Italian valleys generally is the wide-spread impression that the
innkeepers would alone directly benefit by any amelioration of their
condition. To a certain extent this view is correct; but inasmuch as the
prosperity of the natives is connected with that of the innkeepers, the
interests of both are pretty nearly identical. Until their paths are
rendered less rough and swampy, I think the Italians must submit to see
the golden harvest principally reaped in Switzerland and Savoy. At the
same time, let the innkeepers look to the commissariat. Their supplies are
not unfrequently deficient in quantity, and, according to my experience,
very often deplorable in quality.

I will not venture to criticise in detail the dishes which are brought to
table, since I am profoundly ignorant of their constitution. It is
commonly said amongst Alpine tourists that goat flesh represents mutton,
and mule does service for beef and chamois. I reserve my own opinion upon
this point until it has been shown what becomes of all the dead mules. But
I may say, I hope, without wounding the susceptibilities of my
acquaintances among the Italian innkeepers, that it would tend to smoothen
their intercourse with their guests if requests for solid food were less
frequently regarded as criminal. The deprecating airs with which inquiries
for really substantial food are received always remind me of a Dauphiné
innkeeper, who remarked that he had heard a good many tourists travel in
Switzerland. “Yes,” I answered, “there are a good many.” “How many?”
“Well,” I said, “I have seen a hundred or more sit down at a table
d’hôte.” He lifted up his hands—“Why,” said he, “they would want meat
every day!” “Yes, that is not improbable.” “In that case,” he replied, “_I
think we are better without them_.”

                               CHAPTER VI.


            “But mighty Jove cuts short, with just disdain,
            The long, long views of poor, designing man.”

Carrel had _carte blanche_ in the matter of guides, and his choice fell
upon his relative Cæsar, Luc Meynet, and two others whose names I do not
know. These men were now brought together, and our preparations were
completed, as the weather was clearing up.

We rested on Sunday, August 9, eagerly watching the lessening of the mists
around the great peak, and started just before dawn upon the 10th, on a
still and cloudless morning, which seemed to promise a happy termination
to our enterprise.

By going always, though gently, we arrived upon the Col du Lion before
nine o’clock. Changes were apparent. Familiar ledges had vanished; the
platform, whereupon my tent had stood, looked very forlorn, its stones had
been scattered by wind and frost, and had half disappeared: and the summit
of the Col itself, which in 1862 had always been respectably broad, and
covered by snow, was now sharper than the ridge of any church roof, and
was hard ice. Already we had found that the bad weather of the past week
had done its work. The rocks for several hundred feet below the Col were
varnished with ice. Loose, incoherent snow covered the older and harder
beds below, and we nearly lost our leader through its treacherousness. He
stepped on some snow which seemed firm, and raised his axe to deliver a
swinging blow, but, just as it was highest, the crust of the slope upon
which he stood broke away, and poured down in serpentine streams, leaving
long, bare strips, which glittered in the sun, for they were glassy ice.
Carrel, with admirable readiness, flung himself back on to the rock off
which he had stepped, and was at once secured. He simply remarked, “It is
time we were tied up,” and, after we had been tied up, he went to work
again as if nothing had happened.(82)

We had abundant illustrations during the next two hours of the value of a
rope to climbers. We were tied up rather widely apart, and advanced,
generally, in pairs. Carrel, who led, was followed closely by another man,
who lent him a shoulder or placed an axe-head under his feet, when there
was need; and when this couple were well placed the second pair advanced,
in similar fashion,—the rope being drawn in by those above, and paid out
gradually by those below. The leading men again advanced, or the third
pair, and so on. This manner of progression was slow, but sure. One man
only moved at a time, and if he slipped (and we frequently did slip) he
could slide scarcely a foot without being checked by the others. The
certainty and safety of the method gave confidence to the one who was
moving, and not only nerved him to put out his powers to the utmost, but
sustained nerve in really difficult situations. For these rocks (which, it
has been already said, were easy enough under ordinary circumstances) were
now difficult in a high degree. The snow-water which had trickled down for
many days past in little streams, had taken, naturally, the very route by
which we wished to ascend; and, refrozen in the night, had glazed the
slabs over which we had to pass,—sometimes with a fine film of ice as thin
as a sheet of paper, and sometimes so thickly that we could almost cut
footsteps in it. The weather was superb, the men made light of the toil,
and shouted to rouse the echoes from the Dent d’Hérens.

We went on gaily, passed the second tent platform, the Chimney, and the
other well-remembered points, and reckoned, confidently, on sleeping that
night upon the top of “the shoulder;” but, before we had well arrived at
the foot of the Great Tower, a sudden rush of cold air warned us to look

It was difficult to say where this air came from; it did not blow as a
wind, but descended rather as the water in a shower-bath! All was tranquil
again; the atmosphere _showed_ no signs of disturbance; there was a dead
calm, and not a speck of cloud to be seen anywhere. But we did not remain
very long in this state. The cold air came again, and this time it was
difficult to say where it did _not_ come from. We jammed down our hats as
it beat against the ridge, and screamed amongst the crags. Before we had
got to the foot of the Tower, mists had been formed above and below. They
appeared at first in small, isolated patches (in several places at the
same time), which danced and jerked and were torn into shreds by the wind,
but grew larger under the process. They were united together, and rent
again,—showing us the blue sky for a moment, and blotting it out the next;
and augmented incessantly, until the whole heavens were filled with
whirling, boiling clouds. Before we could take off our packs, and get
under any kind of shelter, a hurricane of snow burst upon us from the
east. It fell very heavily, and in a few minutes the ridge was covered by
it. “What shall we do?” I shouted to Carrel. “Monsieur,” said he, “the
wind is bad; the weather has changed; we are heavily laden. Here is a fine
_gîte_; let us stop! If we go on we shall be half-frozen. That is _my_
opinion.” No one differed from him; so we fell to work to make a place for
the tent, and in a couple of hours completed the platform which we had
commenced in 1862. The clouds had blackened during that time, and we had
hardly finished our task before a thunderstorm broke upon us with
appalling fury. Forked lightning shot out at the turrets above, and at the
crags below. It was so close that we quailed at its darts. It seemed to
scorch us,—we were in the very focus of the storm. The thunder was
simultaneous with the flashes; short and sharp, and more like the noise of
a door that is violently slammed, multiplied a thousandfold, than any
noise to which I can compare it.

When I say that the thunder was _simultaneous_ with the lightning, I speak
as an inexact person. My meaning is that the time which elapsed between
seeing the flash and hearing the report was inappreciable to me. I wish to
speak with all possible precision, and there are two points with regard to
this storm upon which I can speak with some accuracy. The first is in
regard to the distance of the lightning from our party. We _might_ have
been 1100 feet from it if a second of time had elapsed between seeing the
flashes and hearing the reports; and a second of time is not appreciated
by inexact persons. It was certain that we were sometimes less than that
distance from the lightning, because I saw it pass in front of well-known
points on the ridge, both above and below us, which were less (sometimes
considerably less) than a thousand feet distant.

Secondly, in regard to the difficulty of distinguishing sounds which are
merely echoes from true thunder, or the noise which occurs simultaneously
with lightning. Arago entered into this subject at some length in his
_Meteorological Essays_, and seemed to doubt if it would ever be possible
to determine whether echoes are _always_ the cause of the rolling sounds
commonly called thunder.(83) I shall not attempt to show whether the
rolling sounds should ever, or never, be regarded as true thunder, but
only that during this storm upon the Matterhorn it was possible to
distinguish the sound of the thunder itself from the sounds (rolling and
otherwise) which were merely the echoes of the first, original sound.

At the place where we were camped a remarkable echo could be heard (one so
remarkable that if it could be heard in this country it would draw crowds
for its own sake); I believe it came from the cliffs of the Dent d’Hérens.
It was a favourite amusement with us to shout to rouse this echo, which
repeated any sharp cry, in a very distinct manner, several times, after
the lapse of something like a dozen seconds. The thunderstorm lasted
nearly two hours, and raged at times with great fury; and the prolonged
rollings from the surrounding mountains, after one flash, had not usually
ceased before another set of echoes took up the discourse, and maintained
the reverberations without a break. Occasionally there was a pause,
interrupted presently by a single clap, the accompaniment of a single
discharge, and after such times I could recognise the echoes from the Dent
d’Hérens by their peculiar repetitions, and by the length of time which
had passed since the reports had occurred of which they were the echoes.

If I had been unaware of the existence of this echo, I should have
supposed that the resounds were original reports of explosions which had
been unnoticed, since in intensity they were scarcely distinguishable from
the true thunder; which, during this storm, seemed to me, upon every
occasion, to consist of a single, harsh, instantaneous sound.(84)

Or if, instead of being placed at a distance of less than a thousand feet
from the points of explosion (and consequently hearing the report almost
in the same moment as we saw the flash, and the rollings after a
considerable interval of time), we had been placed so that the original
report had fallen on our ears nearly at the same moment as the echoes, we
should probably have considered that the successive reports and rollings
of the echoes were reports of successive explosions occurring nearly at
the same moment, and that they were not echoes at all.

This is the only time (out of many storms witnessed in the Alps) I have
obtained evidence that the rollings of thunder are actually echoes; and
that they are not, necessarily, the reports of a number of discharges over
a long line, occurring at varying distances from the spectator, and
consequently unable to arrive at his ear at the same moment, although they
follow each other so swiftly as to produce a sound more or less

The wind during all this time seemed to blow tolerably consistently from
the east. It smote the tent so vehemently (notwithstanding it was partly
protected by rocks) that we had grave fears our refuge might be blown away
bodily, with ourselves inside; so, during some of the lulls, we issued out
and built a wall to windward. At half-past three the wind changed to the
north-west, and the clouds vanished. We immediately took the opportunity
to send down one of the porters (under protection of some of the others, a
little beyond the Col du Lion), as the tent would accommodate only five
persons. From this time to sunset the weather was variable. It was
sometimes blowing and snowing hard, and sometimes a dead calm. The bad
weather was evidently confined to the Mont Cervin, for when the clouds
lifted we could see everything that could be seen from our gîte. Monte
Viso, a hundred miles off, was clear, and the sun set gorgeously behind
the range of Mont Blanc. We passed the night comfortably—even
luxuriously—in our blanket-bags, but there was little chance of sleeping,
between the noise of the wind, of the thunder, and of the falling rocks. I
forgave the thunder for the sake of the lightning. A more splendid
spectacle than its illumination of the Matterhorn crags I do not expect to

The greatest rock-falls always seemed to occur in the night, between
midnight and daybreak. This was noticeable on each of the seven nights
which I passed upon the south-west ridge, at heights varying from 11,800
to 13,000 feet.

I may be wrong in supposing that the falls in the night are greater than
those in the daytime, since sound is much more startling during darkness
than when the cause of its production is seen. Even a sigh may be terrible
in the stillness of the night. In the daytime one’s attention is probably
divided between the sound and the motion of rocks which fall; or it may be
concentrated on other matters. But it is certain that the greatest of the
falls which happened during the night took place after midnight, and this
I connect with the fact that the maximum of cold during any twenty-four
hours very commonly occurs between midnight and dawn.

We turned out at 3.30 A.M. on the 11th, and were dismayed to find that it
still continued to snow. At 9 A.M. it ceased to fall, and the sun showed
itself feebly, so we packed up our baggage, and set out to try to get upon
“the shoulder.” We struggled upwards until eleven o’clock, and then it
commenced to snow again. We held a council; the opinions expressed at it
were unanimous against advancing, and I decided to retreat. For we had
risen less than 300 feet in the past two hours, and had not even arrived
at the rope which Tyndall’s party left behind, attached to the rocks, in
1862. At the same rate of progression it would have taken us from four to
five hours to get upon “the shoulder.” Not one of us cared to attempt to
do so under the existing circumstances; for besides having to move our own
weight, which was sufficiently troublesome at this part of the ridge, we
had to transport much heavy baggage, tent, blankets, and provisions,
ladder, and 450 feet of rope, besides many other smaller matters. These,
however, were not the most serious considerations. Supposing that we got
upon “the shoulder,” we might find ourselves detained there several days,
unable either to go up or down.(87) I could not risk any such detention,
being under obligations to appear in London at the end of the week.

                             AUG. 10, 1863.]

We returned to Breil in the course of the afternoon. It was quite fine
there, and the tenants of the inn received our statements with evident
scepticism. They were astonished to learn that we had been exposed to a
snow-storm of twenty-six hours’ duration. “Why,” said Favre, the
innkeeper, “_we_ have had no snow; it has been fine all the time you have
been absent, and there has been only that small cloud upon the mountain.”
Ah! that small cloud! None except those who have had experience of it can
tell what a formidable obstacle it is.

                     [Illustration: MONSIEUR FAVRE.]

Why is it that the Matterhorn is subject to these abominable variations of
weather? The ready answer is, “Oh, the mountain is so isolated; it
attracts the clouds.” This is not a sufficient answer. Although the
mountain _is_ isolated, it is not so much more isolated than the
neighbouring peaks that it should gather clouds when none of the others do
so. It will not at all account for the cloud to which I refer, which is
not formed by an aggregation of smaller, stray clouds drawn together from
a distance (as scum collects round a log in the water), but is created
against the mountain itself, and springs into existence where no clouds
were seen before. It is formed and hangs chiefly against the southern
sides, and particularly against the south-eastern side. It frequently does
not envelop the summit, and rarely extends down to the Glacier du Lion,
and to the Glacier du Mont Cervin below. It forms in the finest weather;
on cloudless and windless days.

I conceive that we should look to differences of temperature rather than
to the height or isolation of the mountain for an explanation. I am
inclined to attribute the disturbances which occur in the atmosphere of
the southern sides of the Matterhorn on fine days,(88) principally to the
fact that the mountain is a _rock_ mountain; that it receives a great
amount of heat,(89) and is not only warmer itself, but is surrounded by an
atmosphere of a higher temperature than such peaks as the Weisshorn and
the Lyskamm, which are eminently _snow_ mountains.

In certain states of the atmosphere its temperature may be tolerably
uniform over wide areas and to great elevations. I have known the
thermometer to show 70° in the shade at the top of an Alpine peak more
than 13,000 feet high, and but a very few degrees higher 6000 or 7000 feet
lower. At other times, there will be a difference of forty or fifty
degrees (Faht.) between two stations, the higher not more than 6000 or
7000 feet above the lower.

Provided that the temperature was uniform, or nearly so, on all sides of
the Matterhorn, and to a considerable distance above its summit, no clouds
would be likely to form upon it. But if the atmosphere immediately
surrounding it is warmer than the contiguous strata, a local “courant
ascendant” must necessarily be generated; and portions of the cooler
superincumbent (or circumjacent) air will naturally be attracted towards
the mountain, where they will speedily condense the moisture of the warm
air in contact with it. I cannot explain the downrushes of cold air which
occur on it, when all the rest of the neighbourhood appears to be
tranquil, in any other way. The clouds are produced by the contact of two
strata of air (of widely different temperatures) charged with invisible
moisture, as surely as certain colourless fluids produce a white, turbid
liquid, when mixed together. The order has been—wind of a low
temperature—mist—rain—snow or hail.(90)

This opinion is borne out to some extent by the behaviour of the
neighbouring mountains. The Dom (14,935 feet) and the Dent Blanche
(14,318) have both of them large cliffs of bare rock upon their southern
sides, and against those cliffs clouds commonly form (during fine, still
weather) at the same time as the cloud on the Matterhorn; whilst the
Weisshorn (14,804) and the Lyskamm (14,889), (mountains of about the same
altitude, and which are in corresponding situations to the former pair)
usually remain perfectly clear.

                  [Illustration: CROSSING THE CHANNEL.]

I arrived at Chatillon at midnight on the 11th, defeated and disconsolate;
but, like a gambler who loses each throw, only the more eager to have
another try, to see if the luck would change: and returned to London ready
to devise fresh combinations, and to form new plans.

                               CHAPTER VII.


            “The more to help the greater deed is done.”

When we arrived upon the highest summit of Mont Pelvoux, in Dauphiné, in
1861, we saw, to our surprise and disappointment, that it was not the
culminating point of the district; and that another mountain—distant about
a couple of miles, and separated from us by an impassable gulf—claimed
that distinction. I was troubled in spirit about this mountain, and my
thoughts often reverted to the great wall-sided peak, second in apparent
inaccessibility only to the Matterhorn. It had, moreover, another claim to
attention—it was the highest mountain IN France.

The year 1862 passed away without a chance of getting to it, and my
holiday was too brief in 1863 even to think about it; but in the following
year it was possible, and I resolved to set my mind at rest by completing
the task which had been left unfinished in 1861.

In the meantime others had turned their attention to Dauphiné. First of
all (in 1862) came Mr. F. Tuckett—that mighty mountaineer, whose name is
known throughout the length and breadth of the Alps—with the guides Michel
Croz, Peter Perrn, and Bartolommeo Peyrotte, and great success attended
his arms. But Mr. Tuckett halted before the Pointe des Ecrins, and,
dismayed by its appearance, withdrew his forces to gather less dangerous
laurels elsewhere.

His expedition, however, threw some light upon the Ecrins. He pointed out
the direction from which an attack was most likely to be successful, and
Mr. William Mathews and the Rev. T. G. Bonney (to whom he communicated the
result of his labours) attempted to execute the ascent, with the brothers
Michel and J. B. Croz, by following his indications. But they too were
defeated, as I shall relate more particularly presently.

               [Illustration: MICHEL-AUGUSTE CROZ (1865).]

The guide Michel Croz had thus been engaged in both of these expeditions
in Dauphiné, and I naturally looked to him for assistance. Mr. Mathews (to
whom I applied for information) gave him a high character, and concluded
his reply to me by saying, “he was only happy when upwards of 10,000 feet

I know what my friend meant. Croz was happiest when he was employing his
powers to the utmost. Places where you and I would “toil and sweat, and
yet be freezing cold,” were bagatelles to him, and it was only when he got
above the range of ordinary mortals, and was required to employ his
magnificent strength, and to draw upon his unsurpassed knowledge of ice
and snow, that he could be said to be really and truly happy.

Of all the guides with whom I travelled, Michel Croz was the man who was
most after my own heart. He did not work like a blunt razor, and take to
his toil unkindly. He did not need urging, or to be told a second time to
do anything. You had but to say _what_ was to be done, and _how_ it was to
be done, and the work _was_ done, if it was possible. Such men are not
common, and when they are known they are valued. Michel was not widely
known, but those who did know him employed him again and again. The
inscription that is placed upon his tomb truthfully records that he was
“beloved by his comrades and esteemed by travellers.”

At the time that I was planning my journey, my friends Messrs. A. W. Moore
and Horace Walker were also drawing up their programme; and, as we found
that our wishes were very similar, we agreed to unite our respective
parties. The excursions which are described in this and the two following
chapters are mutual ideas which were jointly executed.

Our united programme was framed so as to avoid sleeping in inns, and so
that we should see from the highest point attained on one day a
considerable portion of the route which was intended to be followed on the
next. This latter matter was an important one to us, as all of our
projected excursions were new ones, and led over ground about which there
was very little information in print.

My friends had happily secured Christian Almer of Grindelwald as their
guide. The combination of Croz and Almer was a perfect one. Both men were
in the prime of life;(91) both were endued with strength and activity far
beyond the average; and the courage and the knowledge of each was alike
undoubted. The temper of Almer it was impossible to ruffle; he was ever
obliging and enduring,—a bold but a safe man. That which he lacked in
fire—in dash—was supplied by Croz, who, in his turn, was kept in place by
Almer. It is pleasant to remember how they worked together, and how each
one confided to you that he liked the other so much because he worked so
well; but it is sad, very sad, to those who have known the men, to know
that they can never work together again.

We met at St. Michel on the Mont Cenis road, at midday on June 20, 1864,
and proceeded in the afternoon over the Col de Valloires to the village of
the same name. The summit of this pretty little pass is about 3500 feet
above St. Michel, and from it we had a fair view of the Aiguilles d’Arve,
a group of three peaks of singular form, which it was our especial object
to investigate.(92) They had been seen by ourselves and others from
numerous distant points, and always looked very high and very
inaccessible; but we had been unable to obtain any information about them,
except the few words in Joanne’s _Itinéraire du Dauphiné_. Having made out
from the summit of the Col de Valloires that they could be approached from
the Valley of Valloires, we hastened down to find a place where we could
pass the night, as near as possible to the entrance of the little valley
leading up to them.

By nightfall we arrived at the entrance to this little valley (Vallon des
Aiguilles d’Arve), and found some buildings placed just where they were
wanted. The proprietress received us with civility, and placed a large
barn at our disposal, on the conditions that no lights were struck or
pipes smoked therein; and when her terms were agreed to, she took us into
her own chalet, made up a huge fire, heated a gallon of milk, and treated
us with genuine hospitality.

In the morning we found that the Vallon des Aiguilles d’Arve led away
nearly due west from the Valley of Valloires, and that the village of
Bonnenuit was placed (in the latter valley) almost exactly opposite to the
junction of the two.

At 3.55 A.M. on the 21st we set out up the Vallon, passed for a time over
pasture-land, and then over a stony waste, deeply channelled by
watercourses. At 5.30 the two principal Aiguilles were well seen, and as,
by this time, it was evident that the authors of the Sardinian official
map had romanced as extensively in this neighbourhood as elsewhere, it was
necessary to hold a council.

                    [Illustration: Plan to show route]

Three questions were submitted to it:—Firstly, Which is the highest of
these Aiguilles? Secondly, Which shall we go up? Thirdly, How is it to be

The French engineers, it was said, had determined that the two highest of
them were respectively 11,513 and 11,529 feet in height; but we were
without information as to which two they had measured.(93) Joanne indeed
said (but without specifying whether he meant all three) that the
Aiguilles had been several times ascended, and particularly mentioned that
the one of 11,513 feet was “relatively easy.”

We therefore said, “We will go up the peak of 11,529 feet.” That
determination did not settle the second question. Joanne’s “relatively
easy” peak, according to his description, was evidently the most northern
of the three. _Our_ peak then was to be one of the other two;—but which of
them? We were inclined to favour the central one; but it was hard to
determine, they looked so equal in height. When, however, the council came
to study the third question—“How is it to be done?” it was unanimously
voted that upon the eastern and southern sides it was certainly
“relatively” difficult, and that a move should be made round to the
northern side.

The movement was duly executed, and after wading up some snow-slopes of
considerable steepness (going occasionally beyond 40°), we found ourselves
in a gap or nick, between the central and northernmost Aiguille, at 8.45
A.M. We then studied the northern face of our intended peak, and finally
arrived at the conclusion that it was “relatively” impracticable. Croz
shrugged his big shoulders, and said, “My faith! I think you will do well
to leave it to others.” Almer was more explicit, and volunteered the
information that a thousand francs would not tempt him to _try_ it. We
then turned to the northernmost peak, but found its southern faces even
more hopeless than the northern faces of the central one. We enjoyed
accordingly the unwonted luxury of a three-hours’ rest on the top of our
pass; for pass we were determined it should be.

We might have done worse. We were 10,300 or 10,400 feet above the level of
the sea, and commanded a most picturesque view of the mountains of the
Tarentaise; while, somewhat east of south, we saw the monarch of the
Dauphiné _massif_, whose closer acquaintance it was our intention to make.
Three sunny hours passed away, and then we turned to the descent. We saw
the distant pastures of a valley (which we supposed was the Vallon or
Ravine de la Sausse), and a long snow-slope leading down to them. But from
that slope we were cut off by precipitous rocks, and our first impression
was that we should have to return in our track. Some running up and down,
however, discovered two little gullies, filled with threads of snow, and
down the most northern of these we decided to go. It was a steep way but a
safe one, for the cleft was so narrow that we could press the shoulder
against one side whilst the feet were against the other, and the last
remnant of the winter’s snow, well hardened, clung to the rift with great
tenacity, and gave us a path when the rocks refused one. In half-an-hour
we got to the top of the great snow-slope. Walker said—“Let us glissade;”
the guides—“No, it is too steep.” Our friend, however, started off at a
standing glissade, and advanced for a time very skilfully; but after a
while he lost his balance, and progressed downwards and backwards with
great rapidity, in a way that seemed to us very much like tumbling head
over heels. He let go his axe, and left it behind, but it overtook him and
batted him heartily. He and it travelled in this fashion for some hundreds
of feet, and at last subsided into the rocks at the bottom. In a few
moments we were reassured as to his safety, by hearing him ironically
request us not to keep him waiting down there.

                             SHOWING ROUTE.]

We others followed the track shown by the dotted line upon the engraving
(making zigzags to avoid the little groups of rocks which jutted through
the snow, by which Walker had been upset), descended by a _sitting_
glissade, and rejoined our friend at the bottom. We then turned sharply to
the left, and tramped down the summit ridge of an old moraine of great
size. Its mud was excessively hard, and where some large erratic blocks
lay perched upon its crest, we were obliged to cut steps (in the mud) with
our ice-axes.

Guided by the sound of a distant “moo,” we speedily found the highest
chalets in the valley, named Rieu Blanc. They were tenanted by three old
women (who seemed to belong to one of the missing links sought by
naturalists), destitute of all ideas except in regard to cows, and who
spoke a barbarous patois, well-nigh unintelligible to the Savoyard Croz.
They would not believe that we had passed between the Aiguilles,—“It is
impossible, the _cows_ never go there.” “Could we get to La Grave over
yonder ridge?” “Oh yes! the _cows_ often crossed!” Could they show us the
way? No; but we could follow the _cow_-tracks.

We stayed a while near these chalets, to examine the western sides of the
Aiguilles d’Arve, and, according to our united opinion, the central one
was as inaccessible from this direction as from the east, north, or south.
On the following day we saw them again, from a height of about 11,000
feet, in a south-easterly direction, and our opinion remained unchanged.

We saw (on June 20-22) the central Aiguille from all sides, and very
nearly completely round the southernmost one. The northern one we also saw
on all sides excepting from the north. (It is, however, precisely from
this direction M. Joanne says that its ascent is relatively easy.) We do
not, therefore, venture to express any opinion respecting its ascent,
except as regards its actual summit. This is formed of two curious prongs,
or pinnacles of rock, and we do not understand in what way they (or either
of them) can be ascended; nor shall we be surprised if this ascent is
discovered to have been made in spirit rather than body; in fact, in the
same manner as the celebrated ascent of Mont Blanc, “not entirely to the
summit, but as far as the Montanvert!”

All three of the Aiguilles _may_ be accessible, but they _look_ as
inaccessible as anything I have seen. They are the highest summits between
the valleys of the Romanche and the Arc; they are placed slightly to the
north of the watershed between those two valleys, and a line drawn through
them runs, pretty nearly, north and south.

We descended by a rough path from Rieu Blanc to the chalets of La Sausse,
which give the name to the Vallon or Ravine de la Sausse, in which they
are situated. This is one of the numerous branches of the valley that
descends to St. Jean d’Arve, and subsequently to St. Jean de Maurienne.

Two passes, more or less known, lead from this valley to the village of La
Grave (on the Lautaret road) in the valley of the Romanche, viz.:—the Col
de l’Infernet and the Col de Martignare. The former pass was crossed, many
years ago, by J. D. Forbes, and was mentioned by him in his _Norway and
its Glaciers_. The latter one lies to the north of the former, and is
seldom traversed by tourists, but it was convenient for us, and we set out
to cross it on the morning of the 22d, after having passed a comfortable,
but not luxurious, night in the hay, at La Sausse, where, however, the
simplicity of the accommodation was more than counterbalanced by the
civility and hospitality of the people in charge.(94)

[Our object now was to cross to La Grave (on the high road from Grenoble
to Briançon), and to ascend, _en route_, some point sufficiently high to
give us a good view of the Dauphiné Alps in general, and of the grand
chain of the Meije in particular. Before leaving England a careful study
of “Joanne” had elicited the fact that the shortest route from La Sausse
to La Grave was by the Col de Martignare; and also that from the aforesaid
Col it was possible to ascend a lofty summit, called by him the
Bec-du-Grenier, also called Aiguille de Goléon. On referring, however, to
the Sardinian survey, we found there depicted, to the east of the Col de
Martignare, not _one_ peak bearing the above _two_ names, but _two
distinct summits_; one—just above the Col—the Bec-du-Grenier (the height
of which was not stated); the other, still farther to the east, and
somewhat to the south of the watershed—the Aiguille du Goléon (11,250
English feet in height), with a very considerable glacier—the Glacier
Lombard—between the two. On the French map,(95) on the other hand, neither
of the above names was to be found, but a peak called Aiguille de la
Sausse (10,897 feet), was placed in the position assigned to the
Bec-du-Grenier in the Sardinian map; while farther to the east was a
second and nameless peak (10,841), not at all in the position given to the
Aiguille du Goléon, of which and of the Glacier Lombard there was not a
sign. All this was very puzzling and unsatisfactory; but as we had no
doubt of being able to climb one of the points to the east of the Col de
Martignare (which overhung the Ravine de la Sausse), we determined to make
that col the basis of our operations.](96)

We left the chalets at 4.15 A.M. [under a shower of good wishes from our
hostesses], proceeded at first towards the upper end of the ravine, then
doubled back up a long buttress which projects in an unusual way, and went
towards the Col de Martignare; but before arriving at its summit we again
doubled, and resumed the original course.(97) At 6 A.M. we stood on the
watershed, and followed it towards the east; keeping for some distance
strictly to the ridge, and afterwards diverging a little to the south to
avoid a considerable secondary aiguille, which prevented a straight track
being made to the summit at which we were aiming. At 9.15 we stood on its
top, and saw at once the lay of the land.

We found that our peak was one of four which enclosed a plateau that was
filled by a glacier. Let us call these summits *A*, *B*, *C*, *D* (see
plan on p. 128). We stood upon *C*, which was almost exactly the same
elevation as *B*, but was higher than *D*, and lower than *A*. Peak *A*
was the highest of the four, and was about 200 feet higher than *B* and
*C*; we identified it as the Aiguille de Goléon (French survey, 11,250
feet). Peak *D* we considered was the Bec-du-Grenier; and, in default of
other names, we called *B* and *C* the Aiguilles de la Sausse. The glacier
flowed in a south-easterly direction, and was the Glacier Lombard.

Peaks *B* and *C* overhung the Ravine de la Sausse, and were connected
with another aiguille—*E*—which did the same. A continuation of the ridge
out of which these three aiguilles rose joined the Aiguilles d’Arve. The
head of the Ravine de la Sausse was therefore encircled by six peaks;
three of which it was convenient to term the Aiguilles de la Sausse, and
the others were the Aiguilles d’Arve.

We were very fortunate in the selection of our summit. Not to speak of
other things, it gave a grand view of the ridge which culminates in the
peak called La Meije (13,080 feet), which used to be mentioned by
travellers under the name Aiguille du Midi de la Grave. The view of this
mountain from the village of La Grave itself can hardly be praised too
highly,—it is one of the very finest road-views in the Alps. The Ortler
Spitz from the Stelvio is, in fact, its only worthy competitor; and the
opinions generally of those who have seen the two views are in favour of
the former. But from La Grave one can no more appreciate the noble
proportions and the towering height of the Meije, than understand the
symmetry of the dome of St. Paul’s by gazing upon it from the churchyard.
To see it fairly, one must be placed at a greater distance and at a
greater height.

I shall not try to describe the Meije. The same words, and the same
phrases, have to do duty for one and another mountain; their repetition
becomes wearisome; and ’tis a discouraging fact that any description,
however true or however elaborated, seldom or never gives an idea of the

Yet the Meije deserves more than a passing notice. It was the last great
Alpine peak which knew the foot of man, and one can scarcely speak in
exaggerated terms of its jagged ridges, torrential glaciers, and
tremendous precipices.(98) But were I to discourse upon these things
without the aid of pictures, or to endeavour to convey in _words_ a sense
of the loveliness of _curves_, of the beauty of _colour_, or of the
harmonies of _sound_, I should try to accomplish that which is impossible;
and, at the best, should succeed in but giving an impression that the
things spoken of may have been pleasant to hear or to behold, although
they are perfectly incomprehensible to read about. Let me therefore avoid
these things, not because I have no love for or thought of them, but
because they cannot be translated into language; and presently, when
topographical details must, of necessity, be returned to again, I will
endeavour to relieve the poverty of the pen by a free use of the pencil.

Whilst we sat upon the Aiguille de la Sausse, our attention was
concentrated on a point that was immediately opposite—on a gap or cleft
between the Meije and the mountain called the Rateau. It was, indeed, in
order to have a good view of this place that we made the ascent of the
Aiguille. It (that is the gap itself) looked, as my companions remarked,
obtrusively and offensively a pass. It had not been crossed, but it ought
to have been; and this seemed to have been recognised by the natives, who
called it, very appropriately, the Brèche de la Meije.

I had seen the place in 1860, and again in 1861, but had not then thought
about getting through it; and our information in respect to it was chiefly
derived from a photographic reproduction of the then unpublished sheet
189, of the great map of France, which Mr. Tuckett, with his usual
liberality, had placed at our disposal. It was evident from this map that
if we could succeed in passing the Brèche, we should make the most direct
route between the village of La Grave and that of Bérarde in the
Department of the Isère, and that the distance between these two places by
this route, would be less than one-third that of the ordinary way via the
villages of Freney and Venos. It may occur to some of my readers, why had
it not been done before? For the very sound reason that the valley on its
southern side (Vallon des Etançons) is uninhabited, and La Bérarde itself
is a miserable village, without interest, without commerce, and almost
without population. Why then did we wish to cross it? Because we were
bound to the Pointe des Ecrins, to which La Bérarde was the nearest
inhabited place.

When we sat upon the Aiguille de la Sausse, we were rather despondent
about our prospects of crossing the Brèche, which seemed to present a
combination of all that was formidable. There was, evidently, but one way
by which it could be approached. We saw that at the top of the pass there
was a steep wall of snow or ice (so steep that it was most likely ice)
protected at its base by a big schrund or moat, which severed it from the
snow-fields below. Then (tracking our course downwards) we saw undulating
snow-fields leading down to a great glacier. The snow-fields would be easy
work, but the glacier was riven and broken in every direction; huge
crevasses seemed to extend entirely across it in some places, and
everywhere it had that strange twisted look, which tells of the unequal
motion of the ice. Where could we get on to it? At its base it came to a
violent end, being cut short by a cliff, over which it poured periodical
avalanches, as we saw by a great triangular bed of débris below. We could
not venture there,—the glacier must be taken in flank. But on which side?
Not on the west,—no one could climb those cliffs. It must, if any where,
be by the rocks on the east; and _they_ looked as if they were _roches

So we hurried down to La Grave, to hear what Melchior Anderegg (who had
just passed through the village with the family of our friend Walker) had
to say on the matter. Who is Melchior Anderegg? Those who ask the question
cannot have been in Alpine Switzerland, where the name of Melchior is as
well known as the name of Napoleon. Melchior, too, is an Emperor in his
way—a very Prince among guides. His empire is amongst the “eternal
snows,”—his sceptre is an ice-axe.

Melchior Anderegg, more familiarly, and perhaps more generally known
simply as Melchior, was born at Zaun, near Meiringen, on April 6, 1828. He
was first brought into public notice in Hinchcliff’s _Summer Months in the
Alps_, and was known to very few persons at the time that little work was
published. In 1855 he was “Boots” at the Grimsel Hotel, and in those days,
when he went out on expeditions, it was for the benefit of his master, the
proprietor; Melchior himself only got the _trinkgelt_. In 1856 he migrated
to the Schwarenbach Inn on the Gemmi, where he employed his time in
carving objects for sale. In 1858 he made numerous expeditions with
Messrs. Hinchcliff and Stephen, and proved to his employers that he
possessed first-rate skill, indomitable courage, and an admirable
character. His position has never been doubtful since that year, and for a
long time there has been no guide whose services have been more in
request: he is usually engaged a year in advance.

It would be almost an easier task to say what he has not done than to
catalogue his achievements. Invariable success attends his arms; he leads
his followers to victory, but not to death. I believe that no serious
accident has ever befallen travellers in his charge. Like his friend
Almer, he can be called a _safe_ man. It is the highest praise that can be
given to a first-rate guide.

                [Illustration: MELCHIOR ANDEREGG IN 1864.]

Early in the afternoon we found ourselves in the little inn at La Grave,
on the great Lautaret road, a rickety, tumble-down sort of place, with
nothing stable about it, as Moore wittily remarked, except the smell.(99)
Melchior had gone, and had left behind a note which said, “I think the
passage of the Brèche is possible, but that it will be very difficult.”
His opinion coincided with ours, and we went to sleep, expecting to be
afoot about eighteen or twenty hours on the morrow.

At 2.40 the next morning we left La Grave, in a few minutes crossed the
Romanche, and at 4 A.M. got to the moraine of the eastern branch of the
glacier that descends from the Brèche.(100) The rocks by which we intended
to ascend were placed between the two branches of this glacier, and still
looked smooth and unbroken. By 5 o’clock we were upon them, and saw that
we had been deluded by them. No carpenter could have planned a more
convenient staircase. They were _not moutonnée_, their smooth look from a
distance was only owing to their singular firmness. [It was really quite a
pleasure to scale such delightful rocks. We felt the stone held the boot
so well, that, without making a positive effort to do so, it would be
almost impossible to slip.] In an hour we had risen above the most
crevassed portion of the glacier, and began to look for a way on to it.
Just at the right place there was a patch of old snow at the side, and,
instead of gaining the ice by desperate acrobatic feats, we passed from
the rocks on to it as easily as one walks across a gangway. At half-past 6
we were on the centre of the glacier, and the inhabitants of La Grave
turned out _en masse_ into the road, and watched us with amazement as they
witnessed the falsification of their confident predictions. Well might
they stare, for our little caravan, looking to them like a train of flies
on a wall, crept up and up, without hesitation and without a halt—lost to
their sight one minute as it dived into a crevasse, then seen again
clambering up the other side. The higher we rose the easier became the
work, the angles lessened, and our pace increased. The snow remained
shadowed, and we walked as easily as on a high road; and when (at 7.45)
the summit of the Brèche was seen, we rushed at it as furiously as if it
had been a breach in the wall of a fortress, carried the moat by a dash,
with a push behind and a pull before, stormed the steep slope above, and
at 8.50 stood in the little gap, 11,054 feet above the level of the sea.
The Brèche was won. Well might they stare; five hours and a quarter had
sufficed for 6500 feet of ascent.(101) We screamed triumphantly as they
turned in to breakfast.

           [Illustration: Map of the Brèche de la Meije, etc.]

All mountaineers know how valuable it is to study beforehand an intended
route over new ground from a height at some distance. None but blunderers
fail to do so, if it is possible; and one cannot do so too thoroughly. As
a rule, the closer one approaches underneath a summit, the more difficult
it is to pick out a path with judgment. Inferior peaks seem unduly
important, subordinate ridges are exalted, and slopes conceal points
beyond; and if one blindly undertakes an ascent, without having acquired a
tolerable notion of the relative importance of the parts, and of their
positions to one another, it will be miraculous if great difficulties are
not encountered.

But although the examination of an intended route from a height at a
distance will tell one (who knows the meaning of the things he is looking
at) a good deal, and will enable him to steer clear of many difficulties
against which he might otherwise blindly run, it will seldom allow one to
pronounce positively upon the practicability or impracticability of the
whole of the route. No living man, for example, can pronounce positively
from a distance in regard to rocks. Those just mentioned are an
illustration of this. Three of the ablest and most experienced guides
concurred in thinking that they would be found very difficult, and yet
they presented no difficulty whatever. In truth, the sounder and less
broken up are the rocks, the more impracticable do they usually look from
a distance; while soft and easily rent rocks, which are often amongst the
most difficult and perilous to climb, very frequently look from afar as if
they might be traversed by a child.

It is possible to decide with greater certainty in regard to the
practicability of glaciers. When one is seen to have few open crevasses
(and this may be told from a great distance), then we know that it is
_possible_ to traverse it; but to what extent it, or a glacier that is
much broken up by crevasses, will be troublesome, will depend upon the
width and length of the crevasses, and upon the angles of the surface of
the glacier itself. A glacier may be greatly crevassed, but the fissures
may be so narrow that there is no occasion to deviate from a straight line
when passing across them; or a glacier may have few open crevasses, and
yet may be practically impassable on account of the steepness of the
angles of its surface. Nominally, a man with an axe can go anywhere upon a
glacier, but in practice it is found that to move freely upon ice one must
have to deal only with small angles. It is thus necessary to know
approximately the angles of the surfaces of a glacier before it is
possible to determine whether it will afford easy travelling, or will be
so difficult as to be (for all practical purposes) impassable. This cannot
be told by looking at glaciers in full face from a distance; they must be
seen in profile; and it is often desirable to examine them both from the
front and in profile,—to do the first to study the direction of the
crevasses, to note where they are most and least numerous; and the second
to see whether its angles are moderate or great. Should they be very
steep, it may be better to avoid them altogether, and to mount even by
difficult rocks; but upon glaciers of _gentle_ inclination, and with few
open crevasses, better progress can always be made than upon the _easiest_

So much to explain why we were deceived when looking at the Brèche de la
Meije from the Aiguille de la Sausse. We took note of all the
difficulties, but did not pay sufficient attention to the distance that
the Brèche was south of La Grave. My meaning will be apparent from the
accompanying diagram, Fig. 1 (constructed upon the data supplied by the
French surveyors), which will also serve to illustrate how badly angles of
elevation are judged by the unaided eye.

      [Illustration: Diagram to show angle of summit of Meije, etc.]

The village of La Grave is just 5000 feet, and the highest summit of the
Meije is 13,080 feet above the level of the sea. There is therefore a
difference in their levels of 8080 feet. But the summit of the Meije is
south of La Grave about 14,750 feet, and, consequently, a line drawn from
La Grave to the summit of the Meije is no steeper than the dotted line
drawn from *A* to *C*, Fig. 1; or, in other words, if one could go in a
direct line from La Grave to the summit of the Meije the ascent would be
at an angle of less than 30°. Nine persons out of ten would probably
estimate the angle on the spot at double this amount.(102)

The Brèche is 2000 feet below the summit of the Meije, and only 6000 feet
above La Grave. A direct ascent from the village to the Brèche would
consequently be at an angle of not much more than 20°. But it is not
possible to make the ascent as the crow flies; it has to be made by an
indirect and much longer route. Our track was probably double the length
of a direct line between the two places. Doubling the length halved the
angles, and we therefore arrive at the somewhat amazing conclusion, that
upon this, one of the steepest passes in the Alps, the mean of all the
angles upon the ascent could not have been greater than 11° or 12°. Of
course, in some places, the angles were much steeper, and in others less,
but the _mean_ of the whole could not have passed the angle above


We did not trouble ourselves much with these matters when we sat on the
top of the Brèche. Our day’s work was as good as over (for we knew from
Messrs. Mathews and Bonney that there was no difficulty upon the other
side), and we abandoned ourselves to ease and luxury; wondering,
alternately, as we gazed upon the Rateau and the Ecrins, how the one
mountain could possibly hold itself together, and whether the other would
hold out against us. The former looked [so rotten that it seemed as if a
puff of wind or a clap of thunder might dash the whole fabric to pieces];
while the latter asserted itself the monarch of the group, and towered
head and shoulders above all the rest of the peaks which form the great
horse-shoe of Dauphiné. At length a cruel rush of cold air made us shiver,
and shift our quarters to a little grassy plot, 3000 feet below—an oasis
in a desert—where we lay nearly four hours admiring the splendid wall of
the Meije.(104) Then we tramped down the Vallon des Etançons, a howling
wilderness, the abomination of desolation; destitute alike of animal or
vegetable life; pathless, of course; suggestive of chaos, but of little
else; covered almost throughout its entire length with débris from the
size of a walnut up to that of a house; in a word, it looked as if
half-a-dozen moraines of first-rate dimensions had been carted and shot
into it. Our tempers were soured by constant pitfalls [it was impossible
to take the eyes from the feet, and if an unlucky individual so much as
blew his nose, without standing still to perform the operation, the result
was either an instantaneous tumble, or a barked shin, or a half-twisted
ankle. There was no end to it, and we became more savage at every step,
unanimously agreeing that no power on earth would ever induce us to walk
up or down this particular valley again.] It was not just to the valley,
which was enclosed by noble mountains,—unknown, it is true, but worthy of
a great reputation, and which, if placed in other districts, would be
sought after, and cited as types of daring form and graceful outline.(105)

                               CHAPTER VIII


           “Filled with high mountains, rearing their heads as if to reach
               to heaven, crowned with glaciers, and fissured with immense
            chasms, where lie the eternal snows guarded by bare and rugged
                 cliffs; offering the most varied sights, and enjoying all
          temperatures; and containing everything that is most curious and
               interesting, the most simple and the most sublime, the most
              smiling and the most severe, the most beautiful and the most
                         awful; such is the department of the High Alps.”

Before 5 o’clock on the afternoon of June 23, we were trotting down the
steep path that leads into La Bérarde. We put up, of course, with the
chasseur-guide Rodier (who, as usual, was smooth and smiling), and, after
congratulations were over, we returned to the exterior to watch for the
arrival of one Alexander Pic, who had been sent overnight with our baggage
_viâ_ Freney and Venos. But when the night fell, and no Pic appeared, we
saw that our plans must be modified; for he was necessary to our very
existence—he carried our food, our tobacco, our all. So, after some
discussion, it was agreed that a portion of our programme should be
abandoned, that the night of the 24th should be passed at the head of the
Glacier de la Bonne Pierre, and that, on the 25th, a push should be made
for the summit of the Ecrins. We then went to straw.

Our porter Pic strolled in next morning with a very jaunty air, and we
seized upon our tooth-brushes; but, upon looking for the cigars, we found
starvation staring us in the face. “Hullo! Monsieur Pic, where are our
cigars?” “Gentlemen,” he began, “I am desolated!” and then, quite pat, he
told a long rigmarole about a fit on the road, of brigands, thieves, of
their ransacking the knapsacks when he was insensible, and of finding them
gone when he revived! “Ah! Monsieur Pic, we see what it is, you have
smoked them yourself!” “Gentlemen, I never smoke, _never_!” Whereupon we
inquired secretly if he was known to smoke, and found that he was.
However, he said that he had never spoken truer words, and perhaps he had
not, for he is reported to be the greatest liar in Dauphiné!

             [Illustration: Map of the central Dauphiné Alps]

We were now able to start, and set out at 1.15 P.M. to bivouac upon the
Glacier de la Bonne Pierre, accompanied by Rodier, who staggered under a
load of blankets. Many slopes had to be mounted, and many torrents to be
crossed, all of which has been described by Mr. Tuckett.(106) We, however,
avoided the difficulties he experienced with the latter by crossing them
high up, where they were subdivided. But when we got on to the moraine on
the right bank of the glacier (or, properly speaking, on to one of the
moraines, for there are several), mists descended, to our great hindrance;
and it was 5.30 before we arrived on the spot at which it was intended to

Each one selected his nook, and we then joined round a grand fire made by
our men. Fortnum and Mason’s portable soup was sliced up and brewed, and
was excellent; but it should be said that before it _was_ excellent, three
times the quantity named in the directions had to be used. Art is required
in drinking as in making this soup, and one point is this—always let your
friends drink first; not only because it is more polite, but because the
soup has a tendency to burn the mouth if taken too hot, and one drink of
the bottom is worth two of the top, as all the goodness settles.

[While engaged in these operations, the mist that enveloped the glacier
and surrounding peaks was becoming thinner; little bits of blue sky
appeared here and there, until suddenly, when we were looking towards the
head of the glacier, far, far above us, at an almost inconceivable height,
in a tiny patch of blue, appeared a wonderful rocky pinnacle, bathed in
the beams of the fast-sinking sun. We were so electrified by the glory of
the sight that it was some seconds before we realised what we saw, and
understood that that astounding point, removed apparently miles from the
earth, was one of the highest summits of Les Ecrins; and that we hoped,
before another sun had set, to have stood upon an even loftier pinnacle.
The mists rose and fell, presenting us with a series of dissolving views
of ravishing grandeur, and finally died away, leaving the glacier and its
mighty bounding precipices under an exquisite pale blue sky, free from a
single speck of cloud.]

The night passed over without anything worth mention, but we had had
occasion to observe in the morning an instance of the curious evaporation
that is frequently noticeable in the High Alps. On the previous night we
had hung up on a knob of rock our mackintosh bag containing five bottles
of Rodier’s bad wine. In the morning, although the stopper appeared to
have been in all night, about four-fifths had evaporated. It was strange;
my friends had not taken any, neither had I, and the guides each declared
that they had not seen any one touch it. In fact it was clear that there
was no explanation of the phenomenon, but in the dryness of the air. Still
it is remarkable that the dryness of the air (or the evaporation of wine)
is always greatest when a stranger is in one’s party—the dryness caused by
the presence of even a single Chamounix porter is sometimes so great, that
not four-fifths but the entire quantity disappears. For a time I found
difficulty in combating this phenomenon, but at last discovered that if I
used the wine-flask as a pillow during the night, the evaporation was
completely stopped.

At 4 A.M. we moved off across the glacier in single file towards the foot
of a great gully, which led from the upper slopes of the glacier de la
Bonne Pierre, to the lowest point in the ridge that runs from the Ecrins
to the mountain called Roche Faurio,—cheered by Rodier, who now returned
with his wraps to La Bérarde. This gully (or _couloir_) was discovered and
descended by Mr. Tuckett, and we will now return for a minute to the
explorations of that accomplished mountaineer.

In the year 1862 he had the good fortune to obtain from the _Dépôt de la
Guerre_ at Paris, a MS. copy of the then unpublished sheet 189 of the map
of France, and with it in hand, he swept backwards and forwards across the
central Dauphiné Alps, untroubled by the doubts as to the identity of
peaks, which had perplexed Mr. Macdonald and myself in 1861; and,
enlightened by it, he was able to point out (which he did in the fairest
manner) that we had confounded the Ecrins with another mountain—the Pic
Sans Nom. We made this blunder through imperfect knowledge of the district
and inaccurate reports of the natives;—but it was not an extraordinary one
(the two mountains are not unlike each other), considering the difficulty
that there is in obtaining from any except the very highest summits a
complete view of this intricate group.

The situations of the principal summits can be perceived at a glance on
the accompanying map, which is a reproduction of a portion of sheet 189.
The main ridge of the chain runs, at this part, nearly north and south.
Roche Faurio, at the northern extreme, is 3716 mètres, or 12,192 feet,
above the level of the sea. The lowest point between that mountain and the
Ecrins (the Col des Ecrins) is 11,000 feet. The ridge again rises, and
passes 13,000 feet in the neighbourhood of the Ecrins. The highest summit
of that mountain (13,462 feet) is, however, placed a little to the east of
and off the main ridge. It then again falls, and in the vicinity of the
Col de la Tempe it is, perhaps, below 11,000 feet; but immediately to the
south of the summit of that pass, there is upon the ridge a point which
has been determined by the French surveyors to be 12,323 feet. This peak
is without a name. The ridge continues to gain height as we come to the
south, and culminates in the mountain which the French surveyors have
called Sommet de l’Aile Froide. On the spot it is called, very commonly,
the Aléfroide.

There is some uncertainty respecting the elevation of this mountain. The
Frenchmen give 3925 mètres (12,878) as its highest point, but Mr. Tuckett,
who took a good theodolite to the top of Mont Pelvoux (which he agreed
with his predecessors had an elevation of 12,973 feet), found that the
summit of the Aléfroide was elevated above his station 4′; and as the
distance between the two points was 12,467 feet, this would represent a
difference in altitude of 5 mètres in favour of the Aléfroide. I saw this
mountain from the summit of Mont Pelvoux in 1861, and was in doubt as to
which of the two was the higher, and in 1864, from the summit of the
Pointe des Ecrins (as will presently be related), it looked actually
higher than Mont Pelvoux. I have therefore little doubt but that Mr.
Tuckett is right in believing the Aléfroide to have an elevation of about
13,000 feet, instead of 12,878, as determined by the French surveyors.

Mont Pelvoux is to the east of the Aléfroide and off the main ridge, and
the Pic Sans Nom (12,845 feet) is placed between these two mountains. The
latter is one of the grandest of the Dauphiné peaks, but it is shut in by
the other mountains, and is seldom seen except from a distance, and then
is usually confounded with the neighbouring summits. Its name has been
accidentally omitted on the map, but its situation is represented by the
large patch of rocks, nearly surrounded by glaciers, that is seen between
the words Ailefroide and Mt. Pelvoux.

The lowest depression on the main ridge to the south of the Aléfroide is
the Col du Selé, and this, according to Mr. Tuckett, is 10,834 feet. The
ridge soon rises again, and, a little farther to the south, joins another
ridge running nearly east and west. To a mountain at the junction of these
two ridges the Frenchmen have given the singular name Crête des Bœufs
Rouges! The highest point hereabouts is 11,332 feet; and a little to the
west there is another peak (Mont Bans) of 11,979 feet. The main ridge runs
from this last-named point, in a north-westerly direction, to the Cols de
Says, both of which exceed 10,000 feet.

It will thus be seen that the general elevation of this main ridge is
almost equal to that of the range of Mont Blanc, or of the central Pennine
Alps; and if we were to follow it out more completely, or to follow the
other ridges surrounding or radiating from it, we should find that there
is a remarkable absence, throughout the entire district, of low gaps and
depressions, and that there are an extraordinary number of peaks of medium
elevation.(107) The difficulty which explorers have experienced in
Dauphiné in identifying peaks, has very much arisen from the elevation of
the ridges generally being more uniform than is commonly found in the
Alps, and the consequent facile concealment of one point by another. The
difficulty has been enhanced by the narrowness and erratic courses of the

The possession of the “advanced copy” of sheet 189 of the French map,
enabled Mr. Tuckett to grasp most of what I have just said, and much more;
and he added, in 1862, three interesting passes across this part of the
chain to those already known. The first, from Ville Vallouise to La
Bérarde, _viâ_ the village of Claux, and the glaciers du Selé and de la
Pilatte,—this he called the Col du Selé; the second, between Ville
Vallouise and Villar d’Arène (on the Lautaret road) _viâ_ Claux and the
glaciers Blanc and d’Arsine,—the Col du Glacier Blanc; and the third, from
Vallouise to La Bérarde, _viâ_ the Glacier Blanc, the Glacier de l’Encula,
and the Glacier de la Bonne Pierre, the Col des Ecrins.

This last pass was discovered accidentally. Mr. Tuckett set out intending
to endeavour to ascend the Pointe des Ecrins, but circumstances were
against him, as he relates in the following words:—“Arrived on the
plateau” (of the Glacier de l’Encula), “a most striking view of the Ecrins
burst upon us, and a hasty inspection encouraged us to hope that its
ascent would be practicable. On the sides of La Bérarde and the Glacier
Noir it presents, as has been already stated, the most precipitous and
inaccessible faces that can well be conceived; but in the direction of the
Glacier de l’Encula, as the upper plateau of the Glacier Blanc is named on
the French map, the slopes are less rapid, and immense masses of _névé_
and _séracs_ cover it nearly to the summit.”

“The snow was in very bad order, and as we sank at each step above the
knee, it soon became evident that our prospects of success were extremely
doubtful. A nearer approach, too, disclosed traces of fresh avalanches,
and after much deliberation and a careful examination through the
telescope, it was decided that the chances in our favour were too small to
render it desirable to waste time in the attempt.... I examined the map,
from which I perceived that the glacier seen through the gap” (in the
ridge running from Roche Faurio to the Ecrins) “to the west, at a great
depth below, must be that of La Bonne Pierre; and if a descent to its head
was practicable, a passage might probably be effected to La Bérarde. On
suggesting to Croz and Perrn that, though baffled by the state of the snow
on the Ecrins, we might still achieve something of interest and importance
by discovering a new col, they both heartily assented, and in a few
minutes Perrn was over the edge, and cutting his way down the rather
formidable _couloir_,” etc. etc.(108)

This was the couloir at the foot of which we found ourselves at daybreak
on the 25th of June 1864; but before commencing the relation of our doings
upon that eventful day, I must recount the experiences of Messrs. Mathews
and Bonney in 1862.

These gentlemen, with the two Croz’s, attempted the ascent of the Ecrins a
few weeks after Mr. Tuckett had inspected the mountain. On August 26, says
Mr. Bonney, “we pushed on, and our hopes each moment rose higher and
higher; even the cautious Michel committed himself so far as to cry, ‘Ah,
malheureux Ecrins, vous serez bientôt morts,’ as we addressed ourselves to
the last slope leading up to the foot of the final cone. The old proverb
about ‘many a slip’ was, however, to prove true on this occasion. Arrived
at the top of this slope, we found that we were cut off from the peak by a
formidable bergschrund, crossed by the rottenest of snow-bridges. We
looked to the right and to the left, to see whether it would be possible
to get on either arête at its extremity; but instead of rising directly
from the snow as they appeared to do from below, they were terminated by a
wall of rock some forty feet high. There was but one place where the
bergschrund was narrow enough to admit of crossing, and there a cliff of
ice had to be climbed, and then a path to be cut up a steep slope of snow,
before the arête could be reached. At last, after searching in vain for
some time, Michel bade us wait a little, and started off to explore the
gap separating the highest peak from the snow-dome on the right, and see
if it were possible to ascend the rocky wall. Presently he appeared,
evidently climbing with difficulty, and at last stood on the arête itself.
Again we thought the victory was won, and started off to follow him.
Suddenly he called to us to halt, and turned to descend. In a few minutes
he stopped. After a long pause he shouted to his brother, saying that he
was not able to return by the way he had ascended. Jean was evidently
uneasy about him, and for some time we watched him with much anxiety. At
length he began to hew out steps in the snow along the face of the peak
towards us. Jean now left us, and, making for the ice-cliff mentioned
above, chopped away until, after about a quarter of an hour’s labour, he
contrived, somehow or other, to worm himself up it, and began to cut steps
to meet his brother. Almost every step appeared to be cut right through
the snowy crust into the hard ice below, and an incipient stream of snow
came hissing down the sides of the peak as they dug it away with their
axes. Michel could not have been much more than 100 yards from us, and yet
it was full three quarters of an hour before the brothers met. This done,
they descended carefully, burying their axe-heads deep in the snow at
every step.

“Michel’s account was that he had reached the arête with great difficulty,
and saw that it was practicable for some distance, in fact, as far as he
could see; but that the snow was in a most dangerous condition, being very
incoherent and resting on hard ice; that when he began to descend in order
to tell us this, he found the rocks so smooth and slippery that return was
impossible; and that for some little time he feared that he should not be
able to extricate himself, and was in considerable danger. Of course the
arête could have been reached by the way our guides had descended, but it
was so evident that their judgment was against proceeding, that we did not
feel justified in urging them on. We had seen so much of them that we felt
sure they would never hang back unless there was real danger, and so we
gave the word for retreating.”(109)

On both of these expeditions there was fine weather and plenty of time. On
each occasion the parties slept out at, and started from, a considerable
elevation, and arrived at the base of the final peak of the Ecrins early
in the day, and with plenty of superfluous energy. Guides and travellers
alike, on each occasion, were exceptional men, experienced mountaineers,
who had proved their skill and courage on numerous antecedent occasions,
and who were not accustomed to turn away from a thing merely because it
was difficult. On each occasion the attempts were abandoned because the
state of the snow on and below the final peak was such that avalanches
were anticipated; and, according to the judgment of those who were
concerned, there was such an amount of positive danger from this condition
of things, that it was unjustifiable to persevere.

We learnt privately, from Messrs. Mathews, Bonney, and Tuckett, that
unless the snow was in a good state upon the final peak (that is to say,
coherent and stable), we should probably be of the same opinion as
themselves; and that, although the face of the mountain fronting the
Glacier de l’Encula was much less steep than its other faces, and was
apparently the _only_ side upon which an attempt was at all likely to be
successful, it was, nevertheless, so steep, that for several days, at
least, after a fall of snow upon it, the chances in favour of avalanches
would be considerable.

The reader need scarcely be told, after all that has been said about the
variableness of weather in the High Alps, the chance was small indeed that
we should find upon the 25th of June, or any other set day, the precise
condition of affairs that was deemed indispensable for success. We had
such confidence in the judgment of our friends, that it was understood
amongst us the ascent should be abandoned, unless the conditions were
manifestly favourable.

      [Illustration: The Pointe des Ecrins from the Col du Galibier]

By five minutes to six we were at the top of the gully (a first-rate
couloir, about 1000 feet high), and within sight of our work. Hard, thin,
and wedge-like as the Ecrins had looked from afar, it had never looked so
hard and so thin as it did when we emerged from the top of the couloir
through the gap in the ridge. No tender shadows spoke of broad and rounded
ridges, but sharp and shadowless its serrated edges stood out against the
clear sky.(110) It had been said that the route must be taken by one of
the ridges of the final peak, but both were alike repellent, hacked and
notched in numberless places. They reminded me of my failure on the Dent
d’Hérens in 1863, and of a place on a similar ridge, from which advance or
retreat was alike difficult. But, presuming one or other of these ridges
or arêtes was practicable, there remained the task of getting to them, for
completely round the base of the final peak swept an enormous bergschrund,
almost separating it from the slopes which lay beneath. It was evident
thus early that the ascent would not be accomplished without exertion, and
that it would demand all our faculties and all our time. In more than one
respect we were favoured. The mists were gone, the day was bright and
perfectly calm; there had been a long stretch of fine weather beforehand,
and the snow was in excellent order; and, most important of all, the last
new snow which had fallen on the final peak, unable to support itself, had
broken away and rolled in a mighty avalanche, over schrund, névé, séracs,
over hills and valleys in the glacier (levelling one and filling the
other), completely down to the summit of the Col des Ecrins, where it lay
in huge jammed masses, powerless to harm us; and had made a broad track,
almost a road, over which, for part of the way at least, we might advance
with rapidity.

We took in all this in a few minutes, and seeing there was no time to be
lost, despatched a hasty meal, left knapsacks, provisions, and all
incumbrances by the Col, started again at half-past six, and made direct
for the left side of the schrund, for it was there alone that a passage
was practicable. We crossed it at 8.10. Our route can now be followed upon
the annexed outline. The arrow marked *D* points out the direction of the
Glacier de la Bonne Pierre. The ridge in front, that extends right across,
is the ridge that is partially shown on the top of the map at p. 146,
leading from Roche Faurio towards the W.N.W. We arrived upon the plateau
of the Glacier de l’Encula, behind this ridge, from the direction of *D*,
and then made a nearly straight track to the left hand of the bergschrund
at *A*.

        [Illustration: Outline to show route up Pointe des Ecrins]

Thus far there was no trouble, but the nature of the work changed
immediately. If we regard the upper 700 feet alone of the final peak of
the Ecrins, it may be described as a three-sided pyramid. One face is
towards the Glacier Noir, and forms one of the sheerest precipices in the
Alps. Another is towards the Glacier du Vallon, and is less steep, and
less uniform in angle than the first. The third is towards the Glacier de
l’Encula, and it was by this one we approached the summit. Imagine a
triangular plane, 700 or 800 feet high, set at an angle exceeding 50°; let
it be smooth, glassy; let the uppermost edges be cut into spikes and
teeth, and let them be bent, some one way, some another. Let the glassy
face be covered with minute fragments of rock, scarcely attached, but
varnished with ice; imagine this, and then you will have a very faint idea
of the face of the Ecrins on which we stood. It was not possible to avoid
detaching stones, which, as they fell, cause words unmentionable to rise.
The greatest friends would have reviled each other in such a situation. We
gained the eastern arête, and endeavoured for half-an-hour to work upwards
towards the summit; but it was useless (each yard of progress cost an
incredible time); and having no desire to form the acquaintance of the
Glacier Noir in a precipitate manner, we beat a retreat, and returned to
the schrund. We again held a council, and it was unanimously decided that
we should be beaten if we could not cut along the upper edge of the
schrund, and, when nearly beneath the summit, work up to it. So Croz took
off his coat and went to work;—on ice,—not that black ice so often
mentioned and so seldom seen, but on ice as hard as ice could be. Weary
work for the guides. Croz cut for more than half-an-hour, and we did not
seem to have advanced at all. Some one behind, seeing how great the labour
was, and how slow the progress, suggested that after all we might do
better on the arête. Croz’s blood was up, and indignant at this slight on
his powers, he ceased working, turned in his steps, and rushed towards me
with a haste that made me shudder: “By all means let us go there, the
sooner the better.” No slight was intended, and he resumed his work, after
a time being relieved by Almer. Half-past ten came; an hour had passed;
they were still cutting. Dreary work for us, for no capering about could
be done here; hand as well as foot holes were necessary; the fingers and
toes got very cold; the ice, as it boomed in bounding down the
bergschrund, was very suggestive; conversation was very restricted,
separated as we were by our tether of 20 feet apiece. Another hour passed.
We were now almost immediately below the summit, and we stopped to look
up. We were nearly as far off it (vertically) as we had been more than
three hours before. The day seemed going against us. The only rocks near
at hand were scattered; no bigger than tea-cups, and most of these, we
found afterwards, were glazed with ice. Time forbade cutting right up to
the summit, even had it been possible, which it was not. We decided to go
up to the ridge again by means of the rocks; but had we not had a certain
confidence in each other, it unquestionably would not have been done; for
this, it must be understood, was a situation where not only _might_ a slip
have been fatal to every one, but it would have been so beyond doubt:
nothing, moreover, was easier than to make one. It was a place where all
had to work in unison, where there must be no slackening of the rope, and
no unnecessary tension. For another hour we were in this trying situation,
and at 12.30 we gained the arête again at a much higher point (*B*), close
to the summit. Our men were, I am afraid, well-nigh worn out. Cutting up a
couloir 1000 feet high was not the right sort of preparation for work of
this kind. Be it so or not, we were all glad to rest for a short time, for
we had not sat down a minute since leaving the col six hours before.
Almer, however, was restless, knowing that midday was past, and that much
remained to be accomplished, and untied himself, and commenced working
towards the summit. Connecting the teeth of rock were beds of snow, and
Almer, only a few feet from me, was crossing the top of one of these, when
suddenly, without a moment’s warning, it broke away under him, and plunged
down on to the glacier. As he staggered for a second, one foot in the act
of stepping, and the other on the falling mass, I thought him lost; but he
happily fell on to the right side and stopped himself. Had he taken the
step with his right instead of the left foot, he would, in all
probability, have fallen several hundred feet without touching anything,
and would not have been arrested before reaching the glacier, a vertical
distance of at least 3000 feet.

Small, ridiculously small, as the distance was to the summit, we were
occupied nearly another hour before it was gained. Almer was a few feet in
front, and he, with characteristic modesty, hesitated to step on the
highest point, and drew back to allow us to pass. A cry was raised for
Croz, who had done the chief part of the work, but he declined the honour,
and we marched on to the top simultaneously; that is to say, clustered
round it, a yard or two below, for it was much too small to get upon.

According to my custom, I bagged a piece from off the highest rock
(chlorite slate), and I found afterwards that it had a striking similarity
to the final peak of the Ecrins. I have noticed the same thing on other
occasions,(111) and it is worthy of remark that not only do fragments of
such rock as limestone often present the characteristic forms of the
cliffs from which they have been broken, but that morsels of mica slate
will represent, in a wonderful manner, the identical shape of the peaks of
which they have formed part. Why should it not be so if the mountain’s
mass is more or less homogeneous? The same causes which produce the small
forms fashion the large ones; the same influences are at work; the same
frost and rain give shape to the mass as well as to its parts.


Did space permit me, I could give a very poor idea of the view, but it
will be readily imagined that a panorama extending over as much ground as
the whole of England is one worth taking some trouble to see, and one
which is not often to be seen even in the Alps. No clouds obscured it, and
a list of the summits that we saw would include nearly all the highest
peaks of the chain. I saw the Pelvoux now—as I had seen the Ecrins from it
three years before—across the basin of the Glacier Noir. It is a splendid
mountain, although in height it is equalled, if not surpassed, by its
neighbour the Aléfroide.

We could stay on the summit only a short time, and at a quarter to two
prepared for the descent. Now, as we looked down, and thought of what we
had passed over in coming up, we one and all hesitated about returning the
same way. Moore said, no. Walker said the same, and I too; the guides were
both of the same mind: this, be it remarked, although we had considered
that there was no chance whatever of getting up any other way. But those
“last rocks” were not to be forgotten. Had they only protruded to a
moderate extent, or had they been merely glazed, we should doubtless still
have tried: but they were not reasonable rocks,—they would neither allow
us to hold, nor would do it themselves. So we turned to the western arête,
trusting to luck that we should find a way down to the schrund, and some
means of getting over it afterwards. Our faces were a tolerable index to
our thoughts, and apparently the thoughts of the party were not happy
ones. Had any one then said to me, “You are a great fool for coming here,”
I should have answered with humility, “It is too true.” And had my monitor
gone on to say, “Swear you will never ascend another mountain if you get
down safely,” I am inclined to think I should have taken the oath. In
fact, the game here was not worth the risk. The guides felt it as well as
ourselves, and as Almer led off, he remarked, with more piety than logic,
“The good God has brought us up, and he will take us down in safety,”
which showed pretty well what _he_ was thinking about.

The ridge down which we now endeavoured to make our way was not inferior
in difficulty to the other. But were serrated to an extent that made it
impossible to keep strictly to them, and obliged us to descend
occasionally for some distance on the northern face and then mount again.
Both were so rotten that the most experienced of our party, as well as the
least, continually upset blocks large and small. Both arêtes were so
narrow, so thin, that it was often a matter for speculation on which side
an unstable block would fall.

At one point it seemed that we should be obliged to return to the summit
and try the other way down. We were on the very edge of the arête. On one
side was the enormous precipice facing the Pelvoux, which is not far from
perpendicular; on the other a slope exceeding 50°. A deep notch brought us
to an abrupt halt. Almer, who was leading, advanced cautiously to the edge
on hands and knees, and peered over; his care was by no means unnecessary,
for the rocks had broken away from under us unexpectedly several times. In
this position he gazed down for some moments, and then, without a word,
turned his head and looked at us. His face _may_ have expressed
apprehension or alarm, but it certainly did not show hope or joy. We
learned that there was no means of getting down, and that we must, if we
wanted to pass the notch, jump across on to an unstable block on the other
side. It was decided that it should be done, and Almer, with a larger
extent of rope than usual, jumped. The rock swayed as he came down upon
it, but he clutched a large mass with both arms and brought himself to
anchor. That which was both difficult and dangerous for the first man was
easy enough for the others, and we got across with less trouble than I
expected; stimulated by Croz’s perfectly just observation, that if we
couldn’t get across there we were not likely to get down the other way.

We had now arrived at *C* and could no longer continue on the arête, so we
commenced descending the face again. Before long we were close to the
schrund, but unable to see what it was like at this part, as the upper
edge bent over. Two hours had already passed since leaving the summit, and
it began to be highly probable that we should have to spend a night on the
Glacier Blanc. Almer, who yet led, cut steps right down to the edge, but
still he could not see below; therefore, warning us to hold tight, he made
his whole body rigid, and (standing in the large step which he had cut for
the purpose), had the upper part of his person lowered out until he saw
what he wanted. He shouted that our work was finished, made me come close
to the edge and untie myself, advanced the others until he had rope
enough, and then with a loud _jödel_ jumped down on to soft snow. Partly
by skill and partly by luck he had hit the crevasse at its easiest point,
and we had only to make a downward jump of eight or ten feet.

We had been more than eight hours and a half accomplishing the ascent of
the final peak, which, according to an observation by Mr. Bonney in 1862,
is only 525 feet high.(112) During this period we had not stopped for more
than half-an-hour, and our nerves and muscles had been kept at the highest
degree of tension the whole time. It may be imagined that we accepted the
ordinary conditions of glacier travelling as an agreeable relief, and that
that which at another time might have seemed formidable we treated as the
veriest bagatelle. Late in the day as it was, and soft as was the snow, we
put on such pace that we reached the Col des Ecrins in less than forty
minutes. We lost no time in arranging our baggage, for we had still to
traverse a long glacier, and to get clear of two ice-falls before it was
dark; so, at 5.35 we resumed the march, adjourning eating and drinking,
and put on a spurt which took us clear of the Glacier Blanc by 7.45
P.M.(113) We got off the moraine of the Glacier Noir at 8.45, just as the
last remnant of daylight vanished. Croz and myself were a trifle in
advance of the others, and fortunately so for us; for as they were about
to commence the descent of the snout of the glacier, the whole of the
moraine that rested on its face peeled off, and came down with a
tremendous roar.

We had now the pleasure of walking over a plain that is known by the name
of the Pré de Madame Carle, covered with pebbles of all sizes, and
intersected by numerous small streams or torrents. Every hole looked like
a stone, every stone like a hole, and we tumbled about from side to side
until our limbs and our tempers became thoroughly jaded. My companions,
being both short-sighted, found the travelling especially disagreeable; so
there was little wonder that when we came upon a huge mass of rock as big
as a house, which had fallen from the flanks of Pelvoux, a regular cube
that offered no shelter whatever, Moore cried out in ecstasy, “Oh, how
delightful! the very thing I have been longing for. Let us have a
perfectly extemporaneous bivouac.” This, it should be said, was when the
night threatened thunder and lightning, rain, and all other delights.

The pleasures of a perfectly extemporaneous bivouac under these
circumstances not being novelties to Croz and myself, we thought we would
try for the miseries of a roof; but Walker and Almer, with their usual
good nature, declared it was the very thing that they, too, were longing
for; so the trio resolved to stop. We generously left them all the
provisions (a dozen cubic inches or thereabouts of bacon fat, and half a
candle), and pushed on for the chalets of Aléfroide, or at least we
thought we did, but could not be certain. In the course of half-an-hour we
got uncommonly close to the main torrent, and Croz all at once
disappeared. I stepped cautiously forward to peer down into the place
where I thought he was, and quietly tumbled head over heels into a big
rhododendron bush. Extricating myself with some trouble, I fell backwards
over some rocks, and got wedged in a cleft so close to the torrent that it
splashed all over me.

The colloquy which then ensued amid the thundering of the stream was as

“Hullo, Croz!” “Eh, Monsieur.” “Where _are_ you?” “Here, Monsieur.” “Where
_is_ here?” “I don’t know; where are _you_?” “Here, Croz;” and so on.

The fact was, from the intense darkness, and the noise of the torrent, we
had no idea of each other’s situation. In the course of ten minutes,
however, we joined together again, agreed we had had quite enough of that
kind of thing, and adjourned to a most eligible rock at 10.15.

How well I remember the night at that rock, and the jolly way in which
Croz came out! We were both very wet about the legs, and both uncommonly
hungry, but the time passed pleasantly enough round our fire of juniper,
and until long past midnight we sat up recounting, over our pipes,
wonderful stories of the most incredible description, in which I must
admit, my companion beat me hollow. Then throwing ourselves on our beds of
rhododendron, we slept an untroubled sleep, and rose on a bright Sunday
morning as fresh as might be, intending to enjoy a day’s rest and luxury
with our friends at La Ville de Val Louise.

                    [Illustration: A NIGHT WITH CROZ.]

I have failed to give the impression I wish if it has not been made
evident that the ascent of the Pointe des Ecrins was not an ordinary piece
of work. There is an increasing disposition now-a-days amongst those who
write on the Alps, to underrate the difficulties and dangers which are met
with, and this disposition is, I think, not less mischievous than the
old-fashioned style of making everything terrible. Difficult as we found
the peak, I believe we took it at the best, perhaps the only possible,
time of the year. The great slope on which we spent so much time was, from
being denuded by the avalanche of which I have spoken, deprived of its
greatest danger. Had it had the snow still resting upon it, and had we
persevered with the expedition, we should almost without doubt have ended
with calamity instead of success. The ice of that slope is always below,
its angle is severe, and the rocks do not project sufficiently to afford
the support that snow requires, to be stable, when at a great angle. So
far am I from desiring to tempt any one to repeat the expedition, that I
put it on record as my belief, however sad and however miserable a man may
have been, if he is found on the summit of the Pointe des Ecrins after a
fall of new snow, he is likely to experience misery far deeper than
anything with which he has hitherto been acquainted.(114)

                               CHAPTER IX.


            “How pleasant it is for him who is saved to remember his

From Ailefroide to Claux, but for the path, travel would be scarcely more
easy than over the Pré de Madame Carle.(116) The valley is strewn with
immense masses of gneiss, from the size of a large house downwards, and it
is only occasionally that rock _in situ_ is seen, so covered up is it by
the débris, which seems to have been derived almost entirely from the
neighbouring cliffs.

It was Sunday, a “day most calm and bright.” Golden sunlight had dispersed
the clouds, and was glorifying the heights, and we forgot hunger through
the brilliancy of the morning and beauty of the mountains.

We meant the 26th to be a day of rest, but it was little that we found in
the _cabaret_ of Claude Giraud, and we fled before the babel of sound
which rose in intensity as men descended to a depth which is unattainable
by the beasts of the field, and found at the chalets of Entraigues(117)
the peace that had been denied to us at Val Louise.

Again we were received with the most cordial hospitality. Everything that
was eatable or drinkable was brought out and pressed upon us; every little
curiosity was exhibited; every information that could be afforded was
given; and when we retired to our clean straw, we again congratulated each
other that we had escaped from the foul den which is where a good inn
should be, and had cast in our lot with those who dwell in chalets. Very
luxurious that straw seemed after two nights upon quartz pebbles and
glacier mud, and I felt quite aggrieved (expecting it was the summons for
departure) when, about midnight, the heavy wooden door creaked on its
hinges, and a man hem’d and ha’d to attract attention; but when it
whispered, “Monsieur Edvard,” I perceived my mistake,—it was our Pelvoux
companion, Monsieur Reynaud, the excellent _agent-voyer_ of La Bessée.

Monsieur Reynaud had been invited to accompany us on the excursion that is
described in this chapter, but had arrived at Val Louise after we had
left, and had energetically pursued us during the night. Our idea was that
a pass might be made over the high ridge called (on the French map) Crête
de Bœufs Rouges,(118) near to the peak named Les Bans, and that it might
be the shortest route in time (as it certainly would be in distance) from
Val Louise, across the Central Dauphiné Alps. We had seen the northern (or
Pilatte) side from the Brèche de la Meije, and it seemed to be practicable
at one place near the above-mentioned mountain. More than that could not
be told at a distance of eleven miles. We intended to try to hit a point
on the ridge immediately above the part where it seemed to be easiest.

We left Entraigues at 3.30 on the morning of June 27, and proceeded, over
very gently-inclined ground, towards the foot of the Pic de Bonvoisin
(following in fact the route of the Col de Sellar, which leads from the
Val Louise into the Val Godemar);(119) and at 5 A.M., finding that there
was no chance of obtaining a view from the bottom of the valley of the
ridge over which our route was to be taken, sent Almer up the lower slopes
of the Bonvoisin to reconnoitre. He telegraphed that we might proceed; and
at 5.45 we quitted the snow-beds at the bottom of the valley for the
slopes which rose towards the north.

The course was N.N.W., and was prodigiously steep. _In less than two miles
difference of latitude we rose one mile of absolute height._ But the route
was so far from being an exceptionally difficult one, that at 10.45 we
stood on the summit of the pass, having made an ascent of more than 5000
feet in five hours, inclusive of halts.

Upon sheet 189 of the French map a glacier is laid down on the south of
the Crête des Bœufs Rouges, extending along the entire length of the
ridge, at its foot, from east to west. In 1864 this glacier did not exist
as _one_ glacier, but in the place where it should have been there were
several small ones, all of which were, I believe, separated from each

We commenced the ascent from the Val d’Entraigues, to the west of the most
western of these small glaciers, and quitted the valley by the first great
gap in its cliffs after that glacier was passed. We did not take to the
ice until it afforded an easier route than the rocks; then (8.30) Croz
went to the front, and led with admirable skill through a maze of
crevasses up to the foot of a great snow _couloir_, that rose from the
head of the glacier to the summit of the ridge over which we had to pass.

We had settled beforehand in London, without knowing anything whatever
about the place, that such a couloir as this should be in this angle; but
when we got into the Val d’Entraigues, and found that it was not possible
to see into the corner, our faith in its existence became less and less,
until the telegraphing of Almer, who was sent up the opposite slopes to
search for it, assured us that we were true prophets.

                     [Illustration: A SNOW COULOIR.]

Snow _couloirs_ are nothing more or less than gullies partly filled by
snow. They are most useful institutions, and may be considered as natural
highways placed, by a kind Providence, in convenient situations for
getting over places which would otherwise be inaccessible. They are a joy
to the mountaineer, and, from afar, assure him of a path when all beside
is uncertain; but they are grief to novices, who, when upon steep snow,
are usually seized with two notions—first, that the snow will slip, and
secondly, that those who are upon it must slip too.

Nothing, perhaps, could look much more unpromising to those who do not
know the virtues of couloirs than such a place as the engraving
represents,(121) and if persons inexperienced in mountain craft had
occasion to cross a ridge or to climb rocks, in which there were such
couloirs, they would instinctively avoid them. But practised mountaineers
would naturally look to them for a path, and would follow them almost as a
matter of course, unless they turned out to be filled with ice, or too
much swept by falling stones, or the rock at the sides proved to be of
such an exceptional character as to afford an easier path than the snow.

Couloirs look prodigiously steep when seen from the front, and, so viewed,
it is impossible to be certain of their inclination within many degrees.
Snow, however, does actually lie at steeper angles in couloirs than in any
other situations;—45° to 50° degrees is not an uncommon inclination. Even
at such angles, two men with proper axes can mount on snow at the rate of
700 to 800 feet per hour. The same amount can only be accomplished in the
same time on steep rocks when they are of the very easiest character, and
four or five hours may be readily spent upon an equal height of difficult
rocks. Snow couloirs are therefore to be commended because they economise

Of course, in all gullies, one is liable to be encountered by falling
stones. Most of those which fall from the rocks of a couloir, sooner or
later spin down the snow which fills the trough; and, as their course and
pace are more clearly apparent when falling over snow than when jumping
from ledge to ledge, persons with lively imaginations are readily
impressed by them. The grooves which are usually seen wandering down the
length of snow couloirs are deepened (and, perhaps, occasionally
originated) by falling stones, and they are sometimes pointed out by
cautious men as reasons why couloirs should not be followed. I think they
are very frequently only gutters, caused by water trickling off the rocks.
Whether this is so or not, one should always consider the possibility of
being struck by falling stones, and, in order to lessen the risk as far as
possible, should mount upon the sides of the snow, and not up its centre.
Stones that come off the rocks will then generally fly over one’s head, or
bound down the middle of the trough at a safe distance.

At 9.30 A.M. we commenced the ascent of the couloir leading from the
nameless glacier to a point in the ridge, just to the east of Mont
Bans.(122) So far the route had been nothing more than a steep grind in an
angle where little could be seen, but now views opened out in several
directions, and the way began to be interesting. It was more so, perhaps,
to us than to our companion M. Reynaud, who had no rest in the last night.
He was, moreover, heavily laden. Science was to be regarded—his pockets
were stuffed with books; heights and angles were to be observed—his
knapsack was filled with instruments; hunger was to be guarded against—his
shoulders were ornamented with a huge nimbus of bread, and a leg of mutton
swung behind from his knapsack, looking like an overgrown tail. Being a
good-hearted fellow, he had brought this food, thinking we might be in
need of it. As it happened, we were well provided for, and having our own
packs to carry, could not relieve him of his superfluous burdens, which,
naturally, he did not like to throw away. As the angles steepened, the
strain on his strength became more and more apparent. At last he began to
groan. At first a most gentle and mellow groan; but as we rose so did his
groans, till at last the cliffs were groaning in echo, and we were moved
to laughter.

Croz cut the way with unflagging energy throughout the whole of the
ascent, and at 10.45 we stood on the summit of our pass, intending to
refresh ourselves with a good halt. Unhappily, at that moment a mist,
which had been playing about the ridge, swooped down and blotted out the
whole of the view on the northern side. Croz was the only one who caught a
glimpse of the descent, and it was deemed advisable to push on
immediately, while its recollection was fresh in his memory. We are
consequently unable to tell anything about the summit of the pass, except
that it lies immediately to the east of Mont Bans, and is elevated about
11,300 feet above the level of the sea. It is the highest pass in
Dauphiné. We called it the Col de Pilatte.

We commenced to descend towards the Glacier de Pilatte by a slope of
smooth ice, the face of which, according to the measurement of Mr. Moore,
had an inclination of 54°! Croz still led, and the others followed at
intervals of about 15 feet, all being tied together, and Almer occupying
the responsible position of last man. The two guides were therefore about
70 feet apart. They were quite invisible to each other from the mist, and
looked spectral even to us. But the _strong_ man could be heard by all
hewing out the steps below, while every now and then the voice of the
_steady_ man pierced the cloud,—“Slip not, dear sirs; place well your
feet: stir not until you are certain.”

For three quarters of an hour we progressed in this fashion. The axe of
Croz all at once stopped. “What is the matter, Croz?” “Bergschrund,
gentlemen.” “Can we get over?” “Upon my word, I don’t know; I think we
must jump.” The clouds rolled away right and left as he spoke. The effect
was dramatic! It was a _coup de théâtre_, preparatory to the “great
sensation leap” which was about to be executed by the entire company.

Some unseen cause, some cliff or obstruction in the rocks underneath, had
caused our wall of ice to split into two portions, and the huge fissure
which had thus been formed extended, on each hand, as far as could be
seen. We, on the slope above, were separated from the slope below by a
mighty crevasse. No running up and down to look for an easier place to
cross could be done on an ice-slope of 54°; the chasm had to be passed
then and there.

A downward jump of 15 or 16 feet, and a forward leap of 7 or 8 feet had to
be made at the same time. That is not much, you will say. It was not much;
it was not the quantity, but it was the quality of the jump which gave to
it its particular flavour. You had to hit a narrow ridge of ice. If that
was passed, it seemed as if you might roll down for ever and ever. If it
was not attained, you dropped into the crevasse below; which, although
partly choked by icicles and snow that had fallen from above, was still
gaping in many places, ready to receive an erratic body.

Croz untied Walker in order to get rope enough, and warning us to hold
fast, sprang over the chasm. He alighted cleverly on his feet; untied
himself and sent up the rope to Walker, who followed his example. It was
then my turn, and I advanced to the edge of the ice. The second which
followed was what is called a supreme moment. That is to say, I felt
supremely ridiculous. The world seemed to revolve at a frightful pace, and
my stomach to fly away. The next moment I found myself sprawling in the
snow, and then, of course, vowed that _it was nothing_, and prepared to
encourage my friend Reynaud.

He came to the edge and made declarations. I do not believe that he was a
whit more reluctant to pass the place than we others, but he was
infinitely more demonstrative,—in a word, he was French. He wrung his
hands, “Oh! what a _diable_ of a place!” “It is nothing, Reynaud,” I said,
“it is _nothing_.” “Jump,” cried the others, “jump.” But he turned round,
as far as one can do such a thing in an ice-step, and covered his face
with his hands, ejaculating, “Upon my word, it is not possible. No! no!!
no!!! it is not possible.”

How he came over I do not know. We saw a toe—it seemed to belong to Moore;
we saw Reynaud a flying body, coming down as if taking a header into
water; with arms and legs all abroad, his leg of mutton flying in the air,
his bâton escaped from his grasp; and then we heard a thud as if a bundle
of carpets had been pitched out of a window. When set upon his feet he was
a sorry spectacle; his head was a great snowball; brandy was trickling out
of one side of the knapsack, chartreuse out of the other—we bemoaned its
loss, but we roared with laughter.

This chapter has already passed the limits within which it should have
been confined, but I cannot close it without paying tribute to the ability
with which Croz led us, through a dense mist, down the remainder of the
Glacier de Pilatte. As an exhibition of strength and skill, it has
probably never been surpassed in the Alps or elsewhere. On this almost
unknown and very steep glacier, he was perfectly at home, even in the
mists. Never able to see fifty feet ahead, he still went on with the
utmost certainty, and without having to retrace a single step; and
displayed from first to last consummate knowledge of the materials with
which he was dealing. Now he cut steps down one side of a _sérac_, went
with a dash at the other side, and hauled us up after him; then cut away
along a ridge until a point was gained from which we could jump on to
another ridge; then, doubling back, found a snow-bridge, across which he
crawled on hands and knees, towed us across by the legs, ridiculing our
apprehensions, mimicking our awkwardness, declining all help, bidding us
only to follow him.

About 1 P.M. we emerged from the mist and found ourselves just arrived
upon the level portion of the glacier, having, as Reynaud properly
remarked, come down as quickly as if there had not been any mist at all.
Then we attacked the leg of mutton which my friend had so thoughtfully
brought with him, and afterwards raced down, with renewed energy, to La

Reynaud and I walked together to St. Christophe, where we parted. Since
then we have talked over the doings of this momentous day; and I know that
he would not, for a good deal, have missed the passage of the Col de
Pilatte, although we failed to make it an easier or a shorter route than
the Col du Selé. I rejoined Moore and Walker, the same evening, at Venos,
and on the next day went with them over the Lautaret road to the hospice
on its summit, where we slept.

So our little campaign in Dauphiné came to an end. It was remarkable for
the absence of failures, and for the ease and precision with which all our
plans were carried out. This was due very much to the spirit of my
companions; but it was also owing to the fine weather which we were
fortunate enough to enjoy, and to our making a very early start every
morning. By beginning our work at or before the break of day, on the
longest days in the year, we were not only able to avoid hurrying when
deliberation was desirable, but could afford to spend several hours in
delightful ease whenever the fancy seized us.

I cannot too strongly recommend to tourists in search of amusement to
avoid the inns of Dauphiné. Sleep in the chalets. Get what food you can
from the inns, but do not as a rule attempt to pass nights in them.(123)
_Sleep_ in them you cannot. M. Joanne says that the inventor of the
insecticide powder was a native of Dauphiné. I can well believe it. He
must have often felt the necessity of such an invention in his infancy and

On June 29 I crossed the Col du Galibier to St. Michel; on the 30th, the
Col des Encombres to Moutiers; on July 1, the Col du Bonhomme to
Contamines; and on the 2d, by the Pavilion de Bellevue to Chamounix, where
I joined Mr. Adams-Reilly to take part in some expeditions which had been
planned long before.

                                CHAPTER X.


          “Nothing binds men so closely together as agreement in plans and

A few years ago not many persons knew from personal knowledge how
extremely inaccurately the chain of Mont Blanc was delineated. In the
earlier part of the century thousands had made the tour of the chain, and
before the year 1860 at least _one_ thousand individuals had stood upon
its highest summit; but out of all this number there was not one capable,
willing, or able, to map the mountain which, until recently, was regarded
the highest in Europe.

Many persons knew that great blunders had been perpetrated, and it was
notorious that even Mont Blanc itself was represented in a ludicrously
incorrect manner on all sides excepting the north; but there was not,
perhaps, a single individual who knew, at the time to which I refer, that
errors of no less than 1000 feet had been committed in the determination
of heights at each end of the chain; that some glaciers were represented
of double their real dimensions; and that ridges and mountains were laid
down which actually had no existence.

One portion alone of the entire chain had been surveyed at the time of
which I speak with anything like accuracy. It was not done (as one would
have expected) by a Government, but by a private individual,—by the
British De Saussure,—the late J. D. Forbes. In the year 1842, he “made a
special survey of the Mer de Glace of Chamounix and its tributaries,
which, in some of the following years, he extended by further
observations, so as to include the Glacier des Bossons.” The map produced
from this survey was worthy of its author; and subsequent explorers of the
region he investigated have been able to detect only trivial inaccuracies
in his work.

In 1861, Sheet xxii. of Dufour’s Map of Switzerland appeared. It included
the section of the chain of Mont Blanc that belonged to Switzerland, and
this portion of the sheet was executed with the admirable fidelity and
thoroughness which characterise the whole of Dufour’s unique map. The
remainder of the chain (amounting to about four-fifths of the whole) was
laid down after the work of previous topographers, and its wretchedness
was made more apparent by contrast with the finished work of the Swiss

In 1863, Mr. Adams-Reilly, who had been travelling in the Alps during
several years, resolved to attempt a survey of the unsurveyed portions of
the chain of Mont Blanc. He provided himself with a good theodolite, and
starting from a base-line measured by Forbes in the Valley of Chamounix,
determined the positions of no less than 200 points. The accuracy of his
work may be judged from the fact that, after having turned many corners
and carried his observations over a distance of fifty miles, his Col
Ferret “fell within 200 yards of the position assigned to it by General

In the winter of 1863 and the spring of 1864, Mr. Reilly constructed an
entirely original map from his newly-acquired data. The spaces between his
trigonometrically determined points he filled in after photographs, and a
series of panoramic sketches which he made from his different stations.
The map so produced was an immense advance upon those already in
existence, and it was the first which exhibited the great peaks in their
proper positions.

This extraordinary piece of work revealed Mr. Reilly to me as a man of
wonderful determination and perseverance. With very small hope that my
proposal would be accepted, I invited him to take part in renewed attacks
on the Matterhorn. He entered heartily into my plans, and met me with a
counter-proposition, namely, that I should accompany him on some
expeditions which he had projected in the chain of Mont Blanc. The
unwritten contract took this form:—I will help you to carry out your
desires, and you shall assist me to carry out mine. I eagerly closed with
an arrangement in which all the advantages were upon my side.

At the time that Mr. Reilly was carrying on his survey, Captain Mieulet
was executing another in continuation of the great map of France; for
about one-half of the chain of Mont Blanc (including the whole of the
valley of Chamounix) had recently become French once more. Captain Mieulet
was directed to survey up to his frontier only, and the sheet which was
destined to include his work was to be engraved, of course, upon the scale
of the rest of the map, viz., 1/80000 of nature. But upon representations
being made at head-quarters that it would be of great advantage to extend
the survey as far as Courmayeur, Captain Mieulet was directed to continue
his observations into the south (or Italian) side of the chain. A special
sheet on the scale of 1/40000 was promptly engraved from the materials he
accumulated, and was published in 1865, by order of the late Minister of
War, Marshal Randon.(124) This sheet was admirably executed, but it
included the central portion of the chain only, and a complete map was
still wanting.

Mr. Reilly presented his MS. map to the English Alpine Club. It was
resolved that it should be published; but before it passed into the
engraver’s hands its author undertook to revise it carefully. To this end
he planned a number of expeditions to high points which up to that time
had been regarded inaccessible, and upon some of these ascents he invited
me to accompany him. Before I pass on to these expeditions, it will be
convenient to devote a few lines to the topography of the chain of Mont

At the present time the chain is divided betwixt France, Switzerland, and
Italy. France has the lion’s share, Switzerland the most fertile portion,
and Italy the steepest side. It has acquired a reputation which is not
extraordinary, but which is not wholly merited. It has neither the beauty
of the Oberland, nor the sublimity of Dauphiné. It attracts the vulgar by
the possession of the highest summit in the Alps. If that is removed, the
elevation of the chain is in nowise remarkable. In fact, excluding Mont
Blanc itself, the mountains of which the chain is made up are less
important than those of the Oberland and the central Pennine groups. The
following table will afford a ready means of comparison.(125)

                                         Mètres.   Eng. feet(126)
 1.   Mont Blanc                         4810 =    15,781
 2.   Grandes Jorasses                   4206 .    13,800
 3.   Aiguille Verte                     4127 .    13,540
 4.   Aiguille de Bionnassay             4061 .    13,324
 5.   Les Droites                        4030 .    13,222
 6.   Aiguille du Géant                  4010 .    13,157
 7.   Aiguille de Trélatête, No. 1       3932 .    12,900
      Aiguille de Trélatête, No. 2       3904 .    12,809
      Aiguille de Trélatête, No. 3       3896 .    12,782
 8.   Aiguille d’Argentière              3901 .    12,799
 9.   Aiguille de Triolet                3879 .    12,726
10.   Aiguille du Midi                   3843 .    12,608
11.   Aiguille du Glacier                3834 .    12,579
12.   Mont Dolent                        3830 .    12,566
13.   Aiguille du Chardonnet             3823 .    12,543
14.   Aiguille du Dru                    3815 .    12,517
15.   Aiguille de Miage                  3680 .    12,074
16.   Aiguille du Plan                   3673 .    12,051
17.   Aiguille de Blaitière              3533 .    11,591
18.   Aiguille des Charmoz               3442 .    11,293

The frontier-line follows the main ridge. Very little of it can be seen
from the Valley of Chamounix, and from the village itself two small strips
only are visible (amounting to scarcely three miles in length)—viz. from
the summit of Mont Blanc to the Dôme du Goûter, and in the neighbourhood
of the Col de Balme. All the rest is concealed by outlying ridges and by
mountains of secondary importance.

Mont Blanc itself is bounded by the two glaciers of Miage, the glaciers de
la Brenva and du Géant, the Val Véni and the Valley of Chamounix. A long
ridge runs out towards the N.N.E. from the summit, through Mont Maudit, to
the Aiguille du Midi. Another ridge proceeds towards the N.W., through the
Bosse du Dromadaire to the Dôme du Goûter; this then divides into two, of
which one continues N.W. to the Aiguille du Goûter, and the other (which
is a part of the main ridge of the chain) towards the W. to the Aiguille
de Bionnassay. The two routes which are commonly followed for the ascent
of Mont Blanc lie between these two principal ridges—one leading from
Chamounix, _viâ_ the Grands Mulets, the other from the village of
Bionnassay, _viâ_ the Aiguille and Dôme du Goûter.

The ascent of Mont Blanc has been made from several directions besides
these, and perhaps there is no single point of the compass from which the
mountain cannot be ascended. But there is not the least probability that
any one will discover easier ways to the summit than those already known.

I believe it is correct to say that the Aiguille du Midi and the Aiguille
de Miage were the only two summits in the chain of Mont Blanc which had
been ascended at the beginning of 1864.(127) The latter of these two is a
perfectly insignificant point; and the former is only a portion of one of
the ridges just now mentioned, and can hardly be regarded as a mountain
separate and distinct from Mont Blanc. The really great peaks of the chain
were considered inaccessible, and, I think, with the exception of the
Aiguille Verte, had never been assailed.

The finest, as well as the highest peak in the chain (after Mont Blanc
itself), is the Grandes Jorasses. The next, without a doubt, is the
Aiguille Verte. The Aiguille de Bionnassay, which in actual height follows
the Verte, should be considered as a part of Mont Blanc; and in the same
way the summit called Les Droites is only a part of the ridge which
culminates in the Verte. The Aiguille de Trélatête is the next on the list
that is entitled to be considered a separate mountain, and is by far the
most important peak (as well as the highest) at the south-west end of the
chain. Then comes the Aiguille d’Argentière, which occupies the same rank
at the north-east end as the last-mentioned mountain does in the
south-west. The rest of the aiguilles are comparatively insignificant; and
although some of them (such as the Mont Dolent) look well from low
elevations, and seem to possess a certain importance, they sink into their
proper places directly one arrives at a considerable altitude.

The summit of the Aiguille Verte would have been one of the best stations
out of all these mountains for the purposes of my friend. Its great
height, and its isolated and commanding position, make it a most admirable
point for viewing the intricacies of the chain; but he exercised a wise
discretion in passing it by, and in selecting as our first excursion the
passage of the Col de Triolet.(128)

We slept under some big rocks on the Couvercle on the night of July 7,
with the thermometer at 26·5 Faht., and at 4.30 on the 8th made a straight
track to the north of the Jardin, and thence went in zigzags, to break the
ascent, over the upper slopes of the Glacier de Talèfre towards the foot
of the Aiguille de Triolet. Croz was still my guide, Reilly was
accompanied by one of the Michel Payots of Chamounix, and Henri Charlet,
of the same place, was our porter.

The way was over an undulating plain of glacier of moderate inclination
until the corner leading to the Col, from whence a steep secondary glacier
led down into the basin of the Talèfre. We experienced no difficulty in
making the ascent of this secondary glacier with such ice-men as Croz and
Payot, and at 7.50 A.M. arrived on the top of the so-called pass, at a
height, according to Mieulet, of 12,162 feet, and 4530 above our camp on
the Couvercle.

The descent was commenced by very steep, but firm, rocks, and then by a
branch of the Glacier de Triolet. Schrunds(129) were abundant; there were
no less than five extending completely across the glacier, all of which
had to be jumped. Not one was equal in dimensions to the extraordinary
chasm on the Col de Pilatte, although in the aggregate they far surpassed
it. “Our lives,” so Reilly expressed it, “were made a burden to us with

We flattered ourselves that we should arrive at the chalets of Prè du Bar
very early in the day; but, owing to much time being lost on the slopes of
Mont Rouge, it was nearly 4 P.M. before we got to them. There were no
bridges across the torrent nearer than Gruetta, and rather than descend so
far, we preferred to round the base of Mont Rouge, and to cross the snout
of the Glacier du Mont Dolent.(130)

We occupied the 9th with a scramble up Mont Dolent. This was a miniature
ascent. It contained a little of everything. First we went up to the Col
Ferret (No. 1), and had a little grind over shaly banks; then there was a
little walk over grass; then a little tramp over a moraine (which, strange
to say, gave a pleasant path); then a little zigzagging over the
snow-covered glacier of Mont Dolent. Then there was a little bergschrund;
then a little wall of snow,—which we mounted by the side of a little
buttress; and when we struck the ridge descending S.E. from the summit, we
found a little arête of snow leading to the highest point. The summit
itself was little,—very small indeed; it was the loveliest little cone of
snow that was ever piled up on mountain-top; so soft, so pure; it seemed a
crime to defile it; it was a miniature Jungfrau, a toy summit, you could
cover it with the hand.(131)

But there was nothing little about the _view_ from the Mont Dolent.
[Situated at the junction of three mountain ridges, it rises in a positive
steeple far above anything in its immediate neighbourhood; and certain
gaps in the surrounding ridges, which seem contrived for that especial
purpose, extend the view in almost every direction. The precipices which
descend to the Glacier d’Argentière I can only compare to those of the
Jungfrau, and the ridges on both sides of that glacier, especially the
steep rocks of Les Droites and Les Courtes, surmounted by the sharp
snow-peak of the Aig. Verte, have almost the effect of the Grandes
Jorasses. Then, framed, as it were, between the massive tower of the Aig.
de Triolet and the more distant Jorasses, lies, without exception, the
most delicately beautiful picture I have ever seen—the whole _massif_ of
Mont Blanc, raising its great head of snow far above the tangled series of
flying buttresses which uphold the Monts Maudits, supported on the left by
Mont Peuteret and by the mass of ragged aiguilles which overhang the
Brenva. This aspect of Mont Blanc is not new, but from this point its
_pose_ is unrivalled, and it has all the superiority of a picture grouped
by the hand of a master.... The view is as extensive, and far more lovely
than that from Mont Blanc itself.](132)

We went down to Courmayeur, and on the afternoon of July 10 started from
that place to camp on Mont Suc, for the ascent of the Aiguille de
Trélatête; hopeful that the mists which were hanging about would clear
away. They did not, so we deposited ourselves, and a vast load of straw,
on the moraine of the Miage Glacier, just above the Lac de Combal, in a
charming little hole which some solitary shepherd had excavated beneath a
great slab of rock. We spent the night there, and the whole of the next
day, unwilling to run away, and equally so to get into difficulties by
venturing into the mist. It was a dull time, and I grew restless. Reilly
read to me a lecture on the excellence of patience, and composed himself
in an easy attitude, to pore over the pages of a yellow-covered book.
“Patience,” I said to him viciously, “comes readily to fellows who have
shilling novels; but I have not got one; I have picked all the mud out of
the nails of my boots, and have skinned my face; what shall I do?” “Go and
study the moraine of the Miage,” said he. I went, and came back after an
hour. “What news?” cried Reilly, raising himself on his elbow. “Very
little; it’s a big moraine, bigger than I thought, with ridge outside
ridge, like a fortified camp; and there are walls upon it which have been
built and loop-holed, as if for defence.” “Try again,” he said, as he
threw himself on his back. But I went to Croz, who was asleep, and tickled
his nose with a straw until he awoke; and then, as that amusement was
played out, watched Reilly, who was getting numbed, and shifted uneasily
from side to side, and threw himself on his stomach, and rested his head
on his elbows, and lighted his pipe and puffed at it savagely. When I
looked again, how was Reilly? An indistinguishable heap; arms, legs, head,
stones, and straw, all mixed together, his hat flung on one side, his
novel tossed far away! Then I went to him, and read him a lecture on the
excellence of patience.

           [Illustration: Portraits of Mr. Reilly on a wet day]
           [Illustration: Portraits of Mr. Reilly on a wet day]
           [Illustration: Portraits of Mr. Reilly on a wet day]
           [Illustration: Portraits of Mr. Reilly on a wet day]
           [Illustration: Portraits of Mr. Reilly on a wet day]

Bah! it was a dull time. Our mountain, like a beautiful coquette,
sometimes unveiled herself for a moment, and looked charming above,
although very mysterious below. It was not until eventide she allowed us
to approach her; then, as darkness came on, the curtains were withdrawn,
the light drapery was lifted, and we stole up on tiptoe through the grand
portal formed by Mont Suc. But night advanced rapidly, and we found
ourselves left out in the cold, without a hole to creep into or shelter
from overhanging rock. We might have fared badly, except for our good
plaids. When they were sewn together down their long edges, and one end
tossed over our rope (which was passed round some rocks), and the other
secured by stones, there was sufficient protection; and we slept on this
exposed ridge, 9700 feet above the level of the sea, more soundly,
perhaps, than if we had been lying on feather beds.

                [Illustration: OUR CAMP ON MONT SUC.(133)]

We left our bivouac at 4.45 A.M., and at 9.40 arrived upon the highest of
the three summits of the Trélatête, by passing over the lowest one. It was
well above everything at this end of the chain, and the view from it was
extraordinarily magnificent. The whole of the western face of Mont Blanc
was spread out before us; we were the first by whom it had been ever seen.
I cede the description of this view to my comrade, to whom it rightfully

[For four years I had felt great interest in the geography of the chain;
the year before I had mapped, more or less successfully, all but this
spot, and this spot had always eluded my grasp. The praises, undeserved as
they were, which my map had received, were as gall and wormwood to me when
I thought of that great slope which I had been obliged to leave a blank,
speckled over with unmeaning dots of rock, gathered from previous maps—for
I had consulted them all without meeting an intelligible representation of
it. From the surface of the Miage glacier I had gained nothing, for I
could only see the feet of magnificent ice-streams, and no more; but now,
from the top of the dead wall of rock which had so long closed my view, I
saw those fine glaciers from top to bottom, pouring down their streams,
nearly as large as the Bossons, from Mont Blanc, from the Bosse, and from
the Dôme.

The head of Mont Blanc is supported on this side by two buttresses,
between which vast glaciers descend. Of these the most southern(134) takes
its rise at the foot of the precipices which fall steeply down from the
Calotte,(135) and its stream, as it joins that of the Miage, is cut in two
by an enormous _rognon_ of rock. Next, to the left, comes the largest of
the buttresses of which I have spoken, almost forming an aiguille in
itself. The next glacier(136) descends from a large basin which receives
the snows of the summit-ridge between the Bosse and the Dome, and it is
divided from the third and last glacier(137) by another buttress, which
joins the summit-ridge at a point between the Dôme and the Aig. de

The great buttresses betwixt these magnificent ice-streams have supplied a
large portion of the enormous masses of débris which are disposed in
ridges round about, and are strewn over, the termination of the Glacier de
Miage in the Val Véni. These moraines(138) used to be classed amongst the
wonders of the world. They are very large for a glacier of the size of the

The dimensions of moraines are not ruled by those of glaciers. Many small
glaciers have large moraines,(139) and many large ones have small
moraines. The size of the moraines of any glacier depends mainly upon the
area of rock surface that is exposed to atmospheric influences within the
basin drained by the glacier; upon the nature of such rock,—whether it is
friable or resistant; and upon the dip of strata. Moraines most likely
will be small if little rock surface is exposed; but when large ones are
seen, then, in all probability, large areas of rock, uncovered by snow or
ice, will be found in immediate contiguity to the glacier. The Miage
glacier has large ones, because it receives detritus from many great
cliffs and ridges. But if this glacier, instead of lying, as it does, at
the bottom of a trough, were to fill that trough, if it were to completely
envelope the Aiguille de Trélatête, and the other mountains which border
it, and were to descend from Mont Blanc unbroken by rock or ridge, it
would be as destitute of morainic matter as the great _Mer de Glace_ of
Greenland. For if a country or district is _completely_ covered up by
glacier, the moraines may be of the very smallest dimensions.(140)

The contributions that are supplied to moraines by glaciers themselves,
from the abrasion of the rocks over which their ice passes, are minute
compared with the accumulations which are furnished from other sources.
These great rubbish-heaps are formed, one may say almost entirely, from
débris which falls, or is washed down the flanks of mountains, or from
cliffs bordering glaciers; and are composed, to a very limited extent
only, of matter that is ground, rasped, or filed off by the friction of
the ice.

If the contrary view were to be adopted, if it could be maintained that
“glaciers, _by their motion, break off masses of rock from the sides and
bottoms of their valley courses_, and crowd along every thing that is
movable, so as to form large accumulations of débris in front, and along
their sides,”(141) the conclusion could not be resisted, the greater the
glacier, the greater should be the moraine.

This doctrine does not find much favour with those who have personal
knowledge of what glaciers do at the present time. From De Saussure(142)
downwards it has been pointed out, time after time, that moraines are
chiefly formed from débris coming from rocks or soil _above_ the ice, not
from the bed over which it passes. But amongst the writings of modern
speculators upon glaciers and glacier-action in bygone times, it is not
uncommon to find the notions entertained, that moraines represent the
amount of _excavation_ (such is the term employed) performed by glaciers,
or at least are comprised of matter which has been excavated by glaciers;
that vast moraines have necessarily been produced by vast glaciers; and
that a great extension of glaciers necessarily causes the production of
vast moraines. Such generalisations cannot be sustained.

We descended in our track to the Lac de Combal, and from thence went over
the Col de la Seigne to les Motets, where we slept; on July 13, crossed
the Col du Mont Tondu to Contamines (in a sharp thunderstorm), and the Col
de Voza to Chamounix. Two days only remained for excursions in this
neighbourhood, and we resolved to employ them in another attempt to ascend
the Aiguille d’Argentière, upon which mountain we had been cruelly
defeated just eight days before.

It happened in this way.—Reilly had a notion that the ascent of the
Aiguille could be accomplished by following the ridge leading to its
summit from the Col du Chardonnet. At half-past six, on the morning of the
6th, we found ourselves accordingly on the top of that pass. The party
consisted of our friend Moore and his guide Almer, Reilly and his guide
François Couttet, myself and Michel Croz. So far the weather had been
calm, and the way easy; but immediately we arrived on the summit of the
pass, we got into a furious wind. Five minutes earlier we were warm,—now
we were frozen. Fine snow whirled up into the air penetrated every crack
in our harness, and assailed our skins as painfully as if it had been red
hot instead of freezing cold. The teeth chattered involuntarily—talking
was laborious; the breath froze instantaneously; eating was disagreeable;
sitting was impossible!

We looked towards our mountain. Its aspect was not encouraging. The ridge
that led upwards had a spiked arête, palisaded with miniature aiguilles,
banked up at their bases by heavy snow-beds, which led down, at
considerable angles, on one side towards the Glacier de Saleinoz, on the
other towards the Glacier du Chardonnet. Under any circumstances, it would
have been a stiff piece of work to clamber up that way. Prudence and
comfort counselled, “Give it up.” Discretion overruled valour. Moore and
Almer crossed the Col du Chardonnet to go to Orsières, and we others
returned towards Chamounix.

But when we got some distance down, the evil spirit which prompts men to
ascend mountains tempted us to stop, and to look back at the Aiguille
d’Argentière. The sky was cloudless; no wind could be felt, nor sign of it
perceived; it was only eight o’clock in the morning; and there, right
before us, we saw another branch of the glacier leading high up into the
mountain—far above the Col du Chardonnet—and a little couloir rising from
its head almost to the top of the peak. This was clearly the right route
to take. We turned back, and went at it.

The glacier was steep, and the snow gully rising out of it was steeper.
Seven hundred steps were cut. Then the couloir became _too_ steep. We took
to the rocks on its left, and at last gained the ridge, at a point about
1500 feet above the Col du Chardonnet. We faced about to the right, and
went along the ridge; keeping on some snow a little below its crest, on
the Saleinoz side. Then we got the wind again; yet no one thought of
turning, for we were within 250 feet of the summit.

The axes of Croz and Couttet went to work once more, for the slope was
about as steep as snow-slope could be. Its surface was covered with a
loose, granular crust; dry and utterly incoherent; which slipped away in
streaks directly it was meddled with. The men had to cut through this into
the old beds underneath, and to pause incessantly to rake away the powdery
stuff, which poured down in hissing streams over the hard substratum. Ugh!
how cold it was! How the wind blew! Couttet’s hat was torn from its
fastenings, and went on a tour in Switzerland. The flour-like snow, swept
off the ridge above, was tossed spirally upwards, eddying in _tourmentes_;
then, dropt in lulls, or caught by other gusts, was flung far and wide to
feed the Saleinoz.

“My feet are getting suspiciously numbed,” cried Reilly: “how about
frost-bites?” “Kick hard, sir,” shouted the men; “it’s the only way.”
_Their_ fingers were kept alive by their work; but it was cold for the
feet, and they kicked and hewed simultaneously. I followed their example
too violently, and made a hole clean through my footing. A clatter
followed as if crockery had been thrown down a well.

I went down a step or two, and discovered in a second that all were
standing over a cavern (not a crevasse, speaking properly) that was
bridged over by a thin vault of ice, from which great icicles hung in
groves. Almost in the same minute Reilly pushed one of his hands right
through the roof. The whole party might have tumbled through at any
moment. “Go ahead, Croz, we are over a chasm!” “We know it,” he answered,
“and we can’t find a firm place.”

In the blandest manner, my comrade inquired if to persevere would not be
to do that which is called “tempting Providence.” My reply being in the
affirmative, he further observed, “Suppose we go down?” “Very willingly.”
“Ask the guides.” They had not the least objection; so we went down, and
slept that night at the Montanvert.

Off the ridge we were out of the wind. In fact, a hundred feet down _to
windward_, on the slope fronting the Glacier du Chardonnet, we were
broiling hot; there was not a suspicion of a breeze. Upon that side there
was nothing to tell that a hurricane was raging a hundred feet higher,—the
cloudless sky looked tranquillity itself: whilst to leeward the only sign
of a disturbed atmosphere was the friskiness of the snow upon the crests
of the ridges.

We set out on the 14th, with Croz, Payot, and Charlet, to finish off the
work which had been cut short so abruptly, and slept, as before, at the
Chalets de Lognan. On the 15th, about midday, we arrived upon the summit
of the aiguille, and found that we had actually been within one hundred
feet of it when we turned back upon the first attempt.

It was a triumph to Reilly. In this neighbourhood he had performed the
feat (in 1863) of joining together “two mountains, each about 13,000 feet
high, standing on the map about a mile and a half apart.” Long before we
made the ascent he had procured evidence which could not be impugned, that
the Pointe des Plines, a fictitious summit which had figured on other maps
as a distinct mountain, could be no other than the Aiguille d’Argentière,
and he had accordingly obliterated it from the preliminary draft of his
map. We saw that it was right to do so. The Pointe des Plines did not
exist. We had ocular demonstration of the accuracy of his previous

I do not know which to admire most, the fidelity of Mr. Reilly’s map, or
the indefatigable industry by which the materials were accumulated from
which it was constructed. To men who are sound in limb it may be amusing
to arrive on a summit (as we did upon the top of Mont Dolent), sitting
astride a ridge too narrow to stand upon; or to do battle with a ferocious
wind (as we did on the top of the Aiguille de Trélatête); or to feel
half-frozen in midsummer (as we did on the Aiguille d’Argentière). But
there is extremely little amusement in making sketches and notes under
such conditions. Yet upon all these expeditions, under the most adverse
circumstances, and in the most trying situations, Mr. Reilly’s brain and
fingers were always at work. Throughout all he was ever alike; the same
genial, equable-tempered companion, whether victorious or whether
defeated; always ready to sacrifice his own desires to suit our comfort
and convenience. By a happy union of audacity and prudence, combined with
untiring perseverance, he eventually completed his self-imposed task—a
work which would have been intolerable except as a labour of love—and
which, for a single individual, may well-nigh be termed Herculean.

We separated upon the level part of the Glacier d’Argentière, Reilly going
with Payot and Charlet _viâ_ the chalets of Lognan and de la Pendant,
whilst I, with Croz, followed the right bank of the glacier to the village
of Argentière.(143) At 7 P.M. we entered the humble inn, and ten minutes
afterwards heard the echoes of the cannon which were fired upon the
arrival of our comrades at Chamounix.(144)

                               CHAPTER XI.


            “A daring leader is a dangerous thing.”

On July 10, Croz and I went to Sierre, in the Valais, _viâ_ the Col de
Balme, the Col de la Forclaz, and Martigny. The Swiss side of the Forclaz
is not creditable to Switzerland. The path from Martigny to the summit has
undergone successive improvements in these latter years; but mendicants
permanently disfigure it.

We passed many tired pedestrians toiling up this oven, persecuted by
trains of parasitic children. These children swarm there like maggots in a
rotten cheese. They carry baskets of fruit with which to plague the weary
tourist. They flit around him like flies; they thrust the fruit in his
face; they pester him with their pertinacity. Beware of them!—taste, touch
not their fruit. In the eyes of these children, each peach, each grape, is
worth a prince’s ransom. It is to no purpose to be angry; it is like
flapping wasps—they only buzz the more. Whatever you do, or whatever you
say, the end will be the same. “Give me something,” is the alpha and omega
of all their addresses. They learn the phrase, it is said, before they are
taught the alphabet. It is in all their mouths. From the tiny toddler up
to the maiden of sixteen, there is nothing heard but one universal chorus
of—“Give me something; will you have the goodness to give me something?”

From Sierre we went up the Val d’Anniviers to Zinal, to join our former
companions, Moore and Almer. Moore was ambitious to discover a shorter way
from Zinal to Zermatt than the two passes which were known.(145) He had
shown to me, upon Dufour’s map, that a direct line, connecting the two
places, passed exactly over the depression between the Zinal-Rothhorn and
the Schallhorn. He was confident that a passage could be effected over
this depression, and was sanguine that it would (in consequence of its
directness) prove to be a quicker route than the circuitous ones over the
Triftjoch and the Col Durand.

He was awaiting us, and we immediately proceeded up the valley, and across
the foot of the Zinal glacier to the Arpitetta Alp, where a chalet was
supposed to exist in which we might pass the night. We found it at
length,(146) but it was not equal to our expectations. It was not one of
those fine timbered chalets, with huge overhanging eaves, covered with
pious sentences carved in unintelligible characters. It was a hovel,
growing, as it were, out of the hill-side; roofed with rough slabs of
slaty stone; without a door or window; surrounded by quagmires of ordure,
and dirt of every description.

A foul native invited us to enter. The interior was dark; and, when our
eyes became accustomed to the gloom, we saw that our palace was in plan
about 15 by 20 feet; on one side it was scarcely five feet high, and on
the other was nearly seven. On this side there was a raised platform,
about six feet wide, littered with dirty straw and still dirtier
sheepskins. This was the bedroom. The remainder of the width of the
apartment was the parlour. The rest was the factory. Cheese was the
article which was being fabricated, and the foul native was engaged in its
manufacture. He was garnished behind with a regular cowherd’s one-legged
stool, which gave him a queer, uncanny look when it was elevated in the
air as he bent over into his tub; for the making of his cheese required
him to blow into a tub for ten minutes at a time. He then squatted on his
stool to gain breath, and took a few whiffs at a short pipe; after which
he blew away more vigorously than before. We were told that this procedure
was necessary. It appeared to us to be nasty. It accounts, perhaps, for
the flavour possessed by certain Swiss cheeses.

Big, black, and leaden-coloured clouds rolled up from Zinal, and met in
combat on the Moming glacier with others which descended from the
Rothhorn. Down came the rain in torrents, and crash went the thunder. The
herd-boys hurried under shelter, for the frightened cattle needed no
driving, and tore spontaneously down the Alp as if running a
steeple-chase. Men, cows, pigs, sheep, and goats forgot their mutual
animosities, and rushed to the only refuge on the mountain. The spell was
broken which had bound the elements for some weeks past, and the _cirque_
from the Weisshorn to Lo Besso was the theatre in which they spent their

A sullen morning succeeded an angry night. We were undecided in our
council whether to advance or to return down the valley. Good seemed
likely to overpower bad; so, at 5.40, we left the chalet _en route_ for
our pass [amidst the most encouraging assurances from all the people on
the Alp that we need not distress ourselves about the weather, as it was
not possible to get to the point at which we were aiming].(147)

Our course led us at first over ordinary mountain slopes, and then over a
flat expanse of glacier. Before this was quitted, it was needful to
determine the exact line which was to be taken. We were divided betwixt
two opinions. I advocated that a course should be steered due south, and
that the upper plateau of the Moming glacier should be attained by making
a great detour to our right. This was negatived without a division. Almer
declared in favour of making for some rocks to the south-west of the
Schallhorn, and attaining the upper plateau of the glacier by mounting
them. Croz advised a middle course, up some very steep and broken glacier.
Croz’s route seemed likely to turn out to be impracticable, because much
step-cutting would be required upon it. Almer’s rocks did not look good;
they were, possibly, unassailable. I thought both routes were bad, and
declined to vote for either of them. Moore hesitated, Almer gave way, and
Croz’s route was adopted.

He did not go very far, however, before he found that he had undertaken
too much, and after [glancing occasionally round at us, to see what we
thought about it, suggested that it might, after all, be wiser to take to
the rocks of the Schallhorn]. That is to say, he suggested the abandonment
of his own and the adoption of Almer’s route. No one opposed the change of
plan, and, in the absence of instructions to the contrary, he proceeded to
cut steps across an ice-slope towards the rocks.

Let the reader now cast his eye upon the map of the Valley of Zermatt, and
he will see that when we quitted the slopes of the Arpitetta Alp, we took
a south-easterly course over the Moming glacier. We halted to settle the
plan of attack shortly after we got upon the ice. The rocks of the
Schallhorn, whose ascent Almer recommended, were then to our south-east.
Croz’s proposed route was to the south-west of the rocks, and led up the
southern side of a very steep and broken glacier.(148) The part he
intended to traverse was, in a sense, undoubtedly practicable. He gave it
up because it would have involved too much step-cutting. But the part of
this glacier which intervened between his route and Almer’s rocks was, in
the most complete sense of the word, impracticable. It passed over a
continuation of the rocks, and was broken in half by them. The upper
portion was separated from the lower portion by a long slope of ice that
had been built up from the débris of the glacier which had fallen from
above. The foot of this slope was surrounded by immense quantities of the
larger avalanche blocks. These we cautiously skirted, and when Croz halted
they had been left far below, and we were half-way up the side of the
great slope which led to the base of the ice-wall above.

Across this ice-slope Croz now proceeded to cut. It was executing a flank
movement in the face of an enemy by whom we might be attacked at any
moment. The peril was obvious. It was a monstrous folly. It was
foolhardiness. A retreat should have been sounded.(149)

“I am not ashamed to confess,” wrote Moore in his Journal, “that during
the whole time we were crossing this slope my heart was in my mouth, and I
never felt relieved from such a load of care as when, after, I suppose, a
passage of about twenty minutes, we got on to the rocks and were in
safety.... I have never heard a positive oath come from Almer’s mouth, but
the language in which he kept up a running commentary, more to himself
than to me, as we went along, was stronger than I should have given him
credit for using. His prominent feeling seemed to be one of _indignation_
that we should be in such a position, and self-reproach at being a party
to the proceeding; while the emphatic way in which, at intervals, he
exclaimed, ‘Quick; be quick,’ sufficiently betokened his alarm.”

It was not necessary to admonish Croz to be quick. He was fully as alive
to the risk as any of the others. He told me afterwards, that this place
was the most dangerous he had ever crossed, and that no consideration
whatever would tempt him to cross it again. Manfully did he exert himself
to escape from the impending destruction. His head, bent down to his work,
never turned to the right or to the left. One, two, three, went his axe,
and then he stepped on to the spot where he had been cutting. How
painfully insecure should we have considered those steps at any other
time! But now, we thought only of the rocks in front, and of the hideous
_séracs_, lurching over above us, apparently in the act of falling.

We got to the rocks in safety, and if they had been doubly as difficult as
they were, we should still have been well content. We sat down and
refreshed the inner man; keeping our eyes on the towering pinnacles of ice
under which we had passed; but which, now, were almost beneath us. Without
a preliminary warning sound, one of the largest—as high as the Monument at
London Bridge—fell upon the slope below. The stately mass heeled over as
if upon a hinge (holding together until it bent 30 degrees forwards), then
it crushed out its base, and, rent into a thousand fragments, plunged
vertically down upon the slope that we had crossed! Every atom of our
track, that was in its course, was obliterated; all the new snow was swept
away, and a broad sheet of smooth, glassy ice, showed the resistless force
with which it had fallen.

            [Illustration: ICE-AVALANCHE ON THE MOMING PASS.]

It was inexcusable to follow such a perilous path, but it is easy to
understand why it was taken. To have retreated from the place where Croz
suggested a change of plan, to have descended below the reach of danger,
and to have mounted again by the route which Almer suggested, would have
been equivalent to abandoning the excursion; for no one would have passed
another night in the chalet on the Arpitetta Alp. “Many,” says Thucydides,
“though seeing well the perils ahead, are forced along by fear of
dishonour—as the world calls it—so that, vanquished by a mere word, they
fall into irremediable calamities.” Such was nearly the case here. No one
could say a word in justification of the course which was adopted; all
were alive to the danger that was being encountered; yet a grave risk was
deliberately—although unwillingly—incurred, in preference to admitting, by
withdrawal from an untenable position, that an error of judgment had been

After a laborious trudge over many species of snow, and through many
varieties of vapour—from the quality of a Scotch mist to that of a London
fog—we at length stood on the depression between the Rothhorn and the
Schallhorn.(150) A steep wall of snow was upon the Zinal side of the
summit; but what the descent was like on the other side we could not tell,
for a billow of snow tossed over its crest by the western winds, suspended
o’er Zermatt with motion arrested, resembling an ocean-wave frozen in the
act of breaking, cut off the view.(151)

Croz—held hard in by the others, who kept down the Zinal side—opened his
shoulders, flogged down the foam, and cut away the cornice to its junction
with the summit; then boldly leaped down, and called on us to follow him.

            [Illustration: SUMMIT OF THE MOMING PASS IN 1864.]

It was well for us now that we had such a man as leader. An inferior or
less daring guide would have hesitated to enter upon the descent in a
dense mist; and Croz himself would have done right to pause had he been
less magnificent in _physique_. He acted, rather than said, “Where snow
lies fast, there man can go; where ice exists, a way may be cut; it is a
question of power; I have the power,—all you have to do is to follow me.”
Truly, he did not spare himself, and could he have performed the feats
upon the boards of a theatre that he did upon this occasion, he would have
brought down the house with thunders of applause. Here is what Moore wrote
in _his_ Journal.

[The descent bore a strong resemblance to the Col de Pilatte, but was very
much steeper and altogether more difficult, which is saying a good deal.
Croz was in his element, and selected his way with marvellous sagacity,
while Almer had an equally honourable and, perhaps, more responsible post
in the rear, which he kept with his usual steadiness.... One particular
passage has impressed itself on my mind as one of the most nervous I have
ever made. We had to pass along a crest of ice, a mere knife-edge,—on our
left a broad crevasse, whose bottom was lost in blue haze, and on our
right, at an angle of 70°, or more, a slope falling to a similar gulf
below. Croz, as he went along the edge, chipped small notches in the ice,
in which we placed our feet, with the toes well turned out, doing all we
knew to preserve our balance. While stepping from one of these precarious
footholds to another, I staggered for a moment. I had not really lost my
footing; but the agonised tone in which Almer, who was behind me, on
seeing me waver, exclaimed, “Slip not, sir!” gave us an even livelier
impression than we already had of the insecurity of the position.... One
huge chasm, whose upper edge was far above the lower one, could neither be
leaped nor turned, and threatened to prove an insuperable barrier. But
Croz showed himself equal to the emergency. Held up by the rest of the
party, he cut a series of holes for the hands and feet, down and along the
almost perpendicular wall of ice forming the upper side of the _schrund_.
Down this slippery staircase we crept, with our faces to the wall, until a
point was reached where the width of the chasm was not too great for us to
drop across. Before we had done, we got quite accustomed to taking flying
leaps over the _schrunds_.... To make a long story short; after a most
desperate and exciting struggle, and as bad a piece of ice-work as it is
possible to imagine, we emerged on to the upper plateau of the Hohlicht

The glimpses which had been caught of the lower part of the Hohlicht
glacier were discouraging, so it was now determined to cross over the
ridge between it and the Rothhorn glacier. This was not done without great
trouble. Again we rose to a height exceeding 12,000 feet. Eventually we
took to the track of the despised Triftjoch, and descended by the
well-known, but rough, path which leads to that pass; arriving at the
Monte Rosa hotel at Zermatt at 7.20 P.M. We occupied nearly twelve hours
of actual walking in coming from the chalet on the Arpitetta Alp (which
was 2½ hours above Zinal), and we consequently found that the Moming pass
was not the shortest route from Zinal to Zermatt, although it was the most

Two dozen guides—good, bad, and indifferent; French, Swiss, and
Italian—can commonly be seen sitting on the wall on the front of the Monte
Rosa hotel: waiting on their employers, and looking for employers;
watching new arrivals, and speculating on the number of francs which may
be extracted from their pockets. The _Messieurs_—sometimes strangely and
wonderfully dressed—stand about in groups, or lean back in chairs, or
lounge on the benches which are placed by the door. They wear
extraordinary boots, and still more remarkable head-dresses. Their peeled,
blistered, and swollen faces are worth studying. Some, by the exercise of
watchfulness and unremitting care, have been fortunate enough to acquire a
fine raw sienna complexion. But most of them have not been so happy. They
have been scorched on rocks, and roasted on glaciers. Their cheeks—first
puffed, then cracked—have exuded a turpentine-like matter, which has
coursed down their faces, and has dried in patches like the resin on the
trunks of pines. They have removed it, and at the same time have pulled
off large flakes of their skin. They have gone from bad to worse—their
case has become hopeless—knives and scissors have been called into play;
tenderly, and daintily, they have endeavoured to reduce their cheeks to
one, uniform hue. It is not to be done. But they have gone on, fascinated,
and at last have brought their unhappy countenances to a state of helpless
and complete ruin. Their lips are cracked; their cheeks are swollen; their
eyes are blood-shot; their noses are peeled and indescribable.

            [Illustration: THE CLUB-ROOM OF ZERMATT, IN 1864.]

Such are the pleasures of the mountaineer! Scornfully and derisively the
last comer compares the sight with his own flaccid face and dainty hands;
unconscious that he too, perhaps, will be numbered with those whom he now

There is a frankness of manner about these strangely-apparelled and
queer-faced men, which does not remind one of drawing-room, or city life;
and it is good to see—in this club-room of Zermatt—those cold bodies, our
too-frigid countrymen, regale together when brought into contact; and it
is pleasant to witness the hearty welcome given to the new-comers by the
host and his excellent wife.(152)

I left this agreeable society to seek letters at the post. They yielded
disastrous intelligence. My holiday was brought to an abrupt termination,
and I awaited the arrival of Reilly (who was convoying the stores for the
attack on the Matterhorn) only to inform him that our arrangements were
upset; then travelled home, day and night, as fast as express trains would
carry me.

                               CHAPTER XII.


            “Ye crags and peaks, I’m with you once again!
            .   .   .   Methinks I hear
            A spirit in your echoes answers me,
            And bid your tenant welcome to his home
                                                               S. KNOWLES.

Our career in 1864 had been one of unbroken success, but the great ascent
upon which I had set my heart was not attempted, and, until it was
accomplished, I was unsatisfied. Other things, too, influenced me to visit
the Alps once more. I wished to travel elsewhere, in places where the
responsibility of direction would rest with myself alone. It was well to
know how far my judgment in the choice of routes could be relied upon.

The journey of 1865 was chiefly undertaken, then, to find out to what
extent I was capable to select paths over mountainous country. The
programme which was drawn up for this journey was rather ambitious, since
it included almost all of the great peaks which had not then been
ascended; but it was neither lightly undertaken nor hastily executed. All
pains were taken to secure success. Information was sought from those who
could give it, and the defeats of others were studied, that their errors
might be avoided. The results which followed came not so much, perhaps,
from luck, as from forethought and careful calculation.

For success does not, as a rule, come by chance, and when one fails there
is a reason for it. But when any notable, or so-called brilliant thing is
done, we are too apt to look upon the success alone, without considering
how it was accomplished. Whilst, when men fail, we inquire why they have
not succeeded. So failures are oftentimes more instructive than successes,
and the disappointments of some become profitable to others.

Up to a certain point, the programme was completely and happily carried
out. Nothing but success attended our efforts so long as the excursions
were executed as they had been planned. Most of them were made upon the
very days which had been fixed for them months beforehand; and all were
accomplished, comparatively speaking, so easily, that their descriptions
must be, in the absence of difficulty and danger, less interesting to the
general reader than they would have been if our course had been marked by
blunders and want of judgment. Before proceeding to speak of these
excursions, it will not be entirely useless to explain the reasons which
influenced the selection of the routes which were adopted upon them.

In the course of the past five seasons my early practices were
revolutionised. My antipathy to snow was overcome, and my predilection for
rocks was modified. Like all those who are not mountaineers born, I was,
at the first, extremely nervous upon steep snow. The snow seemed bound to
slip, and all those who were upon it to go along with it. Snow of a
certain quality is undoubtedly liable to slip when it is at a certain
inclination.(153) The exact states which are dangerous, or safe, it is not
possible to describe in writing. That is only learnt by experience, and
confidence upon snow is not really felt until one has gained experience.
Confidence gradually came to me, and as it came so did my partiality for
rocks diminish. For it was evident, to use a common expression, that it
paid better to travel upon snow than upon rocks. This applies to snow-beds
pure and simple, or to snow which is lying over glacier; and in the
selection of routes it has, latterly, always been my practice to look for
the places where snow slopes, or snow-covered glaciers, reach highest into

It is comparatively seldom, however, that an ascent of a great mountain
can be executed exclusively upon snow and glacier. Ridges peep through
which have to be surmounted. In my earlier scramblings I usually took to,
or was taken upon, the summits (or arêtes) of the ridges, and a good many
mountaineers habitually take to them on principle, as the natural and
proper way. According to my experience, it is seldom well to do so when
any other course is open. As I have already said, and presently shall
repeat more particularly, the crests of all the main ridges of the great
peaks of the Alps are shattered and cleft by frost; and it not
unfrequently happens that a notch in a ridge, which appears perfectly
insignificant from a distance, is found to be an insuperable barrier to
farther progress; and a great detour, or a long descent, has to be made to
avoid the obstacle. When committed to an arête one is tied, almost always,
to a particular course, from which it is difficult to deviate. Much loss
of time must result if any serious obstruction occurs; and defeat often
follows a temporary check.

But it rarely happens that a great alpine peak is seen that is cut off
abruptly, in all directions, from the snows and glaciers which surround
it. In its gullies snow will cling, although its faces may be too steep
for the formation of permanent snow-beds. The merits of these snow-gullies
(or _couloirs_) have been already pointed out,(155) and it is hardly
necessary to observe, after that which was just now said about snow, that
ascents of snow-gullies (with proper precautions) are very much to be
preferred to ascents of rocky arêtes.

By following the glaciers, the snow-slopes above, and the couloirs rising
from them, it is usually possible to get very close to the summits of the
great peaks in the Alps. The final climb will, perhaps, necessarily be by
an arête. The less of it the better.

It occasionally occurs that considerable mountain slopes, or faces, are
destitute of snow-gullies. In that case it will, very likely, be best to
adhere to the faces (or to the gullies or minor ridges upon them) rather
than to take to the _great_ ridges. Upon a face one can move to the right
or to the left with more facility than upon the crest of a ridge; and when
a difficulty is arrived at, it is, consequently, less troublesome to

In selecting the routes which were taken in 1865, I looked, first, for
places where glaciers and snow extended highest up into the mountains
which were to be ascended, or the ridges which were to be crossed. Next,
for gullies filled with snow leading still higher; and finally, from the
heads of the gullies we completed the ascents, whenever it was
practicable, by faces instead of by arêtes. The ascent of the Grand
Cornier (13,022), of the Dent Blanche (14,318), Grandes Jorasses (13,700),
Aiguille Verte (13,540), Ruinette (12,727), and the Matterhorn (14,780),
were all accomplished in this way; besides the other excursions which will
be referred to by and by. The route selected, before the start was made,
was in every case strictly followed out.

We inspected all of these mountains from neighbouring heights before
entering upon their ascents. I explained to the guides the routes I
proposed to be taken, and (when the courses were at all complicated)
sketched them out on paper to prevent misunderstanding. In some few cases
they suggested variations, and in every case the route was well discussed.
The _execution_ of the work was done by the guides, and I seldom
interfered with, or attempted to assist in it.

The 13th of June 1865 I spent in the valley of Lauterbrunnen with the Rev.
W. H. Hawker and the guides Christian and Ulrich Lauener; and on the 14th
crossed the Petersgrat with Christian Almer and Johann Tännler to Turtman
(Tourtemagne) in the Valais. Tännler was then paid off, as Michel Croz and
Franz Biener were awaiting me.

It was not possible to find two leading guides who worked together more
harmoniously than Croz and Almer. Biener’s part was subordinate to theirs,
and he was added as a convenience rather than as a necessity. Croz spoke
French alone, Almer little else than German. Biener spoke both languages,
and was useful on that account; but he seldom went to the front, excepting
during the early part of the day, when the work was easy, and he acted
throughout more as a porter than as a guide.

The importance of having a reserve of power on mountain expeditions cannot
be too strongly insisted upon. We always had some in hand, and were never
pressed, or overworked, so long as we were together. Come what might, we
were ready for it. But by a series of chances, which I shall never cease
to regret, I was first obliged to part with Croz, and then to dismiss the
others;(156) and so, deviating from the course that I had deliberately
adopted, which was successful in practice because it was sound in
principle, became fortuitously a member of an expedition that ended with
the catastrophe which brings this book, and brought my scrambles amongst
the Alps, to a close.(157)

On June 15 we went, from Turtman to Z’meiden, and thence over the
Forcletta pass to Zinal. We diverged from the summit of the pass up some
neighbouring heights to inspect the Grand Cornier, and I decided to have
nothing to do with its northern side. It seemed quite safe to pronounce it
inaccessible from that direction, although it was more than seven miles

On the 16th we left Zinal at 2.5 A.M., having been for a moment greatly
surprised by an entry in the hotel-book,(158) and ascending by the Zinal
glacier, and giving the base of our mountain a wide berth in order that it
might be better examined, passed gradually right round to its south,
before a way up it was seen.(159) At 8.30 we arrived upon the plateau of
the glacier that descends towards the east, between the Grand Cornier and
the Dent Blanche, and from this place a route was readily traced. We
steered to the north (as shown upon the map) over the glacier, towards the
ridge that descends to the east; gained it by mounting snow-slopes, and
followed it to the summit, which was arrived at before half-past twelve.
From first to last the route was almost entirely over snow.

The ridges leading to the north and to the south from the summit of the
Grand Cornier, exhibited in a most striking manner the extraordinary
effects that may be produced by violent alternations of heat and cold. The
southern one was hacked and split into the wildest forms; and the northern
one was not less cleft and impracticable, and offered the droll piece of
rock-carving which is represented upon page 211. Some small blocks
actually tottered and fell before our eyes, and, starting others in their
downward course, grew into a perfect avalanche, which descended with a
solemn roar on to the glaciers beneath.


It is natural that the great ridges should present the wildest forms—not
on account of their dimensions, but by reason of their positions. They are
exposed to the fiercest heat of the sun, and are seldom in shadow as long
as it is above the horizon. They are entirely unprotected, and are
attacked by the strongest blasts and by the most intense cold. The most
durable rocks are not proof against such assaults. These grand, apparently
solid—eternal—mountains, seeming so firm, so immutable, are yet ever
changing and crumbling into dust. These shattered ridges are evidence of
their sufferings. Let me repeat that every principal ridge of every great
peak in the Alps amongst those I have seen has been shattered in this way;
and that every summit, amongst the rock-summits upon which I have stood,
has been nothing but a piled-up heap of fragments.

The minor ridges do not usually present such extraordinary forms as the
principal ones. They are less exposed, and they are less broken up; and it
is reasonable to assume that their annual degradation is less than that of
the summit-ridges.

The wear and tear does not cease even in winter, for these great ridges
are never completely covered up by snow,(160) and the sun has still power.
The destruction is incessant, and increases as time goes on; for the
greater the surfaces which are exposed to the practically inexhaustible
powers of sun and frost, the greater ruin will be effected.


The rock-falls which are continually occurring upon all rock mountains
(such as are referred to upon pp. 29, 55) are, of course, caused by these
powers. No one doubts it; but one never believes it so thoroughly as when
the quarries are seen from which their materials have been hewn; and when
the germs, so to speak, of these avalanches have been seen actually
starting from above.

These falls of rock take place from two causes. First, from the heat of
the sun detaching small stones or rocks which have been arrested on ledges
or slopes and bound together by snow or ice. I have seen such released
many times when the sun has risen high; fall gently at first, gather
strength, grow in volume, and at last rush down with a cloud trailing
behind, like the dust after an express train. Secondly, from the freezing
of the water which trickles, during the day, into the clefts, fissures,
and crannies. This agency is naturally most active in the night, and then,
or during very cold weather, the greatest falls take place.(161)

When one has continually seen and heard these falls, it is easily
understood why the glaciers are laden with moraines. The wonder is, not
that they are sometimes so great, but that they are not always greater.
Irrespective of lithological considerations, one knows that this débris
cannot have been excavated _by_ the glaciers. The moraines are _borne_ by
glaciers, but they are _born_ from the ridges. They are generated by the
sun, and delivered by the frost. “Fire,” it is well said in Plutarch’s
life of Camillus, “is the most active thing in nature, and all generation
is motion, or at least, with motion; all other parts of matter without
warmth lie sluggish and dead, and crave the influence of heat as their
life, and when that comes upon them, they immediately acquire some active
or passive qualities.”(162)

If the Alps were granted a perfectly invariable temperature, if they were
no longer subjected, alternately, to freezing blasts and to scorching
heat, they might more correctly be termed “eternal.” They might still
continue to decay, but their abasement would be much less rapid.

When rocks are covered up by a sheet of glacier they do enjoy an almost
invariable temperature. The extremes of summer and winter are unknown to
rocks which are so covered up,—a range of a very few degrees is the most
that is possible underneath the ice.(163) There is, _then_, little or no
disintegration from unequal expansion and contraction. Frost, _then_, does
not penetrate into the heart of the rock, and cleave off vast masses. The
rocks, _then_, sustain grinding instead of cleaving. Atoms, _then_, come
away instead of masses. Fissures and overhanging surfaces are bridged, for
the ice cannot get at them; and after many centuries of grinding have been
sustained, we still find numberless angular surfaces (in the _lee-sides_)
which were fashioned before the ice began to work.

The points of difference which are so evident between the operations of
heat, cold, and water, and those of glaciers upon rocks, are as follow.
The former take advantage of cracks, fissures, joints, and soft places;
the latter do not. The former can work _underneath_ overhanging masses;
the latter cannot. The effects produced by the former continually
_increase_, because they continually expose fresh surfaces by forming new
cracks, fissures, and holes. The effects which the latter produce
constantly _diminish_, because the area of the surfaces operated upon
becomes less and less, as they become smoother and flatter.

What can one conclude, then, but that sun, frost, and water, have had
infinitely more to do than glaciers with the fashioning of mountain-forms
and valley-slopes? Who can refuse to believe that powers which are at work
everywhere, which have been at work always, which are so incomparably
active, capable, and enduring, must have produced greater effects than a
solitary power which is always local in its influence, which has worked,
_comparatively_, but for a short time, which is always slow and feeble in
its operations, and which constantly diminishes in intensity?

Yet there are some who refuse to believe that sun, frost, and water have
played an important part in modelling the Alps, and hold it as an article
of their faith that the Alpine region “owes its present conformation
mainly to the action of its ancient glaciers”!(164)

My reverie was interrupted by Croz observing that it was time to be off.
Less than two hours sufficed to take us to the glacier plateau below
(where we had left our baggage); three quarters of an hour more placed us
upon the depression between the Grand Cornier and the Dent Blanche (Col du
Grand Cornier(165)), and at 6 P.M. we arrived at Abricolla. Croz and
Biener hankered after milk, and descended to a village lower down the
valley; but Almer and I stayed where we were, and passed a chilly night on
some planks in a half-burnt chalet.(166)

                              CHAPTER XIII.

                     THE ASCENT OF THE DENT BLANCHE.

            “God help thee, Trav’ller, on thy journey far;
                The wind is bitter keen,—the snow o’erlays
                The hidden pits, and dang’rous hollow-ways,
            And darkness will involve thee.—No kind star
            To-night will guide thee.”...
                                                           H. KIRKE WHITE.

Croz and Biener did not return until past 5 A.M. on June 17, and we then
set out at once for Zermatt, intending to cross the Col d’Hérens. But we
did not proceed far before the attractions of the Dent Blanche were felt
to be irresistible, and we turned aside up the steep lateral glacier which
descends along its south-western face.

The Dent Blanche is a mountain that is little known except to the climbing
fraternity. It was, and is, reputed to be one of the most difficult
mountains in the Alps. Many attempts were made to scale it before its
ascent was accomplished. Even Leslie Stephen himself, fleetest of foot of
the whole Alpine brotherhood, once upon a time returned discomfited from

                     [Illustration: LESLIE STEPHEN.]

It was not climbed until 1862; but in that year Mr. T. S. Kennedy, with
Mr. Wigram, and the guides Jean B. Croz(167) and Kronig, managed to
conquer it. They had a hard fight though before they gained the victory; a
furious wind and driving snow, added to the natural difficulties, nearly
turned the scale against them.(168)

Mr. Kennedy started from Abricolla between 2 and 3 A.M. on July 18, 1862,
and ascending the glacier that is mentioned in the opening paragraph, went
towards the point marked 3912 mètres upon the map;(169) then turned to the
left (that is, to the north), and completed the ascent by the southern
ridge—that which overhangs the western side of the Schönbühl glacier.

Mr. Kennedy described his expedition in a very interesting paper in the
_Alpine Journal_. His account bore the impress of truth; yet unbelievers
said that it was impossible to have told (in weather such as was
experienced) whether the summit had actually been attained, and sometimes
roundly asserted that the mountain, as the saying is, still remained

I did not share these doubts, although they influenced me to make the
ascent. I thought it might be possible to find an easier route than that
taken by Mr. Kennedy, and that if we succeeded in discovering one we
should be able at once to refute his traducers, and to vaunt our superior
wisdom. Actuated by these elevated motives, I halted my little army at the
foot of the glacier, and inquired, “Which is best for us to do?—to ascend
the Dent Blanche, or to cross to Zermatt?” They answered, with befitting
solemnity, “We think Dent Blanche is best.”

From the chalets of Abricolla the south-west face of the Dent Blanche is
regarded almost exactly in profile. From thence it is seen that the angle
of the face scarcely exceeds thirty degrees, and after observing this I
concluded that the face would, in all probability, give an easier path to
the summit than the crest of the very jagged ridge which was followed by
Mr. Kennedy.

We zigzagged up the glacier along the foot of the face, and looked for a
way on to it. We looked for some time in vain, for a mighty _bergschrund_
effectually prevented approach, and, like a fortress’ moat, protected the
wall from assault. We went up and up, until, I suppose, we were not more
than a thousand feet below the point marked 3912 mètres; then a bridge was
discovered, and we dropped down on hands and knees to cross it.

       [Illustration: THE BERGSCHRUND ON THE DENT BLANCHE IN 1865]

A bergschrund, it was said on p. 182, is a schrund, and something more
than a schrund. A schrund is simply a big crevasse. A bergschrund is
frequently, although not always, a big crevasse. The term is applied to
the last of the crevasses that one finds, in ascending, before quitting
the glacier, and taking to the rocks which bound it. It is the mountains’
schrund. Sometimes it is _very_ large, but early in the season (that is to
say in the month of June or before) bergschrunds are usually snowed up, or
well bridged over, and do not give much trouble. Later in the year, say in
August, they are frequently very great hindrances, and occasionally are
completely impassable.

They are lines of rupture consequent upon unequal motion. The glaciers
below move quicker than the snow or ice which clings immediately to the
mountains; hence these fissures result. The slower motion of that which is
above can only be attributed to its having to sustain greater friction;
for the rule is that the upper portion is set at a steeper angle than the
lower. As that is the case, we should expect that the upper portion would
move _quicker_ than the lower, and it would do so, doubtless, but for the
retardation of the rocks over which, and through which, it passes.(170)

We crossed the bergschrund of the Dent Blanche, I suppose, at a height of
about 12,000 feet above the level of the sea. Our work may be said to have
commenced at that point. The face, although not steep in its general
inclination, was so cut up by little ridges and cliffs, and so seamed with
incipient couloirs, that it had all the difficulty of a much more
precipitous slope. The difficulties were never great, but they were
numerous, and made a very respectable total when put together. We passed
the bergschrund soon after nine in the morning, and during the next eleven
hours halted only five-and-forty minutes. The whole of the remainder of
the time was occupied in ascending and descending the 2400 feet which
compose this south-western face; and inasmuch as 1000 feet per hour
(taking the mean of ascent and descent) is an ordinary rate of
progression, it is tolerably certain that the Dent Blanche is a mountain
of exceptional difficulty.

The hindrances opposed to us by the mountain itself were, however, as
nothing compared with the atmospheric obstructions. It is true there was
plenty of, “Are you fast, Almer?” “Yes.” “Go ahead, Biener.” Biener, made
secure, cried, “Come on, sir,” and _Monsieur_ endeavoured. “No, no,” said
Almer, “not there,—_here_,”—pointing with his bâton to the right place to
clutch. Then ’twas Croz’s turn, and we all drew in the rope as the great
man followed. “Forwards” once more—and so on.

Five hundred feet of this kind of work had been accomplished when we were
saluted (not entirely unexpectedly) by the first gust of a hurricane which
was raging above. The day was a lovely one for dwellers in the valleys,
but we had, long ago, noted some light, gossamer clouds, that were
hovering round our summit, being drawn out in a suspicious manner into
long, silky threads. Croz, indeed, prophesied before we had crossed the
schrund, that we should be beaten by the wind, and had advised that we
should return. But I had retorted, “No, my good Croz, you said just now
‘Dent Blanche is best’; we must go up the Dent Blanche.”

I have a very lively and disagreeable recollection of this wind. Upon the
outskirts of the disturbed region it was only felt occasionally. It then
seemed to make rushes at one particular man, and when it had discomfited
him, it whisked itself away to some far-off spot, only to return,
presently, in greater force than before.

My old enemy—the Matterhorn—seen across the basin of the Z’Muttgletscher,
looked totally unassailable. “Do you think,” the men asked, “that you, or
any one else, will ever get up _that_ mountain?” And when, undismayed by
their ridicule, I stoutly answered, “Yes, but not upon that side,” they
burst into derisive chuckles. I must confess that my hopes sank; for
nothing can look more completely inaccessible than the Matterhorn on its
northern and north-west sides.

“Forwards” once again. We overtopped the Dent d’Hérens. “Not a thousand
feet more; in three hours we shall be on the summit.” “You mean _ten_,”
echoed Croz, so slow had been the progress. But I was not far wrong in the
estimate. At 3.15 we struck the great ridge followed by Mr. Kennedy, close
to the top of the mountain. The wind and cold were terrible there.
Progress was oftentimes impossible, and we waited, crouching under the lee
of rocks, listening to “the shrieking of the mindless wind,” while the
blasts swept across, tearing off the upper snow and blowing it away in
streamers over the Schönbühl glacier—“nothing seen except an indescribable
writhing in the air, like the wind made visible.”

Our goal was concealed by mist, although it was only a few yards away, and
Croz’s prophecy, that we should stay all night upon the summit, seemed
likely to come true. The men rose with the occasion, although even _their_
fingers had nearly lost sensation. There were no murmurings, nor
suggestions of return, and they pressed on for the little white cone which
they knew must be near at hand. Stopped again; a big mass perched loosely
on the ridge barred the way; we could not crawl over, and scarcely dared
creep round it. The wine went round for the last time. The liquor was
half-frozen,—still we would more of it. It was all gone; the bottle was
left behind, and we pushed on, for there was a lull.

The end came almost before it was expected. The clouds opened, and I saw
that we were all but upon the highest point, and that, between us and it,
about twenty yards off, there was a little artificial pile of stones.
Kennedy was a true man,—it was a cairn which he had erected. “What is
that, Croz?” “_Homme des pierres_,” he bawled. It was needless to proceed
farther; I jerked the rope from Biener, and motioned that we should go
back. He did the same to Almer, and we turned immediately. _They_ did not
see the stones (they were cutting footsteps), and misinterpreted the
reason of the retreat. Voices were inaudible, and explanations

We commenced the descent of the face. It was hideous work. The men looked
like impersonations of Winter, with their hair all frosted, and their
beards matted with ice. My hands were numbed—dead. I begged the others to
stop. “_We cannot afford to stop; we must continue to move_,” was their
reply. They were right; to stop was to be entirely frozen. So we went
down; gripping rocks varnished with ice, which pulled the skin from the
fingers. Gloves were useless; they became iced too, and the bâtons slid
through them as slippery as eels. The iron of the axes stuck to the
fingers—it felt red-hot; but it was useless to shrink, the rocks and the
axes had to be firmly grasped—no faltering would do here.

We turned back at 4.12 P.M., and at 8.15 crossed the bergschrund again,
not having halted for a minute upon the entire descent. During the last
two hours it was windless, but time was of such vital importance that we
pressed on incessantly, and did not stop until we were fairly upon the
glacier. Then we took stock of what remained of the tips of our fingers.
There was not much skin left; they were perfectly raw, and for weeks
afterwards I was reminded of the ascent of the Dent Blanche by the twinges
which I felt when I pulled on my boots. The others escaped with some
slight frost-bites; and, altogether, we had reason to congratulate
ourselves that we got off so lightly. The men complimented me upon the
descent, and I could do the same honestly to them. If they had worked less
vigorously, or harmoniously, we should have been benighted upon the face,
where there was not a single spot upon which it was possible to sit; and
if that had happened, I do not think that one would have survived to tell
the tale.

We made the descent of the glacier in a mist, and of the moraine at its
base, and of the slopes below, in total darkness, and regained the chalets
of Abricolla at 11.45 P.M. We had been absent eighteen and a half hours,
and out of that time had been going not less than seventeen. That night we
slept the sleep of those who are thoroughly tired.(172)

                      [Illustration: T. S. KENNEDY.]

Two days afterwards, when walking into Zermatt, whom should we meet but
Mr. Kennedy. “Hullo!” we said, “we have just seen your cairn on the top of
the Dent Blanche.” “No, you haven’t,” he answered, very positively. “What
do you mean?” “Why, that you cannot have seen my cairn, because I didn’t
make one!” “Well, but we saw _a_ cairn.” “No doubt; it was made by a man
who went up the mountain last year with Lauener and Zurfluh,” “O-o-h,” we
said, rather disgusted at hearing news when we expected to communicate
some, “O-o-h! good morning, Kennedy.” Before this happened, we managed to
lose our way upon the Col d’Hérens; but an account of that must be
reserved for the next chapter.

                               CHAPTER XIV.


                       “Oh! ye immortal gods, where in the world are we?”

We should have started for Zermatt about 7 A.M. on the 18th, had not
Biener asked to be allowed to go to mass at Evolène, a village about two
and a half hours from Abricolla. He received permission, on the condition
that he returned not later than mid-day, but he did not come back until
2.30 P.M., and we thereby got into a pretty little mess.

The pass which we were about to traverse to Zermatt—the Col d’Hérens—is
one of the few glacier-passes in this district which have been known
almost from time immemorial. It is frequently crossed in the summer
season, and is a very easy route, notwithstanding that the summit of the
pass is 11,417 feet above the level of the sea.(173)

From Abricolla to the summit the way lies chiefly over the flat Glacier de
Ferpècle. The walk is of the most straightforward kind. The glacier rises
in gentle undulations; its crevasses are small and easily avoided; and all
you have to do, after once getting upon the ice, is to proceed due south,
in the most direct manner possible. If you do so, in two hours you should
be upon the summit of the pass.

We tied ourselves in line, of course, when we entered upon the glacier,
and placed Biener to lead, as he had frequently crossed the pass;
supposing that his local knowledge might save us some time upon the other
side. We had proceeded, I believe, about half-way up, when a little, thin
cloud dropped down upon us from above. It was so light and gauzy, that we
did not for a moment suppose it would become embarrassing, and hence I
neglected to note at the proper moment the course which we should
steer,—that is to say, to observe our precise situation, in regard to the
summit of the pass.

For some little time Biener progressed steadily, making a tolerably
straight track; but at length he wavered, and deviated sometimes to the
right, and sometimes to the left. Croz rushed forward directly he saw
this, and taking the poor young man by his shoulders gave him a good
shaking, told him that he was an imbecile, to untie himself at once, and
to go to the rear. Biener looked half-frightened, and obeyed without a
murmur. Croz led off briskly, and made a good straight track for a few
minutes. Then, it seemed to me, he began to move steadily round to the
left. I looked back, but the mist was now too thick to see our traces, and
so we continued to follow our leader. At last the others (who were behind,
and in a better position to judge) thought the same as I did, and we
pulled up Croz to deliver our opinion. He took our criticism in good part,
but when Biener opened his mouth that was too much for him to stand, and
he told the young man again, “_You_ are imbecile; I bet you twenty francs
to one that _my_ track is better than _yours_; twenty francs, now then,

Almer went to the front. He commenced by returning in the track for a
hundred yards or so, and then started off at a tangent from Croz’s curve.
We kept this course for half-an-hour, and then were certain that we were
not on the right route, because the snow became decidedly steep. We bore
away more and more to the right, to avoid this steep bank, but at last I
rebelled, as we had for some time been going almost south-west, which was
altogether the wrong direction. After a long discussion we returned some
distance in our track, and then steered a little east of south, but we
continually met steep snow-slopes, and to avoid them went right or left as
the case might require.

We were greatly puzzled, and could not in the least tell whether we were
too near the Dent Blanche or too close to the Tête Blanche. The mists had
thickened, and were now as dense as a moderate London fog. There were no
rocks or echoes to direct us, and the guidance of the compass brought us
invariably against these steep snow-banks. The men were fairly beaten;
they had all had a try, or more than one, and at last gave it up as a bad
job, and asked what was to be done. It was 7.30 P.M. and only an hour of
daylight was left. We were beginning to feel used up, for we had wandered
about at tip-top speed for the last three hours and a half, so I said,
“This is my advice; let us turn in our track, and go back as hard as ever
we can, not quitting the track for an instant.” They were well content,
but just as we were starting off, the clouds lifted a little, and we
thought we saw the Col. It was then to our right, and we went at it with a
dash. Before we had gone a hundred paces down came the mist again. We kept
on nevertheless for twenty minutes, and then, as darkness was perceptibly
coming on, and the snow was yet rising in front, we turned back, and by
running down the entire distance managed to get clear of the Ferpècle
glacier just as it became pitch dark. We arrived at our cheerless chalet
in due course, and went to bed supperless, for our food was gone; all very
sulky—not to say savage—agreeing in nothing except in bullying Biener.

At 7 A.M. on the 19th, we set out, for the third time, for the Col
d’Hérens. It was a fine day, and we gradually recovered our tempers as we
saw the follies which had been committed on the previous evening. Biener’s
wavering track was not so bad; but Croz had swerved from the right route
from the first, and had traced a complete semicircle, so that when we
stopped him we were facing Abricolla—whence we had started. Almer had
commenced with great discretion; but he kept on too long, and crossed the
proper route. When I stopped them (because we were going south-west), we
were a long way up the Tête Blanche! Our last attempt was in the right
direction; we were actually upon the summit of the pass, and in another
ten yards we should have commenced to go down hill! It is needless to
point out that if the compass had been looked to at the proper moment—that
is, immediately the mist came down—we should have avoided all our
troubles. It was little use afterwards, except to tell us when we were
going _wrong_. We arrived at Zermatt in six and a half hours’ walking from
Abricolla, and Seller’s hospitable reception set us all right again.

On the 20th we crossed the Théodule pass, and diverged from its summit up
the Théodulhorn (11,391) to examine a route which I suggested for the
ascent of the Matterhorn. Before continuing an account of our proceedings,
I must stop for a minute to explain why this new route was proposed, in
place of that up the south-western ridge.

The main peak of the Matterhorn may be divided into three sections.(174)
The first, facing the Z’Muttgletscher, looks completely unassailable; the
second, facing the east, seems inaccessibility itself; whilst the third,
facing Breil, does not look entirely hopeless. It was from this last
direction that all my previous attempts were made. It was by the
south-western ridge, it will be remembered, that not only I, but Mr.
Hawkins, Professor Tyndall, and the chasseurs of Val Tournanche, essayed
to climb the mountain. Why then abandon a route which had been shown to be
feasible up to a certain point?

I gave it up for four reasons. 1. On account of my growing disinclination
for arêtes, and preference for snow and rock-faces (see Chap. XII.). 2.
Because I was persuaded that meteorological disturbances (by which we had
been baffled several times) might be expected to occur again and
again(175) (see Chaps. IV. and VI.). 3. Because I found that the east face
was a gross imposition—it looked not far from perpendicular; while its
angle was, in fact, scarcely more than 40°. 4. Because I observed for
myself that the strata of the mountain dipped to the west-south-west. It
is not necessary to say anything more than has been already said upon the
first two of these four points, but upon the latter two a few words are
indispensable. Let us consider, first, why most persons receive such an
exaggerated impression of the steepness of the eastern face.

           [Illustration: THE MATTERHORN FROM THE RIFFELBERG.]

When one looks at the Matterhorn from Zermatt, the mountain is regarded
(nearly) from the north-east. The face that fronts the east is
consequently neither seen in profile nor in full front, but almost
half-way between the two; it looks, therefore, more steep than it really
is. The majority of those who visit Zermatt go up to the Riffelberg, or to
the Gornergrat, and from these places, the mountain naturally looks still
more precipitous, because its eastern face (which is almost all that is
seen of it) is viewed more directly in front. From the Riffel hotel the
slope seems to be set at an angle of 70°. If the tourist continues to go
southwards, and crosses the Théodule pass, he gets, at one point,
immediately in front of the eastern face, which then seems to be
absolutely perpendicular. Comparatively few persons correct the erroneous
impressions they receive in these quarters by studying the face in
profile, and most go away with a very incorrect and exaggerated idea of
the precipitousness of this side of the mountain, because they have
considered the question from one point of view alone.

Several years passed away before I shook myself clear of my early and
false impressions regarding the steepness of this side of the Matterhorn.
First of all, I noticed that there were places on this eastern face where
snow remained permanently all the year round. I do not speak of snow in
gullies, but of the considerable slopes which are seen upon the
accompanying engraving, about half-way up the face. Such beds as these
could not continue to remain throughout the summer, unless the snow had
been able to accumulate in the winter in large masses; and snow cannot
accumulate and remain in large masses, in a situation such as this, at
angles much exceeding 45°.(176) Hence I was bound to conclude that the
eastern face was many degrees removed from perpendicularity; and, to be
sure on this point, I went to the slopes between the Z’Muttgletscher and
the Matterhorngletscher, above the chalets of Staffel, whence the face
could be seen in profile. Its appearance from this direction would be
amazing to one who had seen it only from the east. It looks so totally
different from the apparently sheer and perfectly unclimbable cliff one
sees from the Riffelberg, that it is hard to believe the two slopes are
one and the same thing. Its angle scarcely exceeds 40°.

A great step was made when this was learnt. This knowledge alone would
not, however, have caused me to try an ascent by the eastern face instead
of by the south-west ridge. Forty degrees may not seem a formidable
inclination to the reader, nor is it for only a small cliff. But it is
very unusual to find so steep a gradient maintained continuously as the
general angle of a great mountain-slope, and very few instances can be
quoted from the High Alps of such an angle being preserved over a rise of
3000 feet.

I do not think that the steepness or the height of this cliff would have
deterred climbers from attempting to ascend it, if it had not, in
addition, looked so repulsively smooth. Men despaired of finding anything
to grasp. Now, some of the difficulties of the south-west ridge came from
the smoothness of the rocks, although that ridge, even from a distance,
seemed to be well broken up. How much greater, then, might not have been
the difficulty of climbing a face which looked smooth and unbroken close
at hand?

A more serious hindrance to mounting the south-west ridge is found in the
dip of its rocks to the west-south-west. The great mass of the Matterhorn,
it is now well ascertained, is composed of regularly stratified
rocks,(177) which rise towards the east. It has been mentioned in the
text, more than once, that the rocks on some portions of the ridge leading
from the Col du Lion to the summit dip outwards, and that fractured edges
overhang.(178) This is shown in the illustrations facing pp. 76 and 84;
and the annexed diagram, Fig. 1, exhibits the same thing still more
clearly. It will be readily understood that such an arrangement is not
favourable for climbers, and that the degree of facility with which rocks
can be ascended that are so disposed, must depend very much upon the
frequency or paucity of fissures and joints. The rocks of the south-west
ridge are sufficiently provided with cracks, but if it were otherwise,
their texture and arrangement would render them unassailable.(179)

     [Illustration: Diagrams to show dip of strata on the Matterhorn]

It is not possible to go a single time upon the rocks of the south-west
ridge, from the Col du Lion to the foot of the Great Tower, without
observing the prevalence of their outward dip, and that their fractured
edges have a tendency to overhang; nor can one fail to notice that it is
upon this account the débris, which is rent off by frost, does not remain
_in situ_, but pours down in showers over the surrounding cliffs. Each
day’s work, so to speak, is cleared away; the ridge is swept clean; there
is scarcely anything seen but firm rock.(180)

The fact that the mountain is composed of a series of stratified beds was
pointed out long ago. De Saussure remarked it, and recorded explicitly, in
his _Travels_ (§ 2243), that they “rose to the north-east at an angle of
about 45°.” Forbes noticed it also; and gave it as his opinion that the
beds were “less inclined, or nearly horizontal.” He added, “De Saussure is
no doubt correct.”(181) The truth, I think, lies between the two.

I was acquainted with both of the above-quoted passages, but did not turn
the knowledge to any practical account until I re-observed the same fact
for myself. It was not until after my repulse in 1863, that I referred the
peculiar difficulties of the south-west ridge to the dip of the strata;
but when once persuaded that structure and not texture was the real
impediment, it was reasonable to infer that the opposite side, that is to
say the eastern face, might be comparatively easy. In brief, that an
arrangement should be found like Fig. 2, instead of like Fig. 1. This
trivial deduction was the key to the ascent of the Matterhorn.

The point was, Did the strata continue with a similar dip throughout the
mountain? If they did, then this great eastern face, instead of being
hopelessly impracticable, should be quite the reverse.—In fact, it should
be a great natural staircase, with steps inclining inwards; and, if it
were so, its smooth aspect might be of no account, for the smallest steps,
inclined in this fashion, would afford good footing.

They did so, as far as one could judge from a distance. When snow fell in
the summer time, it brought out long, terraced lines upon the mountain;
rudely parallel to each other; inclined in the direction shown
(approximately) upon the figures in the accompanying plate; and the
eastern face, on those occasions, was often whitened almost completely
over; while the other sides, with the exception of the powdered terraces,
remained black—for the snow could not rest upon them.


           [Illustration: THE MATTERHORN FROM THE NORTH-EAST.]


The very outline of the mountain, too, confirmed the conjecture that its
structure would assist an ascent on the eastern face, although it opposed
one on all other sides. Look at any photograph of the peak from the
north-east (or, failing one, the outline facing page 230, which is
carefully traced from one), and you will see that upon the right-hand side
(that facing the Z’Muttgletscher) there is an incessant repetition of
overhanging cliffs, and of slopes all trending downwards; in short, that
the character of the whole of that side is similar to Fig. 1, p. 229; and
that upon the left hand (or south-east) ridge, the forms, as far as they
go, are suggestive of the structure of Fig. 2. There is no doubt that the
contours of the mountain, seen from this direction, have been largely
influenced by the direction of its beds.

It was not, therefore, from a freak, that I invited Mr. Reilly to join in
an attack upon the eastern face, but from a gradually-acquired conviction
that it would prove to give the easiest path to the summit; and, if we had
not been obliged to part, the mountain would, doubtless, have been
ascended in 1864.

My guides readily admitted that they had been greatly deceived as to the
steepness of the eastern face, when they were halted to look at it in
profile, as we came down the Z’Muttgletscher, on our way to Zermatt; but
they were far from being satisfied that it would turn out to be easy to
climb, and Almer and Biener expressed themselves decidedly averse to
making an attempt upon it. I gave way temporarily before their evident
reluctance, and we made the ascent of the Théodulhorn to examine an
alternative route, which I expected would commend itself to them in
preference to the other, as a great part of it led over snow.

There is an immense gully in the Matterhorn, which leads up from the
Glacier du Mont Cervin to a point high up on the south-eastern ridge.(182)
I proposed to ascend this to its head, and to cross over the south-east
ridge on to the eastern face. This would have brought us on a level with
the bottom of the great snow-slope shown upon the centre of the eastern
face in the engraving facing p. 227. This snow-slope was to be crossed
diagonally, with the view of arriving at the snow upon the north-east
ridge, which is shown upon the same engraving, about half-an-inch from the
summit. The remainder of the ascent was to be made by the broken rocks,
mixed with snow, upon the north side of the mountain. Croz caught the idea
immediately, and thought the plan feasible; details were settled, and we
descended to Breil. Luc Meynet, the hunchback, was summoned, and expressed
himself delighted to resume his old vocation of tent-bearer; and Favre’s
kitchen was soon in commotion preparing three days’ rations, for I
intended to take that amount of time over the affair—to sleep on the first
night upon the rocks at the top of the gully; to make a push for the
summit, and to return to the tent on the second day; and upon the third to
come back to Breil.

We started at 5.45 A.M. on June 21, and followed the route of the
Breuiljoch(183) for three hours. We were then in full view of our gully,
and turned off at right angles for it. The closer we approached, the more
favourable did it look. There was a good deal of snow in it, which was
evidently at a small angle, and it seemed as if one-third of the ascent,
at least, would be a very simple matter. Some suspicious marks in the snow
at its base suggested that it was not free from falling stones, and, as a
measure of precaution, we turned off on one side, worked up under cover of
the cliffs, and waited to see if anything should descend. Nothing fell, so
we proceeded up its right or northern side, sometimes cutting steps up the
snow and sometimes mounting by the rocks. Shortly before 10 A.M. we
arrived at a convenient place for a halt, and stopped to rest upon some
rocks, immediately close to the snow, which commanded an excellent view of
the gully.

While the men were unpacking the food I went to a little promontory to
examine our proposed route more narrowly, and to admire our noble couloir,
which led straight up into the heart of the mountain for fully one
thousand feet. It then bent towards the north, and ran up to the crest of
the south-eastern ridge. My curiosity was piqued to know what was round
this corner, and whilst I was gazing up at it, and following with the eye
the exquisitely drawn curves which wandered down the snow in the gully,
all converging to a large rut in its centre, I saw a few little stones
skidding down. I consoled myself with thinking that they would not
interfere with us if we adhered to the side. But then a larger one came
down, a solitary fellow, rushing at the rate of sixty miles an hour—and
another—and another. I was unwilling to raise the fears of the men
unnecessarily, and said nothing to them. They did not hear the stones.
Almer was seated on a rock, carving large slices from a leg of mutton, the
others were chatting, and the first intimation they had of danger was from
a crash—a sudden roar—which reverberated awfully amongst the cliffs, and,
looking up, they saw masses of rocks, boulders and stones, big and little,
dart round the corner eight hundred feet or so above us, fly with fearful
fury against the opposite cliffs, rebound from them against the walls on
our side, and descend; some ricochetting from side to side in a frantic
manner; some bounding down in leaps of a hundred feet or more over the
snow; and others trailing down in a jumbled, confused mass, mixed with
snow and ice, deepening the grooves which, a moment before, had excited my

The men looked wildly around for protection, and, dropping the food,
dashed under cover in all directions. The precious mutton was pitched on
one side, the wine-bag was let fall, and its contents gushed out from the
unclosed neck, whilst all four cowered under defending rocks, endeavouring
to make themselves as small as possible. Let it not be supposed that their
fright was unreasonable, or that I was free from it. I took good care to
make myself safe, and went and cringed in a cleft until the storm had
passed. But their scramble to get under shelter was indescribably
ludicrous. Such a panic I have never witnessed, before or since, upon a

This ricochet practice was a novelty to me. It arose, of course, from the
couloir being bent, and from the falling rocks having acquired great pace
before they passed the angle. In straight gullies it will, probably, never
be experienced. The rule is, as I have already remarked, that falling
stones keep down the centres of gullies, and they are out of harm’s way if
one follows the sides.

              [Illustration: MY TENT-BEARER—THE HUNCHBACK.]

There would have been singularly little amusement, and very great risk, in
mounting this gully, and we turned our backs upon it with perfect
unanimity. The question then arose, “What is to be done?” I suggested
climbing the rocks above us, but this was voted impossible. I thought the
men were right, yet would not give in without being assured of the fact,
and clambered up to settle the question. In a few minutes I was brought to
a halt. My forces were scattered; the little hunchback alone was closely
following me—with a broad grin upon his face, and the tent upon his
shoulder; Croz, more behind, was still keeping an eye upon his _Monsieur_;
Almer, a hundred feet below, sat on a rock with his face buried in his
hands; Biener was nowhere, out of sight. “Come down, come down,” shouted
Croz; “it is useless,” and I turned at length, convinced that it was even
as he said. Thus my little plan was knocked on the head, and we were
thrown back upon the original scheme.

We at once made a straight track for Mr. Morshead’s Breuiljoch(185) (which
was the most direct route to take in order to get to the Hörnli, where we
intended to sleep, preparatory to attacking the eastern face), and arrived
upon its summit at 12.30 P.M. We were then unexpectedly checked. The pass,
as one, had vanished! and we found ourselves cut off from the
Furggengletscher by a small but precipitous wall of rock;—the glacier had
shrunk so much that descent was impracticable. During the last hour clouds
had been coming up from the south; they now surrounded us, and it began to
blow hard. The men clustered together, and advocated leaving the mountain
alone. Almer asked, with more point than politeness, “Why don’t you try to
go up a mountain which _can_ be ascended?” “It is impossible,” chimed in
Biener. “Sir,” said Croz, “if we cross to the other side we shall lose
three days, and very likely shall not succeed. You want to make ascents in
the chain of Mont Blanc, and I believe they can be made. But I shall not
be able to make them with you if I spend these days here, for I must be at
Chamounix on the 27th.” There was force in what he said, and his words
made me hesitate. I relied upon his strong arms for some work which it was
expected would be unusually difficult. Snow began to fall; that settled
the matter, and I gave the word to retreat. We went back to Breil, and on
to the village of Val Tournanche, where we slept; and the next day
proceeded to Chatillon, and thence up the Valley of Aosta to Courmayeur.

I cannot but regret that the counsels of the guides prevailed. If Croz had
not uttered his well-intentioned words, he might still have been living.
He parted from us at Chamounix at the appointed time, but by a strange
chance we met again at Zermatt three weeks later, and two days afterwards
he perished before my eyes on the very mountain from which we turned away,
at his advice, on the 21st of June.

On June 23 we mounted to the top of Mont Saxe, to scan the Grandes
Jorasses, with the view of ascending it. Five thousand feet of
glacier-covered precipices rose above us, and up all that height we
tracked a way to our satisfaction. Three thousand feet more of glacier and
forest-covered slopes lay beneath, and _there_, there was only one point
at which it was doubtful if we should find a path. The glaciers were
shrinking, and were surrounded by bastions of rounded rock, far too
polished to please the rough mountaineer. We could not track a way across
them. However, at 4 A.M. the next day, under the dexterous leading of
Michel Croz, we passed the doubtful spot. Thence it was all plain sailing,
and at 1 P.M. we gained the summit. The weather was boisterous in the
upper regions, and storm-clouds driven before the wind, and wrecked
against our heights, enveloped us in misty spray, which danced around and
fled away, which cut us off from the material universe, and caused us to
be, as it were, suspended betwixt heaven and earth, seeing both
occasionally, but seeming to belong to neither.

The mists lasted longer than my patience, and we descended without having
attained the object for which the ascent was made. At first we followed
the little ridge shown upon the accompanying engraving, leading from our
summit towards the spectator, and then took to the head of the corridor of
glacier on its left, which in the view is left perfectly white. The slopes
were steep and covered with new-fallen snow, flour-like and evil to tread
upon. On the ascent we had reviled it, and had made our staircase with
much caution, knowing full well that the disturbance of its base would
bring down all that was above. In descending, the bolder spirits
counselled trusting to luck and a glissade; the cautious ones advocated
avoiding the slopes and crossing to the rocks on their farther side. The
advice of the latter prevailed, and we had half-traversed the snow, to
gain the ridge, when the crust slipped and we went along with it. “Halt!”
broke from all four, unanimously. The axe-heads flew round as we started
on this involuntary glissade. It was useless, they slid over the
underlying ice fruitlessly. “Halt!” thundered Croz, as he dashed his
weapon in again with superhuman energy. No halt could be made, and we slid
down slowly, but with accelerating motion, driving up waves of snow in
front, with streams of the nasty stuff hissing all around. Luckily, the
slope eased off at one place, the leading men cleverly jumped aside out of
the moving snow, we others followed, and the young avalanche which we had
started, continuing to pour down, fell into a yawning crevasse, and showed
us where our grave would have been if we had remained in its company five
seconds longer. The whole affair did not occupy half-a-minute. It was the
solitary incident of a long day, and at nightfall we re-entered the
excellent house kept by the courteous Bertolini, well satisfied that we
had not met with more incidents of a similar description.(186)

                           ITALIAN VAL FERRET.]

                               CHAPTER XV.


                            “Men willingly believe what they wish.”—CÆSAR.

Freethinking mountaineers have been latterly in the habit of going up one
side of an Alp and coming down the other, and calling the route a pass. In
this confusion of ideas may be recognised the result of the looseness of
thought which arises from the absence of technical education. The true
believer abhors such heresies, and observes with satisfaction that
Providence oftentimes punishes the offenders for their greediness by
causing them to be benighted. The faithful know that passes must be made
_between_ mountains, and not over their tops. Their creed declares that
between any two mountains there _must_ be a pass, and they believe that
the end for which big peaks were created—the office they are especially
designed to fulfil—is to point out the way one should go. This is the true
faith, and there is no other.

We set out upon the 26th of June to endeavour to add one more to the
passes which are strictly orthodox. We hoped, rather than expected, to
discover a quicker route from Courmayeur to Chamounix than the Col du
Géant, which was the easiest, quickest, and most direct pass known at the
time across the main chain of Mont Blanc.(187) The misgivings which I had
as to the result caused us to start at the unusual hour of 12.40 A.M. At
4.30 we passed the chalets of Prè du Bar, and thence, for some distance,
followed the track which we had made upon the ascent of Mont Dolent, over
the glacier of the same name (p. 182). At a quarter past 8 we arrived at
the head of the glacier, and at the foot of the only steep gradient upon
the whole of the ascent.

It was the beau-ideal of a pass. There was a gap in the mountains, with a
big peak on each side (Mount Dolent and the Aig. de Triolet). A narrow
thread of snow led up to the lowest point between those mountains, and the
blue sky beyond said, Directly you arrive here you will begin to go down.
We addressed ourselves to our task, and at 10.15 A.M. arrived at the top
of the pass.

Had things gone as they ought, within six hours more we should have been
at Chamounix. Upon the other side we knew that there was a couloir in
correspondence with that up which we had just come. If it had been filled
with snow all would have been well. It turned out to be filled with ice.
Croz, who led, passed over to the other side, and reported that we should
get down somehow, but I knew from the sound of his axe how the somehow
would be, and settled myself to sketch, well assured that _I_ should not
be wanted for an hour to come. What I saw is shown in the engraving. A
sharp aiguille (nameless), perhaps the sharpest in the whole range, backed
on the left by the Aig. de Triolet; queer blocks of (probably) protogine
sticking out awkwardly through the snow; and a huge cornice from which big
icicles depended, that broke away occasionally and went skiddling down the
slope up which we had come. Of the Argentière side I could not see

Croz was tied up with our good Manilla rope, and the whole 200 feet were
payed out gradually by Almer and Biener before he ceased working. After
two hours’ incessant toil, he was able to anchor himself to the rock on
his right. He then untied himself, the rope was drawn in, Biener was
attached to the end and went down to join his comrade. There was then room
enough for me to stand by the side of Almer, and I got my first view of
the other side. For the first and only time in my life I looked down a
slope more than a thousand feet long, set at an angle of about 50°, which
was a sheet of ice from top to bottom. It was unbroken by rock or crag,
and anything thrown down it sped away unarrested until the level of the
Glacier d’Argentière was reached. The entire basin of that noble
glacier(188) was spread out at our feet, and the ridge beyond, culminating
in the Aig. d’Argentière, was seen to the greatest advantage. I confess,
however, that I paid very little attention to the view, for there was no
time to indulge in such luxuries. I descended the icy staircase and joined
the others, and then we three drew in the rope tenderly as Almer came
down. His was not an enviable position, but he descended with as much
steadiness as if his whole life had been passed on ice-slopes of 50°. The
process was repeated; Croz again going to the front, and availing himself
very skilfully of the rocks which projected from the cliff on our right.
Our 200 feet of rope again came to an end, and we again descended one by
one. From this point we were able to clamber down by the rocks alone for
about 300 feet. They then became sheer cliff, and we stopped for dinner,
about 2.30 P.M., at the last place upon which we could sit. Four hours’
incessant work had brought us rather more than half-way down the gully. We
were now approaching, although we were still high above, the schrunds at
its base, and the guides made out, in some way unknown to me, that Nature
had perversely placed the only snow-bridge across the topmost one towards
the centre of the gully. It was decided to cut diagonally across the gully
to the point where the snow-bridge was supposed to be. Almer and Biener
undertook the work, leaving Croz and myself firmly planted on the rocks to
pay out the rope to them as they advanced.

              [Illustration: THE SUMMIT OF THE COL DOLENT.]

It is generally admitted that veritable ice-slopes (understanding by ice
something more than a crust of hard snow over soft snow) are only rarely
met with in the Alps. They are frequently spoken of, but such as that to
which I refer are _very_ rarely seen, and still more seldom traversed. It
is, however, always possible that they may be encountered, and on this
account, if for no other, it is necessary for men who go mountaineering to
be armed with ice-axes, and with good ones. The form is of more importance
than might be supposed. Of course, if you intend to act as a simple
amateur, and let others do the work, and only follow in their steps, it is
not of much importance what kind of ice-axe you carry, so long as its head
does not fall off, or otherwise behave itself improperly.(189) There is no
better weapon for cutting steps in ice than a common pick-axe, and the
form of ice-axe which is now usually employed by the best guides is very
like a miniature pick. My own axe is copied from Melchior Anderegg’s. It
is of wrought iron, with point and edge steeled. Its weight, including
spiked handle, is four pounds. For cutting steps in ice, the pointed end
of the head is almost exclusively employed; the adze-end is handy for
polishing them up, but is principally used for cutting in hard snow. Apart
from its value as a cutting weapon, it is invaluable as a grapnel. It is
naturally a rather awkward implement when it is not being employed for its
legitimate purpose, and is likely to give rise to much strong language in
crushes at railway termini, unless its head is protected with a leathern
cap, or in some other way. Many attempts have been made, for the sake of
convenience, to fashion an ice-axe with a movable head, but it seems
difficult or impossible to produce one except at the expense of cutting
qualities, and by increasing the weight.

                       [Illustration: MY ICE-AXE.]

                     [Illustration: KENNEDY ICE-AXE.]

                [Illustration: THE “LESLIE STEPHEN” AXE.]

Mr. T. S. Kennedy (of the firm of Fairbairn & Co.), whose practical
acquaintance with mountaineering, and with the use and manufacture of
tools, makes his opinion particularly valuable, has contrived the best
that I have seen; but even it seems to me to be deficient in rigidity, and
not to be so powerful a weapon as the more common kind with the fixed
head. The simple instrument which is shown in the annexed diagram is the
invention of Mr. Leslie Stephen, and it answers the purposes for which he
devised it, namely, for giving better hold upon snow and ice than can be
obtained from the common alpenstock, and for cutting an occasional step.
The amateur scarcely requires anything more imposing, but for serious
ice-work a heavier weapon is indispensable.

To persons armed with the proper tools, ice-slopes are not so dangerous as
many places which appeal less to the imagination. Their ascent or descent
is necessarily laborious (to those who do the work), and they may
therefore be termed difficult. They _ought_ not to be dangerous. Yet they
always seem dangerous, for one is profoundly convinced that if he slips he
will certainly go to the bottom. Hence, any man, who is not a fool, takes
particular care to preserve his balance, and, in consequence, we have the
noteworthy fact that accidents have seldom or never taken place upon

The same slopes covered with snow are much less impressive, and _may_ be
much more dangerous. They may be less slippery, the balance may be more
easily preserved, and if one man slips he may be stopped by his own
personal efforts, provided the snow which over-lies the ice is
consolidated and of a reasonable depth. But if, as is more likely to be
the case upon an angle of 50° (or anything approaching that angle), there
is only a thin stratum of snow which is not consolidated, the occurrence
of a slip will most likely take the entire party as low as possible, and
in addition to the chance of broken necks, there will be a strong
probability that some, at least, will be smothered by the dislodged snow.
Such accidents are far too common, and their occurrence, as a rule, may be
traced to the want of caution which is induced by the apparent absence of

I do not believe that the use of the rope, in the ordinary way, affords
the least _real_ security upon ice-slopes. Nor do I think that any benefit
is derived from the employment of crampons. Mr. Kennedy was good enough to
present me with a pair some time ago, and one of these has been engraved.
They are the best variety I have seen of the species, but I only feel
comfortable with them on my feet in places where they are not of the
slightest use, that is in situations where there is no possibility of
slipping, and would not wear them upon an ice-slope for any consideration
whatever. All such adventitious aids are useless if you have not a good
step in the ice to stand upon, and if you have got that, nothing more is
wanted except a few nails in the boots.

                         [Illustration: Crampon]

Almer and Biener got to the end of their tether; the rope no longer
assured their safety, and they stopped work as we advanced and coiled it
up. Shortly afterwards they struck a streak of snow that proved to be just
above the bridge of which they were in search. The slope steepened, and
for thirty feet or so we descended face to the wall, making steps by
kicking with the toes, and thrusting the arms well into the holes above,
just as if they had been rounds in a ladder. At this time we were crossing
the uppermost of the schrunds. Needless to say that the snow was of an
admirable quality; this performance would otherwise have been impossible.
It was soon over, and we then found ourselves upon a huge rhomboidal mass
of ice, and still separated from the Argentière glacier by a gigantic
crevasse. The only bridge over this lower schrund was at its eastern end,
and we were obliged to double back to get to it. Cutting continued for
half-an-hour after it was passed, and it was 5.35 P.M. before the axes
stopped work, and we could at last turn back and look comfortably at the
formidable slope upon which seven hours had been spent.(190)

The Col Dolent is not likely to compete with the Col du Géant, and I would
recommend any person who starts to cross it to allow himself plenty of
time, plenty of rope, and ample guide-power. There is no difficulty
whatever upon any part of the route, excepting upon the steep slopes
immediately below the summit on each side. When we arrived upon the
Glacier d’Argentière, our work was as good as over. We drove a straight
track to the chalets of Lognan, and thence the way led over familiar
ground. Soon after dusk we got into the high road at les Tines, and at 10
P.M. arrived at Chamounix. Our labours were duly rewarded. Houris brought
us champagne and the other drinks which are reserved for the faithful, but
before my share was consumed I fell asleep in an arm-chair. I slept
soundly until daybreak, and then turned into bed and went to sleep again.

                               CHAPTER XVI.


            “Few have the fortitude of soul to honour,
            A friend’s success, without a touch of envy.”

Michel Croz now parted from us. His new employer had not arrived at
Chamounix, but Croz considered that he was bound by honour to wait for
him, and thus Christian Almer, of Grindelwald, became my leading guide.

Almer displayed aptitude for mountaineering at an early age. Whilst still
a very young man he was known as a crack chamois-hunter, and he soon
developed into an accomplished guide. Those who have read Mr. Wills’
graphic account of the first ascent of the Wetterhorn(191) will remember
that, when his party was approaching the top of the mountain, two stranger
men were seen climbing by a slightly different route, one of whom carried
upon his back a young fir-tree, branches, leaves, and all. Mr. Wills’
guides were extremely indignant with these two strangers (who were
evidently determined to be the first at the summit), and talked of giving
them blows. Eventually they gave them a cake of chocolate instead, and
declared that they were good fellows. “Thus the pipe of peace was smoked,
and tranquillity reigned between the rival forces.” Christian Almer was
one of these two men.

This was in 1854. In 1858-9 he made the first ascents of the Eigher and
the Mönch, the former with a Mr. Harrington (?), and the latter with Dr.
Porges. Since then he has wandered far and near, from Dauphiné to the
Tyrol.(192) With the exception of Melchior Anderegg, there is not,
perhaps, another guide of such wide experience, or one who has been so
invariably successful; and his numerous employers concur in saying that
there is not a truer heart or a surer foot to be found amongst the Alps.

                  [Illustration: CHRISTIAN ALMER.(193)]

Before recrossing the chain to Courmayeur, we ascended the Aiguille Verte.
In company with Mr. Reilly I inspected this mountain from every direction
in 1864, and came to the conclusion that an ascent could more easily be
made from the south than upon any other side. We set out upon the 28th
from Chamounix to attack it, minus Croz, and plus a porter (of whom I will
speak more particularly presently), leaving our comrade very downcast at
having to kick his heels in idleness, whilst we were about to scale the
most celebrated of his native Aiguilles.

Our course led us over the old Mer de Glace—the glacier made famous by De
Saussure and Forbes. The heat of the day was over, but the little rills
and rivulets were still flowing along the surface of the ice: cutting deep
troughs where the gradients were small; leaving ripple-marks where the
water was with more difficulty confined to one channel; and falling over
the precipitous walls of the great crevasses, sometimes in bounding
cascades, and sometimes in diffused streams, which marked the
perpendicular faces with graceful sinuosities.(194) As night came on,
their music died away, the rivulets dwindled down to rills; the rills
ceased to murmur, and the sparkling drops, caught by the hand of frost,
were bound to the ice, coating it with an enamelled film which lasted
until the sun struck the glacier once more.

                   [Illustration: ON THE MER DE GLACE.]

We camped on the Couvercle (7800) under a great rock, and at 3.15 the next
morning started for our aiguille, leaving the porter in charge of the tent
and of the food. Two hours’ walking over crisp snow brought us up more
than 4000 feet, and within about 1600 feet of the summit. From no other
direction can it be approached so closely with equal facility. Thence the
mountain steepens. After his late severe piece of ice-work, Almer had a
natural inclination for rocks; but the lower rocks of the final peak of
the Verte were not inviting, and he went on and on, looking for a way up
them, until we arrived in front of a great snow couloir that led from the
Glacier de Talèfre right up to the crest of the ridge connecting the
summit of the Verte with the mountain called Les Droites. This was the
route which I intended to be taken; but Almer pointed out that the gully
narrowed at the lower part, and that, if stones fell, we should stand some
chance of getting our heads broken; and so we went on still more to the
east of the summit, to another and smaller couloir which ran up side by
side with the great one. At 5.30 we crossed the schrund which protected
the final peak, and, a few minutes afterwards, saw the summit and the
whole of the intervening route. “Oh! Aiguille Verte,” said my guide,
stopping as he said it, “you are dead, you are dead;” which, being
translated into plain English, meant that he was cock-sure we should make
its ascent.

Almer is a quiet man at all times. When climbing he is taciturn—and this
is one of his great merits. A garrulous man is always a nuisance, and upon
the mountain-side he may be a danger, for actual climbing requires a man’s
whole attention. Added to this, talkative men are hindrances; they are
usually thirsty, and a thirsty man is a drag.

Guide-books recommend mountain-walkers to suck pebbles, to prevent their
throats from becoming parched. There is not much goodness to be got out of
the pebbles; but you cannot suck them and keep the mouth open at the same
time, and hence the throat does not become dry. It answers just as well to
keep the mouth shut, without any pebbles inside,—indeed, I think, better;
for if you have occasion to open your mouth, you can do so without
swallowing any pebbles.(195) As a rule, amateurs, and particularly
novices, _will not_ keep their mouths shut. They attempt to “force the
pace,” they go faster than they can go without being compelled to open
their mouths to breathe, they pant, their throats and tongues become
parched, they drink and perspire copiously, and, becoming exhausted,
declare that the dryness of the air, or the rarefaction of the air
(everything is laid upon the air), is in fault. On several accounts,
therefore, a mountain-climber does well to hold his tongue when he is at
his work.

At the top of the small gully we crossed over the intervening rocks into
the large one, and followed it so long as it was filled with snow. At last
ice replaced snow, and we turned over to the rocks upon its left. Charming
rocks they were; granitic in texture,(196) gritty, holding the nails well.
At 9.45 we parted from them, and completed the ascent by a little ridge of
snow which descended in the direction of the Aiguille du Moine. At 10.15
we stood on the summit (13,540), and devoured our bread and cheese with a
good appetite.

I have already spoken of the disappointing nature of purely panoramic
views. That seen from Mont Blanc itself is notoriously unsatisfactory.
When you are upon that summit you look down upon all the rest of Europe.
There is nothing to look up to; all is below; there is no one point for
the eye to rest upon. The man who is there is somewhat in the position of
one who has attained all that he desires,—he has nothing to aspire to; his
position must needs be unsatisfactory. Upon the summit of the Verte there
is not this objection. You see valleys, villages, fields; you see
mountains interminable rolling away, lakes resting in their hollows; you
hear the tinkling of the sheep-bells as it rises through the clear
mountain air, and the roar of the avalanches as they descend to the
valleys: but above all there is the great white dome, with its shining
crest high above; with its sparkling glaciers that descend between
buttresses which support them: with its brilliant snows, purer and yet
purer the farther they are removed from this unclean world.(197)

Even upon this mountain-top it was impossible to forget the world, for
some vile wretch came to the Jardin and made hideous sounds by blowing
through a horn. Whilst we were denouncing him a change came over the
weather; cumulous clouds gathered in all directions, and we started off in
hot haste. Snow began to fall heavily before we were off the summit-rocks,
our track was obscured and frequently lost, and everything became so
sloppy and slippery that the descent took as long as the ascent. The
schrund was recrossed at 3.15 P.M., and thence we raced down to the
Couvercle, intending to have a carouse there; but as we rounded our rock a
howl broke simultaneously from all three of us, for the porter had taken
down the tent, and was in the act of moving off with it. “Stop, there!
what are you doing?” He observed that he had thought we were killed, or at
least lost, and was going to Chamounix to communicate his ideas to the
_guide chef_. “Unfasten the tent, and get out the food.” Instead of doing
so the porter fumbled in his pockets. “Get out the food,” we roared,
losing all patience. “Here it is,” said our worthy friend, producing a
dirty piece of bread about as big as a halfpenny roll. We three looked
solemnly at the fluff-covered morsel. It was past a joke,—he had devoured
everything. Mutton, loaves, cheese, wine, eggs, sausages—all was gone—past
recovery. It was idle to grumble, and useless to wait. We were light, and
could move quickly,—the porter was laden inside and out. We went our
hardest,—he had to shuffle and trot. He streamed with perspiration; the
mutton and cheese oozed out in big drops,—he larded the glacier. We had
our revenge, and dried our clothes at the same time, but when we arrived
at the Montanvert the porter was as wet as we had been upon our arrival at
the Couvercle. We halted at the inn to get a little food, and at a quarter
past eight re-entered Chamounix, amidst firing of cannon and other
demonstrations of satisfaction on the part of the hotel-keepers.

One would have thought that the ascent of this mountain, which had been
frequently assailed before without success, would have afforded some
gratification to a population whose chief support is derived from
tourists, and that the prospect of the perennial flow of francs which
might be expected to result from it would have stifled the jealousy
consequent on the success of foreigners.(198)

It was not so. Chamounix stood on its rights. A stranger had ignored the
“regulations,” had imported two foreign guides, and, furthermore, he had
added injury to that insult—he had not taken a single Chamounix guide.
Chamounix would be revenged! It would bully the foreign guides; it would
tell them they had lied,—that they had not made the ascent! Where were
their proofs? Where was the flag upon the summit?

Poor Almer and Biener were accordingly chivied from pillar to post, from
one inn to another, and at length complained to me. Peter Perrn, the
Zermatt guide, said on the night that we returned that this was to happen,
but the story seemed too absurd to be true. I now bade my men go out
again, and followed them myself to see the sport. Chamounix was greatly
excited. The _bureau_ of the _guide chef_ was thronged with clamouring
men. Their ringleader—one Zacharie Cachat—a well-known guide, of no
particular merit, but not a bad fellow, was haranguing the multitude. He
met with more than his match. My friend Kennedy, who was on the spot,
heard of the disturbance and rushed into the fray, confronted the burly
guide, and thrust back his absurdities into his teeth.

There were the materials for a very pretty riot; but they manage these
things better in France than we do, and the gensdarmes—three strong—came
down and dispersed the crowd. The guides quailed before the cocked hats,
and retired to cabarets to take little glasses of absinthe and other
liquors more or less injurious to the human frame. Under the influence of
these stimulants, they conceived an idea which combined revenge with
profit. “You have ascended the Aiguille Verte, you say. _We_ say we don’t
believe it. _We_ say, do it again! Take three of us with you, and we will
bet you two thousand francs to one thousand, that you won’t make the

This proposition was formally notified to me, but I declined it, with
thanks, and recommended Kennedy to go in and win. I accepted, however, a
hundred franc share in the bet, and calculated upon getting two hundred
per cent on my investment. Alas! how vain are human expectations! Zacharie
Cachat was put into confinement, and although Kennedy actually ascended
the Aiguille a week later, with two Chamounix guides and Peter Perrn, the
bet came to nothing.(199)

The weather arranged itself just as this storm in a teapot blew over, and
we left at once for the Montanvert, in order to show the Chamouniards the
easiest way over the chain of Mont Blanc, in return for the civilities
which we had received from them during the past three days.

           [Illustration: WESTERN SIDE OF THE COL DE TALÈFRE.]

                              CHAPTER XVII.


            “’Tis more by art than force of numerous strokes.”

The person who discovered the Col du Géant must have been a shrewd
mountaineer. The pass was in use before any other was known across the
main chain of Mont Blanc, and down to the present time it remains the
easiest and quickest route from Chamounix to Courmayeur, with the single
exception of the pass that we crossed upon the 3d of July, for the first
time, which lies about mid-way between the Aiguille de Triolet and the
Aiguille de Talèfre, and which, for want of a better name, I have called
the Col de Talèfre.

When one looks toward the upper end of the Glacier de Talèfre from the
direction of the Jardin or of the Couvercle, the ridge that bounds the
view seems to be of little elevation. It is overpowered by the colossal
Grandes Jorasses, and by the almost equally magnificent Aiguille Verte.
The ridge, notwithstanding, is by no means despicable. At no point is its
elevation less than 11,600 feet. It does not look anything like this
height. The Glacier de Talèfre mounts with a steady incline, and the eye
is completely deceived.

In 1864, when prowling about with Mr. Reilly, I instinctively fixed upon a
bent couloir which led up from the glacier to the lowest part of the
ridge; and when, after crossing the Col de Triolet, I saw that the other
side presented no particular difficulty, it seemed to me that this was the
_one_ point in the whole of the range which would afford an easier passage
than the Col du Géant.

We set out from the Montanvert at 4 A.M. upon July 3, to see whether this
opinion was correct, and it fortunately happened that the Rev. A. G.
Girdlestone and a friend, with two Chamounix guides, left the inn at the
same hour as ourselves, to cross the Col du Géant. We kept in company as
far as our routes lay together, and at 9.35 we arrived at the top of our
pass, having taken the route to the south of the Jardin. Description is
unnecessary, as our track is laid down very clearly on the engraving at
the head of this chapter.

Much snow had fallen during the late bad weather, and as we reposed upon
the top of our pass (which was about 11,650 feet above the level of the
sea, and 600 feet above the Col du Géant), we saw that the descent of the
rocks which intervened between us and the Glacier de Triolet would require
some caution, for the sun’s rays poured down directly upon them, and the
snow slipped away every now and then from ledge to ledge just as if it had
been water,—in cascades not large enough to be imposing, but sufficient to
knock us over if we got in their way. This little bit of cliff
consequently took a longer time than it should have done, for when we
heard the indescribable swishing, hissing sound which announced a coming
fall, we of necessity huddled under the lee of the rocks until the snow
ceased to shoot over us.

We got to the level of the Glacier de Triolet without misadventure, then
steered for its left bank to avoid the upper of its two formidable
ice-falls, and after descending the requisite distance by some old snow
lying between the glacier and the cliffs which border it, crossed directly
to the right bank over the level ice between the two ice-falls.(200) The
right bank was gained without any trouble, and we found there numerous
beds of hard snow (avalanche débris) down which we could run or glissade
as fast as we liked.

Glissading is a very pleasant employment when it is accomplished
successfully, and I have never seen a place where it can be more safely
indulged in than the snowy valley on the right bank of the Glacier de
Triolet. In my dreams I glissade delightfully, but in practice I find that
somehow the snow will not behave properly, and that my alpenstock _will_
get between my legs. Then my legs go where my head should be, and I see
the sky revolving at a rapid pace; the snow rises up and smites me, and
runs away; and when it is at last overtaken it suddenly stops, and we come
into violent collision. Those who are with me say that I tumble head over
heels, and there may be some truth in what they say. Streaks of ice are
apt to make the heels shoot away, and stray stones cause one to pitch
headlong down. Somehow these things always seem to come in the way, so it
is as well to glissade only when there is something soft to tumble

                        [Illustration: Glissading]

Near the termination of the glacier we could not avoid traversing a
portion of its abominable moraine, but at 1.30 P.M. we were clear of it,
and threw ourselves upon some springy turf conscious that our day’s work
was over. An hour afterwards we resumed the march, crossed the Doire
torrent by a bridge a little below Gruetta, and at five o’clock entered
Courmayeur, having occupied somewhat less than ten hours on the way. Mr.
Girdlestone’s party came in, I believe, about four hours afterwards, so
there was no doubt that we made a shorter pass than the Col du Géant; and
I believe we discovered a quicker way of getting from Chamounix to
Courmayeur, or _vice versa_, than will be found elsewhere, so long as the
chain of Mont Blanc remains in its present condition.(202)

                              CHAPTER XVIII.


           “In almost every art, experience is worth more than precepts.”

All of the excursions that were set down in my programme had been carried
out, with the exception of the ascent of the Matterhorn, and we now turned
our faces in its direction, but instead of returning _viâ_ the Val
Tournanche, we took a route across country, and bagged upon our way the
summit of the Ruinette.

We passed the night of July 4, at Aosta, under the roof of the genial
Tairraz, and on the 5th went by the Val d’Ollomont and the Col de la
Fenêtre (9140) to Chermontane. We slept that night at the chalets of
Chanrion (a foul spot, which should be avoided), left them at 3.50 the
next morning, and after a short scramble over the slope above, and a
half-mile tramp on the glacier de Breney, we crossed directly to the
Ruinette, and went almost straight up it. There is not, I suppose, another
mountain in the Alps of the same height that can be ascended so easily.
You have only to go ahead: upon its southern side one can walk about
almost anywhere.

Though I speak thus slightingly of a very respectable peak, I will not do
anything of the kind in regard to the view which it gives. It is happily
placed in respect to the rest of the Pennine Alps, and as a stand-point it
has not many superiors. You see mountains, and nothing but mountains. It
is a solemn—some would say a dreary—view, but it is very grand. The great
Combin (14,164), with its noble background of the whole range of Mont
Blanc, never looks so big as it does from here. In the contrary direction,
the Matterhorn overpowers all besides. The Dent d’Hérens, although closer,
looks a mere outlier of its great neighbour, and the snows of Monte Rosa,
behind, seem intended for no other purpose than to give relief to the
crags in front. To the south there is an endless array of Bec’s and
Becca’s, backed by the great Italian peaks, whilst to the north Mont
Pleureur (12,159) holds it own against the more distant Wildstrubel.

We gained the summit at 9.15,(203) and stayed there an hour and a half. My
faithful guides then admonished me that Prerayen, whither we were bound,
was still far away, and that we had yet to cross two lofty ridges. So we
resumed our harness and departed; not, however, before a huge cairn had
been built out of the blocks of gneiss with which the summit is bestrewn.
Then we trotted down the slopes of the Ruinette, over the glacier de
Breney, and across a pass which (if it deserves a name) may be called the
Col des Portons, after the neighbouring peaks. Thence we proceeded across
the great Otemma glacier towards the Col d’Olen.

The part of the glacier that we traversed was overspread with snow which
completely concealed its numerous pitfalls. We marched across it in single
file, and, of course, roped together. All at once Almer dropped into a
crevasse up to his shoulders. I pulled in the rope immediately, but the
snow gave way as it was being done, and I had to spread out my arms to
stop my descent. Biener held fast, and said afterwards, that his feet went
through as well; so, for a moment, all three were in the jaws of the
crevasse. We now altered our course, so as to take the fissures
transversely, and changed it again after the centre of the glacier was
passed, and made directly for the summit of the Col d’Olen.

It is scarcely necessary to observe, after what I have said before, that
it is my invariable practice to employ a rope when traversing a
snow-covered glacier. Many guides, even the best ones, object to be roped,
more especially early in the morning, when the snow is hard. They object
sometimes, because they think it is unnecessary. Crevasses that are
bridged by snow are almost always more or less perceptible by undulations
on the surface; the snow droops down, and hollows mark the courses of the
chasms beneath. An experienced guide usually notices these almost
imperceptible wrinkles, steps one side or the other, as the case may
require, and rarely breaks through unawares. Guides think there is no
occasion to employ a rope because they think that they will not be taken
by surprise. Michel Croz used to be of this opinion. He used to say that
only imbeciles and children required to be tied up in the morning. I told
him that in this particular matter I was a child to him. “You see these
things, my good Croz, and avoid them. I do _not_, except you point them
out to me, and so that which is not a danger to you, _is_ a danger to me.”
The sharper one’s eyes get by use, the less is a rope required as a
protective against these hidden pitfalls; but, according to my experience,
the sight never becomes so keen that they can be avoided with unvarying
certainty, and I mentioned what occurred upon the Otemma glacier to show
that this is so.

I well remember my first passage of the Col Théodule—the easiest of the
higher Alpine glacier passes. We had a rope, but my guide said it was not
necessary, he knew all the crevasses. However, we did not go a quarter of
a mile before he dropped through the snow into a crevasse up to his neck.
He was a heavy man, and would scarcely have extricated himself alone;
anyhow, he was very glad of my assistance. When he got on to his legs
again, he said, “Well, I had no idea that there was a crevasse there!” He
no longer objected to use the rope, and we proceeded; upon my part, with
greater peace of mind than before. I have crossed the pass fourteen times
since then, and have invariably insisted upon being tied together.

Guides object to the use of the rope upon snow-covered glacier, because
they are afraid of being laughed at by their comrades; and this, perhaps,
is the more common reason. To illustrate this, here is another Théodule
experience. We arrived at the edge of the ice, and I required to be tied.
My guide (a Zermatt man of repute) said that no one used a rope going
across that pass. I declined to argue the matter, and we put on the rope;
though very much against the wish of my man, who protested that he should
have to submit to perpetual ridicule if we met any of his acquaintances.
We had not gone very far before we saw a train coming in the contrary
direction. “Ah!” cried my man, “there is R—— (mentioning a guide who used
to be kept at the Riffel Hotel for the ascent of Monte Rosa); it will be
as I said, I shall never hear the end of this.” The guide we met was
followed by a string of tom-fools, none of whom were tied together, and
had his face covered by a mask to prevent it becoming blistered. After we
had passed, I said, “Now, should R—— make any observations to you, ask him
why he takes such extraordinary care to preserve the skin of his face,
which will grow again in a week, when he neglects such an obvious
precaution in regard to his life, which he can only lose once.” This was
quite a new idea to my guide, and he said nothing more against the use of
the rope so long as we were together.

I believe that the unwillingness to use a rope upon snow-covered glacier
which born mountaineers not unfrequently exhibit, arises—First, on the
part of expert men, from the consciousness that they themselves incur
little risk; secondly, on the part of inferior men, from fear of ridicule,
and from aping the ways of their superiors; and, thirdly, from pure
ignorance or laziness. Whatever may be the reason, I raise up my voice
against the neglect of a precaution so simple and so effectual. In my
opinion, the very first thing a glacier traveller requires is plenty of
good rope.

A committee of the English Alpine Club was appointed in 1864 to test, and
to report upon, the most suitable ropes for mountaineering purposes, and
those which were approved are probably as good as can be found. One is
made of Manilla and another of Italian hemp. The former is the heavier,
and weighs a little more than an ounce per foot (103 ozs. to 100 feet).
The latter weighs 79 ozs. per 100 feet; but I prefer the Manilla rope,
because it is more handy to handle. Both of these ropes will sustain 168
lbs. falling 10 feet, or 196 lbs. falling 8 feet, and they break with a
dead weight of two tons.(204) In 1865 we carried two 100 feet lengths of
the Manilla rope, and the inconvenience arising from its weight was more
than made up for by the security which it afforded. Upon several occasions
it was worth more than an extra guide.

Now, touching the _use_ of the rope. There is a right way, and there are
wrong ways of using it. I often meet, upon glacier-passes, elegantly
got-up persons, who are clearly out of their element, with a guide
stalking along in front, who pays no attention to the innocents in his
charge. They are tied together as a matter of form, but they evidently
have no idea _why_ they are tied up, for they walk side by side, or close
together, with the rope trailing on the snow. If one tumbles into a
crevasse, the rest stare, and say, “La! what is the matter with Smith?”
unless, as is more likely, they all tumble in together. This is the wrong
way to use a rope. It is abuse of the rope.

          [Illustration: The wrong way to use a rope on glacier]

It is of the first importance to keep the rope taut from man to man. If
this is not done, there is no real security, and your risks may be
considerably magnified. There is little or no difficulty in extricating
one man who breaks through a bridged crevasse if the rope is taut; but the
case may be very awkward if two break through at the same moment, close
together, and there are only two others to aid, or perhaps only one other.
Further, the rope ought not upon any account to graze over snow, ice, or
rocks, otherwise the strands suffer, and the lives of the whole party may
be endangered. Apart from this, it is extremely annoying to have a rope
knocking about one’s heels. If circumstances render it impossible for the
rope to be kept taut by itself, the men behind should gather it up round
their hands,(205) and not allow it to incommode those in advance. A man
must either be incompetent, careless, or selfish, if he permits the rope
to dangle about the heels of the person in front of him.

              [Illustration: THE RIGHT WAY TO USE THE ROPE.]

The distance from man to man must neither be too great nor too small.
About 12 feet between each is sufficient. If there are only two or three
persons, it is prudent to allow a little more—say 15 feet. More than this
is unnecessary, and less than 9 or 10 feet is not much good.

It is essential to examine your rope from time to time to see that it is
in good condition. If you are wise you will do this yourself every day.
Latterly, I have examined every inch of my rope overnight, and upon more
than one occasion have found the strands of the Manilla rope nearly half
severed through accidental grazes.

Thus far the rope has been supposed to be employed upon level,
snow-covered glacier, to prevent any risk from concealed crevasses. On
rocks and on slopes it is used for a different purpose (namely, to guard
against slips), and in these cases it is equally important to keep it
taut, and to preserve a reasonable distance one from the other. It is much
more troublesome to keep the rope taut upon slopes than upon the level;
and upon difficult rocks it is all but impossible, except by adopting the
plan of moving only one at a time (see p. 115).

There is no good reason for employing a rope upon easy rocks, and I
believe that its needless use is likely to promote carelessness. On
difficult rocks and on snow-slopes (frequently improperly called
ice-slopes) it is a great advantage to be tied together, provided the rope
is handled properly; but upon actual ice-slopes, such as that on the Col
Dolent (p. 240), or upon slopes in which ice is mingled with small and
loose rocks, such as the upper part of the Pointe des Ecrins, it is almost
useless, because a slip made by one person might upset the entire
party.(206) I am not prepared to say, however, that men should not be tied
together upon similar slopes. Being attached to others usually gives
confidence, and confidence decidedly assists stability. It is more
questionable whether men should be in such places at all. If a man can
keep on his feet upon an _escalier_ cut in an ice-slope, I see no reason
why he should be debarred from making use of that particular form of
staircase. If he cannot, let him keep clear of such places.(207)

There would be no advantage in discoursing upon the use of the rope at
greater length. A single day upon a mountain’s side will give a clearer
idea of the value of a good rope, and of the numerous purposes for which
it may be employed, than any one will obtain from reading all that has
been written upon the subject; but no one will become really expert in its
management without much experience.

From the Col d’Olen we proceeded down the Combe of the same name to the
chalets of Prerayen, and passed the night of the 6th under the roof of our
old acquaintance, the wealthy herdsman. On the 7th we crossed the Va
Cornère pass, _en route_ for Breil. My thoughts were fixed on the
Matterhorn, and my guides knew that I wished them to accompany me. They
had an aversion to the mountain, and repeatedly expressed their belief
that it was useless to try to ascend it. “_Anything_ but Matterhorn, dear
sir!” said Almer; “_anything_ but Matterhorn.” He did not speak of
difficulty or of danger, nor was he shirking _work_. He offered to go
_anywhere_; but he entreated that the Matterhorn should be abandoned. Both
men spoke fairly enough. They did not think that an ascent could be made;
and for their own credit, as well as for my sake, they did not wish to
undertake a business which, in their opinion, would only lead to loss of
time and money.

I sent them by the short cut to Breil, and walked down to Val Tournanche
to look for Jean-Antoine Carrel. He was not there. The villagers said that
he, and three others, had started on the 6th to try the Matterhorn by the
old way, on their own account. They will have no luck, I thought, for the
clouds were low down on the mountains; and I walked up to Breil, fully
expecting to meet them. Nor was I disappointed. About half-way up I saw a
group of men clustered around a chalet upon the other side of the torrent,
and, crossing over, found that the party had returned. Jean-Antoine and
Cæsar were there, C. E. Gorret, and J. J. Maquignaz. They had had no
success. The weather, they said, had been horrible, and they had scarcely
reached the glacier du Lion.

I explained the situation to Carrel, and proposed that we, with Cæsar and
another man, should cross the Théodule by moonlight on the 9th, and that
upon the 10th we should pitch the tent as high as possible upon the east
face. He was unwilling to abandon the old route, and urged me to try it
again. I promised to do so provided the new route failed. This satisfied
him, and he agreed to my proposal. I then went up to Breil, and discharged
Almer and Biener—with much regret, for no two men ever served me more
faithfully or more willingly.(208) On the next day they crossed to

The 8th was occupied with preparations. The weather was stormy; and black,
rainy vapours obscured the mountains. Towards evening a young man came
from Val Tournanche, and reported that an Englishman was lying there,
extremely ill. Now was the time for the performance of my vow;(209) and on
the morning of Sunday the 9th I went down the valley to look after the
sick man. On my way I passed a foreign gentleman, with a mule and several
porters laden with baggage. Amongst these men were Jean-Antoine and Cæsar,
carrying some barometers. “Hullo!” I said, “what are you doing?” They
explained that the foreigner had arrived just as they were setting out,
and that they were assisting his porters. “Very well; go on to Breil, and
await me there; we start at midnight as agreed.” Jean-Antoine then said
that he should not be able to serve me after Tuesday the 11th, as he was
engaged to travel “with a family of distinction” in the valley of Aosta.
“And Cæsar?” “And Cæsar also.” “Why did you not say this before?”
“Because,” said he, “it was not settled. The engagement is of long
standing, but _the day_ was not fixed. When I got back to Val Tournanche
on Friday night, after leaving you, I found a letter naming the day.” I
could not object to the answer; but the prospect of being left guideless
was provoking. They went up, and I down, the valley.

The sick man declared that he was better, though the exertion of saying as
much tumbled him over on to the floor in a fainting fit. He was badly in
want of medicine, and I tramped down to Chatillon to get it. It was late
before I returned to Val Tournanche, for the weather was tempestuous, and
rain fell in torrents. A figure passed me under the church porch. “_Qui
vive?_” “Jean-Antoine.” “I thought you were at Breil.” “No, sir: when the
storms came on I knew we should not start to-night, and so came down to
sleep here.” “Ha, Carrel!” I said; “this is a great bore. If to-morrow is
not fine we shall not be able to do anything together. I have sent away my
guides, relying on you; and now you are going to leave me to travel with a
party of ladies. That work is not fit for _you_ (he smiled, I supposed at
the implied compliment); can’t you send some one else instead?” “No,
monsieur. I am sorry, but my word is pledged. I should like to accompany
you, but I can’t break my engagement.” By this time we had arrived at the
inn door. “Well, it is no fault of yours. Come presently with Cæsar, and
have some wine.” They came, and we sat up till midnight, recounting our
old adventures, in the inn of Val Tournanche.

The weather continued bad upon the 10th, and I returned to Breil. The two
Carrels were again hovering about the above mentioned chalet, and I bade
them adieu. In the evening the sick man crawled up, a good deal better;
but his was the only arrival. The Monday crowd(210) did not cross the
Théodule, on account of the continued storms. The inn was lonely. I went
to bed early, and was awoke the next morning by the invalid inquiring if I
had “heard the news.” “No; what news?” “Why,” said he, “a large party of
guides went off this morning to try the Matterhorn, taking with them a
mule laden with provisions.”

I went to the door, and with a telescope saw the party upon the lower
slopes of the mountain. Favre, the landlord, stood by. “What is all this
about?” I inquired, “who is the leader of this party?” “Carrel.” “What!
Jean-Antoine?” “Yes; Jean-Antoine.” “Is Cæsar there too?” “Yes, he is
there.” Then I saw in a moment that I had been bamboozled and humbugged;
and learned, bit by bit, that the affair had been arranged long
beforehand. The start on the 6th had been for a preliminary
reconnaissance; the mule, that I passed, was conveying stores for the
attack; the “family of distinction” was Signor F. Giordano, who had just
despatched the party to facilitate the way to the summit, and who, when
the facilitation was completed, was to be taken to the top along with
Signor Sella!(211)

I was greatly mortified. My plans were upset; the Italians had clearly
stolen a march upon me, and I saw that the astute Favre chuckled over my
discomfiture, because the route by the eastern face, if successful, would
not benefit his inn. What was to be done? I retired to my room, and
soothed by tobacco, re-studied my plans, to see if it was not possible to
outmanœuvre the Italians.

“They have taken a mule’s load of provisions.” “That is _one_ point in my
favour, for they will take two or three days to get through the food, and,
until that is done, no work will be accomplished.” “How is the weather?” I
went to the window. The mountain was smothered up in mist. “Another point
in my favour.” “They are to facilitate the way. Well, if they do that to
any purpose, it will be a long job.” Altogether, I reckoned that they
could not possibly ascend the mountain and come back to Breil in less than
seven days. I got cooler, for it was evident that the wily ones might be
outwitted after all. There was time enough to go to Zermatt, to try the
eastern face, and, should it prove impracticable, to come back to Breil
before the men returned; and then, it seemed to me, as the mountain was
not padlocked, one might start at the same time as the Messieurs, and yet
get to the top before them.

The first thing to do was to go to Zermatt. Easier said than done. The
seven guides upon the mountain included the ablest men in the valley, and
none of the ordinary muleteer-guides were at Breil. Two men, at least,
were wanted for my baggage, but not a soul could be found. I ran about,
and sent about in all directions, but not a single porter could be
obtained. One was with Carrel; another was ill; another was at Chatillon,
and so forth. Even Meynet, the hunchback, could not be induced to come; he
was in the thick of some important cheese-making operations. I was in the
position of a general without an army; it was all very well to make plans,
but there was no one to execute them. This did not much trouble me, for it
was evident that so long as the weather stopped traffic over the Théodule
pass, it would hinder the men equally upon the Matterhorn; and I knew that
directly it improved company would certainly arrive.

About midday on Tuesday the 11th a large party hove in sight from Zermatt,
preceded by a nimble young Englishman, and one of old Peter Taugwalder’s
sons.(212) I went at once to this gentleman to learn if he could dispense
with Taugwalder. He said that he could not, as they were going to recross
to Zermatt on the morrow, but that the young man should assist in
transporting my baggage, as he had nothing to carry. We naturally got into
conversation. I told my story, and learned that the young Englishman was
Lord Francis Douglas,(213) whose recent exploit—the ascent of the
Gabelhorn—had excited my wonder and admiration. He brought good news. Old
Peter had lately been beyond the Hörnli, and had reported that he thought
an ascent of the Matterhorn was possible upon that side. Almer had left
Zermatt, and could not be recovered, so I determined to seek for old
Peter. Lord Francis Douglas expressed a warm desire to ascend the
mountain, and before long it was determined that he should take part in
the expedition.

Favre could no longer hinder our departure, and lent us one of his men. We
crossed the Col Théodule on Wednesday morning the 12th of July, rounded
the foot of the Ober Théodulgletscher, crossed the Furggengletscher, and
deposited tent, blankets, ropes, and other matters in the little chapel at
the Schwarzsee.(214) All four were heavily laden, for we brought across
the whole of my stores from Breil. Of rope alone there was about 600 feet.
There were three kinds. First, 200 feet of the Manilla rope; second, 150
feet of a stouter, and probably stronger rope than the first; and third,
more than 200 feet of a lighter and weaker rope than the first, of a kind
that I used formerly (stout sash-line).

We descended to Zermatt, sought and engaged old Peter, and gave him
permission to choose another guide. When we returned to the Monte Rosa
Hotel, whom should we see sitting upon the wall in front but my old _guide
chef_, Michel Croz. I supposed that he had come with Mr. B——, but I
learned that that gentleman had arrived in ill health, at Chamounix, and
had returned to England. Croz, thus left free, had been immediately
engaged by the Rev. Charles Hudson, and they had come to Zermatt with the
same object as ourselves—namely, to attempt the ascent of the Matterhorn!

Lord Francis Douglas and I dined at the Monte Rosa, and had just finished
when Mr. Hudson and a friend entered the _salle à manger_. They had
returned from inspecting the mountain, and some idlers in the room
demanded their intentions. We heard a confirmation of Croz’s statement,
and learned that Mr. Hudson intended to set out on the morrow at the same
hour as ourselves. We left the room to consult, and agreed it was
undesirable that two independent parties should be on the mountain at the
same time with the same object. Mr. Hudson was therefore invited to join
us, and he accepted our proposal. Before admitting his friend—Mr. Hadow—I
took the precaution to inquire what he had done in the Alps, and, as well
as I remember, Mr. Hudson’s reply was, “Mr. Hadow has done Mont Blanc in
less time than most men.” He then mentioned several other excursions that
were unknown to me, and added, in answer to a further question, “I
consider he is a sufficiently good man to go with us.” Mr. Hadow was
admitted without any further question, and we then went into the matter of
guides. Hudson thought that Croz and old Peter would be sufficient. The
question was referred to the men themselves, and they made no objection.

So Croz and I became comrades once more; and as I threw myself on my bed
and tried to go to sleep, I wondered at the strange series of chances
which had first separated us and then brought us together again. I thought
of the mistake through which he had accepted the engagement to Mr. B——; of
his unwillingness to adopt my route; of his recommendation to transfer our
energies to the chain of Mont Blanc; of the retirement of Almer and
Biener; of the desertion of Carrel; of the arrival of Lord Francis
Douglas; and, lastly, of our meeting at Zermatt; and as I pondered over
these things I could not help asking, “What next?” If any one of the links
of this fatal chain of circumstances had been omitted, what a different
story I should have to tell!

                               CHAPTER XIX.


                      “Had we succeeded well,
            We had been reckoned ’mongst the wise: our minds
            Are so disposed to judge from the event.”

          “It is a thoroughly unfair, but an ordinary custom, to praise or
            blame designs (which in themselves may be good or bad) just as
              they turn out well or ill. Hence the same actions are at one
                time attributed to earnestness and at another to vanity.”
                                                                PLINY MIN.

We started from Zermatt on the 13th of July, at half-past 5, on a
brilliant and perfectly cloudless morning. We were eight in number—Croz,
old Peter and his two sons,(215) Lord F. Douglas, Hadow, Hudson,(216) and
I. To ensure steady motion, one tourist and one native walked together.
The youngest Taugwalder fell to my share, and the lad marched well, proud
to be on the expedition, and happy to show his powers. The wine-bags also
fell to my lot to carry, and throughout the day, after each drink, I
replenished them secretly with water, so that at the next halt they were
found fuller than before! This was considered a good omen, and little
short of miraculous.

On the first day we did not intend to ascend to any great height, and we
mounted, accordingly, very leisurely; picked up the things which were left
in the chapel at the Schwarzsee at 8.20, and proceeded thence along the
ridge connecting the Hörnli with the Matterhorn.(217) At half-past 11 we
arrived at the base of the actual peak; then quitted the ridge, and
clambered round some ledges, on to the eastern face. We were now fairly
upon the mountain, and were astonished to find that places which from the
Riffel, or even from the Furggengletscher, looked entirely impracticable,
were so easy that we could _run about_.

Before twelve o’clock we had found a good position for the tent, at a
height of 11,000 feet.(218) Croz and young Peter went on to see what was
above, in order to save time on the following morning. They cut across the
heads of the snow-slopes which descended towards the Furggengletscher, and
disappeared round a corner; and shortly afterwards we saw them high up on
the face, moving quickly. We others made a solid platform for the tent in
a well-protected spot, and then watched eagerly for the return of the men.
The stones which they upset told that they were very high, and we supposed
that the way must be easy. At length, just before 3 P.M., we saw them
coming down, evidently much excited. “What are they saying, Peter?”
“Gentlemen, they say it is no good.” But when they came near we heard a
different story. “Nothing but what was good; not a difficulty, not a
single difficulty! We could have gone to the summit and returned to-day

We passed the remaining hours of daylight—some basking in the sunshine,
some sketching or collecting; and when the sun went down, giving, as it
departed, a glorious promise for the morrow, we returned to the tent to
arrange for the night. Hudson made tea, I coffee, and we then retired each
one to his blanket-bag; the Taugwalders, Lord Francis Douglas, and myself,
occupying the tent, the others remaining, by preference, outside. Long
after dusk the cliffs above echoed with our laughter and with the songs of
the guides, for we were happy that night in camp, and feared no evil.

We assembled together outside the tent before dawn on the morning of the
14th, and started directly it was light enough to move. Young Peter came
on with us as a guide, and his brother returned to Zermatt.(219) We
followed the route which had been taken on the previous day, and in a few
minutes turned the rib which had intercepted the view of the eastern face
from our tent platform. The whole of this great slope was now revealed,
rising for 3000 feet like a huge natural staircase.(220) Some parts were
more, and others were less, easy; but we were not once brought to a halt
by any serious impediment, for when an obstruction was met in front it
could always be turned to the right or to the left. For the greater part
of the way there was, indeed, no occasion for the rope, and sometimes
Hudson led, sometimes myself. At 6.20 we had attained a height of 12,800
feet, and halted for half-an-hour; we then continued the ascent without a
break until 9.55, when we stopped for 50 minutes, at a height of 14,000
feet. Twice we struck the N.E. ridge, and followed it for some little
distance,(221)—to no advantage, for it was usually more rotten and steep,
and always more difficult than the face.(222) Still, we kept near to it,
lest stones perchance might fall.(223)

We had now arrived at the foot of that part which, from the Riffelberg or
from Zermatt, seems perpendicular or overhanging, and could no longer
continue upon the eastern side. For a little distance we ascended by snow
upon the arête(224)—that is, the ridge—descending towards Zermatt, and
then, by common consent, turned over to the right, or to the northern
side. Before doing so, we made a change in the order of ascent. Croz went
first, I followed, Hudson came third; Hadow and old Peter were last.
“Now,” said Croz, as he led off, “now for something altogether different.”
The work became difficult, and required caution. In some places there was
little to hold, and it was desirable that those should be in front who
were least likely to slip. The general slope of the mountain at this part
was _less_ than 40°, and snow had accumulated in, and had filled up, the
interstices of the rock-face, leaving only occasional fragments projecting
here and there. These were at times covered with a thin film of ice,
produced from the melting and refreezing of the snow. It was the
counterpart, on a small scale, of the upper 700 feet of the Pointe des
Ecrins,—only there was this material difference; the face of the Ecrins
was about, or exceeded, an angle of 50°, and the Matterhorn face was less
than 40°.(225) It was a place over which any fair mountaineer might pass
in safety, and Mr. Hudson ascended this part, and, as far as I know, the
entire mountain, without having the slightest assistance rendered to him
upon any occasion. Sometimes, after I had taken a hand from Croz, or
received a pull, I turned to offer the same to Hudson; but he invariably
declined, saying it was not necessary. Mr. Hadow, however, was not
accustomed to this kind of work, and required continual assistance. It is
only fair to say that the difficulty which he found at this part arose
simply and entirely from want of experience.

This solitary difficult part was of no great extent.(226) We bore away
over it at first, nearly horizontally, for a distance of about 400 feet;
then ascended directly towards the summit for about 60 feet; and then
doubled back to the ridge which descends towards Zermatt. A long stride
round a rather awkward corner brought us to snow once more. The last doubt
vanished! The Matterhorn was ours! Nothing but 200 feet of easy snow
remained to be surmounted!

You must now carry your thoughts back to the seven Italians who started
from Breil on the 11th of July. Four days had passed since their
departure, and we were tormented with anxiety lest they should arrive on
the top before us. All the way up we had talked of them, and many false
alarms of “men on the summit” had been raised. The higher we rose, the
more intense became the excitement. What if we should be beaten at the
last moment? The slope eased off, at length we could be detached, and Croz
and I, dashing away, ran a neck-and-neck race, which ended in a dead heat.
At 1.40 P.M. the world was at our feet, and the Matterhorn was conquered.
Hurrah! Not a footstep could be seen.

It was not yet certain that we had not been beaten. The summit of the
Matterhorn was formed of a rudely level ridge, about 350 feet long,(227)
and the Italians might have been at its farther extremity. I hastened to
the southern end, scanning the snow right and left eagerly. Hurrah! again;
it was untrodden. “Where were the men?” I peered over the cliff, half
doubting, half expectant. I saw them immediately—mere dots on the ridge,
at an immense distance below. Up went my arms and my hat. “Croz! Croz!!
come here!” “Where are they, Monsieur?” “There, don’t you see them, down
there?” “Ah! the _coquins_, they are low down.” “Croz, we must make those
fellows hear us.” We yelled until we were hoarse. The Italians seemed to
regard us—we could not be certain. “Croz, we _must_ make them hear us;
they _shall_ hear us!” I seized a block of rock and hurled it down, and
called upon my companion, in the name of friendship, to do the same. We
drove our sticks in, and prized away the crags, and soon a torrent of
stones poured down the cliffs. There was no mistake about it this time.
The Italians turned and fled.(228)

                [Illustration: “CROZ! CROZ!! COME HERE!”]

Still, I would that the leader of that party could have stood with us at
that moment, for our victorious shouts conveyed to him the disappointment
of the ambition of a lifetime. He was _the_ man, of all those who
attempted the ascent of the Matterhorn, who most deserved to be the first
upon its summit. He was the first to doubt its inaccessibility, and he was
the only man who persisted in believing that its ascent would be
accomplished. It was the aim of his life to make the ascent from the side
of Italy, for the honour of his native valley. For a time he had the game
in his hands: he played it as he thought best; but he made a false move,
and he lost it. Times have changed with Carrel. His supremacy is
questioned in the Val Tournanche; new men have arisen; and he is no longer
recognised as _the_ chasseur above all others: though so long as he
remains the man that he is to-day, it will not be easy to find his

The others had arrived, so we went back to the northern end of the ridge.
Croz now took the tent-pole,(229) and planted it in the highest snow.
“Yes,” we said, “there is the flag-staff, but where is the flag?” “Here it
is,” he answered, pulling off his blouse and fixing it to the stick. It
made a poor flag, and there was no wind to float it out, yet it was seen
all around. They saw it at Zermatt—at the Riffel—in the Val Tournanche. At
Breil, the watchers cried, “Victory is ours!” They raised “bravos” for
Carrel, and “vivas” for Italy, and hastened to put themselves _en fête_.
On the morrow they were undeceived. “All was changed; the explorers
returned sad—cast down—disheartened—confounded—gloomy.” “It is true,” said
the men. “We saw them ourselves—they hurled stones at us! The old
traditions _are_ true,—there are spirits on the top of the


We returned to the southern end of the ridge to build a cairn, and then
paid homage to the view.(231) The day was one of those superlatively calm
and clear ones which usually precede bad weather. The atmosphere was
perfectly still, and free from all clouds or vapours. Mountains fifty—nay
a hundred—miles off, looked sharp and near. All their details—ridge and
crag, snow and glacier—stood out with faultless definition. Pleasant
thoughts of happy days in bygone years came up unbidden, as we recognised
the old, familiar forms. All were revealed—not one of the principal peaks
of the Alps was hidden.(232) I see them clearly now—the great inner
circles of giants, backed by the ranges, chains, and _massifs_. First came
the Dent Blanche, hoary and grand; the Gabelhorn and pointed Rothhorn; and
then the peerless Weisshorn: the towering Mischabelhörner, flanked by the
Allaleinhorn, Strahlhorn, and Rimpfischhorn; then Monte Rosa—with its many
Spitzes—the Lyskamm and the Breithorn. Behind was the Bernese Oberland
governed by the Finsteraarhorn, and then the Simplon and St. Gothard
groups; the Disgrazia and the Orteler. Towards the south we looked down to
Chivasso on the plain of Piedmont, and far beyond. The Viso—one hundred
miles away—seemed close upon us; the Maritime Alps—one hundred and thirty
miles distant—were free from haze. Then came my first love—the Pelvoux;
the Ecrins and the Meije; the clusters of the Graians; and lastly, in the
west, gorgeous in the full sunlight, rose the monarch of all—Mont Blanc.
Ten thousand feet beneath us were the green fields of Zermatt, dotted with
chalets, from which blue smoke rose lazily. Eight thousand feet below, on
the other side, were the pastures of Breil. There were black and gloomy
forests, bright and cheerful meadows; bounding waterfalls and tranquil
lakes; fertile lands and savage wastes; sunny plains and frigid
_plateaux_. There were the most rugged forms, and the most graceful
outlines—bold, perpendicular cliffs, and gentle, undulating slopes; rocky
mountains and snowy mountains, sombre and solemn, or glittering and white,
with walls—turrets—pinnacles—pyramids—domes—cones—and spires! There was
every combination that the world can give, and every contrast that the
heart could desire.

We remained on the summit for one hour—

  “One crowded hour of glorious life.”

It passed away too quickly, and we began to prepare for the descent.

       [Illustration: THE ACTUAL SUMMIT OF THE MATTERHORN IN 1865.]

                               CHAPTER XX.

                     DESCENT OF THE MATTERHORN.(233)

Hudson and I again consulted as to the best and safest arrangement of the
party. We agreed that it would be best for Croz to go first,(234) and
Hadow second; Hudson, who was almost equal to a guide in sureness of foot,
wished to be third; Lord F. Douglas was placed next, and old Peter, the
strongest of the remainder, after him. I suggested to Hudson that we
should attach a rope to the rocks on our arrival at the difficult bit, and
hold it as we descended, as an additional protection. He approved the
idea, but it was not definitely settled that it should be done. The party
was being arranged in the above order whilst I was sketching the summit,
and they had finished, and were waiting for me to be tied in line, when
some one remembered that our names had not been left in a bottle. They
requested me to write them down, and moved off while it was being done.

A few minutes afterwards I tied myself to young Peter, ran down after the
others, and caught them just as they were commencing the descent of the
difficult part.(235) Great care was being taken. Only one man was moving
at a time; when he was firmly planted the next advanced, and so on. They
had not, however, attached the additional rope to rocks, and nothing was
said about it. The suggestion was not made for my own sake, and I am not
sure that it even occurred to me again. For some little distance we two
followed the others, detached from them, and should have continued so had
not Lord F. Douglas asked me, about 3 P.M., to tie on to old Peter, as he
feared, he said, that Taugwalder would not be able to hold his ground if a
slip occurred.

A few minutes later, a sharp-eyed lad ran into the Monte Rosa hotel, to
Seiler, saying that he had seen an avalanche fall from the summit of the
Matterhorn on to the Matterhorngletscher. The boy was reproved for telling
idle stories; he was right, nevertheless, and this was what he saw.

Michel Croz had laid aside his axe, and in order to give Mr. Hadow greater
security, was absolutely taking hold of his legs, and putting his feet,
one by one, into their proper positions.(236) As far as I know, no one was
actually descending. I cannot speak with certainty, because the two
leading men were partially hidden from my sight by an intervening mass of
rock, but it is my belief, from the movements of their shoulders, that
Croz, having done as I have said, was in the act of turning round to go
down a step or two himself; at this moment Mr. Hadow slipped, fell against
him, and knocked him over. I heard one startled exclamation from Croz,
then saw him and Mr. Hadow flying downwards; in another moment Hudson was
dragged from his steps, and Lord F. Douglas immediately after him.(237)
All this was the work of a moment. Immediately we heard Croz’s
exclamation, old Peter and I planted ourselves as firmly as the rocks
would permit:(238) the rope was taut between us, and the jerk came on us
both as on one man. We held; but the rope broke midway between Taugwalder
and Lord Francis Douglas. For a few seconds we saw our unfortunate
companions sliding downwards on their backs, and spreading out their
hands, endeavouring to save themselves. They passed from our sight
uninjured, disappeared one by one, and fell from precipice to precipice on
to the Matterhorngletscher below, a distance of nearly 4000 feet in
height. From the moment the rope broke it was impossible to help them.

              [Illustration: ROPE BROKEN ON THE MATTERHORN.]

So perished our comrades! For the space of half-an-hour we remained on the
spot without moving a single step. The two men, paralysed by terror, cried
like infants, and trembled in such a manner as to threaten us with the
fate of the others. Old Peter rent the air with exclamations of
“Chamounix! Oh, what will Chamounix say?” He meant, Who would believe that
Croz could fall? The young man did nothing but scream or sob, “We are
lost! we are lost!” Fixed between the two, I could neither move up nor
down. I begged young Peter to descend, but he dared not. Unless he did, we
could not advance. Old Peter became alive to the danger, and swelled the
cry, “We are lost! we are lost!” The father’s fear was natural—he trembled
for his son; the young man’s fear was cowardly—he thought of self alone.
At last old Peter summoned up courage, and changed his position to a rock
to which he could fix the rope; the young man then descended, and we all
stood together. Immediately we did so, I asked for the rope which had
given way, and found, to my surprise—indeed, to my horror—that it was the
weakest of the three ropes. It was not brought, and should not have been
employed, for the purpose for which it was used. It was old rope, and,
compared with the others, was feeble. It was intended as a reserve, in
case we had to leave much rope behind, attached to rocks. I saw at once
that a serious question was involved, and made him give me the end. It had
broken in mid-air, and it did not appear to have sustained previous

For more than two hours afterwards I thought almost every moment that the
next would be my last; for the Taugwalders, utterly unnerved, were not
only incapable of giving assistance, but were in such a state that a slip
might have been expected from them at any moment. After a time we were
able to do that which should have been done at first, and fixed rope to
firm rocks, in addition to being tied together. These ropes were cut from
time to time, and were left behind.(239) Even with their assurance the men
were sometimes afraid to proceed, and several times old Peter turned with
ashy face and faltering limbs, and said, with terrible emphasis, “_I

   [Illustration: FOG-BOW SEEN FROM THE MATTERHORN ON JULY 14, 1865.

About 6 P.M. we arrived at the snow upon the ridge descending towards
Zermatt, and all peril was over. We frequently looked, but in vain, for
traces of our unfortunate companions; we bent over the ridge and cried to
them, but no sound returned. Convinced at last that they were neither
within sight nor hearing, we ceased from our useless efforts; and, too
cast down for speech, silently gathered up our things, and the little
effects of those who were lost, preparatory to continuing the descent.
When, lo! a mighty arch appeared, rising above the Lyskamm, high into the
sky. Pale, colourless, and noiseless, but perfectly sharp and defined,
except where it was lost in the clouds, this unearthly apparition seemed
like a vision from another world; and, almost appalled, we watched with
amazement the gradual development of two vast crosses, one on either side.
If the Taugwalders had not been the first to perceive it, I should have
doubted my senses. They thought it had some connection with the accident,
and I, after a while, that it might bear some relation to ourselves. But
our movements had no effect upon it. The spectral forms remained
motionless. It was a fearful and wonderful sight; unique in my experience,
and impressive beyond description, coming at such a moment.(240)

I was ready to leave, and waiting for the others. They had recovered their
appetites and the use of their tongues. They spoke in patois, which I did
not understand. At length the son said in French, “Monsieur.” “Yes.” “We
are poor men; we have lost our Herr; we shall not get paid; we can ill
afford this.”(241) “Stop!” I said, interrupting him, “that is nonsense; I
shall pay you, of course, just as if your Herr were here.” They talked
together in their patois for a short time, and then the son spoke again.
“We don’t wish you to pay us. We wish you to write in the hotel-book at
Zermatt, and to your journals, that we have not been paid.” “What nonsense
are you talking? I don’t understand you. What do you mean?” He
proceeded—“Why, next year there will be many travellers at Zermatt, and we
shall get more _voyageurs_.”(242)

                  [Illustration: MONSIEUR ALEX. SEILER.]

Who would answer such a proposition? I made them no reply in words,(243)
but they knew very well the indignation that I felt. They filled the cup
of bitterness to overflowing, and I tore down the cliff, madly and
recklessly, in a way that caused them, more than once, to inquire if I
wished to kill them. Night fell; and for an hour the descent was continued
in the darkness. At half-past 9 a resting-place was found, and upon a
wretched slab, barely large enough to hold the three, we passed six
miserable hours. At daybreak the descent was resumed, and from the Hörnli
ridge we ran down to the chalets of Buhl, and on to Zermatt. Seiler met me
at his door, and followed in silence to my room. “What is the matter?”
“The Taugwalders and I have returned.” He did not need more, and burst
into tears; but lost no time in useless lamentations, and set to work to
arouse the village. Ere long a score of men had started to ascend the
Hohlicht heights, above Kalbermatt and Z’Mutt, which commanded the plateau
of the Matterhorngletscher. They returned after six hours, and reported
that they had seen the bodies lying motionless on the snow. This was on
Saturday; and they proposed that we should leave on Sunday evening, so as
to arrive upon the plateau at daybreak on Monday. Unwilling to lose the
slightest chance, the Rev. J. M’Cormick and I resolved to start on Sunday
morning. The Zermatt men, threatened with excommunication by their priests
if they failed to attend the early mass, were unable to accompany us. To
several of them, at least, this was a severe trial. Peter Perrn declared
with tears that nothing else would have prevented him from joining in the
search for his old comrades. Englishmen came to our aid. The Rev. J.
Robertson and Mr. J. Phillpotts offered themselves, and their guide Franz
Andermatten;(244) another Englishman lent us Joseph Marie and Alexandre
Lochmatter. Frédéric Payot and Jean Tairraz, of Chamounix, also

We started at 2 A.M. on Sunday the 16th, and followed the route that we
had taken on the previous Thursday as far as the Hörnli. From thence we
went down to the right of the ridge,(245) and mounted through the _séracs_
of the Matterhorngletscher. By 8.30 we had got to the plateau at the top
of the glacier, and within sight of the corner in which we knew my
companions must be.(246) As we saw one weather-beaten man after another
raise the telescope, turn deadly pale, and pass it on without a word to
the next, we knew that all hope was gone. We approached. They had fallen
below as they had fallen above—Croz a little in advance, Hadow near him,
and Hudson some distance behind; but of Lord F. Douglas we could see
nothing.(247) We left them where they fell; buried in snow at the base of
the grandest cliff of the most majestic mountain of the Alps.

                  [Illustration: THE MANILLA ROPE.(248)]

All those who had fallen had been tied with the Manilla, or with the
second and equally strong rope, and, consequently, there had been only one
link—that between old Peter and Lord F. Douglas—where the weaker rope had
been used. This had a very ugly look for Taugwalder, for it was not
possible to suppose that the others would have sanctioned the employment
of a rope so greatly inferior in strength when there were more than 250
feet of the better qualities still remaining out of use.(249) For the sake
of the old guide (who bore a good reputation), and upon all other
accounts, it was desirable that this matter should be cleared up; and
after my examination before the court of inquiry which was instituted by
the Government was over, I handed in a number of questions which were
framed so as to afford old Peter an opportunity of exculpating himself
from the grave suspicions which at once fell upon him. The questions, I
was told, were put and answered; but the answers, although promised, have
never reached me.(250)

                     [Illustration: THE SECOND ROPE.]

              [Illustration: THE ENGLISH CHURCH AT ZERMATT.]

Meanwhile, the administration sent strict injunctions to recover the
bodies, and upon the 19th of July, twenty-one men of Zermatt accomplished
that sad and dangerous task.(251) Of the body of Lord Francis Douglas
they, too, saw nothing; it is probably still arrested on the rocks
above.(252) The remains of Hudson and Hadow were interred upon the north
side of the Zermatt Church, in the presence of a reverent crowd of
sympathising friends. The body of Michel Croz lies upon the other side,
under a simpler tomb; whose inscription bears honourable testimony to his
rectitude, to his courage, and to his devotion.

So the traditional inaccessibility of the Matterhorn was vanquished, and
was replaced by legends of a more real character. Others will essay to
scale its proud cliffs, but to none will it be the mountain that it was to
its early explorers. Others may tread its summit-snows, but none will ever
know the feelings of those who first gazed upon its marvellous panorama;
and none, I trust, will ever be compelled to tell of joy turned into
grief, and of laughter into mourning. It proved to be a stubborn foe; it
resisted long, and gave many a hard blow; it was defeated at last with an
ease that none could have anticipated, but, like a relentless
enemy—conquered but not crushed—it took terrible vengeance. The time may
come when the Matterhorn shall have passed away, and nothing, save a heap
of shapeless fragments, will mark the spot where the great mountain stood;
for, atom by atom, inch by inch, and yard by yard, it yields to forces
which nothing can withstand. That time is far distant; and, ages hence,
generations unborn will gaze upon its awful precipices, and wonder at its
unique form. However exalted may be their ideas, and however exaggerated
their expectations, none will come to return disappointed!

With the Ascent of the Matterhorn, my mountaineering in the Alps came to a
close. The disastrous termination, though casting a permanent cloud over
otherwise happy memories, and leaving a train of life-long regrets, has
not altered my regard for the purest, healthiest and most manly of sports;
and, often, in grappling with every day difficulties, sometimes in
apparently hopeless tasks, encouragement has been found in the remembrance
of hard-won victories over stubborn Alps.

We who go mountain-scrambling have constantly set before us the
superiority of fixed purpose or perseverance to brute force. We know that
each height, each step, must be gained by patient, laborious toil, and
that wishing cannot take the place of working; we know the benefits of
mutual aid; that many a difficulty must be encountered, and many an
obstacle must be grappled with or turned, but we know that where there’s a
will there’s a way: and we come back to our daily occupations better
fitted to fight the battle of life, and to overcome the impediments which
obstruct our paths, strengthened and cheered by the recollection of past
labours, and by the memories of victories gained in other fields.

I have not made myself an apologist for mountaineering, nor do I now
intend to usurp the functions of a moralist; but my task would have been
ill performed if it had been concluded without one reference to the more
serious lessons of the mountaineer. We glory in the physical regeneration
which is the product of our exertions; we exult over the grandeur of the
scenes that are brought before our eyes, the splendours of sunrise and
sunset, and the beauties of hill, dale, lake, wood, and waterfall; but we
value more highly the development of manliness, and the evolution, under
combat with difficulties, of those noble qualities of human
nature—courage, patience, endurance, and fortitude.

Some hold these virtues in less estimation, and assign base and
contemptible motives to those who indulge in our innocent sport.

  “Be thou chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny.”

Others, again, who are not detractors, find mountaineering, as a sport, to
be wholly unintelligible. It is not greatly to be wondered at—we are not
all constituted alike. Mountaineering is a pursuit essentially adapted to
the young or vigorous, and not to the old or feeble. To the latter, toil
may be no pleasure; and it is often said by such persons, “This man is
making a toil of pleasure.” Let the motto on the title-page be an answer,
if an answer be required. Toil he must who goes mountaineering; but out of
the toil comes strength (not merely muscular energy—more than that), an
awakening of all the faculties; and from the strength arises pleasure.
Then, again, it is often asked, in tones which seem to imply that the
answer must, at least, be doubtful, “But does it repay you?” Well, we
cannot estimate our enjoyment as you measure your wine, or weigh your
lead,—it is real, nevertheless. If I could blot out every reminiscence, or
erase every memory, still I should say that my scrambles amongst the Alps
have repaid me, for they have given me two of the best things a man can
possess—health and friends.

The recollections of past pleasures cannot be effaced. Even now as I write
they crowd up before me. First comes an endless series of pictures,
magnificent in form, effect, and colour. I see the great peaks, with
clouded tops, seeming to mount up for ever and ever; I hear the music of
the distant herds, the peasant’s jodel, and the solemn church-bells; and I
scent the fragrant breath of the pines: and after these have passed away,
another train of thoughts succeeds—of those who have been upright, brave,
and true; of kind hearts and bold deeds; and of courtesies received at
stranger hands, trifles in themselves, but expressive of that good will
towards men which is the essence of charity.

Still, the last, sad memory hovers round, and sometimes drifts across like
floating mist, cutting off sunshine, and chilling the remembrance of
happier times. There have been joys too great to be described in words,
and there have been griefs upon which I have not dared to dwell; and with
these in mind I say, Climb if you will, but remember that courage and
strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may
destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to
each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.

                         [Illustration: The end]


                      *A.* THE DEATH OF BENNEN.(253)

On February 28, 1864, Mr. P. C. Gosset and Mr. B—— started from the
village of Ardon (about mid-way between Sion and Martigny), to make the
ascent of the Haut-de-Cry (9688 feet), with the guides J. J. Nance, F.
Rebot, A. Bevard, and J. J. Bennen. They arrived within a few hundred feet
of the summit before mid-day, and determined to complete the ascent by
following the crest of a ridge leading towards the east. Before this could
be done it was necessary to cross some steep snow; and, while passing
this, an avalanche was unfortunately started. Bennen and Mr. B—— perished;
the others happily escaped. The following narrative, from the pen of Mr.
Gosset, illustrates, in a very impressive manner, the danger of traversing
new-fallen snow at considerable inclinations:—

    “We had to go up a steep snow-field, about 800 feet high, as well
    as I remember. It was about 150 feet broad at the top, and 400 or
    500 at the bottom. It was a sort of couloir on a large scale.
    During the ascent we sank about one foot deep at every step.
    Bennen did not seem to like the look of the snow very much. He
    asked the local guides whether avalanches ever came down this
    couloir, to which they answered that our position was perfectly
    safe. We had mounted on the northern side of the couloir, and
    having arrived at 150 feet from the top, we began crossing it on a
    horizontal curve, so as to gain the E. arête. The inflexion or dip
    of the couloir was slight, not above 25 feet, the inclination near
    35°. We were walking in the following order:—Bevard, Nance,
    Bennen, myself, B., and Rebot. Having crossed over about
    three-quarters of the breadth of the couloir, the two leading men
    suddenly sank considerably above their waists. Bennen tightened
    the rope. The snow was too deep to think of getting out of the
    hole they had made, so they advanced one or two steps, dividing
    the snow with their bodies. Bennen turned round and told us he was
    afraid of starting an avalanche; we asked whether it would not be
    better to return and cross the couloir higher up. To this the
    three Ardon men opposed themselves; they mistook the proposed
    precaution for fear, and the two leading men continued their work.
    After three or four steps gained in the aforesaid manner, the snow
    became hard again. Bennen had not moved—he was evidently undecided
    what he should do; as soon, however, as he saw hard snow again, he
    advanced and crossed parallel to, but above, the furrow the Ardon
    men had made. Strange to say, the snow supported him. While he was
    passing I observed that the leader, Bevard, had ten or twelve feet
    of rope coiled round his shoulder. I of course at once told him to
    uncoil it and get on the arête, from which he was not more than
    fifteen feet distant. Bennen then told me to follow. I tried his
    steps, but sank up to my waist in the very first. So I went
    through the furrows, holding my elbows close to my body, so as not
    to touch the sides. This furrow was about twelve feet long, and as
    the snow was good on the other side, we had all come to the false
    conclusion that the snow was accidentally softer there than
    elsewhere. Bennen advanced; he had made but a few steps when we
    heard a deep, cutting sound. The snow-field split in two about
    fourteen or fifteen feet above us. The cleft was at first quite
    narrow, not more than an inch broad. An awful silence ensued; it
    lasted but a few seconds, and then it was broken by Bennen’s
    voice, ‘We are all lost.’ His words were slow and solemn, and
    those who knew him felt what they really meant when spoken by such
    a man as Bennen. They were his last words. I drove my alpenstock
    into the snow, and brought the weight of my body to bear on it. I
    then waited. It was an awful moment of suspense. I turned my head
    towards Bennen to see whether he had done the same thing. To my
    astonishment I saw him turn round, face the valley, and stretch
    out both arms. The snow on which we stood began to move slowly,
    and I felt the utter uselessness of any alpenstock. I soon sank up
    to my shoulders, and began descending backwards. From this moment
    I saw nothing of what had happened to the rest of the party. With
    a good deal of trouble I succeeded in turning round. The speed of
    the avalanche increased rapidly, and before long I was covered up
    with snow. I was suffocating when I suddenly came to the surface
    again. I was on a wave of the avalanche, and saw it before me as I
    was carried down. It was the most awful sight I ever saw. The head
    of the avalanche was already at the spot where we had made our
    last halt. The head alone was preceded by a thick cloud of
    snow-dust; the rest of the avalanche was clear. Around me I heard
    the horrid hissing of the snow, and far before me the thundering
    of the foremost part of the avalanche. To prevent myself sinking
    again, I made use of my arms much in the same way as when swimming
    in a standing position. At last I noticed that I was moving
    slower; then I saw the pieces of snow in front of me stop at some
    yards’ distance; then the snow straight before me stopped, and I
    heard on a large scale the same creaking sound that is produced
    when a heavy cart passes over frozen snow in winter. I felt that I
    also had stopped, and instantly threw up both arms to protect my
    head in case I should again be covered up. I had stopped, but the
    snow behind me was still in motion; its pressure on my body was so
    strong, that I thought I should be crushed to death. This
    tremendous pressure lasted but a short time; I was covered up by
    snow coming from behind me. My first impulse was to try and
    uncover my head—but this I could not do, the avalanche had frozen
    by pressure the moment it stopped, and I was frozen in. Whilst
    trying vainly to move my arms, I suddenly became aware that the
    hands as far as the wrist had the faculty of motion. The
    conclusion was easy, they must be above the snow. I set to work as
    well as I could; it was time, for I could not have held out much
    longer. At last I saw a faint glimmer of light. The crust above my
    head was getting thinner, but I could not reach it any more with
    my hands; the idea struck me that I might pierce it with my
    breath. After several efforts I succeeded in doing so, and felt
    suddenly a rush of air towards my mouth. I saw the sky again
    through a little round hole. A dead silence reigned around me; I
    was so surprised to be still alive, and so persuaded at the first
    moment that none of my fellow-sufferers had survived, that I did
    not even think of shouting for them. I then made vain efforts to
    extricate my arms, but found it impossible; the most I could do
    was to join the ends of my fingers, but they could not reach the
    snow any longer. After a few minutes I heard a man shouting; what
    a relief it was to know that I was not the sole survivor! to know
    that perhaps he was not frozen in and could come to my assistance!
    I answered; the voice approached, but seemed uncertain where to
    go, and yet it was now quite near. A sudden exclamation of
    surprise! Rebot had seen my hands. He cleared my head in an
    instant, and was about to try and cut me out completely, when I
    saw a foot above the snow, and so near to me that I could touch it
    with my arms, although they were not quite free yet. I at once
    tried to move the foot; it was my poor friend’s. A pang of agony
    shot through me as I saw that the foot did not move. Poor B. had
    lost sensation, and was perhaps already dead. Rebot did his best:
    after some time he wished me to help him, so he freed my arms a
    little more so that I could make use of them. I could do but
    little, for Rebot had torn the axe from my shoulder as soon as he
    had cleared my head (I generally carry an axe separate from my
    alpenstock—the blade tied to the belt, and the handle attached to
    the left shoulder). Before coming to me Rebot had helped Nance out
    of the snow; he was lying nearly horizontally, and was not much
    covered over. Nance found Bevard, who was upright in the snow, but
    covered up to the head. After about twenty minutes the two
    last-named guides came up. I was at length taken out; the snow had
    to be cut with the axe down to my feet before I could be pulled
    out. A few minutes after one o’clock P.M. we came to my poor
    friend’s face.... I wished the body to be taken out completely,
    but nothing could induce the three guides to work any longer, from
    the moment they saw that it was too late to save him. I
    acknowledge that they were nearly as incapable of doing anything
    as I was. When I was taken out of the snow the cord had to be cut.
    We tried the end going towards Bennen, but could not move it; it
    went nearly straight down, and showed us that there was the grave
    of the bravest guide the Valais ever had, and ever will have. The
    cold had done its work on us; we could stand it no longer, and
    began the descent.”


[Mr. B. B. Heathcote, of Chingford, Essex, whilst attempting to ascend the
Matterhorn by the southern route, was unfortunately used as a
lightning-conductor, when he was within 500 feet of the summit of the
mountain. It may be observed that the Matterhorn (like all isolated Alpine
rock summits) is frequently struck by lightning. Signor Giordano has
pointed out elsewhere that he found numerous traces of electric discharges
upon its summit.](255)

    “On July 30, 1869, in company with Peter Perrn,(256) Peter
    Taugwalder junior, and Jos. Maquignaz, I commenced the ascent. The
    atmosphere was clear, and the wind southerly. When very near to
    the summit an extremely loud thunder-clap was heard, and we
    thought it prudent to descend. We commenced the descent in the
    following order:—Taugwalder first, myself next, then Perrn, and
    Maquignaz last. On approaching the Col do Felicité(257) I received
    a sharp, stinging blow on the leg, and thought, at first, that a
    stone had been dislodged; but a loud thunder-clap at once told me
    what it was. Perrn also said that he had been hit on the leg. In a
    few moments I received a hit on the right arm, which seemed to run
    along it, and resembled a shock from a galvanic battery. At the
    same time all the men gave a startled shriek, and exclaimed that
    they were hit by lightning. The storm continued near us for some
    little time, and then gradually died away. On arriving at the
    _cabane_ I found that Perrn had a long sore on his arm; next
    morning his leg was much swollen and very weak. We descended to
    Breil on the following day, and crossed to Zermatt. The same day
    my hand began to swell, and it continued very weak for about a
    week. Maquignaz’s neck was much swollen on each side; the
    lightning hitting him (according to his account) on the back, and
    upon each side of the neck. Taugwalder’s leg was also slightly
    swollen. The thunder was tremendous—louder than I have ever heard
    it before. There was no wind, nor rain, and everything was in a

                        *C.* NOTE TO CHAPTER VII.

It was stated in the commencement of this chapter that the Pointe des
Ecrins was the highest mountain in France. I have learned, since that
paragraph was written, that Captain Mieulet has determined that the height
of the Aiguille Verte is 13,540 feet; that mountain is consequently 78
feet higher than the Pointe des Ecrins, and is the highest in France.


The Val Tournanche natives who started to facilitate the way up the
south-west ridge of the Matterhorn for MM. Giordano and Sella, pitched
their tent upon my third platform, at the foot of the Great Tower (12,992
feet), and enjoyed several days of bad weather under its shelter. On the
first fine day (13th of July) they began their work, and about midday on
the 14th got on to the “shoulder,” and arrived at the base of the final
peak (the point where Bennen stopped on July 28, 1862). The counsels of
the party were then divided. Two—Jean-Antoine Carrel and Joseph
Maquignaz—wished to go on; the others were not eager about it. A
discussion took place, and the result was they all commenced to descend,
and whilst upon the “cravate” (13,524) they heard our cries from the
summit.(259) Upon the 15th they went down to Breil and reported their
ill-success to M. Giordano (see p. 281). That gentleman was naturally much
disappointed, and pressed the men to set out again.(260) Said he, “Until
now I have striven for the honour of making the first ascent,—fate has
decided against me,—I am beaten. Patience! Now, if I make further
sacrifices it will be on your account, for your honour, and for your
interests. Will you start again to settle the question, or, at least, to
let there be no more uncertainty?” The majority of the men (in fact the
whole of them with the exception of Jean-Antoine) refused point-blank to
have anything more to do with the mountain. Carrel, however, stepped
forward, saying, “As for me, I have not given it up; if you (turning to
the Abbé Gorret) or the others will come, I will start again immediately.”
“Not I!” said one. “No more for me,” cried a second. “If you would give me
a thousand francs I would not go back,” said a third. The Abbé Gorret
alone volunteered. This plucky priest was concerned in the very first
attempts upon the mountain,(261) and is an enthusiastic mountaineer.
Carrel and the Abbé would have set out by themselves had not J. B. Bich
and J.-A. Meynet (two men in the employ of Favre the innkeeper) come
forward at the last moment. M. Giordano also wished to accompany them, but
the men knew the nature of the work they had to undertake, and positively
declined to be accompanied by an amateur.

These four men left Breil at 6.30 A.M. on July 16, at 1 P.M. arrived at
the third tent-platform, and there passed the night. At daybreak on the
17th they continued the ascent by the route which had been taken before;
passed successively the Great Tower, the “crête du coq,” the “cravate,”
and the “shoulder,”(262) and at 10 A.M. gained the point at the foot of
the final peak from which the explorers had turned back on the 14th.(263)
They had then about 800 feet to accomplish, and, says the Abbé, “nous
allions entrer en pays inconnu, aucun n’étant jamais allé aussi loin.”

The passage of the cleft which stopped Bennen was accomplished, and then
the party proceeded directly towards the summit, over rocks which for some
distance were not particularly difficult. The steep cliffs down which we
had hurled stones (on the 14th) then stopped their way, and Carrel led
round to the left or Z’Mutt side. The work at this part was of the very
greatest difficulty, and stones and icicles which fell rendered the
position of the party very precarious;(264) so much so that they preferred
to turn up directly towards the summit, and climb by rocks that the Abbé
termed “almost perpendicular.” He added, “This part occupied the most
time, and gave us the greatest trouble.” At length they arrived at a fault
in the rocks which formed a roughly horizontal gallery. They crept along
this in the direction of a ridge that descended towards the north-west, or
thereabouts, and when close to the ridge, found that they could not climb
on to it; but they perceived that, by descending a gully with
perpendicular sides, they could reach the ridge at a lower point. The bold
Abbé was the heaviest and the strongest of the four, and he was sacrificed
for the success of the expedition. He and Meynet remained behind, and
lowered the others, one by one, into the gully. Carrel and Bich clambered
up the other side, attained the ridge descending towards the north-west,
shortly afterwards gained an “easy route, they galloped,”(265) and in a
few minutes reached the southern end of the summit-ridge.

The time of their arrival does not appear to have been noticed. It was
late in the day, I believe about 3 P.M. Carrel and his comrade only waited
long enough to plant a flag by the side of the cairn that we had built
three days previously, then descended at once, rejoined the others, and
all four hurried down as fast as possible to the tent. They were so
pressed for time that they could not eat! and it was 9 P.M. before they
arrived at their camp at the foot of the Great Tower. In descending they
followed the gallery above mentioned throughout its entire length, and so
avoided the very difficult rocks over which they had passed on the ascent.
As they were traversing the length of the “shoulder” they witnessed the
phenomenon to which I have already adverted at the foot of p. 289.

When Carrel and Bich were near the summit they saw our traces upon the
Matterhorngletscher, and suspected that an accident had occurred; they did
not, however, hear of the Matterhorn catastrophe until their return to
Breil, at 3 P.M. upon the 18th. The details of that sad event were in the
mouths of all, and it was not unnaturally supposed, in the absence of
correct information, that the accident was a proof that the northern side
was frightfully dangerous. The safe return of the four Italians was
regarded, on the other hand, as evidence that the Breil route was the
best. Those who were interested (either personally or otherwise) in the
Val Tournanche made the most of the circumstances, and trumpeted the
praises of the southern route. Some went farther, and instituted
comparisons between the two routes to the disadvantage of the northern
one, and were pleased to term our expedition on the 13-14th of July
precipitate, and so forth. Considering the circumstances which caused us
to leave the Val Tournanche on the 12th of July, these remarks were not in
the best possible taste, but I have no feeling regarding them. There may
be some, however, who may be interested in a comparison of the two routes,
and for their sakes I will place the essential points in juxtaposition. We
(that is the Taugwalders and myself) were absent from Zermatt 53 hours.
Excluding halts and stoppages of one sort or another, the ascent and
descent occupied us 23 hours. Zermatt is 5315 feet above the level of the
sea, and the Matterhorn is 14,780; we had therefore to ascend 9465 feet.
As far as the point marked 10,820 feet the way was known, so we had to
find the way over only 3960 feet. The members of our party (I now include
all) were very unequal in ability, and none of us could for a moment be
compared as cragsmen with Jean-Antoine Carrel. The four Italians who
started from Breil on the 16th of July were absent during 56½ hours, and
as far as I can gather from the published account, and from conversation
with the men, excluding halts, they took for the ascent and descent 23¾
hours. The hotel at Breil is 6890 feet above the sea, so they had to
ascend 7890 feet. As far as the end of the “shoulder” the way was known to
Carrel, and he had to find the way over only about 800 feet. All four men
were born mountaineers, good climbers, and they were led by the most
expert cragsman I have seen. The weather in each instance was fine. It is
seen, therefore, that these four nearly equally matched men took a
_longer_ time to ascend 1500 feet _less_ height than ourselves, although
we had to find the way over more than four times as much untrodden ground
as they. This alone would lead any mountaineer to suppose that their route
must have been more difficult than ours.(266) I know the greater part of
the ground over which they passed, and from my knowledge, and from the
account of Mr. Grove, I am sure that their route was not only more
difficult, but that it was _much_ more difficult than ours.

This was not the opinion in the Val Tournanche at the end of 1865, and the
natives confidently reckoned that tourists would flock to their side in
preference to the other. It was, I believe, the late Canon Carrel of Aosta
(who always took great interest in such matters) who first proposed the
construction of a _cabane_ upon the southern side of the Matterhorn. The
project was taken up with spirit, and funds for its execution were
speedily provided—principally by the members of the Italian Alpine Club,
or by their friends. The indefatigable Carrel found a natural hole upon
the ledge called the “cravate” (13,524), and this, in course of time, was
turned, under his direction, into a respectable little hut. Its position
is superb, and gives a view of the most magnificent character.

Whilst this work was being carried out, my friend Mr. F. Craufurd Grove
consulted me respecting the ascent of the Matterhorn. I recommended him to
ascend by the northern route, and to place himself in the hands of
Jean-Antoine Carrel. Mr. Grove found, however, that Carrel distinctly
preferred the southern side, and they ascended accordingly by the Breil
route. Mr. Grove has been good enough to supply the following account of
his expedition. He carries on my description of the southern route from
the highest point I attained on that side (a little below the “cravate”)
to the summit, and thus renders complete my descriptions of the two sides.

    “In August 1867 I ascended the Matterhorn from Breil, taking as
    guides three mountaineers of the Val Tournanche—J. A. Carrel, J.
    Bich, and S. Meynet,—Carrel being the leader. At that time the
    Matterhorn had not been scaled since the famous expedition of the
    Italian guides mentioned above.

    “Our route was identical with that which they followed in their
    descent when, as will be seen, they struck out on one part of the
    mountain a different line from that which they had taken in
    ascending. After gaining the Col du Lion, we climbed the
    south-western or Breil _arête_ by the route which has been
    described in these pages, passing the night at the then unfinished
    hut constructed by the Italian Alpine Club on the ‘cravate.’
    Starting from the hut at daylight, we reached at an early hour the
    summit of the ‘shoulder,’ and then traversed its _arête_ to the
    final peak of the Matterhorn. The passage of this _arête_ was
    perhaps the most enjoyable part of the whole expedition. The
    ridge, worn by slow irregular decay into monstrous and rugged
    battlements, and guarded on each side by tremendous precipices, is
    grand beyond all description, but does not, strange to say,
    present any remarkable difficulty to the climber, save that it is
    exceedingly trying to the head. Great care is of course necessary,
    but the scramble is by no means of so arduous a nature as entirely
    to absorb the attention; so that a fine climb, and rock scenery,
    of grandeur perhaps unparalleled in the Alps, can both be

    “It was near the end of this _arête_, close to the place where it
    abuts against the final peak, that Professor Tyndall’s party
    turned in 1862,(267) arrested by a cleft in the ridge. From the
    point where they stopped the main tower of the Matterhorn rises in
    front of the climber, abrupt, magnificent, and apparently
    inaccessible. The summit is fully 750 feet in vertical height
    above this spot, and certainly, to my eye, appeared to be
    separated from me by a yet more considerable interval; for I
    remember, when at the end of the _arête_, looking upward at the
    crest of the mountain, and thinking that it must be a good 1000
    feet above me.

    “When the Italian guides made their splendid ascent, they
    traversed the _arête_ of the shoulder to the main peak, passed the
    cleft which has been mentioned (p. 90), clambered on to the
    tremendous north-western face of the mountain (described by Mr.
    Whymper at pp. 277 and 282), and then endeavoured to cross this
    face so as to get on to the Z’Mutt _arête_.(268) The passage of
    this slope proved a work of great difficulty and danger. I saw it
    from very near the place which they traversed, and was unable to
    conceive how any human creatures managed to crawl over rocks so
    steep and so treacherous. After they had got about half-way
    across, they found the difficulties of the route and the danger
    from falling stones so great, that they struck straight up the
    mountain, in the hope of finding some safer way. They were to a
    certain extent successful, for they came presently to a small
    ledge, caused by a sort of fault in the rock, running horizontally
    across the north-western face of the mountain a little distance
    below the summit. Traversing this ledge, the Italians found
    themselves close to the Z’Mutt _arête_, but still separated from
    it by a barrier, to outflank which it was necessary to descend a
    perpendicular gully. Carrel and Bich were lowered down this, the
    other two men remaining at the top to haul up their companions on
    their return, as otherwise they could not have got up again.
    Passing on to the Z’Mutt _arête_ without further difficulty,
    Carrel and Bich climbed by that ridge to the summit of the
    mountain. In returning, the Italians kept to the ledge for the
    whole distance across the north-western face, and descended to the
    place where the _arête_ of the shoulder abuts against the main
    peak by a sort of rough ridge of rocks between the north-western
    and southern faces. When I ascended in 1867, we followed this
    route in the ascent and in the descent. I thought the ledge
    difficult, in some places decidedly dangerous, and should not care
    to set foot on it again; but assuredly it neither is so difficult
    nor so continuously dangerous as those gaunt and pitiless
    rock-slopes which the Italians crossed in their upward route.

                    FROM A PHOTOGRAPH BY THE AUTHOR.]

    “The credit of making the _Italian_ ascent of the Matterhorn
    belongs undoubtedly to J.-A. Carrel and to the other mountaineers
    who accompanied him. Bennen led his party bravely and skilfully to
    a point some 750 feet below the top. From this point, however,
    good guide though he was, Bennen had to retire defeated; and it
    was reserved for the better mountain-craft of the Valtournanche
    guide to win the difficult way to the summit of the Matterhorn.”

Mr. Craufurd Grove was the first traveller who ascended the Matterhorn
after the accident, and the natives of Val Tournanche were, of course,
greatly delighted that his ascent was made upon their side. Some of them,
however, were by no means well pleased that J.-A. Carrel was so much
regarded. They feared, perhaps, that he would acquire the monopoly of the
mountain. Just a month after Mr. Grove’s ascent, six Valtournanchians set
out to see whether they could not learn the route, and so come in for a
share of the good things which were expected to arrive. They were three
Maquignaz’s, Cæsar Carrel (my old guide), J.-B. Carrel, and a daughter of
the last named! They left Breil at 5 A.M. on Sept. 12, and at 3 P.M.
arrived at the hut, where they passed the night. At 7 A.M. the next day
they started again (leaving J.-B. Carrel behind), and proceeded along the
“shoulder” to the final peak; passed the cleft which had stopped Bennen,
and clambered up the comparatively easy rocks on the other side until they
arrived at the base of the last precipice, down which we had hurled stones
on July 14, 1865. They (young woman and all) were then about 350 feet from
the summit! Then, instead of turning to the left, as Carrel and Mr. Grove
had done, Joseph and J.-Pierre Maquignaz paid attention to the cliff in
front of them, and managed to find a means of passing up, by clefts,
ledges, and gullies, to the summit. This was a shorter (and it appears to
be an easier) route than that taken by Carrel and Grove, and it has been
followed by all those who have since then ascended the mountain from the
side of Breil.(269) Subsequently, a rope was fixed over the most difficult
portions of the final climb.

In the meantime they had not been idle upon the other side. A hut was
constructed upon the eastern face, at a height of 12,526 feet above the
sea, near to the crest of the ridge which descends towards Zermatt
(north-east ridge). This was done at the expense of Monsieur Seiler and of
the Swiss Alpine Club. Mons. Seiler placed the execution of the work under
the direction of the Knubels, of the village of St. Nicholas, in the
Zermatt valley; and Peter Knubel, along with Joseph Marie Lochmatter of
the same village, had the honour of making the second ascent of the
mountain upon the northern side with Mr. Elliott. This took place on July
24-25, 1868. Since then very numerous ascents have been made both on the
Swiss and upon the Italian side. The list of ascents will, however, show
that far more have been made by the Zermatt or northern route than by the
Breil or southern route.

              [Illustration: THE CHAPEL AT THE SCHWARZSEE.]

Mr. Elliott supposed that he avoided the place where the accident
occurred, and that he improved the northern route. This, however, is not
the case. Both he and the others who have succeeded him have followed in
all essential points the route which we took upon July 13-15, 1865, with
the exception of the deviations which I will point out. Upon leaving
Zermatt, the traveller commences by crossing a bridge which is commonly
termed the Matterhorn bridge, and proceeds to the chapel at the
Schwarzsee. Thence he mounts the Hörnli, and follows its ridge along its
entire length right up to the foot of the Matterhorn. There is now a good
path along the whole of this ridge, but when we traversed it for the First
Ascent there was not even so much as a faintly marked track. The first
steps which are taken upon the mountain itself follow the exact line over
which I myself led upon the first ascent, and the track presently passes
over the precise spot upon which our tent was placed in 1865. In 1874, and
again in 1876, I saw the initials which I marked on the rock by the side
of our tent. The route now taken passes this rock, and then goes round the
corner of the buttress to which I referred upon p. 276. At this point the
route now followed deviates somewhat from the line of our ascent, and goes
more directly up to the part of the north-east ridge upon which the
_Cabane_ is placed. We bore more away on to the face of the mountain, and
proceeded more directly towards the summit. At the upper part of the
ascent of the north-east ridge the route now taken is exactly that of the
first ascent until the foot of the final peak is reached; and there,
instead of bearing away to the right, as we did, the tourist now clambers
up directly towards the summit by means of the fixed ropes and chains. The
final portion of the ascent, over the snow at the summit, again follows
our route.


So far as the _Cabane_ there is now a strongly marked track, almost a
path, over the mountain; and little piles of stones, placed in prominent
situations, point out the way even to the dullest person. What the
_Cabane_ itself is like will be seen by reference to the illustration
which faces p. 309. It is placed in a very insecure position, and will
probably one of these days disappear by disintegration. It is not easy at
this part of the mountain to find a good situation for a hut, though there
is plenty of choice both higher up and lower down.

Amongst the ascents that have been made which are most worthy of note,
that made by Signor Giordano may be mentioned first. This gentleman came
to Breil several times after his famous visit in 1865, with the intention
of making the ascent, but he was always baffled by the weather. In July
1866 he got as high as the “cravate” (with J. A. Carrel and other men) and
_was detained there five days and nights, unable to move either up or
down_. At last, upon Sept. 3-5, 1868, he was able to gratify his desires,
and accomplished the feat of ascending the mountain on one side and
descending it upon the other. Signor Giordano is, I believe, the only
geologist who has ascended the mountain. He spent a considerable time in
the examination of its structure, and became benighted on its eastern face
in consequence. I am indebted to him for the valuable note and the
accompanying section which follow the Table of Ascents. Signor Giordano
carried a mercurial barometer throughout the entire distance, and read it
frequently. His observations have enabled me to determine with confidence
and accuracy the heights which were attained upon the different attempts
to ascend the mountain, and the various points upon it which have been so
frequently mentioned throughout this volume.

Questions having been frequently put to me respecting the immediate summit
of the Matterhorn, and difficulties having been expressed as to the
recognition of the two views given upon pp. 279 and 281, I made an ascent
of the mountain in 1874 to photograph the summit, in order that I might
see what changes had occurred since our visit of ten years before. The
summits of all high mountains vary from time to time, and I was not
surprised to find that the Matterhorn was no exception to the general
rule. It was altogether sharper and narrower in 1874 than 1865. Instead of
being able “to run about,” every step had to be painfully cut with the
axe; and the immediate summit, instead of being a blunt and rounded
eminence, was a little piled-up cone of snow which went to a very sharp
point. Our photographic operations were conducted with difficulty, for a
furious north wind was blowing which would have whisked away the camera
immediately if it had been set up in the most convenient position for
taking a view; and we were compelled to cut a great gash in the snow and
to work down upon the edge of the cliff overlooking Breil before we could
escape from the gusts which were whirling away the snow in writhing
eddies. My guides J. A. Carrel, Bic, and Lochmatter formed a strong party,
and eventually we gained a position, protected from the wind, whence there
was a good view of the summit; but our ledge was so small that we could
not venture to unrope, and Carrel had to squat down whilst I photographed
over his head. The engraving upon p. 311 has been made from the photograph
so taken. It will interest some of my readers to know that the nearest
peak, seen below, is the summit of the Dent d’Hérens.

The light was not favourable for photographing the _Cabane_ when we
returned from the summit, and I stopped alone with Carrel in it for a
second night in order to get the morning light on the next day. Whilst
quietly reposing inside, I was startled to hear a rustling and crackling
sound, and jumped up, expecting that the building was about to take itself
off to lower quarters; and presently I perceived that the hut had a tenant
to whom I certainly did not expect to be introduced. A little, plump mouse
came creeping out over the floor, being apparently of opinion that there
ought not to be any one there at that time of day. It wandered about
picking up stray fragments of food, occasionally crunching a bit of
egg-shell, totally unaware of my presence, for I made out that the little
animal was both blind and deaf. It would have been easy to capture it, but
I would not do so, and left it there to keep company with other solitary

The view from the _Cabane_ extends from the Bietschhorn on the north to
the Grand Tournalin in the south; and includes the Mischabel group, the
Allalleinhorn and Alphubel, Mont Rosa, etc. etc. Its situation is not high
enough to overlook those mountains, and so the prospect is very similar to
the northern and eastern half of the view from the Riffel. The uppermost
800 feet of the Matterhorn can be seen from the hut, but the rest of the
part above it is not visible, being hidden by a small ridge which projects
from the face. Whilst stopping in the _Cabane_ we had the insecurity of
its position forcibly impressed upon us by seeing a huge block break away
from the rock at its side, and go crashing down over the very route which
is commonly pursued by tourists.

The year 1879 is a memorable one in the history of the Matterhorn, for in
it there occurred two deaths upon the mountain, and two new routes were
discovered. Sufficient information has not come to hand at the time I
write upon what is termed the “_affaire Brantschen_” to enable one to form
a correct opinion about that lamentable business, and it is enough to say
that upon August 12 a party started from Breil, composed of Dr. Lüscher,
Prof. Schiess, and the guides J. M. Lochmatter, Jos. Brantschen, and
Petryson of Evolena. They gained the hut on the “cravate” in due course,
and on the following day the party crossed the mountain to Zermatt, with
the exception of Brantschen, who was left behind in the hut, some say only
slightly ill, and others at the point of death. Which of these was the
case is only known by those concerned. They sent back assistance to their
comrade in a somewhat tardy fashion, and when the relief party gained the
hut Brantschen was found dead.

At the time that this was taking place on the southern side of the
Matterhorn, an accident occurred on the north-east face by which a life
was lost. Messrs. A. E. Craven and Dr. Moseley (of Boston), with the
guides Peter Rubi and C. Inabnit, left Zermatt at 10.30 P.M. on the night
of August 13, and ascended the mountain by the usual northern route
without stopping at the hut. They reached the summit at 9 A.M. on the
14th, and had returned to within a short distance of the hut, when Dr.
Moseley (who had found it irksome to be tied up, and had frequently wished
to go unroped) untied himself from the rest, doing so entirely upon his
own responsibility. A few minutes later, and within quite a short distance
of the hut, the party had to cross a projecting piece of rock. Rubi went
over first, and planted his axe in position to give firm footing to Dr.
Moseley, who followed. But, unhappily, he declined assistance; placed his
hand on the rock, and endeavoured to vault over it. In doing so he
slipped, lost hold of his axe, and fell with ever accelerating velocity
down almost the whole of the north-east face. He fell about 2000 feet, and
was of course killed on the spot. His body was recovered three days later,
and was interred in the English burying-ground at Zermatt.

Many persons have talked at different times about the possibility of
finding a way up the Matterhorn from the side of the Z’Mutt glacier; but
it was not until the year 1879 that a way was found. On September 2-3, Mr.
A. F. Mummery, with the guides  ?  and  ?  , succeeded in gaining the
summit by first going up the long buttress of snow which runs out from the
mountain to the Z’Mutt glacier, and then up the rocks above. I have been
unable to procure any details respecting this expedition and my only
information about it has been derived from Mr. Baumann, who followed in
Mr. Mummery’s traces three days later. Mr. Baumann says: “We followed the
long ice-slope to its extreme upper end, then the jagged arête above it
for a short distance, and then deviated a little to the right, climbing by
a secondary rocky ridge descending towards the Stockhi until within an
hour of the summit, when we struck the main Z’Mutt arête and so completed
the ascent by joining the Breil route.”

At the very time that Mr. Mummery was occupied in his expedition, Mr. W.
Penhall, with the guides F. Imseng and L. Sorbriehen, was engaged in a
similar enterprise, and also ascended the Matterhorn from the direction of
the Stockhi. He, however, at the first took a route closer to the
Tiefenmatten glacier, though he at last, like the others, eventually got
upon the main Z’Mutt arête and completed the ascent by following a portion
of the Breil route.

Neither Mr. Mummery, nor Messrs. Baumann and Penhall, descended by the
routes which they struck out, and in each case the respective parties
descended by the northern or Zermatt route. It is therefore at present
impossible to determine the relative difficulty of the various routes up
the mountain. Still, I think that the great majority of tourists will, as
heretofore, prefer the ordinary Zermatt route, and that comparatively few
will patronize the newly-discovered ones.

The ascent of the Matterhorn has now taken its place amongst those which
are considered fashionable, and many persons get upon it who ought not to
be upon a mountain at all. Although much has been done on both sides of it
to facilitate the routes, and although they are much easier to traverse
than they were in years gone by, it is still quite possible to get into
trouble upon them, and to come utterly to grief. Considering how large a
number of entirely incompetent persons venture upon the mountain, it is
surprising so few meet with accidents; but if the number of accidents
continues to increase at its present rate it will, ere long, not be easy
to find a place of interment in the English churchyard at Zermatt.


No. of    Date.       Names.          Side upon    Greatest   REMARKS.
Attempt.                              which        Height
                                      the Attempt  attained.
                                      made, and
                                      arrived at.

       1  1858-9.     J.-Antoine      Breil side   12,650     Several attempts
                      Carrel.         “Chimney.”              were made before
                      J.-Jacques                              this height was
                      Carrel                                  attained; the men
                      Victor Carrel.                          concerned cannot
                      Gab. Maquignaz.                         remember how many.
                      Abbé Gorret.                            See p. 46.

       2  July        Alfred          Zermatt      11,500?    Without guides.
                      Parker.         side                    P. 46-7.
                      Charles         East face.

       3  August      V. Hawkins.     Breil side   12,992     Guides—J. J.
                      J. Tyndall.     Hawkins got  13,050?    Bennen and
                                      to foot of              J.-Jacques
                                      “Great Tower,”          Carrel. Pp. 47-9.
                                      Tyndall a few
                                      feet higher.

       4  July        Messrs.         Zermatt      11,700?    No guides.
                      Parker          side                    P. 49.
                                      East face.

       5  Aug. 29     J.-Antoine      Breil side   13,230     See p. 57.
                      Carrel.         “Crête du
                      J.-Jacques      Coq.”

       6  Aug. 29-30  Edward          Breil side   12,650     Camped upon the
                      Whymper         “Chimney.”              mountain, with
                                                              an Oberland
                                                              guide. Pp. 51-7.

       7  January     T. S.           Zermatt      11,000?    Winter attempt.
                      Kennedy         side                    Pp. 58-9.
                                      East face.

       8  July 7-8    R. J. S.        Breil side   12,000     Guides—Johann zum
                      Macdonald.      Arête below             Taugwald and
                      Edward          “Chimney.”              Johann Kronig.
                      Whymper.                                Pp. 64-5.

       9  July 9-10   R. J. S.        Breil side   12,992     Guides—J.-A.
                      Macdonald.      “Great                  Carrel and
                      Edward          Tower.”                 Pession. P. 66.

       ”  July 18-19  ”    ”          Breil side   13,400     Alone. Pp.
                                      Somewhat                67-79.
                                      higher than
                                      the lowest part
                                      of the “Cravate.”

      10  July 23-24  ”    ”          Breil side   13,150     Guides—J.-A.
                                      “Crête du               Carrel, Cæsar
                                      Coq.”                   Carrel, and Luc
                                                              Meynet. P. 80.

      11  July 25-26  ”    ”          Breil side   13,460     With Luc Meynet.
                                      Nearly as               Pp. 81-2.
                                      high as the
                                      highest part
                                      of the “Cravate.”

      12  July 27-28  J. Tyndall      Breil side   13,970     Guides—J. J.
                                      “The                    Bennen and Anton
                                      Shoulder,”              Walter; porters—
                                      to foot of              J.-Antoine
                                      final peak.             Carrel, Cæsar
                                                              Carrel, and
                                                              another. Pp.
                                                              83-87, 90-92.

      13  Aug. 10-11  Edward          Breil side   13,280     Guides—J.-A.
                      Whymper         “Crête du               Carrel, Cæsar
                                      Coq.”                   Carrel, Luc
                                                              Meynet, and two
                                                              porters. Pp.

      14  June 21.    ”    ”          South-east   11,200?    Guides—Michel
                                      face                    Croz, Christian
                                                              Almer, Franz
                                                              Biener; porter—Luc
                                                              Meynet. Pp.

                     *F.* ASCENTS OF THE MATTERHORN.

No. of  Date.        Names.                  Route taken.      REMARKS.
     1  July 13-15   Lord Francis Douglas.   Zermatt           Guides—Michel
                     D. Hadow.               (Or Northern      Croz, Peter
                     Charles Hudson.         route.)           Taugwalder
                     Edward Whymper.                           _père_, Peter
                                                               _fils_. See
                                                               pp. 271-290.

     2  July 16-18   Jean-Antoine Carrel.    Breil             The first two
                     J. Baptiste Bich.       (Or Southern      named only
                     Amé Gorret.             route.)           ascended to the
                     J.-Augustin Meynet.                       summit. See
                                                               pp. 282, 304-6.

     3  Aug. 13-15   F. Craufurd Grove       Breil             Guides—J. A.
                                                               Carrel, Salamon
                                                               Meynet, and
                                                               J. B. Bich.

     4  Sept. 12-14  Jos. Maquignaz.         Breil             An easier route
                     J.-Pierre Maquignaz.                      was discovered
                     Victor Maquignaz.                         by this party
                     Cæsar Carrel.                             than that taken
                     J.-B. Carrel.                             upon July 17,
                                                               1865. The first
                                                               two named only
                                                               ascended to the
                                                               summit. See
                                                               p. 309.

     5  Oct. 1-3     W. Leighton Jordan      Breil             Guides—the
                                                               Maquignaz’s just
                                                               named, Cæsar
                                                               Carrel, and F.
                                                               Ansermin. The
                                                               Maquignaz’s and
                                                               Mr. Jordan alone
                                                               reached the

     6  July 24-25   J. M. Elliott           Zermatt           Guides—Jos. Marie
                                                               Lochmatter and
                                                               Peter Knubel.

     7  July 26-28   J. Tyndall              Up Breil          Guides—Jos. and
                                             side and          Pierre Maquignaz,
                                             down Zermatt      and three others.

     8  Aug. 2-4     O. Hoiler.              ” ?               Account given in
                     F. Thioly.                                hotel-book at
                                                               Breil is not
                                                               very clear.
                                                               Guides seem to
                                                               have been Jos.
                                                               and Victor
                                                               Maquignaz and
                                                               Elie Pession.

     9  Aug. 3-4     G. E. Foster            Zermatt           Guides—Hans
                                                               Baumann, Peter
                                                               Bernett, and
                                                               Peter Knubel.

    10  Aug. 8       Paul Guessfeldt         Zermatt           Guides—Jos. Marie
                                                               Nich. Knubel, and
                                                               Peter Knubel.

    11  Sept. 1-2    A. G. Girdlestone.      Zermatt           Guides—Jos. Marie
                     F. Craufurd Grove.                        Lochmatter and
                     W. E. U. Kelso.                           the two Knubels.

    12  Sept. 2-3    G. B. Marke             Zermatt           Guides—Nich.
                                                               Knubel and Pierre

    13  Sept. 3-5    F. Giordano             Up Breil          Guides—J. A.
                                             side and          Carrel and
                                             down Zermatt      Jos. Maquignaz.
                                             side.             See p. 310.

    14  Sept. 8-9    Paul Sauzet             Breil             Guides—J. A.
                                                               Carrel and Jos.

    15  July 20      James Eccles            Breil             Guides—J. A.
                                                               Carrel, Bich,
                                                               and two Payots

    16  Aug. 26-27   R. B. Heathcote         Breil             Guides—The four
                                                               Maquignaz’s (Val

    17  July 20 (?)  ?                       Zermatt           No details have
                                                               come to hand.

    18  July 16-17   E. R. Whitwell          Zermatt           Guides—Ulrich
                                                               and Ch. Lauener.

    19  July 21-22   F. Gardiner.            Zermatt           Guides—Peter
                     F. Walker.                                Perrn, P. Knubel,
                     Lucy Walker.                              N. Knubel,
                                                               Anderegg, and

    20  ?            — Fowler                Zermatt           Guides—C. Knubel
                                                               and J. M.

    21  Aug. 2-3     W. E. Utterson-Kelso    Breil             Guides—Victor
                                                               and Emmanuel
                                                               Maquignaz and
                                                               Joseph Gillioz.

    22  Aug. 7-8     R. S. Lyle              Breil             Guides—J. J.
                                                               Maquignaz and ?

    23  Aug. 18-19   C. E. Mathews.          Breil             Guides—J. A.
                     F. Morshead.                              Carrel and
                                                               Anderegg, with
                                                               two porters.

    24  Sept. 4-5    M. C. Brevoort.         Zermatt to Breil  Guides—Ch.
                     W. A. B. Coolidge.                        Almer, Ulr.
                                                               Almer, and N.

    25  Sept. 7-8    R. Fowler               Zermatt           Guides—J. M.
                                                               and P. Knubel.

    26  July 22-23   F. Gardiner.            Zermatt to Breil  Guides—J.
                     T. Middlemore.                            Maquignaz,
                                                               Peter Knubel,
                                                               and Johann Jaun.

    27  July 21      H. Bicknell             ?                 Guides—Not known.

    28  July 24-25   R. Pendlebury.          Zermatt to Breil  Guides—Peter
                     W. M. Pendlebury.                         Taugwalder
                     C. Taylor.                                _fils_, Gabriel
                                                               and F. Imseng.

    29  July 26      J. Jackson              Breil to Zermatt  Guides—Jos.
                                                               Maquignaz and
                                                               Anton Ritz.

    30  July ?       F. A. Wallroth          ?                 Guides—Not known.

    31  Aug. 29-30   A. Rothschild           Zermatt           Guides—Franz
                                                               Biener and two

    32  Sept. 1-2    G. A. Passingham        Zermatt           Guides—F. Imseng
                                                               and Franz

    33  Sept. 9-10   H. Denning.             Zermatt           Guides—Melchior
                     E. Hutchins.                              Schlapp, Peter
                     J. Young.                                 Rubi, and two

    34  Sept. 10-11  L. Saunderson           Zermatt           Guides—Peter
                                                               Bohren and
                                                               Peter Knubel.

    35  Sept. 11-12  E. Millidge             Zermatt           Guide— —

    36  Sept. 11-12  D. J. Abercromby        Zermatt           Guides—N. Knubel
                                                               and P. J.

    37  Sept. 16-17  C. Bronzet              Zermatt           Guides—P. Knubel,
                                                               F. Truffer, and
                                                               J. Truffer.

    38  July 6-7     T. Cox.                 Zermatt           Guides—Peter
                     J. Gardiner.                              Knubel and J. M.

    39  July 6-7     C. Théraulaz            Zermatt           Guides—J.
                                                               Gillot and
                                                               Ignace Sarbach.

    40  July 21-22   A. F. Leach             Zermatt           Guides—P.
                                                               _fils_ and J.
                                                               M. Kronig.

    41  July 21-22   T. A. Bishop            Zermatt           Guides—P.
                                                               Knubel, P. J.
                                                               Knubel, and F.

    42  July 23-24   H. Salmond              Breil             Guides—Not known.

    43  July 23-24   A. G. Puller.           Breil to Zermatt  Guides—J. A.
                                                               Carrel and Jos.

    44  July 25-26   E. Leatham              Zermatt           Guides—P.
                                                               Knubel and
                                                               Joseph Imboden.

    45  July 25-27   W. W. Simpson           Breil to Zermatt  Guides—J. A.
                                                               Carrel, P.
                                                               Maquignaz, and a
                                                               Chamounix guide.

    46  July 29-30   M. Déchy                Zermatt           Guides—J. A.
                                                               Carrel and P.

    47  Aug. 3       J. Bischoff.            Zermatt           Guides—
                     E. Burckhardt.

    48  Aug. 6-7     Emile Veyrin            Zermatt           Guides—P. J.
                                                               Knubel; porter,
                                                               Joh. Knubel.

    49  Aug. 9-10    L. Ewbank               Zermatt           Guides—J. M. and
                                                               Alex. Lochmatter.

    50  Aug. 11      G. E. Hulton.           Zermatt           Guides—Ch.
                     F. C. Hulton.                             Lauener, Johann
                                                               Fischer, and
                                                               Peter Rubi.

    51  Aug. 11-12   Marquis Maglioni        Zermatt           Guides—P. Knubel,
                                                               Edouard Capelin;
                                                               porter H. Knubel.

    52  Aug. 14-15   F. Dawkins              Zermatt           Guides—Franz
                                                               Andermatten, A.
                                                               Burgener; porter,
                                                               Abraham Imseng.

    53  Aug. 15-16   J. F. Bramston.         Zermatt           Guides—Melchior
                     F. Morshead.                              Anderegg, B.
                     C. H. Hawkins.                            Nageli, and J.
                                                               M. Lochmatter.

    54  Aug. 16      H. S. Hoare             Zermatt           Guides—Johann
                                                               von Bergen and
                                                               A. Pollinger.

    55  Aug. 18-22   E. Pigeon.              Breil to Zermatt  Guides—J. A.
                     — Pigeon.                                 Carrel, V.
                                                               Maquignaz, and J.
                                                               Martin. This
                                                               party was
                                                               confined in the
                                                               hut on the
                                                               Italian side from
                                                               the 18th to the
                                                               21st of August,
                                                               by bad weather;
                                                               and in descending
                                                               upon the Zermatt
                                                               side it was
                                                               surprised by
                                                               night before the
                                                               _cabane_ could be
                                                               reached, and had
                                                               to pass the
                                                               night on the open

    56  Aug. 22-23   F. P. Barlow            Zermatt           Guides—Jakob
                                                               Anderegg and P.

    57  Oct 2-3      W. W. Stuart            Breil to Zermatt  Guides—Jos.
                                                               Maquignaz, F.
                                                               Bic, and Jos.

    58  July 14-15   T. G. Bonney            Zermatt           Guides—J. M.
                                                               Lochmatter and
                                                               J. Petrus.

    59  July 17-18   F. Wolf                 Zermatt           Guides—A.
                                                               Pollinger and
                                                               Jos. Lauber.

    60  July 18-19   A. Millot and wife      Zermatt           Guides—Melchior
                                                               Anderegg, A.
                                                               Maurer, and P.

    61  July ?       H. Lamb                 ?                 Guides—Not known.

    62  July 19-20   J. Baumann              Zermatt           Guide-Ulrich

    63  July 23-24   ? E. Javelle            Breil to Zermatt  Guides—

    64  July 27-29   L. K. Rankine           Zermatt           Guides—A.
                                                               Pollinger and
                                                               Jos. Längen.

    65  Aug. 7       J. Birkbeck, Jun.       Breil to Breil    Guides—J. Petrus
                                                               and J. B. Bic.
                                                               Mr. Birkbeck and
                                                               his guides
                                                               started from
                                                               Breil, crossed
                                                               the mountain to
                                                               the northern
                                                               side, and
                                                               returned to
                                                               Breil, in 19

    66  Aug. 7-8     G. F. Cobb.             Zermatt           Guides—P.
                     S. Forster.                               Taugwalder
                     A. M. Tod.                                _fils_, Jos.
                                                               Taugwalder, and
                                                               A. Summermatter.

    67  Aug. 7-8     M. Bramston             Zermatt           Guide—B. Nageli.

    68  Aug. 12      G. Dévin                Zermatt           Guides—L.
                                                               Pollinger and
                                                               Henri Séraphin.

    69  Aug. 19-20   L. N. Walford           Zermatt           Guides—Alex.
                                                               Burgener and B.

    70  Aug. 20-21   A. D. Puckle            Zermatt           Guides—J. Petrus
                                                               and N. Knubel.

    71  Aug. 20-21   R. Lindt                Zermatt           Guides—Ig.
                                                               Sarbach and
                                                               Peter Sulzer.

    72  Aug. 20-22   Edward Whymper          Zermatt           Guides—J. A.
                                                               Carrel, J. B.
                                                               Bic, and J. M.
                                                               Lochmatter. An
                                                               ascent made for
                                                               the sake of
                                                               Passed two
                                                               nights in the

    73  Aug. 22-23   W. E. Davidson          Zermatt           Guides—Laurent
                                                               Lanier and Ig.

    74  Aug. 23      Prof. G. B——            ?                 Guides—P.
                     Prof. K——                                 Maquignaz, E.
                                                               Pession, and
                                                               Chas. Gorret.
                                                               Account is

    75  Aug. 25      F. W. Headley.          Zermatt           Guides—A.
                     E. P. Arnold.                             Pollinger and
                                                               J. J. Truffer.

    76  Aug. 25      H. J. Smith             Zermatt           Guides—Alex.
                                                               Lochmatter and
                                                               Jos. Längen.

    77  Aug. 25      M. J. Boswell           Zermatt           Guides—Jos.
                                                               Imboden and
                                                               Jos. Sarbach.

    78  Aug. 26      W. J. Lewis             Zermatt           Guides—Moritz
                                                               Julen and Jos.

    79  Aug. 27      W. Stirling             Zermatt           Guides—Johann
                                                               Petrus and
                                                               Franz Burgener.

    80  Aug. 28      J. H. Pratt.            Zermatt           Guides—J. A.
                     — Prothero.                               Carrel and P.
                                                               Knubel. Ascent
                                                               made in one day.

    81  Aug. 31      H. N. Malan             Zermatt           Guides—Jean
                                                               Martin and A.

    82  Sept. 1-2    W. A. Lewis             Zermatt           Guides—J. M.
                                                               Lochmatter and
                                                               P. Imboden.

    83  Sept. 2      E. Dent.                Zermatt           Guide—A.
                     C. T. Dent.                               Burgener.

    84  Sept. 2      J. W. Borel             Zermatt           Guides—A.
                                                               Pollinger and
                                                               J. J. Truffer.

    85  Sept. 3      Ernst Calbenla          Zermatt           Guides—P. Bohren
                                                               and P. Müller.

    86  Sept. 8      A. H. Simpson.          Zermatt           Guides—P. Knubel,
                     M. Cullinan.                              P. J. Knubel, and
                                                               P. Truffer.

    87  Sept. 8      A. H. Burton            Zermatt           Guides—P.
                                                               Baumann, P.
                                                               Taugwalder, and
                                                               B. Nageli.

    88  Sept. 9      E. Pigeon.              Zermatt           Guides—N. and
                     — Pigeon.                                 J. Knubel, and
                                                               F. Sarbach.

    89  Sept. 16-17  W. Nägeli               Zermatt           Guides—J. and
                                                               P. Knubel.

    90  May 10       — Corona                ?                 Guides—J. A.
                                                               Carrel and J.
                                                               J. Maquignaz.
                                                               Account is

    91  Aug. 2-3     L. Brioschi             Zermatt           Guides—F. and
                                                               A. Imseng and
                                                               P. J.

    92  Aug. 10      J. W. Hartley           Zermatt           Guides—P. Rubi
                                                               and J. Moser.

    93  Aug. 10-11   F. T. Wethered          Zermatt           Guides—Ch. Almer
                                                               and A. Pollinger.

    94  Aug. 11      A. Fairbanks.           Zermatt           Guide—J. Perrn,
                     W. Fairbanks.                             and a porter.

    95  Aug. 12      D. L. Pickman           Zermatt           Guides—J.
                                                               Taugwalder and
                                                               F. Biener.
                                                               Ascent made in
                                                               one day.

    96  Aug. 16      D. Merritt              Zermatt           Guides—No

    97  Aug. 16      E. Hornby               Zermatt           Guides—A. and
                                                               F. Pollinger.

    98  Aug. 16      J. J. Morgan.           Zermatt           Guides—J.
                     C. L. Morgan.                             Imboden and J.

    99  Aug. 16      A. W. Payne             Zermatt           Guide—J.

   100  Aug. 17      J. H. Pratt.            Breil to Zermatt  Guides—J. A.
                     W. Leaf.                                  Carrel and N.

   101  Aug. 19-20   F. Tendron.             Zermatt           Guides—F. and
                     G. F. Vernon.                             P. Sarbach and
                                                               J. Taugwalder.

   102  Aug. 23-24   H. R. Whitehouse        Zermatt           Guides—P. J.
                                                               Knubel and P.
                                                               T. Truffer.

   103  Aug. 26-27   F. Morshead.            Zermatt           Guides—M.
                     A. O. Prickard.                           Anderegg, Ch.
                     H. S. Wilson.                             Lauener, and J.

   104  Sept. 7      H. G. Gotch             Zermatt           Guides—Ig. and
                                                               Jos. Sarbach.

   105  Sept. 8      R. King                 Zermatt           Guides—J. A.
                                                               Carrel and Jos.
                                                               Coulter, and
                                                               (porter) A.

   106  Sept. 8      H. Loschge              Breil to Zermatt  Guides—J. Petrus
                                                               and A. Ranier.

   107  Sept. 9      P. Methuen              Zermatt           Guides—Johann
                                                               Jaun and A.

   108  Sept. 14     — Butter                Zermatt           Guides—Jos.
                                                               Imboden and J.

   109  Sept. 15     W. Kittan               Zermatt           Guides—J. Petrus
                                                               and Franz

   110  July 22-23   A. H. Cawood.           Zermatt           Without guides,
                     J. B. Colgrove.                           and with two
                     A. Cust.                                  porters.

   111  July 29      J. Hazel.               Zermatt           Guides—P.
                     W. F. Loverell.                           Maquignaz and
                                                               F. Zuber.

   112  July 30      Eug. Dacqué             Zermatt           Guides—Borren
                                                               (Bohren?) and
                                                               Platter (?).

   113  Aug. 3-4     F. Corbett.             Zermatt           Guides—F.
                     M. Courtenay.                             Burgener, P.
                                                               _fils_, and J.

   114  Aug. 3-4     P. A. Singer.           Zermatt           Guides—J.
                     P. A. Singer.                             Imboden, Jos.
                                                               Perrn, P.
                                                               Perrn, and F.
                                                               Perrn (porter).

   115  Aug. 6-7     D. E. Cardinal          Zermatt           Guides—Pierre
                                                               Carrel and
                                                               Louis Carrel.

   116  Aug. 7       F. Reiners.             Zermatt           Guides—P. and
                     M. Haushofer.                             J. Knubel.

   117  Aug. 8-9     H. de Saussure          Zermatt           Guides—A.
                                                               Burgener and J.

   118  Aug. 8-9     W. Cooke                Zermatt           Guides—Louis
                                                               Carrel and
                                                               Pierre Carrel.

   119  Aug. 8-9     J. J. Bischoff          Zermatt           Guides—J. Petrus,
                                                               P. T. Truffer,
                                                               and another.

   120  Aug. 9       Joseph Seiler           Zermatt           Guides— —
                                                               Lauber and ? An
                                                               one day ascent.

   121  Aug. 9-10    W. J. Whelpdale.        Zermatt           Guides—J. M.
                     C. Weightmann.                            Lochmatter, A.
                                                               Ritz, and Jos.
                                                               Brantschen as

   122  Aug. 10      P. Watson               Zermatt           Guides—Alex.
                                                               Burgener and B.

   123  Aug. 12      S. Waller.              Zermatt           Guides—J. M.
                     G. Fitzgerald.                            Lochmatter and
                                                               J. Lauber.

   124  Aug. 12      H. Meyer.               Zermatt           Guides—Jos.
                     C. Estertag.                              Brantschen, P.
                                                               J. Knubel, and
                                                               Jos. Taugwalder.

   125  Aug. 12      J. Jackson.             Zermatt           Guides—Christian
                     T. H. Kitson.                             and Ulrich
                                                               Almer. Ascent
                                                               in one day.

   126  Aug. 12      Jos. Nantermod          Zermatt           Guides—A.
                                                               Pollinger and B.

   127  Aug. 14      C. E. Mathews.          Zermatt           Guides—M.
                     F. Morshead.                              Anderegg and ?
                                                               Ascent made in
                                                               one day.

   128  (?)          — Dent.                 Zermatt           Guide—Alex.

   129  Aug. 28-29   G. W. Prothero.         Zermatt to Breil  Guide—J. A.

   130  Aug. 4       O. Boenaud.             Zermatt           Guides—No
                     G. Mermod.                                information.
                     L. Mermod.

   131  Aug. 13-14   Q. Sella.               Zermatt to Breil  Guides—J. A.
                     L. Biraghi.                               Carrel, — Imseng,
                                                               J. B. Carrel,
                                                               Louis Carrel,
                                                               Jos. and
                                                               Vict. Maquignaz,
                                                               etc. etc.

   132  Aug. 19      W. H. Grenfell.         Breil             Guides— — Imseng
                     J. H. A. Peebles.                         and ?

   133  Aug. 20      W. Penhall              Zermatt           Guides—Jos.
                                                               Imboden and P.

   134  Aug. 24-25   G. Fitzgerald           Zermatt           Guides—J. M.
                                                               Lochmatter and
                                                               Joseph Lauber.

   135  Aug. 29      J. A. Cooper            Zermatt           Guides—Alex and
                                                               Alois Burgener.

   136  Aug. 30      J. D. Griffiths         Zermatt           Guides—Basile
                                                               Andenmatten and ?

   137  Aug. 30      J. F. Yearsley          Zermatt           Guides—F.
                                                               Burgener, P.
                                                               Andenmatten, and
                                                               (porter) —

   138  Aug. 30-31   J. C. Leman             Zermatt           Guides— —
                                                               Pollinger and ?

   139  Aug. 30-31   T. de Cambray Digny     Zermatt to Breil  Guides—J. A.
                                                               Carrel and Henri

   140  Sept. 4      J. Freitschke           Zermatt           Guide—Basile

   141  Sept. 4-5    H. Loschge              Zermatt to Breil  Guides—Alex.
                                                               Burgener and a
                                                               Tyrol guide.

   142  Sept. 6-7    J. Nérot                Breil to Zermatt  Guides—J. A.
                                                               Carrel, a
                                                               Chamounix guide,
                                                               and a porter.

   143  ?            T. Jose                 Zermatt           Guides—J. M.
                                                               Lochmatter, P.
                                                               Knubel, and
                                                               Pierre Truffer.

   144  Sept. 7      Carl Hecke              Zermatt           Guide—Basile

   145  Sept. 9      Jules Seiler            Zermatt           Guides—P. Knubel
                                                               and Basile

   146  Sept. 21     Dr. Minnigerode         Zermatt           Guides—J. M.
                                                               Lochmatter and
                                                               J. Taugwalder.

   147  Sept. 11-12  C. J. Thompson          Zermatt           Guides—J. A.
                                                               Carrel and —

   148  Aug. 12-13   Dr. Lüscher.            Up Breil side     Guides—J. M.
                     Prof. Schiess.          and down Zermatt  Lochmatter, Jos.
                                             side.             Brantschen, and
                                                               Brantschen was
                                                               left behind in
                                                               the hut on the
                                                               “_cravate_,” and
                                                               died there.

   149  Aug. 13      W. W. R. Powell         Zermatt           Guides—Peter
                                                               _fils_ and A.

   150  Aug. 13-14   C. E. Freeman           Breil to Zermatt  Guides—J. A.

   151  Aug. 13-14   A. E. Craven.           Zermatt           Guides—P. Rubi
                     W. O. Moseley.                            and C. Inabnit.
                                                               Dr. Moseley lost
                                                               his life in
                                                               descending the
                                                               mountain. See
                                                               Appendix *D*.

   152  Aug. 28-29   C. E. B. Watson         Zermatt to Breil  Guides—P.
                                                               Anderegg and A.

   153  Aug.         G. H. Savage            Zermatt           Guides—Jos.
        30-Sept. 1                                             Imboden and
                                                               Andermatten. Dr.
                                                               Savage slept on
                                                               the Hörnli Aug.
                                                               30; began the
                                                               ascent by
                                                               moonlight at a
                                                               little before 2
                                                               A.M. on Sept. 1,
                                                               reached the
                                                               summit at 6.30
                                                               A.M., and
                                                               returned to
                                                               Zermatt by 12.30

   154  Sept. 2-3    A. F. Mummery           Z’Mutt side       Mr. Mummery was
                                                               the first to
                                                               ascend the
                                                               Matterhorn from
                                                               the side of the
                                                               Z’Mutt Glacier.
                                                               No details have
                                                               been received.

   155  Sept. 2-3    W. Penhall              Z’Mutt side       Guides—Ferdinand
                                                               Imseng and Louis
                                                               Sorbrichen. Mr.
                                                               Penhall also
                                                               made his ascent
                                                               upon the Z’Mutt
                                                               side, but took a
                                                               route more to
                                                               the south than
                                                               that followed by
                                                               Mr. Mummery.

   156  Sept. 4-5    B. Wainewright          Zermatt to Breil  Guides—Jos.
                                                               Imboden and
                                                               Peter Sarbach.

   157  Sept. 4-5    H. Hoare                Zermatt           Guide—J.
                                                               Anderegg and
                                                               (porter) Jos.

   158  Sept. 5-6    J. Baumann              Z’Mutt side       Guides—Petrus
                                                               (Stalden) and
                                                               Emile Rey. Mr.
                                                               Mummery’s route
                                                               was followed.

   159  ?            J. Maurer               Breil to Zermatt  Guides—? No

The above table is known to be imperfect, and the Author will be obliged
if correspondents will enable him to correct and extend it. Communications
should be addressed to him _Care of the Publisher_.

             Ingénieur en Chef des Mines d’Italie, etc. etc.

Le Matterhorn ou Mont Cervin est formé depuis la base jusqu’au sommet de
roches stratifiées en bancs assez réguliers, qui sont tous légèrement
rélevés vers l’Est, savoir vers le Mont Rose. Ces roches quoiqu’évidemment
d’origine sédimentaire ont une structure fortement cristalline qui doit
être l’effet d’une puissante action de métamorphisme très développée dans
cette région des Alpes. Dans la série des roches constituantes du Mont
Cervin l’on peut faire une distinction assez marquée, savoir celles
formant la base inférieure de la montagne, et celles formant le pic
proprement dit.

Les roches de la base qu’on voit dans le Val Tournanche, dans le vallon de
Z’Mutt, au col de Théodule et ailleurs, sont en général des schistes
talqueux, serpentineux, chloriteux, et amphiboliques, alternant fort
souvent avec des schistes calcaires à noyaux quartzeux. Ces schistes
calcaires de couleur brunâtre alternent ça et là avec des dolomies, des
cargueules, et des quartzites tégulaires. Cette formation
calcaréo-serpentineuse est très étendue dans les environs. Le pic au
contraire est tout formé d’un gneiss talqueux, souvent à gros éléments,
alternant parfois à quelques bancs de schistes talqueux et quartzeux, mais
sans bancs calcaires. Vers le pied ouest du pic, le gneiss est remplacé
par de l’euphotide granitoïde massive, qui semble y former une grosse
lentille se fondant de tous côtés dans le gneiss même. Du reste, les
roches du Cervin montrent partout des exemples fort instructifs de
passages graduels d’une structure à l’autre, résultant du métamorphisme
plus ou moins avancé.

Le pic actuel n’est que le reste d’une puissante formation géologique
ancienne, triasique peut-être, dont les couches puissantes de plus de 3500
mètres enveloppaient tout autour comme un immense manteau le grand massif
granitoïde et feldspathique du Mont Rose. Aussi son étude détaillée, qui
par exception est rendue fort facile par la profondeur des vallons d’où il
surgit, donne la clef de la structure géologique de beaucoup d’autres
montagnes des environs. On y voit partout le phénomène assez curieux d’une
puissante formation talqueuse très cristalline, presque granitoïde,
régulièrement superposée à une formation schisteuse et calcarifère. Cette
même constitution géologique est en partie la cause de la forme aiguë et
de l’isolement du pic qui en font la merveille des voyageurs. En effet,
tandis que les roches feuilletées de la base, étant facilement corrodées
par l’action des météores et de l’eau, ont été facilement creusées en
vallées larges et profondes, la roche supérieure qui constitue la pyramide
donne lieu par sa dureté à des fendillements formant des parois escarpées
qui conservent au pic ce profil élancé, et caractéristique alpin. Les
glaciers qui entourent son pied de tous les côtés, en emportant d’une
manière continue les débris tombant de ses flancs, contribuent pour leur
part à maintenir cet isolement de la merveilleuse pyramide qui sans eux
serait peut-être déjà ensevelie sous ses propres ruines.


   I. Gneiss talqueux quartzifère. Beaucoup de traces de foudres.
  II. Banc de 3 à 4 mètres de schistes serpentineux et talqueux verts.
 III. Gneiss talqueux à éléments plus ou moins schisteux, avec quelque lit
      de quartzite.
    ” Gneiss et micaschistes ferrugineux à éléments très fins, beaucoup de
      traces de foudre.
  IV. Gneiss alternant avec des schistes talqueux et à des felsites en
      zones blanches et grises.
   V. Petite couche de schistes serpentineux, vert sombre.
  VI. Gneiss et micaschiste avec zones quartzifères rubanées.
 VII. Gneiss talqueux à éléments schisteux.
_VIII. Id._ _id._ verdâtre, porphyroïde à éléments moyens.
  IX. Gneiss talqueux granitoïde à gros éléments et avec des cristaux de
   X. Schistes grisâtres.
  XI. Micaschistes ferrugineux.
 XII. Gneiss talqueux vert sombre.
XIII. Gneiss et schistes quartzeux, couleur vert clair.
 XIV. Euphotide massive (feldspath et diallage) à éléments cristallins
      bien développés, traversée par des veines d’eurite blanchâtre. Cette
      roche forme un banc ou plutôt une lentille de plus de 500 mètres de
      puissance intercalée au gneiss talqueux.(270)
  XV. Gneiss talqueux alternant avec des schistes talqueux et micacés.
 XVI. Schistes compactes, couleur vert clair.
XVII. Calcaire cristallin micacé (calcschiste) avec veines et rognons de
      quartz. Il alterne avec des schistes verts chloriteux et
XVIII. Schistes verts chloriteux, serpentineux et talqueux, avec des
      masses stéatiteuses.
 XIX. Calcschistes (comme ci-dessus) formant un banc de plus de 100
  XX. Schistes verts chloriteux.
 XXI. Calcschistes (comme ci-dessus).
XXII. Il suit ci-dessous une série fort puissante de schistes verts
      serpentineux, chloriteux, talqueux et stéatiteux alternant encore
      avec des calcschistes. En plusieurs localités les schistes
      deviennent très amphiboliques à petits cristaux noirs. Cette
      puissante formation calcaréo-serpentineuse repose inférieurement sur
      des micaschistes et des gneiss anciens.

                         BY SIGNOR F. GIORDANO.]


In the second edition of Tyndall’s _Hours of Exercise in the Alps_ the
Professor made some additional remarks upon his defeat in 1862, and to
these remarks I replied in No. 35 of the _Alpine Journal_. I do not feel
that the additional information afforded in these publications possesses
the least interest to the majority of my readers, and therefore I do not
reprint it; and I refer to it only for the sake of those who may be
desirous to pursue the subject.

     [Illustration: “The things which tumble about the ears of unwary



                  [Map: The Matterhorn and its glaciers]

                          THE VALLEY OF ZERMATT

        [Map: The Valley of Zermatt; and the Central Pennine Alps]


    1 In the lower diagram the tins are shown as they appear when packed
      for travelling. I generally carry them at the top of a knapsack,

    2 I extract from No. 63 of the _Alpine Journal_ the following note by
      Gustav de Veh, a retired Russian officer, upon the prevention of
      snow-blindness. “We were on the march home along the mountain
      plains, when, dazzled by the intense sun-rays reflected by the
      endless snow-fields we were marching along, my eyelids lost all
      power to open; I felt my elbow touched, and, looking through my
      fingers, I beheld one of our friendly highlanders preparing a kind
      of black paste by mixing gunpowder with snow. The General told me to
      let him do what he wanted. The Circassian applied the black stuff
      under my eyes, on my cheeks, and to the sides of my nose. To my
      astonishment I could then open my eyes, and felt no more difficulty
      to see plainly and clearly everything. I have tried that experiment
      many times since, and it never failed to relieve me, although I used
      common Indian-ink and black water-colour, instead of the
      above-mentioned paste.”

    3 I understand that scarcely any nails wore found in the boots of Dr.
      Moseley, who lost his life recently on the Matterhorn, and this fact
      sufficiently accounts for the accident.

    4 The author of _Travels in Alaska_.

    5 The Riffel hotel (the starting-point for the ascent of Monte Rosa),
      a deservedly popular inn, leased to Monsieur Seiler, the hotel
      proprietor of Zermatt, is placed at a height of 3100 feet above that
      village (8400 above the sea), and commands a superb panoramic view.
      The house has continually grown, and it can now accommodate a large
      number of persons. In 1879, it was connected by telegraph with the
      rest of Switzerland.

    6 The highest of the Mischabelhörner.

    7 The temperature at the St. Bernard in the winter is frequently 40°
      Fahr. below freezing-point. January is their coldest month. See
      Dollfus-Ausset’s _Matériaux pour l’étude des Glaciers_, vols. vi.
      and vii.

    8 There was not a pass between Prerayen and Breil. See note to p. 105.

    9 This pass is called usually the Va Cornère. It is also known as the
      Gra Cornère; which is, I believe, patois for Grand Cornier. It is
      mentioned in the first volume of the second series of _Peaks,
      Passes, and Glaciers_, and in Chapters V. and XVIII. of this volume.

   10 I had been sent to the Val Louise to illustrate this ascent.

   11 Since that time a decent house has been built on the summit of this
      pass. The old vaulted hospice was erected for the benefit of the
      pilgrims who formerly crossed the pass _en route_ for Rome.—Joanne’s
      _Itinéraire du Dauphiné_.

   12 See the Map in Chap. VIII.

   13 The depth of the valleys is so great that the sun not only is not
      seen for more than a few hours per day during the greatest portion
      of the year, but in some places—at Villard d’Arène and at Andrieux
      for example—it is not seen at all for one hundred days.—Lodoucette’s
      _Hautes-Alpes_, p. 599.

   14 Sometimes called the Aiguille du Midi de la Grave, or the Aiguille
      de la Medje.

   15 The maps of the Dauphiné Alps to Ball’s _Guide to the Western Alps_,
      and to Joanne’s _Itinéraire du Dauphiné_, must be excepted. These
      maps are, however, on too small a scale for travelling purposes.

   16 “Faits pour servir à l’Histoire des Montagnes de l’Oisans,” by Elie
      de Beaumont, in the _Annales des Mines_.

      _Norway and its Glaciers; followed by Excursions in the High Alps of
      Dauphiné._ By J. D. Forbes.

      The following works also treat more or less of the districts
      referred to in this chapter:—

      _      Outline Sketches in the High Alps of Dauphiné_, by T. G.
      _      Histoire des Hautes-Alpes_, by J. C. F. Ladoucette.
      _      Itinéraire du Dauphiné_, by Adolphe Joanne (2nd part).
      _      Tour du Monde, 1860_, edited by Ed. Charton.
      _      The Israel of the Alps_, by Alexis Muston.
      _      A Memoir of Felix Neff_, by W. S. Gilly.

      Good pictures of Dauphiné scenery are to be found in _Voyages
      Pittoresques dans l’ancienne France_, by Ch. Nodier, J. Taylor, and
      A. de Cailleux, and in Lord Monson’s _Views in the Departments of
      the Isère and the High Alps_.

   17 M. Puiseux took for guide a man named Pierre Bornéoud, of Claux in
      the Val Louise; who had accompanied Captain Durand in 1828. In 1861,
      the expedition of M. Puiseux was quite forgotten in the Val Louise.
      I am indebted to M. Puiseux for the above and other details.

   18 This is a common saying in Dauphiné. It means that there is usually
      less snow on the mountains during these days than at any other time
      of the year. The natives have an almost childish dread of venturing
      upon snow or glaciers, and hence the period of minimum snow seems to
      them to be the most favourable time for excursions.

   19 See Chapter VII.

   20 Monte Viso is not seen from the Lautaret Road. That this is so is
      seen when one crosses the Col du Galibier, on the south side of
      which pass the Monte Viso is visible for a short time.

   21 It became a regular business. “We find amongst the current accounts
      of the Bailiff of Embrun this singular article—‘_Item, for
      persecuting the Vaudois, eight sols and thirty deniers of
      gold._’”—Muston, vol. i. p. 38.

   22 On the 22d of May 1393, eighty persons of the valleys of
      Freissinières and Argentière, and one hundred and fifty persons of
      the Val Louise, were burnt at Embrun.—Muston, vol. i. p. 41.

   23 See Morland’s _History of the Evangelical Churches of Piedmont_,
      1658; Cromwell’s _Acts_, 1658; and Burton’s _Diary_, 1828.

   24 The commune of the Val Louise contains at the present time about
      3400 inhabitants. This crétin population has been aptly described by
      M. Elisée Reclus in the _Tour du Monde_, 1860. He says:—“They attain
      the highest possible development of their intelligence in their
      infancy, and—abundantly provided with majestic goîtres, which are
      lengthened and swollen by age—are in this respect like to the
      ourangoutangs, who have nothing more to acquire after the age of
      three years. At the age of five years the little crétins have
      already the placid and mature expression which they ought to keep
      all their lives.... They wear trousers, and coats with tails, and a
      large black hat.”

   25 “The nucleus of the ‘massif’ is a line protogine, divided by nearly
      vertical cracks.”—_Dollfus-Ausset._

   26 J. G. Whittier, “Snow-Bound.”

   27 M. Puiseux, on his expedition of 1848, was surprised, when at
      breakfast on the side of the mountain, by a mass of rock of more
      than a cubic yard falling like a bomb at his side, which threw up
      splinters in all directions.

   28 This mountain is the culminating point of the group, and is named on
      the French map, Pointe des Ecrins. It is seen from the Val
      Christophe, and from that direction its ridges completely conceal
      Mont Pelvoux. On the other side—that is, from the direction of La
      Bessée or the Val Louise—the reverse is the case: the Pelvoux
      completely conceals it.

      Unaware that this name was going to be applied to it, we gave the
      name Pic des Arcines or des Ecrins to our summit, in accordance with
      the traditions of the natives.

   29 There are three cols or passes close to Monte Viso on its northern
      side, which lead from the valley of the Po into that of the Guil.
      The deep notch spoken of above is the nearest to the mountain, and
      although it is by far the lowest gap in that part of the chain, and
      would seem to be the true Col Viso, it does not appear to be used as
      a pass. The second, which I crossed in 1860, has the name Col del
      Color del Porco given to it upon the Sardinian map! The third is the
      Col de la Traversette; and this, although higher than at least one
      of those mentioned above, is that which is used by the natives who
      pass from one valley to the other.

   30 See Ladoucette’s _Hautes-Alpes_, p. 596.

   31 Frequently spelt Breuil.

   32 See the Map of the Matterhorn and its Glaciers.

   33 There were no guides, properly speaking, in this valley at that
      time, with the exception of one or two Pessions and Pelissiers.

   34 This face is that on the right hand of the large engraving opposite
      p. 46. It is also represented, more prominently, in the engraving
      facing p. 227.

   35 Mr. Hawkins was unaware that any attempts had been made before his
      own, and spoke of it as the first.

_   36 Macmillan_, 1861.

   37 This ridge is seen on the left of the large engraving accompanying
      this chapter; and if the reader consults this view, the explanatory
      outlines, and the maps, he will be able to form a fair idea of the
      points which were attained on this and on the subsequent attempts.

   38 Since this time the small peak has received the name Tête du Lion.
      The gap is now called the Col du Lion; the glacier at its base, the
      Glacier du Lion; and the gully which connects the Col with the
      glacier, the Couloir du Lion.

   39 By the kindness of its owner, Mr. F. Tuckett.

   40 See Appendix A.

   41 A view of this place faces p. 76.

   42 The guide Bennen must be excepted.

   43 The engraving is made after a sketch taken from the rocks of the
      Matterhorn just above the Col.

   44 J. G. Whittier.

   45 Mr. Hawkins referred to this place as one of excessive difficulty.
      He, however, found it coated with ice; we found it free from ice.

   46 I learned afterwards from Jean-Antoine Carrel that they got
      considerably higher than upon their previous attempts, and about 250
      or 300 feet higher than Professor Tyndall in 1860. In 1862 I saw the
      initials of J. A. Carrel cut on the rocks at the place where he and
      his comrade had turned back.

   47 This man proved to be both willing and useful on lower ground, and
      voluntarily accompanied me a considerable distance out of his way,
      without fee or reward.

_   48 Alpine Journal_, 1863, p. 82.

   49 See p. 49.

_   50 Mountaineering in 1861_, pp. 86-7. Tyndall and Bennen were mistaken
      in supposing that the mountain has two summits; it has only one.
      They seem to have been deceived by the appearance of that part of
      the south-west ridge which is called “the shoulder” (l’épaule), as
      seen from Breil. Viewed from that place, its southern end has
      certainly, through foreshortening, the semblance of a peak; but when
      one regards it from the Col Théodule, or from any place in the same
      direction, the delusion is at once apparent.

   51 The late Principal Forbes was similarly situated while crossing the
      same pass in 1842. He described the sounds as rustling, fizzing, and
      hissing. See his _Travels in the Alps of Savoy_, second ed., p. 323.
      Mr. R. Spence Watson experienced the same upon the upper part of the
      Aletsch glacier in July 1863, and he spoke of the sounds as singing
      or hissing. See the _Athenæum_, Sept. 12, 1863. The respective
      parties seem to have been highly electrified on each occasion.
      Forbes says that his fingers “yielded a fizzing sound;” and Watson
      says that his “hair stood on end in an uncomfortable but very
      amusing manner,” and that “the veil on the wide-awake of one of the
      party stood upright in the air!”

   52 I have described this tent at length, as frequent application has
      been made to me for information on the subject. I would strongly
      recommend any person who wishes to have one for long-continued use,
      to have one made under his own eye, and to be particularly careful
      to test the poles. My experience goes to show that poles which (when
      supported upon their extremities) will bear a dead weight of 100
      lbs. suspended from their centres, will stand any wind to which they
      are likely to be submitted. Ash is, perhaps, the best wood that can
      be selected. Tents of this pattern have been used, amongst others,
      by Messrs. Freshfield, Moore, and Tucker, in the Caucasus; by the
      Rev. W. H. Hawker in Corsica; and by myself in Greenland.

   53 The heights given on the outlines of the Matterhorn accompanying
      Chap. III., on the geological section in the Appendix, and quoted
      throughout the book, are after the barometric (mercurial)
      measurements of Signor F. Giordano in 1866 and 1868. I have ventured
      to differ from him only in regard to the height of the second
      tent-platform, and have assigned to it a somewhat lower elevation
      than his estimate.

   54 During this time making the ascent of Monte Rosa.

   55 They were not guides by profession.

   56 Those which I collected were as follow:—_Myosotis alpestris_, Gm.;
      _Veronica alpina_, L.; _Linaria alpina_, M.; _Gentiana Bavarica_,
      L.; _Thlaspi rotundifolium_, Gaud.; _Silene acaulis_, L. (?);
      _Potentilla_ sp.; _Saxifraga_ sp.; _Saxifraga muscoides_, Wulf. I am
      indebted for these names to Mr. William Carruthers of the British
      Museum. These plants ranged from about 10,500 to a little below
      13,000 feet, and are the highest which I have seen anywhere in the
      Alps. Several times this number of species might be collected, I
      have no doubt, within these limits. I was not endeavouring to make a
      _flora_ of the Matterhorn, but to obtain those plants which attained
      the greatest height. Very few lichens are seen on the higher parts
      of this mountain; their rarity is due, doubtless, to the constant
      disintegration of the rocks, and the consequent exposure of fresh
      surfaces. _Silene acaulis_ was the highest plant found by De
      Saussure on his travels in the Alps. He mentions (§ 2018) that he
      found a tuft “near the place where I slept on my return (from the
      ascent of Mont Blanc), about 1780 toises (11,388 feet) above the
      level of the sea.”

      Mr. William Mathews and Mr. Charles Packe, who have botanised
      respectively for many years in the Alps and Pyrenees, have favoured
      me with the names of the highest plants that they have obtained upon
      their excursions. Their lists, although not extensive, are
      interesting as showing the extreme limits attained by some of the
      hardiest of Alpine plants. Those mentioned by Mr. Mathews
      are—_Campanula renisia_ (on the Grivola, 12,047 feet); _Saxifraga
      bryoides_ and _Androsace glacialis_ (on the summits of Mont Emilius,
      11,677, and the Ruitor, 11,480); _Ranunculus glacialis_, _Armeria
      alpina_, and _Pyrethrum alpinum_ (on Monte Viso, from 10,000 to
      10,500 feet); _Thlaspi rotundifolium_ and _Saxifraga biflora_ (Monte
      Viso, about 9500 feet); and _Campanula rotundifolia_ (?), _Artemisia
      spicata_ (Wulf.), _Aronicum Doronicum_, and _Petrocallis Pyrenaica_
      (Col de Seylières, 9247).

      Mr. Packe obtained, on or close to the summit of the Pic de
      Mulhahacen, Sierra Nevada, of Granada (11,600 to 11,700 feet),
      _Papaver alpinum_ (var. _Pyrenaicum_), _Artemisia Nevadensis_ (used
      for giving the flavour to the Manzanilla sherry), _Viola
      Nevadensis_, _Galium Pyrenaicum_, _Trisetum glaciale_, _Festuca
      Clementei_, _Saxifraga Grœnlandica_ (var. _Mista_), _Erigeron
      alpinum_ (var. _glaciale_), and _Arenaria tetraquetra_. On the
      Picacho de Veleta (11,440 feet), and on the Alcazaba (11,350), the
      same plants were obtained, with the exception of the first named. At
      a height of 11,150 feet on these mountains he also collected
      _Ptilotrichum purpureum_, _Lepidium stylatum_, and _Biscutella
      saxatilis_; and, at 10,000 feet, _Alyssum spicatum_ and _Sideritis
      scordiodes_. Mr. Packe mentions the following plants as occurring at
      9000 to 10,000 feet in the Pyrenees:—_Cerastium latifolium_, _Draba
      Wahlenbergii_, _Hutchinsia alpina_, _Linaria alpina_, _Oxyria
      reniformis_, _Ranunculus glacialis_, _Saxifraga nervosa_, _S.
      oppositifolia_, _S. Grœnlandica_, _Statice Armeria_, _Veronica

      Information on the botany of the Val Tournanche is contained in the
      little pamphlet by the late Canon G. Carrel, entitled _La Vallée de
      Valtornenche en 1867_; and a list of the plants which have hitherto
      been collected on the glacier-surrounded ridge (Furgen Grat)
      connecting the Matterhorn with the Col Théodule, will be found in
      Dollfus-Ausset’s _Matériaux pour l’étude des Glaciers_, vol. viii.
      part first, 1868. In the _Jahrbuch_ for 1873 of the Swiss Alpine
      Club it is stated that on an ascent of the Finsteraarhorn (14,106
      feet) the following were collected within the last 1000
      feet:—_Saxifraga bryoides_, _S. Muscoides_, _Achillea atrata_, and
      _Ranunculus glacialis_.

   57 I have already had occasion to mention the rapid changes which occur
      in the weather at considerable elevations in the Alps, and shall
      have to do so again in subsequent chapters. No one can regret more
      than myself the variable weather which afflicts that otherwise
      delightful chain of mountains, or the necessity of speaking about
      it: its summits appear to enjoy more than their fair share of wind
      and tempests. Meteorological disturbances, some would say, are by no
      means necessary accompaniments of high regions. There are some happy
      places which are said to be favoured with almost perpetual calm.
      Take the case of the Sierra Nevada of California, for example, which
      includes numerous summits from 13,000 to 15,000 feet. Mr. Whitney,
      of San Francisco, says (in his _Guide-book to the Yosemite Valley,
      and the adjacent region_), “At high altitudes, all through the
      mountains, the weather during the summer is almost always the finest
      possible for travelling. There are occasional storms in the high
      mountains; but, in ordinary seasons, these are quite rare, and one
      of the greatest drawbacks to the pleasure of travelling in the Alps,
      the uncertainty of the weather, is here almost entirely wanting.” It
      is probable that a more thorough acquaintance with that region will
      modify this opinion; for it must be admitted that it is very
      difficult to judge of the state of the atmosphere at great heights
      from the valleys, and it often occurs that a terrific storm is
      raging above when there is a dead calm below, at a distance perhaps
      of not more than three or four miles. A case of this kind is
      described in Chapter VI., and another may be mentioned here. At the
      very time that I was regarding the Dent Blanche from a height of
      12,550 feet on the Matterhorn, Mr. T. S. Kennedy was engaged in
      making the first ascent of the former mountain. He described his
      ascent in a very picturesque paper in the _Alpine Journal_ (1863),
      and I learn from it that he experienced severe weather. “The wind
      roared over our ridge, making fearfully wild music among the
      desolate crags.... It rendered an ordinary voice inaudible,” and
      “nothing at a distance greater than fifty yards could be seen at
      all.... Thick mists and driving clouds of snow swept over and past
      us;” the thermometer fell to 20° Fahr., and his companion’s hair
      became a mass of white icicles. Now, at this time, Mr. Kennedy was
      distant from me only four and a half miles. With me, and in my
      immediate neighbourhood, the air was perfectly calm, and the
      temperature was agreeably warm; even during the night it fell only
      two or three degrees below freezing-point. During most of the day
      the Dent Blanche was perfectly unclouded, though, for a time, light
      fleecy clouds were hovering about its upper 2000 feet. Still no one
      would have supposed from appearances that my friend was experiencing
      a storm such as he has described.

   58 See the engraving “Crags of the Matterhorn,” facing p. 120.

   59 A remarkable streak of snow (marked “cravate” in the outline of the
      Matterhorn, as seen from the Théodule) runs across the cliff at this
      part of the mountain. My highest point was somewhat higher than the
      lowest part of this snow, and was consequently about 13,400 feet
      above the sea.

   60 I received much attention from a kind English lady who was staying
      in the inn.

   61 As it seldom happens that one survives such a fall, it may be
      interesting to record what my sensations were during its occurrence.
      I was perfectly conscious of what was happening, and felt each blow;
      but, like a patient under chloroform, experienced no pain. Each blow
      was, naturally, more severe than that which preceded it, and I
      distinctly remember thinking, “Well, if the next is harder still,
      that will be the end!” Like persons who have been rescued from
      drowning, I remember that the recollection of a multitude of things
      rushed through my head, many of them trivialities or absurdities,
      which had been forgotten long before; and, more remarkable, this
      bounding through space did not feel disagreeable. But I think that
      in no very great distance more, consciousness as well as sensation
      would have been lost, and upon that I base my belief, improbable as
      it seems, that death by a fall from a great height is as painless an
      end as can be experienced.

      The battering was very rough, yet no bones were broken. The most
      severe cuts were one of four inches long on the top of the head, and
      another of three inches on the right temple: this latter bled
      frightfully. There was a formidable-looking cut, of about the same
      size as the last, on the palm of the left hand, and every limb was
      grazed, or cut, more or less seriously. The tips of the ears were
      taken off, and a sharp rock cut a circular bit out of the side of
      the left boot, sock, and ankle, at one stroke. The loss of blood,
      although so great, did not seem to be permanently injurious. The
      only serious effect has been the reduction of a naturally retentive
      memory to a very common-place one; and although my recollections of
      more distant occurrences remain unshaken, the events of that
      particular day would be clean gone but for the few notes which were
      written down before the accident.

   62 An incident like this goes far to make one look favourably upon the
      _règlements_ of Chamounix and other places. This could not have
      occurred at Chamounix, nor here, if there had been a _bureau des

   63 This appeared to be the most difficult part of the mountain. One was
      driven to keep to the edge of the ridge, or very near to it; and at
      the point where we turned back (which was almost as high as the
      _highest_ part of the “cravate,” and perhaps 100 feet higher than my
      scramble on the 19th) there were smooth walls seven or eight feet
      high in every direction, which were impassable to a single man, and
      which could only be surmounted by the assistance of ladders, or by
      using one’s comrades as ladders.

   64 See Appendix H.

   65 Professor Tyndall describes this incident in the following
      words:—“We had gathered up our traps, and bent to the work before
      us, when suddenly an explosion occurred overhead. We looked aloft
      and saw in mid-air a solid shot from the Matterhorn describing its
      proper parabola, and finally splitting into fragments as it smote
      one of the rocky towers in front. Down the shattered fragments came
      like a kind of spray, slightly wide of us, but still near enough to
      compel a sharp look-out. Two or three such explosions occurred, but
      we chose the back fin of the mountain for our track, and from this
      the falling stones were speedily deflected right or left.”—_Saturday
      Review_, Aug. 8, 1863. Reprinted in _Macmillan’s Magazine_, April,

_   66 Saturday Review_, August 8, 1863.

   67 The pinnacle, in fact, had a name,—“L’ange Anbé.”

_   68 Saturday Review_, 1863, and _Macmillan’s Magazine_, 1869.

   69 I have entered into this matter because much surprise has been
      expressed that Carrel was able to pass this place without any great
      difficulty in 1865, which turned back so strong a party in 1862. The
      cause of Professor Tyndall’s defeat was simply that his second guide
      (Walter) did not give aid to Bennen when it was required, and that
      the Carrels _would not act as guides after having been hired as
      porters_. J.-A. Carrel not only knew of the existence of this place
      before they came to it, but always believed in the possibility of
      passing it, and of ascending the mountain; and had he been leader to
      the party, I do not doubt that he might have taken Tyndall to the
      top. But when appealed to to assist Bennen (a Swiss, and the
      recognised leader of the party), was it likely that he (an Italian,
      a porter), who intended to be the first man up the mountain by a
      route which he regarded peculiarly his own, would render any aid?

      It is not so easy to understand how Dr. Tyndall and Bennen
      overlooked the existence of this cleft, for it is seen over several
      points of the compass, and particularly well from the southern side
      of the Théodule pass. Still more difficult is it to explain how the
      Professor came to consider that he was only a stone’s-throw from the
      summit; for, when he got to the end of “the shoulder,” he must have
      been perfectly aware that the whole height of the final peak was
      still above him.

   70 Dr. Tyndall ascended the Matterhorn in 1868. See Appendix *F*.

   71 Information upon the Val Tournanche will be found in De Saussure’s
      _Voyages dans les Alpes_, vol. iv. pp. 379-81, 406-9; in Canon
      Carrel’s pamphlet, _La Vallée de Valtornenche en 1867_; and in
      King’s _Italian Valleys of the Alps_, pp. 220-1.

   72 I shall speak again of this mountain, and therefore pass it over for
      the present.

   73 See the Map of the Matterhorn and its Glaciers.

   74 My attention was directed to this note by Mr. A. Adams-Reilly.

   75 The summit of the Théodule pass is 10,899 feet above the sea. It is
      estimated that of late about a thousand tourists have crossed it per
      annum. In the winter, when the crevasses are bridged over and
      partially filled up, and the weather is favourable, cows and sheep
      pass over it from Zermatt to Val Tournanche, and _vice versa_.

      In the _middle of August, 1792_, De Saussure appears to have taken
      mules from Breil, over the Val Tournanche glacier to the summit of
      the Théodule; and on a previous journey he did the same, also in the
      middle of August. He distinctly mentions (§ 2220) that the glacier
      was completely covered with snow, and that _no_ crevasses were open.
      I do not think mules could have been taken over the same spot in any
      August during the past twenty years without great difficulty. In
      that month the glacier is usually very bare of snow, and many
      crevasses are open. They are easily enough avoided by those on foot,
      but would prove very troublesome to mules.

      A few days before we crossed the Breuiljoch in 1863, Mr. F. Morshead
      made a parallel pass to it. He crossed the ridge on the _western_
      side of the little peak, and followed a somewhat more difficult
      route than ours. In 1865 I wanted to use Mr. Morshead’s pass (see p.
      235), but found that it was not possible to descend the Zermatt
      side; for, during the two years which had elapsed, the glacier had
      shrunk so much that it was completely severed from the summit of the
      pass, and we could not get down the rocks that were exposed.

   76 Although the admirable situation of Zermatt has been known for, at
      least, forty years, it is only within the last twenty or so that it
      has become an approved Alpine centre. Thirty years ago the Théodule
      pass, the Weissthor, and the Col d’Hérens, were, I believe, the only
      routes ever taken from Zermatt across the Pennine Alps. At the
      present time there are (inclusive of these passes and of the valley
      road) no less than twenty-six different ways in which a tourist may
      go from Zermatt. The summits of some of these cols are more than
      14,000 feet above the level of the sea, and a good many of them
      cannot be recommended, either for ease, or as offering the shortest
      way from Zermatt to the valleys and villages to which they lead.

      Zermatt itself is still only a village with 600 inhabitants (about
      forty of whom are guides), with picturesque châlet dwellings, black
      with age. The hotels, including the new inn on the Riffelberg,
      mostly belong to M. Alexandre Seiler, to whom the village and valley
      are very much indebted for their prosperity, and who is the best
      person to consult for information, or in all cases of difficulty.

   77 “Un des faits les mieux constatés est que l’érosion des glaciers se
      distingue de celle des eaux en ce que la première produit des roches
      convexes ou moutonnées, tandis que la seconde donne lieu à des
      concavités.”—Prof. B. Studer, _Origine des Lacs Suisses_.

   78 Professor Ruskin’s view of “the Cervin from the north-west” (_Modern
      Painters_, vol. iv.) is taken from the Stockje. The Col du Lion is a
      little depression on the ridge, close to the margin of the
      engraving, on the right-hand side; the third tent-platform was
      formed at the foot of the perpendicular cliff, on the ridge, exactly
      one-third way between the Col du Lion and the summit. The
      battlemented portion of the ridge, a little higher up, is called the
      “_crête du coq_”; and the nearly horizontal portion of the ridge
      above it is “the shoulder.”

   79 On p. 7 it is stated that there was not a pass from Prerayen to
      Breil in 1860, and this is correct. On July 8, 1868, my enterprising
      guide, Jean-Antoine Carrel, started from Breil at 2 A.M. with a
      well-known comrade—J. Baptiste Bich, of Val Tournanche—to endeavour
      to make one. They went towards the glacier which descends from the
      Dent d’Erin to the south-east, and, on arriving at its base,
      ascended at first by some snow between it and the cliffs on its
      south, and afterwards took to the cliffs themselves. [This glacier
      they called the glacier of Mont Albert, after the local name of the
      peak which on Mr. Reilly’s map of the Valpelline is called “Les
      Jumeaux.” On Mr. Reilly’s map the glacier is called “Glacier
      d’Erin.”] They ascended the rocks to a considerable height, and then
      struck across the glacier, towards the north, to a small “_rognon_”
      (isolated patch of rocks) that is nearly in the centre of the
      glacier. They passed above this, and between it and the great
      _séracs_. Afterwards their route led them towards the Dent d’Erin,
      and they arrived at the base of its final peak by mounting a
      _couloir_ (gully filled with snow), and the rocks at the head of the
      glacier. They gained the summit of their pass at 1 P.M., and,
      descending by the glacier of Zardesan, arrived at Prerayen at 6.30

      As their route joins that taken by Messrs. Hall, Grove, and
      Macdonald, on their ascent of the Dent d’Erin in 1863, it is evident
      that that mountain can be ascended from Breil. Carrel considers that
      the route taken by himself and his comrade Bich can be improved
      upon; and, if so, it is possible that the ascent of the Dent d’Erin
      can be made from Breil in less time than from Prerayen. Breil is
      very much to be preferred as a starting-point.

   80 See p. 8. The height of this pass, according to the late Canon
      Carrel, is 10,335 feet. A portrait of this enthusiastic and worthy
      mountaineer is given upon p. 109.

   81 A brief account of this excursion was published in the _Athenæum_,
      August 29, 1863.

   82 This incident occurred close to the place represented in the
      engraving facing p. 78. The new, dry snow was very troublesome, and
      poured down like flour into the steps which were cut across the
      slopes. The front man accordingly moved ahead as far as possible,
      and anchored himself to rocks. A rope was sent across to him, was
      fixed at each end, and was held as a rail by the others as they
      crossed. We did not trust to this rope alone, but were also tied in
      the usual manner. The second rope was employed as an additional
      security against slips.

   83 “There is, therefore, little hope of thus arriving at anything
      decisive as to the exact part which echoes take in the production of
      the rolling sound of thunder.” P. 165, English ed., translated by
      Col. Sabine: Longmans, 1855.

   84 The same has seemed to me to be the case at all times when I have
      been close to the points of explosion. There has been always a
      distinct interval between the first explosion and the rolling sounds
      and secondary explosions which I have _believed_ to be merely
      echoes; but it has never been possible (except in the
      above-mentioned case) to _identify_ them as such.

      Others have observed the same. “The geologist, Professor Theobald,
      of Chur, who was in the Solferino storm, between the Tschiertscher
      and Urden Alp, in the electric clouds, says that the peals were
      short, like cannon shots, but of a clearer, more cracking tone, and
      that the rolling of the thunder was only heard farther on.”
      Berlepsch’s _Alps_, English ed., p. 133.

   85 Mr. J. Glaisher has frequently pointed out that all sounds in
      balloons at some distance from the earth are notable for their
      brevity. “It is one sound only; _there is no reverberation, no
      reflection_; and this is characteristic of all sounds in the
      balloon, one clear sound, continuing during its own vibrations, then
      gone in a moment.”—_Good Words_, 1863, p. 224.

      I learn from Mr. Glaisher that the thunder-claps which have been
      heard by him during his “travels in the air” have been no exception
      to the general rule, and the absence of rolling has fortified his
      belief that the rolling sounds which accompany thunder are echoes,
      and echoes _only_.

   86 See Appendix B for the experiences of Mr. R. B. Heathcote during a
      thunderstorm on the Matterhorn in 1869.

   87 Since then (on at least one occasion), several persons have found
      themselves in this predicament for five or six consecutive days!

   88 I am speaking exclusively of the disturbances which occur in the
      day-time during fine weather.

   89 The rocks are sometimes so hot that they are almost painful to

   90 The mists are extremely deceptive to those who are on the mountain
      itself. Sometimes they _seem_ to be created at a _considerable
      distance_, as if the whole of the atmosphere of the neighbourhood
      was undergoing a change, when in reality they are being formed in
      immediate proximity to the mountain.

   91 Croz was born at the Village du Tour, in the valley of Chamounix, on
      April 22, 1830; Almer was a year or two older.

   92 The Pointe des Ecrins is also seen from the top of the Col de
      Valloires, rising above the Col du Galibier. This is the lowest
      elevation from which I have seen the actual summit of the Ecrins.

   93 It should be observed that these mountains were included in the
      territory recently ceded to France. The Sardinian map above referred
      to was the old official map. The French survey alluded to afterwards
      is the survey in continuation of the great French official map.
      Sheet No. 179 includes the Aiguilles d’Arve.

   94 Whilst stopping in the hospice on the Col de Lautaret, in 1869, I
      was accosted by a middle-aged peasant, who asked if I would ride
      (for a consideration) in his cart towards Briançon. He was
      inquisitive as to my knowledge of his district, and at last asked,
      “Have you been at La Sausse?” “Yes.” “Well, then, I tell you, _you
      saw there some of the first people in the world_.” “Yes,” I said,
      “they were primitive, certainly.” But he was serious, and went
      on—“Yes, real brave people;” and, slapping his knee to give
      emphasis, “_but that they are first-rate for minding the cows!_”

      After this he became communicative. “You thought, probably,” said
      he, “when I offered to take you down, that I was some poor ——, not
      worth a _sou_; but I will tell you, that was my mountain! _my_
      mountain! that you saw at La Sausse; they were _my_ cows! a hundred
      of them altogether.” “Why, you are rich.” “Passably rich. I have
      another mountain on the Col du Galibier, and another at Villeneuve.”
      He (although a common peasant in outward appearance) confessed to
      being worth four thousand pounds.

   95 We had seen a tracing from the unpublished sheets of the French
      Government Survey.

   96 The bracketed paragraphs in Chaps. VII. VIII. and IX. are extracted
      from the Journal of Mr. A. W. Moore.

      It would be uninteresting and unprofitable to enter into a
      discussion of the confusion of these names at greater length. It is
      sufficient to say that they were confounded in a most perplexing
      manner by all the authorities we were able to consult, and also by
      the natives on the spot.

   97 A great part of this morning’s route led over shales, which were
      loose and troublesome, and were probably a continuation of the
      well-known beds of the Col du Galibier and the Col de Lautaret.

   98 The ridge called La Meije runs from E.S.E. to W.N.W., and is crowned
      by numerous aiguilles of tolerably equal elevation. The two highest
      are towards the eastern and western ends of the ridge, and are
      rather more than a mile apart. To the former the French surveyors
      assign a height of 12,730, and to the latter 13,080 feet. In our
      opinion the western aiguille can hardly be more than 200 feet higher
      than the eastern one. It is possible that its height may have
      diminished since it was measured.

      In 1869 I carefully examined the eastern end of the ridge from the
      top of the Col de Lautaret, and saw that the summit at that end can
      be ascended by following a long glacier which descends from it
      towards the N.E. into the Valley of Arsine. The highest summit
      presents considerable difficulties.

      Sheet 189 of the French map is extremely inaccurate in the
      neighbourhood of the Meije, and particularly so on its northern
      side. The ridges and glaciers which are laid down upon it can
      scarcely be identified on the spot.

   99 The justness of the observation will be felt by those who knew La
      Grave in or before 1864. At that time the horses of the couriers who
      were passing from Grenoble to Briançon, and _vice versa_, were
      lodged immediately underneath the salle-à-manger and bedrooms, and a
      pungent, steamy odour rose from them through the cracks in the
      floor, and constantly pervaded the whole house. I am told that the
      inn has been considerably improved since 1864.

  100 Our route from La Grave to La Bérarde will be seen on the
      accompanying map.

  101 Taking one kind of work with another, a thousand feet of height per
      hour is about as much as is usually accomplished on great Alpine

  102 Fig. 2 represents in a similar manner the distance and elevation of
      the Matterhorn from and above Zermatt. See p. 45.

  103 The drawing was inadvertently made the right way on the wood, and
      the view is now _reversed_ in consequence.

  104 This wall may be described as an exaggerated Gemmi, as seen from
      Leukerbad. From the highest summit of La Meije right down to the
      Glacier des Etançons (a depth of about 3200 feet), the cliff is all
      but perpendicular, and appears to be completely unassailable. It is
      the most imposing thing of its kind that I have seen.

  105 Since this chapter was first printed, the whole of the Aiguilles
      d’Arve have been ascended, and also the highest point of the Meije.
      For information upon these ascents the reader is referred to the
      pages of the _Alpine Journal_.

_  106 Alpine Journal_, December 1863.

  107 There are more than twenty peaks exceeding 12,000 feet, and thirty
      others exceeding 11,000 feet, within the district bounded by the
      rivers Romanche, Drac, and Durance.

_  108 Alpine Journal_, Dec. 1863.

_  109 Alpine Journal_, June 1863.

  110 The above view of the Ecrins was taken from the summit of the Col du

  111 The most striking example which has come under my notice is referred
      to in Chapter XIX.

  112 See vol. i., p. 73 of _Alpine Journal_. We considered the height
      assigned to the final peak by Mr. Bonney was too small, and thought
      it should have been 200 feet more.

  113 The Glacier Blanc is in the direction indicated by the arrow below
      the letter *E* on the outline on p. 156.

  114 The ascent of the Pointe des Ecrins has been made several times
      since 1864. The second ascent was made by a French gentleman, named
      Vincent, with the Chamounix guides Jean Carrier and Alexandre
      Tournier. They followed our route, but reversed it; that is to say,
      ascended by the western and descended by the eastern arête.

      The best course to adopt in future attacks on the mountain, would be
      to bring a ladder, or some other means of passing the bergschrund,
      in its centre, immediately under the summit. One could then proceed
      directly upwards, and so avoid the labour and difficulties which are
      inevitable upon any ascent by way of the arêtes.

  115 For route, see Map in Chap. VIII.

  116 For route, see Map in Chap. VIII.

  117 The path from Ville de Val Louise to Entraigues is good, and well
      shaded by luxuriant foliage. The valley (d’Entraigues) is narrow;
      bordered by fine cliffs; and closed at its western end by a noble
      block of mountains, which looks much higher than it is. The highest
      point (the Pic de Bonvoisin) is 11,500 feet. Potatoes, peas, and
      other vegetables, are grown at Entraigues (5284 feet), although the
      situation of the chalets is bleak, and cut off from the sun.

      The Combe (or Vallon) de la Selle joins the main valley at
      Entraigues, and one can pass from the former by the little-known Col
      de Loup (immediately to the south of the Pic de Bonvoisin) into the
      Val Godemar. Two other passes, both of considerable height, lead
      from the head of the Vallon de la Selle into the valleys of
      Champoléon and Argentière.

  118 This, like many other names given to mountains and glaciers on sheet
      189, is not a local name, or, at least, is not one that is in common

  119 The height of the Col de Sellar (or de Celar) is 10,073 feet
      (Forbes). I was told by peasants at Entraigues that sheep and goats
      can be easily taken across it.

  120 See map on p. 146. It is perhaps just possible, although improbable,
      that these little glaciers were united together at the time that the
      survey was made. Since then the glaciers of Dauphiné (as throughout
      the Alps generally) have shrunk very considerably. A notable
      diminution took place in their size in 1869, which was attributed by
      the natives to the very heavy rains of that year.

  121 This drawing was made to illustrate the remarks which follow. It
      does not represent any particular couloir, though it would serve,
      tolerably well, as a portrait of the one which we ascended when
      crossing the Col de Pilatte.

  122 The upper part of the southern side of the Col de Pilatte, and the
      small glaciers spoken of on p. 168, can be seen from the high road
      leading from Briançon to Mont Dauphin, between the 12th and 13th
      kilomètre stones (from Briançon).

  123 Since the above paragraphs were first printed, there has been some
      improvement in Dauphiné in respect to the inns; and there is now at
      La Ville de Val Louise a very decent little auberge called the Hôtel
      Pelvoux, kept by M. Gauthier.

  124 Under the title of _Massif du Mont Blanc, extrait des minutes de la
      Carte de France, leré par M. Mieulet, Capitaine d’Etat Major_.

  125 The heights (in mètres) are after Captain Mieulet.

  126 Some of these heights have no business to figure in a list of the
      principal peaks of the chain, being nothing more than teeth or
      pinnacles in ridges, or portions of higher mountains. Such, for
      example, are the Aiguilles du Géant, du Dru, and de Bionnassay.

  127 Besides Mont Blanc itself.

  128 Previous to this we made an attempt to ascend the Aiguille
      d’Argentière, and were defeated by a violent wind when within a
      hundred feet of the summit.

  129 Great crevasses. A bergschrund is a schrund, and something more.

  130 The passage of the Col de Triolet from the Couvercle to Prè du Bar
      occupied 8½ hours of actual walking. If the pass had been taken in
      the contrary direction it would have consumed a much longer time. It
      gave a route shorter than any known at the time between Chamounix
      and the St. Bernard. As a pass I cannot conscientiously recommend it
      to any one (see Chap. XVII.), nor am I desirous to go again over the
      moraine on the left bank of the Glacier de Triolet, or the rocks of
      Mont Rouge.

  131 The ascent of Mont Dolent and return to Prè du Bar (halts included)
      occupied less than 11 hours.

  132 The bracketed paragraphs in this chapter are extracted from the
      notes of Mr. Reilly.

  133 From a sketch by Mr. Adams-Reilly.

  134 This glacier is named Glacier du Mont Blanc.

  135 The Calotte is the name given to the dome of snow at the summit of
      Mont Blanc.

  136 Glacier du Dôme.

  137 This is without a name.

  138 I do not know the origin of the term _moraine_. De Saussure says
      (vol. i. p. 380, § 536), “the peasants of Chamounix call these heaps
      of débris _the moraine_ of the glacier.” It may be inferred from
      this that the term was a local one, peculiar to Chamounix.

  139 An example is referred to on p. 106. Much more remarkable cases
      might be instanced.

  140 It is not usual to find small moraines to large glaciers fed by many
      branches draining many different basins. That is, if the branches
      are draining basins which are separated by mountain ridges, or
      which, at least, have islands of rock protruding through the ice.
      The small moraines contributed by one affluent are balanced,
      probably, by great ones brought by another feeder.

_  141 Atlas of Physical Geography_, by Augustus Petermann and the Rev. T.
      Milner. The italics are not in the original.

  142 “The stones that are found upon the upper extremities of glaciers
      are of the same nature as the mountains which rise above; but, as
      the ice carries them down into the valleys, they arrive between
      rocks of a totally different nature from their own.”—De Saussure, §

  143 One cannot do worse than follow that path.

  144 The lower chalet de Lognan is 2½ hours’ walking from Chamounix. From
      thence to the summit of the Aiguille d’Argentière, and down to the
      village of the same name, occupied 12½ hours.

  145 The Col de Zinal or Triftjoch, between the Trifthorn and the Ober
      Gabelhorn; and the Col Durand between the last-mentioned mountain
      and the Dent Blanche.

      For our route from Zinal to Zermatt, see the Map of the Valley of

  146 High above the Glacier de Moming at the foot of the Crête de Milton.

  147 Moore’s Journal.

  148 Through what is technically called an “ice-fall.”

  149 The responsibility, however, did not rest with Croz. His part was to
      advise, but not to direct.

  150 The summit of the pass has been marked on Dufour’s map 3793 mètres,
      or 12,444 feet.

  151 These snow-cornices are common on the crests of high mountain
      ridges, and it is always prudent (just before arriving upon the
      summit of a mountain or ridge) to _sound_ with the alpenstock, that
      is to say, drive it in, to discover whether there is one or not. Men
      have often narrowly escaped losing their lives from neglecting this
      precaution. Several instances have been known of cornices having
      given way without a moment’s notice, and of life only having been
      saved through men being tied together.

      These cornices are frequently rolled round in a volute, and
      sometimes take most extravagant forms. See page 32.

  152 This opportunity has been taken to introduce to the reader some of
      the most expert amateur mountaineers of the time; and a few of the
      guides who have been, or will be, mentioned in the course of the

      The late Peter Perrn is on the extreme right. Then come young Peter
      Taugwalder (upon the bench); and J. J. Maquignaz (leaning against
      the door-post). Franz Andermatten occupies the steps, and Ulrich
      Lauener towers in the background.

  153 See pp. 115 and 190.

  154 See p. 141.

  155 See pp. 169-171.

  156 See pp. 236 and 266.

  157 I engaged Croz for 1865 before I parted from him in 1864; but upon
      writing to him in the month of April to fix the dates of his
      engagement, I found that he had supposed he was free (in consequence
      of not having heard from me earlier), and had engaged himself to a
      Mr. B—— from the 27th of June. I endeavoured to hold him to his
      promise, but he considered himself unable to withdraw from his later
      obligation. His letters were honourable to him. The following
      extract from the last one he wrote to me is given as an interesting
      souvenir of a brave and upright man:—

                [Illustration: Facsimile of a letter from Croz]

  158 It was an entry describing an ascent of the Grand Cornier (which we
      supposed had never been ascended) from the very direction which we
      had just pronounced to be hopeless! It was especially startling,
      because Franz Biener was spoken of in the account as having been
      concerned in the ascent. On examining Biener it was found that he
      had made the excursion, and had supposed at the time he was upon his
      summit that it was the Grand Cornier. He saw afterwards that they
      had only ascended one of the several points upon the ridge running
      northwards from the Grand Cornier—I believe, the Pigne de l’Allée
      (11,168 feet)!

  159 For route, see the map of the Valley of Zermatt.

  160 I wrote in the _Athenæum_, August 29, 1863, to the same effect.
      “This action of the frost does not cease in winter, inasmuch as it
      is impossible for the Matterhorn to be entirely covered by snow.
      Less precipitous mountains may be entirely covered up during winter,
      and if they do not then actually gain height, the wear and tear is,
      at least, suspended.... We arrive, therefore, at the conclusion
      that, although such snow-peaks as Mont Blanc _may_ in the course of
      ages grow higher, the Matterhorn must decrease in height.” These
      remarks have received confirmation.

      The men who were left by M. Dollfus-Ausset in his observatory upon
      the summit of the Col Théodule, during the winter of 1865, remarked
      that the snow was partially melted upon the rocks in their vicinity
      upon 19th, 20th, 21st, 22d, 23d, 26th, 27th December of that year,
      and upon the 22d of December they entered in their Journal, “_Nous
      avons vu au Matterhorn que la neige se fondait sur roches et qu’il
      s’en écoulait de l’eau._”—_Matériaux pour l’étude des Glaciers_,
      vol. viii. part i. p. 246, 1868; and vol. viii. part ii. p. 77,

  161 In each of the seven nights I passed upon the south-west ridge of
      the Matterhorn in 1861-3 (at heights varying from 11,844 to 12,992
      feet above the level of the sea), the rocks fell incessantly in
      showers and avalanches. See p. 120.

  162 Tonson’s Ed. of 1758. Bacon may have had this passage in mind when
      he wrote, “It must not be thought that heat generates motion, or
      motion heat (though in some respects this be true), but that the
      very essence of heat, or the substantial self of heat, is motion and
      nothing else.”—_Novum Organum_, book ii. Devey’s Translation.

  163 Doubtless, _at the sides_ of glacier beds, the range of temperature
      is greater. But there is evidence that the winter cold does not
      penetrate to the innermost recesses of glacier-beds in the fact that
      streams continue to flow underneath the ice all the year round,
      winter as well as summer, in the Alps and (I was informed in
      Greenland) in Greenland. Experimental proof can be readily obtained
      that even in midsummer the bottom temperature is close to 32° Faht.

  164 Professor Tyndall “On the Conformation of the Alps,” _Phil. Mag._,
      Sept. 1862.

  165 This had been crossed, for the first time, a few months before.

  166 The following details may interest mountain-climbers. Left Zinal
      (5505 feet) 2.5 A.M. Thence to plateau S.E. of summit of Grand
      Cornier, 5 h. 25 min. From the plateau to the summit of the
      mountain, 2½ hours. The last 300 feet of the ridge followed were
      exceedingly sharp and narrow, with a great cornice, from which huge
      icicles depended. We were obliged to go _underneath_ the cornice,
      and to cut a way through the icicles. Descent from summit to
      plateau, 1 h. 40 min. Sharp snow-storm, with thunder. Plateau to
      summit of Col du Grand Cornier (rocks easy), 45 min. From the summit
      of the Col to the end of glacier leading to the west, 55 min. Thence
      to Abricolla (7959), 15 min.

  167 The brother of my guide Michel Croz.

  168 See note to p. 70.

  169 See map of the Valley of Zermatt.

  170 Couloirs are invariably protected at their bases by bergschrunds. An
      example of a couloir with a double bergschrund is given on p. 169.

  171 The summit of the Dent Blanche is a ridge, perhaps one hundred yards
      in length. The highest point is usually at its north-eastern end.
      Several ascents besides those made by Mr. Kennedy and the author
      have been made in late years; but, as yet, no one seems to have
      discovered an easy route up the mountain.

  172 The ascent of the Dent Blanche is the hardest that I have made.
      There was nothing upon it so difficult as the last 500 feet of the
      Pointe des Ecrins; but, on the other hand, there was hardly a step
      upon it which was positively easy. The whole of the face required
      actual climbing. There was, probably, very little difference in
      difficulty between the route we took in 1865, and that followed by
      Mr. Kennedy in 1862.

  173 See Map of the Valley of Zermatt. The route taken upon June 19 is
      alone marked.

  174 See Chap. III. pp. 44-5.

  175 Subsequent experiences of others have strengthened this opinion.

  176 I prefer to be on the safe side. My impression is that snow cannot
      accumulate in large masses _at_ 45°.

  177 Upon this subject I beg to refer the reader to the valuable note
      furnished by Signor F. Giordano in the Appendix.

  178 See pp. 56 and 73.

  179 Weathered granite is an admirable rock to climb; its gritty texture
      giving excellent hold to the nails in one’s boots. But upon such
      metamorphic schists as compose the mass of the great peak of the
      Matterhorn, the texture of the rock itself is of little or no value.

  180 I refer here only to that portion of the ridge which is between the
      Col du Lion and the Great Tower. The remarks would not apply to the
      rocks higher up (see p. 75); higher still the rocks are firm again;
      yet higher (upon the “Shoulder”) they are much disintegrated; and
      then, upon the final peak, they are again firm.

_  181 Travels through the Alps_, 2nd ed. p. 317.

  182 Its position is shown by the letter F, on the right of the outline,
      on p. 85. See also Map of the Matterhorn and its Glaciers.

  183 See p. 94.

  184 See Frontispiece.

  185 See note to p. 95.

  186 The ascent of the Grandes Jorasses was made to obtain a view of the
      upper part of the Aig. Verte, and upon that account the westernmost
      summit was selected in preference to the highest one. Both summits
      are shown upon the accompanying engraving. That on the right is (as
      it appears to be) the highest. That upon its left is the one which
      we ascended, and is about 100 feet lower than the other. A couple of
      days after our ascent, Henri Grati, Julien Grange, Jos. Mar. Perrod,
      Alexis Clusaz, and Daniel Gex (all of Courmayeur), followed our
      traces to the summit in order to learn the way. As far as my
      observation extends, such things are seldom done by money-grasping
      or spiritless guides, and I have much pleasure in being able to
      mention their names. The highest point (13,799) was ascended on June
      29-30, 1868, by Mr. Horace Walker, with the guides Melchior
      Anderegg, J. Jaun, and Julien Grange.

  187 The view of Mont Blanc from a gorge on the south of the Italian Val
      Ferret, mid-way between the villages of La Vachey and Praz Sec, and
      about 3000 feet above them, is, in my opinion, the finest which can
      be obtained of that mountain range anywhere upon the Italian side.

  188 The next generation may witness its extinction. The portion of it
      seen from the village of Argentière was in 1869 at least one quarter
      less in width than it was ten years earlier.

  189 This observation is not made without reason. I have seen the head of
      one tumble off at a slight tap, in consequence of its handle having
      been perforated by an ingenious but useless arrangement of nails.

  190 I estimate its height at 1200 feet. The triangulation of Capt.
      Mieulet places the summit of the pass 11,624 feet above the sea.
      This, I think, is rather too high.

_  191 Wanderings among the High Alps_, 1858.

  192 Most of his principal exploits are recorded in the publications of
      the Alpine Club.

  193 Engraved, by permission, from a photograph by Mr. E. Edwards.

  194 Admirably rendered in the accompanying drawing by Mr. Cyrus Johnson.

  195 I heard lately of two well-known mountaineers who, under the
      influence of sudden alarm, _swallowed their crystals_. I am happy to
      say that they were able to cough them up again.

  196 Hand specimens of the highest rocks of the Aiguille Verte cannot be
      distinguished from granite. The rock is almost identical in quality
      with that at the summit of Mont Dolent, and is probably a granitöid

  197 The summit of the Aiguille Verte was a snowy dome, large enough for
      a quadrille. I was surprised to see the great height of Les Droites.
      Captain Mieulet places its summit at 13,222 feet, but I think it
      must be very slightly lower than the Verte itself.

  198 The Chamounix tariff price for the ascent of the Aiguille is now
      placed at £4 _per guide_.

  199 It should be said that we received the most polite apologies for
      this affair from the chief of the gensdarmes, and an invitation to
      lodge a complaint against the ring-leaders. We accepted his
      apologies, and declined his invitation. Needless to add, Michel Croz
      took no part in the demonstration.

  200 Below the second ice-fall the glacier is completely covered up with
      moraine matter, and if the _left_ bank is followed, one is compelled
      either to traverse this howling waste or to lose much time upon the
      tedious and somewhat difficult rocks of Mont Rouge.

  201 In glissading an erect position should be maintained, and the point
      of the alpenstock allowed to trail over the snow. If it is necessary
      to stop, or to slacken speed, the point is pressed against the
      slope, as shown in the illustration.

  202 Comparison of the Col de Triolet with the Col de Talèfre will show
      what a great difference in ease there may be between tracks which
      are nearly identical. For a distance of several miles these routes
      are scarcely more than half-a-mile apart. Nearly every step of the
      former is difficult, whilst the latter has no difficulty whatever.
      The route we adopted over the Col de Talèfre may perhaps be
      improved. It may be possible to go directly from the head of the
      Glacier de Triolet to its right bank, and, if so, at least thirty
      minutes might be saved.

      The following is a list of the principal of the passes across the
      main ridge of the range of Mont Blanc, with the years in which the
      first passages were effected, as far as I know them:—1. Col de
      Trélatête (1864), between Aig. du Glacier and Aig. de Trélatête. 2.
      Col de Miage, between Aig. de Miage and Aig. de Bionnassay. 3. Col
      du Dôme (1865), over the Dôme du Goûter. 4. Col du Mont Blanc
      (1868), over Mont Blanc. 5. Col de la Brenva (1865), between Mont
      Blanc and Mont Maudit. 6. Col de la Tour Ronde (1867), over la Tour
      Ronde. 7. Col du Géant, between la Tour Ronde and Aigs. Marbrées. 8.
      Col des Grandes Jorasses (1873), between the Grandes and Petites
      Jorasses. 9. Col de Leschaux (1877), between the Aig. de
      l’Eboulement and the Aig. de Leschaux. 10. Col Pierre Joseph (1866),
      over Aig. de l’Eboulement. 11. Col de Talèfre (1865), between Aigs.
      Talèfre and Triolet. 12. Col de Triolet (1864), between Aigs.
      Talèfre and Triolet. 13. Col Dolent (1865), between Aig. de Triolet
      and Mont Dolent. 14. Col d’Argentière (1861), between Mont Dolent
      and la Tour Noire. 15. Col de la Tour Noire (1863), between the Tour
      Noire and the Aig. d’Argentière. 16. Col du Chardonnet (1863),
      between Aigs. d’Argentière and Chardonnet. 17. Col du Tour, between
      Aigs. du Chardonnet and Tour.

  203 After crossing the glacier de Breney, we ascended by some débris,
      and then by some cliffy ground, to the glacier which surrounds the
      peak upon the south; bore to the left (that is to the west) and went
      up the edge of the glacier; and lastly took to the arête of the
      ridge which descends towards the south-west, and followed it to the
      summit (12,727).

  204 Manufactured and sold by Messrs. Buckingham, Broad Street,

  205 For example, when the leader suspects crevasses, and _sounds_ for
      them, in the manner shown in the engraving, he usually loses half a
      step or more. The second man should take a turn of the rope around
      his hand to draw it back in case the leader goes through.

  206 When several persons are descending such places, it is evident that
      the _last man_ cannot derive any assistance from the rope, and so
      might as well be untied. Partly upon this account, it is usual to
      place one of the strongest and steadiest men last. Now, although
      this cannot be termed a senseless precaution, it is obvious that it
      is a perfectly useless one, if it is true that a single slip would
      upset the entire party. The best plan I know is that which we
      adopted on the descent of the Col Dolent, namely, to let one man go
      in advance until he reaches some secure point. This one then
      detaches himself, the rope is drawn up, and another man is sent down
      to join him, and so on until the last. The last man still occupies
      the most difficult post, and should be the steadiest man; but he is
      not exposed to any risk from his comrades slipping, and they, of
      course, draw in the rope as he descends, so that his position is
      less hazardous than if he were to come down quite by himself.

  207 If you are out upon an excursion, and find the work becoming so
      arduous that you have great difficulty in maintaining your balance,
      you should at once retire, and not imperil the lives of others. I am
      well aware that the withdrawal of one person for such reasons would
      usually necessitate the retreat of a second, and that expeditions
      would be often cut short if this were to happen. With the fear of
      this before their eyes, I believe that many amateurs continue to go
      on, albeit well convinced that they ought not. They do not wish to
      stop the sport of their comrades; but they frequently suffer mental
      tortures in consequence, which most emphatically do not assist their
      stability, and are likely to lead to something even more
      disagreeable than the abandonment of the excursion. The moral is,
      take an adequate number of guides.

  208 During the preceding eighteen days (I exclude Sundays and other
      non-working days) we ascended more than 100,000 feet, and descended
      98,000 feet.

  209 See p. 79.

  210 Tourists usually congregate at Zermatt upon Sundays, and large gangs
      and droves cross the Théodule pass on Mondays.

  211 The Italian Minister. Signor Giordano had undertaken the business
      arrangements for Signor Sella.

  212 Peter Taugwalder, the father, is called _old_ Peter, to distinguish
      him from his eldest son, _young_ Peter. In 1865 the father’s age was
      about 45.

  213 Brother of the present Marquis of Queensberry.

  214 For route, and the others mentioned in the subsequent chapters, see
      map of Matterhorn and its glaciers.

  215 The two young Taugwalders were taken as porters, by desire of their
      father, and carried provisions amply sufficient for three days, in
      case the ascent should prove more troublesome than we anticipated.

  216 I remember speaking about pedestrianism to a well-known mountaineer
      some years ago, and venturing to remark that a man who averaged
      thirty miles a-day might be considered a good walker. “A fair
      walker,” he said, “a _fair_ walker.” “What then would you consider
      _good_ walking?” “Well,” he replied, “I will tell you. Some time
      back a friend and I agreed to go to Switzerland, but a short time
      afterwards he wrote to say he ought to let me know that a young and
      delicate lad was going with him who would not be equal to great
      things, in fact, he would not be able to do more than fifty miles
      a-day!” “What became of the young and delicate lad?” “He lives.”
      “And who was your extraordinary friend?” “Charles Hudson.” I have
      every reason to believe that the gentlemen referred to _were_ equal
      to walking more than fifty miles a-day, but they were exceptional,
      not _good_ pedestrians.

      Charles Hudson, Vicar of Skillington in Lincolnshire, was considered
      by the mountaineering fraternity to be the best amateur of his time.
      He was the organiser and leader of the party of Englishmen who
      ascended Mont Blanc by the Aig. du Goûter, and descended by the
      Grands Mulets route, without guides, in 1855. His long practice made
      him surefooted, and in that respect he was not greatly inferior to a
      born mountaineer. I remember him as a well-made man of middle height
      and age, neither stout nor thin, with face pleasant—though grave,
      and with quiet unassuming manners. Although an athletic man, he
      would have been overlooked in a crowd; and although he had done the
      greatest mountaineering feats which have been done, he was the last
      man to speak of his own doings. His friend Mr. Hadow was a young man
      of nineteen, who had the looks and manners of a greater age. He was
      a rapid walker, but 1865 was his first season in the Alps. Lord
      Francis Douglas was about the same age as Mr. Hadow. He had had the
      advantage of several seasons in the Alps. He was nimble as a deer,
      and was becoming an expert mountaineer. Just before our meeting he
      had ascended the Ober Gabelhorn (with old Peter Taugwalder and Jos.
      Viennin), and this gave me a high opinion of his powers; for I had
      examined that mountain all round, a few weeks before, and had
      declined its ascent on account of its apparent difficulty.

      My personal acquaintance with Mr. Hudson was very slight—still I
      should have been content to have placed myself under his orders if
      he had chosen to claim the position to which he was entitled. Those
      who knew him will not be surprised to learn that, so far from doing
      this, he lost no opportunity of consulting the wishes and opinions
      of those around him. We deliberated together whenever there was
      occasion, and our authority was recognised by the others. Whatever
      responsibility there was devolved upon _us_. I recollect with
      satisfaction that there was no difference of opinion between us as
      to what should be done, and that the most perfect harmony existed
      between all of us so long as we were together.

  217 Arrived at the chapel 7.30 A.M.; left it, 8.20; halted to examine
      route 9.30; started again 10.25, and arrived at 11.20 at the cairn
      made by Mr. Kennedy in 1862 (see p. 59), marked 10,820 feet upon the
      map. Stopped 10 min. here. From the Hörnli to this point we kept,
      when possible, to the crest of the ridge. The greater part of the
      way was excessively easy, though there were a few places where the
      axe had to be used.

  218 Thus far the guides did not once go to the front. Hudson or I led,
      and when any cutting was required we did it ourselves. This was done
      to spare the guides, and to show them that we were thoroughly in
      earnest. The spot at which we camped was four hours’ walking from
      Zermatt, and is marked upon the map—CAMP (1865). It was just upon a
      level with the Furggengrat, and its position is indicated upon the
      engraving facing p. 227 by a little circular white spot, in a line
      with the word CAMP.

  219 It was originally intended to leave both of the young men behind. We
      found it difficult to divide the food, and so the new arrangement
      was made.

  220 See pp. 227-231.

  221 For track, see the lower of the outlines facing p. 230.

  222 See remarks on arêtes and faces on p. 206. There is very little to
      choose between in the arêtes leading from the summit towards the
      Hörnli (N.E. ridge) and towards the Col du Lion (S.W. ridge). Both
      are jagged, serrated ridges, which any experienced climber would
      willingly avoid if he could find another route. On the northern
      (Zermatt) side the eastern face affords another route, or any number
      of routes, since there is hardly a part of it which cannot be
      traversed! On the southern (Breil) side the ridge alone, generally
      speaking, can be followed; and when it becomes impracticable, and
      the climber is forced to bear down to the right or to the left, the
      work is of the most difficult character.

  223 Very few stones fell during the two days I was on the mountain, and
      none came near us. Others who have followed the same route have not
      been so fortunate; they may not, perhaps, have taken the same
      precautions. It is a noteworthy fact, that the lateral moraine of
      the left bank of the Furggengletscher is scarcely larger than that
      of the right bank, although the former receives all the débris that
      falls from the 4000 feet of cliffs which form the eastern side of
      the Matterhorn, whilst the latter is fed by perfectly insignificant
      slopes. Neither of these moraines is large. This is strong evidence
      that stones do _not_ fall to any great extent from the eastern face.
      The inward dip of the beds retains the detritus in place. Hence the
      eastern face appears, when one is upon it, to be undergoing more
      rapid disintegration than the other sides: in reality, the mantle of
      ruin spares the mountain from farther waste. Upon the southern side,
      rocks fall as they are rent off; “each day’s work is cleared away”
      every day; and hence the faces and ridges are left naked, and are
      exposed to fresh attacks.

  224 The snow seen in the engraving facing p. 227, half-an-inch below the
      summit, and a little to its right.

  225 This part was less steeply inclined than the whole of the eastern

  226 I have no memorandum of the time that it occupied. It must have
      taken about an hour and a half.

  227 The highest points are towards the two ends. In 1865 the northern
      end was slightly higher than the southern one. In bygone years
      Carrel and I often suggested to each other that we might one day
      arrive upon the top, and find ourselves cut off from the very
      highest point by a notch in the summit-ridge which is seen from the
      Theodule and from Breil (marked *D* on the outline on p. 85). This
      notch is very conspicuous from below, but when we were upon the
      summit it was hardly noticed, and it could be passed without the
      least difficulty.

  228 I have learnt since from J.-A. Carrel that they heard our first
      cries. They were then upon the south-west ridge, close to the
      “Cravate,” and _twelve hundred and fifty_ feet below us; or, as the
      crow flies, at a distance of about one-third of a mile.

  229 At our departure the men were confident that the ascent would be
      made, and took one of the poles out of the tent. I protested that it
      was tempting Providence; they took the pole, nevertheless.

  230 Signor Giordano was naturally disappointed at the result, and wished
      the men to start again. _They all refused to do so, with the
      exception of Jean-Antoine._ Upon the 16th of July he set out again
      with three others, and upon the 17th gained the summit by passing
      (at first) up the south-west ridge, and (afterwards) by turning over
      to the Z’Mutt, or north-western side. On the 18th he returned to

      Whilst we were upon the southern end of the summit-ridge, we paid
      some attention to the portion of the mountain which intervened
      between ourselves and the Italian guides. It seemed as if there
      would not be the least chance for them if they should attempt to
      storm the final peak directly from the end of the “shoulder.” In
      that direction cliffs fell sheer down from the summit, and we were
      unable to see beyond a certain distance. There remained the route
      about which Carrel and I had often talked, namely to ascend directly
      at first from the end of the “shoulder,” and afterwards to swerve to
      the left—that is, to the Z’Mutt side—and to complete the ascent from
      the north-west. When we were upon the summit we laughed at this
      idea. The part of the mountain that I have described upon p. 278,
      was not easy, although its inclination was moderate. If that slope
      were made only ten degrees steeper, its difficulty would be
      enormously increased. To double its inclination would be to make it
      impracticable. The slope at the southern end of the summit-ridge,
      falling towards the north-west, was _much_ steeper than that over
      which we passed, and we ridiculed the idea that any person should
      attempt to ascend in that direction, when the northern route was so
      easy. Nevertheless, the summit was reached by that route by the
      undaunted Carrel. From knowing the final slope over which he passed,
      and from the account of Mr. F. C. Grove—who is the only traveller by
      whom it has been traversed—I do not hesitate to term the ascent of
      Carrel and Bich in 1865 the most desperate piece of
      mountain-scrambling upon record. In 1869 I asked Carrel if he had
      ever done anything more difficult. His reply was, “Man cannot do
      anything much more difficult than that!” See Appendix *D*.

  231 The summit-ridge was much shattered, although not so extensively as
      the south-west and north-east ridges. The highest rock, in 1865, was
      a block of micaschist, and the fragment I broke off it not only
      possesses, in a remarkable degree, the character of the peak, but
      mimics, in an astonishing manner, the details of its form. (See
      illustration on page 284.)

  232 It is most unusual to see the southern half of the panorama
      unclouded. A hundred ascents may be made before this will be the
      case again.

  233 The substance of Chapter XX. appeared in a letter in the _Times_,
      August 8, 1865. A few paragraphs have now been added, and a few
      corrections have been made. The former will help to make clear that
      which was obscure in the original account, and the latter are,
      mostly, unimportant.

  234 If the members of the party had been more equally efficient, Croz
      would have been placed _last_.

  235 Described upon pp. 277-8.

  236 Not at all an unusual proceeding, even between born mountaineers. I
      wish to convey the impression that Croz was using all pains, rather
      than to indicate extreme inability on the part of Mr. Hadow. The
      insertion of the word “absolutely” makes the passage, perhaps,
      rather ambiguous. I retain it now, in order to offer the above

  237 At the moment of the accident, Croz, Hadow, and Hudson, were all
      close together. Between Hudson and Lord F. Douglas the rope was all
      but taut, and the same between all the others, who were _above_.
      Croz was standing by the side of a rock which afforded good hold,
      and if he had been aware, or had suspected, that anything was about
      to occur, he might and would have gripped it, and would have
      prevented any mischief. He was taken totally by surprise. Mr. Hadow
      slipped off his feet on to his back, his feet struck Croz in the
      small of the back, and knocked him right over, head first. Croz’s
      axe was out of his reach, yet without it he managed to get his head
      uppermost before he disappeared from our sight. If it had been in
      his hand I have no doubt that he would have stopped himself and Mr.

      Mr. Hadow, at the moment of his slip, was not occupying a bad
      position. He could have moved either up or down, and could touch
      with his hand the rock of which I have spoken. Hudson was not so
      well placed, but he had liberty of motion. The rope was not taut
      from him to Hadow, and the two men fell ten or twelve feet before
      the jerk came upon him. Lord F. Douglas was not favourably placed,
      and could neither move up nor down. Old Peter was firmly planted,
      and stood just beneath a large rock which he hugged with both arms.
      I enter into these details to make it more apparent that the
      position occupied by the party at the moment of the accident was not
      by any means excessively trying. We were compelled to pass over the
      exact spot where the slip occurred, and we found—even with shaken
      nerves—that _it_ was not a difficult place to pass. I have described
      the _slope generally_ as difficult, and it is so undoubtedly to most
      persons; but it must be distinctly understood that Mr. Hadow slipped
      at an easy part.

  238 Or, more correctly, we held on as tightly as possible. There was no
      time to change our position.

  239 These ends, I believe, are still attached to the rocks, and mark our
      line of ascent and descent. I saw one of them in 1873.

  240 I paid very little attention to this remarkable phenomenon, and was
      glad when it disappeared, as it distracted our attention. Under
      ordinary circumstances I should have felt vexed afterwards at not
      having observed with greater precision an occurrence so rare and so
      wonderful. I can add very little about it to that which is said
      above. The sun was directly at our backs; that is to say, the
      fog-bow was opposite to the sun. The time was 6.30 P.M. The forms
      were at once tender and sharp; neutral in tone; were developed
      gradually, and disappeared suddenly. The mists were light (that is,
      not dense), and were dissipated in the course of the evening.

      It has been suggested that the crosses are incorrectly figured in
      the accompanying view, and that they were probably formed by the
      intersection of other circles or ellipses, as shown in the annexed
      diagram. I think this suggestion is very likely correct; but I have
      preferred to follow my original memorandum.

                       [Illustration: Diagram of fog-bow]

      In Parry’s _Narrative of an Attempt to reach the North Pole_, 4to,
      1828, there is, at pp. 99-100, an account of the occurrence of a
      phenomenon analogous to the above-mentioned one. “At half-past five
      P.M. we witnessed a very beautiful natural phenomenon. A broad white
      fog-bow first appeared opposite to the sun, as was very commonly the
      case,” etc. I follow Parry in using the term fog-bow.

      It may be observed that, upon the descent of the Italian guides
      (whose expedition is noticed upon p. 282, and again in the
      Appendix), upon July 17, 1865, the phenomenon commonly termed the
      Brocken was observed. The following is the account given by the Abbé
      Amé Gorret in the _Feuille d’Aoste_, October 31, 1865:—“Nous étions
      sur l’épaule (the ‘shoulder’) quand nous remarquâmes un phénomène
      qui nous fit plaisir; le nuage était très-dense du côté de
      Valtornanche, c’était serein en Suisse; nous nous vîmes au milieu
      d’un cercle aux couleurs de l’arc-en-ciel; ce mirage nous formait à
      tous une couronne au milieu de laquelle nous voyions notre ombre.”
      This occurred at about 6.30 to 7 P.M., and the Italians in question
      were at about the same height as ourselves—namely, 14,000 feet.

  241 They had been travelling with, and had been engaged by, Lord F.
      Douglas, and so considered him their employer, and responsible to

  242 Transcribed from the original memorandum.

  243 Nor did I speak to them afterwards, unless it was absolutely
      necessary, so long as we were together.

  244 A portrait of Franz Andermatten is given in the engraving facing p.

  245 To the point marked *Z* on the map.

  246 Marked with a cross on the map.

  247 A pair of gloves, a belt, and boot that had belonged to him, were
      found. This, somehow, became publicly known, and gave rise to wild
      notions, which would not have been entertained had it been also
      known that the _whole_ of the boots of those who had fallen _were
      off_, and were lying upon the snow near the bodies.

  248 The three ropes have been reduced by photography to the same scale.

  249 I was one hundred feet or more from the others whilst they were
      being tied up, and am unable to throw any light on the matter. Croz
      and old Peter no doubt tied up the others.

  250 This is not the only occasion upon which M. Clemenz (who presided
      over the inquiry) has failed to give up answers that he has
      promised. It is greatly to be regretted that he does not feel that
      the suppression of the truth is equally against the interests of
      travellers and of the guides. If the men are untrustworthy, the
      public should be warned of the fact; but if they are blameless, why
      allow them to remain under unmerited suspicion?

      Old Peter Taugwalder is a man who is labouring under an unjust
      accusation. Notwithstanding repeated denials, even his comrades and
      neighbours at Zermatt persist in asserting or insinuating that he
      _cut_ the rope which led from him to Lord F. Douglas. In regard to
      this infamous charge, I say that he _could_ not do so at the moment
      of the slip, and that the end of the rope in my possession shows
      that he did not do so beforehand. There remains, however, the
      suspicious fact that the rope which broke was the thinnest and
      weakest one that we had. It is suspicious, because it is unlikely
      that any of the four men in front would have selected an old and
      weak rope when there was abundance of new, and much stronger, rope
      to spare; and, on the other hand, because if Taugwalder thought that
      an accident was likely to happen, it was to his interest to have the
      weaker rope where it was placed.

      I should rejoice to learn that his answers to the questions which
      were put to him were satisfactory. Not only was his act at the
      critical moment wonderful as a feat of strength, but it was
      admirable in its performance at the right time. I am told that he is
      now nearly incapable for work—not absolutely mad, but with intellect
      gone and almost crazy; which is not to be wondered at, whether we
      regard him as a man who contemplated a scoundrelly meanness, or as
      an injured man suffering under an unjust accusation.

      In respect to young Peter, it is not possible to speak in the same
      manner. The odious idea that he propounded (which I believe emanated
      from _him_) he has endeavoured to trade upon, in spite of the fact
      that his father was paid (for both) in the presence of witnesses.
      Whatever may be his abilities as a guide, he is not one to whom I
      would ever trust my life, or afford any countenance.

  251 They followed the route laid down upon the map, and on their descent
      were in great peril from the fall of a _sérac_. The character of the
      work they undertook may be gathered from a reference to p. 100.

  252 This, or a subsequent party, discovered a sleeve. No other traces
      have been found.

  253 See p. 48.

  254 See p. 120.

  255 Malte-Brun’s _Annales des Voyages_, April 1869.

  256 Peter Perrn, the well-known guide, died at Zermatt in the winter of

  257 A place on the final peak, about half-way between the “Shoulder” and
      the summit.

  258 We resume here the account of the proceedings of the Italians who
      started from Breil on the 11th of July 1865. See p. 269.

  259 The foregoing particulars were related to me by J.-A. Carrel.

  260 The following details are taken from the account of the Abbé Amé
      Gorret (published in the _Feuille d’Aoste_, Oct. 1865), who was at
      Breil when the men returned.

  261 See Appendix *E*, attempt No. 1.

  262 These terms, as well as the others, Great Staircase, Col du Lion,
      Tête du Lion, Chimney, and so forth, were applied by Carrel and
      myself to the various points, in consequence of real or supposed
      resemblances in the rocks to other things. A few of the terms
      originated with the Author, but they are chiefly due to the
      inventive genius of J.-A. Carrel.

  263 This point is marked by the red letter *E* upon the lower of the two
      outlines facing p. 44.

  264 I have seen icicles more than a hundred feet long hanging from the
      rocks near the summit of the Matterhorn.

  265 The words of the Abbé. I imagine that he meant _comparatively easy_.

  266 The pace of a party is ruled by that of its least efficient member.

  267 See pp. 83-4 and pp. 90-1.

  268 A ridge descending towards the Z’Muttgletscher.

  269 Joseph and J.-Pierre Maquignaz alone ascended; the others had had
      enough and returned. It should be observed that ropes had been
      fixed, by J.-A. Carrel and others, over _all_ the difficult parts of
      the mountain as high as the shoulder, _before_ the advent of these
      persons. This explains the facility with which they moved over
      ground which had been found very trying in earlier times. The young
      woman declared that the ascent (as far as she went) was a trifle, or
      used words to that effect; if she had tried to get to the same
      height before 1862, she would probably have been of a different

  270 Cette roche granitoïde paraît surtout à la base ouest du pic sous le
      col du Lion, tandis qu’elle ne paraît pas du tout sur le flanc est,
      où elle paraît passer au gneiss talqueux.

  271 En plusieurs localités des environs, cette zone calcarifère présente
      des bancs et des lentilles de dolomie, de cargueule, de gypse et de

                            TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE

Italic type is marked by underscore (_), boldface by asterisk (*).

The following changes have been made to the text:

      page 24, “fire” changed to “fir”
      page 178, “Cormayeur” changed to “Courmayeur”
      page 203, “regele” changed to “regale”, “Pernn” changed to “Perrn”
      page 243, “naturrally” changed to “naturally”
      page 269, opening quote added before “That”
      page 294, “crritical” changed to “critical”
      page 315, period added after “47-9”
      page 319, period added after “Andermatten”
      page 321, period added after “Taugwalder”

Variations in accentuation (“chalet”/“châlet”), hyphenation (e.g.
“commonplace”/“common-place”, “midday”/“mid-day”) and spelling
(“Ortler”/“Orteler”) have not been changed.

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