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Title: Scrambles Amongst the Alps in the years 1860-69
Author: Whymper, Edward
Language: English
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                   [THE CLUB-ROOM OF ZERMATT IN 1864.]

                    THE CLUB-ROOM OF ZERMATT IN 1864.

                       Scrambles Amongst the Alps

                          In the years 1860-69

                            By Edward Whymper

J. Murray


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


In the year 1860, shortly before leaving England for a long Continental
tour, a certain eminent London publisher 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 Dauphine. 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 toward 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 highest 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.

A considerable portion 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. If they had been worked out at full length, three volumes
instead of one would have been required. Generally speaking, the salient
points alone have been dwelt upon, and the rest has been left to the
imagination. This treatment has saved the reader from much useless

In endeavoring to make the book of some use to those who may wish to go
mountain-scrambling, whether in the Alps or elsewhere, undue prominence,
perhaps, has been given to our mistakes and failures; and it will
doubtless be pointed out 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. It is maintained in an early chapter
that the positive, or unavoidable, dangers of mountaineering are very
small, yet from subsequent pages it can be shown that very considerable
risks were run. The reason is obvious—we were not immaculate. Our blunders
are not held up to be admired or to be imitated, but to be avoided.

These scrambles amongst the Alps were holiday excursions, and as such they
should be judged. They are spoken of as sport, and nothing more. The
pleasure that they gave me cannot, I fear, be transferred to others. The
ablest pens have failed, and must always fail, to give a true idea of the
grandeur of the Alps. The most minute descriptions of the greatest writers
do nothing more than convey impressions that are entirely erroneous—the
reader conjures up visions, it may be magnificent ones, but they are
infinitely inferior to the reality. I have dealt sparingly in
descriptions, and have employed illustrations freely, in the hope that the
pencil may perhaps succeed where the pen must inevitably have failed.

The preparation of the illustrations has occupied a large part of my time
during the last six years. With the exception of the views upon pp. 18, 19
and 24, the whole of the illustrations have been engraved expressly for
the book, and, unless it is otherwise specified, all are from my own
sketches. About fifty have been drawn on the wood by Mr. James Mahoney,
and I am much indebted to that artist for the care and fidelity with which
he has followed my slight memoranda, and for the spirit that he has put
into his admirable designs. Most of his drawings will be identified by his
monogram. Twenty of the remainder are the work of Mr. Cyrus Johnston, and
out of these I would draw especial attention to the view of the Matterhorn
facing p. 36, the striated rock upon p. 63, and the bits from the Mer de
Glace upon pp. 138, 139. The illustrations have been introduced as
illustrations, and very rarely for ornamental purposes. We have
subordinated everything in them to accuracy, and it is only fair to the
artists who have honored me by their assistance to say that many of their
designs would have ranked higher as works of art if they had been
subjected to fewer restrictions.




J. J. BENNEN (1862).
Croz Letter




                              [BEACHY HEAD.]

                               BEACHY HEAD.

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
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. It looked
over the Hôtel Dieu to a small and commonplace building, around which
there was always a moving crowd. To that building I descended. It was
filled with chattering women and eager children, who were struggling to
get a good sight of three corpses which were exposed to view. It was the
Morgue. I quitted the place disgusted, and overheard two women discussing
the spectacle. One of them concluded with, “But that it is droll;” the
other answered approvingly, “But that it is droll;” and the Devil of Notre
Dame, looking down upon them, seemed to say, “Yes, your climax, the
cancan—your end, not uncommonly, that building: it is droll, but that it
is droll.”

                          [Notre Dame Gargoyle]

I passed on 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 then crossed the
Gemmi into the Valais, resting for a time by the beautiful Oeschinen See,
and getting a forcible illustration of glacier-motion in a neighboring
valley—the Gasteren Thal. The upper end of this valley is crowned by the
Tschingel glacier, which, as it descends, passes over an abrupt cliff that
is in the centre of its course. On each side the continuity of the glacier
is maintained, but in the centre it is cleft in twain by the cliff.  Lower
down it is consolidated again. I scrambled on to this lower portion,
advanced toward the cliff, and then stopped to admire the contrast of the
brilliant pinnacles of ice with the blue sky. Without a warning, a huge
slice of the glacier broke away and fell over the cliff on to the lower
portion with a thundering crash. Fragments rolled beyond me, although,
fortunately, not in my direction. I fled, and did not stop until off the
glacier, but before it was quitted learned another lesson in glacial
matters: the terminal moraine, which seemed to be a solid mound, broke
away underneath me, and showed that it was only a superficial covering
resting on a slope of glassy ice.

                               [Swiss Mule]

On the steep path over the Gemmi there were opportunities for observing
the manners and customs of the Swiss mule. It is not perhaps in revenge
for generations of ill-treatment that the mule grinds one’s legs against
fences and stone walls, and pretends to stumble in awkward places,
particularly when coming round corners and on the brinks of precipices;
but their evil habit of walking on the outside edges of paths (even in the
most unguarded positions) is one that is distinctly the result of
association with man. The transport of wood from the mountains into the
valleys occupies most of the mules during a considerable portion of the
year: the fagots into which the wood is made up project some distance on
each side, and it is said that they walk intuitively to the outside of
paths having rocks on the other side to avoid the collisions which would
otherwise occur. When they carry tourists they behave in a similar manner;
and no doubt when the good time for mules arrives, and they no longer
carry burdens, they will still continue, by natural selection, to do the
same.  This habit frequently gives rise to scenes: two mules meet—each
wishes to pass on the outside, and neither will give way. It requires
considerable persuasion, through the medium of the tail, before such
difficulties are arranged.

I visited the baths of Leuk, and saw the queer assemblage of men, women
and children, attired in bathing-gowns, chatting, drinking and playing at
chess in the water. The company did not seem to be perfectly sure whether
it was decorous in such a situation and in such attire for elderly men to
chase young females from one corner to another, but it was unanimous in
howling at the advent of a stranger who remained covered, and literally
yelled when I departed without exhibiting my sketch.

I trudged up the Rhone valley, and turned aside at Visp to go up the Visp
Thal, where one would expect to see greater traces of glacial action, if a
glacier formerly filled it, as one is said to have done.

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 Wiessmies, on the eastern side of the
valley, five or six thousand 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—eleven thousand feet of dense forests, green alps, pinnacles of
rock and glittering glaciers. The peaks seemed to me then to be hopelessly
inaccessible from this direction.

I descended the valley to the village of Stalden, and then 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 endeavors 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,
but to cross the Görner glacier to the Riffel hotel. After a rapid
scramble over the polished rocks and snow-beds 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 there would be no difficulty in crossing 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 a very awkward place, but being doubtful if return were
possible, as I had been dropping from one ledge to another, I passed at
length by lying across the slab, putting the shoulder 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 bâton 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 depth.

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 farther
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. It was
getting toward evening, 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 knees. Almost at the same moment a shower of stones fell on the spot
from which I had jumped.

The glacier was crossed without further trouble, but the Riffel, 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: we’ll show you the way;” so
off I went through the forest, going straight toward them. The path was
lost in a moment, and was never recovered: I was tripped up by pine roots,
I tumbled over rhododendron bushes, I 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 a 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.

Others besides tourists got into difficulties. A day or two afterward,
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.

                          [Curate Being Carried]

I descended the valley, diverging from the path at Randa to mount the
slopes of the Dom (the highest of the Mischabelhorner), 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.

Unwillingly I parted from the sight of this glorious mountain, and went
down to Visp. A party of English tourists had passed up the valley a short
time before with a mule. The party numbered nine—eight women and a
governess. The mule carried their luggage, and was ridden by each in turn.
The peasants—themselves not unaccustomed to overload their beasts—were
struck with astonishment at the unwonted sight, and made comments, more
free than welcome to English ears, on the nonchalance with which young
miss sat, calm and collected, on the miserable beast, while it was
struggling under her weight combined with that of the luggage. The story
was often repeated; and it tends to sustain some of the hard things which
have been said of late about young ladies from the ages of twelve or
fourteen to eighteen.

                        [English Party with Mule]

Arriving once more in the Rhone valley, I proceeded to Viesch, and from
thence ascended the Æggischhorn, on which unpleasant eminence I lost my
way in a fog, and my temper shortly afterward. Then, after crossing the
Grimsel in a severe thunderstorm, I passed on to Brienz, Interlachen and
Berne, 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 their 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.


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 goitre 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.

My directions asserted that a passage existed from Prerayen, at the head
of this valley, to Breuil, 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 endeavored 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 farther 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 Breuil, risking the loss of my
knapsack. I chose the latter course, and got to Breuil 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 Breuil were made under difficulties: 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 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.

The following night was spent at Cormayeur, and the day after I crossed
the Col Ferrex to Orsières, and on the next the Tête Noir to Chamounix.
The Emperor Napoleon arrived 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, failing to get to the Jardin the same
afternoon, but very nearly succeeding in breaking a leg by dislodging
great rocks on the moraine of the glacier.



                               [BRIANÇON. ]


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—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 vapors 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. 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 holes in the macadam, which looked as if there had
been explosions of gunpowder. I resumed the walk at half-past five 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


The district of which Mont Pelvoux and the neighboring summits are the
culminating points 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 are forgotten, and the
memory of the heroic courage and the simple piety of their disciples will
endure as long as history lasts.

                              THE DURANCE.]

                               THE DURANCE.

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. 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, taking one
direction for a few miles, then doubling back, and then perhaps resuming
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 Écrins; the
second in height, the Meije, is on the north; and the Mont Pelvoux, which
gives its name to the entire block, stands almost detached by itself on
the outside.

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 Nimes, found myself completely collapsed by the heat,
then 94° Fahr. in the shade, so I took a night train at once to Grenoble.

I lost my way in the streets of this picturesque but 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, but on hearing of my intentions agreed to join us at La Bessée
on the 3d 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 thirty 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 focused
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 eight thousand
feet above the road. The finest distant view of the pass is seen after
crossing the col, near Monetier. A mountain, commonly supposed to be Monte
Viso, appears at the end of the vista, shooting into the sky: 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 neighboring 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

All the peaks of Mont Pelvoux are well seen from La Bessée—the highest
point as well as that upon which the French engineers erected their cairn
in 1828. Neither Reynaud nor any one else knew this. The natives knew only
that the engineers had ascended one peak, and had seen from that a still
higher point, which they called the Pointe des Arcines or des Écrins. 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 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.

                    [MONT PELVOUX FROM ABOVE BESSÉE.]

                     MONT PELVOUX FROM ABOVE 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 hallooed through the slits, but no answer. At last the
postmaster was discovered endeavoring (with very fair success) to make
himself intoxicated. He was just able to ejaculate, “France! ’tis the
first nation in the world!”—a phrase used by a Frenchman when in the state
in which a Briton begins 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 3d of August came, but 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 odor which
proceeded from him was dreadful. The same may be said of most of the
inhabitants of these valleys.

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, 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) the right: our route
was the latter, and we moved steadily forward 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.

                         [IN THE VAL D’ALEFRED.]

                          IN THE VAL D’ALEFRED.

Walnut and a great variety of other trees gave shadow to our path and
fresh vigor 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. The mountain 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
chalets of Alefred—or, as they are sometimes called, Aléfroide—where the
mountain actually commences. From this direction the subordinate but more
proximate peaks appear considerably higher than the loftier ones behind,
and sometimes 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
place from its summit to its base—six or seven thousand feet of nearly
perpendicular cliffs.

The chalets 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.

                    [THE GRAND PELVOUX DE VAL LOUISE.]

                     THE GRAND PELVOUX DE VAL LOUISE.

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 the 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.

We rested a little at a small spring, and then hastened onward 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 pines 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 it was a chaotic assemblage
of rocks. We selected the under side of one, which was more than fifty
feet long by twenty high, cleared it of rubbish, and then collected wood
for a fire.

That camp-fire is a pleasant reminiscence. 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 fire 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: all around the
mountains 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 seven thousand feet, the minimum temperature was above
40° Fahrenheit. We roused at three, but did not start till 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 hope that we should not have to cross it, but
were continually driven back, and at last we found that it was necessary
to do so. Old Sémiond had a strong objection to the ice, and made
explorations on his own account to endeavor 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 it—and 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 afterward
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

                      [BUTTRESSES OF MONT PELVOUX.]

                       BUTTRESSES OF MONT PELVOUX.

Old Sémiond of course came after us when we got across. We then zigzagged
up some snow-slopes, and shortly afterward commenced to ascend the
interminable array of buttresses which are the great peculiarity of the
Pelvoux. They were very steep in many places, but on the whole afforded a
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 two hundred 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 we reached the top, and found it was
only a buttress, and that we had to descend forty or fifty 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.

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 believe, we were. Believed!—that would not do. “Are you sure we are
going right for the Pic des Arcines?” “Pic dei 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,” etc.

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 do you 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
solution—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, we 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. But we were disappointed: he was obliged to go to

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—but 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, but this time 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 downward, 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.

                        (1) [R. J. S. MACDONALD.]

                           R. J. S. MACDONALD.

Macdonald related his experiences over the cafe noir. He had traveled day
and night for several days in order to join us, but had failed to find our
first bivouac, and had encamped 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 endeavor 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.

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, but 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, but, thanks to the rope, it was passed somehow: then
the interminable buttresses began again. Hour after hour we proceeded
upward, 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
arose 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

                             [MONT PELVOUX.]

                              MONT PELVOUX.

There, sure enough, was the cairn he had helped to erect more than thirty
years before. But where was the Pic des Arcines which we were to see? It
was nowhere visible, but only a great expanse of snow, bordered by three
lower peaks. Somewhat sadly we moved toward 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 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 one
hundred and fifty 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 onward, 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 Pelvoux!

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 splendor, 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. Southward, 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 a 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, not a human habitation could be seen: all was
rock, snow or ice; and large as we knew were the snow-fields of Dauphine,
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 it not so high, and Reynaud insisted that its
height was much about the same as our own.

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, but it was in reality beyond
the other mountain.

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 tied.

It was nearly dark by the time we had crossed, but still I 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 ten thousand five hundred 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 three A. M., and a torrent we heard close at hand, but could
not discover, aggravated our thirst. Sémiond endeavored to get some water
from it, but although he succeeded in doing so, he was wholly unable to
return, and we had to solace him by shouting at intervals through the

A more detestable locality for a night out of doors it is difficult to
imagine. There was no 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 miserables!”

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 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 made a strong liquor, but we only wished
for more of it. When that was over, Macdonald endeavored 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, whose
rapidity of motion is only equaled by their numbers and voracity. It is
dangerous to approach too near them, 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 now 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 traveler 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 any one 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: we played many games of bowls with the natives, and were invariably
beaten by them. At last it was necessary to part: I walked southward to
the Viso, and Macdonald went to Briançon.

After parting from my agreeable companions, I walked by the gorge of the
Guil to Abries, and made the acquaintance at that place of an
ex-harbormaster of Marseilles—a genial man, who spoke English well.
Besides the ex-harbormaster and some fine trout in the neighboring
streams, there was little to invite a stay at Abries. The inn—L’Éitoile,
chez Richard—is a place to be avoided. Richard, it may be observed,
possessed the instincts of a robber. At a later date, when forced to seek
shelter in his house, he desired to see my passport, and catching sight of
the words John Russell, he entered that name instead of my own in a report
to the gendarmerie, uttering an exclamation of joyful surprise at the same
time. I foolishly allowed the mistake to pass, and had to pay dearly for
it, for he made out a lordly bill, against which all protest was

I quitted the abominations of Abries to seek a quiet bundle of hay at Le
Chalp, a village some miles nearer to the Viso. On approaching the place
the odor 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 endeavored 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 behavior 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 harboring 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.

                            [THE BLANKET-BAG.]

                             THE BLANKET-BAG.

So I walked away, and shortly afterward, 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 pine 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 ribbon 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.

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 vapors, 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 neighboring hamlet for whom
the ex-harbormaster had sent—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 the 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; but we were baffled
in our attempt to get near the mountain. A deep notch 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
afterward the mountain was ascended for the first time by Messrs. Mathews
and Jacomb, with the two Crozes 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 favorite
excursions of the district.

We returned crest-fallen to Abries. The shepherd, whose boots were very
much out of repair, slipped upon the steep snow-slopes and performed
wonderful but alarming gyrations, which took him to the bottom of the
valley more quickly than he could otherwise have descended. He was not
much hurt, and was made happy by a few needles and a little thread to
repair his abraded garments: the other man, however, considered it willful
waste to give him brandy to rub in his cuts, when it could be disposed of
in a more ordinary and pleasant manner.

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
supposed to be the highest in Europe. The Protestants _now_ form only a
miserable minority: in 1861 there were said to be one hundred and twenty
of them to seven hundred and eighty Roman Catholics. The poor inn was kept
by one of the former, and it gave the impression of great poverty. There
was no meat, no bread, no butter, no 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.

In this neighborhood, 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 favorable 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 seventy feet
high, which had been produced by the action of the weather, and in all
probability chiefly by rain. In this case a “block of euphotide or
diallage rock protects a friable limestone:” the contrast of this dark cap
with the white base, and the singularity of the form, made it a striking
object. 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

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, 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 Hôtel de l’Ours.



                      [CROSSING MONT CENIS (1861).]

                       CROSSING MONT CENIS (1861).


Guide-books say that the pass of  the Mont Cenis is dull. It is long,
certainly, but it has a fair proportion of picturesque points, and it is
not easy to see how it can be dull to those who have eyes. In the days
when it was a rude mountain track, crossed by trains of mules, and when it
was better known to smugglers than to tourists, it may have been dull; but
when Napoleon’s road changed the rough path into one of the finest
highways in Europe, mounting in grand curves and by uniform grades, and
rendered the trot possible throughout its entire distance, the Mont Cenis
became one of the most interesting passes in the Alps. The diligence
service which was established was excellent, and there was little or
nothing to be gained by traveling in a more expensive manner. The horses
were changed as rapidly as on the best lines in the best period of
coaching in England, and the diligences themselves were as comfortable as
a “milord” could desire. The most exciting portion of the route was
undoubtedly that between Lanslebourg and Susa. When the zigzags began
teams of mules were hooked on, and the driver and his helpers marched by
their side with long whips, which they handled skillfully. Passengers
dismounted and stretched their legs by cutting the curves. The pace was
slow but steady, and scarcely a halt was made during the rise of two
thousand feet. Crack! crack! went the whips as the corners of the zigzags
were turned. Great commotion among the mules! They scrambled and went
round with a rush, tossing their heads and making music with their bells.
The summit was gained, the mules were detached and trotted back merrily,
while we, with fresh horses, were dragged at the gallop over the plain to
the other side. The little postilion seated on the leader smacked his whip
lustily as he swept round the corners cut through the rock, and threw his
head back as the echoes returned, expectant of smiles and of future


The air was keen and often chilly, but the summit was soon passed, and one
quickly descended to warmth again. Once more there was a change. The
horses, reduced in number to three, or perhaps two, were the sturdiest and
most sure of foot, and they raced down with the precision of old stagers.
Woe to the diligence if they stumbled! So thought the conductor, who
screwed down the brakes as the corners were approached. The horses, held
well in hand, leant inward as the top-heavy vehicle, so suddenly checked,
heeled almost over; but in another moment the brake was released, and
again they swept down, urged onward by the whip, “hoi” and “ha” of the

All this is changed. The Victor Emmanuel railway superseded a considerable
portion of Napoleon’s road, and the “Fell” railway the rest, while the
great tunnel of the Alps will soon bring about another change.

                            THE ITALIAN SIDE.]

                            THE ITALIAN SIDE.

The Fell railway, which has been open about eighteen months, is a line
that well deserves attention. Thirty-eight years ago, Mr. Charles
Vignolles, the eminent engineer, and Mr. Ericsson, patented the idea which
is now an accomplished fact on the Mont Cenis. Nothing was done with it
until Mr. Fell, the projector of the railway which bears his name, took it
up, and to him much credit is due for bringing an admirable principle into

The Fell railway follows the great Cenis road very closely, and diverges
from it only to avoid villages or houses, or, as at the summit of the pass
on the Italian side, to ease the gradients. The line runs from St. Michel
to Susa. The distance between these two places is, as the crow flies,
almost exactly equivalent to the distance from London to Chatham (30
miles), but by reason of the numerous curves and detours the length of the
line is nearly brought up to the distance of London from Brighton (47
miles). From St. Michel to the summit of the pass it rises 4460 feet, or
900 feet more than the highest point of Snowdon is above the level of the
sea; and from the summit of the pass to Susa, a distance less than that
from London to Kew, it descends no less than 5211 feet!

The railway itself is a marvel. For fifteen miles and three-quarters it
has steeper gradients than one in fifteen. In some places it is one in
twelve and a half! A straight piece of railway constructed on such a
gradient seems to go up a steep hill. One in eighty, or even one in a
hundred, produces a very sensible diminution in the pace of a light train
drawn by an ordinary locomotive: how, then, is a train to be taken up an
incline that is six times as steep? It is accomplished by means of a third
rail placed midway between the two ordinary ones, and elevated above
them.(2) The engines are provided with two pairs of horizontal
driving-wheels, as well as with the ordinary coupled vertical ones, and
the power of the machine is thus enormously increased, the horizontal
wheels gripping the centre rail with great tenacity by being brought
together, and being almost incapable of slipping like the ordinary wheels
when on even a moderate gradient.

                      [THE CENTRE RAIL ON A CURVE.]

                       THE CENTRE RAIL ON A CURVE.

The third rail is the ordinary double-headed rail, and is laid
horizontally: it is bolted down to wrought-iron chairs three feet apart,
which are fixed by common coach-screws to a longitudinal sleeper laid upon
the usual transverse ones: the sleepers are attached to each other by
fang-bolts. The dimensions of the different parts will be seen by
reference to the annexed cross section:

                               [THIRD RAIL]

Let us now take a run on the railway, starting from St. Michel. For some
distance from that place the gradients are not of an extraordinary
character, and a good pace is maintained. The first severe piece is about
two miles up, where there is an incline of one in eighteen for more than
half a mile; that is to say, the line rises at one step one hundred and
sixty-four feet. From thence to Modane the gradients are again moderate
(for the Fell railway), and the distance—about ten miles and a half from
St. Michel—is accomplished without difficulty in an hour. Modane station
is 1128 feet above St. Michel, so that on this _easy_ portion of the line
there is an average rise of 110 feet per mile, which is equal to a
gradient of one in forty-eight—an inclination sufficiently steep to bring
an ordinary locomotive very nearly to a halt.

Just after passing Modane station there is one of the steepest inclines on
the line, and it seems preposterous to suppose that any train could ascend
it. A stoppage of ten minutes is made at Modane, and on leaving that
station the train goes off at the hill with a rush. In a few yards its
pace is reduced, and it comes down and down to about four miles an hour,
which speed is usually maintained until the incline is passed, without a
diminution of the steam-pressure. I say usually, because, if it should
happen that there is not sufficient steam, or should the driver happen to
make a slip, the train would most likely come back to Modane; for,
although the brake-power on the train is much more than sufficient to
prevent it running back, the driver could hardly start with the brakes on,
and the train would inevitably run back if they were off.

After this incline is passed, the line mounts by comparatively easy
gradients toward Fort Lesseillon: it is then at a great height above the
Arc, and as one winds round the faces of the cliff out of which the
Napoleon road was cut, looking down upon the foaming stream below, without
a suspicion of a parapet between the railway and the edge of the
precipice, one naturally thinks about what would happen if the engine
should leave the rails. The speed, however, that is kept up at this part
is very gentle, and there is probably much less risk of an accident than
there was in the days of diligences.

The next remarkable point on this line is at Termignon. The valley turns
somewhat abruptly to the east, and the course of the railway is not at
first perceived. It makes a great bend to the left, then doubles back, and
rises in a little more than a mile no less than three hundred and
thirty-four feet. This is, perhaps, the most striking piece of the whole



Lanslebourg station, 25½ miles from, and 2220 feet above, St. Michel, is
arrived at in two hours and a quarter from the latter place. The engines
are now changed. Thus far we have been traversing the easy portion of the
route, but here the heavy section begins. From Lanslebourg the line rises
continuously to the summit of the Mont Cenis pass, and accomplishes an
ascent of 2240 feet in six miles and a third of distance.

It is curious and interesting to watch the ascent of the trains from
Lanslebourg.    The puffs of steam  are  seen rising above the trees,
sometimes going in one direction, and sometimes directly the contrary,
occasionally concealed by the covered ways—for over two miles out of the
six the line is enclosed by planked  sides  and a corrugated iron roof, to
keep out the snow—and then coming out again into daylight.    A halt for
water has to be made about halfway up; but the engines are able to start
again, and to resume their rate of seven miles an hour, although the
gradient is no less than one in fourteen and a half.

The zigzags of the old Cenis road are well known as one of the most
remarkable pieces of road-engineering in the Alps. The railway follows
them, and runs parallel to the road on the outside throughout its entire
distance, with the exception of the turns at the corners, where it is
carried a little farther out, to render the curves less sharp.
Nevertheless, they are sufficiently sharp (135 feet radius), and would be
impracticable without the centre rail.

The run across the top of the pass, from the Summit station to the Grande
Croix station—a distance of about five miles—is soon accomplished, and
then the tremendous descent to Susa is commenced. This, as seen from the
engine, is little less than terrific. A large part of this section is
covered in, and the curves succeed one another in a manner unknown on any
other line. From the outside the line looks more like a monstrous serpent
than a railway. Inside, one can see but a few yards ahead, the curves are
so sharp, and the rails are nearly invisible.  The engine vibrates,
oscillates and bounds: it is a matter of difficulty to hold on. Then, on
emerging into the open air, one looks down some three or four thousand
feet of precipice and steep mountain-side. The next moment the engine
turns suddenly to the left, and driver and stoker have to grip firmly to
avoid being left behind; the next, it turns as suddenly to the right; the
next, there is an accession or diminution of speed from a change in the
gradient. An ordinary engine, moving at fifty miles an hour, with a train
behind it, is not usually very steady, but its motion is a trifle compared
with that of a Fell engine when running down hill.

It may be supposed from this that traveling over the Fell railway is
disagreeable rather than pleasant. It is not so: the train is steady
enough, and the carriages have remarkably little motion. Outside, they
resemble the cars on the Swiss and American lines: they are entered at the
end, and the seats are arranged omnibus-fashion, down the length of the
carriage. Each carriage has a guard and two brakes—an ordinary one and a
centre-rail brake: the handles of these come close together at the
platform on one end, and are easily worked by one man. The steadiness of
the train is chiefly due to these centre-rail brakes. The flat face A and
the corresppnding one on the opposite side are brought together against
the two sides of the centre rail by the shaft B being turned, and they
hold it as in a vice. This greatly diminishes the up-and-down motion, and
renders oscillation almost impossible.  The steadiness of the train is
still further maintained by pairs of flanged guide-wheels under each of
the carriages, which, on a straight piece of line, barely touch the centre
rail, but press upon it directly there is the least deviation toward
either side.(3) There is no occasion to use the other brakes when the
centre-rail brakes are on: the wheels of the carriages are not stopped,
but revolve freely, and consequently do not suffer the deterioration which
would otherwise result.

                           [CENTRE-RAIL BRAKE.]

                            CENTRE-RAIL BRAKE.

The steam is shut off and the brakes are applied a very few minutes after
beginning the descent to Susa. The train might then run down for the
entire distance by its own weight. In practice, it is difficult to apply
the proper amount of retardation: the brakes have frequently to be
whistled off, and sometimes it is necessary to steam down against them.
Theoretically, this ought not of course to occur: it only happens
occasionally, and ordinarily the train goes down with the steam shut off,
and with the centre-rail brakes screwed up moderately. When an average
train—that is, two or three carriages and a luggage-van—is running down at
the maximum speed allowed (fifteen miles an hour), the brakes can pull it
up dead within seventy yards. The pace is properly kept down to a low
point in descending, and doing so, combined with the knowledge that the
brake-power can easily lessen it, will tend to make the public look
favorably on what might otherwise be considered a dangerous innovation.
The engines also are provided with the centre-rail brake, on a pattern
somewhat different from those on the carriages, and the flat sides which
press against the rails are renewed _every journey._ It is highly
desirable that they should be, for a single run from Lanslebourg to Susa
grinds a groove into them about three-eighths of an inch in depth.

Driving the trains over the summit section requires the most constant
attention and no small amount of nerve, and the drivers, who are all
English, have well earned their money at the end of their run. Their
opinion of the line was concisely and forcibly expressed to me by one of
them in last August: “Yes, mister, they told us as how the line was very
steep, but they didn’t say that the engine would be on one curve, when the
fourgon was on another, and the carriages was on a third. Them gradients,
too, mister, they says they are one in twelve, but I think they are one in
_ten, at the least,_ and they didn’t say as how we was to come down them
in that snakewise fashion. It’s worse than the G. I. P.(4), mister: there
a fellow could jump off, but here, in them covered ways, there ain’t no
place to jump to.”


    “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 neighborhood.
    Doubtless this is that débris which, in the form of pebbles,
    boulders and sand, fills our valleys and our plains,”—de Saussure.

Two summits amongst those in the Alps which yet remained virgin had
excited my admiration. One of these had been attacked numberless times by
the best mountaineers without success: the ether, 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 neighboring valleys, intending presently to attempt the ascent
of these two peaks. Rumors were floating about that the former had been
conquered, and that the latter was shortly to be attacked, and they were
confirmed on my arrival at Chatillon, at the entrance of the Val
Tournanche. My interest in the Weisshorn abated, but it was raised to the
highest pitch on hearing that Professor Tyndall was at Breuil, and
intending to try to crown his first victory by another and a still greater

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 great 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 toward Breuil, 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 Breuil.
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. My readers
will know that that peak is nearly fifteen thousand feet high, and that it
rises abruptly, by a series of cliffs which may properly be termed
precipices, a clear five thousand feet above the glaciers which surround
its base. They will know, too, that it was the last great Alpine peak
which remained unsealed—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 jins and affreets 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 rhapsodized, 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. The most continuous is
that which leads toward 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 Breuil 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.



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 16°,
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 Breuil, 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, impossible 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 on that 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. These attempts
were made in the years 1858-’59, from the direction of Breuil, and the
highest point that was attained was about as far as the place which is now
called the “Chimney” (cheminée), a height of about twelve thousand six
hundred and fifty feet. Those who were concerned in these expeditions were
Jean-Antoine Carrel, Jean Jacques Carrel, Victor Carrel, the Abbe Gorret
and Gabrielle Maquignaz. I have been unable to obtain any further details
about them.

The next attempt was a remarkable one; and of it, too, there is no
published account. It was made by Messrs. Alfred, Charles and Sandbach
Parker, of Liverpool, in July, 1860.  These gentlemen, _without guides,_
endeavored to storm the citadel by attacking the eastern face, 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 metres (10,820 feet). They were then
obliged to bear a little to the left to get on to the face of the
mountain, and afterward they turned to the right and ascended about seven
hundred 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 twelve thousand feet.

The third attempt upon the mountain was made toward the end of August,
1860, by Mr. Vaughan Hawkins, from the side of the Val Tournanche. A vivid
account of his expedition has been published by him in “Vacation
Tourists,” 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.

                          [J. J. BENNEN (1862).]

                           J. J. BENNEN (1862).

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 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.

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, shows that he was highly
esteemed by his employers. A good-looking man, with courteous, gentlemanly
manners, skillful 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.

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),
and ascended about three hundred 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 Breuil—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 fifty or
sixty 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 three hundred and
fifty or four hundred 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,
left Zermatt shortly afterward 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 Breuil on he 28th of August, 1861, and we found
that Professor Tyndall _had_ been there a day or two before, but had done
nothng. 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 endeavored 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,(5) 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, but, 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 hillside
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 tornorrow.”
“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 final ly 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

                      [JEAN ANTOINE CARREL (1869).]

                       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 leave 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 toward 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,(6) 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 toward 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: one end was
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.


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 toward
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
demoralized 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 before made: a smooth, straight slab of rock was fixed at a
considerable angle between two others equally smooth. 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 endeavored 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 Breuil, 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; but 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 Breuil, 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,(8) 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 Breuil with the
conviction that it was little use for a single tourist to organize 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 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.




                          [AT BREUIL (GIOMEIN).]

                           AT BREUIL (GIOMEIN).


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 Perm 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.” This cairn was placed at the spot marked upon
Dufour’s Map of Switzerland 10,820 feet (3298 metres), 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
Breuil in August, 1861, without doing anything. 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 harborage; 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.”(9)

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 he 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 five hundred 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—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
crossing to the other side of the chain for some time. We crossed the Col
Théodule on the 5th, but the weather was thoroughly unsettled: it was
raining in the valleys and snowing 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 Breuil without having
submitted to any such experience.

We had need of a porter, and by the advice of our landlord descended to
the chalets of Breuil 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 pines below
Breuil, 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 caroling, as if this was not a world of woe; and yet the face of little
Luc Meynet, the hunchback of Breuil, 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 tent.



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 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 a cord) 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.

                              [Tent Detail]
                              [ALPINE TENT.]

                               ALPINE TENT.

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, but I did not distinguish
myself on 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 toward 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 neighboring ledges, and after
constructing a rough platform of the larger pieces, leveled 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 a spirit of no common order, and that
few peasants are more agreeable companions or better climbers than little
Luc Meynet, the hunchback of Breuil. 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 favor, 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 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 Breuil, and we arrived there at 2.30 P.M., extremely chagrined
at our complete defeat.

Jean-Antoine Carrel, attracted by rumors, 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
twelve thousand five hundred and fifty feet above the sea; and it exists,
I believe, at the present time. 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
afterward returned to our bivouac. We turned out again at 4 A. M., and at
5.15 started upward 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 Breuil. 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 thirteen thousand feet there were
no extraordinary difficulties: the way so far might even become “a matter
of amusement.” Only eighteen hundred 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. Not one of
the good men, however, could be induced to come, and I returned to Breuil
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 Hönli ridge,
which I had examined in the mean time, seemed to be entirely
impracticable. Both men were inclined to go, but their ordinary
occupations prevented them from starting at once.

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 favor 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.

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
Barthelemy: Mont Rouss (a round-topped, snowy summit, which seems so
important from Breuil, 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 printed on the map, Bee 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
matched in the Alps, and _this_ view is very rarely seen, as I saw it,
perfectly unclouded.

Time sped away unregarded, and the little birds which had built their
nests on the neighboring 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 Breuil 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 a
purple gloom, while 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 earthly 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 realize 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
ninety-eight 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.

                            [Claw or Grapnel]
                       [Wrought Iron Ring and Loop]

Solitary scrambling over a pretty wide area had shown me that a single
individual is subjected to very 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 neutralize
these inconveniences, I had 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. It
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 by 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 practiced 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, which he passes
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 slipknot 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, and a loop could be made
in a moment by passing the other end of the rope through the 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. The combined weight of these two things amounted to less than
half a pound.

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 outward, 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 Breuil) 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 upward to the citadel. 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 three hundred 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 upward 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; 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 a hold, and not seeing any, and of jumping sideways on to the
other side.

Places such as this gully have their charm so long as a man feels that the
difficulties are within his power, but their enchantment vanishes directly
they are too much for him, and when he feels this they are dangerous to
him. The line which separates the difficult from the dangerous is
sometimes a very shadowy, but it is not an imaginary one. It is a true
line, without breadth. It is often easy to pass and very hard to see. It
is sometimes passed unconsciously, and the consciousness that it has been
passed is felt too late; but so long as a man undertakes that which is
well within his power, he is not likely to pass this line, or consequently
to get into any great danger, although he may meet with considerable
difficulty. That which is within a man’s power varies, of course,
according to time, place and circumstance, but as a rule he can tell
pretty well when he is arriving at the end of  his tether; and it seems to
me, although it is difficult to determine for another, even approximately,
the limits to which it is prudent for him to go, that it is tolerably easy
to do so for one’s self. But (according to my opinion) if the doubtful
line is crossed consciously, deliberately, one passes from doing that
which is justifiable to doing that which is unjustifiable, because it is

I expect that any intelligent critic will inquire, “But do you really mean
to assert that dangers in mountaineering arise only from superlative
difficulty, and that the perfect mountaineer does not run any risks?” I am
not prepared to go quite so far as this, although there is only one risk
to which the scrambler on the Higher Alps is unavoidably subject which
does not occur to pedestrians in London’s streets. This arises from
falling rocks, and I shall endeavor in the course of this work to make the
reader understand that it is a _positive_ danger, and one against which
skill, strength and courage are equally unavailing. It occurs at
unexpected times, and may occur in almost any place. The critic may
retort, “Your admission of this one danger destroys all the rest of the
argument.” I agree with him that it would do so if it were a _grave_ risk
to life. But although it is a real danger, it is not a very serious risk.
Not many cases can be quoted of accidents which have happened through
falling stones, and I do not know an instance of life having been lost in
this way in the High Alps.(10)  I suppose, however, few persons will
maintain that it is unjustifiable to do anything, for sport or otherwise,
so long as _any_ risk is incurred, else it would be unjustifiable to cross
Fleet street at mid-day. If it were one’s bounden duty to avoid every
risk, we should have to pass our lives indoors. I conceive that the
pleasures of mountaineering outweigh the risks arising from this
particular cause, and that the practice will not be vetoed on its account.
Still, I wish to stamp it as a _positive_ danger, and as one which may
imperil the life of the most perfect mountaineer.

This digression has been caused by an innocent gully which I feared the
reader might think was dangerous. It was an untrodden vestibule, which led
to a scene so wild that even the most sober description of it must seem an
exaggeration. There was a change in the quality of the rock, and there was
a change in the 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 gravestones 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 imperceptible.

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
neighbor, 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.(11)  My exultation was a little premature.

About five P. M. I left the tent again, and thought myself as good as at
Breuil. The friendly rope and claw had done good service, and had smoothed
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 outward (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

The slope was steep on which this took place, and descended to the top of
a gully that led down through two subordinate buttresses toward 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 forty-five degrees, with
its point below and its concave side uppermost, and you will have a fair
idea of the place.

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 downward 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 two hundred feet in seven or eight
bounds. Ten feet more would have taken me in one gigantic leap of eight
hundred feet on to the glacier below.



The situation was still sufficiently serious. The rocks could not be left
go for a moment, and the blood was spurting out of more than twenty cuts.
The most serious ones were in the head, and I vainly tried to close them
with one hand while 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 forty-eight hundred feet of descent to Breuil
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 soon, and in a few days I was able to
move again.

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 Breuil, 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 23d 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 vapors, 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 three thousand
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 was 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 favorable for that sport. 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, but 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, “O
beautiful mountains!” His actions were as appropriate as his words were
natural, and tears bore witness to the reality of his emotion.

                 [A CANNONADE ON THE MATTERHORN (1862.)]

                  A CANNONADE ON THE MATTERHORN (1862).

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 Breuil, and to have a light ladder
made to assist us to overcome some of the steepest parts. 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 attempt.

Everything seemed to favor 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 Breuil at once, but when packing up found that
some necessaries had been left behind in the tent. So I went off about
mid-day 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.

I waited at the tent to welcome the professor, and when he arrived went
down to Breuil. 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.

                              [Route Sketch]

The accompanying outline from a sketch taken from the door of the inn at
Breuil 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 in note on page 54, 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 on page 46, 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.

My knapsack was packed, and I had drunk 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, but
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 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.



                          [“BUT WHAT IS THIS?”]

                           “BUT WHAT IS THIS?”

I crossed the Channel on the 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

I am not in love with the douane. It is the purgatory of travelers, 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 portmanteaus! One of them
has discovered something. He has never seen its like before, and he holds
it aloft in the the face of its owner with inquisitorial insolence: “But
_what is_ this?” The explanation is but half satisfactory “But what is
_this?_”  says he, laying hold of a little box. “Powder.” “But that 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-travelers—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
baton in its bowl, and caused the baton 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 Hotel 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 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
learned 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.”   Carrel and all the men who had been with me knew of the
existence of the cleft at this point, and of the pinnacle which rose
between it and the final peak, 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
gradually to the right or to the left, to avoid coming to the top of the
notch.  But Tyndall’s party,  after arriving at “the shoulder,” were 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 acomplished.”   He greatly deceived himself: by the barometric
measurements of Signer 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 four hundred feet over one
of the most difficult parts of the mountain.

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.  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 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 archaeologist, but some difficulty will be found in
approaching them closely.

                               [Antey Arch]

We sauntered up the valley, and got to Breuil 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
nine thousand 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 neighboring 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.  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. Carrel and I wandered out again in the afternoon,
and went, first of all, to a favorite spot with tourists near the end of
the Görner 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 afterward appears at the _table



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 forward. 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 forms.

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. 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
recognized 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 Seller, excellent man! knowing
this, called us himself, and when   he came to my door I answered, “All
right, Seller, I will get up,” and immediately turned over to the other
side, saying to myself,  “First  of all, ten   minutes’  more sleep.”
But Seller 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 Seller has acquired
his enviable reputation.

At four A.M. we left his Monte Rosa hotel, and were soon pushing our way
through the thickets of gray alder that skirt the path up the exquisite
little valley which leads to the Z’muttgletscher.



Nothing can seem or be more inaccessible than the Matterhorn upon this
side, and even in cold blood one holds his 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 toward the
Z’muttgletscher. Stones which drop from the top of that amazing wall fall
for about fifteen hundred feet before they touch anything, and those which
roll down from above and bound over it fall to a much greater depth, and
leap wellnigh one thousand 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

“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 the 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 is less savage in appearance, but it is
not less impracticable; and 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 but 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. 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 Breuil.

Three years afterward, 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 help.



We had no such excitement as this in 1863, and crossed this easy pass to
the chalets 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 chalets (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, he is courteous, he can (and probably will) act as the _master_
of Prerayen if his position is _not_ recognized, and with all the
importance of a man who pays taxes to the extent of five hundred francs
per annum to his government.

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 chalet 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 southwest 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 southwestern 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,
counseled ascending by the long buttress of the Tête de Bella Cia (which
descends toward 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, propose 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), make directly toward
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 favor of Carrel’s route, and it was accordingly adopted.

The first part of the programme was successfully executed; and at
half-past ten A.M. on the 6th of August we were sitting astride the
western ridge, at a height of about twelve thousand five hundred 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 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 very 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. 1 doubted the possibility of another man
standing upon it without bringing it down. Then I rebelled. There was no
honor to be gained by persevering, or dishonor 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 reascend by the
other route, which was subsequently shown to be the right way up the

Four days afterward a party of Englishmen  (including my friends W. E.
Hall,   Crauford   Grove   and   Reginald Macdonald)  arrived in the
Valpelline, and (unaware of our attempt) on the 12th, under the skillful
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, but 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.    I have not heard that another ascent
has been made of the Dent d’Erin.

On the 7th of August we crossed the Va Cornère pass, 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 neighborhood, that it was bound to
give a very  fine  view;  and (as  the weather continued unfavorable 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
Breuil, 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 five 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 zigzag 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 conies 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  thirty-five
hundred   feet  above Val Tournanche, and fifteen hundred 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, but 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
toward 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 a
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.

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, clustered around the summit,
totally unaware of our presence; and they scattered in a panic, as if a
shell had burst amongst them, when saluted by the cries of my excited
comrade, plunging 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 toward 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 afterward 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.    I   recommend the ascent of the
Tournalin to any person who has a   day   to spare in the Val Tournanche.
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 ten or eleven A. M.
Toward sunset the equilibrium of the atmosphere is restored, and the
clouds very commonly disappear.

                        [CARREL LOWERED ME DOWN.]

                         CARREL LOWERED ME DOWN.

I advise the ascent of this mountain, not on account of its height or from
its accessibility or inacessibility, 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, Dauphine, 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 vapors of the Val d’Aoste, extends the long line of
the Graians, with mountain after   mountain   twelve  thousand  five
hundred feet and upward 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 toward 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 downward 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 Rosa.

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.
Marvelous 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 vague.

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 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 most satisfactory
stand-points 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 favorable 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, but thence, down the glacier, the way
was straightforward, and we joined the route taken on the ascent at the
foot of the ridge leading toward 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   Maquignazes   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 Maquignazes 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

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 62, but it exhibits in a much more
notable manner the characteristic action and power of running water. The
length of the chasm or gouffre, is about three hundred and twenty feet,
and from the top of its walls to the surface of the water is about one
hundred and ten feet. At no part can the entire length or depth be seen at
a glance, for, although the width at some places is fifteen 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 twenty-eight feet across at its largest
diameter, and fifteen or sixteen feet high, roofed above by the living
rock, and with the torrent roaring fifty 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 chiseled 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 with minute
depressions, much as the face of one is who has suffered from smallpox.
The edges of these little hollows are _rounded,_ and all the surfaces of
the depressions are polished nearly or quite as highly as the general
surface of the fragment. The water has drilled 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 gouffre.

I arrived at Breuil 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. But 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; but
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.


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, but gently, we arrived upon the Col du Lion before nine
o’clock. Changes were apparent. Familiar ledges had vanished; the platform
whereon 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.

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 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, re-frozen 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 gayly, 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 so thickly that 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 thunder-storm 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 violently slammed,
multiplied a thousand-fold, 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 in 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 eleven hundred 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. 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 favorite amusement with us 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 recognize 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.(13)

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, am 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

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. the snow 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 upward 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 three hundred 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,
provisions, ladder and four hundred and fifty 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.(15)
I could not risk any such detention, being under obligations to appear in
London at the end of the week. We got to Breuil in the course of the
afternoon: it was quite fine there, and the tenants of the inn received
our statements with evident skepticism. 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.

                            [MONSIEUR  FAVRE.]

                             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
neighboring 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 principally to the fact
that the mountain is a _rock_ mountain—that it receives a great amount of
heat, 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 seventy degrees in the shade at the top of an Alpine
peak more than thirteen thousand feet high, and but a very few degrees
higher six or seven thousand feet lower. At other times there will be a
difference of forty or fifty degrees (Fahrenheit) between two stations,
the higher not more than six or seven thousand 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 toward
the mountain,  where they will speedily condense the moisture of the warm
air in contact with it. I cannot explain  the  down-rushes of cold air
which occur on it when all the rest of the neighborhood 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 colorless fluids produce a white,
turbid liquid when mixed together.    The order has been, wind of a low
temperature, mist, rain, snow or hail.

This opinion is borne out to some extent by the behavior of the
neighboring 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.

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.

                         [CROSSING THE  CHANNEL.]

                          CROSSING THE  CHANNEL.




                           [A NIGHT WITH CROZ.]

                            A NIGHT WITH CROZ.


When we arrived upon the highest summit of Mont Pelvoux, in Dauphine, 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 mean time, others had turned their attention to Dauphine. 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 Perm and Bartolommeo Peyrotte, and great success attended his
arms. But Mr. Tuckett halted before the Pointe des Écrins, and, dismayed
by its appearance, withdrew his forces to gather less dangerous laurels
elsewhere. His expedition, however, threw some light upon the Écrins. 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 labors) attempted to execute the ascent,
with the brothers Michel and  J. B. Croz, by following his indications,
but they too were defeated.

                       [MICHEL-AUGUST CROZ (1865).]

                        MICHEL-AUGUST CROZ (1865).

The guide Michel Croz had thus been engaged in both of these expeditions
in Dauphine, 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   upward of
ten thousand feet high.”

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 traveled,  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 came again and again.    The
inscription placed upon his tomb truthfully records that he was “beloved
by his comrades and esteemed by travelers.”

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. 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, both were endued with strength and activity far
beyond the average, and the courage and the knowledge of each were 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 mid-day 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 thirty-five
hundred 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. 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 condition 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 channeled by
water-courses. 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 neighborhood as elsewhere, it was
necessary to hold a council.

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. 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.” But 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 favor 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 ten thousand three hundred or ten
thousand four hundred 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
skillfully; but after a while he lost his balance, and progressed downward
and backward with great rapidity, in a way that seemed to us very much
like tumbling heels over head. He let go his axe and left it behind, but
it overtook him and batted him heartily. He and it traveled 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.

We others followed the tracks 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 wellnigh 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 eleven
thousand feet, in a south-easterly direction, and our opinion remained

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 leads 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 just
thirty 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.(16)

We left the chalets at 4.15 A.M. under a shower of good wishes from our
hostesses, proceeded at first toward the upper end of the ravine, then
doubled back up a long buttress which projects in an unusual way, and went
toward the Col de Martignare; but before arriving at its summit we again
doubled and resumed the original course. At 6 A. M. we stood on the
watershed, and followed it toward the east, keeping for some distance
strictly to the ridge, and afterward 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 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
travelers under the name Aiguille du Midi de la Grave. It is the last, the
only, great Alpine peak which has never known the foot of man, and one
cannot speak in exaggerated terms of its jagged ridges, torrential
glaciers and tremendous precipices. But were I to discourse upon these
things without the aid of pictures, or to endeavor to convey in words a
sense of the loveliness of curves, of the beauty of color 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 endeavor 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 recognized by the natives, who
called it, very appropriately, the Brèche de la Meije. It led to La
Bérarde, 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 Écrins, 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 downward) 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 anywhere, be by the rocks on the east, and _they_
looked as if they were _roches moutonnées._

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.

                       [MELCHIOR ANDEREGG IN 1864.]

                        MELCHIOR ANDEREGG IN 1864.

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
accident has ever befallen travelers 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.

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.
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.(17)   The rocks by which we
intended to ascend were   placed between   the two branches of this
glacier, and still looked smooth and unbroken.    But by five o’clock we
were   upon them.   We had been   deluded by  them.     No carpenter could
have  planned a more  convenient  staircase. They were not _moutonné:_
their  smooth look from a distance was only owing  to   their singular
firmness.     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 six 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 sixty-five hundred feet of ascent.(18) We screamed triumphantly as
they turned in to breakfast.

                 [Map: Route from La Grave to La Bérarde]

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 Écrins, 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 horseshoe of Dauphiné.   At length
a cruel rush of cold air made us shiver, and shift our quarters to a
little grassy plot three thousand feet below—an oasis in a desert—where we
lay nearly four hours admiring the splendid wall which protects the summit
of the Meije from assault upon this side.(19) Then we tramped down the
Vallon des Étançons, 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.




Before five 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 Écrins. We then went to straw.

Our porter Pic strolled in next morning with his usual 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!

                         [CENTRAL DAUPHINÉ ALPS.]

                          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 have been described by Mr. Tuckett. 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 & 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 toward 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 realized what we saw, and
understood that that astounding point, removed   apparently   miles   from
the earth, was one of the highest summits of Les Écrins, and that we
hoped, before another sun had set, to stand 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 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 toward 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 Écrins to
the mountain called Roche Faurio—cheered by Rodier, who now returned with
his wraps to La Bérarde.

By five minutes to six we were at the top of the gully (a first-rate
couloir about one thousand feet high), and within sight of our work.
Hard, thin and wedge-like as the Écrins 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.    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 arètes to be 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  favored.     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 (leveling one and filling the other), completely down to the col,
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.

                       [Glacier de la Bonne Pierre]

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
encumbrances 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 Glacier
de la Bonne Pierre.    The ridge in front, that extends right across, is
the ridge that is partially shown on the of the map at page 84, leading
from Roche Faurio toward 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.

                 [Map: Route: Glacier de la Bonne Pierre]

Thus far there was no trouble, but the nature of the work changed
immediately. If we regard the upper seven hundred feet alone of the final
peak of the Écrins, it may be described as a three-sided pyramid.    One
face is toward the Glacier Noir, and forms one of the sheerest precipices
in the Alps. Another is toward the Glacier du Vallon, and is less steep
and less uniform in angle than the first.   The third is toward the
Glacier de l’Encula, and it was by this one we approached the summit.
Imagine a triangular plane seven hundred or eight hundred 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 Écrins on which we
stood.    It was not possible to avoid detaching stones, which, as they
fell, caused words unmentionable to rise. The greatest friends would have
reviled each other in such a situation.     We gained the eastern arête,
and endeavored for half an hour to work upward toward 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 labor 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 toward 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 there was no capering about to 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 twenty 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 afterward, 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, but at a
much higher point (B), close to the summit.    Our men were, I am afraid,
wellnigh worn out: cutting up a couloir one thousand 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 mid-day was past, and that much remained to be accomplished,
and untied himself and commenced working toward the summit. Connecting the
teeth of rock were beds of snow, and Almer, but 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 his 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
three thousand 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 honor,
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 afterward that it had a striking similarity
to the final peak of the Écrins. I have noticed the same thing on other
occasions, 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 but a sorry 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 Écrins from it
three years before—across the basin of the Glacier Noir. It is a splendid
mountain, although in height it is equaled, if not surpassed, by its
neighbor, the Alefroide.

We could stay on the summit but 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 but 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 afterward. 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 endeavored to make our way was not inferior in
difficulty to the other. Both 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 his 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 looked 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 it, 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 tight 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 jodel 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.

It was now 4.45 P.M.: 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.(20) 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
traveling 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 Écrins 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.  We got clear of 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 traveling 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

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 Alefroide, 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 backward
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
follows: “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 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.

I have failed to give the impression I wish if it has not been made
evident that the ascent of the Pointe des Écrins 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 Écrins after a fall of new snow, he is likely to experience misery far
deeper than anything with which he has hitherto been acquainted.



From Ailefroide to Claux, but for the path, travel would be scarcely more
easy than over the Pré de Madame Carle. The valley is strewn with immense
masses of gneiss, from the size of a large house downward, 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 neighboring
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 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; very little
curiosity was exhibited; all 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

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, near to the peak named Les Bans, which 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, toward 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),(21) 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 toward the north.

The course was north-north-west, 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 five thousand feet in five hours, inclusive of halts.

Upon the French map a glacier is laid down on the south of the Crête de
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 other.(22) 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 (at 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.

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 besides
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,(23) 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 practiced
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 situation:  forty-five to fifty degrees is not an uncommon
inclination.    Even at such angles, two men with proper axes can mount on
snow at the rate of seven hundred to eight hundred 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 economize time.

                               [A Couloir]

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 then fly over one’s head or bound down the
middle of the trough at 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.
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. Like 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; but just 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 eleven
thousand three hundred 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 toward 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 fifteen feet, all being tied together, and Almer
occupying the responsible position of last man: the two guides were
therefore  about seventy 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 théàtre, 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

A downward jump of fifteen or sixteen feet, and a forward leap of seven or
eight 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 flavor. 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

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 baton 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.



I cannot close this chapter without paying a 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 afterward 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 tourists in search of amusement to avoid
the inns of Dauphiné. Sleep in the chalets. Get what food you can from the
inns, but by no means attempt to pass a night in them. _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 childhood.


Ten years ago very few people knew from personal knowledge how extremely
inaccurately the chain of Mont Blanc was delineated. During the previous
half century thousands had made the tour of the chain, and in that time at
least a 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 as 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 one thousand 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 fror  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

The district surveyed by Forbes remained a solitary bright spot in a
region where all besides was darkness until the year 1861. Praiseworthy
attempts were made by different hands to throw light upon the gloom, but
these efforts were ineffectual, and showed how labor may be thrown away by
a number of observers working independently without the direction of a
single head.

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 characterizes 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

Strong hands were needed to complete the survey, and it was not long
before the right men appeared.

In 1863, Mr. Adams-Reilly, who had been traveling 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 two hundred 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 two hundred yards of the position assigned to it
by General Dufour!”

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.

Before I pass on to these expeditions it will be convenient to devote a
few paragraphs to the topography of the chain of Mont Blanc.

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. But 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 ascent of Mont Blanc has been made from several directions, 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.(24) 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.

We slept under some big rocks on the Couvercle on the night of July 7,
with the thermometer at 26.5° Fahr., 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 toward
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, firm rocks, and then by a branch
of the Glacier de Triolet. Schrunds(25) 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, but in the aggregate they far surpassed it. “Our lives,”
so Reilly expressed it, “were made a burden to us with schrunds.”

Several spurs run out toward the south-east from the ridge at the head of
the Glacier de Triolet, and divide it into a number of bays. We descended
the most northern of these, and when we emerged from it on to the open
glacier, just at the junction of our bay with the next one, we came across
a most beautiful ice-arch festooned with icicles, the decaying remnant of
an old sérac, which stood isolated full thirty feet above the surface of
the glacier! It was an accident, and I have not seen its like elsewhere.
When I passed the spot in 1865 no vestige of it remained.

We flattered ourselves that we should arrive at the chalets of Pre 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.

We occupied the 9th with the ascent of the 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
south-east 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.

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 neighborhood, 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’Argentiere 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
Aiguille Verte, have almost the effect of the Grandes Jorasses. Then,
framed as it were between the massive tower of the Aiguille 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 overhangs the Brenva. This aspect of
Mont Blanc is not new, but from this point its _pose_ is unrivaled, and it
has all the superiority of a picture grouped by the hand of a master…The
view is as extensive as, and far more lovely than, that from Mont Blanc

We went down to Cormayeur, and on the afternoon of July 10 started from
that place to camp on Mont Sue, for the ascent of the Aiguille de
Trelatête, 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 very easy 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 loopholed, 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.

                       [Reilly with shilling novel]
                           [Reilly on his side]
                          [Reilly smoking pipe]
                         [Reilly on his stomach]
                            [Reilly in a heap]

Bah! it was a dull time.   Our mountain,  like a beautiful coquette,  some
times 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 framed 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. But 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, ninety-seven hundred feet above the level of the sea,
more soundly perhaps than if we had been lying on feather beds.

                        [OUR  CAMP ON  MONT SUC.]

                         OUR  CAMP ON  MONT SUC.

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 belongs.

[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, but 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 takes its
rise at the foot of the precipices which fall steeply down from the
Calotte,(27) 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 (Glacier du Dôme) descends from a large basin which
receives the snows of the summit-ridge between the Bosse and the Dôme, and
it is divided from the third and last glacier by another buttress, which
joins the summit-ridge at a point between the Dôme and the Aiguille 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 Veni. These moraines(28) 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, 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
envelop 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.

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

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 everything that is
movable, so as to form large accumulations of débris in front and along
their sides,”(29) the conclusion could not be resisted, the greater the
glacier the greater should be the moraine.

This doctrine does not find much favor with those who have personal
knowledge of what glaciers do at the present time. From De Saussure(30)
downward 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—a glacial period—necessarily causes the
production of vast moraines. It is needless to cite more than one or two
examples to show that such generalizations cannot be sustained.
Innumerable illustrations might be quoted.

In the chain of Mont Blanc one may compare the moraines of the Miage with
those of the Glacier d’Argentiere. The latter glacier drains a basin equal
to or exceeding that of the former, but its moraines are small compared
with those of the former. More notable still is the disparity of the
moraines of the Corner glacier (that which receives so many branches from
the neighborhood of Monte Rosa) and of the Z’Muttgletscher. The area
drained by the Corner greatly exceeds the basin of the Z’Mutt, yet the
moraines of the Z’Mutt are incomparably larger than those of the Corner.
No one is likely to say that the Z’Mutt and Miage glaciers have existed
for a far greater length of time than the other pair: an explanation must
be sought amongst the causes to which reference has been made.

More striking still is it to see the great interior Mer de Glace of
Greenland almost without moraines. This vast ice-plateau, although smaller
than it was in former times, is still so extensive that the whole of the
glaciers of the Alps might be merged into it without its bulk being
perceptibly increased. If the size of moraines bore any sort of relation
to the size of glaciers, the moraines of Greenland should be far greater
than those of the Alps.

This interior ice-reservoir of Greenland, enormous as it is, must be
considered as but the remnant of a mass which was incalculably greater,
and which is unparalleled at the present time outside the Antarctic
Circle. With the exception of localities where the rocks are easy of
disintegration, and the traces of glacier-action have been to a great
extent destroyed, the whole country bears the marks of the grinding and
polishing of ice; and, judging by the flatness of the curves of the roches
moutonnées, and by the perfection of the polish which still remains upon
the rocks after they have sustained (through many centuries) extreme
variations of temperature, the period during which such effects were
produced must have widely exceeded in duration the “glacial period” of
Europe. If moraines were built from matter excavated by glaciers, the
moraines of Greenland should be the greatest in the world!

The absence of moraines upon and at the termination of this great Mer de
Glace is due to the want of rocks rising above the ice.(31)On two
occasions in 1867 I saw, at a glance, at least six hundred square miles of
it from the summits of small mountains on its outskirts. Not a single peak
or ridge was to be seen rising above, nor a single rock reposing upon, the
ice. The country was _completely_ covered up by glacier: all was ice as
far as the eye could see.(32)

There is evidence, then, that considerable areas of exposed rock-surface
are essential to the production of large moraines, and that glacial
periods do not necessarily produce vast moraines—that moraines are not
built up of matter which is excavated by glaciers, but simply illustrate
the powers of glaciers for transportation and arrangement.

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
neighborhood, and we resolved to employ them in another attempt to ascend
the Aiguille d’Argentiere, 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, which is about
eleven thousand or eleven thousand one hundred feet above the level of the
sea. The party consisted of our friend Moore and his guide Almer, Reilly
and his guide Francois 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 toward our mountain: its aspect was not encouraging. The ridge
that led upward 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 toward the Glacier de Saleinoz, on the
other toward the Glacier du Chardonnet. Under any circumstances it would
have been a stiff piece of work to clamber up that way. Prudence and
comfort counseled, “Give it up.” Discretion overruled valor. Moore and
Almer crossed the Col du Chardonnet to go to Orsières, and we others
returned toward 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’Argentiere.  The sky was cloudless; no wind could be felt, nor sign of
it perceived; it was only eight o’clock in the morning; and here, right
before us, we saw another branch of the glacier leading high up nto 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
fifteen hundred feet above the col. 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, but no one thought of turning,
for we were within two hundred and fifty feet of the summit.

The axes of Croz and Couttet went to work once more, for the slope was
about as steep as snow 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 upward, eddying in _tourmentes,_ then,
dropped 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 their
feet, and they kicked and hewed simultaneously. I followed their example,
but was too violent, 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
grooves. 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 neighborhood he had performed the feat
(in 1863) of joining together “two mountains, each about thirteen thousand
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’Argentiere, 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 Trelatête), or to
feel half frozen in midsummer (as we did on the Aiguille d’Argentiere).
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 most 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
labor of love, and which, for a single individual, may wellnigh be termed

We separated upon the level part of the Glacier d’Argentiere, 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
Argentiere. At 7 P. M. we entered the humble inn, and ten minutes
afterward heard the echoes of the cannon which were fired upon the arrival
of our comrades at Chamounix.




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 r ansom. It is of no use 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.(33) 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(34), 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 hillside, roofed with rough slabs of slaty
stone, without door or window, surrounded by quagmires of ordure and dirt
of every description.

A foul native invited us to enter.    The interior was dark, but when our
eyes became accustomed to the gloom we saw that our palace was in plan
about fifteen by twenty feet:  on one side it was scarcely five feet high,
but 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 bed-room.    The remainder of the width of the
apartment was the parlor.    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 flavor possessed by certain Swiss

Big black and leaden-colored clouds rolled up from Zinal, and met in
combat on the Morning 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](35).

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 favor 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 toward the rocks.

When we quitted the slopes of the Arpitetta Alp we took a south-easterly
course over the Morning 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 southeast.    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.(36)   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 halfway 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.(37)

“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 as fully alive
to the risk as any of the others. He told me afterward that this place was
not only the most dangerous he had ever crossed, but 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 of nothing but the rocks in front, and of the
hideous _séracs,_ lurching over above us, apparently in the act of

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 thirty degrees
forward), 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.

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
dishonor, 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 committed.

                   [ICE-AVALANCHE ON THE MOMING PASS.]


After a laborious trudge over many species of snow, and through many
varieties of vapor—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.(38)   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
over Zermatt with motion   arrested,   resembling   an ocean wave frozen
in the act of breaking, cut off the view.(39) 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.

                 [THE SUMMIT OF THE MOMING PASS IN 1861.]

                  THE SUMMIT OF THE MOMING PASS IN 1861.

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 marvelous sagacity,
while Almer had an equally honorable, 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 seventy degrees 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 agonized 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 glacier.]

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 twelve thousand 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 two and a half 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 direct.

Two dozen guides—good, bad and indifferent, French, Swiss and Italian—can
commonly be seen sitting on the wall in 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 be come
hopeless—knives and scissors have been called into play: tenderly and
daintily they have endeavored 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
bloodshot, their noses are peeled and indescribable.

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-appareled 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, melt together when they are brought into contact;
and it is pleasant to witness the hearty welcome given to the new-comers
by the host and his excellent wife. (40)

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 traveled home, day and night, as fast as express-trains would
carry me.


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 of selecting 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 af 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
revolutionized. 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.    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 mountains.

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 total
defeat is not at all improbable.

But it seldom 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, 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
out of 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 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 neighboring 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,(41) and then to dismiss
the others; 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 brought my scrambles amongst the Alps to a close.

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 neighboring
heights to inspect the Grand Cornier, and I decided to have nothing to do
with its northern side. The mountain was more than seven miles away, but
it was quite safe to pronounce it inaccessible from our direction.



On the 16th we left Zinal at 2.05 A.M. having been  for a moment greatly
surprised by an entry in the hotel-book,(42) and   ascending   by the
Zinal   glacier, and giving the base of our mountain  a wide berth in
order that it might the better be examined, passed   gradually right
round   to   its south before a way up it was seen.    At 8.30   we
arrived upon the plateau of the glacier that descends   toward   the east,
between the Grand Cornier and the  Dent   Blanche, and from this place a
route was readily traced. We steered to the north over the glacier, toward
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 114. 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 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, and the sun has still power.(43)
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
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: they 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.(44)

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

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 continue to
decay, but their abasement would be much less rapid.

When rocks are covered 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.(46)  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 the action of glaciers  upon rocks, are as
follow.    The former take advantage of cracks, fissures, joints and soft
places—the latter does 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 produces 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 modeling 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”!(47)

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), and at 6 P.M. we arrived at Albricolla. 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 halt-burnt chalet.




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 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

                           [LESLIE   STEPHEN.]

                            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 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.

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

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 southwest 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 metres: then a bridge was
discovered, and we dropped down on hands and knees to cross it.

A bergschrund, it has been said, is a schrund and something more than a
schrund. A schrund is simply a big crevasse: a bergschrund is frequently,
but not always, a big crevasse. The term is applied to the last of the
crevasses 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

We crossed the bergschrund of the Dent Blanche, I suppose, at a height of
about twelve thousand 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 twenty-four hundred
feet which compose this south-western face; and inasmuch as one thousand
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 endeavored. “No, no,” said
Almer, “not there—_here_” pointing with his bàton to the right place to
clutch. Then ’twas Croz’s turn, and we all drew in the rope as the great
man followed. “Forward” 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, or be, more completely inaccessible than
the Matterhorn on its northern and north-west sides.

“Forward” 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 the mist, though 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 de pierres” he bawled. It was needless to proceed farther: I
jerked the rope from Biener, and motioned that we would 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 impossible.

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 bàtons 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
afterward 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 by 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.(48)

Two days afterward, 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.

                             [T. S. KENNEDY.]

                              T. S. KENNEDY.


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.

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 suppose, about halfway up, when a little thin
cloud dropped down upon us from above, but it was so light, so gauzy, that
we did not for a moment suppose that 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 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, but then,
it seemed to me, 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, imbecile!”

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 tiptop 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, but 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 supper-less, for our food was gone
—all very sulky, not to say savage, agreeing in nothing except in bullying

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 of little use afterward, except to tell us when we were
going _wrong._



We arrived at Zermatt in six and a half hours’ walking from Abricolla, and
Seiler’s hospitable reception set us all right again. On the 20th we
crossed the Théodule pass, and diverged from its summit up the Theodulhorn
(11,391) to examine a route which I suggested for the ascent of the
Matterhorn; but 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 Matterhorn may be divided into three sections—the first facing the
Z’Muttgletscher, which looks, and is, completely unassailable; the second
facing the east, which seems inaccessibility itself; the third facing
Breuil, which does not look entirely hopeless. It was from this last
direction that all my previous attempts were made. It was by the
southwestern 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. 2. Because I was
persuaded that meteorological disturbances (by which we had been baffled
several times) might be expected to occur again and again. 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.

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 halfway
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
Görnergrat, 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 seventy degrees. If the tourist continues
to go southward, 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 in the accompanying engraving about
halfway 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 forty-five
degrees.(49) 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 forty degrees.

A great step was made when this was learned. 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
three thousand feet.

1 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,
which rise toward 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 outward, and that fractured edges overhang. This is
shown very clearly in the annexed diagram, Fig. 1. It will be readily
understood that such an arrangement is not favorable 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.(50)

                                [Figure 1]

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.(51)

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_ (Section 2243) that they “rose to the north-east at an angle
of about forty-five degrees.” Forbes noticed it also, but gave it as his
opinion that the beds were “less inclined, or nearly horizontal.” He
added, “De Saussure is no doubt correct.” 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.

                                [Figure 2]

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 inward; 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, so 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; 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.

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, 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 downward; in short, that the character
of the whole of that side is similar to Fig. 1; and that upon the left
hand (or south-east) ridge the forms, so far as they go, are suggestive of
the structure shown by Fig. 2, above. 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.    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.    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 Breuil.    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 Breuil.

We started at 5.45 A.M. on June 21, and followed the route of the
Breuiljoch 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
favorable 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 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 toward 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 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 more 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, while all four cowered under defending rocks, endeavoring
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 you are out of harm’s way if
you follow the sides.

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, but 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.

                     [MY TENT-BEARER—THE HUNCHBACK.]

                      MY TENT-BEARER—THE HUNCHBACK.

We at once made a straight track for Mr. Morshead’s Breuiljoch (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 il 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 Breuil, and on
to Val Tournanche, where we slept; and the next day proceeded to
Chatillon, and thence up the valley of Aosto to Cormayeur.

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 afterward he
perished before my eyes on the very mountain from which we turned away, at
his advice on the 21st of June.




The valley of Aosta is famous for its bouquetins and infamous for its
cretins. The bouquetin, steinbock, or ibex, was formerly widely
distributed throughout the Alps. It is now confined almost entirely, or
absolutely, to a small district in the south of the valley of Aosta, and
fears have been repeatedly expressed in late years that it will speedily
become extinct.

But the most sanguine person does not imagine that cretinism will be
eradicated for many generations. It is widely spread throughout the Alps,
it is by no means peculiar to the valley of Aosta, but nowhere does it
thrust itself more frequently upon the attention of the traveler, and in
no valley where “every prospect pleases” is one so often and so painfully
reminded that “only man is vile.”

It seems premature to fear that the bouquetins will soon become extinct.
It is not easy to take a census of them, for, although they have local
habitations, it is extremely difficult to find them at home. But there is
good reason to believe that there are at least six hundred still roaming
over the mountains in the neighborhood of the valleys of Grisanche,
Rhèmes, Savaranche and Cogne.

It would be a pity if it were otherwise. They appeal to the sympathies of
all as the remnants of a diminishing race, and no mountaineer or athletic
person could witness without sorrow the extinction of an animal possessing
such noble qualities; which a few months after birth can jump over a man’s
head at a bound, without taking a run; which passes its whole life in a
constant fight for existence; which has such a keen appreciation of the
beauties of Nature, and such disregard of pain, that it will “stand for
hours like a statue in the midst of the bitterest storm, until the tips of
its ears are frozen”! and which, when its last hour arrives, “climbs to
the highest mountain-peaks, hangs on a rock with its horns, twists itself
round and round upon them until they are worn off, and then falls down and
expires”!!(52) Even Tschudi himself calls this story wonderful. He may
well do so. I disclaim belief in it—the bouquetin is too fine a beast to
indulge in such antics.

                             [THE BOUQUETIN.]

                              THE BOUQUETIN.

Forty-five keepers, selected from the most able chasseurs of the district,
guard its haunts. Their task is not a light one, although they are
naturally acquainted with those who are most likely to attempt poaching.
If they were withdrawn, it would not be long before the ibex would be an
extinct wild animal, so far as the Alps are concerned. The passion for
killing something, and the present value of the beast itself, would soon
lead to its extermination. For as meat alone the bouquetin is valuable,
the gross weight of one that is full grown amounting to from one hundred
and sixty to two hundred pounds, while its skin and horns are worth ten
pounds and upward, according to condition and dimensions.

In spite of the keepers, and of the severe penalties which may be
inflicted for killing a bouquetin, poaching occurs constantly. Knowing
that this was the case, I inquired at Aosta, upon my last visit, if any
skins or horns were for sale, and in ten minutes was taken into a garret
where the remains of a splendid beast were concealed—a magnificent male,
presumed to be more than twenty years old, as its massive horns had
twenty-two more or less strongly-marked knobby rings. The extreme length
of the skin, from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail, was one
metre sixty-nine centimetres (about five feet seven inches), and from the
ground to the top of its back had been, apparently, about seventy-seven
centimetres. It is rare to meet with a bouquetin of these dimensions, and
the owner of this skin might have been visited with several years’
imprisonment if it had been known that it was in his possession.

The chase of the bouquetin is properly considered a sport fit for a king,
and His Majesty Victor Emmanuel, for whom it is reserved, is too good a
sportsman to slaughter indiscriminately an animal which is an ornament to
his domains. Last year (1869) seventeen fell to his gun at one hundred
yards and upward. In 1868, His Majesty presented a fine specimen to the
Italian Alpine Club. The members banqueted, I believe, upon its flesh, and
they have had the skin stuffed and set up in their rooms at Aosta. It is
said by connoisseurs to be badly stuffed—that it is not broad enough in
the chest and is too large behind. Still, it looks well-proportioned,
although it seems made for hard work rather than for feats of agility.
From this specimen the accompanying engraving has been made.

It is a full-grown male about twelve years old, and if it stood upright
would measure three feet three and a half inches from the ground to the
base of its horns. Its extreme length is four, feet seven inches. Its
horns have eleven well-marked rings, besides one or two faintly-marked
ones, and are (measured round their curvature) fifty-four and a half
centimetres in length. The horns of the first-mentioned specimen (measured
in the same way) had a length of only fifty-three and a half centimetres,
although they were ornamented with nearly double the number of rings, and
were presumably of double the age, of the other.(53)

The keepers and the chasseurs of this district not only say that the rings
upon the horns of the ibex tell its age (each one reckoning as a year),
but that the half-developed ones, which sometimes are very feebly marked
indeed, show that the animal has suffered from hunger during the winter.
Naturalists are skeptical upon this point, but inasmuch as they offer no
better reason against the reputed fact than the natives do in its favor
(one saying that it is not so, and the other saying that it is so), we may
perhaps be permitted to consider it an open question. I can only say that
if the faintly-marked rings do denote years of famine, the times for the
bouquetin are very hard indeed; since in most of the horns which I have
seen the lesser rings have been very numerous, and sometimes more
plentiful than the prominent ones.

The chef of the keepers (who judges by the above-mentioned indications)
tells me that the ibex not unfrequently arrives at the age of thirty
years, and sometimes to forty or forty-five. He says, too, that it is not
fond of traversing steep snow, and in descending a couloir that is filled
with it will zig-zag down, by springing from one side to the other in
leaps of fifty feet at a time! Jean Tairraz, the worthy landlord of the
Hotel du Mont Blanc at Aosta (who has had opportunities of observing the
animal closely), assures me that at the age of four or five months it can
easily clear a height of nine or ten feet at a bound!

Long live the bouquetin! and long may its chase preserve the health of the
mountaineering king, Victor Emmanuel! Long life to the bouquetin! but down
with the cretin!

The peculiar form of idiocy which is called cretinism is so highly
developed in the valley of Aosta, and the natives are so familiarized with
it, that they are almost indignant when the surprised traveler remarks its
frequency. One is continually reminded that it is not peculiar to the
valley, and that there are cretins elsewhere. It is too true that this
terrible scourge is widespread throughout the Alps and over the world, and
that there are places where the proportion of cretins to population is, or
has been, even greater than in the valley of Aosta; but I have never seen
or heard of a valley so fertile and so charming—of one which, apart from
cretinism, leaves so agreeable an impression upon the wayfarer—where equal
numbers are reduced to a condition which any respectable ape might

The whole subject of cretinism is surrounded with difficulty. The number
of those who are afflicted by it is unknown, its cure is doubtful, and its
origin is mysterious. It has puzzled the most acute observers, and every
general statement in regard to it must be fenced by qualifications.

It is tolerably certain, however, that the centre of its distribution in
the valley of Aosta is about the centre of the valley. The city of Aosta
itself may be regarded as its head-quarters. It is there, and in the
neighboring towns of Gignod, Villeneuve, St. Vincent and Verrex, and in
the villages and upon the high-road between those places, that these
distorted, mindless beings, more like brutes than men, commonly excite
one’s disgust by their hideous, loathsome and uncouth appearance, by their
obscene gestures and by their senseless gabbling. The accompanying
portrait of one is by no means overdrawn: some are too frightful for

                          [A CRETIN  OF AOSTA.]

                           A CRETIN  OF AOSTA.

How can we account for this particular intensity toward the middle of the
valley? Why is it that cretins become more and more numerous after Ivrea
is passed, attain their highest ratio and lowest degradation at or about
the chief town of the valley, and then diminish in numbers as its upper
termination is approached? This maximum of intensity must certainly point
to a cause, or to a combination of causes, operating about Aosta, which
are less powerful at the two extremities of the valley; and if the reason
for it could be determined, the springs of cretinism would be exposed. The
disease would be even more puzzling than it is if it were confined to this
single locality, and the inquirer were to find not merely that it was
almost unknown upon the plains to the east and in the districts to the
west, but that the valleys radiating north and south from the main valley
were practically unaffected by it. For it is a remarkable circumstance,
which has attracted the notice of all who have paid attention to
cretinism, that the natives of the tributary valleys are almost free from
the malady—that people of the same race, speaking the same language,
breathing the same air, eating the same food, and living the same life,
enjoy almost entire immunity from it, while at the distance of a very few
miles thousands of others are completely in its power.

A parallel case is found, however, on the other side of the Pennine Alps.
The Rhone valley is almost equally disfigured by cretinism, and in it,
too, the extremities of the valley are slightly affected compared with the
intermediate districts—particularly those between Brieg and St.
Maurice.(54) This second example strengthens the conviction that the great
development of cretinism in the middle of the valley of Aosta is not the
result of accidental circumstances.

It was formerly supposed that cretinism arose from the habitual drinking
of snow- and glacier-water. De Saussure opposed to this conjecture the
facts that the disease was entirely unknown precisely in those places
where the inhabitants were most dependent upon these kinds of water, and
that it was most common where such was not the case—that the high valleys
were untainted, while the low ones were infected. The notion seems to have
proceeded from cretins being confounded with persons who were merely
goitred, or at least from the supposition that goitre was an incipient
stage of cretinism.

Goitre, it is now well ascertained, is induced by the use of chemically
impure water, and especially hard water; and the investigations of various
observers have discovered that goitre has an intimate  connection with
certain geological formations.   In harmony with these facts it is found
that infants are seldom born with goitres, but that they develop as the
child grows up, that they will  sometimes appear  and disappear from mere
change of locality, and that it is  possible to produce them

It is not so certain that the causes which produce goitre should be
regarded as causes of the production or maintenance of cretinism. It is
true that cretins are very generally goitrous, but it is also true that
there are tens of thousands of goitrous persons who are entirely free from
all traces of cretinism. Not only so, but that there are districts in the
Alps and outside of them (even in our own country) where goitre is not
rare, but where the cretin is unknown. Still, regarding the evil state of
body which leads to goitre as being, possibly, in alliance with cretinism,
it will not be irrelevant to give the former disease a little more
attention before continuing the consideration of the main subject.

In this country the possession of a goitre is considered a misfortune
rather than otherwise, and individuals who are afflicted with these
appendages attempt to conceal their shame. In the Alps it is quite the
reverse. In France, Italy and Switzerland it is a positive advantage to be
goitred, as it secures exemption from military service. A goitre is a
thing to be prized, exhibited, preserved—it is worth so much hard cash;
and it is an unquestionable fact that the perpetuation of the great
goitrous family is assisted by this very circumstance.

When Savoy was annexed to France the administration took stock of the
resources of its new territory, and soon discovered that although the
acres were many the conscripts would be few. The government bestirred
itself to amend this state of affairs, and after arriving at the
conclusion that goitre was produced by drinking bad water (and that its
production was promoted by sottish and bestial habits), took measures to
cleanse the villages, to analyze the waters (in order to point out those
which should not be drunk), and to give to children who came to school
lozenges containing small doses of iodine. It is said that out of five
thousand goitrous children who were so treated in the course of eight
years, two thousand were cured, and the condition of two thousand others
was improved; and that the number of cures would have been greater if the
parents “had not opposed the care of the government, _in order to preserve
the privilege of exemption from military service._” These benighted
creatures refused the marshal’s bâton and preferred their “wallets of

No wonder that the préfet for Haute-Savoie proposes that goitrous persons
shall no longer be privileged. Let him go farther, and obtain a decree
that all of them capable of bearing arms shall be immediately drafted into
the army. Let them be formed into regiments by themselves, brigaded
together and commanded by cretins. Think what esprit de corps they would
have! Who could stand against them? Who would understand their tactics? He
would save his iodine and would render an act of justice to the
non-goitred population. The subject is worthy of serious attention. If
goitre is really an ally of cretinism, the sooner it is eradicated the

De Saussure substituted heat and stagnation of air as the cause of
cretinism, in the place of badness of water. But this was only giving up
one unsatisfactory explanation for another equally untenable; and since
there are places far hotter and with pernicious atmospheres where the
disease is unknown, while, on the other hand, there are situations in
which it is common where the heat is not excessive, and which enjoy a
freely circulating atmosphere, his assumption may be set aside as
insufficient to account for the cretinism of the valley of Aosta. And in
regard to its particular case it may be questioned whether there is
anything more than an imaginary stagnation of air. For my own part, I
attribute the oppression which strangers say they feel in the middle of
the valley not to stagnation of air, but to absence of shadow in
consequence of the valley’s course being east and west; and believe that
if the force of the wind were observed and estimated according to the
methods in common use, it would be found that there is no deficiency of
motion in the air throughout the entire year. Several towns and villages,
moreover, where cretins are most numerous, are placed at the entrances of
valleys and upon elevated slopes, with abundant natural facilities for
drainage—free from malaria, which has been suggested as accounting for the
cretinism of the Rhone valley.

Others have imagined that intemperance, poor living, foul habits and
personal uncleanliness sow the seeds of cretinism; and this opinion is
entitled to full consideration. Intemperance of divers kinds is fruitful
in the production of insanity, and herding together in filthy dwellings,
with little or no ventilation, may possibly deteriorate physique as much
as extreme indulgence may the mind. These ideas are popularly entertained,
because cretins are more numerous among the lower orders than among the
well-to-do classes. Yet they must, each and all, be regarded as inadequate
to account for the disease, still less to explain its excess in the centre
of the valley; for in these respects there is little or no distinction
between it, the two extremities and the neighboring districts.

A conjecture remains to be considered regarding the origin of cretinism
which is floating in the minds of many persons (although it is seldom
expressed), which carries with it an air of probability that is wanting in
the other explanations, and which is supported by admitted facts.

The fertility of the valley of Aosta is proverbial. It is covered with
vineyards and cornfields, flocks and herds abound in it, and its mineral
resources are great. There is enough and to spare both for man and beast.
There are poor in the valley, as there are everywhere, but life is so far
easy that they are not driven to seek for subsistence in other places, and
remain from generation to generation rooted to their native soil. The
large numbers of persons who are found in this valley having the same
surnames is a proof of the well-known fact that there is little or no
emigration from the valley, and that there is an indefinite amount of
intermarriage between the natives. It is conjectured that the continuance
of these conditions through a long period has rendered the population more
or less consanguineous, and that we see in cretinism an example; upon a
large scale, of the evil effects of alliances of kindred.

This explanation commends itself by reason of its general applicability to
cretinism. The disease is commonly found in valleys, on islands or in
other circumscribed areas in which circulation is restricted or the
inhabitants are non-migratory; and it is rare on plains, where
communications are free. It will at once be asked, “Why, then, are not the
tributary valleys of the valley of Aosta full of cretins?” The answer is,
that these lateral valleys are comparatively sterile, and are unable to
support their population from their internal resources. Large numbers
annually leave and do not return—some come back, having formed alliances
elsewhere. There is a constant circulation and introduction of new blood.
I am not aware that there are returns to show the extent to which this
goes on, but the fact is notorious.

This conjecture explains, far better than the other guesses, why it is
that cretinism has so strong a hold upon the lower classes, while it
leaves the upper ones almost untouched; for the former are most likely to
intermarry with people of their own district, whilst the latter are under
no sort of compulsion in this respect. It gives a clue, too, to the reason
of the particular intensity in the centre of the valley. The inhabitants
of the lower extremity communicate and mix with the untainted dwellers on
the plains, whilst the conditions at the upper extremity approximate to
those of the lateral valleys. Before this explanation will be generally
received a closer connection will have to be established between the
assumed cause and the presumed effect. Accepting it, nevertheless, as a
probable and reasonable one, let us now consider what prospect there is of
checking the progress of the disease.

It is, of course, impossible to change the habits of the natives of the
valley of Aosta suddenly, and it would probably be very difficult to cause
any large amount of emigration or immigration. In the present embarrassed
condition of Italian finances there is very small chance of any measure of
the sort being undertaken if it would involve a considerable expenditure.
The opening of a railway from Ivrea to Aosta might possibly bring about,
in a natural way, more movement than would be promoted by any legislation,
and by this means the happiest effects might be produced.

There is little hope of practical results from attempts to cure cretins.
Once a cretin, you are always one. The experiments of the late Dr.
Guggenbühl demonstrated that some _half_-cretins may even become useful
members of society if they are taken in hand early in life, but they did
not show that the nature of the true or complete cretin could be altered.
He essayed to modify some of the mildest forms of cretinism, but did not
strike at the root of the evil. If fifty Guggenbühls were at work in the
single valley of Aosta, they would take several generations to produce an
appreciable effect, and they would never extirpate the disease so long as
its sources were unassailed.

Nor will the house which has been built at Aosta to contain two hundred
cretin beggars do much, unless the inmates are restrained from
perpetuating their own degradation. Even the lowest types of cretins may
be procreative, and it is said that the unlimited liberty which is allowed
to them has caused infinite mischief. A large proportion of the cretins
who will be born in the next generation will undoubtedly be offspring of
cretin parents. It is strange that self-interest does not lead the natives
of Aosta to place their cretins under such restrictions as would prevent
their illicit intercourse; and it is still more surprising to find the
Catholic Church actually legalizing their marriage. There is something
horribly grotesque in the idea of _solemnizing_ the union of a brace of
idiots; and since it is well known that the disease is hereditary, and
develops in successive generations, the fact that such marriages are
sanctioned is scandalous and infamous.

The supply, therefore, is kept up from two sources. The first contingent
is delved from apparently healthy parents; the second, by inheritance from
diseased persons. The origin of the first is obscure; and before its quota
can be cut off, or even diminished, the mystery which envelops it must be
dissipated. The remedy for the second is obvious, and is in the hands of
the authorities, particularly in those of the clergy. Marriage must be
prohibited to all who are affected, the most extreme cases must be placed
under restraint, and cretins whose origin is illegitimate must be subject
to disabilities. Nothing short of the adoption of these measures will meet
the case. Useless it will be, so long as the primary  sources of the
disease are untouched, to build hospitals, to cleanse dwellings, to widen
streets, or to attempt small ameliorations of the social circumstances of
the natives. All of these things are good enough in themselves, but they
are wholly impotent to effect a radical change.

No satisfactory conclusion will be arrived at regarding the origin of
cretinism until the pedigrees of a large number of examples have been
traced. The numerical test is the only one which is likely to discover the
reality. The necessary inquiries are beyond the powers of private persons,
and their pursuit will be found sufficiently difficult by official
investigators. Great reluctance will be exhibited to disclose the
information which should be sought, and the common cry will certainly be
raised that such scrutiny is without general advantage and is painful to
private feelings. But in matters which affect mankind in general,
individual feelings must always be subordinated to the public interest;
and if the truth is to be arrived at in regard to cretinism, the protests
of the ignorant will have to be overridden.



Cretinism is the least agreeable feature of the valley of Aosta, but it
is, at the same time, the most striking. It has been touched upon for the
sake of its human interest, and on account of those unhappy beings
who—punished by the errors of their fathers—are powerless to help
themselves; the first sight of whom produced such an impression upon the
most earnest of all Alpine writers, that he declared, in a twice-repeated
expression, its recollection would never be effaced from his memory (55)


    “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 mountams there must be a pass, and they believe that the
end for which big peaks were created—the office they are especially
designed to fulfill—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 endeavor 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. 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 Pré 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. At a quarter-past eight 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 (Mont Dolent and the Aiguille 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 Aiguille 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 Argentiere side I could not see

                     [THE SUMMIT OF THE COL DOLENT.]

                      THE SUMMIT OF THE COL DOLENT.

Croz was tied up with our good manila rope, and the whole two hundred feet
were paid 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 of more than a thousand feet long, set at an angle of about fifty
degrees, 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’Argentiere was reached. The entire basin of that
noble glacier was spread out at our feet, and the ridge beyond,
culminating in the Aiguille d’Argentiere, 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 fifty degrees. The process was repeated, Croz again going to
the front, and availing himself very skillfully of the rocks which
projected from the cliff on our right. Our two hundred 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 three hundred 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 halfway 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 toward 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 rope
to them as they advanced. 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. 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.

                              [MY  ICE-AXE.]

                               MY  ICE-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.

                            [KENNEDY ICE-AXE.]

                             KENNEDY ICE-AXE.

                            [STEPHEN ICE-AXE.]

                             STEPHEN ICE-AXE.

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 ice-slopes.

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 overlies the ice is consolidated
and of a reasonable depth. But if, as is more likely to be the case upon
an angle of fifty degrees (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.



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 afterward 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 Argentiere 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.(56)

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’Argentiere 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 labors 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.


Michel Croz  now parted from us. His new employer had not arrived at
Chamounix, but Croz considered that he was bound by honor 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(57) 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.

                            [CHRISTIAN ALMER.]

                             CHRISTIAN ALMER.

This was in 1854. In 1858-’59 he made the first ascents of the Eigher and
the Mönch, the former with a Mr. Harrington (?), and the latter with Dr.
Forges. Since then he has wandered far and near, from Dauphiné to the
Tyrol. 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.

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.

                         [ON THE MER  DE GLACE.]

                          ON THE MER  DE GLACE.

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. (58) As night came on,
their music died away, the rivulets dwindled down to rills, the rills
ceased to murmur, and the spark sparkling drops, caught by the hand of
frost, were bound to the ice, coating it with an enameled film which
lasted until the sun struck the glacier once more.

The weathering of the walls of crevasses, which _obscures_ the internal
structure of the glacier, has led some to conclude that the stratification
which is seen in the higher glacier-regions is _obliterated_ in the lower
ones. Others—Agassiz and Mr. John Ball, for example—have disputed this
opinion, and my own experiences accord with those of these accurate
observers. It is, undoubtedly, very difficult to trace stratification in
the lower ends of the Alpine glaciers, but we are not, upon that account,
entitled to conclude that the original structure of the ice has been
obliterated. There are thousands of crevasses in the upper regions upon
whose walls no traces of bedding are apparent, and we might say, with
equal unreasonableness, that it was obliterated there also. Take an axe
and clear away the ice which has formed from water trickling down the
faces and the weathered ice beneath, and you will expose sections of the
mingled strata of pure and of imperfect ice, and see clearly enough that
the primitive structure of the glacier has not been effaced, although it
has been obscured.

                   [ICE-PINNACLES ON THE MER DE GLACE.]

                    ICE-PINNACLES ON THE MER DE GLACE.

We camped on the Couvercle (seventy-eight hundred feet) 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 four thousand feet, and within about
sixteen hundred 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 afterward 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. (59)     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,  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 feet), 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.

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
upon 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.” But 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 half-penny 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.(60) It was not so. Chamounix
stood on its rights. A stranger had ignored their 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—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 Perm, 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 clamoring 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 ascent!”

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
Perm, the bet came to nothing.(61) 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.



                  [WESTERN SIDE OF THE COL  DE  TALÈFRE]



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 midway 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 eleven thousand six hundred 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 eleven thousand six hundred and fifty
feet above the level of the sea, and six hundred 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. 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

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 afterward 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 afterward, 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 versâ, than will be found elsewhere so long as the
chain of Mont Blanc remains in its present condition.


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 feet) 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 feet), 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 neighbor, 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 Becs and Beccas,
backed by the great Italian peaks, whilst to the north Mont Pleureur
(12,159 feet) holds its own against the more distant Wildstrubel.

We gained the summit at 9.15, 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 neighboring peaks. From thence we proceeded
across the great Otemma glacier toward 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, but said afterward 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 after the centre of the glacier was passed, changed it
again and made directly for the summit of the Col d’Olen.

It is scarcely necessary to observe, after what has been before said, 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 course 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 thirteen times since then,
and have invariably insisted upon being tied.

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 tomfools, 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 my voice against the neglect of a precaution so simple and so
effectual. In my opinion, the very first thing a glacier-traveler 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 Manila and another of Italian hemp. The former is the heavier, and
weighs a little more than an ounce per foot (103 ounces to 100 feet). The
latter weighs 79 ounces per 100 feet, but I prefer the Manila rope,
because it is more easy to handle. Both of these ropes will sustain 168
pounds falling 10 feet, or 196 pounds falling 8 feet, and they break with
a dead weight of two tons. In 1865 we carried two 100-feet lengths of the
Manila 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.

                     [THE WRONG WAY TO USE THE ROPE.]

                      THE WRONG WAY TO USE THE ROPE.

                     [THE RIGHT WAY TO USE THE ROPE.]

                      THE RIGHT WAY TO USE THE ROPE.

It is of the first importance to keep the rope taut from man to man. There
is no real security if this is not done, 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,(63) 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.

The distance from man to man must be neither too great nor too small.
About twelve feet is sufficient. If there are only two or three persons,
it is prudent to allow a little more—say fifteen feet. More than this is
unnecessary, and less than nine or ten 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 Manila 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.

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 Cornere Pass, en route for Breuil.    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 Breuil, 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 Breuil, fully
expecting to meet them. Nor was I disappointed. About halfway 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, thev 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 Breuil,
and discharged Almer and  Biener—with much regret, for no two men ever
served me more faithfully or more willingly.(64) On the next day they
crossed to Zermatt.

The 8th was occupied with preparations.    The weather was stormy, and
black, rainy vapors obscured the mountains.    Toward 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, 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 Breuil, 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
Breuil.” “No, sir:  when the  storm  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 Breuil.    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(65) 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

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!(66)

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-load of provisions.”
That is _one_ point in my favor, 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 favor. “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
Breuil 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 Breuil 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 Breuil.    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, 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.(67)    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,(68) 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 Theodulgletscher, crossed the
Furggengletscher, and deposited tent, blankets, ropes and other things in
the little chapel at the Schwarz-see.    All four were heavily laden, for
we brought across the whole of my stores from Breuil.    Of rope alone
there were about six hundred feet.     There were three kinds: first, two
hundred feet of Manila rope; second, one hundred and fifty feet of a
stouter and probably stronger rope than the first; and third, more than
two hundred 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 accidental 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!


We started from Zermatt on the 13th of July at half-past five, on a
brilliant and perfectly cloudless morning. We were eight in number—Croz,
old Peter and his two sons,(69) Lord Francis Douglas, Hadow, Hudson(70)
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. At half-past eleven 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 eleven thousand feet.(71)   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   toward the
Furggengletscher, and disappeared round a corner, but shortly afterward 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 easily!”

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.    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 three thousand feet like a huge natural staircase. 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
twelve thousand eight hundred feet, and halted for half an hour: we then
continued the ascent without a break until 9.55, when we stopped for fifty
minutes  at  a  height  of   fourteen thousand  feet.     Twice we  struck
the north-eastern ridge, and followed it for some little distance—to no
advantage, for it was usually more rotten and steep, and always more
difficult, than the face. Still, we kept near to it, lest stones perchance
might fall.

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—that is, the ridge—descending toward 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 forty degrees, 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 seven hundred feet of the
Pointe des Écrins; only there was this material difference—the face of the
Écrins was about, or exceeded, an angle of fifty degrees, and the
Matterhorn face was less than forty degrees. 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. We bore away over it
at first nearly horizontally, for a distance of about four hundred feet,
then ascended directly toward the summit for about sixty feet, and then
doubled back to the ridge which descends toward 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 two hundred feet of easy
snow remained to be surmounted!

You must now carry your thoughts back to the seven Italians who started
from Breuil 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 three hundred and
fifty feet long,(72) 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.(73)

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 honor 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
lost it. Times have changed with Carrel. His supremacy is questioned in
the Val Tournanche; new men have arisen, and he is no longer recognized as
_the_ chasseur above all others; but so long as he remains the man that he
is to-day it will not be easy to find his superior.

                        [“CROZ! CROZ! COME HERE!”]

                         “CROZ! CROZ! COME HERE!”

The others had arrived, so we went back to  the northern end of the ridge.
Croz  now took  the tent-pole(74) and   planted  it in the highest snow.
“Yes,” we said, “there is the flagstaff, 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 Breuil 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 Matterhorn!”(75)



We returned to the southern end of the ridge to build a cairn, and then
paid homage to the view.(76)   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 vapors. 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 recognized the old,
familiar forms. All were revealed—not one of the principal peaks of the
Alps was hidden.(77) 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 were the Bernese Oberland,
governed by the Finsteraarhorn, the Simplon and St. Gothard groups, the
Disgrazia and the Orteler. Toward 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
Écrins 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 Breuil.   There were
forests black and gloomy, and meadows bright and lively; 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.


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,(78) 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

A few minutes afterward 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.(79) 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.(80) 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 downward: in another moment Hudson was
dragged from his steps, and Lord F. Douglas immediately after him.(81) 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:
(82) 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 downward on their backs, and spreading out their hands,
endeavoring 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 four thousand feet in
height. From the moment the rope broke it was impossible to help them.

So perished our comrades! For the space of half an hour we remained on the
spot without moving a single step. The two men, paralyzed 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 move neither 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 them give me the end. It had broken in mid-air, and
it did not appear to have sustained previous injury.

                     [ROPE BROKEN ON THE MATTERHORN.]

                      ROPE BROKEN ON THE MATTERHORN.

For more than two hours afterward 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.(83) Even with their assurance the men
were afraid to proceed, and several times old Peter turned with ashy face
and faltering limbs, and said with terrible emphasis,  “I cannot!”

About 6 P.M. we arrived at the snow upon the ridge descending toward
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 within
neither 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, colorless 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.(84)

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.”(85) “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 travelers at Zermatt, and we shall get
more _voyageurs._”

Who would answer such a proposition? I made them no reply in words,(86)
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 nine 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, and Peter Perm
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: another Englishman lent us Joseph Marie and
Alexandre Lochmatter. Frederic Payot and Jean Tairraz of Chamounix also

                         [MONSIEUR ALEX. SEILER.]

                          MONSIEUR ALEX. SEILER.

                           [THE MANILA  ROPE.]

                          THE MANILA  ROPE.(87)

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, 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. 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.(88) We left
them where they fell, buried in snow at the base of the grandest cliff of
the most majestic mountain of the Alps.

All those who had fallen had been tied with the Manila, 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 two hundred and
fifty feet of the better qualities still out of use.(89) 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.(90)

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. Of the body of Lord Francis Douglas they too
saw nothing: it is probably still arrested on the rocks above.(91) The
remains of Hudson and Hadow were interred upon the north side of the
Zermatt church, in the presence of a reverent crowd of sympathizing
friends. The body of Michel Croz lies upon the other side, under a simpler
tomb, whose inscription bears honorable testimony to his rectitude, to his
courage and to his devotion.(92)

                           [THE SECOND  ROPE.]

                            THE SECOND  ROPE.

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 marvelous 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!

The play is over, and the curtain is about to fall. Before we part, a word
upon the graver teachings of the mountains. See yonder height! ’Tis far
away—unbidden comes the word “Impossible!” “Not so,” says the mountaineer.
“The way is long, I know: it’s difficult—it may be dangerous. It’s
possible, I’m sure: I’ll seek the way, take counsel of my brother
mountaineers, and find how they have gained similar heights and learned to
avoid the dangers.” He starts (all slumbering down below): the path is
slippery—maybe laborious too. Caution and perseverance gain the day—the
height is reached! and those beneath cry, “Incredible! ’tis superhuman!”

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
labors and by the memories of victories gained in other fields.

I have not made myself an advocate or 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 splendors 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

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.” 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 color. 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
toward 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 naught 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.

                                [THE END.]

                                 THE END.



Mr. Craufurd Grove was the first traveler who ascended the Matterhorn
after the accident. This was in August, 1867. He took with him as guides
three mountaineers of the Val Tournanche—J.-A. Carrel, J. Bich and S.
Meynet, Carrel being the leader. 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 Val Tournanchians
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
Maquignazes, Cæsar Carrel (my old guide), J.-B. Carrel, and a daughter of
the last named! They left Breuil at 5 A.M. on September 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 three hundred
and fifty 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 Breuil. Subsequently, a rope was
fixed over the most difficult portions of the final climb.



In the mean time 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 toward Zermatt
(north-east ridge). This was done at the expense of Monsieur Seller and of
the Swiss Alpine Club. Mons. Seller 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 honor of making the second ascent of the
mountain  upon the northern side with Mr. Elliott.    This took place on
July 24 and 25, 1868.    Since then numerous ascents have been made, and
of these the only one which calls for mention is that by Signer Giordano,
on  September  3-5, 1868.  This gentleman came to Breuil several times
after his famous visit in 1865, with the intention of making the ascent,
but he was always baffled by 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 the
above-named date, he was able to gratify his desires, and accomplished the
feat of ascending the mountain upon one side and descending it upon the
other. Signor Giordano is, I believe, the only geologist who has ascended
the Matterhorn. He spent a considerable time in the examination of its
structure, and became benighted on its eastern face in consequence.


In the summer of 1869, whilst walking up the valley of the Durance from
Mont Dauphin to Briançon, I noticed, when about five kilometres from the
latter place, some pinnacles on the mountain-slopes to the west of the
road. I scrambled up, and found the remarkable natural pillars which are
represented in the annexed engraving. They were formed out of an
unstratified conglomerate of gritty earth, boulders and stones. Some of
them were more thickly studded with stones than a plum-pudding usually is
with plums, whilst from others the stones projected like the spines from
an echinoderm. The earth (or mud) was extremely hard and tenacious, and
the stones embedded in it were extricated with considerable difficulty.
The mud adhered very firmly to the stones that were got out, but it was
readily washed away in a little stream near at hand. In a few minutes I
extracted fragments of syenite, mica-schist, several kinds of limestone
and conglomerates, and some fossil plants characteristic of carboniferous
strata. Most of the fragments were covered with scratches, which told that
they had traveled underneath a glacier. The mud had all the character of
glacier-mud, and the hillside was covered with drift. From these
indications, and from the situation of the pinnacles, I concluded that
they had been formed out of an old moraine. The greatest of them were
sixty to seventy feet high, and the moraine had therefore been at least
that height. I judged from appearances that the moraine was a
frontal-terminal one of a glacier which had been an affluent of the great
glacier that formerly occupied the valley of the Durance, and which during
retrogression had made a stand upon this hillside near Sachas. This
lateral glacier had flowed down a nameless _vallon_ which descends toward
the east-south-east from the mountain called upon the French government
map Sommet de l’Eychouda (8740 feet).

Only one of all the pinnacles that I saw was _capped_ by a stone (a small
one), and I did not notice any boulders lying in their immediate vicinity
of a size sufficient to account for their production in the manner of the
celebrated pillars near Botzen. The readers of Sir Charles Lyell’s
_Principles_ (10th ed., vol. i., p. 338) will remember that he attributes
the formation of the Botzen pillars chiefly to the protection which
boulders have afforded to the underlying matter from the direct action of
rain. This is no doubt correct: the Botzen pinnacles are mostly capped by
boulders of considerable dimensions. In the present instance this does not
appear to have been exactly the case. Running water has cut the moraine
into ridges (shown upon the right hand of the engraving), and has
evidently assisted in the work of denudation. The group of pinnacles here
figured belonged, in all probability, to a ridge which had been formed in
this way, whose crest, in course of time, became sharp, perhaps
attenuated. In such a condition very small stones upon the crest of the
ridge would originate little pinnacles: whether these would develop into
larger ones would depend upon the quantity of stones embedded in the
surrounding moraine-matter. I imagine that the largest of the Sachas
pinnacles owe their existence to the portions of the moraine out of which
they are formed having been studded with a greater quantity of stones and
small boulders than the portions of the moraine which formerly filled the
gaps between them; and, of course, primarily, to the facts that
glacier-mud is extremely tenacious when dry, and is readily washed away.
Thus, the present form of the pinnacles is chiefly due to the direct
action of rain, but their production was assisted, in the first instance,
by the action of running water.


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