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Title: The Alps
Author: Lunn, Arnold Henry Moore
Language: English
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[Illustration:

  HOME
  UNIVERSITY
  LIBRARY
  OF
  MODERN KNOWLEDGE

  _Editors_:

  HERBERT FISHER, M.A., F.B.A., LL.D.

  PROF. GILBERT MURRAY, D.LITT.,
  LL.D., F.B.A.

  PROF. J. ARTHUR THOMSON, M.A.,
  LL.D.

  PROF. WILLIAM T. BREWSTER, M.A.
  (Columbia University, U.S.A.)

  NEW YORK

  HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY]



[Illustration:

  THE ALPS

  BY
  ARNOLD LUNN

  LONDON
  WILLIAMS AND NORGATE]

_First printed July 1914_



PREFACE


For the early chapters of this book I have consulted, amongst other
authorities, the books mentioned in the bibliography on pp. 251-254.
It would, however, be ungracious if I failed to acknowledge my
indebtedness to that most readable of historians, Mr. Gribble, and to
his books, _The Early Mountaineers_ (Fisher Unwin) and _The Story of
Alpine Climbing_ (Nelson). Mr. Gribble and his publisher, Mr. Unwin,
have kindly allowed me to quote passages translated from the works
of the pioneers. Two friends, experts in the practice and history
of mountaineering, have read the proofs and helped me with numerous
suggestions.



CONTENTS


  CHAP.                                                           PAGE

  I THE MEDIÆVAL ATTITUDE                                            9

  II THE PIONEERS                                                   22

  III THE OPENING UP OF THE ALPS                                    44

  IV THE STORY OF MONT BLANC                                        60

  V MONTE ROSA AND THE BÜNDNER OBERLAND                             82

  VI TIROL AND THE OBERLAND                                         92

  VII THE COMING OF THE ENGLISH                                    111

  VIII THE STORY OF THE MATTERHORN                                 147

  IX MODERN MOUNTAINEERING                                         185

  X THE ALPS IN LITERATURE                                         208

  BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                     251

  INDEX                                                            254

_Volumes bearing upon the subject, already published in the library,
are_--

    7. Modern Geography. By Dr. Marion Newbigin. (_Illustrated._)

    36. Climate and Weather. By Prof. H. N. Dickson. (_Illustrated._)

    88. The Growth of Europe. By Prof. Grenville Cole. (_Illustrated._)



THE ALPS



CHAPTER I

THE MEDIÆVAL ATTITUDE


Rousseau is usually credited with the discovery that mountains are not
intrinsically hideous. Long before his day, isolated men had loved
the mountains, but these men were eccentrics. They founded no school;
and Rousseau was certainly the first to popularise mountains and to
transform the cult of hill worship into a fashionable creed. None the
less, we must guard against the error of supposing that mountain love
was confined to the few men who have left behind them literary evidence
of their good taste. Mountains have changed very little since man
became articulate, and the retina of the human eye has changed even
less. The beauty of outline that stirs us to-day was implicit in the
hills “that shed their burial sheets about the march of Hannibal.” It
seems reasonable to suppose that a few men in every age have derived a
certain pleasure, if not from Alpine travel at least from the distant
view of the snows.

The literature of the Ancient World contains little that bears upon our
subject. The literature of the Jews is exceptional in this respect.
This is the more to their credit, as the mountains of Judæa, south
of the beautiful Lebanon range, are shapeless and uninteresting.
Deuteronomy, the Psalms, Job, and Isaiah contain mountain passages of
great beauty. The Old Testament is, however, far richer in mountain
praise than the New Testament. Christ retired more than once to the
mountains; but the authors of the four Gospels content themselves with
recording the bare fact that certain spiritual crises took place on
mountain-tops. There is not a single indication in all the gospels
that Nazareth is set on a hill overlooking one of the fairest mountain
prospects in all Judæa, not a single tribute to the beauty of Galilee
girdled by the outlying hills of Hermon.

The Greeks lived in a land of mountains far lovelier than Palestine’s
characterless heights. But the Jews showed genuine if spasmodic
appreciation for their native ranges, whereas the Greeks, if their
literature does them justice, cared little or nothing for their
mountains. The note of fear and dread, pleasantly rare in Jewish
literature, is never long absent from Greek references to the
mountains. Of course, the Greeks gave Olympus to their gods, but as Mr.
Norman Young remarks in a very able essay on _The Mountains in Greek
Poetry_, it was necessary that the gods should look down on mankind;
and, as they could not be strung up in mid-air, the obvious thing was
to put them on a mountain-top. Perhaps we may concede that the Greeks
paid a delicate compliment to Parnassus, the Home of the Muses; and
certainly they chose for their temples the high ground of their cities.
As one wanders through the olives and asphodels, one feels that the
Greeks chose for their dwellings and temples those rising grounds which
afforded the noblest prospect of the neighbouring hills. Only the cynic
would contend that they did this in order to escape the atmosphere of
the marshes.

The Romans were disgustingly practical. They regarded the Alps as
an inconvenient barrier to conquest and commerce. Virgil shows an
occasional trace of a deeper feeling, and Horace paused between
draughts of Falernian wine to admire the snows on Soracte, which lent
contrast to the comfort of a well-ordered life.

Mr. Freshfield has shown that the Chinese had a more genuine feeling
for mountains; and Mr. Weston has explained the ancient cult of high
places among the Japanese, perhaps the most consistent mountain
worshippers in the world. The Japanese pilgrims, clad in white, make
the ascent to the shrines which are built on the summits of their
sacred mountains, and then withdraw to a secluded spot for further
worship. For centuries, they have paid official tribute to the
inspiration of high places.

But what of the Alps? Did the men who lived within sight of the Swiss
mountains regard them with indifference and contempt? This was,
perhaps, the general attitude, but there is some evidence that a love
for mountains was not quite so uncommon in the Middle Ages as is
usually supposed.

Before attempting to summarise this evidence, let us try to realise
the Alps as they presented themselves to the first explorers. The
difficulties of Alpine exploration, as that term is now understood,
would have proved quite as formidable as those which now confront the
Himalayan explorer. In spite of this, glacier passes were crossed in
the earliest times, and even the Romans seemed to have ventured across
the Théodule, judging by the coins which have been found on the top of
that great glacier highway. In addition to the physical difficulties of
Alpine travel, we must recognise the mental handicap of our ancestors.
Danger no longer haunts the highways and road-passes of the Alps. Wild
beasts and robber bands no longer threaten the visitor to Grindelwald.
Of the numerous “inconveniences of travel” cited by an early visitor to
the Alps, we need now only fear “the wonderful cunning of Innkeepers.”
Stilled are the voices that were once supposed to speak in the thunder
and the avalanche. The dragons that used to wing their way across
the ravines of the central chain have joined the Dodo and “the men
that eat the flesh of serpents and hiss as serpents do.” Danger, a
luxury to the modern, formed part of the routine of mediæval life. Our
ancestors had no need to play at peril; and, lest we lightly assume
that the modern mountaineer is a braver man than those who shuddered
on the St. Bernard, let us remember that our ancestors accepted with
grave composure a daily portion of inevitable risks. Modern life is so
secure that we are forced to the Alps in search of contrast. When our
ancestors needed contrast, they joined a monastery.

Must we assume that danger blinded them to the beauty of the Alps? The
mountains themselves have not changed. The modern mountaineer sees,
from the windows of the Berne express, a picture whose colours have not
faded in the march of Time. The bar of silver that thrusts itself above
the distant foothills, as the train swings out of the wooded fortress
of the Jura, casts the same challenge across the long shadows of the
uplands. The peaks are a little older, but the vision that lights the
world for us shone with the same steadfast radiance across the plains
of long ago. Must we believe that our adventurous forefathers could
find nothing but fear in the snows of the great divide? Dangers which
have not yet vanished menaced their journey, but the white gleam of
the distant snows was no less beautiful in the days when it shone as a
beacon light to guide the adventurous through the great barrier down
the warmth of Italian lowlands. An age which could face the great
adventure of the Crusades for an idea, or more often for the sheer
lust of romantic wandering, was not an age easily daunted by peril and
discomfort. May we not hope that many a mute, inglorious mountain-lover
lifted his eyes across the fields and rivers near Basle or Constance,
and found some hint of elusive beauty in the vision that still remains
a mystery, even for those who have explored the once trackless snows?

Those who have tried to discover the mediæval attitude have too often
merely generalised from detached expressions of horror. Passages of
praise have been treated as exceptional. The Monk Bremble and the
Bishop Berkeley have had their say, unchallenged by equally good
evidence for the defence. Let us remember that plenty of modern
travellers might show an equally pronounced distaste for mountains.
For the defence, we might quote the words of an old traveller borrowed
in Coryat’s _Crudities_, a book which appeared in 1611: “What, I pray
you, is more pleasant, more delectable, and more acceptable unto a man
than to behold the height of hilles, as it were the very Atlantes of
heauen? to admire Hercules his pillers? to see the mountaines Taurus
and Caucasus? to view the hill Olympus, the seat of Jupiter? to pass
over the Alpes that were broken by Annibals Vinegar? to climb up the
Apennine promontory of Italy? from the hill Ida to behold the rising of
the Sunne before the Sunne appears? to visit Parnassus and Helicon, the
most celebrated seates of the Muses? Neither indeed is there any hill
or hillocke, which doth not containe in it the most sweete memory of
worthy matters.”

There is the genuine ring about this. It is the modern spirit without
the modern affectations. Nor is this case exceptional. In the following
chapter we shall sketch the story of the early Alpine explorers, and we
shall quote many passages instinct with the real love for the hills.

Are we not entitled to believe that Gesner, Marti, and Petrarch are
characteristic of one phase of mediæval sentiment, just as Bremble is
characteristic of another? There is abundant evidence to show that the
habit of visiting and admiring mountain scenery had become fashionable
before the close of the sixteenth century. Simler tells us that
foreigners came from all lands to marvel at the mountains, and excuses
a certain lack of interest among his compatriots on the ground that
they are surfeited with a too close knowledge of the Alps. Marti, of
whom we shall speak at greater length, tells us that he found on the
summit of the Stockhorn the Greek inscription cut in a stone which may
be rendered: “The love of mountains is best.” And then there is the
evidence of art. Conventional criticism of mountain art often revolves
in a circle: “The mediæval man detested mountains, and when he painted
a mountain he did so by way of contrast to set off the beauty of the
plains.” Or again: “Mediæval man only painted mountains as types
of all that is terrible in Nature. Therefore, mediæval man detested
mountains.”

Let us try to approach the work of these early craftsmen with no
preconceived notions as to their sentiments. The canvases still remain
as they were painted. What do they teach us? It is not difficult to
discriminate between those who used mountains to point a contrast, and
those who lingered with devotion on the beauty of the hills. When we
find a man painting mountains loosely and carelessly, we may assume
that he was not over fond of his subject. Jan von Scorel’s grotesque
rocks show nothing but equally grotesque fear. Hans Altdorfer’s
elaborate and careful work proves that he was at least interested in
mountains, and had cleared his mind of conventional terror. Roughly,
we may say that, where the foreground shows good and the mountain
background shows bad workmanship, the artist cared nothing for hills,
and only threw them in by way of gloomy contrast. But such pictures are
not the general rule.

Let us take a very early mountain painting that dates from 1444. It
is something of a shock to find the Salève and Mont Blanc as the
background to a New Testament scene. How is the background used? Konrad
Witz, the painter, has chosen for his theme the miraculous draught of
fishes. If he had borrowed a mountain background for the Temptation,
the Betrayal, the Agony, or the Crucifixion, we might contend that
the mountains were introduced to accentuate the gloom. But there is
no suggestion of fear or sorrow in the peaceful calm that followed
the storm of Calvary. The mountains in the distance are the hills as
we know them. There is no reason to think that they are intended as a
contrast to the restful foreground. Rather, they seem to complete and
round off the happy serenity of the picture.

Let us consider the mountain work of a greater man than Witz. We may be
thankful that Providence created this barrier of hills between the deep
earnestness of the North and the tolerance of Italy, for to this we owe
some of the best mountain-scapes of the Middle Ages. There is romance
in the thought of Albrecht Dürer crossing the Brenner on his way to the
Venetian lagoons that he loved so well. Did Dürer regard this journey
with loathing? Were the great Alps no more than an obstacle on the
road to the coast where the Adriatic breaks “in a warm bay ’mid green
Illyrian hills.” Did he echo the pious cry of that old Monk who could
only pray to be delivered from “this place of torment,” or did he
rather linger with loving memory on the wealth of inspiring suggestion
gathered in those adventurous journeys? Contrast is the essence of Art,
and Dürer was too great a man to miss the rugged appeal of untamed
cliffs, because he could fathom so easily the gentler charm of German
fields and Italian waters. You will find in these mountain woodcuts
the whole essence of the lovable German romance, that peculiar note of
“snugness” due to the contrast of frowning rock and some “gemütlich”
Black Forest châlet. Hans Andersen, though a Dane, caught this note;
and in Dürer’s work there is the same appealing romance that makes
the “Ice Maiden” the most lovable of Alpine stories. One can almost
see Rudy marching gallantly up the long road in Dürer’s “Das Grosse
Glück,” or returning with the eaglets stolen from their perilous nest
in the cliffs that shadow the “Heimsuch.” Those who pretend that
Dürer introduced mountains as a background of gloom have no sense for
atmosphere nor for anything else. For Dürer, the mountains were the
home of old romance.

Turn from Dürer to Da Vinci, and you will find another note. Da Vinci
was, as we shall see, a climber, and this gives the dominant note to
his great study of storm and thunder among the peaks, to be seen at
Windsor Castle. His mountain rambles have given him that feeling
of worship, tempered by awe, which even the Climbers’ Guides have
not banished. But this book is not a treatise on mountain Art--a
fascinating subject; and we must content ourselves with the statement
that painters of all ages have found in the mountains the love which is
more powerful than fear. Those who doubt this may examine at leisure
the mountain work of Brueghel, Titian, or Mantegna. There are many
other witnesses. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Hans Leu
had looked upon the hills and found them good, and Altdorfer had shown
not only a passionate enthusiasm for mountains, but a knowledge of
their anatomy far ahead of his age. Wolf Huber, ten years his junior,
carried on the torch, and passed it to Lautensack, who recaptured the
peculiar note of German romance of which Dürer is the first and the
greatest apostle. It would be easy to trace the apostolic succession
to Segantini, and to prove that he is the heir to a tradition nearly
six hundred years old. But enough has been said. We have adduced a few
instances which bear upon the contention that, just as the mountains of
the Middle Ages were much the same as the mountains of to-day, so also
among the men of those times, as among the men of to-day, there were
those who hated and those who loved the heights. No doubt the lovers of
mountain scenery were in the minority; but they existed in far larger
numbers than is sometimes supposed.



CHAPTER II

THE PIONEERS


Within the compass of this book, we cannot narrate the history of
Alpine passes, though the subject is intensely interesting, but we must
not omit all mention of the great classic traverse of the Alps. We
should read of Hannibal’s memorable journey not in Livy, nor even in
Bohn, but in that vigorous sixteenth-century translation which owes its
charm and force even more to Philemon Holland the translator than to
Livy.

Livy, or rather Holland, begins with Hannibal’s sentiments on “seeing
near at hand the height of those hills ... the horses singed with cold
... the people with long shagd haire.” Hannibal and his army were much
depressed, but, none the less, they advanced under a fierce guerilla
attack from the natives, who “slipt away at night, every one to his
owne harbour.” Then follows a fine description of the difficulties of
the pass. The poor elephants “were ever readie and anone to run upon
their noses”--a phrase which evokes a tremendous picture--“and the
snow being once with the gate of so many people and beasts upon it
fretted and thawed, they were fain to go upon the bare yce underneeth
and in the slabberie snow-broth as it relented and melted about their
heeles.” A great rock hindered the descent; Hannibal set it on fire
and “powred thereon strong vinegar for to calcine and dissolve it,”
a device unknown to modern mountaineers. The passage ends with a
delightful picture of the army’s relief on reaching “the dales and
lower grounds which have some little banks lying to the sunne, and
rivers withall neere unto the woods, yea and places more meet and
beseeming for men to inhabit.” Experts are divided as to what pass was
actually crossed by Hannibal. Even the Col de Géant has been suggested
by a romantic critic; it is certainly stimulating to picture Hannibal’s
elephants in the Géant ice-fall. Probably the Little St. Bernard, or
the Mont Genèvre, is the most plausible solution. So much for the great
traverse.

Some twenty-five glacier passes had been actually crossed before the
close of the sixteenth century, a fact which bears out our contention
that in the Middle Ages a good deal more was known about the craft of
mountaineering than is generally supposed. There is, however, this
distinctive difference between passes and peaks. A man may cross a pass
because it is the most convenient route from one valley to another.
He may cross it though he is thoroughly unhappy until he reaches his
destination, and it would be just as plausible to argue from his
journey a love of mountains as to deduce a passion for the sea in every
sea-sick traveller across the Channel. But a man will not climb a
mountain unless he derives some interest from the actual ascent. Passes
may be crossed in the way of business. Mountains will only be climbed
for the joy of the climb.

The Roche Melon, near Susa, was the first Alpine peak of any
consequence to be climbed. This mountain rises to a height of 11,600
feet. It was long believed to be the highest mountain in Savoy. On one
side there is a small glacier; but the climb can be effected without
crossing snow. It was climbed during the Dark Ages by a knight, Rotario
of Asti, who deposited a bronze tryptych on the summit where a chapel
still remains. Once a year the tryptych is carried to the summit, and
Mass is heard in the chapel. There is a description of an attempt on
this peak in the Chronicle of Novalessa, which dates back to the first
half of the eleventh century. King Romulus is said to have deposited
treasure on the mountain. The whole Alpine history of this peak is
vague, but it is certain that the peak was climbed at a very early
period, and that a chapel was erected on the summit before Villamont’s
ascent in 1588. The climb presents no difficulties, but it was found
discreet to remove the statue of the Virgin, as pilgrims seem to have
lost their lives in attempting to reach it. The pilgrimages did not
cease even after the statue had been placed in Susa.

[Illustration:

  Bartholomew, Edin
]

Another early ascent must be recorded, though the climb was a very
modest achievement. Mont Ventoux, in Provence, is only some 6430 feet
above the sea, and to-day there is an hôtel on the summit. None the
less, it deserves a niche in Alpine history, for its ascent is coupled
with the great name of the poet Petrarch. Mr. Gribble calls Petrarch
the first of the sentimental mountaineers. Certainly, he was one of the
first mountaineers whose recorded sentiments are very much ahead of his
age. The ascent took place on April 26, 1335, and Petrarch described it
in a letter written to his confessor. He confesses that he cherished
for years the ambition to ascend Mont Ventoux, and seized the first
chance of a companion to carry through this undertaking. He makes the
customary statement as to the extreme difficulty of the ascent, and
introduces a shepherd who warns him from the undertaking. There are
some very human touches in the story of the climb. While his brother
was seeking short cuts, Petrarch tried to advance on more level ground,
an excuse for his laziness which cost him dear, for the others had made
considerable progress while he was still wandering in the gullies of
the mountain. He began to find, like many modern mountaineers, that
“human ingenuity was not a match for the nature of things, and that it
was impossible to gain heights by moving downwards.” He successfully
completed the ascent, and the climb filled him with enthusiasm. The
reader should study the fine translation of his letter by Mr. Reeve,
quoted in _The Early Mountaineers_. Petrarch caught the romance of
heights. The spirit that breathes through every line of his letter is
worthy of the poet.

Petrarch is not the only great name that links the Renaissance to the
birth of mountaineering. That versatile genius, Leonardo da Vinci,
carried his scientific explorations into the mountains. We have already
mentioned his great picture of storm and thunder among the hills, one
of the few mementos that have survived from his Alpine journeys. His
journey took place towards the end of the fifteenth century. Little is
known of it, though the following passage from his works has provoked
much comment. The translation is due to Mrs. Bell: “And this may be
seen, as I saw it, by any one going up Monboso, a peak of the Alps
which divide France from Italy. The base of this mountain gives birth
to the four rivers which flow in four different directions through the
whole of Europe. And no mountain has its base at so great a height as
this, which lifts itself above almost all the clouds; and snow seldom
falls there, but only hail in the summer when the clouds are highest.
And this hail lies (unmelted) there, so that, if it were not for the
absorption of the rising and falling clouds, which does not happen
more than twice in an age, an enormous mass of ice would be piled up
there by the layers of hail; and in the middle of July I found it very
considerable, and I saw the sky above me quite dark; and the sun as it
fell on the mountain was far brighter here than in the plains below,
because a smaller extent of atmosphere lay between the summit of the
mountain and the sun.”

We need not summarise the arguments that identify Monboso either with
Monte Rosa or Monte Viso. The weight of evidence inclines to the former
alternative, though, of course, nobody supposes that Da Vinci actually
reached the summit of Monte Rosa. There is good ground, however, for
believing that he explored the lower slopes; and it is just possible
that he may have got as far as the rocks above the Col d’Ollen, where,
according to Mr. Freshfield, the inscription “A.T.M., 1615” has been
found cut into the crags at a height of 10,000 feet. In this connection
it is interesting to note that the name “Monboso” has been found in
place of Monte Rosa in maps, as late as 1740.[1]

We now come to the first undisputed ascent of a mountain, still
considered a difficult rock climb. The year that saw the discovery of
America is a great date in the history of mountaineering. In 1492,
Charles VII of France passed through Dauphiny, and was much impressed
by the appearance of Mont Aiguille, a rocky peak near Grenoble that
was then called Mont Inaccessible. This mountain is only some seven
thousand feet in height; but it is a genuine rock climb, and is still
considered difficult, so much so that the French Alpine Club have paid
it the doubtful compliment of iron cables in the more sensational
passages. Charles VII was struck by the appearance of the mountain,
and ordered his Chamberlain de Beaupré to make the ascent. Beaupré, by
the aid of “subtle means and engines,” scaled the peak, had Mass said
on the top, and caused three crosses to be erected on the summit. It
was a remarkable ascent, and was not repeated till 1834.

We are not concerned with exploration beyond the Alps, and we have
therefore omitted Peter III’s attempt on Pic Canigou in the Pyrenees,
and the attempt on the Pic du Midi in 1588; but we cannot on the ground
of irrelevance pass over a remarkable ascent in 1521. Cortez is our
authority. Under his order, a band of Spaniards ascended Popocatapetl,
a Mexican volcano which reaches the respectable height of 17,850 feet.
These daring climbers brought back quantities of sulphur which the army
needed for its gunpowder.

The Stockhorn is a modest peak some seven thousand feet in height.
Simler tells us that its ascent was a commonplace achievement.
Marti, as we have seen in the previous chapter, found numberless
inscriptions cut into the summit stones by visitors, enthusiastic in
their appreciation of mountain scenery, and its ascent by Müller, a
Berne professor, in 1536, is only remarkable for the joyous poem in
hexameters which records his delight in all the accompaniments of
a mountain expedition. Müller has the true feelings for the simpler
pleasures of picnicing on the heights. Everything delights him, from
the humble fare washed down with a draught from a mountain stream,
to the primitive joy of hurling big rocks down a mountain side. The
last confession endears him to all who have practised this simple, if
dangerous, amusement.

The early history of Pilatus, another low-lying mountain, is much more
eventful than the annals of the Stockhorn. It is closely bound up with
the Pilate legend, which was firmly believed till a Lucerne pastor gave
it the final quietus in 1585. Pontius Pilate, according to this story,
was condemned by the Emperor Tiberius, who decreed that he should be
put to death in the most shameful possible manner. Hearing this, Pilate
very sensibly committed suicide. Tiberius concealed his chagrin, and
philosophically remarked that a man whose own hand had not spared him
had most certainly died the most shameful of deaths. Pilate’s body
was attached to a stone and flung into the Tiber, where it caused a
succession of terrible storms. The Romans decided to remove it, and the
body was conveyed to Vienne as a mark of contempt for the people of
that place. It was flung into the Rhone, and did its best to maintain
its reputation. We need not follow this troublesome corpse through
its subsequent wanderings. It was finally hurled into a little marshy
lake, near the summit of Pilatus. Here Pilate’s behaviour was tolerable
enough, though he resented indiscriminate stone-throwing into the lake
by evoking terrible storms, and once a year he escaped from the waters,
and sat clothed in a scarlet robe on a rock near by. Anybody luckless
enough to see him on these occasions died within the twelve-month.

So much for the story, which was firmly believed by the good citizens
of Lucerne. Access to the lake was forbidden, unless the visitor was
accompanied by a respectable burgher, pledged to veto any practices
that Pilate might construe as a slight. In 1307, six clergymen were
imprisoned for having attempted an ascent without observing the local
regulations. It is even said that climbers were occasionally put to
death for breaking these stringent by-laws. None the less, ascents
occasionally took place. Duke Ulrich of Württemberg climbed the
mountain in 1518, and a professor of Vienna, by name Joachim von Watt,
ascended the mountain in order to investigate the legend, which he
seems to have believed after a show of doubt. Finally, in 1585, Pastor
John Müller of Lucerne, accompanied by a few courageous sceptics,
visited the lake. In their presence, he threw stones into the haunted
lake, and shouted “Pilate wirf aus dein Kath.” As his taunts produced
no effect, judgment was given by default, and the legend, which had
sent earlier sceptics into gaol, was laughed out of existence.

Thirty years before this defiant demonstration, the mountain had been
ascended by the most remarkable of the early mountaineers. Conrad
Gesner was a professor at the ancient University of Zürich. Though not
the first to make climbing a regular practice, he was the pioneer of
mountain literature. He never encountered serious difficulties. His
mountaineering was confined to those lower heights which provide the
modern with a training walk. But he had the authentic outlook of the
mountaineer. His love for mountains was more genuine than that of many
a modern wielder of the ice-axe and rope. A letter has been preserved,
in which he records his resolution “to climb mountains, or at all
events to climb one mountain every year.”

We have no detailed record of his climbs, but luckily his account of an
ascent of Pilatus still survives, a most sincere tribute to the simple
pleasures of the heights. It is a relief to turn to it after wading
through more recent Alpine literature. Gesner’s writing is subjective.
It records the impress of simple emotions on an unsophisticated
mind. He finds a naïve joy in all the elemental things that make up
a mountain walk, the cool breezes plying on heated limbs, the sun’s
genial warmth, the contrasts of outline, colour, and height, the
unending variety, so that “in one day you wander through the four
seasons of the year, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.” He explains
that every sense is delighted, the sense of hearing is gratified by the
witty conversation of friends, “by the songs of the birds, and even
by the stillness of the waste.” He adds, in a very modern note, that
the mountaineer is freed from the noisy tumult of the city, and that
in the “profound abiding silence one catches echoes of the harmony of
celestial spheres.” There is more in the same key. He anticipates the
most enduring reward of the mountaineer, and his words might serve
as the motto for a mountain book of to-day: “Jucundum erit postea
meminisse laborum atque periculorum, juvabit hæc animo revolvere et
narrare amicis.” Toil and danger are sweet to recall, every mountaineer
loves “to revolve these in his mind and to tell them to his friends.”
Moreover, contrast is the essence of our enjoyment and “the very
delight of rest is intensified when it follows hard labour.” And then
Gesner turns with a burst of scorn to his imaginary opponent. “But, say
you, we lack feather beds and mattresses and pillows. Oh, frail and
effeminate man! Hay shall take the place of these luxuries. It is soft,
it is fragrant. It is blended from healthy grass and flower, and as you
sleep respiration will be sweeter and healthier than ever. Your pillow
shall be of hay. Your mattress shall be of hay. A blanket of hay shall
be thrown across your body.” That is the kind of thing an enthusiastic
mountaineer might have written about the club-huts in the old days
before the hay gave place to mattresses. Nor does Gesner spoil his
rhapsody by the inevitable joke about certain denizens of the hay.

There follows an eloquent description of the ascent and an analysis
of the Pilate legend. Thirty years were to pass before Pastor Müller
finally disposed of the myth, but Gesner is clearly sceptical, and
concludes with the robust assertion that, even if evil spirits
exist, they are “impotent to harm the faithful who worship the one
heavenly light, and Christ the Sun of Justice.” A bold challenge to
the superstitions of the age, a challenge worthy of the man. Conrad
Gesner was born out of due season; and, though he does not seem to
have crossed the snow line, he was a mountaineer in the best sense of
the term. As we read his work, we seem to hear the voice of a friend.
Across the years we catch the accents of a true member of our great
fraternity. We leave him with regret, with a wish that we could meet
him on some mountain path, and gossip for a while on mountains and
mountaineers.

But Gesner was not, as is sometimes assumed, alone in this sentiment
for the hills. In the first chapter we have spoken of Marti, a
professor at Berne, and a close friend of Gesner. The credit for
discovering him belongs, I think, to Mr. Freshfield, who quotes some
fine passages from Marti’s writings. Marti looks out from the terrace
at Berne on that prospect which no true mountain lover can behold
without emotion, and exclaims: “These are the mountains which form our
pleasure and delight when we gaze at them from the highest parts of
our city, and admire their mighty peaks and broken crags that threaten
to fall at any moment. Who, then, would not admire, love, willingly
visit, explore, and climb places of this sort? I should assuredly call
those who are not attracted by them dolts, stupid dull fishes, and slow
tortoises.... I am never happier than on the mountain crests, and
there are no wanderings dearer to one than those on the mountains.”

This passage tends to prove that mountain appreciation had already
become a commonplace with cultured men. Had Marti’s views been
exceptional, he would have assumed a certain air of defence. He would
explain precisely why he found pleasure in such unexpected places. He
would attempt to justify his paradoxical position. Instead, he boldly
assumes that every right-minded man loves mountains; and he confounds
his opponents by a vigorous choice of unpleasant alternatives.

Josias Simler was a mountaineer of a very different type. To him
belongs the credit of compiling the first treatise on the art of Alpine
travel. Though he introduces no personal reminiscences, his work is so
free from current superstition that he must have been something of a
climber; but, though a climber, he did not share Gesner’s enthusiasm
for the hills. For, though he seems to have crossed glacier passes,
whereas Gesner confined himself to the lower mountains, yet the note
of enthusiasm is lacking. His horror of narrow paths, bordering on
precipices, is typical of the age; and if he ventured across a pass he
must have done so in the way of business. There is, as we have already
pointed out, a marked difference between passes and mountains. A
merchant with a holy horror of mountains may be forced to cross a pass
in the way of business, but a man will only climb a mountain for the
fun of the thing. It is clear that Simler could only see in mountains
a sense of inconvenient barriers to commerce, but as a practical man
he set out to codify the existing knowledge. Gesner’s mountain work
is subjective; it is the literature of emotion; he is less concerned
with the mountain in itself, than with the mountain as it strikes the
individual observer. Simler, on the other hand, is the forerunner of
the objective school. He must delight those who postulate that all
Alpine literature should be the record of positive facts. The personal
note is utterly lacking. Like Gesner, he was a professor at Zürich.
Unlike Gesner, he was an embodiment of the academic tradition that is
more concerned with fact than with emotion. None the less, his work
was a very valuable contribution, as it summarised existing knowledge
on the art of mountain travel. His information is singularly free from
error. He seems to have understood the use of the rope, alpenstocks,
crampons, dark spectacles, and the use of paper as a protection
against cold. It is strange that crampons, which were used in Simler’s
days, were only reintroduced into general practice within the last
decades, whilst the uncanny warmth of paper is still unknown to many
mountaineers. His description of glacier perils, due to concealed
crevasses, is accurate, and his analysis of avalanches contains much
that is true. We are left with the conviction that snow- and ice-craft
is an old science, though originally applied by merchants rather than
pure explorers.

We quoted Simler, in the first chapter, in support of our contention
that foreigners came in great numbers to see and rejoice in the beauty
of the Alps. But, though Simler proves that passes were often crossed
in the way of business, and that mountains were often visited in search
of beauty, he himself was no mountain lover.

It is a relief to turn to Scheuchzer, who is a living personality. Like
Gesner and Simler, he was a professor at Zürich, and, like them, he
was interested in mountains. There the resemblance ceases. He had none
of Gesner’s fine sentiment for the hills. He did not share Simler’s
passion for scientific knowledge. He was a very poor mountaineer, and,
though he trudged up a few hills, he heartily disliked the toil of
the ascent: “Anhelosæ quidem sunt scansiones montium”--an honest, but
scarcely inspiring, comment on mountain travel. Honesty, bordering on
the naïve, is, indeed, the keynote of our good professor’s confessions.
Since his time, many ascents have failed for the same causes that
prevented Scheuchzer reaching the summit of Pilatus, but few
mountaineers are candid enough to attribute their failure to “bodily
weariness and the distance still to be accomplished.” Scheuchzer must
be given credit for being, in many ways, ahead of his age. He protested
vigorously against the cruel punishments in force against witches. He
was the first to formulate a theory of glacier motion which, though
erroneous, was by no means absurd. As a scientist, he did good work
in popularising Newton’s theories. He published the first map of
Switzerland with any claims to accuracy. His greatest scientific work
on dragons is dedicated to the English Royal Society, and though
Scheuchzer’s dragons provoke a smile, we should remember that several
members of that learned society subscribed to publish his researches on
those fabulous creatures.

With his odd mixture of credulity and common sense, Scheuchzer often
recalls another genial historian of vulgar errors. Like Sir Thomas
Browne, he could never dismiss a picturesque legend without a pang. He
gives the more blatant absurdities their quietus with the same gentle
and reluctant touch: “That the sea is the sweat of the earth, that the
serpent before the fall went erect like man ... being neither consonant
unto reason nor corresponding unto experiment, are unto us no axioms.”
Thus Browne, and it is with the same tearful and chastened scepticism
that Scheuchzer parts with the more outrageous “axioms” in his
wonderful collection. But he retained enough to make his work amusing.
Like Browne, he made it a rule to believe half that he was told. But on
the subject of dragons he has no mental reservations. Their existence
is proved by the number of caves that are admirably suited to the needs
of the domestic dragon, and by the fact that the Museum, at Lucerne,
contains an undoubted dragon stone. Such stones are rare, which is
not surprising owing to the extreme difficulty of obtaining a genuine
unimpaired specimen. You must first catch your dragon asleep, and then
cut the stone out of his head. Should the dragon awake the value of the
stone will disappear. Scheuchzer refrains from discouraging collectors
by hinting at even more unpleasant possibilities. But then there is no
need to awaken the dragon. Scatter soporific herbs around him, and help
them out by recognised incantations, and the stone should be removed
without arousing the dragon. In spite of these anæsthetics, Scheuchzer
admits that the process demands a courageous and skilled operator, and
perhaps it is lucky that this particular stone was casually dropped
by a passing dragon. It is obviously genuine, for, if the peasant
who had picked it up had been dishonest, he would never have hit on
so obvious and unimaginative a tale. He would have told some really
striking story, such as that the stone had come from the far Indies.
Besides, the stone not only cures hæmorrhages (quite commonplace stones
will cure hæmorrhages), but also dysentery and plague. As to dragons,
Scheuchzer is even more convincing. He has examined (on oath) scores of
witnesses who had observed dragons at first hand. We need not linger
to cross-examine these honest folk. Their dragons are highly coloured,
and lack nothing but uniformity. Each new dragon that flies into
Scheuchzer’s net is gravely classified. Some dragons have feet, others
have wings. Some have scales. Scheuchzer is a little puzzled whether
dragons with a crest constitute a class of their own, or whether the
crest distinguished the male from the female. Each dragon is thus
neatly ticketed into place and referred to the sworn deposition of some
_vir quidam probus_.

But the dragons had had their day. Scheuchzer ushers in the eighteenth
century. Let us take leave of him with a friendly smile. He is no
abstraction, but a very human soul. We forget the scientist, though
his more serious discoveries were not without value. We remember only
the worthy professor, panting up his laborious hills in search of
quaint knowledge, discovering with simple joy that Gemmi is derived
from “gemitus” a groan, _quod non nisi crebris gemitibus superetur_.
No doubt the needy fraternity soon discovered his amiable weakness.
An unending procession must have found their way to his door, only
too anxious to supply him with dragons of wonderful and fearful
construction. Hence, the infinite variety of these creatures. When
we think of Scheuchzer, we somehow picture the poor old gentleman,
laboriously rearranging his data, on the sworn deposition of some
_clarissimus homo_, what time the latter was bartering in the nearest
tavern the price of a dragon for that good cheer in which most of
Scheuchzer’s fauna first saw the light of day.



CHAPTER III

THE OPENING UP OF THE ALPS


The climbs, so far chronicled, have been modest achievements and do not
include a genuine snow-peak, for the Roche Melon has permanent snow
on one side only. We have seen that many snow passes were in regular
use from the earliest times; but genuine Alpine climbing may be said
to begin with the ascent of the Titlis. According to Mr. Gribble, this
was climbed by a monk of Engleberg, in 1739. Mr. Coolidge, on the other
hand, states that it was ascended by four peasants, in 1744. In any
case, the ascent was an isolated feat which gave no direct stimulus to
Alpine climbing, and Mr. Gribble is correct in dating the continuous
history of Alpine climbing from the discovery of Chamounix, in 1741.
This famous valley had, of course, a history of its own before that
date; but its existence was only made known, to a wider world, by
the visit of a group of young Englishmen, towards the middle of the
eighteenth century.

In 1741, Geneva was enlivened by a vigorous colony of young Britons.
Of these, William Windham was a famous athlete, known on his return
to London as “Boxing Windham.” While at Geneva, he seems, despite the
presence of his “respectable perceptor,” Mr. Benjamin Stillingfleet,
the grandson of the theologian, to have amused himself pretty
thoroughly. The archives record that he was fined for assault and
kindred offences. When these simple joys began to pall he decided to go
to Chamounix in search of adventure.

His party consisted of himself, Lord Haddington, Dr. Pococke, the
Oriental traveller, and others. They visited Chamounix, and climbed
the Montanvert with a large brigade of guides. The ascent to the
Montanvert was not quite so simple as it is to-day, a fact which
accounts for Windham’s highly coloured description. Windham published
his account of the journey and his reflections on glaciers, in the
_Journal Helvetique_ of Neuchâtel, and later in London. It attracted
considerable attention and focussed the eyes of the curious on the
unknown valley of Chamounix. Among others, Peter Martel, an engineer
of Geneva, was inspired to repeat the visit. Like Windham, he climbed
the Montanvert and descended on to the Mer de Glace; and, like Windham,
he published an account of the journey and certain reflections on
glaciers and glacier motion. His story is well worth reading, and the
curious in such matters should turn either to Mr. Gribble’s _Early
Mountaineers_, or to Mr. Matthews’ _The Annals of Mont Blanc_, where
they will find Windham’s and Martel’s letters set forth in full.

Martel’s letter and his map of Chamounix were printed together with
Windham’s narrative, and were largely responsible for popularising
Chamounix. Those who wished to earn a reputation for enterprise could
hardly do so without a visit to the glaciers of Chamounix. Dr. John
Moore, father of Sir John Moore, who accompanied the Duke of Hamilton
on the grand tour, tells us that “one could hardly mention anything
curious or singular without being told by some of those travellers,
with an air of cool contempt: ‘Dear Sir, that is pretty well, but take
my word for it, it is nothing to the glaciers of Savoy.’” The Duc de la
Rochefoucauld considered that the honour of his nation demanded that he
should visit the glaciers, to prove that the English were not alone in
the possession of courage.

More important, in this connection, than Dr. Moore or the duke is the
great name of De Saussure. De Saussure belonged to an old French family
that had been driven out of France during the Huguenot persecutions.
They emigrated to Geneva, where De Saussure was born. His mother had
Spartan views on education; and from his earlier years the child was
taught to suffer the privations due to physical ills and the inclemency
of the season. As a result of this adventurous training, De Saussure
was irresistibly drawn to the mountains. He visited Chamounix in
1760, and was immediately struck by the possibility of ascending Mont
Blanc. He does not seem to have cherished any ambition to make the
first ascent in person. He was content to follow when once the way
had been found; and he offered a reward to the pioneer, and promised
to recompense any peasant who should lose a day’s work in trying to
find the way to the summit of Mont Blanc. The reward was not claimed
for many years, but, meanwhile, De Saussure never missed a chance of
climbing a mountain. He climbed Ætna, and made a series of excursions
in various parts of the Alps. When his wife complained, he indited a
robust letter which every married mountaineer should keep up his sleeve
for ready quotation.

“In this valley, which I had not previously visited,” he writes,
“I have made observations of the greatest importance, surpassing
my highest hopes; but that is not what you care about. You would
sooner--God forgive me for saying so--see me growing fat like a friar,
and snoring every day in the chimney corner, after a big dinner, than
that I should achieve immortal fame by the most sublime discoveries
at the cost of reducing my weight by a few ounces and spending a few
weeks away from you. If, then, I continue to take these journeys, in
spite of the annoyance they cause you, the reason is that I feel myself
pledged in honour to go on with them, and that I think it necessary
to extend my knowledge on this subject and make my works as nearly
perfect as possible. I say to myself: ‘Just as an officer goes out to
assault a fortress when the order is given, and just as a merchant goes
to market on market-day, so must I go to the mountains when there are
observations to be made.’”

De Saussure was partly responsible for the great renaissance of
mountain travel that began at Geneva in 1760. A group of enthusiastic
mountaineers instituted a series of determined assaults on the
unconquered snows. Of these, one of the most remarkable was Jean-Andre
de Luc.

De Luc was born at Geneva, in 1727. His father was a watchmaker, but De
Luc’s life was cast on more ambitious lines. He began as a diplomatist,
but gravitated insensibly to science. He invented the hygrometer, and
was elected a member of the Royal Societies of London, Dublin, and
Göttingen. Charlotte, the wife of George III, appointed him her reader;
and he died at Windsor, having attained the ripe age of ninety. He was
a scientific, rather than a sentimental, mountaineer; his principal
occupation was to discover the temperature at which water would boil at
various altitudes. His chief claim to notice is that he made the first
ascent of the Buet.

The Buet is familiar to all who know Chamounix. It rises to the height
of 10,291 feet. Its summit is a broad plateau, glacier-capped. Those
who have travelled to Italy by the Simplon may, perhaps, recall the
broad-topped mountain that seems to block up the western end of the
Rhone valley, for the Buet is a conspicuous feature on the line,
between Sion and Brigue. It is not a difficult mountain, in the modern
sense of the term; but, to climbers who knew little of the nature of
snow and glacier, it must have presented quite a formidable appearance.
De Luc made several attempts before he was finally successful on
September 22, 1770. His description of the view from the summit is a
fine piece of writing. Familiarity had not staled the glory of such
moments; and men might still write, as they felt, without fear that
their readers would be bored by emotions that had lost their novelty.

Before leaving, De Luc observed that the party were standing on
a cornice. A cornice is a crest of windblown snow overhanging a
precipice. As the crest often appears perfectly continuous with the
snow on solid foundation, cornices have been responsible for many
fatal accidents. De Luc’s party naturally beat a hurried retreat; but
“having gathered, by reflection, that the addition of our own weight
to this prodigious mass which had supported itself for ages counted
for absolutely nothing, and could not possibly break it loose, we
laid aside our fears and went back to the terrible terrace.” A little
science is a dangerous thing; and it was a mere chance that the first
ascent of the Buet is not notorious for a terrible accident. It makes
one’s blood run cold to read of the calm contempt with which De Luc
treated the cornice. Each member of the party took it in turn to
advance to the edge and look over on to the cliff below supported as to
his coattails by the rest of the party.

De Luc made a second ascent of the Buet, two years later; but it was
not until 1779 that a snow peak was again conquered. In that year
Murith, the Prior of the St. Bernard Hospice, climbed the Velan,
the broad-topped peak which is so conspicuous a feature from the St.
Bernard. It is a very respectable mountain rising to a height of
12,353 feet. Murith, besides being an ecclesiastic, was something of
a scientist, and his botanical handbook to the Valais is not without
merit. It is to Bourrit, of whom we shall speak later, that we owe the
written account of the climb, based on information which Bourrit had at
first hand from M. Murith.

Murith started on August 30, 1779, with “two hardy hunters,” two
thermometers, a barometer, and a spirit-level. They slept a night on
the way, and proceeded to attack the mountain from the Glacier du
Proz. The hardy hunters lost their nerve, and tried to dissuade M.
Murith from the attempt; but the gallant Prior replied: “Fear nothing;
wherever there is danger I will go in front.” They encountered numerous
difficulties, amongst others a wall of ice which Murith climbed by
hacking steps and hand-holds with a pointed hammer. One of the hardy
huntsmen then followed; his companion had long since disappeared.

They reached the summit without further difficulty, and their
impressions of the view are recorded by Bourrit in an eloquent passage
which recalls De Luc on the Buet, and once more proves that the early
mountaineers were fully alive to the glory of mountain tops--

    “A spectacle, no less amazing than magnificent, offered itself to
    their gaze. The sky seemed to be a black cloth enveloping the earth
    at a distance from it. The sun shining in it made its darkness all
    the more conspicuous. Down below their outlook extended over an
    enormous area, bristling with rocky peaks and cut by dark valleys.
    Mont Blanc rose like a sloping pyramid and its lofty head appeared
    to dominate all the Alps as one saw it towering above them. An
    imposing stillness, a majestic silence, produced an indescribable
    impression upon the mind. The noise of the avalanches, reiterated
    by the echoes, seemed to be the only thing that marked the march
    of time. Raised, so to say, above the head of Nature, they saw the
    mountains split asunder, and send the fragments rolling to their
    feet, and the rivers rising below them in places where inactive
    Nature seemed upon the point of death--though in truth it is there
    that she gathers strength to carry life and fertility throughout
    the world.”

It is curious in this connection to notice the part played by the
Church in the early history of mountaineering. This is not surprising.
The local curé lived in the shadow of the great peaks that dominated
his valley. He was more cultured than the peasants of his parish; he
was more alive to the spiritual appeal of the high places, and he
naturally took a leading part in the assaults on his native mountains.
The Titlis and Monte Leone were first climbed by local monks. The
prior of the St. Bernard made, as we have seen, a remarkable conquest
of a great local peak; and five years later M. Clément, the curé of
Champery, reached the summit of the Dent du Midi, that great battlement
of rock which forms a background to the eastern end of Lake Geneva.
Bourrit, as we shall see, was an ecclesiastic with a great love for the
snows. Father Placidus à Spescha was the pioneer of the Tödi; and local
priests played their part in the early attempts on the Matterhorn from
Italy. “One man, one mountain” was the rule of many an early pioneer;
but Murith’s love of the snows was not exhausted by this ascent of the
Velan. He had already explored the Valsorey glacier with Saussure, and
the Otemma glacier with Bourrit. A few years after his conquest of the
Velan he turned his attention to the fine wall of cliffs that binds in
the Orny glacier on the south.

Bourrit, who wrote up Murith’s notes on the Velan, was one of the
most remarkable of this group of pioneers. He was a whole-hearted
enthusiast, and the first man who devoted the most active years of
his life to mountaineering. He wins our affection by the readiness
with which he gave others due credit for their achievements, a
generous characteristic which did not, however, survive the supreme
test--Paccard’s triumph on Mont Blanc. Mountaineers at the end of the
eighteenth century formed a close freemasonry less concerned with
individual achievement than with the furthering of common knowledge.
We have seen, for instance, that De Saussure cared little who made the
first ascent of Mont Blanc provided that the way was opened up for
future explorers. Bourrit’s actual record of achievement was small. His
exploration was attended with little success. His best performance was
the discovery, or rediscovery of the Col de Géant. His great ambition,
the ascent of Mont Blanc, failed. Fatigue, or mountain sickness, or
bad weather, spoiled his more ambitious climbs. But this matters
little. He found his niche in Alpine history rather as a writer than
as a mountaineer. He popularised the Alps. He was the first systematic
writer of Alpine books, a fact which earned him the title, “Historian
of the Alps,” a title of which he was inordinately proud. Best of all,
in an age when mountain appreciation was somewhat rare, he marked
himself out by an unbounded enthusiasm for the hills.

He was born in 1735, and in one of his memoirs he describes the moment
when he first heard the call of the Alps: “It was from the summit of
the Voirons that the view of the Alps kindled my desire to become
acquainted with them. No one could give me any information about
them except that they were the accursed mountains, frightful to look
upon and uninhabited.” Bourrit began life as a miniature painter.
A good many of his Alpine water colours have survived. Though they
cannot challenge serious comparison with the mountain masterpieces
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, they are not without a
certain merit. But Bourrit would not have become famous had he not
deserted the brush for the pen. When the Alps claimed him, he gave
up miniatures, and accepted an appointment as Precentor of Geneva
Cathedral, a position which allowed him great leisure for climbing.
He used to climb in the summer, and write up his journeys in the
winter. He soon compiled a formidable list of books, and was hailed
throughout Europe as the Historian of the Alps. There was no absurd
modesty about Bourrit. He accepted the position with serene dignity.
His house, he tells us, is “embellished with beautiful acacias, planned
for the comfort and convenience of strangers who do not wish to leave
Geneva without visiting the Historian of the Alps.” He tells us that
Prince Henry of Prussia, acting on the advice of Frederick the Great,
honoured him with a visit. Bourrit, in fact, received recognition in
many distinguished quarters. The Princess Louise of Prussia sent him
an engraving to recall “a woman whom you have to some extent taught
to share your lofty sentiments.” Bourrit was always popular with the
ladies, and no climber has shown a more generous appreciation for the
sex. “The sex is very beautiful here,” became, as Mr. Gribble tells us,
“a formula with him as soon as he began writing and continued a formula
after he had passed his threescore years and ten.”

We have said that Bourrit’s actual record as a climber is rather
disappointing. We may forget this, and remember only his whole-hearted
devotion to the mountains. Even Gesner, Petrarch, and Marti seem
balanced and cold when they set their tributes besides Bourrit’s large
enthusiasm. Bourrit did not carry a barometer with him on his travels.
He did not feel the need to justify his wanderings by collecting a
mass of scientific data. Nor did he assume that a mountain tour should
be written up as a mere guide-book record of times and route. He is
supremely concerned with the ennobling effect of mountain scenery on
the human mind.

“At Chamounix,” he writes, “I have seen persons of every party in the
state, who imagined that they loathed each other, nevertheless treating
one another with courtesy, and even walking together. Returning to
Geneva, and encountering the reproaches of their various friends,
they merely answered in their defence, ‘Go, as we have gone, to the
Montanvert, and take our share of the pure air that is to be breathed
there; look thence at the unfamiliar beauties of Nature; contemplate
from that terrace the greatness of natural objects and the littleness
of man; and you will no longer be astonished that Nature has enabled us
to subdue our passions.’ It is, in fact, the mountains that many men
have to thank for their reconciliation with their fellows, and with
the human race; and it is there that the rulers of the world and the
heads of the nations ought to hold their meetings. Raised thus above
the arena of passions and petty interests, and placed more immediately
under the influence of Divine inspiration, one would see them descend
from these mountains, each like a new Moses bringing with them codes
of law based upon equity and justice.”

This is fine writing with a vengeance, just as Ruskin’s greatest
passages are fine writing. Before we take our leave of Bourrit, let
us see the precentor of the cathedral exhorting a company of guides
with sacerdotal dignity. One is irresistibly reminded of Japan, where
mountaineering and sacrificial rites go hand in hand--

    “The Historian of the Alps, in rendering them this justice in the
    presence of a great throng of people, seized the opportunity of
    exhorting the new guides to observe the virtues proper to their
    state in life. ‘Put yourselves,’ he said to them, ‘in the place
    of the strangers, who come from the most distant lands to admire
    the marvels of Nature under these wild and savage aspects; and
    justify the confidence which they repose in you. You have learnt
    the great part which these magnificent objects of our contemplation
    play in the organisation of the world; and, in pointing out their
    various phenomena to their astonished eyes, you will rejoice to see
    people raise their thoughts to the omnipotence of the Great Being
    who created them.’ The speaker was profoundly moved by the ideas
    with which the subject inspired him, and it was impossible for his
    listeners not to share in his emotion.”

Let us remember that Bourrit put his doctrine into practice. He has
told us that he found men of diverse creeds reconciled beneath the
shadow of Mont Blanc. Bourrit himself was a mountaineer first, and an
ecclesiastic second. Perhaps he was no worse as a Protestant precentor
because the mountains had taught him their eternal lessons of tolerance
and serene indifference to the petty issues which loom so large beneath
the shadow of the cathedral. Catholic or Protestant it was all the same
to our good precentor, provided the man loved the hills. Prior Murith
was his friend; and every Catholic mountaineer should be grateful to
his memory, for he persuaded one of their archbishops to dispense
climbers from the obligation of fasting in Lent.



CHAPTER IV

THE STORY OF MONT BLANC


The history of Mont Blanc has been made the subject of an excellent
monograph, and the reader who wishes to supplement the brief sketch
which is all that we can attempt should buy _The Annals of Mont Blanc_,
by Mr. C. E. Mathews. We have already seen that De Saussure offered a
reward in 1760 to any peasant who could find a way to the summit of
Mont Blanc. In the quarter-of-a-century that followed, several attempts
were made. Amongst others, Bourrit tried on two occasions to prove the
accessibility of Mont Blanc. Bourrit himself never reached a greater
height than 10,000 feet; but some of his companions attained the very
respectable altitude of 14,300 feet. De Saussure attacked the mountain
without success in 1785, leaving the stage ready for the entrance of
the most theatrical of mountaineers.

Jacques Balmat, the hero of Mont Blanc, impresses himself upon the
imagination as no other climber of the day. He owes his fame mainly,
of course, to his great triumph, but also, not a little, to the fact
that he was interviewed by Alexandre Dumas the Elder, who immortalised
him in _Impressions de Voyage_. For the moment, we shall not bother
to criticise its accuracy. We know that Balmat reached the summit
of Mont Blanc; and that outstanding fact is about the only positive
contribution to the story which has not been riddled with destructive
criticism. The story should be read in the original, though Dumas’
vigorous French loses little in Mr. Gribble’s spirited translation from
which I shall borrow.

[Illustration:

  A Summit of Mont Blanc
  B    ”    ” Dôme du Gouter
  C    ”    ” Aiguille du Gouter
  D    ”    ” Aiguille de Bianossay
  E    ”    ” Mont Maudit
  E′    ”    ” Mont Blanc du Tacul
  F    ”    ” Aiguille du Midi
  G Grand Mulets
  H Grand Plateau
  L Les Bosses du Dromadaire
  M Glacier des Bossons
  N Glacier de Taconnaz
]

Dumas visited Chamounix in 1883. Balmat was then a veteran, and, of
course, the great person of the valley. Dumas lost no time in making
his acquaintance. We see them sitting together over a bottle of wine,
and we can picture for ourselves the subtle art with which the great
interviewer drew out the old guide. But Balmat shall tell his own
story--

    “H’m. Let me see. It was in 1786. I was five-and-twenty; that makes
    me seventy-two to-day. What a fellow I was! With the devil’s own
    calves and hell’s own stomach. I could have gone three days without
    bite or sup. I had to do so once when I got lost on the Buet. I
    just munched a little snow, and that was all. And from time to
    time I looked across at Mont Blanc saying, ‘Say what you like, my
    beauty, and do what you like. Some day I shall climb you.’”

Balmat then tells us how he persuaded his wife that he was on his way
to collect crystals. He climbed steadily throughout the day, and night
found him on a great snowfield somewhere near the Grand Plateau. The
situation was sufficiently serious. To be benighted on Mont Blanc is
a fate which would terrify a modern climber, even if he were one of a
large party. Balmat was alone, and the mental strain of a night alone
on a glacier can only be understood by those who have felt the uncanny
terror that often attacks the solitary wanderer even in the daytime.
Fortunately, Balmat does not seem to have been bothered with nerves.
His fears expressed themselves in tangible shape.

    “Presently the moon rose pale and encircled by clouds, which hid
    it altogether at about eleven o’clock. At the same time a rascally
    mist came on from the Aiguille du Gouter, which had no sooner
    reached me than it began to spit snow in my face. Then I wrapped my
    head in my handkerchief, and said: ‘Fire away. You’re not hurting
    me.’ At every instant I heard the falling avalanches making a
    noise like thunder. The glaciers split, and at every split I felt
    the mountain move. I was neither hungry nor thirsty; and I had an
    extraordinary headache which took me at the crown of the skull, and
    worked its way down to the eyelids. All this time, the mist never
    lifted. My breath had frozen on my handkerchief; the snow had made
    my clothes wet; I felt as if I were naked. Then I redoubled the
    rapidity of my movements, and began to sing, in order to drive away
    the foolish thoughts that came into my head. My voice was lost in
    the snow; no echo answered me. I held my tongue, and was afraid. At
    two o’clock the sky paled towards the east. With the first beams of
    day, I felt my courage coming back to me. The sun rose, battling
    with the clouds which covered the mountain top; my hope was that
    it would scatter them; but at about four o’clock the clouds got
    denser, and I recognised that it would be impossible for me just
    then to go any further.”

He spent a second night on the mountain, which was, on the whole,
more comfortable than the first, as he passed it on the rocks of the
Montagne de la Côte. Before he returned home, Balmat planned a way
to the summit. And now comes the most amazing part of the story. He
had no sooner returned home than he met three men starting off for
the mountain. A modern mountaineer, who had spent two nights, alone,
high up on Mont Blanc, would consider himself lucky to reach Chamounix
alive; once there, he would go straight to bed for some twenty-four
hours. But Balmat was built of iron. He calmly proposed to accompany
his friends; and, having changed his stockings, he started out again
for the great mountain, on which he had spent the previous two nights.
The party consisted of François Paccard, Joseph Carrier, and Jean
Michel Tournier. They slept on the mountain; and next morning they
were joined by two other guides, Pierre Balmat and Marie Couttet. They
did not get very far, and soon turned back--all save Balmat. Balmat,
who seems to have positively enjoyed his nights on the glacier, stayed
behind.

    “I laid my knapsack on the snow, drew my handkerchief over my face
    like a curtain, and made the best preparations that I could for
    passing a night like the previous one. However, as I was about two
    thousand feet higher, the cold was more intense; a fine powdery
    snow froze me; I felt a heaviness and an irresistible desire to
    sleep; thoughts, sad as death, came into my mind, and I knew well
    that these sad thoughts and this desire to sleep were a bad sign,
    and that if I had the misfortune to close my eyes I should never
    open them again. From the place where I was, I saw, ten thousand
    feet below me, the lights of Chamounix, where my comrades were warm
    and tranquil by their firesides or in their beds. I said to myself:
    ‘Perhaps there is not a man among them who gives a thought to me.
    Or, if there is one of them who thinks of Balmat, no doubt he pokes
    his fire into a blaze, or draws his blanket over his ears, saying,
    ‘That ass of a Jacques is wearing out his shoe leather. Courage,
    Balmat!’”

Balmat may have been a braggart, but it is sometimes forgotten by his
critics that he had something to brag about. Even if he had never
climbed Mont Blanc, this achievement would have gone down to history
as perhaps the boldest of all Alpine adventures. To sleep one night,
alone, above the snow line is a misfortune that has befallen many
climbers. Some have died, and others have returned, thankful. One may
safely say that no man has started out for the same peak, and willingly
spent a third night under even worse conditions than the first. Three
nights out of four in all. We are charitably assuming that this
part of Balmat’s story is true. There is at least no evidence to the
contrary.

Naturally enough, Balmat did not prosecute the attempt at once. He
returned to Chamounix, and sought out the local doctor, Michel Paccard.
Paccard agreed to accompany him. They left Chamounix at five in the
evening, and slept on the top of the Montagne de la Côte. They started
next morning at two o’clock. According to Balmat’s account, the doctor
played a sorry part in the day’s climb. It was only by some violent
encouragement that he was induced to proceed at all.

    “After I had exhausted all my eloquence, and saw that I was only
    losing my time, I told him to keep moving about as best he could.
    He heard without understanding, and kept answering ‘Yes, yes,’ in
    order to get rid of me. I perceived that he must be suffering from
    cold. So I left him the bottle, and set off alone, telling him
    that I would come back and look for him. ‘Yes, yes,’ he answered.
    I advised him not to sit still, and started off. I had not gone
    thirty steps before I turned round and saw that, instead of running
    about and stamping his feet, he had sat down, with his back to the
    wind--a precaution of a sort. From that minute onwards, the track
    presented no great difficulty; but, as I rose higher and higher,
    the air became more and more unfit to breathe. Every few steps,
    I had to stop like a man in a consumption. It seemed to me that
    I had no lungs left, and that my chest was hollow. Then I folded
    my handkerchief like a scarf, tied it over my mouth and breathed
    through it; and that gave me a little relief. However, the cold
    gripped me more and more; it took me an hour to go a quarter of a
    league. I looked down as I walked; but, finding myself in a spot
    which I did not recognise, I raised my eyes, and saw that I had at
    last reached the summit of Mont Blanc.

    “Then I looked around me, fearing to find that I was mistaken,
    and to catch sight of some aiguille or some fresh point above me;
    if there had been, I should not have had the strength to climb
    it. For it seems to me that the joints of my legs were only held
    in their proper place by my breeches. But no--it was not so. I
    had reached the end of my journey. I had come to a place where no
    one--where not the eagle or the chamois--had ever been before me.
    I had got there, alone, without any other help than that of my own
    strength and my own will. Everything that surrounded me seemed to
    be my property. I was the King of Mont Blanc--the statue of this
    tremendous pedestal.

    “Then I turned towards Chamounix, waving my hat at the end of my
    stick, and saw, by the help of my glass, that my signals were being
    answered.”

Balmat returned, found the doctor in a dazed condition, and piloted him
to the summit, which they reached shortly after six o’clock.

    “It was seven o’clock in the evening; we had only two-and-a-half
    hours of daylight left; we had to go. I took Paccard by the arm,
    and once more waved my hat as a last signal to our friends in the
    valley; and the descent began. There was no track to guide us; the
    wind was so cold that even the snow on the surface had not thawed;
    all that we could see on the ice was the little holes made by the
    iron points of our stick. Paccard was no better than a child,
    devoid of energy and will-power, whom I had to guide in the easy
    places and carry in the hard ones. Night was already beginning
    to fall when we crossed the crevasse; it finally overtook us at
    the foot of the Grand Plateau. At every instant, Paccard stopped,
    declaring that he could go no further; at every halt, I obliged him
    to resume his march, not by persuasion, for he understood nothing
    but force. At eleven, we at last escaped from the regions of ice,
    and set foot upon _terra firma_; the last afterglow of the sunset
    had disappeared an hour before. Then I allowed Paccard to stop, and
    prepared to wrap him up again in the blanket, when I perceived that
    he was making no use whatever of his hands. I drew his attention
    to the fact. He answered that that was likely enough, as he no
    longer had any sensation in them. I drew off his gloves, and found
    that his hands were white and, as it were, dead; for my own part,
    I felt a numbness in the hand on which I wore his little glove in
    place of my own thick one. I told him we had three frost-bitten
    hands between us; but he seemed not to mind in the least, and only
    wanted to lie down and go to sleep. As for myself, however, he told
    me to rub the affected part with snow, and the remedy was not far
    to seek. I commenced operations upon him and concluded them upon
    myself. Soon the blood resumed its course, and with the blood,
    the heat returned, but accompanied by acute pain, as though every
    vein were being pricked with needles. I wrapped my baby up in his
    blanket, and put him to bed under the shelter of a rock. We ate a
    little, drank a glass of something, squeezed ourselves as close to
    each other as we could, and went to sleep.

    “At six the next morning Paccard awoke me. ‘It’s strange, Balmat,’
    he said, ‘I hear the birds singing, and don’t see the daylight.
    I suppose I can’t open my eyes.’ Observe that his eyes were as
    wide open as the Grand Duke’s. I told him he must be mistaken, and
    could see quite well. Then he asked me to give him a little snow,
    melted it in the hollow of his hand, and rubbed his eyelids with
    it. When this was done, he could see no better than before; only
    his eyes hurt him a great deal more. ‘Come now, it seems that I am
    blind, Balmat. How am I to get down?’ he continued. ‘Take hold of
    the strap of my knapsack and walk behind me; that’s what you must
    do.’ And in this style we came down, and reached the village of La
    Côte. There, as I feared that my wife would be uneasy about me, I
    left the doctor, who found his way home by fumbling with his stick,
    and returned to my own house. Then, for the first time, I saw what
    I looked like. I was unrecognisable. My eyes were red; my face was
    black; my lips were blue. Whenever I laughed or yawned, the blood
    spurted from my lips and cheeks; and I could only see in a dark
    room.”

    “‘And did Dr. Paccard continue blind?’ ‘Blind, indeed! He died
    eleven months ago, at the age of seventy-nine, and could still read
    without spectacles. Only his eyes were diabolically red.’ ‘As
    the consequence of his ascent?’ ‘Not a bit of it.’ ‘Why, then?’
    ‘The old boy was a bit of a tippler.’ And so saying Jacques Balmat
    emptied his third bottle.”

The last touch is worthy of Dumas; and the whole story is told in the
Ercles vein. As literature it is none the worse for that. It was a
magnificent achievement; and we can pardon the vanity of the old guide
looking back on the greatest moment of his life. But as history the
interview is of little value. The combination of Dumas and Balmat was a
trifle too strong for what Clough calls “the mere it was.” The dramatic
unities tempt one to leave Balmat, emptying his third bottle, and to
allow the merry epic to stand unchallenged. But the importance of this
first ascent forces one to sacrifice romance for the sober facts.

The truth about that first ascent had to wait more than a hundred
years. The final solution is due, in the main, to three men, Dr. Dübi
(the famous Swiss mountaineer), Mr. Freshfield, and Mr. Montagnier.
Dr. Dübi’s book, _Paccard wider Balmat, oder Die Entwicklung einer
Legende_, gives the last word on this famous case. For a convenient
summary of Dr. Dübi’s arguments, the reader should consult Mr.
Freshfield’s excellent review of his book that appeared in the
_Alpine Journal_ for May 1913. The essential facts are as follows.
Dr. Dübi has been enabled to produce a diary of an eye-witness of the
great ascent. A distinguished German traveller, Baron von Gersdorf,
watched Balmat and Paccard through a telescope, made careful notes,
illustrated by diagrams of the route, and, at the request of Paccard’s
father, a notary of Chamounix, signed, with his friend Von Meyer, a
certificate of what he had seen. This certificate is still preserved at
Chamounix, and Von Gersdorf’s diary and correspondence have recently
been discovered at Görlitz. Here is the vital sentence in his diary,
as translated by Mr. Freshfield: “They started again [from the Petits
Rochers Rouges], at 5.45 p.m., halted for a moment about every hundred
yards, _changed occasionally the leadership_ [the italics are mine], at
6.12 p.m. gained two rocks protruding from the snow, and at 6.23 p.m.
were on the actual summit.” The words italicised prove that Balmat did
not lead throughout. The remainder of the sentence shows that Balmat
was not the first to arrive on the summit, and that the whole fabric of
the Dumas legend is entirely false.

But Dumas was not alone responsible for the Balmat myth. This famous
fiction was, in the main, due to a well-known Alpine character, whom
we have dealt with at length in our third chapter. The reader may
remember that Bourrit’s enthusiasm for mountaineering was only equalled
by his lack of success. We have seen that Bourrit had set his heart on
the conquest of Mont Blanc, and that Bourrit failed in this ambition,
both before, and after Balmat’s ascent. In many ways, Bourrit was a
great man. He was fired with an undaunted enthusiasm for the Alps at
a time when such enthusiasm was the hall-mark of a select circle. He
justly earned his title, the Historian of the Alps; and in his earlier
years he was by no means ungenerous to more fortunate climbers. But
this great failing, an inordinate vanity, grew with years. He could
just manage to forgive Balmat, for Balmat was a guide; but Paccard, the
amateur, had committed the unforgivable offence.

It was no use pretending that Paccard had not climbed Mont Blanc, for
Paccard had been seen on the summit. Bourrit took the only available
course. He was determined to injure Paccard’s prospects of finding
subscribers for a work which the doctor proposed to publish, dealing
with his famous climb. With this in view, Bourrit wrote the notorious
letter of September 20, 1786, which first appeared as a pamphlet, and
was later published in several papers. We need not reproduce the
letter. The main points which Bourrit endeavoured to make were that
the doctor failed at the critical stage of the ascent, that Balmat
left him, reached the top, and returned to insist on Paccard dragging
himself somehow to the summit; that Paccard wished to exploit Balmat’s
achievements, and was posing as the conqueror of Mont Blanc; that,
with this in view, he was appealing for subscribers for a book, in
which, presumably, Balmat would be ignored, while poor Balmat, a simple
peasant, who knew nothing of Press advertisement, would lose the glory
that was his just meed. It was a touching picture; and we, who know the
real Balmat as a genial _blageur_, may smile gently when we hear him
described as _le pauvre Balmat à qui l’on doit cette découverte reste
presque ignoré, et ignore qu’il y ait des journalistes, des journaux,
et que l’on puisse par le moyen de ces trompettes littéraires obtenir
du Public une sorte d’admiration_. De Saussure, who from the first gave
Paccard due credit for his share in the climb, seems to have warned
Bourrit that he was making a fool of himself. Bourrit appears to have
been impressed, for he added a postscript in which he toned down some
of his remarks, and conceded grudgingly that Paccard’s share in the
ascent was, perhaps, larger than he had at first imagined. But this
relapse into decent behaviour did not survive an anonymous reply to
his original pamphlet which appeared in the _Journal de Lausanne_, on
February 24, 1787. This reply gave Paccard’s story, and stung Bourrit
into a reply which was nothing better than a malicious falsehood.
“Balmat’s story,” he wrote, “seems very natural ... and is further
confirmed by an eye-witness, M. le Baron de Gersdorf, who watched the
climbers through his glasses; and this stranger was so shocked by the
indifference (to use no stronger word) shown by M. Paccard to his
companion that he reprinted my letter in his own country, in order to
start a subscription in favour of poor Balmat.”

Fortunately, we now know what Gersdorf saw through his glasses,
and we also know that Gersdorf wrote immediately to Paccard,
“disclaiming altogether the motive assigned for his action in
raising a subscription.” Paccard was fortunately able to publish two
very effective replies to this spiteful attack. In the _Journal de
Lausanne_ for May 18 he reproduced two affidavits by Balmat, both
properly attested. These ascribe to Paccard the honour of planning the
expedition, and his full share of the work, and also state that Balmat
had been paid for acting as guide. The first of these documents has
disappeared. The second, which is entirely in Balmat’s handwriting,
is still in existence. Balmat, later in life, made some ridiculous
attempt to suggest that he had signed a blank piece of paper; but
the fact that even Bourrit seems to have considered this statement a
trifle too absurd to quote is in itself enough to render such a protest
negligible. Besides, Balmat was shrewd enough not to swear before
witnesses to a document which he had never seen. It is almost pleasant
to record that a dispute between the doctor and Balmat, in the high
street of Chamounix, resulted in Balmat receiving a well-merited blow
on his nose from the doctor’s umbrella, which laid him in the dust. It
is in some ways a pity that Dumas did not meet Paccard. The incident
of the umbrella might then have been worked up to the proper epic
proportions.

This much we may now regard as proved. Paccard took at least an equal
share in the great expedition. Balmat was engaged as a guide, and was
paid as such. The credit for the climb must be divided between these
two men; and the discredit of causing strained relations between them
must be assigned to Bourrit. Meanwhile, it is worth adding that the
traditions of the De Saussure family are all in favour of Balmat. De
Saussure’s grandson stated that Balmat’s sole object in climbing Mont
Blanc was the hope of pecuniary gain. He even added that the main
reason for his final attempt with Paccard was that Paccard, being an
amateur, would not claim half the reward promised by De Saussure. As
to Paccard, “everything we know of him,” writes Mr. Freshfield, “is to
his credit.” His scientific attainments were undoubtedly insignificant
compared to a Bonnet or a De Saussure. Yet he was a member of the
Academy of Turin, he contributed articles to a scientific periodical
published in Paris, he corresponded with De Saussure about his
barometrical observations. He is described by a visitor to Chamounix,
in 1788, in the following terms: “We also visited Dr. Paccard, who
gave us a very plain and modest account of his ascent of Mont Blanc,
for which bold undertaking he does not seem to assume to himself any
particular merit, but asserts that any one with like physical powers
could have performed the task equally well.” De Saussure’s grandson,
who has been quoted against Balmat, is equally emphatic in his approval
of Paccard. Finally, both Dr. Dübi and Mr. Freshfield agree that, as
regards the discovery of the route: “Paccard came first into the field,
and was the more enterprising of the two.”

Bourrit, by the way, had not even the decency to be consistent.
He spoiled, as we have seen, poor Paccard’s chances of obtaining
subscribers for his book, and, later in life, he quarrelled with
Balmat. Von Gersdorf had started a collection for Balmat, and part
of the money had to pass through Bourrit’s hands. A great deal of it
remained there. Bourrit seems to have been temporarily inconvenienced.
We need not believe that he had any intention of retaining the money
permanently, but Balmat was certainly justified in complaining to Von
Gersdorf. Bourrit received a sharp letter from Von Gersdorf, and never
forgave Balmat. In one of his later books, he reversed his earlier
judgment and pronounced in favour of Paccard.

Bourrit discredited himself by the Mont Blanc episode with the more
discerning of his contemporaries. De Saussure seems to have written
him down, judging by the traditions that have survived in his family.
Wyttenbach, a famous Bernese savant, is even more emphatic. “All who
know him realise Bourrit to be a conceited toad, a flighty fool, a
bombastic swaggerer.” Mr. Freshfield, however, quotes a kinder and
more discriminating criticism by the celebrated Bonnet, ending with
the words: _Il faut, néanmoins, lui tenir compte de son ardeur et de
son courage._ “With these words,” says Mr. Freshfield, “let us leave
‘notre Bourrit’; for by his passion for the mountains he remains one of
us.”

Poor Bourrit! It is with real regret that one chronicles the old
precentor’s lapses. Unfortunately, every age has its Bourrit, but it
is only fair to remember that Bourrit often showed a very generous
appreciation of other climbers. He could not quite forgive Paccard. Let
us remember his passion for the snows. Let us forget the rest.

It is pleasant to record that De Saussure’s old ambition was gratified,
and that he succeeded in reaching the summit of Mont Blanc in July
1787. Nor is this his only great expedition. He camped out for a
fortnight on the Col de Géant, a remarkable performance. He visited
Zermatt, then in a very uncivilised condition, and made the first
ascent of the Petit Mont Cervin. He died in 1799.

As for Balmat, he became a guide, and in this capacity earned a very
fair income. Having accumulated some capital, he cast about for a
profitable investment. Two perfect strangers, whom he met on the high
road, solved his difficulty in a manner highly satisfactory as far as
they were concerned. They assured him that they were bankers, and that
they would pay him five per cent. on his capital. The first of these
statements may have been true, the second was false. He did not see
the bankers or his capital again. Shortly after this initiation into
high finance, he left Chamounix to search for a mythical gold-mine
among the glaciers of the valley of Sixt. He disappeared and was never
seen again. He left a family of four sons, two of whom were killed in
the Napoleonic wars. His great-nephew became the favourite guide of Mr.
Justice Wills, with whom he climbed the Wetterhorn.



CHAPTER V

MONTE ROSA AND THE BÜNDNER OBERLAND


The conquest of Mont Blanc was the most important mountaineering
achievement of the period; but good work was also being done in other
parts of the Alps. Monte Rosa, as we soon shall see, had already
attracted the adventurous, and the Bündner Oberland gave one great name
to the story of Alpine adventure. We have already noted the important
part played by priests in the conquest of the Alps; and Catholic
mountaineers may well honour the memory of Placidus à Spescha as one of
the greatest of the climbing priesthood.

Father Placidus was born in 1782 at Truns. As a boy he joined the
Friars of Disentis, and after completing his education at Einsiedeln,
where he made good use of an excellent library, returned again to
Disentis. As a small boy, he had tended his father’s flocks and
acquired a passionate love for the mountains of his native valley. As a
monk, he resumed the hill wanderings, which he continued almost to the
close of a long life.

He was an unfortunate man. The French Revolution made itself felt in
Graubünden; and with the destruction of the monastery all his notes
and manuscripts were burned. When the Austrians ousted the French, he
was even more luckless; as a result of a sermon on the text “Put not
your trust in princes” he was imprisoned in Innsbruck for eighteen
months. He came back only to be persecuted afresh. Throughout his
life, his wide learning and tolerant outlook invited the suspicion of
the envious and narrow-minded; and on his return to Graubünden he was
accused of heresy. His books and his manuscripts were confiscated,
and he was forbidden to climb. After a succession of troubled years,
he returned to Truns; and though he had passed his seventieth year he
still continued to climb. As late as 1824, he made two attempts on the
Tödi. On his last attempt, he reached a gap, now known as the Porta
da Spescha, less than a thousand feet below the summit; and from this
point he watched, with mixed feelings, the two chamois hunters he had
sent forward reach the summit. He died at the age of eighty-two. One
wishes that he had attained in person his great ambition, the conquest
of the Tödi; but, even though he failed on this outstanding peak,
he had several good performances to his credit, amongst others the
first ascent of the Stockgron (11,411 feet) in 1788, the Rheinwaldhorn
(11,148 feet) in 1789, the Piz Urlaun (11,063 feet) in 1793, and
numerous other important climbs.

His list of ascents is long, and proves a constant devotion to the
hills amongst which he passed the happiest hours of an unhappy life.
“Placidus à Spescha”--there was little placid in his life save the
cheerful resignation with which he faced the buffetings of fortune.
He was a learned and broad-minded man; and the mountains, with their
quiet sanity, seem to have helped him to bear constant vexation caused
by small-minded persons. These suspicions of heresy must have proved
very wearisome to “the mountaineer who missed his way and strayed into
the Priesthood.” He must have felt that his opponents were, perhaps,
justified, that the mountains had given him an interpretation of his
beliefs that was, perhaps, wider than the creed of Rome, and that he
himself had found a saner outlook in those temples of a larger faith
to which he lifted up his eyes for help. As a relief from a hostile
and unsympathetic atmosphere, let us hope that he discovered some
restful anodyne among the tranquil broadness of the upper snows. The
fatigue and difficulties of long mountain tramps exhaust the mind,
to the exclusion of those little cares which seem so great in the
artificial life of the valley. Certainly, the serene indifference of
the hills found a response in the quiet philosophy of his life. Very
little remains of all that he must have written, very little--only
a few words, in which he summed up the convictions which life had
given him. “When I carefully consider the fortune and ill-fortune
that have befallen me, I have difficulty in determining which of the
two has been the more profitable since a man without trials is a man
without experience, and such a one is without insight--_vexatio dat
intellectum_.” A brave confession of a good faith, and in his case no
vain utterance, but the sincere summary of a philosophy which coloured
his whole outlook on life.

The early history of Monte Rosa has an appeal even stronger than the
story of Mont Blanc. It begins with the Renaissance. From the hills
around Milan, Leonardo da Vinci had seen the faint flush of dawn on
Monte Rosa beyond--

    A thousand shadowy pencilled valleys
    And snowy dells in a golden air.

The elusive vision had provoked his restless, untiring spirit to search
out the secrets of Monte Rosa. The results of that expedition have
already been noticed.

After Da Vinci there is a long gap. Scheuchzer had heard of Monte
Rosa, but contents himself with the illuminating remark that “a stiff
accumulation of perpetual ice is attached to it.” De Saussure visited
Macunagna in 1789, but disliked the inhabitants and complained of their
inhospitality. He passed on, after climbing an unimportant snow peak,
the Pizzo Bianco (10,552 feet). His story is chiefly interesting for
an allusion to one of the finest of the early Alpine expeditions. In
recent years, a manuscript containing a detailed account of this climb
has come to light, and supplements the vague story which De Saussure
had heard.

Long ago, in the Italian valleys of Monte Rosa, there was a legend of
a happy valley, hidden away between the glaciers of the great chain.
In this secret and magic vale, the flowers bloomed even in winter, and
the chamois found grazing when less happy pastures were buried by the
snow. So ran the tale, which the mothers of Alagna and Gressoney told
to their children. The discovery of the happy valley was due to Jean
Joseph Beck. Beck was a domestic servant with the soul of a pioneer,
and the organising talent that makes for success. He had heard a rumour
that a few men from Alagna had determined to find the valley. Beck was
a Gressoney man; and he determined that Gressoney should have the
honour of the discovery. Again and again, in Alpine history, we find
this rivalry between adjoining valleys acting as an incentive of great
ascents. Beck collected a large party, including “a man of learning,”
by name Finzens (Vincent). With due secrecy, they set out on a Sunday
of August 1788.

They started from their sleeping places at midnight, and roped
carefully. They had furnished themselves with climbing irons and
alpenstocks. They suffered from mountain sickness and loss of appetite,
but pluckily determined to proceed. At the head of the glacier, they
“encountered a slope of rock devoid of snow,” which they climbed. “It
was twelve o’clock. Hardly had we got to the summit of the rock than we
saw a grand--an amazing--spectacle. We sat down to contemplate at our
leisure the lost valley, which seemed to us to be entirely covered with
glaciers. We examined it carefully, but could not satisfy ourselves
that it was the unknown valley, seeing that none of us had ever been in
the Vallais.” The valley, in fact, was none other than the valley of
Zermatt, and the pass, which these early explorers had reached, was the
Lysjoch, where, to this day, the rock on which they rested bears the
appropriate name that they gave it, “The Rock of Discovery.” Beck’s
party thus reached a height of 14,000 feet, a record till Balmat beat
them on Mont Blanc.

The whole story is alive with the undying romance that still haunts the
skyline whose secrets we know too well. The Siegfried map has driven
the happy valley further afield. In other ranges, still uncharted,
we must search for the reward of those that cross the great divides
between the known and the unknown, and gaze down from the portals of
a virgin pass on to glaciers no man has trodden, and valleys that no
stranger has seen. And yet, for the true mountaineer every pass is a
discovery, and the happy valley beyond the hills still lives as the
embodiment of the child’s dream. All exploration, it is said, is due to
the two primitive instincts of childhood, the desire to look over the
edge, and the desire to look round the corner. And so we can share the
thrill that drove that little band up to the Rock of Discovery. We know
that, through the long upward toiling, their eyes must ever have been
fixed on the curve of the pass, slung between the guarding hills, the
skyline which held the great secret they hoped to solve. We can realise
the last moments of breathless suspense as their shoulders were thrust
above the dividing wall, and the ground fell away from their feet to
the valley of desire. In a sense, we all have known moments such as
this; we have felt the “intense desire to see if the Happy Valley may
not lie just round the corner.”

Twenty-three years after this memorable expedition, Monte Rosa was the
scene of one of the most daring first ascents in Alpine history. Dr.
Pietro Giordani of Alagna made a solitary ascent of the virgin summit
which still bears his name. The Punta Giordani is one of the minor
summits of the Monte Rosa chain, and rises to the respectable height of
13,304 feet. Giordani’s ascent is another proof, if proof were needed,
that the early climbers were, in many ways, as adventurous as the
modern mountaineer. We find Balmat making a series of solitary attempts
on Mont Blanc, and cheerfully sleeping out, alone, on the higher
snowfields. Giordani climbs, without companions, a virgin peak; and
another early hero of Monte Rosa, of whom we shall speak in due course,
spent a night in a cleft of ice, at a height of 14,000 feet. Giordani,
by the way, indited a letter to a friend from the summit of his peak.
He begins by remarking that a sloping piece of granite serves him for
a table, a block of blue ice for a seat. After an eloquent description
of the view, he expresses his annoyance at the lack of scientific
instruments, and the lateness of the hour which alone prevented him--as
he believed--from ascending Monte Rosa itself.

Giordani’s ascent closes the early history of Monte Rosa; but we cannot
leave Monte Rosa without mention of some of the men who played an
important part in its conquest. Monte Rosa, it should be explained, is
not a single peak, but a cluster of ten summits of which the Dufour
Spitze is the highest point (15,217 feet). Of these, the Punta Giordani
was the first, and the Dufour Spitze the last, to be climbed. In 1817,
Dr. Parrott made the first ascent of the Parrott Spitze (12,643 feet);
and two years later the Vincent Pyramid (13,829) was climbed by a son
of that Vincent who had been taken on Beck’s expedition because he was
“a man of learning.” Dr. Parrott, it might be remarked in passing, was
the first man to reach the summit of Ararat, as Noah cannot be credited
with having reached a higher point than the gap between the greater and
the lesser Ararat.

But of all the names associated with pioneer work on Monte Rosa that
of Zumstein is the greatest. He made five attempts to reach the
highest point of the group, and succeeded in climbing the Zumstein
Spitze (15,004 feet) which still bears his name. He had numerous
adventures on Monte Rosa, and as we have already seen, spent one night
in a crevasse, at a height of 14,000 feet. He became quite a local
celebrity, and is mentioned as such by Prof. Forbes and Mr. King in
their respective books. His great ascent of the Zumstein Spitze was
made in 1820, thirty-five years before the conquest of the highest
point of Monte Rosa.



CHAPTER VI

TIROL AND THE OBERLAND


The story of Monte Rosa has forced us to anticipate the chronological
order of events. We must now turn back, and follow the fortunes of the
men whose names are linked with the great peaks of Tirol[2] and of the
Oberland. Let us recapitulate the most important dates in the history
of mountaineering before the opening of the nineteenth century. Such
dates are 1760, which saw the beginning of serious mountaineering, with
the ascent of the Titlis; 1778, which witnessed Beck’s fine expedition
to the Lysjoch; 1779, the year in which the Velan, and 1786, the year
in which Mont Blanc, were climbed. The last year of the century saw the
conquest of the Gross Glockner, one of the giants of Tirol.

The Glockner has the distinction of being the only great mountain
first climbed by a Bishop. Its conquest was the work of a jovial
ecclesiastic, by name and style Franz Altgraf von Salm-Reifferscheid
Krantheim, Bishop of Gurk, hereinafter termed--quite simply--Salm.
Bishop Salm had no motive but the fun of a climb. He was not a
scientist, and he was not interested in the temperature at which water
boiled above the snow line, provided only that it boiled sufficiently
quickly to provide him with hot drinks and shaving water. He was a
most luxurious climber, and before starting for the Glockner he had a
magnificent hut built to accommodate the party, and a _chef_ conveyed
from the episcopal palace to feed them. They were weather-bound for
three days in these very comfortable quarters; but the _chef_ proved
equal to the demands on his talent. An enthusiastic climber compared
the dinners to those which he had enjoyed when staying with the Bishop
at Gurk. There were eleven amateurs and nineteen guides and porters in
the party. Their first attempt was foiled by bad weather. On August
25, 1799, they reached the summit, erected a cross, and disposed of
several bottles of wine. They then discovered that their triumph was a
trifle premature. The Glockner consists of two summits separated by a
narrow ridge. They had climbed the lower; the real summit was still 112
feet above them. Next year the mistake was rectified; but, though the
Bishop was one of the party, he did not himself reach the highest point
till a few years later.

Four years after the Glockner had been climbed, the giant of Tirol and
the Eastern Alps was overcome. The conquest of the Ortler was due to a
romantic fancy of Archduke John. Just as Charles VII of France deputed
his Chamberlain to climb Mont Aiguille, so the Archduke (who, by the
way, was the son of the Emperor Leopold II, and brother of Francis
II, last of the Holy Roman emperors) deputed Gebhard, a member of his
suite, to climb the Ortler. Gebhard made several attempts without
success. Finally, a chamois hunter of the Passeierthal, by name Joseph
Pichler, introduced himself to Gebhard, and made the ascent from Trafoi
on September 28, 1804. Next year Gebhard himself reached the summit,
and took a reading of the height by a barometer. The result showed
that the Ortler was higher than the Glockner--a discovery which caused
great joy. Its actual height is, as a matter of fact, 12,802 feet. But
the ascent of the Ortler was long in achieving the popularity that it
deserved. Whereas the Glockner was climbed about seventy times before
1860, the Ortler was only climbed twice between Gebhard’s ascent and
the ascent by the Brothers Buxton and Mr. Tuckett, in 1864. Archduke
John, who inspired the first ascent, made an unsuccessful attempt (this
time in person) on the Gross Venediger, another great Tyrolese peak. He
was defeated, and the mountain was not finally vanquished till 1841.

The scene now changes to the Oberland. Nothing much had been
accomplished in the Oberland before the opening years of the nineteenth
century. A few passes, the Petersgrat, Oberaarjoch, Tschingel, and
Gauli, had been crossed; but the only snow peaks whose ascent was
undoubtedly accomplished were the Handgendgletscherhorn (10,806 feet)
and a peak whose identification is difficult. These were climbed in
1788 by a man called Müller, who was engaged in surveying for Weiss.
His map was a very brilliant achievement, considering the date at
which it appeared. The expenses had been defrayed by a rich merchant
of Aarau, Johann Rudolph Meyer, whose sons were destined to play
an important part in Alpine exploration. J. R. Meyer had climbed
the Titlis, and one of his sons made one of the first glacier pass
expeditions in the Oberland, crossing the Tschingel in 1790.

J. R. Meyer’s two sons, Johann Rudolph the second and Hieronymus,
were responsible for some of the finest pioneer work in the story of
mountaineering. In 1811 they made the first crossing of the Beich
pass, the Lötschenlücke, and the first ascent of the Jungfrau. As was
inevitable, their story was disbelieved. To dispel all doubt, another
expedition was undertaken in the following year. On this expedition
the leaders were Rudolph and Gottlieb Meyer, sons of J. R. Meyer the
second (the conqueror of the Jungfrau), and grandsons of J. R. Meyer
the first. The two Meyers separated after crossing the Oberaarjoch.
Gottlieb crossed the Grünhornlücke, and bivouacked near the site of
the present Concordia Inn. Rudolph made his classical attempt on the
Finsteraarhorn, and rejoined Gottlieb. Next day Gottlieb made the
second ascent of the Jungfrau and Rudolph forced the first indisputable
crossing of the Strahlegg pass from the Unteraar glacier to Grindelwald.

To return to Rudolph’s famous attempt on the Finsteraarhorn. Rudolph,
as we have seen, separated from his brother Gottlieb near the
Oberaarjoch. Rudolph, who was only twenty-one at the time, took with
him two Valaisian hunters, by name Alois Volker and Joseph Bortis, a
Melchthal “porter,” Arnold Abbühl, and a Hasle man. Abbühl was not
a porter as we understand the word, but a _knecht_, or servant, of
a small inn. He played the leading part in this climb. The party
bivouacked on the depression known as the Rothhornsattel, and left
it next morning when the sun had already struck the higher summits,
probably about 5 a.m. They descended to the Studerfirn, and shortly
before reaching the Ober Studerjoch started to climb the great eastern
face of the Finsteraarhorn. After six hours, they reached the crest of
the ridge. Meyer could go no further, and remained where he was; while
the guides proceeded and, according to the accounts which have come
down to us, reached the summit.

Captain Farrar has summed up all the available evidence in _The Alpine
Journal_ for August 1913. The first climber who attempted to repeat
the ascent was the well-known scientist Hugi. He was led by the same
Arnold Abbühl, who, as already stated, took a prominent part in Meyer’s
expedition. Abbühl, however, not only failed to identify the highest
peak from the Rothhornsattel, but, on being pressed, admitted that he
had never reached the summit at all. In 1830, Hugi published these
facts and Meyer, indignant at the implied challenge to his veracity,
promised to produce further testimony. But there the matter dropped.
Captain Farrar summarises the situation with convincing thoroughness.

“What was the situation in 1812? We have an enthusiastic ingenuous
youth attempting an ascent the like of which in point of difficulty
had at that time never been, nor was for nearly fifty years after,
attempted. He reaches a point on the arête without any great
difficulty; and there he remains, too tired to proceed. About this
portion of the ascent, there is, save as to the precise point gained,
no question; and it is of this portion alone Meyer is a first-hand
witness. Three of his guides go on, and return to him after many hours
with the statement that they had reached the summit, or that is what he
understands. I shall examine later this point. But is it not perfectly
natural that Meyer should accept their statement, that he should
swallow with avidity their claim to have reached the goal of all his
labours? He had, as I shall show later, no reason to doubt them; and,
doubtless, he remained firm in his belief until Hugi’s book appeared
many years after. At once, he is up in arms at Hugi’s questioning,
as he thinks, his own statements and his guides’ claims. He pens his
reply quoted above, promises to publish his MS. and hopes to produce
testimony in support. Then comes Hugi’s reply, and Meyer realises that
his own personal share in the expedition is not questioned; but he sees
that he may after all have been misled by, or have misunderstood,
his guides, and he is faced with the reported emphatic denial of his
leading guide, who was at that time still living, and could have
been referred to. It may be said that he wrote to Abbühl for the
‘testimony,’ and failed to elicit a satisfactory reply. Thrown into
hopeless doubt, all the stronger because his belief in his guide’s
statement had been firmly implanted in his mind all these nineteen
years, is it to be wondered at that he lets the matter drop? He finds
himself unable to get any testimony, and realises that the publication
of his MS. will not supply any more reliable evidence. One can easily
picture the disenchanted man putting the whole matter aside in sheer
despair of ever arriving at the truth.”

We have no space to follow Captain Farrar’s arguments. They do not
seem to leave a shadow of doubt. At the same time, Captain Farrar
acquits the party of any deliberate intention to deceive, and admits
that their ascent of the secondary summit of the Finsteraarhorn was a
very fine performance. It is noteworthy that many of the great peaks
have been attempted, and some actually climbed for the first time,
by an unnecessarily difficult route. The Matterhorn was assailed for
years by the difficult Italian arête, before the easy Swiss route was
discovered. The south-east route, which Meyer’s party attempted, still
remains under certain conditions, a difficult rock climb, which may not
unfitly be compared in part with the Italian ridge of the Matterhorn.
The ordinary west ridge presents no real difficulties.

The first complete ascent of the Finsteraarhorn was made on August
10, 1829, by Hugi’s two guides, Jakob Leuthold and Joh. Wahren. Hugi
remained behind, 200 feet below the summit. The Hugisattel still
commemorates a pioneer of this great peak.

So much for the Meyers. They deserve a high place in the history of
exploration. “It has often seemed to me,” writes Captain Farrar, “that
the craft of mountaineering, and even more the art of mountaineering
description, distinctly retrograded for over fifty years after these
great expeditions of the Meyers. It is not until the early ’sixties
that rocks of equal difficulty are again attacked. Even then--witness
Almer’s opinion as to the inaccessibility of the Matterhorn--men had
not yet learned the axiom, which Alexander Burgener was the first,
certainly by practice rather than by explicit enunciation, to lay
down, viz. that the practicability of rocks is only decided by actual
contact. Meyer’s guides had a glimmering of this. It is again not until
the ’sixties that Meyer’s calm yet vivid descriptions of actualities
are surpassed by those brilliant articles of Stephen, of Moore, of
Tuckett, and by Whymper’s great ‘Scrambles’ that are the glory of
English mountaineering.”

But perhaps the greatest name associated with this period is that
of the great scientist, Agassiz. Agassiz is a striking example of
the possibilities of courage and a lively faith. He never had any
money; and yet he invariably lived as if he possessed a comfortable
competence. “I have no time for making money,” is one of his sayings
that have become famous. He was a native of Orbe, a beautiful town in
the Jura. His father was a pastor, and the young Agassiz was intended
for the medical profession. He took the medical degree, but remained
steadfast in his determination to become, as he told his father, “the
first naturalist of his time.” Humboldt and Cuvier soon discovered his
powers; in due time he became a professor at Neuchâtel. He married
on eighty louis a year; but money difficulties never depressed him.
As a boy of twenty, earning the princely sum of fifty pounds a year,
he maintained a secretary in his employment, a luxury which he never
denied himself. Usually he maintained two or three. At Neuchâtel,
his income eventually increased to £125 a year. On this, he kept up
an academy of natural history, a museum, a staff of secretaries and
assistants, a lithographic and printing plant, and a wife. His wife,
by the way, was a German lady; and it is not surprising that her
chief quarrel with life was a lack of money for household expenses.
The naturalist, who had no time for making money, spent what little
he had on the necessities of his existence, such as printing presses
and secretaries, and left the luxuries of the larder to take care of
themselves. His family helped him with loans, “at first,” we are told,
“with pleasure, but afterwards with some reluctance.” Humboldt also
advanced small sums. “I was pleased to remain a debtor to Humboldt,”
writes Agassiz, a sentiment which probably awakens more sympathy in the
heart of the average undergraduate than it did in the bosom of Humboldt.

A holiday which Agassiz spent with another great naturalist,
Charpentier, was indirectly responsible for the beginnings of the
glacial theory. Throughout Switzerland, you may find huge boulders
known as erratic blocks. These blocks have a different geological
ancestry from the rocks in the immediate neighbourhood. They did not
grow like mushrooms, and they must therefore have been carried to their
present position by some outside agency. In the eighteenth century,
naturalists solved all these questions by _a priori_ theories, proved
by quotations from the book of Genesis. The Flood was a favourite
solution, and the Flood was, therefore, invoked to solve the riddle of
erratic blocks. By the time that Agassiz had begun his great work, the
Flood was, however, becoming discredited, and its reputed operations
were being driven further afield.

The discovery of the true solution was due, not to a scientist, but
to a simple chamois hunter, named Perrandier. He knew no geology, but
he could draw obvious conclusions from straightforward data without
invoking the Flood. He had seen these blocks on glaciers, and he had
seen them many miles away from glaciers. He made the only possible
deduction--that glaciers must, at some time, have covered the whole
of Switzerland. Perrandier expounded his views to a civil engineer,
by name Venetz. Venetz passed it on to Charpentier, and Charpentier
converted Agassiz. Agassiz made prompt use of the information, so
prompt that Charpentier accused him of stealing his ideas. He read a
paper before the Helvetic Society, in which he announced his conviction
that the earth had once been covered with a sheet of ice that extended
from the North Pole to Central Asia. The scepticism with which this
was met incited Agassiz to search for more evidence in support of his
theory. His best work was done in “The Hôtel des Neuchâtelois.” This
hôtel at first consisted of an overhanging boulder, the entrance of
which was screened by a blanket. The hôtel was built near the Grimsel
on the medial moraine of the lower Aar glacier. To satisfy Mrs.
Agassiz, her husband eventually moved into even more palatial quarters
to wit, a rough cabin covered with canvas. “The outer apartment,”
complains Mrs. Agassiz, a lady hard to please, “boasted a table and one
or two benches; even a couple of chairs were kept as seats of honour
for occasional guests. A shelf against the wall accommodated books,
instruments, coats, etc.; and a plank floor on which to spread their
blankets at night was a good exchange for the frozen surface of the
glacier.” But the picture of this strange _ménage_ would be incomplete
without mention of Agassiz’s companions. “Agassiz and his companions”
is a phrase that meets us at every turn of his history. He needed
companions, partly because he was of a friendly and companionable
nature, partly, no doubt, to vary the monotony of Mrs. Agassiz’s
constant complaints, but mainly because his ambitious schemes were
impossible without assistance. His work involved great expenditure,
which he could only recoup in part from the scanty grants allowed
him by scientific societies, and the patronage of occasional wealthy
amateurs. The first qualification necessary in a “companion” was a
certain indifference as to salary, and the usual arrangement was that
Agassiz should provide board and lodging in the hôtel, and that, if
his assistant were in need of money, Agassiz should provide some if he
had any lying loose at the time. This at least was the substance of
the contract between Agassiz, on the one hand, and Edouard Desor of
Heidelberg University, on the other hand.

Desor is perhaps the most famous of the little band. He was a political
refugee, “without visible means of subsistence.” He was a talented
young gentleman with a keen interest in scientific disputes, and an
eye for what is vulgarly known as personal advertisement. In other
words he shared the very human weakness of enjoying the sight of his
name in honoured print. Another companion was Karl Vogt. Mrs. Agassiz
had two great quarrels with life. The first was a shortage of funds,
and the second was the impropriety of the stories exchanged between
Vogt and Desors. Another companion was a certain Gressly, a gentleman
whose main charm for Agassiz consisted in the fact that, “though he
never had any money, he never wanted any.” He lived with Agassiz in
the winter as secretary. In summer he tramped the Jura in search of
geological data. He never bothered about money, but was always prepared
to exchange some good anecdotes for a night’s lodging. Eventually, he
went mad and ended his days in an asylum. Yet another famous name,
associated with Agassiz, is that of Dollfus-Ausset, an Alsatian of
Mülhausen, who was born in 1797. His great works were two books, the
first entitled _Materials for the Study of Glaciers_, and the second
_Materials for the Dyeing of Stuffs_. On the whole, he seems to have
been more interested in glaciers than in velvet. He made, with Desor,
the first ascent of the Galenstock, and also of the most southern peak
of the Wetterhorn, namely the Rosenhorn (12,110 feet). He built many
observatories on the Aar glacier and the Theodule, and he was usually
known as “Papa Gletscher Dollfus.”

Such, then, were Agassiz’s companions. Humour and romance are blended
in the picture of the strange little company that gathered every
evening beneath the rough shelter of the hôtel. We see Mrs. Agassiz
bearing with admirable resignation those inconveniences that must have
proved a very real sorrow to her orderly German mind. We see Desor and
Vogt exchanging broad anecdotes to the indignation of the good lady;
and we can figure the abstracted naturalist, utterly indifferent to
his environment, and only occupied with the deductions that may be
drawn from the movement of stakes driven into a glacier. Let me quote
in conclusion a few words from a sympathetic appreciation by the late
William James (_Memories and Studies_)--

    “Agassiz was a splendid example of the temperament that looks
    forward and not backwards, and never wastes a moment in regrets for
    the irrevocable. I had the privilege of admission to his society
    during the Thayer expedition to Brazil. I well remember, at night,
    as we all swung in our hammocks, in the fairy like moonlight, on
    the deck of the steamer that throbbed its way up the Amazon between
    the forests guarding the stream on either side, how he turned and
    whispered, ‘James, are you awake?’ and continued, ‘I cannot sleep;
    I am too happy; I keep thinking of these glorious plans.’...

    “Agassiz’s influence on methods of teaching in our community was
    prompt and decisive--all the more so that it struck people’s
    imagination by its very excess. The good old way of committing
    printed abstractions to memory seems never to have received such a
    shock as it encountered at his hands. There is probably no public
    school teacher who will not tell you how Agassiz used to lock a
    student up in a room full of turtle shells or lobster shells or
    oyster shells, without a book or word to help him, and not let
    him out till he had discovered all the truths which the objects
    contained. Some found the truths after weeks and months of lonely
    sorrow; others never found them. Those who found them were already
    made into naturalists thereby; the failures were blotted from the
    book of honour and of life. ‘Go to Nature; take the facts into your
    own hands; look and see for yourself’--these were the maxims which
    Agassiz preached wherever he went, and their effect on pedagogy was
    electric....

    “The only man he really loved and had use for was the man who could
    bring him facts. To see facts, not to argue or _raisonniren_ was
    what life meant for him; and I think he often positively loathed
    the ratiocinating type of mind. ‘Mr. Blank, you are totally
    uneducated,’ I heard him say once to a student, who had propounded
    to him some glittering theoretic generality. And on a similar
    occasion, he gave an admonition that must have sunk deep into the
    heart of him to whom it was addressed. ‘Mr. X, some people perhaps
    now consider you are a bright young man; but when you are fifty
    years old, if they ever speak of you then, what they will say will
    be this: “That Mr. X--oh yes, I know him; he used to be a very
    bright young man.”’ Happy is the conceited youth who at the proper
    moment receives such salutary cold-water therapeutics as this, from
    one who in other respects is a kind friend.”

So much for Agassiz. It only remains to add that his companions were
responsible for some fine mountaineering. During these years the three
peaks of the Wetterhorn were climbed, and Desor was concerned in two
of these successful expeditions. A far finer expedition was his ascent
of the Lauteraarhorn, by Desor in 1842. This peak is connected with
the Schreckhorn by a difficult ridge, and is a worthy rival to that
well-known summit. There were a few other virgin climbs in this period,
but the great age of Alpine conquest had scarcely begun.

The connecting link between Agassiz and modern mountaineering is
supplied by Gottlieb Studer, who was born in 1804, and died in 1890.
His serious climbing began in 1823, and continued for sixty years. He
made a number of new ascents, and reopened scores of passes, only
known to natives. Most mountaineers know the careful and beautiful
panoramas which are the work of his pencil. He drew no less than seven
hundred of these. His great work, _Ueber Eis und Schnee_, a history
of Swiss climbing, is an invaluable authority to which most of his
successors in this field are indebted.

The careful reader will notice the comparative absence of the English
in the climbs which we have so far described. The coming of the English
deserves a chapter to itself.



CHAPTER VII

THE COMING OF THE ENGLISH


Mountaineering, as a sport, is so often treated as an invention of
Englishmen, that the real facts of its origin are unconsciously
disguised. A commonplace error of the textbooks is to date sporting
mountaineering from Mr. Justice Wills’s famous ascent of the Wetterhorn
in 1854. The Wetterhorn has three peaks, and Mr. Justice Wills made the
ascent of the summit which is usually climbed from Grindelwald. This
peak, the Hasle Jungfrau, is the most difficult of the group but it is
not the highest. In those early days, first ascents were not recorded
with the punctuality and thoroughness that prevails to-day; and a large
circle of mountaineers gave Mr. Justice Wills the credit of making the
first ascent of the Hasle Jungfrau, or at least the first ascent from
Grindelwald. Curiously enough, the climb, which is supposed to herald
sporting mountaineering, was only the second ascent of the Grindelwald
route to the summit of a peak which had already been climbed four
times. The facts are as follows: Desor’s guides climbed the Hasle
Jungfrau in 1844, and Desor himself followed a few days after. Three
months before Wills’s ascent, the peak was twice climbed by an early
English pioneer, Mr. Blackwell. Blackwell’s first ascent was by the
Rosenlaui route, which Desor had followed, and his second, by the
Grindelwald route, chosen by Mr. Wills. On the last occasion, he was
beaten by a storm within about ten feet of the top, ten feet which he
had climbed on the previous occasion. He planted a flag just under the
final cornice; and we must give him the credit of the pioneer ascent
from Grindelwald. Mr. Wills never heard of these four ascents, and
believed that the peak was still virgin when he ascended it.

It would appear, then, that the so-called first sporting climb has
little claim to that distinction. What, precisely, is meant by
“sporting” in this connection? The distinction seems to be drawn
between those who climb a mountain for the sheer joy of adventure, and
those who were primarily concerned with the increase of scientific
knowledge. The distinction is important; but it is often forgotten
that scientists, like De Saussure, Forbes, Agassiz and Desor, were
none the less mountaineers because they had an intelligent interest in
the geological history of mountains. All these men were inspired by a
very genuine mountaineering enthusiasm. Moreover, before Mr. Wills’s
climb there had been a number of quite genuine sporting climbs. A few
Englishmen had been up Mont Blanc; and, though most of them had been
content with Mont Blanc, they could scarcely be accused of scientific
inspiration. They, however, belonged to the “One man, one mountain,
school,” and as such can scarcely claim to be considered as anything
but mountaineers by accident. Yet Englishmen like Hill, Blackwell,
and Forbes, had climbed mountains with some regularity long before
Mr. Wills made his great ascent; and foreign mountaineers had already
achieved a series of genuine sporting ascents. Bourrit was utterly
indifferent to science; and Bourrit was, perhaps, the first man who
made a regular practice of climbing a snow mountain every year. The
fact that he was not often successful must not be allowed to discount
his sincere enthusiasm. Before 1840, no Englishman had entered the
ranks of regular mountaineers; and by that date many of the great
Alpine monarchs had fallen. Mont Blanc, the outer fortresses of Monte
Rosa, the Finsteraarhorn, King of the Oberland, the Ortler, and the
Glockner, the great rivals of the Eastern Alps, had all been conquered.
The reigning oligarchies of the Alps had bowed their heads to man.

Let us concede what must be conceded; even so, we need not fear that
our share in Alpine history will be unduly diminished. Mr. Wills’s
ascent was none the less epoch-making because it was the fourth ascent
of a second-class peak. The real value of that climb is this: It
was one of the first climbs that were directly responsible for the
systematic and brilliant campaign which was in the main conducted by
Englishmen. Isolated foreign mountaineers had already done brilliant
work, but their example did not give the same direct impetus. It was
not till the English arrived that mountaineering became a fashionable
sport; and the wide group of English pioneers that carried off almost
all the great prizes of the Alps between 1854 and the conquest of the
Matterhorn in 1865 may fairly date their invasion from Mr. Justice
Wills’s ascent, a climb which, though not even a virgin ascent and
by no means the first great climb by an Englishman, was none the
less a landmark. Mr. Justice Wills’s vigorous example caught on as
no achievement had caught on. His book, which is full of spirited
writing, made many converts to the new sport.

There had, of course, been many enthusiasts who had preached the sport
before Mr. Justice Wills climbed the Wetterhorn. The earliest of all
Alpine Journals is the _Alpina_, which first expressed the impetus of
the great Alpine campaign. It appeared in 1806, and survived for four
years, though the name was later attached to a magazine which has still
a large circulation in Switzerland. It was edited by Ulysses von Salis;
and it contained articles on chamois-hunting, the ascent of the Ortler,
etc., besides reviews of the mountain literature of the period, such
books, for instance, as those of Bourrit and Ebel. “The Glockner and
the Ortler,” writes the editor, “may serve as striking instances of our
ignorance, until a few years ago, of the highest peaks in the Alpine
ranges. Excluding the Gotthard and Mont Blanc, and their surrounding
eminences, there still remain more than a few marvellous and colossal
peaks which are no less worthy of becoming better known.”

From 1840, the number of Englishmen taking part in high ascents
increases rapidly; and between 1854 and 1865 the great bulk of virgin
ascents stand to their credit, though it must always be remembered
that these ascents were led by Swiss, French and Italian guides, who
did not, however, do them till the English arrived. Before 1840 a few
Englishmen climbed Mont Blanc; Mrs. and Miss Campbell crossed the Col
de Géant, which had previously been reopened by Mr. Hill; and Mr.
Malkin crossed a few glacier passes. But J. D. Forbes was really the
first English mountaineer to carry out a series of systematic attacks
on the upper snows. Incidentally, his book, _Travels through the
Alps of Savoy_, published in 1843, was the first book in the English
language dealing with the High Alps. A few pamphlets had been published
by the adventurers of Mont Blanc, but no really serious work. Forbes
is, therefore, the true pioneer not only of British mountaineering,
but of the Alpine literature in our tongue. He was a worthy successor
to De Saussure, and his interest in the mountains was very largely
scientific. He investigated the theories of glacier motion, and visited
Agassiz at the “Hôtel des Neuchâtelois.” On that occasion, if Agassiz
is to be believed, the canny Scotsman managed to extract more than
he gave from the genial and expansive Switzer. When Forbes published
his theories, Agassiz accused him of stealing his ideas. Desor, whose
genius for a row was only excelled by the joy he took in getting up
his case, did not improve matters; and a bitter quarrel was the result.
Whatever may have been the rights of the matter, Forbes certainly
mastered the theory of glacier motion, and proved his thorough grasp of
the matter in a rather remarkable way. In 1820, a large party of guides
and amateurs were overwhelmed by an avalanche on the Grand Plateau,
and three of the guides disappeared into a crevasse. Their bodies were
not recovered. Dr. Hamel, who had organised the party, survived. He
knew something of glacier motion, and ventured a guess that the bodies
of the guides would reappear at the bottom of the glacier in about a
thousand years. He was just nine hundred and thirty-nine years wrong in
his calculation. Forbes, having ascertained by experiment the rate at
which the glacier moved, predicted that the bodies would reappear in
forty years. This forecast proved amazingly accurate. Various remains
reappeared near the lower end of the Glacier des Bossons in 1861, a
fragment of a human body, and a few relics came to light two years
later, and a skull, ropes, hat, etc., in 1865. Strangely enough, this
accident was repeated in almost all its details in the famous Arkwright
disaster of 1866.

Forbes carried through a number of fine expeditions. He climbed the
Jungfrau with Agassiz and Desor--before the little trouble referred to
above. He made the first passage by an amateur of the Col d’Hérens,
and the first ascents of the Stockhorn (11,796 feet) and the Wasenhorn
(10,661 feet). Besides his Alpine wanderings, he explored some of the
glaciers of Savoy. His most famous book, _The Tour of Mont Blanc_, is
well worth reading, and contains one fine passage, a simile between the
motion of a glacier and the life of man.

Forbes was the first British mountaineer; but John Ball played an even
more important part in directing the activity of the English climbers.
He was a Colonial Under-Secretary in Lord Palmerston’s administration;
but he gave up politics for the more exciting field of Alpine
adventure. His main interest in the Alps was, perhaps, botanical;
and his list of first ascents is not very striking, considering the
host of virgin peaks that awaited an enterprising pioneer. His great
achievement was the conquest of the first great dolomite peak that
yielded its secrets to man, the Pelmo. He also climbed the virgin
Cima Tosa in the Brenta dolomites, and made the first traverse of
the Schwartztor. He was the first to edit guidebooks for the use of
mountaineers, and his knowledge of the Alps was surprisingly thorough.
He played a great part in the formation of the Alpine Club, and in the
direction of their literary activity. He edited the classical series of
_Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers_, and a series of excellent Alpine guides.

But the event which above all others attracted the attention of
Englishmen to the Alps was Albert Smith’s ascent of Mont Blanc. Albert
Smith is the most picturesque of the British mountaineers. He was
something of a _blagueur_, but behind all his vulgarity lay a very deep
feeling for the Alps. His little book on Mont Blanc makes good reading.
The pictures are delightfully inaccurate in their presentation of the
terrors of Alpine climbing; and the thoroughly sincere fashion in which
the whole business of climbing is written up proves that the great
white mountain had not yet lost its prestige. But we can forgive Albert
Smith a great deal, for he felt the glamour of the Alps long before
he had seen a hill higher than St. Anne’s, near Chertsey. As a child,
he had been given _The Peasants of Chamouni_, a book which rivalled
_Pilgrim’s Progress_ in his affections. This mountain book fired him
to anticipate his subsequent success as a showman. “Finally, I got up
a small moving panorama of the horrors pertaining to Mont Blanc ...
and this I so painted up and exaggerated in my enthusiasm, that my
little sister--who was my only audience, but an admirable one, for she
cared not how often I exhibited--would become quite pale with fright.”
Time passed, and Albert Smith became a student in Paris. He discovered
that his enthusiasm for Mont Blanc was shared by a medical student;
and together they determined to visit the Mecca of their dreams. They
collected twelve pounds apiece, and vowed that it should last them for
five weeks. They carried it about with them entirely in five-franc
pieces, chiefly stuffed into a leathern belt round their waists. Buying
“two old soldiers’ knapsacks at three francs each, and two pairs of
hobnailed shoes at five francs and a half,” they started off on their
great adventure. Smith wisely adds that, “if there is anything more
delightful than travelling with plenty of money, it is certainly making
a journey of pleasure with very little.”

They made the journey to Geneva in seventy-eight hours by _diligence_.
At Melun they bought a brick of bread more than two feet long. “The
passengers paid three francs each for their _déjeuner_, ours did not
cost ten sous.” At night, they slept in the empty _diligence_. They
meant to make that twelve pounds apiece carry them some distance. From
Geneva they walked to Chamounix, helped by an occasional friendly lift.
Smith was delighted with the realisation of childish dreams. “Every
step was like a journey in fairyland.” In fact, the only disillusion
was the contrast between the Swiss peasant of romance and the reality.
“The Alpine maidens we encountered put us more in mind of poor law
unions than ballads; indeed, the Swiss villagers may be classed with
troubadours, minstrel pages, shepherdesses, and other fabulous pets of
small poets and vocalists.” After leaving Chamounix, Smith crossed the
St. Bernard, visited Milan, and returned with a small margin still left
out of the magic twelve pounds.

Albert Smith returned to London, took up practice as a surgeon, wrote
for _Punch_, and acquired a big reputation as an entertainer in _The
Overland Mail_, written by himself and founded on a journey to Egypt
and Constantinople. The songs and sketches made the piece popular, and
insured a long run. At the close of the season he went to Chamounix
again, fully determined to climb Mont Blanc. He was accompanied by
William Beverley, the artist, and was lucky to fall in with some
Oxford undergraduates with the same ambition as himself. They joined
forces, and a party of twenty, including guides, prepared for the
great expedition. Amongst other provisions, they took ninety-four
bottles of wine, four legs of mutton, four shoulders of mutton, and
forty-six fowls. Smith was out of training, and suffered terribly from
mountain sickness. He was horrified by the Mur de la Côte, which he
describes as “an all but perpendicular iceberg,” and adds that “every
step was gained from the chance of a horrible death.” As a matter of
fact, the Mur de la Côte is a very simple, if steep, snow slope. A
good ski-runner could, under normal conditions, descend it on ski. If
Smith had fallen, he would have rolled comfortably to the bottom, and
stopped in soft snow. “Should the foot or the baton slip,” he assures
us, “there is no chance for life. You would glide like lightning from
one frozen crag to another, and finally be dashed to pieces hundreds of
feet below.” It is pleasant to record that Smith reached the summit,
though not without considerable difficulty, and that his party drank
all the wine and devoured the forty-six fowls, etc., before their
successful return to Chamounix.

Smith wrote an account of the ascent which provoked a bitter attack in
_The Daily News_. Albert Smith was contrasted with De Saussure, greatly
to Smith’s disadvantage. The sober, practical Englishman of the period
could only forgive a mountain ascent if the climber brought back
with him from the heights, something more substantial than a vision
of remembered beauty. A few inaccurate readings of an untrustworthy
barometer could, perhaps, excuse a pointless exploit. “Saussure’s
observations,” said a writer in _The Daily News_, “live in his poetical
philosophy, those of Mr. Albert Smith will be most appropriately
recorded in a tissue of indifferent puns, and stale, fast witticisms
with an incessant straining after smartness. The aimless scramble of
the four pedestrians to the top of Mont Blanc will not go far to redeem
the somewhat equivocal reputation of the herd of English to risks in
Switzerland for a mindless, and rather vulgar, redundance of animal
spirits.” Albert Smith did not allow the subject to drop. He turned
Mont Blanc into an entertainment at the Egyptian Hall, an entertainment
which became very popular, and was patronised by the Queen.

Narrow-minded critics affect to believe that Albert Smith was nothing
more than a showman, and that Mont Blanc was for him nothing more than
a peg on which to hang a popular entertainment. This is not true. Mr.
Mathews does him full justice when he says: “He was emphatically a
showman from his birth, but it is not true he ascended the mountain
for the purpose of making a show of it. His well-known entertainment
resulted from a lifelong interest which he had taken in the great
summit, of which he never failed to speak or write with reverence
and affection.” Mr. Mathews was by no means naturally prejudiced in
favour of anybody who tended to popularise the Alps, and his tribute is
all the more striking in consequence. Albert Smith fell in love with
Mont Blanc long before he had seen a mountain. Nobody can read the
story of his first journey with twelve pounds in his pocket, without
realising that Albert Smith, the showman, loved the mountains with
much the same passion as his more cultured successors. Mr. Mathews
adds: “It is but just to his memory to record that he, too, was a
pioneer. Mountaineering was not then a recognised sport for Englishmen.
Hitherto, any information about Mont Blanc had to be sought for in
isolated publications. Smith brought a more or less accurate knowledge
of it, as it were, to the hearths and homes of educated Englishmen....
Smith’s entertainment gave an undoubted impetus to mountaineering.”

While Smith was lecturing, a group of Englishmen were quietly carrying
through a series of attacks on the unconquered citadels of the Alps.
In 1854 Mr. Justice Wills made that ascent of the Wetterhorn which has
already been referred to. It is fully described in Mr. Justice Wills’s
interesting book, _Wanderings among the High Alps_, and, amongst other
things, it is famous as the first appearance in Alpine history of the
great guide, Christian Almer. Mr. Wills left Grindelwald with Ulrich
Lauener, a guide who was to play a great part in Alpine adventure,
Balmat and Simond. “The landlord wrung Balmat’s hand. ‘Try,’ said
he, ‘to return all of you alive.’” Lauener burdened himself with a
“flagge” to plant on the summit. This “flagge” resolved itself on
inspection into a very solid iron construction in the shape of a
banner, which Lauener carried to the summit on the following day. They
bivouacked on the Enge, and climbed next day without great difficulty,
to the gap between the two summits of the Wetterhorn, now known as
the Wettersattel. They made a short halt here; and, while they were
resting, they noticed with surprise two men working up the rocks they
had just climbed. Lauener at first supposed they were chamois hunters;
but a moment’s reflection convinced the party that no hunter would seek
his prey on such unlikely ground. Moreover, chamois hunters do not
usually carry on their backs “a young fir-tree, branches, leaves, and
all.” They lost sight of the party and continued their meal. They next
saw the two strangers on the snow slopes ahead, making all haste to be
the first on the summit. This provoked great wrath on the part of Mr.
Wills’s guides, who believed that the Wetterhorn was a virgin peak, a
view also shared by the two usurpers, who had heard of the intended
ascent and resolved to plant their fir-tree side by side with the iron
“flagge.” They had started very early that same morning, and hunted
their quarry down. A vigorous exchange of shouts and threats resulted
in a compromise. “Balmat’s anger was soon appeased when he found they
owned the reasonableness of his desire that they should not steal
from us the distinction of being the first to scale that awful peak;
and, instead of administering the fisticuffs he had talked about, he
declared they were _bons enfants_ after all, and presented them with a
cake of chocolate. Thus the pipe of peace was smoked, and tranquillity
reigned between the rival forces.”

From their resting-place they could see the final summit. From this
point a steep snow slope, about three to four hundred feet in height,
rises to the final crest, which is usually crowned by a cornice. The
little party made their way up the steep slope, till Lauener reached
the final cornice. It should, perhaps, be explained, that a cornice is
a projecting cave of wind-blown snow which is usually transformed by
sun and frost into ice. Lauener “stood close, not facing the parapet,
but turned half round, and struck out as far away from himself as
he could.... Suddenly, a startling cry of surprise and triumph rang
through the air. A great block of ice bounded from the top of the
parapet, and before it had well lighted on the glacier, Lauener
exclaimed ‘Ich schaue den Blauen Himmel’ (‘I see blue sky’). A thrill
of astonishment and delight ran through our frames. Our enterprise had
succeeded. We were almost upon the actual summit. That wave above us,
frozen, as it seemed, in the act of falling over, into a strange and
motionless magnificence, was the very peak itself. Lauener’s blows
flew with redoubled energy. In a few minutes a practicable breach was
made, through which he disappeared; and in a moment more the sound of
his axe was heard behind the battlement under whose cover we stood.
In his excitement he had forgotten us, and very soon the whole mass
would have come crashing down upon our heads. A loud shout of warning
from Sampson, who now occupied the gap, was echoed by five other
eager voices, and he turned his energies in a safer direction. It was
not long before Lauener and Sampson together had widened the opening;
and then at length we crept slowly on. As I took the last step Balmat
disappeared from my sight; my left shoulder grazed against the angle of
the icy embrasure, while on the right the glacier fell abruptly away
beneath me towards an unknown and awful abyss; a hand from an invisible
person grasped mine; I stepped across, and had passed the ridge of the
Wetterhorn.

“The instant before I had been face to face with a blank wall of ice.
One step, and the eye took in a boundless expanse of crag and glacier,
peak and precipice, mountain and valley, lake and plain. The whole
world seemed to lie at my feet. The next moment, I was almost appalled
by the awfulness of our position. The side we had come up was steep;
but it was a gentle slope compared with that which now fell away from
where I stood. A few yards of glittering ice at our feet, and then
nothing between us and the green slopes of Grindelwald nine thousand
feet beneath.”

The “iron flagge” and fir-tree were planted side by side, and attracted
great attention in Grindelwald. The “flagge” they could understand,
but the fir-tree greatly puzzled them.

Christian Almer, the hero of the fir-tree, was destined to be one of
the great Alpine guides. His first ascents form a formidable list, and
include the Eiger, Mönch, Fiescherhorn in the Oberland (besides the
first ascent of the Jungfrau direct from the Wengern Alp), the Ecrins,
monarch of the Dauphiny, the Grand Jorasses, Col Dolent, Aiguille
Verte in the Mont Blanc range, the Ruinette, and Morning Pass in the
Pennines. But Almer’s most affectionate recollections always centred
round the Wetterhorn. The present writer remembers meeting him on
his way to celebrate his golden wedding, on the summit of his first
love. Almer also deserves to be remembered as a pioneer of winter
mountaineering. He made with Mr. Coolidge the first winter ascents of
the Jungfrau and Wetterhorn. It was on a winter ascent of the former
peak that he incurred frostbite, that resulted in the amputation of his
toes, and the sudden termination of his active career. Some years later
he died peaceably in his bed.

A year after Mr. Wills’s famous climb, a party of Englishmen, headed
by the brothers Smyth, conquered the highest point of Monte Rosa. The
Alpine campaign was fairly opened. Hudson made a new route up Mont
Blanc without guides, the first great guideless climb by Englishmen.
Hinchcliffe, the Mathews, E. S. Kennedy, and others, had already done
valuable work.

The Alpine Club was the natural result of the desire on the part of
these climbers to meet together in London and compare notes. The idea
was first mooted in a letter from Mr. William Mathews to the Rev. J. A.
Hort.[3] The first meeting was held on December 22, 1857. The office
of President was left open till it was deservedly filled by John Ball;
E. S. Kennedy became Vice-President, and Mr. Hinchcliffe, Honorary
Secretary. It is pleasant to record that Albert Smith, the showman, was
an original member. The English pioneers prided themselves, not without
some show of justification, on the fact that their sport attracted men
of great intellectual powers. Forbes, Tyndall, and Leslie Stephen, are
great names in the record of Science and Literature. The present Master
of Trinity was one of the early members, his qualification being an
ascent of Monte Rosa, Sinai, and Parnassus.

There were some remarkable men in this early group of English
mountaineers. Of John Ball and Albert Smith, we have already spoken.
Perhaps the most distinguished mountaineer from the standpoint of the
outside world was John Tyndall. Tyndall was not only a great scientist,
and one of the foremost investigators of the theory of glacier motion,
he was also a fine mountaineer. His finest achievement was the first
ascent of the Weishorn; and he also played a great part in the long
struggle for the blue ribbon of the Alps--the Matterhorn. His book,
_Hours of Exercise in the Alps_, makes good reading when once one has
resigned oneself to the use of somewhat pedantic terms for quite simple
operations. Somewhere or other--I quote from memory--a guide’s legs are
referred to as monstrous levers that projected his body through space
with enormous velocity! Tyndall, by the way, chose to take offence at
some light-hearted banter which Leslie Stephen aimed at the scientific
mountaineers. The passage occurs in Stephen’s chapter on the Rothhorn.
“‘And what philosophic observations did you make?’ will be the inquiry
of one of those fanatics who by a process of reasoning to me utterly
inscrutable have somehow irrevocably associated Alpine travelling with
science. To them, I answer, that the temperature was approximately (I
had no thermometer) 212 degrees Fahrenheit below freezing point. As for
ozone, if any existed in the atmosphere, it was a greater fool than I
take it for.” This flippancy caused a temporary breach between Stephen
and Tyndall which was, however, eventually healed.

Leslie Stephen is, perhaps, best known as a writer on ethics, though
his numerous works of literary criticism contain much that is brilliant
and little that is unsound. It has been said that the popularity of the
word “Agnostic” is due less to Huxley, who invented it, than to Leslie
Stephen who popularised it in his well known _Agnostic’s Apology_, an
important landmark in the history of English Rationalism. The present
writer has read almost every line that Stephen wrote, and yet feels
that it is only in _The Playground of Europe_ that he really let
himself go. Though Stephen had a brilliant record as a mountaineer,
it is this book that is his best claim to the gratitude and honour of
climbers. Stephen was a fine mountaineer, as well as a distinguished
writer. He was the first to climb the Shreckhorn, Zinal Rothhorn,
Bietschhorn, Blüemlisalp, Rimphischorn, Disgrazia, and Mont Malet.
He had the true mountaineering instinct, which is always stirred by
the sight of an uncrossed pass; and that great wall of rock and ice
that shadows the Wengern Alp always suggests Stephen, for it falls
in two places to depressions which he was the first to cross, passes
immortalised in the chapters dealing with “The Jungfraujoch” and “The
Eigerjoch.”

It is not easy to stop if one begins to catalogue the distinguished
men who helped to build up the triumphs of this period. Professor
Bonney, an early president, was a widely travelled mountaineer, and a
scientist of world-wide reputation. His recent work on the geology of
the Alps, is perhaps the best book of the kind in existence. The Rev.
Fenton Hort had, as we have seen, a great deal to do with the formation
of the Alpine Club. His life has been written by his son, Sir Arthur
Hort. Of John Ball and Mr. Justice Wills, we have already spoken. Of
Whymper we shall have enough to say when we summarise the great romance
of the Matterhorn. He was a remarkable man, with iron determination and
great intellectual gifts. His classic _Scrambles in the Alps_ did more
than any other book to make new mountaineers. He was one of the first
draughtsmen who combined a mountaineer’s knowledge of rock and ice
with the necessary technical ability to reproduce the grandeur of the
Alps in black and white. One should compare the delightful woodcuts
from his sketches with the crude, shapeless engravings that decorate
_Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers_. His great book deserved its success.
Whymper himself was a strong personality. He had many good qualities
and some that laid him open to criticism. He made enemies without much
difficulty. But he did a great work, and no man has a finer monument to
keep alive the memory of his most enduring triumphs.

Another name which must be mentioned is that of Mr. C. E. Mathews, a
distinguished pioneer whose book on Mont Blanc has been quoted in an
earlier chapter. He was a most devoted lover of the great mountain,
and climbed it no less than sixteen times. He was a rigid conservative
in matters Alpine; and there is something rather engaging in his
contempt for the humbler visitors to the Alps. “It is a scandal to the
Republic,” he writes, “that a line should have been permitted between
Grindelwald and Interlaken. Alas for those who hailed with delight
the extension of the Rhone Valley line from Sion to Visp!” It would
have been interesting to hear his comments on the Jungfrau railway.
The modern mountaineer would not easily forego the convenience of the
trains to Zermatt that save him many hours of tiresome, if romantic,
driving.

Then there is Thomas Hinchcliffe, whose _Summer Months in the Alps_
gave a decided impetus to the new movement. He belongs to a slightly
earlier period than A. W. Moore, one of the most distinguished of the
early group. Moore attained a high and honourable position in the Home
Office. His book _The Alps in 1864_, which has recently been reprinted,
is one of the sincerest tributes to the romance of mountaineering in
the English language. Moore took part in a long list of first ascents.
He was a member of the party that achieved the first ascent of the
Ecrins which Whymper has immortalised, and he had numerous other virgin
ascents to his credit. His most remarkable feat was the first ascent
of Mont Blanc by the Brenva ridge, the finest ice expedition of the
period. Mr. Mason has immortalised the Brenva in his popular novel,
_Running Water_.

And so the list might be indefinitely extended, if only space
permitted. There was Sir George Young, who took part in the first
ascent of the Jungfrau from the Wengern Alp and who was one of the
first to attempt guideless climbing. There was Hardy, who made the
first English ascent of the Finsteraarhorn, and Davies who climbed
the two loftiest Swiss peaks, Dom and Täschhorn.[4] “What I don’t
understand,” he said to a friend of the present writer, “is why you
modern mountaineers always climb on a rope. Surely your pace must be
that of the slowest member of the party?” One has a picture of Davies
striding impatiently ahead, devouring the ground in great hungry
strides, while the weaker members dwindled into small black spots on
the face of the glacier. And then there is Tuckett, who died in 1913.
Of Tuckett, Leslie Stephen wrote: “In the heroic cycle of Alpine
adventure the irrepressible Tuckett will occupy a place similar to
Ulysses. In one valley the peasant will point to some vast breach in
the everlasting rocks hewn, as his fancy will declare, by the sweep of
the mighty ice-axe of the hero.... The broken masses of a descending
glacier will fairly represent the staircase which he built in order to
scale a previously inaccessible height.... Critics will be disposed
to trace in him one more example of the universal solar myth....
Tuckett, it will be announced, is no other than the sun which appears
at earliest dawn above the tops of the loftiest mountains, gilds the
summits of the most inaccessible peaks, penetrates remote valleys, and
passes in an incredibly short time from one extremity of the Alpine
chain to another.”

The period which closes with the ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865 has
been called the Golden Age of Mountaineering; and the mountaineers whom
we have mentioned were responsible for the greater portion of this
glorious harvest. By 1865 the Matterhorn was the only remaining Zermat
giant that still defied the invaders; and beyond Zermat only one great
group of mountains, the Dolomites, still remained almost unconquered.
It was the age of the guided climber. The pioneers did excellent work
in giving the chamois hunter the opportunity to become a guide. And
many of these amateurs were really the moral leaders of their parties.
It was sometimes, though not often, the amateur who planned the line
of ascent, and decided when the attack should be pressed and when it
should be abandoned. It was only when the guide had made repeated
ascents of fashionable peaks that the part played by the amateur became
less and less important. Mountaineering in the ’fifties and ’sixties
was in many ways far more arduous than it is to-day. Club-huts are now
scattered through the Alps. It is no longer necessary to carry firewood
and sleeping-bags to some lonely bivouac beside the banks of great
glaciers. A sudden gust of bad weather at night no longer means that
the climber starts at dawn with drenched clothes. The excellent series
of _Climbers’ Guides_ give minute instructions describing every step
in the ascent. The maps are reliable. In those days, guide-books had
still to be written, the maps were romantic and misleading, and the
discoverer of a new pass had not only to get to the top, he had also
to get down the other side. What precisely lay beyond the pass, he did
not know. It might be an impassable glacier, or a rock face that could
not be descended. Almost every new pass involved the possibility of a
forced bivouac.

None the less, it must be admitted that the art of mountaineering has
advanced more since 1865 than it did in the preceding half century.
There is a greater difference between the ascent of the Grepon by the
Mer de Glace Face, or the Brouillard Ridge of Mont Blanc, than between
the Matterhorn and the Gross Glockner, or between the Weishorn and Mont
Blanc.

The art of mountaineering is half physical and half mental. He who can
justly claim the name of mountaineer must possess the power to _lead_
up rocks and snow, and to cut steps in ice. This is the physical side
of the business. It is important; but the charm of mountaineering is
largely intellectual. The mental equipment of the mountaineer involves
an exhaustive knowledge of one of the most ruthless aspects of Nature.
The mountaineer must know the hills in all their changing moods and
tenses. He must possess the power to make instant use of trivial clues,
a power which the uninitiated mistake for an instinctive sense of
direction. Such a sense is undoubtedly possessed by a small minority,
but path-finding is often usually only the subconscious analysis of
small clues. The mountaineer must understand the secrets of snow, rock,
and ice. He must be able to tell at a glance whether a snow slope is
dangerous, or a snow-bridge likely to collapse. He must be able to move
with certainty and safety on a rock face, whether it is composed of
reliable, or brittle and dangerous rock. All this involves knowledge
which is born of experience and the power to apply experience. Every
new peak is a problem for the intellect. Mountaineering, however,
differs radically in one respect from many other sports. Most men can
get up a mountain somehow, and thereby share at least one experience of
the expert. Of every hundred boys that are dragooned into compulsory
cricket at school, only ten could ever by any possible chance qualify
to play in first-class cricket. Almost all of them could reach the
summit of a first class peak if properly guided.

But this is not mountaineering. You cannot pay a professional to take
your place at Lords’ and then claim the benefit of the century he
knocks up. But some men with great Alpine reputations owe everything to
the professional they have hired. They have good wind and strong legs.
With a stout rope above, they could follow a good leader up any peak in
the Alps. The guide was not only paid to lead up the rocks and assist
them from above. He was paid to do all the thinking that was necessary.
He was the brain as well as the muscle of the expedition. He solved all
the problems that Nature sets the climber, and mountaineering for his
client was only a very safe form of exercise in agreeable surroundings.

Leslie Stephen admitted this, and he had less cause to admit it than
most. “I utterly repudiate the doctrine that Alpine travellers are, or
ought to be, the heroes of Alpine adventure. The true way, at least, to
describe all my Alpine adventures is to say that Michael Anderegg, or
Lauener, succeeded in performing a feat requiring skill, strength, and
courage, the difficulty of which was much increased by the difficulty
of taking with him his knapsack and his employer.” Now, this does less
than justice to Leslie Stephen, and to many of the early mountaineers.
Often they supplied the brain of the party, and the directing energy.
They were pioneers. Yet mountaineering as a fine art owes almost as
much to the men who first dispensed with professional assistance. A
man who climbs habitually with guides may be, and often is, a fine
mountaineer. He _need_ be nothing more than a good walker, with a
steady head, to achieve a desperate reputation among laymen.

Many of the early pioneers were by no means great athletes, though
their mountaineering achievements deceived the public into crediting
them with superhuman nerve and strength. Many of them were middle-aged
gentlemen, who could have taken no part in active sports which demand
a swift alliance of nerve and muscle; but who were quite capable of
plugging up the average mixture of easy rock and snow that one meets on
the average first-class Alpine peak. They had average endurance, and
more than average pluck, for the prestige of the unvanquished peaks
still daunted all but the courageous.

They were lucky in that the great bulk of Alpine peaks were
unconquered, and were only too ready to be conquered by the first
climber who could hire two trusty Swiss guides to cut the steps, carry
the knapsack, and lead up the rocks. It is usually said of these men:
“They could not, perhaps, have tackled the pretty rock problems in
which the modern cragsman delights. They were something better than
gymnasts. They were all-round mountaineers.” This seems rather special
pleading. Some one said that mountaineering seemed to be walking up
easy snow mountains between guides, and mere cragsmanship consisted
in leading up difficult rock-peaks without guides. It does not follow
that a man who can lead up the Chamounix aiguilles knows less of the
broader principles of mountaineering than the gentleman who is piloted
up Mont Blanc by sturdy Swiss peasants. The issue is not between those
who confine their energies to gymnastic feats on Welsh crags and the
wider school who understand snow and ice as well as rock. The issue
is between those who can take their proper share in a rock-climb like
the Grepon, or a difficult ice expedition like the Brenva Mont Blanc,
and those who would be completely at a loss if their guides broke
down on an easy peak like the Wetterhorn. The pioneers did not owe
everything to their guides. A few did, but most of them were good
mountaineers whose opinion was often asked by the professionals, and
sometimes taken. Yet the guided climber, then and now, missed the real
inwardness of the sport. Mountaineering, in the modern sense, is a
sport unrivalled in its appeal to mind and body. The man who can lead
on a series of really first-class climbs must possess great nerve, and
a specialised knowledge of mountains that is almost a sixth sense.
Mountaineering between guides need not involve anything more than a
good wind and a steady head. Anybody can get up a first-class peak.
Only one amateur in ten can complete ascent and descent with safety if
called on to lead.

In trying to form a just estimate of our debt to the early English
pioneers, we have to avoid two extremes. We must remember the parable
of the dwarf standing on the giant’s shoulders. It ill becomes those
who owe Climbers’ Guides, and to some extent good maps, to the labours
of the pioneers to discount their achievements. But the other extreme
is also a danger. We need not pretend that every man who climbed a
virgin peak in the days when nearly every big peak was virgin was
necessarily a fine mountaineer. All praise is due to the earliest
explorers, men like Balmat, Joseph Beck, Bourrit, De Saussure, and the
Meyers, for in those days the country above the snow-line was not only
unknown, it was full of imagined terrors. These men did a magnificent
work in robbing the High Alps of their chief defence--superstition. But
in the late ’fifties and early ’sixties this atmosphere had largely
vanished. Mr. X came to the A valley, and discovered that the B, C, or
D horn had not been climbed. The B, C, and D horn were average peaks
with a certain amount of straightforward snow and ice work, and a
certain amount of straightforward rock work. Mr. X enjoys a fortnight
of good weather, and the services of two good guides. He does what any
man with like opportunities would accomplish, what an undergraduate
fresh to the Alps could accomplish to-day if these peaks had been
obligingly left virgin for his disposal. Many of the pioneers with a
long list of virgin peaks to their credit would have made a poor show
if they had been asked to lead one of the easy buttresses of Tryfan.

Rock-climbing as a fine art was really undreamt of till long after the
Matterhorn had been conquered. The layman is apt to conceive all Alpine
climbs as a succession of dizzy precipices. To a man brought up on
Alpine classics, there are few things more disappointing than the ease
of his first big peak. The rock work on the average Oberland or Zermat
peaks by the ordinary route is simple, straightforward scrambling up
slopes whose average inclination is nearer thirty than sixty degrees.
It is the sort of thing that the ordinary man can do by the light of
Nature. Rock-climbing, in the sense in which the Dolomite or lake
climber uses the term, is an art which calls for high qualities of
nerve and physique. Such rock climbing was almost unknown till some
time after the close of this period. No modern cragsman would consider
the Matterhorn, even if robbed of its fixed ropes, as anything but a
straightforward piece of interesting rock work, unless he was unlucky
enough to find it in bad condition. All this we may frankly admit.
Mountaineering as an art was only in its infancy when the Matterhorn
was climbed. And yet the Englishmen whom we have mentioned in this
chapter did more for mountaineering than any of their successors or
predecessors. Bourrit, De Saussure, Beck, Placidus à Spescha, and the
other pioneers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century,
deserve the greatest credit. But their spirited example gave no general
impetus to the sport. They were single-handed mountaineers; and somehow
they never managed to fire the world with their own enthusiasm. The
Englishmen arrived late on the scene. The great giants of more than
one district had been climbed. And yet mountaineering was still the
pursuit of a few isolated men who knew little or nothing of their
brother climbers, who came and struggled and passed away uncheered by
the inspiring freemasonry of a band of workers aiming at the same end.
It was left to the English to transform mountaineering into a popular
sport. Judged even by modern standards some of these men were fine
mountaineers, none the less independent because the fashion of the day
decreed that guides should be taken on difficult expeditions. But even
those who owed the greater part of their success to their guides were
inspired by the same enthusiasm which, unlike the lonely watchfires of
the earlier pioneers, kindled a general conflagration.



CHAPTER VIII

THE STORY OF THE MATTERHORN


The history of mountaineering contains nothing more dramatic than the
epic of the Matterhorn. There is no mountain which appeals so readily
to the imagination. Its unique form has drawn poetic rhapsodies from
the most prosaic. “Men,” says Mr. Whymper, “who ordinarily spoke or
wrote like rational beings when they came under its power seemed to
quit their senses, and ranted, and rhapsodied, losing for a time
all common forms of speech. Even the sober De Saussure was moved to
enthusiasm.”

If the Matterhorn could thus inspire men before the most famous siege
in Alpine history had clothed its cliffs in romance, how much more
must it move those for whom the final tragedy has become historical?
The first view of the Matterhorn, and the moment when the last step
is taken on to the final crest, are two moments which the mountaineer
never forgets. Those who knew the old Zermat are unpleasantly fond of
reminding us that the railway train and the monster hôtels have robbed
Zermat of its charm; while the fixed ropes and sardine tins--[Those
dear old sardine tins! Our Alpine writers would run short of satire
if they could not invoke their aid]--have finally humiliated the
unvanquished Titan. It may be so; but it is easy enough to recover
the old atmosphere. You have only to visit Zermat in winter when the
train is not running. A long trudge up twenty miles of shadowed, frosty
valley, a little bluff near Randa, and the Matterhorn soars once more
into a stainless sky. There are no clouds, and probably not another
stranger in the valley. The hôtels are closed, the sardine tins are
buried, and the Matterhorn renews like the immortals an undying youth.

The great mountain remained unconquered mainly because it inspired
in the hearts of the bravest guides a despairing belief in its
inaccessibility. “There seemed,” writes Mr. Whymper, “to be a cordon
drawn round it up to which one might go, but no further. Within that
line gins and efreets were supposed to exist--the wandering Jew and the
spirits of the damned. The superstitious natives in the surrounding
valleys (many of whom firmly believed it to be not only the highest
mountain in the Alps, but in the world) spoke of a ruined city on the
summit wherein the spirits dwelt; and if you laughed they gravely
shook their heads, told you to look yourself to see the castle and
walls, and warned one against a rash approach, lest the infuriated
demons from their impregnable heights might hurl down vengeance for
one’s derision.”

[Illustration: I.--THE MATTERHORN FROM THE NORTH-EAST (ZERMAT).

The left-hand ridge in the Furgg Grat and the shoulder (F.S.) is the
Furgg shoulder from which Mummery traversed across to the Swiss face on
his attempt on the Furgg Grat.

The central ridge is the North-east ridge. N.E. is the point where
the climb begins. S is the Swiss shoulder, A the Swiss summit, B the
Italian summit. The route of the first ascent is marked. Nowadays it is
usual to keep closer to the ridge in the early part of the climb and to
climb from the shoulder S to the summit A. Fixed ropes hang throughout
this section. T is the group of rocky teeth on the Zmutt ridge.]

Those who have a sense for the dramatic unities will feel that, for
once in a way, Life lived up to the conventions of Art, and that even
a great dramatist could scarcely have bettered the materials afforded
by the history of the Matterhorn. As the story unfolds itself one can
scarcely help attributing some fatal personality to the inanimate
cliffs. In the Italian valley of Breuil, the Becca, as the Matterhorn
used to be called, was for centuries the embodiment of supernatural
terror. Mothers would frighten their children by threats that the wild
man of the Becca would carry them away. And if the children asked how
the Matterhorn was born, they would reply that in bygone years there
dwelt a giant in Aosta named Gargantua, who was once seized with a
longing for the country beyond the range of peaks that divide Italy
from Switzerland. Now, in those far off times, the mountains of the
great barrier formed one uniform ridge instead of (as now) a series of
peaks. The giant strode over this range with one step. As he stood with
one foot in Switzerland and the other in Italy, the surrounding rocks
fell away, and the pyramid of cliffs caught between his legs alone
remained. And thus was the Matterhorn formed. There were many such
legends; the reader may find them in Whymper and Guido Rey. They were
enough to daunt all but the boldest.

[Illustration: II.--MATTERHORN FROM THE NORTH.

The left-hand ridge is the North-east ridge. The points N.E., S, A, B,
and T are the same as the corresponding points in I. The North-east
ridge, which appears extremely steep, in I., is here seen in profile.]

The drama of the Matterhorn opens appropriately enough with the three
men who first showed a contempt for the superstitions that surrounded
the Becca. The story of that first attempt is told in Guido Rey’s
excellent monograph on the Matterhorn, a monograph which has been
translated by Mr. Eaton into English as spirited as the original
Italian. This opening bout with the Becca took place in 1858. Three
natives of Breuil, the little Italian valley at the foot of the
Matterhorn, met before dawn at the châlet of Avouil. Of these, Jean
Jacques Carrel was in command. He was a mighty hunter, and a fine
mountaineer. The second, Jean Antoine Carrel, “il Bersaglier,” was
destined to play a leading part in the conflict that was to close seven
years later. Jean Antoine was something more than a great guide. He
was a ragged, independent mountaineer, difficult to control, a great
leader, but a poor follower. He was an old soldier, and had fought at
Novara. The third of these young climbers was Aimé Gorret, a young boy
of twenty destined for the Church. His solitary rambles among the hills
had filled him with a passionate worship of the Matterhorn.

Without proper provisions or gear, these three light-hearted knights
set forth gaily on their quest. They mistook the way; and, reaching
a spot that pleased them, they wasted hours in hurling rocks down a
cliff--a fascinating pursuit. When they reached the point now known as
the Tête du Lion (12,215 feet) they contemplated the Matterhorn which
rose definitely beyond an intervening gap. They looked at their great
foe with quiet assurance. The Becca would not run away. Nobody else was
likely to try a throw with the local giant. One day they would come
back and settle the issue. There was no immediate hurry.

In 1860 a daring attempt was made by Messrs. Alfred, Charles, and
Sanbach Parker of Liverpool. These bold climbers dispensed with guides,
and had the wisdom to attack the east face that rises above Zermat. All
the other early explorers attacked the Italian ridge; and, as will be
seen, the first serious assault on the eastern face succeeded. Lack of
time prevented the Parkers from reaching a greater height than 12,000
feet; nor were they more successful in the following year, but they had
made a gallant attempt, for which they deserve credit. In 1860 another
party had assailed the mountain from Italy, and reached a height of
about 13,000 feet. The party consisted of Vaughan Hawkins and Prof.
Tyndall, whom he had invited to join the party, with the guides J. J.
Carrel and Bennen.

In 1861 Edward Whymper, who had opened his Alpine career in the
previous year, returned to the Alps determined to conquer two virgin
summits of the Alps, the Matterhorn and the Weishorn. On arriving at
Chatillon, he learned that the Weishorn had been climbed by Tyndall,
and that Tyndall was at Breuil intending to add the Matterhorn to his
conquests. Whymper determined to anticipate him. He arrived at Breuil
on August 28, with an Oberland guide, and inquired for the best man
in the valley. The knowing ones with a voice recommended Jean Antoine
Carrel, a member of the first party to set foot on the Matterhorn. “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 the result, was his
price. I assented. But I must take his comrade. As he said this, an
evil countenance came forth out of the darkness, and proclaimed itself
the comrade. I demurred, and negotiations were broken off.”

At Breuil, they tried to get another man to accompany them but without
success. The men they approached either would not go or asked a
prohibitive price. “This, it may be said once and for all, was the
reason why so many futile attempts were made on the Matterhorn. One
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. For they
were, with the exception of the man to whom reference will be made [J.
A. Carrel] universally impressed with the belief that the summit was
entirely inaccessible.”

Whymper and his guide bivouacked in a cowshed; and as night approached
they saw J. A. Carrel and his companion stealing up the hillside.
Whymper asked them if they had repented, and would join his party.
They replied that they had contemplated an independent assault. “Oh,
then, it is not necessary to have more than three.” “Not for us.” “I
admired their pluck and had a strong inclination to engage the pair,
but finally decided against it. The companion turned out to be J. J.
Carrel. Both were bold mountaineers; but Jean Antoine was incomparably
the better of the two, and was 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.”

Carrel was something more than a great guide. He remained a soldier
long after he had laid down his sword. He was, above all, an Italian,
determined to climb the Matterhorn by the great Italian ridge, to climb
it for the honour of Italy, and for the honour of his native valley.
The two great moments of his life were those in which he heard the
shouts of victory at Colle di Santiarno, and the cries of triumph on
the summit of the Italian ridge. Whymper, and later Tyndall, found him
an awkward man to deal with. He had the rough, undisciplined nature
of the mountain he loved. He looked on the Matterhorn as a kind of
preserve, and was determined that he and no other should lead on the
final and successful ascent. Whymper’s first attempt failed owing
to the poor qualities of his guide; and the Carrels were not more
successful.

During the three years that followed, Whymper made no less than six
attempts to climb the Matterhorn. On one occasion he climbed alone
and unaided higher than any of his predecessors. Without guides or
companions, he reached a height of 13,500 feet. There is little to be
said for solitary climbing, but this feat stands out as one of the
boldest achievements of the period. The critics of solitary scrambling
need, however, look no further than its sequel for their moral. In
attempting to negotiate a corner on the Tête du Lion, Whymper slipped
and fell. He shot down an ice slope, slid and bounded through a
vertical height of about 200 feet, and was eventually thrown against
the side of a gully where it narrowed. Another ten feet would have
taken him in one terrific bound of 800 feet on to the glacier below.
The blood was pulsing out of numerous cuts. He plastered up the wounds
in his head with a lump of snow before scrambling up into a place of
safety, where he promptly fainted away. He managed, however, to reach
Breuil without further adventure. Within a week he had returned to the
attack.

He made two further attempts that year which failed for various
reasons; but he had the satisfaction of seeing Tyndall fail when
success seemed assured. Tyndall had brought with him the great Swiss
guide Bennen, and a Valaisian guide named Walter Anton. He engaged
Jean Antoine and Cæsar Carrel. They proposed to attack the mountain
by the Italian ridge. Next morning, somebody ran in to tell Whymper
that a flag had been seen on the summit. This proved a false alarm.
Whymper waited through the long day to greet the party on their return.
“I could not bring myself to leave, but lingered about as a foolish
lover hovers round the object of his affections even after he has been
rejected. The sun had set before the men were discerned coming over the
pastures. There was no spring in their steps--they, too, were defeated.”

Prof. Tyndall told Whymper that he had arrived “within a stone’s-throw
of the summit”--the mountain is 14,800 feet high, 14,600 feet had been
climbed. “He greatly deceived himself,” said Whymper, “for the point
which he reached is no less than 800 feet below the summit. The failure
was due to the fact that the Carrels had been engaged in a subordinate
capacity.” When they were appealed to for their opinion, they replied:
“We are porters, ask your guides.” Carrel always determined that the
Matterhorn should be climbed from Italy, and that the leader of the
climb should be an Italian. Bennen was a Swiss and Carrel had been
engaged as a second guide. Tyndall and Whymper found it necessary to
champion their respective guides, Carrel and Bennen; and a more or less
heated controversy was carried on in the pages of _The Alpine Journal_.

The Matterhorn was left in peace till the next year, but, meanwhile,
a conspiracy for its downfall was hatched in Italy. The story is told
in Guido Rey’s classic book on the Matterhorn, a book which should be
read side by side with Whymper’s _Scrambles_, as it gives the Italian
version of the final stages in which Italy and England fought for
the great prize. In 1863, some leading Italian mountaineers gathered
together at Turin to found an Italian Alpine Club. Amongst these were
two well-known scientists, Felice Giordano and Quintino Sella. They
vowed that, as English climbers had robbed them of Monte Viso, prince
of Piedmontese peaks, Italy should have the honour of conquering the
Matterhorn, and that Italians should climb it from Italy by the Italian
ridge. The task was offered to Giordano, who accepted it.

In 1863 Whymper and Carrel made another attempt on the Matterhorn,
which was foiled by bad weather. In the next year, the mountain was
left alone; but the plot for its downfall began to mature. Giordano and
Sella had met Carrel, and had extracted from him promises of support.
Carrel was, above all, an Italian, and, other things being equal, he
would naturally prefer to lead an Italian, rather than an English,
party to the summit.

And now we come to the closing scenes. In 1865 Whymper returned to the
attack, heartily tired of the Italian ridge. With the great guides
Michel Croz and Christian Almer, Whymper attempted to reach the summit
by a rock couloir that starts from near the Breuiljoch, and terminates
high up on the Furggen arête. This was a mad scheme; and the route they
chose was the most impracticable of all the routes that had ever been
attempted on the Matterhorn. Even to-day, the great couloir has not
been climbed, and the top half of the Furggen ridge has only been once
ascended (or rather outflanked on the Italian side), an expedition of
great danger and difficulty. Foiled in this attempt, Whymper turned
his attention to the Swiss face. The eastern face is a fraud. From
the Riffel and from Zermat, it appears almost perpendicular; but when
seen in profile from the Zmutt glacier it presents a very different
appearance. The average angle of the slope as far as “the shoulder,”
about 13,925 feet, is about thirty degrees. From here to the summit the
angle steepens considerably but is never more than fifty degrees. The
wonder is that Whymper, who had studied the mountain more than once
from the Zmutt glacier, still continued his attempts on the difficult
Italian ridge.

On the 8th of June 1865, Whymper arrived in Breuil, and explained to
Carrel his change of plan. He engaged Carrel, and made plans for his
attack on the Swiss face, promising Carrel that, if that failed, they
should return to the Italian ridge. Jean Antoine told Whymper that he
would not be able to serve him after the 11th, as he was engaged to
travel “with a family of distinction in the valley of Aosta.” Whymper
asked him why he had not told him this before; and he replied that the
engagement had been a long-standing one, but that the actual day had
not been fixed. Whymper was annoyed; but he could find no fault with
the answer, and parted on friendly terms with Carrel. But the family of
distinction was no other than Giordano. “You are going to leave me,”
Whymper had said to Carrel, “to travel with a party of ladies. The work
is not fit for you.” Carrel had smiled; and Whymper had taken the smile
as a recognition of the implied compliment. Carrel smiled because he
knew that the work he had in hand was more fitted for him than for any
other man.

On the 7th, Giordano had written to Sella:

    “Let us, then, set out to attack this Devil’s mountain; and let
    us see that we succeed, if only Whymper has not been beforehand
    with us.” On the 11th, he wrote again: “Dear Quintino, It is high
    time for me to send you news from here. I reached Valtournanche
    on Saturday at midday. There I found Carrel, who had just returned
    from a reconnoitring expedition on the Matterhorn, which had
    proved a failure owing to bad weather. Whymper had arrived two or
    three days before; as usual, he wished to make the ascent, and had
    engaged Carrel, who, not having had my letters, had agreed, but
    for a few days only. Fortunately, the weather turned bad, Whymper
    was unable to make his fresh attempt; and Carrel left him, and
    came with me together with five other picked men who are the best
    guides in the valley. We immediately sent off our advance guard
    with Carrel at its head. In order not to excite remark, we took the
    rope and other materials to Avouil, a hamlet which is very remote
    and close to the Matterhorn; and this is to be our lower base.... I
    have tried to keep everything secret; but that fellow, whose life
    seems to depend on the Matterhorn, is here suspiciously prying into
    everything. I have taken all the competent men away from him; and
    yet he is so enamoured of the mountain that he may go with others
    and make a scene. He is here in this hôtel, and I try to avoid
    speaking to him.”

Whymper discovered on the 10th the identity of the “family of
distinction.” He was furious. He considered, with some show of
justification, that he had been “bamboozled and humbugged.”

The Italian party had already started for the Matterhorn, with a large
store of provisions. They were an advance party designed to find and
facilitate the way. They would take their time. Whymper took courage.
On the 11th, a party arrived from Zermat across the Théodule. One of
these proved to be Lord Francis Douglas, who, a few days previously,
had made the second ascent of the Gabelhorn, and the first from Zinal.
Lord Francis was a young and ambitious climber; and he was only too
glad to join Whymper in an attack on the Swiss face of the Matterhorn.
They crossed to Zermat together on the 12th, and there discovered Mr.
Hudson, a great mountaineer, accompanied by the famous guide Michel
Croz, who had arrived at Zermat with the Matterhorn in view. They
agreed to join forces; and Hudson’s friend Hadow was admitted to the
party. Hadow was a young man of nineteen who had just left Harrow.
Whymper seemed doubtful of his ability; but Hudson reassured him by
remarking that Mr. Hadow had done Mont Blanc in less time than most
men. Peter Taugwalder, Lord Francis’s guide, and Peter’s two sons
completed the party. On the 13th of July they left Zermat.

On the 14th of July Giordano wrote a short letter every line of which
is alive with grave triumph. “At 2 p.m. to-day I saw Carrel & Co., on
the top of the Matterhorn.” Poor Giordano! The morrow was to bring a
sad disappointment; and his letter dated the 15th of July contains
a pregnant sentence: “Although every man did his duty, it is a lost
battle, and I am in great grief.”

This is what had happened. Whymper and his companions had left Zermat
on the 13th at half-past five. The day was cloudless. They mounted
leisurely, and arrived at the base of the actual peak about half-past
eleven. Once fairly on the great eastern face, they were astonished to
find that places which looked entirely impracticable from the Riffel
“were so easy that they could run about.” By mid-day they had found
a suitable place for the tent at a height of about 11,000 feet. Croz
and young Peter Taugwalder went on to explore. They returned at about
3 p.m. in a great state of excitement. There was no difficulty. They
could have gone to the top that day and returned.... “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.”

Whymper’s story is told with simplicity and restraint. He was too good
a craftsman to spoil a great subject by unnecessary strokes. They
started next day before dawn. They had left Zermat on the 13th, and
they left their camp on a Friday (the superstitious noted these facts
when the whole disastrous story was known). The whole of the great
eastern slope “was now revealed, rising for 3000 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 the greater part of the way there was no need for the rope, and
sometimes Hudson led, and sometimes myself.” When they arrived at the
snow ridge now known as “The Shoulder,” which is some 500 feet below
the summit, they turned over on to the northern face. This proved
more difficult; but the general angle of the slope was nowhere more
than forty degrees. Hadow’s want of experience began to tell, and
he required a certain amount of assistance. “The solitary difficult
part was of no great extent.... A long stride round a rather awkward
corner brought us to snow once more. The last doubt had vanished. The
Matterhorn was ours. Nothing but 200 feet of easy snow remained to be
surmounted.”

But they were not yet certain that they had not been beaten. The
Italians had left Breuil four days before. All through the climb,
false alarms had been raised of men on the top. The excitement became
intense. “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.”

No footsteps could be seen; but the summit of the Matterhorn consists
of a rudely level ridge about 350 feet in length, and the Italians
might have been at the further end. Whymper hastened to the Italian
summit, and again found the snow untrodden. They peered over the ridge,
and far below on the right caught sight of the Italian party. “Up went
my arms and 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.’ They yelled until
they were hoarse. ‘Croz, we must make them hear us, they shall hear
us.’” Whymper seized a block of rock and hurled it down, and called on
his companion to do the same. They drove their sticks in, and soon a
whole torrent was pouring down. “There was no mistake about it this
time. The Italians turned and fled.”

[Illustration: III.--THE MATTERHORN FROM THE NORTH-WEST.

T and B are the points marked T and B in I. and II. Z Z Z Z is the
Zmutt ridge. B C D E F is the great Italian South-west ridge. B is
the Italian summit. C the point where Tyndall turned back on his last
attempt. D the Italian shoulder now known as “Pic Tyndall.” E the
“cravette.” F the Col du Lion, and G the Tête du Lion. The Italian
route ascends to the Col du Lion on the further side, and then follows
the Italian ridge.]

Croz planted a tent-pole which they had taken with them, though Whymper
protested that it was tempting Providence, and fixed his blouse to
it. A poor flag--but it was seen everywhere. At Breuil--as we have
seen--they cheered the Italian victory. But on the morrow the explorers
returned down-hearted. “The old legends are true--there are spirits on
the top of the Matterhorn. We saw them ourselves--they hurled stones at
us.”

We may allow this dramatic touch to pass unchallenged, though, whatever
Carrel may have said to his friends, he made it quite clear to Giordano
that he had identified the turbulent spirits, for, in the letter from
which we have quoted, Giordano tells his friends that Carrel had seen
Whymper on the summit. It might, perhaps, be worth while to add that
the stones Whymper hurled down the ridge could by no possible chance
have hit Carrel’s party. “Still, I would,” writes Whymper, “that the
leader of that party could have stood with us at that moment, for our
victorious shouts conveyed to him the disappointment of a lifetime. He
was _the_ man of all those who attempted the ascent of the Matterhorn
who most deserved to be first upon its summit. He was the first to
doubt its inaccessibility; and he was the only man who persisted in
believing that its ascent would be accomplished. It was the aim of his
life to make the ascent from the side of Italy, for the honour of his
native valley. For a time, he had the game in his hands; he played it
as he thought best; but he made a false move, and he lost it.”

After an hour on the summit, they prepared to descend. The order of
descent was curious. Croz, as the best man in the party, should have
been placed last. As a matter of history, he led, followed, in this
order, by Hadow, Hudson, Douglas, and Peter Taugwalder. Whymper was
sketching while the party was being arranged. They were waiting for him
to tie on when somebody suggested that the names had not been left in a
bottle. While Whymper put this right, the rest of the party moved on. A
few minutes later Whymper tied on to young Peter, and followed detached
from the others. Later, Douglas asked Whymper to attach himself to old
Taugwalder, as he feared that Taugwalder would not be able to hold his
ground in the event of a slip. About three o’clock in the afternoon,
Michel Croz, who had laid aside his axe, faced the rock, and, in order
to give Hadow greater security, was putting his feet one by one into
their proper position. Croz then turned round to advance another step
when Hadow slipped, fell against Croz, and knocked him over. “I heard
one startled exclamation from Croz, and then saw him and Mr. Hadow
flying downwards; in another moment Hudson was dragged from his steps,
and Lord Francis Douglas immediately after him. 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: the rope
was taut between us, and the jerk came on us both as on one man. We
held: but the rope broke midway between Taugwalder and Lord Francis
Douglas. For a few seconds, we saw our unfortunate companions sliding
downwards on their backs, and spreading out their hands endeavouring
to save themselves. They passed from our sight uninjured, disappeared
one by one, and then fell from precipice to precipice on to the
Matterhorngletscher below, a distance of nearly 4000 feet in height.
From the moment the rope broke, it was impossible to help them.”

For half-an-hour, Whymper and the two Taugwalders remained on the spot
without moving. The two guides cried like children. Whymper was fixed
between the older and younger Taugwalder, and must have heartily
regretted that he left young Peter the responsibility of last man down,
for the young man was paralysed with terror, and refused to move. At
last, he descended, and they stood together. Whymper asked immediately
for the end of the rope that had given way, and noticed with horror
that it was the weakest of the three ropes. It had never been intended
to use it save as a reserve in case much rope had to be left behind to
attach to the rocks.

For more than two hours after the fall, Whymper expected that the
Taugwalders would fall. They were utterly unnerved. At 6 p.m. they
arrived again on the snow shoulder. “We frequently looked, but in vain,
for traces of our unfortunate companions; we bent over the ridge and
cried to them, but no sound returned. Convinced at last that they were
neither within sight nor hearing, we ceased from our useless efforts;
and, too cast down for speech, silently gathered up our things, and the
little effects of those who were lost, preparatory to continuing the
descent.”

As they started down, the Taugwalders raised the problem as to their
payment, Lord Francis being dead. “They filled,” remarks Whymper, “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.” The whole party spent the night on a miserable
ledge. Next day, they descended in safety to Zermat. Seiler met them
at the door of his hôtel. “What is the matter?” “The Taugwalders and I
have returned.” He did not need more, and burst into tears, but lost no
time in needless lamentations, and set to work to rouse the village.

On Sunday morning, Whymper set out with the Rev. Canon M’Cormick to
recover the bodies of his friends. The local curé threatened with
excommunication any guide who neglected Mass in order to attend the
search party. “To several, at least, this was a severe trial. Peter
Perrn declared, with tears in his eyes, that nothing else would have
prevented him joining in the search.” Guides from other valleys joined
the party. At 8.30 they got to the plateau at the top of the glacier.
They found Hudson, Croz and Hadow, but “of Lord Francis Douglas nothing
was seen.”

This accident sent a thrill of horror through the civilised world.
The old file of _The Times_, which is well worth consulting, bears
tribute to the profound sensation which the news of this great tragedy
aroused. Idle rumours of every kind were afloat--with these we shall
deal later. For more than five weeks, not a day passed without some
letter or comment in the columns of the leading English paper. These
letters, for the most part, embodied the profound distrust with which
the new sport was regarded by the bulk of Englishmen. If Lord Francis
Douglas had been killed while galloping after a fox, he would have
been considered to have fallen in action. That he should have fallen
on the day that the Matterhorn fell, that he should have paid the
supreme forfeit for a triumphant hour in Alpine history--such a death
was obviously wholly without its redeeming features. “It was the
blue ribbon of the Alps,” wrote _The Times_, “that poor Lord Francis
Douglas was trying for the other day. If it must be so, at all events
the Alpine Club that has proclaimed this crusade must manage the thing
rather better, or it will soon be voted a nuisance. If the work is to
be done, it must be done well. They must advise youngsters to practise,
and make sure of their strength and endurance.”

For three weeks, Whymper gave no sign. At last, in response to a
dignified appeal from Mr. Justice Wills, then President of the Alpine
Club, he broke silence, and gave to the public a restrained account of
the tragedy. As we have said, malicious rumour had been busy, and in
ignorant quarters there had been rumours of foul play. The Matterhorn
accident first popularised the theory that Alpine ropes existed to
be cut. Till then, the public had supposed that the rope was used
to prevent cowardly climbers deserting their party in an emergency.
But from 1865 onwards, popular authors discovered a new use for the
rope. They divided all Alpine travellers into two classes, those who
cut the rope from below (“Greater love hath no man--a romance of the
mountains”) and those who cut the rope from above (“The Coward--a tale
of the snows”). A casual reader might be pardoned for supposing that
the Swiss did a brisk business in sheath knives. We should be the last
to discourage this enterprising school--their works have afforded much
joy to the climbing fraternity; but we offer them in all humility a few
remarks on the art of rope-cutting by a member of Class II (those who
cut the rope from above).

A knife could only be used with advantage when a snowbridge gives way.
It is easy enough to hold a man who has fallen into a crevasse; but it
is often impossible to pull him out. The whole situation is altered
on a rock face. If a man falls, a sudden jerk may pull the rest of
the party off the face of the mountain. This will almost certainly
happen if the leader or, on a descent, the last man down, falls, unless
the rope is anchored round a knob of rock, in which case--provided
the rope does not break--the leader may escape with a severe shaking,
though a clear fall of more than fifteen feet will usually break the
rope if anchored; and, if not anchored, the party will be dragged off
their holds one by one. Therefore, the leader must not fall. If any
other member of the party falls, he should be held by the man above.
On difficult ground, only one man moves at a time. No man moves until
the man above has secured himself in a position where he can draw in
the rope as the man below advances. If he keeps it reasonably taut,
and is well placed, he should be able to check any slip. A climber who
slips and is held by the rope can immediately get new foothold and
handhold. He is not in a crevasse from which exit is impossible save
at the rope’s end. His slip is checked, and he is swung up against
a rock face. There is no need to drag him up. The rest of the party
have passed over this face, and therefore handholds and footholds can
be found. The man who has slipped will find fresh purchase, and begin
again. In the case of the Matterhorn accident, the angle of the slope
was about forty degrees. There was an abundance of hold, and if the
rope had not parted Croz and Hadow would have been abruptly checked,
and would have immediately secured themselves. Now, if Taugwalder had
cut the rope, as suggested, he must have been little short of an expert
acrobat, and have cut it in about the space of a second and a half
_before the jerk_. If he had waited for the jerk, either he would have
been dragged off, in which case his knife would have come in handy, or
he would have held, in which case it would have been unnecessary.

To mountaineers, all this, of course, is a truism; and we should not
have laboured the point if we wrote exclusively for mountaineers. Even
so, Peter’s comrades at Zermat (who should have known better) persisted
in believing that he cut the rope. “In regard to this infamous charge,”
writes Whymper, “I say that he could not do so at the moment of the
slip, and that the end of the rope in my possession shows that he
did not do so before.” Whymper, however, adds: “There remains the
suspicious fact that the rope which broke was the thinnest and weakest
one we had. It is suspicious because it is unlikely that the men in
front would have selected an old and weak rope when there was an
abundance of new, and much stronger, rope to spare; and, on the other
hand, because if Taugwalder thought that an accident was likely to
happen, it was to his interest to have the weaker rope placed where it
was.”

One cannot help regretting that Whymper lent weight to an unworthy
suspicion. Taugwalder was examined by a secret Court of Inquiry; and
Whymper prepared a set of questions with a view to helping him to clear
himself. The answers, though promised, were never sent; and Taugwalder
ultimately left the valley for America, returning only to die. Whymper,
in his classic book, suggested the possibility of criminal dealings by
publishing photographs of the three ropes showing that the rope broken
was far the weakest.

Let us review the whole story as Whymper himself tells it. We know
that Whymper crossed the Théodule on the eleventh in a state of anger
and despair. The prize for which he had striven so long seemed to be
sliding from his grasp. Carrel had deserted him just as the true line
of attack had been discovered. Like all mountaineers, he was human.
He gets together the best party he can, and sets out with all haste
determined to win by a head. Hadow, a young man with very little
experience, is taken, and Hadow, the weak link, is destined to turn
triumph into disaster. Let the mountaineer who has never invited a man
unfit for a big climb throw the first stone. And, before he has thrown
it, let him remember the peculiar provocation in Whymper’s case.

All goes well. The Matterhorn is conquered with surprising ease. These
six men achieve the greatest triumph in Alpine history without serious
check. To Whymper, this hour on the summit must have marked the supreme
climax of life, an hour that set its seal on the dogged labours of
past years. Do men in such moments anticipate disaster? Taugwalder
might possibly have failed in a sudden crisis; but is it likely that
he should deliberately prepare for an accident by carefully planned
treachery?

Now read the story as Whymper tells it. The party are just about to
commence the descent. The first five hundred feet would still be
considered as demanding the greatest care. The top five hundred feet of
the Matterhorn, but for the ropes with which the whole mountain is now
festooned, would always be a difficult, if not a dangerous, section.
Croz was the best guide in the party. He should have remained behind
as sheet anchor. Instead of this, he goes first. Whymper falls out of
line, to inscribe the names of the party, ties himself casually on
to young Peter, and then “runs down after the others.” In the final
arrangements, young Peter, who was a young and inexperienced guide,
was given the vital position of last man down. Flushed with triumph,
their minds could find no room for a doubt. Everything had gone through
with miraculous ease. Such luck simply could not turn. It is in
precisely such moments as these that the mountains settle their score.
Mountaineering is a ruthless sport that demands unremitting attention.
In games, a moment’s carelessness may lose a match, or a championship;
but in climbing a mistake may mean death.

As for Taugwalder, one is tempted to acquit him without hesitation; but
there is one curious story about Taugwalder which gives one pause. The
story was told to the present writer by an old member of the Alpine
Club, and the following is an extract from a letter: “I had rather you
said ‘a friend of yours’ without mentioning my name. I had a good many
expeditions with old Peter Taugwalder, including Mont Blanc and Monte
Rosa; and I had rather a tender spot for the somewhat coarse, dirty
old beggar. I should not like my name to appear to help the balance to
incline in the direction of his guilt in that Matterhorn affair. It
was not on the Dent Blanche that he took the rope off; it was coming
down a long steep slope of bare rock from the top of the Tête Blanche
towards Prayagé. I had a couple of men with me who were inexperienced;
and I fancy he must have thought that, if one of them let go, which was
not unlikely, he would be able to choose whether to hold on or let go.
I happened to look up and see what was going on, and I made him tie up
at once. I don’t quite remember whether Whymper tells us how far from
Peter’s fingers the break in the rope occurred. That seems to me one of
the most critical points.”

There we may leave Taugwalder, and the minor issues of this great
tragedy. The broader lessons are summed up by Mr. Whymper in a
memorable passage: “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 the early explorers. Others may
tread its summit snows, but none will ever know the feelings of those
who first gazed upon its marvellous panorama; and none, I trust, will
ever be compelled to tell of joy turned into grief, and of laughter
into mourning. It proved to be a stubborn foe; it resisted long and
gave many a hard blow; it was defeated at last with an ease that none
could have anticipated, but like a relentless enemy--conquered, but
not crushed--it took a terrible vengeance.”

The last sentence has a peculiar significance. A strange fatality seems
to dog the steps of those who seek untrodden paths to the crest of the
Matterhorn. Disaster does not always follow with the dramatic swiftness
of that which marked the conquest of the eastern face, yet, slowly but
surely, the avenging spirit of the Matterhorn fulfils itself.

On July 16, two days after the catastrophe, J. A. Carrel set out to
crown Whymper’s victory by proving that the Italian ridge was not
unconquerable. He was accompanied by Abbé Gorret, a plucky priest who
had shared with him that first careless attack on the mountain. Bich
and Meynet completed the party. The Abbé and Meynet remained behind not
very far from the top, in order to help Carrel and Bich on the return
at a place where a short descent onto a ledge was liable to cause
difficulty on the descent. This ledge, known as Carrel’s corridor,
is about forty minutes from the summit. It needed a man of Carrel’s
determined courage to follow its winding course. It is now avoided.

The rest of the climb presented no difficulty. Carrel had conquered the
Italian ridge. The ambition of years was half fulfilled, only half, for
the Matterhorn itself had been climbed. One cannot but regret that he
had turned back on the 14th. Whymper’s cries of triumph had spelt for
him the disappointment of a lifetime. Yet a fine rôle was open to him.
Had he gone forward and crowned Whymper’s victory by a triumph unmarred
by disaster; had the Matterhorn defied all assaults for years, and then
yielded on the same day to a party from the Swiss side and Carrel’s
men from Italy, the most dramatic page in Alpine history would have
been complete. Thirty-five years later, the Matterhorn settled the long
outstanding debt, and the man who had first attacked the citadel died
in a snowstorm on the Italian ridge of the mountain which he had been
the first to assail, and the first to conquer.

Carrel was in his sixty-second year when he started out for his last
climb. Bad weather detained the party in the Italian hut, and Signor
Sinigaglia noticed that Carrel was far from well. After two nights
in the hut, the provisions began to run out; and it was decided to
attempt the descent. The rocks were in a terrible condition, and the
storm added to the difficulty. Carrel insisted on leading, though he
was far from well. He knew every yard of his own beloved ridge. If a
man could pilot them through the storm that man was Carrel. Quietly and
methodically, he fought his way downward, yard by yard, undaunted by
the hurricane, husbanding the last ounces of his strength. He would not
allow the other guides to relieve him till the danger was past, and his
responsibilities were over. Then suddenly he collapsed, and in a few
minutes the gallant old warrior fell backwards and died. A cross now
marks the spot where the old soldier died in action.

In life the leading guides of Breuil had often resented Carrel’s
unchallenged supremacy. But death had obliterated the old jealousies.
Years afterwards, a casual climber stopped before Carrel’s cross, and
remarked to the son of Carrel’s great rival, “So that is where Carrel
fell.” “Carrel did not fall,” came the indignant answer, “Carrel died.”

Let us turn from Carrel to the conquerors of another great ridge of the
Matterhorn.

Of others concerned with attacks on the Italian ridge, Tyndall, Bennen,
and J. J. Macquignaz, all came to premature ends. Bennen was killed in
an historic accident on the Haut de Cry, and Macquignaz disappeared
on Mont Blanc. In 1879, two independent parties on the same day made
the first ascent of the great northern ridge of the Matterhorn known
as the Zmutt arête. Mummery and Penhall were the amateurs responsible
for these two independent assaults. “The memory,” writes Mummery, “of
two rollicking parties, comprised of seven men, who on one day in 1879
were climbing on the west face of the Matterhorn passes with ghost-like
admonition before my mind, and bids me remember that, of these seven,
Mr. Penhall was killed on the Wetterhorn, Ferdinand Imseng on the
Macugnaga side of Monte Rosa, and Johan Petrus on the Frersnay Mont
Blanc.” Of the remaining four, Mummery disappeared in the Himalayas in
1895, Louis Zurbrucken was killed, Alexander Burgener perished in an
avalanche near the Bergli hut in 1911. Mr. Baumann and Emil Rey, who
with Petrus followed in Mummery’s footsteps three days later, both came
to untimely ends: Baumann disappeared in South Africa, and Emil Rey was
killed on the Dent de Géant. The sole survivor of these two parties is
the well-known Augustin Gentinetta, one of the ablest of the Zermat
guides. Burgener and Gentinetta guided Mummery on the above-mentioned
climb, while Penhall was accompanied by Louis Zurbrucken. In recent
times, three great mountaineers who climbed this ridge together died
violent deaths within the year. The superstitious should leave the
Zmutt arête alone.



CHAPTER IX

MODERN MOUNTAINEERING


Alpine History is not easy to divide into arbitrary periods; and yet
the conquest of the Matterhorn does in a certain sense define a period.
It closes what has been called “the golden age of mountaineering.”
Only a few great peaks still remained unconquered. In this chapter we
shall try to sketch some of the tendencies which differentiate modern
mountaineering from mountaineering in the so-called “golden age.”

The most radical change has been the growth of guideless climbing,
which was, of course, to be expected as men grew familiar with the
infinite variety of conditions that are the essence of mountaineering.
In a previous chapter we have discussed the main differences between
guided and guideless climbing. It does not follow that a man of
considerable mountaineering experience, who habitually climbs with
guides need entirely relinquish the control of the expedition. Such a
man--there are not many--may, indeed, take a guide as a reserve of
strength, or as a weight carrier. He may enjoy training up a young and
inexperienced guide, who has a native talent for rock and ice, while
lacking experience and mountain craft. One occasionally finds a guide
who is a first-class cragsman, but whose general knowledge of mountain
strategy is inferior to that of a great amateur. In such a combination,
the latter will be the real general of the expedition, even if the
guide habitually leads on difficult rock and does the step-cutting.
On the other hand a member of a guideless party may be as dependent
on the rest of the party as another man on his guides. Moreover,
tracks, climbers, guides and modern maps render the mental work of the
leader, whether amateur or professional, much less arduous than in more
primitive days.

But when we have made all possible allowance for the above
considerations, there still remains a real and radical distinction
between those who rely on their own efforts and those who follow a
guide. The man who leads even on one easy expedition obtains a greater
insight into the secrets of his craft than many a guided climber with a
long list of first-class expeditions.

One of the earliest of the great guideless climbs was the ascent of
Mont Blanc by E. S. Kennedy, Charles Hudson (afterwards killed on the
first ascent of the Matterhorn), Grenville and Christopher Smyth, E.
J. Stevenson and Charles Ainslie. Their climb was made in 1855, and
was the first complete ascent of Mont Blanc from St. Gervais, though
the route was not new except in combination, as every portion of it
had been previously done on different occasions. One of the first
systematic guideless climbers to attract attention was the Rev. A. G.
Girdlestone, whose book, _The High Alps without Guides_, appeared in
1870. This book was the subject of a discussion at a meeting of the
Alpine Club. Mr. Grove, a well-known mountaineer, read a paper on the
comparative skill of travellers and guides, and used Girdlestone’s book
as a text. Mr. Grove said: “The net result of mountaineering without
guides appears to be this, that, in twenty-one expeditions selected
out of seventy for the purposes of description, the traveller failed
absolutely four times; was in great danger three times; was aided in
finding the way back by the tracks of other men’s guides four times;
succeeded absolutely without aid of any kind ten times on expeditions,
four of which were very easy, three of moderate difficulty, and one
very difficult.” The “very difficult” expedition is the Wetterhorn,
which is nowadays considered a very modest achievement.

Mr. Girdlestone was a pioneer, with the limitations of a pioneer.
His achievements judged by modern standards are modest enough, but
he was the first to insist that mountaineering without guides is an
art, and that mountaineering with guides is often only another form of
conducted travel. The discussion that followed, as might be expected,
at that time was not favourable either to Girdlestone or to guideless
climbing. Probably each succeeding year will see his contribution to
modern mountaineering more properly appreciated. The “settled opinion
of the Alpine Club” was declared without a single dissentient to be
that “the neglect to take guides on difficult expeditions is totally
unjustifiable.”

But guideless climbing had come to stay. A year after this memorable
meeting of the Alpine Club, two of its members carried out without
guides some expeditions more severe than anything Girdlestone had
attempted. In 1871 Mr. John Stogdon, a well-known Harrow master, and
the Rev. Arthur Fairbanks ascended the Nesthorn and Aletschhorn, and in
the following year climbed the Jungfrau and Aletschhorn unguided. No
record of these expeditions found its way into print. In 1876, a party
of amateurs, Messrs. Cust, Cawood, and Colgrove climbed the Matterhorn
without guides. This expedition attracted great attention, and was
severely commented on in the columns of the _Press_. Mr. Cust, in an
eloquent paper read before the Alpine Club, went to the root of the
whole matter when he remarked: “Cricket is a sport which is admitted by
all to need acquired skill. A man can buy his mountaineering as he can
buy his yachting. None the less, there are yachtsmen and yachtsmen.”

Systematic climbing on a modern scale without guides was perhaps first
practised by Purtscheller and Zsigmondys in 1880. Among our own people,
it found brilliant exponents in Morse, Mummery, Wicks, and Wilson some
twenty years ago; and it has since been adopted by many of our own
leading mountaineers. Abroad, guideless climbing finds more adherents
than with us. Naturally enough, the man who lives near the mountains
will find it easier to make up a guideless party among his friends;
and, if he is in the habit of spending all his holidays and most of his
week-ends among the mountains that can be reached in a few hours from
his home, he will soon acquire the necessary skill to dispense with
guides.

So much for guideless climbing. Let us now consider some of the other
important developments in the practice of mountaineering. In the Alps
the tendency has been towards specialisation. Before 1865 the ambitious
mountaineer had scores of unconquered peaks to attack. After the defeat
of the Matterhorn, the number of the unclimbed greater mountains
gradually thinned out. The Meije, which fell in 1877, was one of the
last great Alpine peaks to remain unclimbed. With the development
of rock-climbing, even the last and apparently most hopelessly
inaccessible rock pinnacles of the Dolomites and Chamounix were
defeated. There is no rock-climbing as understood in Wales or Lakeland
or Skye on giants of the Oberland or Valais, such as the Schreckhorn
or Matterhorn. These tax the leader’s power of choosing a route, his
endurance and his knowledge of snow and ice, and weather; but their
demands on the pure cragsman are less. The difficulty of a big mountain
often depends very much on its condition and length. Up to 1865 hardly
any expeditions had been carried through--with a few exceptions,
such as the Brenva route up Mont Blanc--that a modern expert would
consider exceptionally severe. Modern rock-climbing begins in the late
’seventies. The expeditions in the Dolomites by men like Zsigmondy,
Schmitt, and Winkler, among foreign mountaineers, belong to much the
same period as Burgener and Mummery classic climbs in the Chamounix
district.

Mummery is, perhaps, best known in connection with the first ascent
of the Grepon by the sensational “Mummery crack,” when his leader was
the famous Alexander Burgener aided by a young cragsman, B. Venetz.
Venetz, as a matter of fact, led up the “Mummery” crack. Mummery’s
vigorous book, which has become a classic, contains accounts of many
new expeditions, such as the Grepon, the Requin, the Matterhorn
by the Zmutt arête, and the Caucasian giant Dych Tau, to name the
more important. His book, _My Climbs in the Alps and Caucasus_, is
thoroughly typical of the modern view of mountaineering. It contains
some doctrines that are still considered heretical, such as the safety
of a party of two on a snow-covered glacier, and many doctrines that
are now accepted, such as the justification of guideless climbing and
of difficult variation routes. Shortly after the book appeared, Mummery
was killed on Nanga Parbat, as was Emil Zsigmondy on the Meije soon
after the issue of his book on the dangers of the Alps.

But even Dolomites and Chamounix aiguilles are not inexhaustible, and
the number of unconquered summits gradually diminished. The rapid
opening up of the Alps has naturally turned the attention of men with
the exploring instinct and ample means to the exploration of the great
mountain ranges beyond Europe. This does not fall within the scope of
the present volume, and we need only remark in passing that British
climbers have played an important part in the campaigns against the
fortresses of the Himalaya, Caucasus, Andes, and Rockies.

Meanwhile the ambitious mountaineer was forced to look for new routes
on old peaks. Now, a man in search of the easiest way up a difficult
peak could usually discover a route which was climbable without severe
technical difficulty. On a big mountain, it is often possible to evade
any small and very difficult section. But most mountains, even our
British hills, have at least one route which borders on the impossible,
and a diligent search will soon reveal it. Consider the two extremes of
rock-climbing. Let us take the Matterhorn as a good example of a big
mountain which consists almost entirely of rock. It is impossible to
find a route up the Matterhorn which one could climb with one’s hands
in one’s pockets, but the ordinary Swiss route is an easy scramble as
far as the shoulder, and, with the fixed ropes, a straightforward climb
thence to the top. Its Furggen Ridge has been once climbed under fair
conditions and then only with a partial deviation. It is extremely
severe and dangerous. The task of the mountaineers who first assailed
the Matterhorn was to pick out the easiest line of approach. The Zmutt,
and in a greater degree the Furggen routes, were obviously ruled out of
consideration. The Italian route was tried many times without success
before the Swiss route was discovered. Of course, the Matterhorn, like
all big mountains, varies in difficulty from day to day. It is a very
long climb; and, if the conditions are unfavourable, it may prove a
very difficult and a very dangerous peak.

Turning to the nursery of Welsh climbers, Lliwedd can be climbed on a
mule, and Lliwedd can also be climbed by about thirty or more distinct
routes up its southern rock face. If a man begins to look for new
routes up a wall of a cliff a thousand feet in height and a mile or
so in breath, he will sooner or later reach the line which divided
reasonable from unreasonable risk. Modern pioneer work in the Alps is
nearer the old ideal. It is not simply the search for the hardest of
all climbable routes up a given rock face. In England, the danger of
a rock fall is practically absent, and a rock face is not considered
climbed out as long as one can work up from base to summit by a
series of ledges not touched on a previous climb. Two such routes will
sometimes be separated by a few feet. In the Alps, the pioneer is
compelled by objective difficulties to look for distinct ridges and
faces unswept by stones and avalanches. There is a natural challenge in
the sweep of a great ridge falling through some thousand unconquered
feet to the pastures below. There is only an artificial challenge in a
“new” route some thousand feet in height separated only by a few yards
of cliff from an “old” route. We do not wish to depreciate British
climbing, which has its own fascination and its own value; but, if it
calls for greater cragsmanship, it demands infinitely less mountain
craft than the conquest of a difficult Alpine route.

And what is true of British rock-climbing is even more true of Tirol.
Ranges, such as the Kaisergebirge, have been explored with the same
thoroughness that has characterised British rock-climbing. Almost
every conceivable variation of the “just possible” has been explored.
Unfortunately, the death-roll in these districts is painfully high, as
the keenness of the young Austrian and Bavarian has not infrequently
exceeded their experience and powers.

Abroad, mountaineering has developed very rapidly since the ’sixties.
We have seen that English climbers, first in the field, secured a large
share of unconquered peaks; but once continental climbers had taken up
the new sport, our earlier start was seriously challenged. The Swiss,
Austrian, and German have one great advantage. They are much nearer
the Alps; and mountaineering in these countries is, as a result, a
thoroughly democratic sport. The foreign Alpine Clubs number thousands
of members. The German-Austrian Alpine Club has alone nearly ninety
thousand members. There is no qualification, social or mountaineering.
These great national clubs have a small subscription; and with the
large funds at their disposal they are able to build club-huts in
the mountains, and excellent meeting places in the great towns,
where members can find an Alpine library, maps, and other sources of
information. They secure many useful concessions, such as reduced fares
for their members on Alpine railways. Mountaineering naturally becomes
a democratic sport in mountainous countries, because the mountains are
accessible. The very fact that a return ticket to the Alps is a serious
item must prevent Alpine climbing from becoming the sport of more
than a few of our countrymen. At the same time, we have an excellent
native playground in Wales and Cumberland, which has made it possible
for young men to learn the craft before they could afford a regular
climbing holiday in the Alps. Beside the great national clubs of the
Continent, there are a number of vigorous university clubs scattered
through these countries. Of these, the Akademischer Alpine clubs at
Zürich and Munich are, perhaps, the most famous. These clubs consist of
young men reading at the Polytechnic or University. They have as high a
mountaineering qualification as any existing Alpine clubs. They attach
importance to the capacity to lead a guideless party rather than to
the bare fact that a man has climbed so many peaks. Each candidate is
taken on a series of climbs by members of the club, who report to the
committee on his general knowledge of snow and rock conditions, and his
fitness, whether in respect of courage or endurance for arduous work.

It is young men of this stamp that play such a great part in raising
the standard of continental mountaineering. Their cragsmanship often
verges on the impossible. A book published in Munich, entitled _Empor_,
affords stimulating reading. This book was produced in honour and
in memory of Georg Winkler by some of his friends. Winkler was a
young Munich climber who carried through some of the most daring
rock climbs ever recorded. _Empor_ contains his diary, and several
articles contributed by various members of one of the most remarkable
climbing groups in Alpine history. Winkler’s amazing performances
give to the book a note which is lacking in most Alpine literature.
Winkler was born in 1869. As a boy of eighteen he made, quite alone,
the first ascent of the Winklerturm, one of the most sensational--both
in appearance and reality--of all Dolomite pinnacles. On the 14th of
August 1888 he traversed alone the Zinal Rothhorn, and on the 18th
he lost his life in a solitary attempt on the great Zinal face of
the Weisshorn. No definite traces of him have ever been found. His
brother, born in the year of his death, has also carried through some
sensational solitary climbs.

We may, perhaps, be excused a certain satisfaction in the thought that
the British crags can occasionally produce climbers whose achievements
are quite as sensational as those of the Winklers. Without native
mountains, we could not hope to produce cragsmen equal to those of
Tirol and the Alps. One must begin young. It is, as a rule, only a
comparatively small minority that can afford a regular summer holiday
in the Alps; but Scawfell and Lliwedd are accessible enough, and the
comparatively high standard of the British rock-climber owes more to
British than to Alpine mountains. It was only in the last two decades
that the possibilities of these crags were systematically worked
out, though isolated climbs have been recorded for many years. The
patient and often brilliant explorations of a group of distinguished
mountaineers have helped to popularise a fine field for native talent,
and an arena for those who cannot afford a regular Alpine campaign.
Guides are unknown in Great Britain, and the man who learns to climb
there is often more independent and more self-reliant than the
mountaineer who is piloted about by guides. There is, of course, much
that can be learned only in the Alps. The home climber can learn to use
an axe in the wintry gullies round Scawfell. He learns something of
snow; but both snow and ice can only be properly studied in the regions
of perpetual snow. The home-trained cragsman, as a rule, learns to
lead up rocks far more difficult than anything met with on the average
Swiss peaks, but the wider lessons of route-finding over a long and
complicated expedition are naturally not acquired on a face of cliff
a thousand feet in height. Nor, for that matter, is the art of rapid
descent over easy rocks; for the British climber usually ascends by
rocks, and runs home over grass and scree. None the less, these cliffs
have produced some wonderfully fine mountaineers. We have our Winklers,
and we have also young rock-climbers who confine their energies to the
permissible limit of the justifiable climbing and who, within those
limits, carry their craft to its most refined possibilities. Hugh Pope,
one of the most brilliant of the younger school of rock-climbers,
learned his craft on the British hills, and showed in his first Alpine
season the value of that training. To the great loss of British
mountaineering he was killed in 1912 on the Pic du Midi d’Ossau.

Another comparatively recent development is the growth of winter
mountaineering. The first winter expedition of any importance after
the beginnings of serious mountaineering was Mr. T. S. Kennedy’s
attempt on the Matterhorn in 1863. He conceived the curious idea that
the Matterhorn might prove easier in winter than in summer. Here, he
was very much mistaken. He was attacked by a storm, and retreated
after reaching a point where the real climb begins. It was a plucky
expedition. But the real pioneer of winter mountaineering was W. A.
Moore. In 1866, with Mr. Horace Walker, Melchior Anderegg, Christian
Almer, and “Peterli” Bohren, he left Grindelwald at midnight; they
crossed the Finsteraarjoch, and returned within the twenty-four hours
to Grindelwald over the Strahlegg. Even in summer this would prove a
strenuous day. In winter, it is almost incredible that this double
traverse should have been carried through without sleeping out.

Most of the great peaks have now been ascended in winter; and amongst
others Mr. Coolidge must be mentioned as a prominent pioneer. His
ascents of the Jungfrau, Wetterhorn, and Schreckhorn--the first in
winter--with Christian Almer, did much to set the fashion. Mrs. Le
Blond, the famous lady climber, has an even longer list of winter first
ascents to her credit. But the real revolution in winter mountaineering
has been caused by the introduction of ski-ing. In winter, the main
difficulty is getting to the high mountain huts. Above the huts,
the temperature is often mild and equable for weeks together. A low
temperature on the ground co-exists with a high temperature in the air.
Rock-ridges facing south or south-west are often denuded of snow, and
as easy to climb as in summer. Signor Sella also made some brilliant
winter ascents, such as the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa.

The real obstacle to winter mountaineering is the appalling weariness
of wading up to the club-huts on foot. The snow in the sheltered lower
valleys is often deep and powdery; and the climber on foot will have
to force his way through pine forests where the snow lies in great
drifts between the trees, and over moraines where treacherous drifts
conceal pitfalls between the loose stones. All this is changed by the
introduction of ski. The ski distributes the weight of the climber
over a long, even surface; and in the softest snow he will not sink in
more than a few inches. Better still, they revolutionise the descent,
converting a weary plug through snow-drifts into a succession of swift
and glorious runs. The ski-runner takes his ski to the foot of the
last rock ridges, and then proceeds on foot, rejoining his ski, and
covering on the descent five thousand feet in far less time than the
foot-climber would take over five hundred. Skis, as everybody knows,
were invented as a means of crossing snowy country inaccessible on
foot. They are sometimes alluded to as snowshoes, but differ radically
from snowshoes in one important respect. Both ski and the Canadian
snowshoe distribute their wearer’s weight, and enable him to cross
drifts where he would sink in hopelessly if he were on foot, but there
the resemblance ends. For, whereas snowshoes cannot slide on snow, and
whereas a man on snowshoes cannot descend a hill as fast as a man on
foot could run down hill, skis glide rapidly and easily on snow, and
a ski-runner can descend at a rate which may be anything up to sixty
miles an hour.

Ski-ing is of Scandinavian origin, and the greatest exponents of the
art are the Norwegians. Norwegians have used ski from time immemorial
in certain districts, such as Telemarken, as a means of communication
between snow-bound villages. It should, perhaps, be added that
ski-jumping does not consist, as some people imagine, in casual leaps
across chasms or over intervening hillocks. The ski-runner does not
glide along the level at the speed of an express train, lightly
skimming any obstacles in his path. On the level, the best performer
does not go more than six or seven miles an hour, and the great jumps
one hears of are made downhill. The ski-runner swoops down on to a
specially prepared platform, leaps into the air, and alights on a very
steep slope below. The longest jump on record is some hundred and fifty
feet, measured from the edge of the take-off to the alighting point.
In this case, the ski-runner must have fallen through nearly seventy
vertical feet.

To the mountaineer, the real appeal of ski-ing is due to the fact
that it halves the labour of his ascent to the upper snowfields, and
converts a tedious descent into a succession of swift and fascinating
runs. The ski-runner climbs on ski to the foot of the final rock and
ice ridges, and then finishes the climb in the ordinary way. After
rejoining his ski, his work is over, and his reward is all before
him. If he were on foot, he would have to wade laboriously down to
the valley. On ski, he can swoop down with ten times the speed, and a
thousand times the enjoyment.

Ski were introduced into Central Europe in the early ’nineties. Dr.
Paulcke’s classic traverse of the Oberland in 1895, which included the
ascent of the Jungfrau, proved to mountaineers the possibilities of
the new craft. Abroad, the lesson was soon learned. To-day, there are
hundreds of ski-runners who make a regular practice of mountaineering
in winter. The Alps have taken out a new lease of life. In summer, the
huts are crowded, the fashionable peaks are festooned with parties
of incompetent novices who are dragged and pushed upwards by their
guides, but in winter the true mountain lover has the upper world to
himself. The mere summit hunter naturally chooses the line of least
resistance, and accumulates his list of first class expeditions in
the summer months, when such a programme is easiest to compile. The
winter mountaineer must be more or less independent of the professional
element, for, though he will probably employ a guide to find the way
and to act as a reserve of strength, he himself must at least be able
to ski steadily, and at a fair speed.

Moreover, mountain craft as the winter mountaineer understands the
term is a more subtle and more embracing science as far, at least, as
snow conditions are concerned. It begins at the hôtel door. In summer,
there is a mule path leading to the glacier line, a mule path which a
man can climb with his mind asleep. But in winter the snow with its
manifold problems sweeps down to the village. A man has been killed
by an avalanche within a few yards of a great hôtel. From the moment
a man buckles on his ski, he must exercise his knowledge of snow
conditions. There are no paths save a few woodcutter’s tracks. From
the valley upwards, he must learn to pick a good line, and to avoid
the innocent-looking slopes that may at any moment resolve themselves
into an irresistible avalanche. Many a man is piloted up a succession
of great peaks without acquiring anything like the same intimate
knowledge of snow that is possessed even by a ski-runner who has never
crossed the summer snow-line. Even the humblest ski-runner must learn
to diagnose the snow. He may follow his leader unthinkingly on the
ascent; but once he starts down he must judge for himself. If he makes
a mistake, he will be thrown violently on to his face when the snow
suddenly sticks, and on to his back when it quickens. Even the most
unobservant man will learn something of the effects of sun and wind
on his running surface when the result of a faulty deduction may mean
violent contact with Mother Earth.

Those who worship the Alps in their loveliest and loneliest moods,
those who dislike the weary anti-climax of the descent through burning
snowfields, and down dusty mule paths, will climb in the winter months,
when to the joy of renewing old memories of the mountains in an
unspoiled setting is added the rapture of the finest motion known to
man.

In England mountaineering on ski has yet to find many adherents. We
have little opportunity for learning to ski in these isles, and the
ten thousand Englishmen that visit the Alps in winter prefer to ski
on the lower hills. For every Englishman with a respectable list of
glacier tours on ski to his credit, there are at least a hundred
continental runners with a record many times more brilliant. The
Alpine Ski Club, now in its sixth year, has done much to encourage
this “new mountaineering,” and its journal contains a record of the
finest expeditions by English and continental runners. But even in
the pages of the Alpine Ski Club Annual, the proportion of foreign
articles describing really fine tours is depressingly large. Of course,
the continental runner lives nearer the Alps. So did the continental
mountaineer of the early ’sixties; but that did not prevent us taking
our fair share of virgin peaks.

The few Englishmen who are making a more or less regular habit of
serious mountaineering on ski are not among the veterans of summer
mountaineering, and the leaders of summer mountaineering have not yet
learned to ski. Abroad, the leaders of summer mountaineering have
welcomed ski-ing as a key to their mountains in winter; but the many
leaders of English mountaineering still argue that skis should not be
used in the High Alps, on the ground that they afford facility for
venturing on slopes and into places where the risk of avalanches is
extreme. On the Continent thousands of runners demonstrate in the most
effective manner that mountaineering on ski has come to stay. It is
consoling to reflect that English ski-runners are prepared to work
out the peculiar problems of their craft with or without the help of
summer mountaineers. Of course, both ski-ing and summer mountaineering
would be strengthened by an alliance, and ski-runners can best learn
the rules of the glacier world in winter from those mountaineers who
combine a knowledge of the summer Alps with some experience of winter
conditions and a mastery of ski-ing. For the moment, such teachers must
be looked for in the ranks of continental mountaineers.



CHAPTER X

THE ALPS IN LITERATURE


The last chapter has brought the story of mountaineering up to
modern times, but, before we close, there is another side of Alpine
exploration on which we must touch. For Alpine exploration means
something more than the discovery of new passes and the conquest of
virgin peaks. That is the physical aspect of the sport, perhaps the
side which the average climber best understands. But Alpine exploration
is mental as well as physical, and concerns itself with the adventures
of the mind in touch with the mountains as well as with the adventures
of the body in contact with an unclimbed cliff. The story of the
gradual discovery of high places as sources of inspiration has its
place in the history of Alpine exploration, as well as the record of
variation routes too often expressed in language of unvarying monotony.

The present writer once undertook to compile an anthology whose
scope was defined by the title--_The Englishman in the Alps_. The
limitations imposed by the series of which this anthology formed a
part prevented him from including the Alpine literature of foreign
authors, a fact which tended to obscure the real development of the
Alpine literature. In the introduction he expressed the orthodox views
which all good mountaineers accept without demur, explaining that
mountaineers were the first to write fitly of the mountains, that
English mountaineers had a peculiar talent in this direction, and that
all the best mountain literature was written in the last half of the
nineteenth century. These pious conclusions were shattered by some very
radical criticism which appeared in leading articles of _The Times_
and _The Field_. The former paper, in the course of some criticisms
of Mr. Spender’s Alpine Anthology, remarked: “In the matter of prose,
on the other hand, he has a striking predilection for the modern
‘Alpine books’ of commerce, though hardly a book among them except
Whymper’s _Scrambles in the Alps_ has any real literary vitality, or
any interest apart from the story of adventure which it tells. Mummery,
perhaps, has individuality enough to be made welcome in any gallery,
and, of course, one is glad to meet Leslie Stephen. But what is C. E.
Mathews doing there? Or Norman Neruda? Or Mr. Frederic Harrison? In
an anthology which professed to be nothing more than a collection of
stories of adventure, accidents, and narrow escapes, they would have
their place along with Owen Glynne Jones, and Mr. Douglas Freshfield,
and innumerable contributors to _Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers_ and _The
Alpine Journal_.”

We rubbed our eyes when we read these heterodox sentiments in such
a quarter. Mr. Mathews was, perhaps, an Alpine historian rather
than a writer of descriptive prose, and he does not lend himself to
the elegant extract, though he is the author of some very quotable
Alpine sketches. To Mr. Freshfield we owe, amongst other good things,
one short passage as dramatic as anything in Alpine literature, the
passage in which he describes the discovery of Donkin’s last bivouac on
Koshtantau. _The Field_ was even more emphatic:

    “What is not true is that the pioneer sportsmen who founded the
    Alpine Club had exceptional insight into the moods of the snow.
    One or two of them, no doubt, struck out a little literature as
    the result of the impact of novel experiences upon naïve minds....
    On the whole, in spite of their defects, their machine-made
    perorations and their ponderous jests, they brought an acceptable
    addition to the existing stock of the literature of adventure....
    But they had their limitations, and these were rather narrow. They
    dealt almost exclusively with the externals of mountaineering
    experience; and when they ventured further their writing was
    apt to be of the quality of fustian. Their spiritual adventures
    among the mountains were apt to be melodramatic or insignificant.
    Perhaps their Anglo-Saxon reticence prevented themselves from
    ‘letting themselves go.’... At all events there does remain this
    notable distinction--that, while the most eloquent writings of
    the most eloquent Alpine Club-man are as a rule deliberately
    and ostentatiously objective, the subjective literature of
    mountains--the literature in which we see the writer yielding to
    the influence of scenery, instead of lecturing about its beauties,
    existed long before that famous dinner party at the house of
    William Mathews, senior, at which the Alpine Club was founded.
    England, as we have said, contributed practically nothing to that
    literature.”

We have quoted this passage at some length because it expresses a novel
attitude in direct contradiction to the accepted views sanctified by
tradition. We do not entirely endorse it. The article contains proof
that its writer has an intimate knowledge of early Alpine literature,
but one is tempted to fancy that his research did not survive the
heavy period of the ’eighties, and that he is unacquainted with those
modern writers whose work is distinctly subjective. None the less, his
contention suggests an interesting line of study; and in this chapter
we shall try briefly to sketch the main tendencies, though we cannot
review in detail the whole history, of Alpine literature, a subject
which requires a book in itself.

The mediæval attitude towards mountains has already been discussed,
and though we ventured to protest that love of the mountains was not
quite so uncommon as is usually supposed, it must be freely admitted
that the literature of the Middle Ages is comparatively barren in
appreciation of mountain scenery. There were Protestants before Luther,
and there were men such as Gesner and Petrarch before Rousseau; but the
Middle Ages can scarcely rob Rousseau of the credit for transforming
mountain worship from the cult of a minority into a comparatively
fashionable creed. Rousseau’s own feeling for the mountains was none
the less genuine because it was sometimes coloured by the desire to
make the mountains echo his own philosophy of life. Rousseau, in this
respect, set a fashion which his disciples were not slow to follow.
The mountains as the home of the rugged Switzer could be made to
preach edifying lay sermons on the value of liberty. Such sentiments
were in tune with the spirit of revolt that culminated in the French
Revolution. A certain Haller had sounded this note long before Rousseau
began to write, in a poem on the Alps which, appearing in 1728,
enjoyed considerable popularity. The author is not without a genuine
appreciation for Alpine scenery, but he is far more occupied with his
moral, the contrast between the unsophisticated life of the mountain
peasant and the hyper-civilisation of the town. Throughout the writings
of this school which Haller anticipated and Rousseau founded, we can
trace an obvious connection between a love for the untutored freedom of
the mountains and a hatred of existing social conditions.

It is, therefore, not surprising to find that this new school of
mountain worship involved certain views which found most complete
expression in the French Revolution. “Man is born free, but is
everywhere in chains.” This, the famous opening to _The Social
Contract_, might have heralded with equal fitness any mountain passage
in the works of Rousseau or his disciples. Perhaps these two sentiments
are nowhere fused with such completeness as in the life of Ramond de
Carbonnière, the great Pyrenean climber. We have not mentioned him
before as he took no part in purely Alpine explorations. But as a
mountaineer he ranks with De Saussure and Paccard. His ascent of Mont
Perdu, after many attempts, in 1802, was one of the most remarkable
climbing exploits of the age. He invented a new kind of crampon. He
rejoiced in fatigue, cold, and the thousand trials that confronted
the mountaineer in the days before club-huts. His own personality
was singularly arresting; and the reader should consult _The Early
Mountaineers_ for a more complete sketch of the man than we have space
to attempt. Ramond had every instinct of the modern mountaineer. He
delighted in hardship. He could appreciate the grandeur of a mountain
storm while sitting on an exposed ledge. He lingers with a delight that
recalls Gesner on the joy of simple fare and rough quarters. He is the
boon companion of hunters and smugglers; and through all his mountain
journeys his mind is alert in reacting to chance impressions.

But his narrative is remarkable for something else besides love for
the mountains. It is full of those sentiments which came to a head in
the French Revolution. Mountain description and fierce denunciations
of tyranny are mingled in the oddest fashion. It is not surprising
that Ramond, who finds room in a book devoted to mountaineering for a
prophecy of the Revolution, should have played an active part in the
Revolution when it came. Ramond entered the Revolutionary Parliament
as a moderate reformer, and when the leaders of the Revolution had no
further use for moderate reformers he found himself in the gaol at
Tarbres. Here he was fortunately forgotten, and survived to become
Maître des Requêtes under Louis XVIII. Ramond is, perhaps, the most
striking example of the mountaineer whose love for mountains was only
equalled by his passion for freedom. In some ways, he is worthier of
our admiration than Rousseau, for he not only admired mountains, he
climbed them. He not only praised the simple life of hardship, he
endured it.

Turning to English literature, we find much the same processes at work.
The two great poets whose revolt against existing society was most
marked yielded the Alps a generous measure of praise. It is interesting
to compare the mountain songs of Byron and Shelley. Byron’s verse is
often marred by his obvious sense of the theatre. His misanthropy had,
no doubt, its genuine as well as its purely theatrical element, but it
becomes tiresome as the _motif_ of the mountain message. No doubt he
was sincere when he wrote--

    “I live not in myself, but I become
     Portion of that around me, and to me
     High mountains are a feeling, but the sum
     Of human cities torture.”

But as a matter of actual practice no man lived more in himself, and
instead of becoming a portion of his surroundings, too often he makes
his surroundings take colouring from his mood. His mountains sometimes
seem to have degenerated into an echo of Byron. They are too anxious
to advertise the whole gospel of misanthropy. The avalanche roars a
little too lustily. The Alpine glow is laid on with a heavy brush,
and his mountains cannot wholly escape the suspicion of bluster that
tends to degenerate into bombast. This is undeniable, yet Byron at his
best is difficult to approach. Freed from his affectations, his verse
often rises to the highest levels of simple, unaffected eloquence.
There are lines in _The Prisoner of Chillon_ with an authentic appeal
to the mountain lover. The prisoner has been freed from the chain that
has bound him for years to a pillar, and he is graciously allowed the
freedom of his dungeon--a concession that may not have appeared unduly
liberal to his gaolers, but which at least enabled the prisoner to
reach a window looking out on to the hills--

    “I made a footing in the wall,
     It was not therefrom to escape.
     But I was curious to ascend
     To my barr’d windows, and to bend
     Once more upon the mountain high
     The quiet of a loving eye.

     I saw them and they were the same
     They were not changed like me in frame;
     I saw their thousand years of snow
     On high--their wide long lake below.
     And the blue Rhone in fullest flow; ...
     I saw the white walled distant town;
     And whiter sails go skimming down;
     And then there was a little isle
       Which in my very face did smile,
           The only one in view.”

As the train swings round the elbow above the lake, the mountaineer
released from the chain of city life can echo this wish to bend the
quiet of a loving eye on unchanging mountains.

Coleridge has some good lines on Mont Blanc, but one feels that they
would have applied equally well to any other mountain. Their sincerity
is somewhat discounted by the fact that Coleridge manufactured an
enthusiasm for Mont Blanc at a distance from which it is invisible.

With Shelley, we move in a different atmosphere. Like Byron, he
rebelled against society, and some comfortable admirers of the poetry
which time has made respectable are apt to ignore those poems which,
for passionate protest against social conditions, remained unique
till William Morris transformed Socialism into song. Shelley was more
sincere in his revolt than Byron. He did not always keep an eye on
the gallery while declaiming his rebellion, and his mountains have no
politics; they sing their own spontaneous melodies. Shelley combined
the mystic’s vision with the accuracy of a trained observer. His
descriptions of an Alpine dawn, or a storm among the mountains, might
have been written by a man who had studied these phenomena with a
note-book in his hand. Nobody has ever observed with such sympathy “the
dim enchanted shapes of wandering mist,” or brought more beauty to
their praise. Shelley’s cloud poems have the same fugitive magic that
haunts the fickle countries of the sky when June is stirring in those
windy hills where--

        “Dense fleecy clouds
    Are wandering in thick flocks among the mountains
    Shepherded by the slow unwilling wind.”

Shelley did not start with the poem, but with the mountain. His
mountains are something more than a convenient instrument for the
manufacture of rhyme. He did not write a poem about mountains as a
pleasant variation on more conventional themes. With Shelley, you know
that poetry was the handmaid of the hills, the one medium in which
he could fitly express his own passionate worship of every accent
in the mountain melody. And for these reasons Shelley seems to us a
truer mountain poet than Byron, truer than Coleridge, truer even than
Wordsworth, for Wordsworth, though some of his Alpine poetry is very
good indeed, seems more at home in the Cumberland fells, whose quiet
music no other poet has ever rendered so surely.

The early literature of the mountains has an atmosphere which has
largely disappeared in modern Alpine writing. For, to the pioneers of
Alpine travel, a mountain was not primarily a thing to climb. Even
men like Bourrit and Ramond de Carbonnière, genuine mountaineers in
every sense of the term, regarded the great heights as something more
than fields for exploration, as the shrines of an unseen power that
compelled spontaneous worship. These men saw a mountain, and not a
problem in gymnastics. They wrote of mountains with a certain naïve
eloquence, often highly coloured, sometimes a trifle bombastic.
But, because the best of them had French blood in their veins, their
outpourings were at least free from Saxon self-consciousness. They were
not writing for an academic audience lenient to dullness, but convulsed
with agonies of shame at any suspicion of fine writing. One shudders
to think of Bourrit delivering his sonorous address on the guides of
Chamounix as the high priests of humanity before the average audience
that assembles to hear an Alpine paper. We have seen two old gentlemen
incapacitated for the evening by a paper pitched on a far more subdued
note. Yet, somehow, the older writings have the genuine ring. They
have something lacking in the genial rhapsodies of their successors.
“We can never over-estimate what we owe to the Alps”: thus opens a
characteristic peroration to an Alpine book of the ’eighties. “We are
indebted to them and all their charming associations for the greatest
of all blessings, friendship and health. It has been conclusively
proved that, of all sports, it is the one which can be protracted to
the greatest age. It is in the mountains that our youth is renewed.
Young, middle-aged, or old, we go out, too often jaded and worn in mind
and body; and we return invigorated, renewed, restored, fitted for the
fresh labours and duties of life. To know the great mountains wholly is
impossible for any of us; but reverently to learn the lessons they can
teach, and heartily to enjoy the happiness they can bring is possible
to us all.”

If a man who has climbed for thirty years cannot pump up something more
lively as his final summary of Alpine joys, what reply can we make
to Ruskin’s contention that “the real beauties of the Alps are to be
seen and to be seen only where all may see it, the cripple, the child,
and the man of grey hairs”? There are a few Alpine writers who have
produced an apology worthy of the craft, and have shown that they had
found above the snow-line an outlet for romance unknown to Ruskin’s
cripple, and reserves of beauty which Ruskin himself had never drawn,
and there are, on the other hand, quite enough to explain, if not
to justify, the unlovely conception of Alpine climbers embodied in
Ruskin’s amiable remarks: “The Alps themselves, which your own poets
used to love so reverently, you look upon as soaped poles in a beer
garden which you set yourselves to climb and slide down again with
shrieks of delight. When you are past shrieking, having no articulate
voice to say you are glad with, you rush home red with cutaneous
eruptions of conceit, and voluble with convulsive hiccoughs of
self-satisfaction.”

With a few great exceptions, the literature of mountaineers is not
as fine as the literature of mountain lovers. Let us see what the
men who have not climbed have given to the praise of the snows. What
mountaineer has written as Ruskin wrote? Certainly Ruskin at his best
reaches heights which no mountaineer has ever scaled. When Ruskin read
his Inaugural Address in the early ’fifties to an audience in the
main composed of Cambridge undergraduates, he paused for a moment and
glanced up at his audience. When he saw that the fleeting attention of
the undergraduates had been arrested by this sudden pause, he declaimed
a passage which he did not intend any of them to miss, a passage
describing the Alps from the southern plains: “Out from between the
cloudy pillars as they pass, emerge for ever the great battlements of
the memorable and perpetual hills.”... When he paused again, after
the sonorous fall of a majestic peroration, even the most prosaic of
undergraduates joined in the turbulent applause.

“Language which to a severe taste is perhaps a trifle too fine,” is
Leslie Stephen’s characteristic comment. “It is not every one,” he
adds, with trenchant common sense, “who can with impunity compare
Alps to archangels.” Perhaps not, and let us therefore be thankful to
the occasional writer, who, like Ruskin and Leslie Stephen himself
at his best, is not shamed into dullness by the fear of soaring too
high. But Ruskin was something more than a fine writer. No man, and
no mountaineer, ever loved the Alps with a more absorbing passion;
and, in the whole realm of Alpine literature, there is no passage more
pregnant with the unreasoning love for the hills than that which opens:
“For to myself mountains are the beginning and the end of all Alpine
scenery,” and ends: “There is not a wave of the Seine but is associated
in my mind with the first rise of the sandstones and forest pines of
Fontainebleau; and with the hope of the Alps, as one leaves Paris with
the horses’ heads to the south-west, the morning sun flashing on the
bright waves at Charenton. If there be no hope or association of this
kind, and if I cannot deceive myself into fancying that, perhaps at
the next rise of the road, there may be seen the film of a blue hill
in the gleam of sky at the horizon, the landscape, however beautiful,
produces in me even a kind of sickness and pain; and the whole view
from Richmond Hill or Windsor Terrace--nay, the gardens of Alcinous,
with their perpetual summer--or of the Hesperides (if they were flat,
and not close to Atlas), golden apples and all--I would give away in an
instant, for one mossy granite stone a foot broad, and two leaves of
lady-fern.”

George Meredith was no mountaineer; but his mountain passages will not
easily be beaten. His description of the Alps seen from the Adriatic
contains, perhaps, the subtlest phrase in literature for the colouring
of distant ranges: “Colour was steadfast on the massive front ranks; it
wavered in its remoteness and was quick and dim _as though it fell on
beating wings_.” And no climber has analysed the climber’s conflicting
emotions with such sympathetic acuteness. “Would you know what it is to
hope again, and have all your hopes at hand? Hang upon the crags at a
gradient that makes your next step a debate between the thing you are
and the thing you may become. There the merry little hopes grow for the
climber like flowers and food, immediate, prompt to prove their uses,
sufficient if just within grasp, as mortal hopes should be.”

We have quoted Ruskin’s great tribute to the romance which still haunts
the journey to the Alps even for those who are brought up on steam.
Addington Symonds was no mountaineer; but he writes of this journey
with an enthusiasm which rings truer than much in Alpine adventure:
“Of all the joys in life, none is greater than the joy of arriving on
the outskirts of Switzerland at the end of a long dusty day’s journey
from Paris. The true epicure in refined pleasures will never travel
to Basle by night. He courts the heat of the sun and the monotony
of French plains--their sluggish streams, and never-ending poplar
trees--for the sake of the evening coolness and the gradual approach to
the great Alps, which await him at the close of the day. It is about
Mulhausen that he begins to feel a change in the landscape. The fields
broaden into rolling downs, watered by clear and running streams;
the great Swiss thistle grows by riverside and cowshed; pines begin
to tuft the slopes of gently rising hills; and now the sun has set,
the stars come out, first Hesper, then the troop of lesser lights;
and he feels--yes, indeed, there is now no mistake--the well-known,
well-loved, magical fresh air, that never fails to blow from snowy
mountains, and meadows watered by perennial streams. The last hour
is one of exquisite enjoyment, and when he reaches Basle he scarcely
sleeps all night for hearing the swift Rhine beneath the balconies,
and knowing that the moon is shining on its waters, through the town,
beneath the bridges, between pasture-lands and copses, up the still
mountain-girdled valleys to the ice-caves where the water springs.
There is nothing in all experience of travelling like this. We may
greet the Mediterranean at Marseilles with enthusiasm; on entering
Rome by the Porta del Popolo we may reflect with pride that we have
reached the goal of our pilgrimage, and are at last among world-shaking
memories. But neither Rome nor the Riviera wins our hearts like
Switzerland. We do not lie awake in London thinking of them; we do
not long so intensely, as the year comes round, to revisit them. Our
affection is less a passion than that which we cherish for Switzerland.”

Among modern writers there is Mr. Belloc, who stands self-confessed as
a man who refuses to climb for fear of “slipping down.” Mr. Belloc has
French blood in his veins, and he is not cursed with British reserve.
In his memorable journey along the path to Rome, he had, perforce, to
cross the Jura, and this is how he first saw the Alps--

    “I saw, between the branches of the trees in front of me, a sight
    in the sky that made me stop breathing, just as a great danger at
    sea, or great surprise in love, or a great deliverance will make
    a man stop breathing. I saw something I had known in the West as
    a boy, something I had never seen so grandly discovered as was
    this. In between the branches of the trees was a great promise of
    unexpected lights beyond....

    “Here were these magnificent creatures of God, I mean the Alps,
    which now for the first time I saw from the height of the Jura;
    and, because they were fifty or sixty miles away, and because they
    were a mile or two high, they were become something different
    from us others, and could strike one motionless with the awe of
    supernatural things. Up there in the sky, to which only clouds
    belong, and birds, and the last trembling colours of pure light,
    they stood fast and hard; not moving as do the things of the sky....

    “These, the great Alps, seen thus, link one in some way to one’s
    immortality. Nor is it possible to convey, or even to suggest,
    those few fifty miles, and those few thousand feet; there is
    something more. Let me put it thus: that from the height of
    Weissenstein I saw, as it were, my religion. I mean humility, the
    fear of death, the terror of height and of distance, the glory of
    God, the infinite potentiality of reception whence springs that
    divine thirst of the soul; my aspiration also towards completion,
    and my confidence in the dual destiny. For I know that we laughers
    have a gross cousinship with the most high, and it is this contrast
    and perpetual quarrel which feeds a spring of merriment in the
    soul of a sane man.... That it is also which leads some men to
    climb mountain tops, but not me, for I am afraid of slipping down.”

That is subjective enough, with a vengeance; for those few lines one
would gladly sacrifice a whole shelf full of climbing literature
dealing with the objective facts that do not vary with the individual
observer.

Mr. Kipling again, though no mountaineer, has struck out one message
which most mountaineers would sacrifice a season’s climbing to have
written. A brief quotation gives only a faint impression of its beauty--

    “At last, they entered a world within a world--a valley of leagues
    where the high hills were fashioned of the mere rubble and refuse
    from off the knees of the mountains. Here, one day’s march carried
    them no farther, it seemed, than a dreamer’s clogged pace bears him
    in a nightmare. They skirted a shoulder painfully for hours, and
    behold, it was but an outlying boss in an outlying buttress of the
    main pile! A rounded meadow revealed itself, when they had reached
    it, for a vast table-land running far into the valley. Three days
    later, it was a dim fold in the earth to southward.

    “‘Surely the Gods live here,’ said Kim, beaten down by the silence
    and the appalling sweep and dispersal of the cloud-shadows after
    rain. ‘This is no place for men!’

    “Above them, still enormously above them, earth towered away
    towards the snow-line, where from east to west across hundreds of
    miles, ruled as with a ruler, the last of the bold birches stopped.
    Above that, in scarps and blocks upheaved, the rocks strove to
    fight their heads above the white smother. Above these again,
    changeless since the world’s beginning, but changing to every mood
    of sun and cloud, lay out the eternal snow. They could see blots
    and blurs on its face where storm and wandering wullie-wa got up to
    dance. Below them, as they stood, the forest slid away in a sheet
    of blue-green for mile upon mile; below the forest was a village in
    its sprinkle of terraced fields and steep grazing-grounds; below
    the village they knew, though a thunderstorm worried and growled
    there for the moment, a pitch of twelve or fifteen hundred feet
    gave to the moist valley where the streams gather that are the
    mothers of young Sutluj.”

Then there is Mr. Algernon Blackwood, who is, I think, rather a
ski-runner than a mountaineer. Certainly he has unravelled the
psychology of hill-wandering, and discovered something of that strange
personality behind the mountains. No writer has so successfully caught
the uncanny atmosphere that sometimes haunts the hills.

The contrast is even more marked in poetry than in prose. In prose,
we have half-a-dozen Alpine books that would satisfy a severe critic.
In poetry, only one mountaineer has achieved outstanding success. Mr.
G. Winthrop Young, alone, has transferred the essential romance of
mountaineering into poetry which not mountaineers alone, but every
lover of finished craftsmanship, will read with something deeper
than pleasure. But, while Mr. Young has no rival in the poetry of
mountaineering, there is a considerable quantity of excellent verse of
which mountains are the theme. We have spoken of Shelley and Byron.
Among more modern poets there is Tennyson. He wrote little mountain
poetry, and yet in four lines he has crystallised the whole essence of
the Alpine vision from some distant sentinel of the plains--

    “How faintly flushed, how phantom fair
     Was Monte Rosa, hanging there
       A thousand shadowy pencilled valleys
     And snowy dells in a golden air.”

Sydney Dobell has some good mountain verse; and if we had not already
burdened this chapter with quotations we should have borrowed from
those descriptions in which Morris clearly recalls the savage volcanic
scenery of Iceland. Swinburne, in the lines beginning--

          “Me the snows
    That face the first of the morning”--

has touched some of the less obvious spells of hill region with his own
unerring instinct for beauty.

F. W. H. Myers in eight lines has said all that need be said when the
hills have claimed the ultimate penalty--

    “Here let us leave him: for his shroud the snow,
       For funeral lamps he has the planets seven,
     For a great sign the icy stair shall go
       Between the stars to heaven.

     One moment stood he as the angels stand,
       High in the stainless eminence of air.
     The next he was not, to his fatherland
       Translated unaware.”

Mrs. Holland has written, as a dedication for a book of Alpine travel,
lines which have the authentic note; and Mr. Masefield in a few
verses has caught the savage aloofness of the peaks better than most
mountaineers in pages of redundant description.

The contrast is rather too marked between the work of those who loved
mountains without climbing them and the literature of the professional
mountaineers. Even writers like Mr. Kipling, who have only touched
mountains in a few casual lines, seem to have captured the mountain
atmosphere more successfully than many a climber who has devoted
articles galore to his craft. Of course, Mr. Kipling is a genius and
the average Alpine writer is not; but surely one might not unreasonably
expect a unique literature from those who know the mountains in all
their changing tenses, and who by service of toil and danger have wrung
from them intimate secrets unguessed at by those who linger outside the
shrine.

Mountaineering has, of course, produced some great literature. There is
Leslie Stephen, though even Stephen at his best is immeasurably below
Ruskin’s finest mountain passages. But Leslie Stephens are rare in the
history of Alpine literature, whereas the inarticulate are always with
us.

In some ways, the man who can worship a mountain without wishing to
climb it has a certain advantage. He sees a vision, where the climber
too often sees nothing but a variation route. The popular historian
has often a more vivid picture of a period than the expert, whose
comprehensive knowledge of obscure charters sometimes blinds him to the
broad issues of history. Technical knowledge does not always make for
understanding. The first great revelation of the mountains has a power
that is all its own. To the man who has yet to climb, every mountain
is virgin, every snow-field a mystery, undefiled by traffic with man.
The first vision passes, and the love that is based on understanding
supplants it. The vision of unattainable snows translates itself into
terms of memory--that white gleam that once belonged to dreamland into
an ice-wall with which you have wrestled through the scorching hours
of a July afternoon. You have learned to spell the writing on the
wall of the mountains. The magic of first love, with its worship of
the unattainable, is too often transformed into the soberer affection
founded, like domestic love, on knowledge and sympathy; and the danger
would be greater if the fickle hills had not to be wooed afresh every
season. Beyond the mountain that we climb and seem to know, lurks ever
the visionary peak that we shall never conquer; and this unattainable
ideal gives an eternal youth to the hills, and a never-failing
vitality to our Alpine adventure. Yet when we begin to set down
our memories of the mountains, it seems far easier to recall those
objective facts, which are the same for all comers, the meticulous
details of route, the conditions of snow and ice, and to omit from our
epic that subjective vision of the mountain, that individual impression
which alone lends something more than a technical interest to the story
of our days among the snow. And so it is not altogether surprising that
the man who has never climbed can write more freely and more fully of
the mountains, since he has no expert knowledge to confuse the issue,
no technical details to obscure the first fine careless rapture.

The early mountaineers entered into a literary field that was almost
unexplored. They could write of their hill journeys with the assurance
of men branching out into unknown byways. They could linger on the
commonplaces of hill travel, and praise the freedom of the hills with
the air of men enunciating a paradox. To glorify rough fare, simple
quarters, a bed of hay, a drink quaffed from the mountain stream, must
have afforded Gesner the same intellectual pleasure that Mr. Chesterton
derives from the praise of Battersea and Beer. And this joy in
emotions which had yet to be considered trite lingers on even into the
more sedate pages of _Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers_. The contributors
to those classic volumes were rather frightened of letting themselves
go; but here and there one lights on some spontaneous expression of
delight in the things that are the very flesh and blood of our Alpine
experience--the bivouac beneath the stars, the silent approach of dawn,
the freemasonry of the rope, the triumph of the virgin summit. “Times
have changed since then,” wrote Donald Robertson in a recent issue of
_The Alpine Journal_--

    “Times have changed since then, and with them Alpine literature.
    Mountaineering has become a science, and, as in other sciences,
    the professor has grown impatient of the average intelligence,
    and evolved his own tongue. To write for the outside public is
    to incur the odium of ‘popular science,’ a form of literature
    fascinating to me, but anathema to all right-minded men. Those best
    qualified to speak will only address themselves to those qualified
    to listen, and therefore only in the jargon of their craft. But
    the hall-mark of technical writing is the assumption of common
    knowledge. What all readers know for themselves, it is needless and
    even impertinent to state. Hence, in the climbing stories written
    for the elect, the features common to all climbs must either be
    dismissed with a brief reference, or lightly treated as things only
    interesting in so far as they find novel expression.”

Those who worship Clio the muse will try to preserve the marriage of
history and literature, but those whose only claim to scholarship is
their power to collate facts by diligent research, those who have not
the necessary ability to weave these facts into a vital pattern, will
always protest their devotion to what is humorously dubbed scientific
history. So in the Alpine world, which has its own academic traditions
and its own mandarins, you will find that those who cannot translate
emotions (which it is to be hoped they share) into language which
anybody could understand are rather apt to explain their discreet
silence, by the possession of a delicate reserve that forbids them to
emulate the fine writing of a Ruskin or the purple patches of Meredith.

Now, it should be possible to discriminate between those who endeavour
to clothe a fine emotion in worthy language, and those who start with
the intention of writing finely, and look round for a fine emotion
to serve as the necessary peg. Sincerity is the touchstone that
discriminates the fine writing that is good, and the fine writing
that is damnable. The emotions that are the essence of mountaineering
deserve something better than the genteel peroration of the average
climbing book. Alpine literature is a trifle deficient in fine frenzy.
The Mid-Victorian pose of the bluff, downright Briton, whose surging
flood of emotions is concealed beneath an affectation of cynicism, is
apt to be tedious, and one wonders whether emotions so consistently and
so successfully suppressed really existed within those stolid bosoms.

A great deal of Alpine literature appeals, and rightly appeals, only
to the expert. Such contributions are not intended as descriptive
literature. They may, as the record of research into the early records
of mountaineering and mountains, supply a much-needed link in the
history of the craft. As the record of new exploration, they are sure
to interest the expert, while their exact description of routes and
times will serve as the material for future climbers’ guides. But
this is not the whole of Alpine literature, and the danger is that
those who dare not attempt the subjective aspects of mountaineering
should frighten off those who have the necessary ability by a tedious
repetition of the phrase “fine writing,” that facile refuge of the
Philistine. The conventional Alpine article is a dreary affair. Its
humour is antique, and consists for the most part in jokes about fleas
and porters, and in the substitution of long phrases for simple ones.
Its satire is even thinner. The root assumption that the Alpine climber
is a superior person, and that social status varies with the height
above sea level, recurs with monotonous regularity. The joke about
the tripper is as old as the Flood, and the instinct that resents his
disturbing presence is not quite the hall-mark of the æsthetic soul
that some folk seem to think. It is as old as the primitive man who
espied a desirable glade, and lay in wait for the first tourist with
a club. “My friends tell me,” writes a well-known veteran, “that I am
singular in this strange desire to avoid meeting the never-ceasing
stream of tourists, and I am beginning to believe that they are right,
and that I am differently constituted from other people.” The author of
this trite confession has only to study travel literature in general
and Alpine literature in particular to discover that quite commonplace
folk can misquote the remark about the madding crowd, and that even
members of the lower middle class have been known to put the sentiment
into practice. A sense of humour and a sense for solitude are two
things which their true possessors are chary of mentioning.

It might be fairly argued that the average mountaineer does not pretend
to be a writer, fine or otherwise, that he describes his climbs in a
club journal intended for a friendly and uncritical audience, and that
he leaves the defence of his sport to the few men who can obtain the
hearing of a wider audience. That is fair comment; and, fortunately,
mountaineering is not without the books that are classics not only of
Alpine but also of English literature.

First to claim mention is _Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers_, a volume
“so fascinating,” writes Donald Robertson, “so inspiring a gospel of
adventure and full, free life, that the call summoned to the hills an
army of seekers after the promised gold.” That is true enough. But the
charm of these pages, which is undoubted, is much more due to the fact
that the contributors had a good story to tell than to any grace of
style with which they told it. The contributors were drawn from all
walks of life--barristers, Manchester merchants, schoolmasters, dons,
clergymen, and scientists; and unless we must affect to believe that
Alpine climbing inspires its devotees with the gift of tongues, we need
not appear guilty of irreverence for the pioneers if we discriminate
between the literary and intrinsic merit of their work. They were
educated men. They did not split their infinitives, and they could
express their thoughts in the King’s English, a precedent not always
followed by their successors. We must, however, differentiate between
the Alpine writing which gives pleasure because of its associations,
and the literature which delights not only for its associations and
story, but also for its beauty of expression. Let us, as an example,
consider two passages describing an Alpine dawn--

    “We set out from the bivouac at three in the morning. The night was
    cloudless, and the stars shone with a truly majestic beauty. Ahead
    of us, we could just see the outline of the great peak we proposed
    to attack. Gradually, the east lightened. The mountains became
    more distinct. The eastern sky paled, and a few minutes later the
    glorious sun caught the topmost peaks, and painted their snows with
    the fiery hues of dawn. It was a most awe-compelling spectacle.”

This passage may please us, not because the language is fine or
the thoughts subtly expressed, but simply because the scenes so
inadequately described recall those which we ourselves have witnessed.
The passage would convey little to a man who had never climbed. Now
consider the following--

    “On the glacier, the light of a day still to be born put out our
    candles.... We halted to watch the procession of the sun. He came
    out of the uttermost parts of the earth, very slowly, lighting peak
    after peak in the long southward array, dwelling for a moment,
    and then passing on. Opposite, and first to catch the glow, were
    the great mountains of the Saasgrat and the Weisshorn. _But more
    beautiful, like the loom of some white-sailed ship far out at sea,
    each unnamed and unnumbered peak of the east took and reflected the
    radiance of the morning._ The light mists which came before the sun
    faded.”...

Like the other passage this brief description starts a train of
memories; but, whereas the first passage would convey little to a
non-climber, Sir Claud Schuster has really thought out the sequence
of the dawn, and has caught one of its finer and subtler effects by
the use of a very happy analogy. The phrase which we have ventured to
italicise defines in a few words a brief scene in the drama of the
dawn, an impression that could not be conveyed by piling adjective on
adjective.

There are many writers who have captured the romance of mountaineering,
far fewer who have the gift for that happy choice of words that gives
the essence of a particular Alpine view. Pick up any Alpine classic at
a venture, and you will find that not one writer in fifty can hold your
attention through a long passage of descriptive writing. The average
writer piles on his adjectives. From the Alpine summit you can see a
long way. The horizon seems infinitely far off. The valleys sink below
into profound shadows. The eye is carried from the dark firs upward to
the glittering snowfields. “The majestic mass of the ... rises to the
north, and blots out the lesser ranges of the.... The awful heights of
the ... soar upwards from the valley of.... In the east, we could just
catch a glimpse of the ... and our guides assured us that in the west
we could veritably see the distant snows of our old friend the....” And
so on, and so forth. Fill in the gaps, and this skeleton description
can be made to fit the required panorama. It roughly represents nine
out of ten word pictures of Alpine views. Examine Whymper’s famous
description of the view from the Matterhorn. It is little more than
a catalogue of mountains. There is hardly a phrase in it that would
convey the essential atmosphere of such a view to a man who had not
seen it.

Genius has been defined as the power of seeing analogies, and we have
sometimes fancied that the secret of all good Alpine description lies
in the happy choice of the right analogy. It is no use accumulating
the adjective at random. Peaks are high and majestic, the snow is
white. Certainly this does not help us. What we need is some happily
chosen phrase which goes deeper than the obvious epithets that
apply to every peak and every snowfield. We want the magical phrase
that differentiates one particular Alpine setting from another. And
this phrase will often be some apparently casual analogy drawn from
something which has no apparent connection with the Alps. “Beautiful
like the loom of some white-sailed ship,” is an example which we have
already quoted. Leslie Stephen’s work is full of such analogies. He
does not waste adjectives. His adjectives are chosen for a particular
reason. His epithets all do work. Read his description of the view from
Mont Blanc, the Peaks of Primiero, the Alps in winter, and you feel
that these descriptions could not be made to apply to other Alpine
settings by altering the names and suppressing an occasional phrase.
They are charged with the individual atmosphere of the place which
gave them birth. In the most accurate sense of the word, they are
autocthonous. A short quotation will illustrate these facts. Here is
Stephen’s description of the view from the Schreckhorn. Notice that
he achieves his effect without the usual largess of jewellery. Topaz
and opal are dispensed with, and their place is taken by casual and
apparently careless analogies from such diversified things as an opium
dream, music, an idle giant.

    “You are in the centre of a whole district of desolation,
    suggesting a landscape from Greenland, or an imaginary picture
    of England in the glacial epoch, with shores yet unvisited by
    the irrepressible Gulf Stream. The charm of such views--little
    as they are generally appreciated by professed admirers of the
    picturesque--is to my taste unique, though not easily explained
    to unbelievers. They have a certain soothing influence like slow
    and stately music, or one of the strange opium dreams described
    by De Quincey. If his journey in the mail-coach could have led
    him through an Alpine pass instead of the quiet Cumberland hills,
    he would have seen visions still more poetical than that of the
    minister in the ‘dream fugue.’ Unable as I am to bend his bow, I
    can only say that there is something almost unearthly in the sight
    of enormous spaces of hill and plain, apparently unsubstantial as a
    mountain mist, glimmering away to the indistinct horizon, and as it
    were spell-bound by an absolute and eternal silence. The sentiment
    may be very different when a storm is raging and nothing is visible
    but the black ribs of the mountains glaring at you through rents in
    the clouds; but on that perfect day on the top of the Schreckhorn,
    where not a wreath of vapour was to be seen under the Whole vast
    canopy of the sky, a delicious lazy sense of calm repose was the
    appropriate frame of mind. One felt as if some immortal being, with
    no particular duties upon his hands, might be calmly sitting upon
    those desolate rocks and watching the little shadowy wrinkles of
    the plain, that were really mountain ranges, rise and fall through
    slow geological epochs.”

Whymper never touches this note even in the best of many good mountain
passages. His forte was rather the romance of Alpine adventure than the
subtler art of reproducing Alpine scenery. But in his own line he is
without a master. His style, of course, was not so uniformly good as
Stephen’s. He had terrible lapses. He spoils his greatest chapter by a
most uncalled-for anti-climax. He had a weakness for banal quotations
from third-rate translations of the classics. But, though these lapses
are irritating, there is no book like the famous _Scrambles_, and there
is certainly no book which has sent more new climbers to the Alps.
Whymper was fortunate, for he had as his material the finest story
in Alpine history. Certainly, he did not waste his chances. The book
has the genuine ring of Alpine romance. Its pages are full of those
contrasts that are the stuff of our mountain quest, the tragic irony
that a Greek mind would have appreciated. The closing scenes in the
great drama of the Matterhorn move to their appointed climax with the
dignity of some of the most majestic chapters in the Old Testament. Of
their kind, they are unique in the literature of exploration.

Tyndall, Whymper’s great rival, had literary talent as well as
scientific genius, but his Alpine books, though they contain fine
passages, have not the personality that made _Scrambles in the Alps_ a
classic, nor the genius for descriptive writing that we admire in _The
Playground of Europe_. Of A. W. Moore’s work and of Mummery’s great
classic we have already spoken. Mummery, like Whymper, could translate
into words the rollicking adventure of mountaineering, and though he
never touches Leslie Stephen’s level, some of his descriptions of
mountain scenery have a distinct fascination.

A few other great Alpine books have appeared between _Peaks, Pastures,
and Glaciers_ and the recent work _Peaks and Pleasant Pastures_. Mr.
Douglas Freshfield and Sir Martin Conway are both famous explorers
of the greater ranges beyond Europe, and their talent for mountain
description must have inspired many a climber to leave the well-trodden
Alpine routes for the unknown snows of the Himalayas. Mr. Freshfield’s
Caucasian classic opens with a short poem that we should like to
have quoted, and includes one of the great stories on mountain
literature--the search for Donkin and Fox. Sir Martin Conway brings to
his work the eye of a trained Art critic, and the gift for analysing
beauty, not only in pictures, but in Alpine scenery. He is an artist in
colour and in words.

Contrary to accepted views, we are inclined to believe that Alpine
literature shows signs of a Renaissance. Those who hold that the
subject-matter is exhausted, seem to base their belief on the fact that
every virgin peak in the Alps has been climbed, and that the literature
of exploration should, therefore, die a natural death. This belief
argues a lack of proportion. Because a certain number of climbers have
marched up and down the peaks of a certain range, it does not follow
that those mountains no longer afford emotions capable of literary
expression. The very reverse is the case. It is perilously easy to
attach supreme importance to the sporting side of our craft. Mountain
literature is too often tedious, because it concentrates on objective
facts. When all the great mountains were unclimbed, those who wrote of
them could not burden their pages with tiresome details of routes and
times. When every mountain has been climbed by every conceivable route,
the material at the disposal of the objective writer is fortunately
exhausted. There are few great Alpine routes that remain unexplored.
There are a thousand byways in the psychology of mountaineering that
have never been touched, and an excellent book might have been written
on this subject alone. Every mountaineer brings to the mountains the
tribute of a new worshipper with his own different emotions. “Obtain an
account of the same expedition from three points on the same rope, and
you will see how different. Therefore, there is room in our generation
for a new _Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers_ by the best pens in the Club
telling freely, and without false shame, the simple story of a day
among the mountains.”

The pioneers had every advantage, a new subject for literary
expression, a new field of almost untouched exploration, phrases that
had yet to become trite, emotions which never become trite though
their expression is apt to fall into a rut. And yet it seems doubtful
whether they wrote more freely and more truly than some of those who
are writing to-day. In some directions, mountain descriptions have
advanced as well as mountain craft. We have no Leslie Stephen and no
Whymper, but the best pens at work in _The Alpine Journal_ have created
a nobler literature than that which we find in the early numbers. “_The
Alpine Journal_,” remarked a worthy president, is “the champagne of
Alpine literature.” Like the best champagne, it is often very dry.
The early numbers contained little of literary value beyond Gosset’s
great account of the avalanche which killed Bennen, and some articles
by Stephen and Whymper. Neither Stephen nor Whymper wrote their best
for the club journal. _The Cornhill_ contains Stephen’s best work, and
Whymper gave the pick of his writing to the Press. One may safely say
that the first forty years of the club journal produced nothing better
than recent contributions such as “The Alps” by A. D. Godley, “Two
Ridges of the Grand Jorasses” by G. W. Young, “The Middle Age of the
Mountaineer” by Claud Schuster, “Another Way of Alpine Love” by F. W.
Bourdillon, “The Ligurian Alps” by R. L. A. Irving, and “Alpine Humour”
by C. D. Robertson. Nor has good work been confined to _The Alpine
Journal_. The patient seeker may find hidden treasures in the pages
of some score of journals devoted to some aspect of the mountains.
The new century has opened well, for it has given us Prof. Collie’s
_Exploration in the Himalaya and other Mountain Ranges_, a book of
unusual charm. It has given us Mr. Young’s mountain poems, for which
we would gladly jettison a whole library of Alpine literature. It has
given us _Peaks and Pleasant Pastures_, and a fine translation of Guido
Rey’s classic work on the Matterhorn. With these books in mind we can
safely assert that the writer quoted at the beginning of this chapter
was unduly pessimistic, and that England has contributed her fair share
to the subjective literature of the Alps.

Let us hope that this renaissance of wonder will suffer no eclipse;
let us hope that the Alps may still offer to generations yet unborn
avenues of discovery beside those marked “No Information” in the pages
of _The Climber’s Guides_. The saga of the Alps will not die from lack
of material so long as men find in the hills an inspiration other than
the challenge of unclimbed ridges and byways of mountain joy uncharted
in the ordnance survey.



BIBLIOGRAPHY


The Alpine Club collects every book dealing with the mountains and
also most of the articles that appear in the Press and Magazines. The
Catalogue of the Alpine Club Library should, therefore, be the most
complete bibliography in existence. The additions to the Club Library
are published from time to time in _The Alpine Journal_.

The most useful bibliographies of Alpine book that are accessible to
the general reader are contained in _Ueber Eis and Schnee_, by Gottlieb
Studer (1869-1871), and _Swiss Travel and Swiss Guide Books_, by the
Rev. W. A. B. Coolidge (1889).

Perhaps the most thorough book on every phase of the Alps, sporting,
social, political and historical is _The Alps in Nature and History_,
by the Rev. W. A. B. Coolidge (1908).

For the Geology of the Alps and the theory of Glacier Motion there are
no better books than _The Glaciers of the Alps_, by John Tyndall (1860;
reprinted in the Everyman Library), and _The Building of the Alps_, by
T. G. Bonney (1912).

For the practical side of mountaineering, _Mountaineering_, by C. T.
Dent (Badminton Library), is good but somewhat out of date.

The best modern book on the theory and practice of mountaineering is
_Modern Mountain Craft_, edited by G. W. Young (1914). This book is
in the Press. It contains chapters on the theory of mountain craft
in summer and winter, and in addition a very able summary of the
characteristic of mountaineering in the great ranges beyond Europe as
described by the various experts for the particular districts.

Winter mountaineering and ski-ing are dealt with in _The Ski-Runner_,
by E. C. Richardson (1909); _Ski-ing for Beginners and Mountaineers_,
by W. R. Rickmers (1910); _How to Ski_, by Vivian Caulfield (1910);
_Ski-ing_, by Arnold Lunn (1912).

For the general literature of mountaineering the reader has a wide
choice. We cannot attempt a comprehensive bibliography, but the
following books are the most interesting of the many hundred volumes on
the subject.

The early history of mountaineering is dealt with in Mr. Coolidge’s
books referred to above. There is a good historical sketch in the first
chapter of the Badminton volume. The most readable book on the early
pioneers is _The Early Mountaineers_, by Francis Gribble (1899). _The
Story of Alpine Climbing_, by Francis Gribble (1904), is smaller than
_The Early Mountaineers_; it can be obtained for a shilling.

We shall, where possible, confine our list to books written in English.
This is not possible for the earlier works, as English books do not
cover the ground.

    _Descriptio Montis Fracti juxta Lucernam._ By Conrad Gesner. 1555.

    _De Alpibus Commentarius._ By Josias Simler. 1574.

    _Coryate’s Crudities._ By T. Coryate. 1611. This book contains the
    passage quoted on p. 15. It has recently been reprinted.

    _Diary (Simplon, etc.)._ By John Evelyn. 1646. (Reprinted in the
    Everyman Library.)

    _Remarks on Several Parts of Switzerland._ By J. Addison. 1705.

    _Itinera per Helvetiæ Alpinas Regiones Facta._ By Johann Jacob
    Scheuchzer. 1723.

    _Die Alpen._ By A. von Haller. 1732.

    _An Account of the Glaciers or Ice Alps in Savoy._ By William
    Windham and Peter Martel. 1744.

    _Travels in the Alps of Savoy._ By J. D. Forbes. 1843.

    _Mont Blanc._ By Albert Smith. 1852.

    _The Tour of Mont Blanc._ By J. D. Forbes. 1855.

    _Wanderings among the High Alps._ By Alfred Wills. 1856.

    _Summer Months among the Alps._ By T. W. Hinchcliff. 1857. (Very
    scarce.)

    _The Italian Valleys of the Pennine Alps._ By S. W. King. 1858.

    _Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers._ (First Series.) 1859. (Scarce and
    expensive.)

    _Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers._ (Second Series.) (Two volumes.)
    (Scarce.) 1862.

    _The Eagles’ Nest._ By A. Wills. 1860. (Scarce.)

    _The Glaciers of the Alps._ By John Tyndall. 1860.

    _Across Country from Thonon to Trent._ By D. W. Freshfield. 1865.

    _The Alps in 1864._ By A. W. Moore. (Privately reprinted.) (Very
    scarce, reprinted 1902.)

    _The High Alps without Guides._ By A. B. Girdlestone. (Scarce.)
    1870.

    _Scrambles among the Alps._ By Edward Whymper. 1871. This famous
    book went into several editions. It has been reprinted in Nelson’s
    Shilling Library. The original editions with their delightful
    wood-cuts cannot be bought for less than a pound, but are well
    worth the money.

    _The Playground of Europe._ By Leslie Stephen. 1871. This classic
    can be bought for 3_s._ 6_d._ in the Silver Library. The original
    edition is scarce and does not contain the best work.

    _Hours of Exercise in the Alps._ By J. Tyndall. 1871.

    _Italian Alps._ By D. W. Freshfield. 1876.

    _The High Alps in Winter._ By Mrs. Fred Burnaby (Mrs. Le Blond.)
    1883.

    _Above the Snow Line._ By C. T. Dent. 1885.

    _The Pioneers of the Alps._ By C. D. Cunningham and W. de W. Abney.
    (An account of the great guides.) 1888.

    _My Climbs in the Alps and Caucasus._ By A. F. Mummery. 1895.
    (Reprinted in Nelson’s Shilling Library.)

    _The Alps from End to End._ By Sir Martin Conway. 1895. This has
    been reprinted in Nelson’s Shilling Library.

    _The Annals of Mont Blanc._ By C. E. Mathews. 1898.

    _Climbing in the Himalaya and other Mountain Ranges._ By Norman J.
    Collie, 1902. Includes some excellent chapters on the Alps.

    _The Alps._ Described by Sir Martin Conway. Illustrated by A.
    O. M’Cormick. 1904. A cheap edition without Mr. M’Cormick’s
    illustrations has been issued in 1910.

    _My Alpine Jubilee._ By Frederic Harrison. 1908.

    _Recollections of an Old Mountaineer._ By Walter Larden. 1910.

    _Peaks and Pleasant Pastures._ By Claud Schuster. 1911.

The poetry of Mountaineering as distinct from the poetry of mountains
is found in--

    _Wind and Hill._ By G. W. Young. 1909.

This book is out of print. The mountain poems have been reprinted in--

    _The Englishman in the Alps._ An Anthology edited by Arnold Lunn.
    1913. This Anthology includes long extracts from one to five
    thousand words chosen from the best of Alpine prose and poetry.

Other Alpine Anthologies are--

    _The Voice of the Mountains._ By E. Baker and F. E. Ross. 1905.

    _In Praise of Switzerland._ By Harold Spender. 1912.

The reader will find good photographs very useful. The earliest
Alpine photographer to achieve distinct success was Mr. Donkin, whose
excellent photographs can be bought cheaply. Signor Sellâs--the supreme
artist in mountain photography--also sells his work. Messrs. Abraham
of Keswick have photographed with thoroughness the Alps and the rock
climbs of Cumberland and Wales. Their best work is reproduced in _The
Complete Mountaineer_. (1908.)



INDEX


  Abbühl, Arnold, 96

  Aggasiz, 104-10

  Aiguille, Mont, 29-30

  Almer, Christian, 125, 129

  Alpine Club, the, 130

  _Alpine Journal, The_, 73, 249

  _Alps in 1864, The_, 135

  _Annals of Mont Blanc, The_, 60, 134

  Arkwright, Captain, 117


  Ball, John, 118-19, 130

  Balmat, Jacques, 60-81

  Balmat (in Wills’s guide), 125-9

  Beaupré, 30

  Beck, Jean Joseph, 86-89

  Belloc, Hilaire, 226

  Bennen, 154, 157-8

  Berkeley, 15

  Blackwell, 112

  Blackwood, Algernon, 229-30

  Blanc, Mont, 47, 60-81, 121-4, 187

  Blond, Mrs. Le, 200

  Bonney, Prof., 133

  Bourrit, 54-9, 60, 74-80, 220

  Bremble, 15

  Buet, the, 49-50

  Byron, 215-17


  Canigou, Pic, 30

  Carbonnière, Ramond de, 214-15

  Carrel, J. A., 152-83

  Carrel, J. J., 152-3, 154

  Cawood, 189

  Charles VII, 29

  Charpentier, 103

  Clement, 53

  Coleridge, 217

  Colgrove, 187

  Collie, Prof., 250

  Conway, Sir Martin, 247

  Coolidge, Mr., 44, 129

  Coryat’s _Crudities_, 15

  Croz, 163-80

  Cust, 189


  Davies, 136

  Dent du Midi, 53

  Desor, 105

  Dobell, Sydney, 231

  Dollfus-Ausset, 106

  Douglas, Lord Francis, 163-80

  Dragons in the Alps, 40-42

  Dübi, Dr., 72-3

  Dumas, Alexandre, 62-72

  Dürer, 18-19


  _Early Mountaineers, The_, 27, 214


  Fairbanks, Rev. Arthur, 188

  Farrar, Captain, 97-101

  Finsteraarhorn, 96-101

  Forbes, J. D., 116-18

  Freshfield, Mr. Douglas, 12, 29, 72, 247


  Gersdorf, Baron von, 73-9

  Gesner, Conrad, 33-9

  Giordani, Pietro, 89

  Giordano, 159, 161-3, 168

  Girdlestone, the Rev. A. B., 187-8

  Glockner, The Gross, 92-4

  Godley, A. D., 249

  Gorret, Aimé, 152-3, 181.

  Gribble, Mr. Francis, 26, 44, 46

  Grove, Francis, 187

  Guideless climbing, 138-43, 185-9

  Gurk, Bishop of, 93-4


  Haddington, Lord, 45

  Hadow, 163-80

  Haller, 213

  Hamel, Dr., 117

  Hannibal, 22-3

  Hardy, 135-6

  Hawkins, Vaughan, 153-4

  _High Alps without Guides, The_, 187-8

  Hinchcliffe, 130, 135

  Holland, Mrs., 231

  Holland, Philemon, 23

  Hôtel des Neuchâtelois, 104

  _Hours of Exercise in the Alps_, 131, 153-4

  Hudson, 163-80, 187

  Hugi, 97-100

  Hugisattel, 100


  Irving, Mr. R. L. A., 249


  James, William, 107-9

  John of Austria, Archduke, 94-5

  Jungfrau, 96


  Kaisergebirge, 199

  Kennedy, E. S., 187

  Kipling, 228-9, 232


  Lauener, Ulrich, 125-9

  Lauteraarhorn, 109

  Luc, De, 48-50


  Martel, Peter, 45-6

  Marti, 16, 36-7

  Masefield, John, 232

  Mathews, C. E., 46-8, 134-5

  Mathews, William, 130

  Matterhorn, the, 147-84, 189

  Meredith, George, 224

  Meyers, the, 85-101

  Monboso, 28

  Moore, Dr. John, 46

  Moore, W. A., 135, 199

  Morris, William, 231

  Morse, Mr. 189, 191

  Mountaineering in Great Britain, 193-4, 197-9

  Mountaineering, modern, 185-207

  Mountaineering in winter, 199-207

  Mountaineering without guides, 138-43, 185-9

  Mountains in Art, 17-20

  Mountains in Literature, 208-50

  Mountains, Mediæval attitude to, 1-21

  Müller, 30-31

  Müller, John, 33

  Mummery, 183-4, 191, 246

  Murith, Prior, 50, 52, 53

  _My Climbs in the Alps and Caucasus_, 191

  Myers, F. W. H., 231


  Ortler, the, 94-5


  Paccard, Dr., 67-80

  Parker, Messrs., 153

  Parrot, Dr., 90

  Paulcke, 208

  _Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers_, 235, 239-40

  _Peaks and Pleasant Pastures_, 250

  _Penhall_, 184

  Perrandier, 103

  Peter III, 30

  Petrarch, 26-7

  Pic du Midi, 30

  Pichler, Joseph, 94

  Pilate, Pontius, 31-2

  Pilatus, 31-4

  Placidus à Spescha, 82-4

  _Playground of Europe, The_, 131, 132-3

  Pococke, Dr., 45

  Pope, Hugh, 199

  Popocatapetl, 30

  Punta Giordani, 89

  Purtscheller, 189


  Rey, Guido, 152-9

  Robertson, Donald, 235-6, 249

  Rochefoucauld, Duc de, 46

  Rosa, Monte, 28-9, 85-91, 129

  Rotario of Asti, 24

  Rousseau, 9, 212-3, 214

  Ruskin, 221-4


  Salis, Ulysses von 151

  Saussure, De, 46-8, 60

  Scheuchzer, 39-43

  Schuster, Sir Claud, 241, 249, 250

  _Scrambles in the Alps_, 133-4

  Sella, Quintino, 159, 161-3, 168

  Shelley, 218-19

  Simler, 37-9

  Ski-ing, 200-7

  Smith, Albert, 119-24

  Stephen, Sir Leslie, 131-3, 136-7, 140-1, 243, 245

  Stockhorn, 30-1

  Stogdon, Mr. John, 188

  Studer, Gottlieb, 109-10

  Swinburne, 231

  Symonds, Addington, 224-6


  Taugwalders, the, 163-80

  Tennyson, Lord, 230-1

  Theodule, 12

  Titlis, 44

  Tödi, the, 83

  _Tour of Mont Blanc, The_, 110

  Tuckett, 136-7

  Tyndall, John, 131, 157-8


  Ulrich of Württemberg, 32


  Velan, the, 50-2

  Venetz, 103

  Ventoux, Mont, 26

  Vinci, Leonardo da, 19-20, 27-8

  Vogt, 105


  Walker, Mr. Horace, 199

  Watt, Joachim von, 32

  Weston, Mr., 12

  Wetterhorn, the, 109, 111-12, 125-9

  Whymper, Edward, 133, 147-84

  Wicks, Mr., 189

  Wills, Mr. Justice, 111-14, 125-9

  Wilson, Mr., 189

  Windham, 45


  Young, Sir George, 135

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83. _COMMON-SENSE IN LAW_

    By Prof. P. VINOGRADOFF, D.C.L.

85. _UNEMPLOYMENT_

    By Prof. A. C. PIGOU, M.A.


IN PREPARATION

    _ANCIENT EGYPT._ By F. LL. GRIFFITH, M.A.

    _THE ANCIENT EAST._ By D. G. HOGARTH, M.A., F.B.A.

    _A SHORT HISTORY OF EUROPE._ By HERBERT FISHER, LL.D.

    _THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE._ By NORMAN H. BAYNES.

    _THE REFORMATION._ By President LINDSAY, LL.D.

    _A SHORT HISTORY OF RUSSIA._ By Prof. MILYOUKOV.

    _MODERN TURKEY._ By D. G. HOGARTH, M.A.

    _FRANCE OF TO-DAY._ By ALBERT THOMAS.

    _HISTORY OF SCOTLAND._ By Prof. R. S. RAIT, M.A.

    _HISTORY AND LITERATURE OF SPAIN._ By J.
    FITZMAURICE-KELLY, F.B.A., Litt.D.

    _LATIN LITERATURE._ By Prof. J. S. PHILLIMORE.

    _ITALIAN ART OF THE RENAISSANCE._ By ROGER E. FRY.

    _LITERARY TASTE._ By THOMAS SECCOMBE.

    _SCANDINAVIAN HISTORY & LITERATURE._ By T. C. SNOW.

    _THE MINERAL WORLD._ By Sir T. H. HOLLAND, K.C.I.E., D.Sc.

    _A HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY._ By CLEMENT WEBB, M.A.

    _POLITICAL THOUGHT IN ENGLAND: From Bacon to Locke._ By G. P.
    GOOCH, M.A.

    _POLITICAL THOUGHT IN ENGLAND: From Bentham to J. S. Mill._ By
    Prof. W. L. DAVIDSON.

    _POLITICAL THOUGHT IN ENGLAND: From Herbert Spencer to To-day._ By
    ERNEST BARKER, M.A.

    _THE CRIMINAL AND THE COMMUNITY._ By Viscount ST. CYRES.

    _THE CIVIL SERVICE._ By GRAHAM WALLAS, M.A.

    _THE SOCIAL SETTLEMENT._ By JANE ADDAMS and R. A.
    WOODS.

    _GREAT INVENTIONS._ By Prof. J. L. MYRES, M.A., F.S.A.

    _TOWN PLANNING._ By RAYMOND UNWIN.

London: WILLIAMS AND NORGATE

_And of all Bookshops and Bookstalls._



FOOTNOTES:

[1] See Mr. Gribble’s _Early Mountaineers_, Chap. V., where the
arguments on each side are skilfully summarised.

[2] Not “The Tirol,” still less “The Austrian Tirol,” but “Tirol.” We
do not speak of “The Scotland” or “The British Scotland.”

[3] The origin of the Alpine Club is, to some extent, a matter of
dispute, the above is the view usually entertained.

[4] Mount Blanc is divided between France and Italy; and the Italian
frontier crosses Monte Rosa.


[Transcriber’s Note:

Page 255, Index entry “Gedley, A. D., 249”, changed to read “Godley, A.
D., 249” and moved to appropriate spot in index.

Obvious printer errors corrected silently.

Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation are as in the original.]





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