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Full text of "Adventures on the roof of the world"

^rcsenleb to 
of ihe 

^itilierstty of Toronto 

Herbert Otto Frind, Esq. 



'V 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2008 with funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



http://www.archive.org/details/adventuresonroofOOIebluoft 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF 
THE WORLD 



UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME. 

Large Crown Svo, Cloth^ 5s. 

True Tales of Mountain Adventure. By Mrs 

Aubrey Le Blond (Mrs Main). With many Illus- 
trations from Pliotographs by the Author. Cheap 
Edition. 

"The book should be read by all who think of Alpine climbing, 
and by all who love stories of adventure and feats of daring." — 
Daily News. 

" The tales told are far more thrilling than the most sensational 
of novels." — Westminster Gazette. 

In Search of El Dorado. A Wanderer's 

Experiences. By Alexander Macdonald, 
F.R.G.S. With an Introduction by Admiral 
Moresby. With 32 Illustrations. Cheap Edition. 

" It was with a secret joy that we sat up till the small hours of the 
morning to finish Mr Alexander Macdonald's ' In Search of El 
Dorado.' The author's wanderings have led him all over the world, 
digging for gold, silver, opals, and gems. The wonderful characters 
are vividly drawn, and his two companions, Mac and Stewart, are 
men one would like to shake hands with. . . . We can conscien- 
tiously say that we have had as much pleasure from this book as from 
the half-dozen best novels of the year." — Bystander. 

Present Day Japan By A. M. Campbell David- 
son. With 32 Illustrations. Cheap Edition. 

"A lively and sympathetic account of the manners, customs, and 
beliefs of the island Empire." — Daily News. 

John Chinaman at Home. By the Rev. E. J. 

Hardy, Author of " How to be Happy though 
Married," lately Chaplain to H.M. Forces at Hong- 
Kong. With 36 Illustrations. Cheap Edition. 

" The author of ' How to be Happy though Married' could hardly 
help writing an amusing book, and this Mr Hardy's sense of humour 
ensures us in the present instance. The gift of seeing the quaint 
side of things Chinese is a sitie qua non with writers who aim at 
describing China from its social side ; to this Mr Hardy adds a power 
of observation resulting in the amassingof a crowd of facts. We can 
recommend it strongly to the general reader." — Saturday Review. 




Thk finding of the last isivouac of Messrs. Donkin and Fox in the Caucasls. (P. ii6.) 

From a drawing by Mr. Willink after a sketch by Captain Powell. Taken, by kind permission of 
Mr. Douglas Freshfield, from " The Exploration of the Caucasus." 



Frontispiece. 



ADVENTURES ON THE 
ROOF OF THE WORLD 



BY 

MRS AUBREY LE BLOND 

(Mrs MAIN) 

AUTHOR OF 
■MY HOME IN THE ALPS," "TRUE TALES OF MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE," ETC. 

ILLUSTRATED 
SECOND IMPRESSION 




LONDON 

T. FISHER UNWIN 

PATERNOSTER SQUARE 

1907 






First Edition . . 1904 
Second Impression . 1907 




R^^^K 



b ■ 



■^. 



'^'SITY OF TO'^SS^*^ 



794774 



(A/i rights reserved.) 



ro 
JOSEPH IMBODEN 

MY GUIDE AND FRIEND FOR TWENTY YEARS, 

3- C)eMcate 

THESE RECORDS OF A PASTIME IN WHICH I OWE 

MY SHARE TO HIS SKILL, COURAGE, AND 

HELPFUL COMPANIONSHIP. 



y 



PREFACE 

"FJEAR HEART," said Tommy, when 
Mr Barlow had finished his narrative, 
" what a number of accidents people are subject 
to in this world ! " 

** It is very true," answered Mr Barlow, 
"but as that is the case, it is necessary to 
improve ourselves in every possible manner, 
so that we may be able to struggle against 
them." 

Thus quoted, from Sandford and Merton, 
a president of the Alpine Club. The follow- 
ing True Tales from the Hills, if they serve 
to emphasise not only the perils of mountain- 
eering but the means by which they can be 
lessened, will have accomplished the aim of 
their editor. 

This book is not intended for the climber. 

To him most of the tales will be familiar in 

vii 



PREFACE 

the volumes on the shelves of his library or 
on the lips of his companions during restful 
hours in the Alps. But the non-climber 
rarely sees The Alpine Journal and the less 
popular books on mountaineering, nor would 
he probably care to search in their pages for 
narratives likely to interest him. 

To seek out tales of adventure easily in- 
telligible to the non-climber, to edit them in 
popular form, to point out the lessons which 
most adventures can teach to those who may 
climb themselves one day, has occupied many 
pleasant hours, rendered doubly so by the 
feeling that I shall again come into touch 
with the readers who gave so kindly a greet- 
ing to my True Tales of Mountain Adventure. 
In that work I tried to explain the principles 
of mountaineering and something of the 
nature of glaciers and avalanches. Those 
chapters will, I think, be found helpful by 
non-climbers who read the present volume. 

For much kindly advice and help in com- 
viii 



PREFACE 

piling this work I am indebted to Mr Henry 
Mayhew, of the British Museum, and to Mr 
Clinton Dent. Mrs Maund has enabled me 
to quote from a striking article by her late 
husband. Sir W. Martin Conway, Sir H. 
Seymour King, Messrs Tuckett, G. E. Foster, 
Cecil Slingsby, Harold Spender, and Edward 
Fitzgerald have been good enough to allow 
me to make long extracts from their writings. 
Messrs Newnes have generously permitted 
me to quote from articles which appeared in 
their publications, and the editor of The 
Cornhill has sanctioned my reprinting portions 
of a paper from his magazine. I am also 
indebted to the editor of M'Clure's Magazine 
for a similar courtesy. 

Mons. A. Campagne, Inspector of Water 
and Forests (France), allows me to make use 
of two very interesting photographs from his 
work on the Valley of Barege. Several 
friends have lent me photographs for repro- 
duction in this work, and their names appear 

ix 



PREFACE 

under each of the illustrations I owe to 
them. Messrs Spooner have kindly allowed 
me to use several by the late Mr W. F. 
Donkin. When not otherwise stated, the 
photographs are from my own negatives. 

I take this opportunity of heartily thanking 
those climbers, some of them personally un- 
known to me, whose assistance has rendered 
this work possible. 

E. LE BLOND. 



67 The Drive, 
Brighton, December 1903. 



CONTENTS 



CNAP. 

PREFACE , 



I. SOME TALES OF ALPINE GUIDES . 
II. TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

III. SOME AVALANCHE ADVENTURES . 

IV. A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE . 
V. A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE {continued) 

VI. AN EXCITING CAUCASIAN ASCENT 

VII. A MELANCHOLY QUEST 

VIII. SOME NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 
IX. A NIGHT ADVENTURE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 
X. ALONE ON THE DENT BLANCHE . 
XI. A STIRRING DAY ON THE ROSETTA . 
XII. THE ZINAL ROTHHORN TWICE IN ONE DAY 
XIIL BENIGHTED ON A SNOW PEAK . 
XIV. THE STORY OF A BIG JUMP .... 



XV. A PERILOUS FIRST ASCENT . 

xi 



PASB 

ix 
I 

23 
51 

6s 

81 

99 
116 

124 
152 
167 
182 

195 
208 
222 
235 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. 

XVI. THUNDERSTORMS IN THE ALPS . 
XVII. LANDSLIPS IN THE MOUNTAINS . 
XVIII. SOME TERRIBLE EXPERIENCES . 
XIX. FALLING STONES AND FALLING BODIES 

GLOSSARY 

INDEX .1 



257 
275 
291 
310 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



The last bivouac of Messrs Donkin and Fox 

in the Caucasus Frontispiece 

Christian Aimer, Joseph Imboden, Jean 

Antoine Carrel, Alexander Burgener . To face page 3 

The last steep bit near the top— At the end 
of a hot day — An instant's halt to choose 
the best way up a steep wall of rock — 
The ice-axes are stowed away in a crack, 
to be brought up by the last man . . ,» >» 6 

Auguste Gentinetta — Auguste Gentinetta 
on the way to the Matterhorn — The 
beginning of the climb up the Matter- 
horn — The spot where was the berg- 
schrund into which Mr Sloggett's party 
fell „ „ 8 

Auguste Gentinetta on a mountain-top — The 
ice-cliffs over which Mr Sloggett's party 
would have fallen had they not been 
dashed into the bergschrund — The 
ruined chapel by the Schwarzsee — The 
last resting-place at Zermatt of some 

English climbers » >» i' 

xiii 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

On a snow ridge — A halt for lunch above 

the snow-line — Mrs Aubrey Le Blond . To face page 51 

A cutting through an avalanche — The 
remains of an avalanche — An avalanche 
of stones — A mountain chapel. . . » »> 59 

A mountain path — Peasants of the mountains 
— A village buried beneath an avalanche 
— Terraces planted to prevent avalanches „ „ 65 

A typical Caucasian landscape ... » ■>■> loS 

Melchior Anderegg, his son and grandchild . „ „ 124 

Crevasses and s^racs — On the border of a 
crevasse — A snow bridge — Soft snow in 
the afternoon „ ,, I33 

The Betemps Hut — Ski-ing — A fall on Skis — 

A great crevasse „ » I37 

The baloon " Stella " getting ready to start 
(p. 301) — A bivouac in the olden days — 
Boulder practice — The last rocks 
descending » m ^48 

Provisions for a mountain hotel — An out- 
look over rock and snow — Dent Blanche 
from Schwarzsee (winter) — Dent Blanche 
from Theodule Glacier (summer) . . „ ,,152 

Hut on Col de Bertol — Ascending the 
Aiguilles Rouges — Summit of the Dent 
Blanche — Cornice on the Dent Blanche „ „ 156 

Ambrose Supersax (p. 209) — View from the 

Rosetta „ „ 182 

Climbing party leaving Zermatt — The 
Gandegg Hut— The Trift Hotel— Zinal 
Rothhom from Trift Valley . . . „ » i95 

xiv 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Zinal Rothhorn — Top of a Chamonix Aiguille 
— A steep face of rock — " Leading 
strings" To face page 202 

A dergsc/trund—Uomtwards over the snow- 
slopes „ „ 230 

The Ecrins— Clouds breaking over a ridge- 
Summit of the Jungfrau— Wind-blown 
snow » » 235 

The Ecrins from the Glacier Blanc . „ „ 247 

Slab climbing — A rock ridge — On the Dent 

du Geant— The top at last ... » >. 252 

The second largest glacier in the Alps— On 

a ridge in the Oberland .... » » 259 

Thirteen thousand feet above the sea— On 
the Furggen Grat — A " personally 
conducted" party on the Breithorn — 
Packing the knapsack .... » » -69 

Monte Rosa from the Furggen Grat— The 

Matterhom from the Wellenkuppe . „ „ 272 

A glacier lake — Amongst the seracs— 

Taking off the rope— Water at last ! . ,. » 297 

The balloon " Stella " starting from Zermatt — 

A moment after . . . ' . » » 298 

The Matterhom from the Hornli Ridge — 
The Matterhom from the Furgg Glacier 
—Joseph Biner— The Matterhom Hut . „ „ 302 

A hot day on a mountain-top — A summit 
near Saas — Luncheon en route (winter)- - 
Luncheon on a glacier pass (summer) . „ „ 310 

XV 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

A tedious snow-slope— A sitting glissade— 
A glacier-capped summit — On the 
frontier To face page 312 

Unpleasant going— On the crest of an old 

moraine ...•••• m » 2>^1 

An awkward bit of climbing — Guides at 

Zermatt— The Boval Hut— -<4«r^7/tf/r/. „ „ 322 



XVI 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF 
OF THE WORLD 



CHAPTER I 

SOME TALES OF ALPINE GUIDES 

TN a former work, I have given some details of 
'*' the training of an Alpine guide, so I will not 
repeat them here. 

The mountain guides of Switzerland form a class 
unlike any other, yet in the high standard of honour 
and devotion they display towards those in their 
charge, one is reminded of two bodies of men 
especially deserving of respect and confidence, 
namely, the Civil Guards of Spain and the Royal 
Irish Constabulary. Like these, the Alpine guide 
oftentimes risks his health, strength — even his life 
— for persons who are sometimes in themselves the 
cause of the peril encountered. Like these, mere 
bodily strength and the best will in the world 

A I 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

need to be associated with intelligence and fore- 
sight. Like these, also, keen, fully - developed 
powers of observation are essential. A certain 
climber of early days has wittily related in The 
Alpine Journal a little anecdote which bears on 
this point. "Some years ago," writes the late Mr 
F. Craufurd Grove, "a member of this Club was 
ascending a small and easy peak in company with 
a famous Oberland guide. Part of their course 
lay over a snow-field sinking gradually on one side, 
sharply ended by a precipice on the other. The 
two were walking along, not far from the edge of 
this precipice, when the Englishman, thinking that 
an easier path might be made by going still nearer 
the edge, diverged a little from his companion's 
track. To his considerable surprise, the guide im- 
mediately caught hold of him, and pulled him back 
with a great deal more vigour than ceremony, 
well-nigh throwing him down in the operation. 
Wrathful, and not disinclined to return the compli- 
ment, the Englishman remonstrated. The guide's 
only answer was to point to a small crack, appar- 
ently like scores of other cracks in the nevi^ which 
ran for some distance parallel to the edge of the 
precipice, and about 1 5 feet from it. 

"The traveller was not satisfied, but he was too 
wise a man to spend time in arguing and disputing, 

while a desired summit was still some distance 

2 





Christian Almer of Grindet.wald. 



Jean Antoine Carrel of Valournanche. 
By Signor Vittorio Sella. 





Alexander Burgener of Eisten (Saasthal). 
To face p. 3. 



JosEi'H I.mboden of St. Nicholas. 



SOME TALES OF ALPINE GUIDES 

above him. They went on their way, gained the 
top, and the traveller's equanimity was restored 
by a splendid view. When, on the descent, the 
scene of the morning's incident was reached, the 
guide pointed to the little crack in the neve, 
which had grown perceptibly wider. 'This marks,' 
he said, 'the place where the true snow-field ends. 
I feel certain that the ice from here to the edge 
is nothing but an unsupported cornice hanging 
over the tremendous precipice beneath. It might 
possibly have borne your weight in the early 
morning, though I don't think it would. As to 
what it will bear now that a powerful sun has 
been on it for some time — why, let us see.' There- 
with he struck the neve on the further side of 
the ice sharply with his axe. A huge mass, some 
20 or 30 feet long, immediately broke away, and 
went roaring down the cliff in angry avalanche. 
Whereat the traveller was full of amazement and 
admiration, and thought how there, on an easy 
mountain and in smiling weather, he had not been 
very far from making himself into an avalanche, 
to his own great discomfort and to the infinite tribu- 
lation of the Alpine Club." 

A fatal accident was only narrowly averted by 
the skill of the famous guide Zurbriggen when 
making an ascent in the New Zealand Alps with 
Mr Edward Fitzgerald. I am indebted to this 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

gentleman for permission to quote the account 
from his article in The Alpine Journal. 

The party were making the ascent of Mount 
Sefton, and were much troubled by the looseness 
of the rock on the almost vertical face which they 
had to climb. However, at last they reached a 
ridge, " along which," writes Mr Fitzgerald, " we 
proceeded between two precipices, descending to 
the Copland and to the Mueller valleys — some 
6000 feet sheer drop on either hand. 

" We had next to climb about 300 feet of almost 
perpendicular cliff. The rocks were peculiarly in- 
secure, and we were obliged to move by turns, 
wherever possible throwing down such rocks as 
seemed most dangerous. At times even this 
resource was denied us, so dangerous was the 
violent concussion with which these falling masses 
would shake the ridge to which we clung. I 
carried both the ice axes, so as to leave Zurbriggen 
both hands free to test each rock as he slowly 
worked his way upwards, while I did my utmost 
to avoid being in a position vertically beneath him. 

"Suddenly, as I was coming up a steep bit, while 
Zurbriggen waited for me a few steps above, a large 
boulder, which I touched with my right hand, gave 
way with a crash and fell, striking my chest. I 
had been just on the point of passing up the two 
ice axes to Zurbriggen, that he might place them 

4 



SOME TALES OF ALPINE GUIDES 

in a cleft of rock a little higher up, and thus leave 
me both hands free for my climb. He was in the 
act of stooping and stretching out his arms to take 
them from my uplifted left hand, and the slack 
rope between us lay coiled at his feet. The falling 
boulder hurled me down head foremost, and I fell 
about 8 feet, turning a complete somersault in the 
air. Suddenly I felt the rope jerk, and I struck 
against the side of the mountain with great force. 
I feared I should be stunned and drop the two ice 
axes, and I knew that on these our lives depended. 
Without them we should never have succeeded in 
getting down the glacier, through all the intricate 
ice-fall. 

" After the rope had jerked me up I felt it again 
slip and give way, and I came down slowly for a 
couple of yards. I took this to mean that Zurbriggen 
was being wrenched from his foot-hold, and I was 
just contemplating how I should feel dashing down 
the 6000 feet below, and wondering vaguely how 
many times I should strike the rocks on the way. 
I saw the block that I had dislodged going down 
in huge bounds ; it struck the side three or four 
times, and then, taking an enormous plunge of about 
2000 feet, embedded itself in the glacier now called 
the Tuckett Glacier. 

" I felt the rope stop and pull me up short. I called 
to Zurbriggen and asked him if he were solidly placed, 

5 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

I was now swinging in the air like a pendulum, with 
my back to the mountain, scarcely touching the 
rock face. It would have required a great effort 
to turn round and grasp the rock, and I was afraid 
the strain which would thus necessarily be placed 
on the rope might dislodge Zurbriggen. 

" His first fear was that I had been half killed, for 
he saw the rock fall almost on top of me ; but, as 
a matter of fact, after striking my chest it had 
glanced off to the right and passed under my right 
arm ; it had started from a point so very near to me 
that it had not time to gain sufficient impetus to 
strike me with great force, Zurbriggen's first words 
were, ' Are you very much hurt ? ' I answered, ' No,' 
and again I asked him whether he were firmly placed. 
' No,' he replied, ' I am very badly situated here. 
Turn round as soon as you can ; I cannot hold you 
much longer.' I gave a kick at the rocks with one 
foot, and with a great effort managed to swing myself 
round. 

" Luckily there was a ledge near me, and so, 
getting some hand-hold, I was soon able to ease the 
strain on the rope. A few moments later I struggled 
a little way up, and at last handed to Zurbriggen the 
ice axes, which I had managed to keep hold of 
throughout my fall. In fact, my thoughts had been 
centred on them during the whole of the time. We 
were in too bad a place to stop to speak to one 

6 





The last steep bit near the top. 



At the end of a hot day. 




i^i:f^r /'l^ 





An instant's halt to choose the best way up a steep 

wall of rock, 
'o face p. 6. 



The ice-axes are stowed away in a crack, to be 
brought up by the last man. 



SOME TALES OF ALPINE GUIDES 

another ; but Zurbriggen, climbing up a bit further, 
got himself into a firm position, and I scrambled 
up after him, so that in about ten minutes we had 
passed this steep bit. 

" We now sat for a moment to recover ourselves, 
for our nerves had been badly shaken by what had 
so nearly proved a fatal accident. At the time 
everything happened so rapidly that we had not 
thought much of it, more especially as we knew that 
we needed to keep our nerve and take immediate 
action ; but once it was all over we both felt the 
effects, and sat for about half an hour before we 
could even move again. I learned that Zurbriggen, 
the moment I fell, had snatched up the coil of rope 
which lay at his feet, and had luckily succeeded 
in getting hold of the right end first, so that he 
was soon able to bring me nearly to rest ; but the 
pull upon him was so great, and he was so badly 
placed, that he had to let the rope slip through his 
fingers, removing all the skin, in order to ease the 
strain while he braced himself in a better position, 
from which he was able finally to stop me. He 
told me that had I not been able to turn and grasp 
the rocks he must inevitably have been dragged 
from his foot-hold, as the ledge upon which he 
stood- was literally crumbling away beneath his 
feet. We discovered that two strands of the rope 
had been cut through by the falling rock, so that 

7 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

I had been suspended in mid-air by a single 
strand." 

The remainder of the way was far from easy, but 
without further mishap the party eventually gained 
the summit. 

That there are many grades of Alpine guides 
was amusingly exemplified once upon a time at the 
Montanvert, where in front of the hotel stood the 
famous Courmazeur guide, Emil Rey (afterwards 
killed on the Dent du G^ant), talking to the Duke 
of Abruzzi and other first-rate climbers, while a 
little way off lounged some extremely indifferent 
specimens of the Chamonix Societe des Guides. 
Presently a tourist, got up with much elegance, and 
leaning on a tall stick surmounted by a chamois 
horn, appeared upon the scene, and addressed him- 
self to Emil Rey. " Combien pour traverser la Mer 
de Glace ? " he enquired. 

" Monsieur," replied Rey, removing his hat with 
one hand and with the other indicating the group 
hard by, " voila les guides pour la Mer de Glace ! 
Moi, je suis pour la grande montagne ! " 

One of the most wonderful escapes in the whole 
annals of mountaineering was that of a young 
Englishman, Mr Sloggett, and the well - known 
guide, Auguste Gentinetta, the second guide, Alphons 
Fiirrer, being killed on the spot. They had made a 
successful ascent of the Matterhorn on 27th July 

8 





Augiiste Gentinetta. of Zermatt, 1903. 



Auguste Gentinetta on the way to the Matterhorn. 





climb up the Matterhorn by the ordinary Swiss 
t te begins at the rocky corner to the left of the 
picture,] 
face p. 8. 



The BER(;f;cnKL'ND, open when the accident to 

Mr. Sloggett's party took place, was above the ice 

cliff below which the man is standing. 



SOME TALES OF ALPINE GUIDES 

1900, and were the first of three parties on the 
descent. When nearly down the mountain, not far 
from the Hornli ridge, an avalanche of stones and 
rocks swept them off their feet. Fiirrer's skull was 
smashed, and he was killed immediately, and the 
three, roped together, were precipitated down a wall 
of ice. Their axes were v^renched firom their grasp, 
and they could do nothing to check themselves. 
Gentinetta retained full consciousness during the 
whole of that a^.'i-ful descent, and while without the 
slightest hope that they could escape vnth their lives, 
he in no way lost his presence of mind. About 800 
feet belcAv the spot where their fall commenced was 
a small Ecrgschrund^ or crack across the ice. This 
was full of stones and sand, and into it the helpless 
climbers were flung; had they shot over it n: thing 
in this vrorld could have saved them. Gentinetta, 
though much bruised aitd knocked abcut, had no 
bones broken., and he at cnce tcck means to prevent 
an even vrcrse disaster than that which had already 
happened, for Mr Sloggett had fallen head dov.n- 
v/ards, with his face buried in sand, and vras> on the 
point of suffocatioiL Well wai it for him that his 
g^ide was a man of promptness and courage. With- 
out losing an instant Gentinetta pulled up his traveller 
and got his face free, clearing the sand out of his 
mouth, and doing all that mortal could for him. 
Mr Sloggetfs jaw and tv.o of his teeth were broken, 

9 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

but his other injuries were far less than might have 
been expected. Nevertheless, the position of the 
two survivors was still a most perilous one. They 
were exactly at the spot on to which almost every 
stone which detasched itself from that side of the 
mountain was sure to fall, and their ice axes were 
lost, rendering it almost impossible for them to 
work their way to a place of safety. Still, to his 
infinite credit, the guide did not lose heart. By 
some means, which he now declares he is unable to 
understand, he contrived to climb, and to assist his 
gentleman, up that glassy, blood-stained wall, which 
even for a party uninjured, and properly equipped, 
it would have been no light task to surmount. This 
desperate achievement was rendered doubly trying 
by Gentinetta's being perfectly aware that if any 
more stones fell the two mountaineers must in- 
evitably be swept away for the second time. At 
last they gained their tracks and sought a sheltered 
spot, where they could safely rest a little. Here 
they were joined by the other parties, who rendered 
invaluable help during the rest of the descent. The 
two sufferers finally arrived at the Schwarzsee Hotel, 
whence they were carried down the same evening to 
Zermatt. 

The next day a strong party started for the scene of 
the accident to recover the body of the dead guide, 
Fiirrer. It was a difficult and a dangerous task, 

10 



SOME TALES OF ALPINE GUIDES 

and those who examined the wall down which the 
fall took place expressed their amazement that two 
wounded men, without axes, should have performed 
what seemed the incredible feat of getting up it. 

Both Mr Sloggett and Gentinetta made an 
excellent recovery, though they were laid up for 
many weeks after their memorable descent of the 
Matterhorn. 

The qualities found in a first-class guide include 
not only skill in climbing, but the ability to form a 
sound conclusion when overtaken by storm and 
mist. The following experience which took place 
in 1874, and which I am permitted by Mrs Maund 
to quote from her late husband's article in The 
Alpine Journal^ proves, by its happy termination, 
that Maurer's judgment in a critical position was 
thoroughly to be relied on. Mr Maund had just 
arrived at La B^rarde, in Dauphin6, and he writes : — 

" The morning of the 29th broke wet and stormy, 
and Rodier strongly advised me not to start ; this, 
however, was out of the question, as I was due at 
La Grave on that day to keep my appointment with 
Mr Middlemore. After waiting an hour, to give the 
weather a chance, we started in drizzling rain at 
5 A.M. Desolate as the Val des Etancons must 
always look, it appeared doubly gloomy that morn- 
ing, with its never-ending monotony of rock and 
moraine unrelieved by a single patch of green. 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

As we neared the glacier, the weather fortunately 
cleared, and the clouds, which till then had 
enveloped everything, began to mount with that 
marvellous rapidity only noticeable in mountain 
districts, leaving half revealed the mighty cliffs of 
the Meije towering 5000 feet almost sheer above 
us. As the wind caught and carried into the air 
the frozen sheets of snow on his summit, the old 
mountain looked like some giant bill distributer 
throwing his advertisements about. Entirely pro- 
tected from the wind, we whiled away an hour and a 
half, searching with our telescope for any feasible 
line of attack. Having satisfied ourselves that on 
this side the mountain presented enormous, if not 
insurmountable, difficulties, we shouldered our packs 
and made tracks for the Breche, which we reached 
at 11.45. 

" Meanwhile the weather had become worse 
again, and during the last part of the ascent it 
was snowing heavily ; the wind too, from which 
we had been protected on the south side of the 
col, was so strong that we were absolutely obliged to 
crawl over to the north side. Our position was 
by no means a pleasant one ; neither Martin nor 
I knew anything of the pass, and Rodier, who 
had told us overnight that he had crossed it more 
than once, seemed to know no more, and although 

sure of the exact bearing of La Grave, we could 

12 



SOME TALES OF ALPINE GUIDES 

not, owing to the fast falling snow, see further 
than 300 or 400 yards in advance ; added to this, 
it was intensely cold. Having paid Rodier 20 francs 
(a perfect waste of money, as it is impossible to 
mistake the way to the Breche from the Val des 
Etancons, and, as I have said, he could not give 
us the least clue to the descent on the La Grave 
side), we dismissed him, hoping devoutly that he 
might break his — well, his ice axe, we'll say — on 
the way down. By keeping away to the right 
of the Breche and down a steep slope, we crossed 
the crevasses which lay at its base without difficulty. 
We then bore to the left across a plateau, on which 
the snow lay very deep ; floundering through 
this sometimes waist deep, we reached the upper 
ice-fall of the glacier, and after crossing several 
crevasses became involved in a perfect net-work 
of them. After a consultation, we determined to 
try to the right, but met with no better success, 
as again we were checked by an absolute labyrinth. 
At last, about five o'clock, we took to some rocks 
which divide the glacier into two branches. Mean- 
while the snow was falling thicker and thicker, 
and, driven by the strong N.W. wind which 
caught up and eddied about what had already 
fallen, it appeared to come from every quarter at 
once. It was impossible to see more than a few 
yards in advance, and the rocks which under 

*3 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

ordinary circumstances would have been easy, 
were, with their coating of at least 4 inches of 
snow, much the reverse, as it was quite impossible 
to see where to put hand or foot. Our only trust 
was in our compass, which assured us that while 
keeping to the backbone of this ridge we were 
descending in an almost direct line towards La 
Grave. 

"We had at most two hours of daylight before 
us, but there was still a hope that by following 
our present line we should get off the glacier 
before dark. How 1 regretted now the time 
lost in the morning. A little before seven we 
were brought to a standstill ; our further direct 
descent was cut off by a precipice, while the rocks 
on either side fell almost sheer to the glaciers 
beneath. It was too late to think of looking for 
another road, so nothing now remained but to 
find the best shelter we could and bivouac for 
the night. We re-ascended to a small platform 
we had passed a short time before, and selecting 
the biggest and most sheltered bit of rock on it, 
we piled up the few movable stones there were 
about, to form the outside wall to our shelter, and 
having cleared away as much of the snow as we 
could from the inside, laid our ice axes across the 
top as rafters, with a sodden mackintosh — ironically 
called a waterproof by Mr Carter — over all for 

14 



SOME TALES OF ALPINE GUIDES 

a roof. Despite this garment, I was wet to the 
skin. Luckily, we had each of us a spare flannel 
shirt and stockings in our knapsacks, but as the 
meagre dimensions of our shelter would not 
admit of the struggles attendant on a change, 
we were obliged to go through the operation 
outside. I tried to be cheerful, and Martin tried 
to be facetious as we wrung out our wet shirts 
while the snow beat on our bare backs, but both 
attempts were lamentable failures. If up to the 
present time my readers have not stripped in a 
snow-storm, let me strongly advise them never 
to attempt it. Having got through the per- 
formance as quickly as possible, we crawled into 
our shelter, but here again my ill luck followed 
me, for in entering I managed to tread on the tin 
wine-flask which Martin had thrown aside, and, 
my weight forcing out the cork, every drop of wine 
escaped. After packing myself away as well as I 
could in the shape of a pot-hook, Martin followed, 
and pot-hooked himself alongside me. We were 
obliged to assume this elementary shape, as the size 
of our shelter would not admit of our lying straight. 
All the provisions that remained were then pro- 
duced. They consisted of a bit of bread about the 
size of a breakfast-roll, one-third of a small pot of 
preserved meat, about two ounces of raw bacon 
with the hide on, and half a small flask of a filthy 

15 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

compound called Genepie, a sort of liqueur ; besides 
this, we mustered between us barely a pipe-full of 
tobacco, and eight matches in a metal-box. The 
provisions I divided into three equal parts — one- 
third for that night's supper, and the remaining 
two-thirds for the next day. I need not enlarge 
on the miseries of that night. The wind blew 
through the chinks between the stones, bringing 
the snow with it, until the place seemed all chinks ; 
then the mackintosh with its weight of snow would 
come in upon us, and we had with infinite difficulty 
to prop it up again, only to go through the same 
operation an hour later ; at last, in sheer despair, 
we let it lie where it fell, and found to our relief 
it kept us warmer in that position. The snow 
never ceased one moment although the wind had 
fallen, and when morning broke there must have 
been nearly a foot of it around and over us. A 
more desolate picture than that dawn I have never 
seen. Snow everywhere. The rocks buried in it, 
and not a point peeping out to relieve the un- 
broken monotony. The sky full of it, without a 
break to relieve its leaden sameness, and the heavy 
flakes falling with that persistent silence which 
adds so much to the desolation of such a scene. 
" I was all for starting ; for making some attempt 
either to get down, or to recross the col. Martin 
was dead against it — and I think now he was 

i6 



SOME TALES OF ALPINE GUIDES 

right. First of all, we could not have seen more 
than a few yards ahead ; the rocks would have 
been considerably worse than they were the evening 
before, and if we had once got involved amongst 
the crevasses it was on the cards that we shouldn't 
get clear of them again ; added to this, even if we 
could hit off the col, what with want of sleep and 
food, and the fatigue consequent on several hours' 
floundering in deep snow, we might not have 
strength to reach it. At any rate, we decided not 
to start until it cleared sufficiently to let us see 
where we were going. Our meagre stock of 
provisions was redivided into three parts, one of 
which we ate for breakfast. I then produced the 
pipe, but to our horror we found the matches were 
still damp. Martin, who is a man of resource, 
immediately opened his shirt and put the box 
containing them under his arm to dry. Meanwhile 
the snow never ceased, and the day wore on 
without a sign of the weather breaking. If it 
had not been for the excitement of those matches, 
I do not know how we should have got through 
that day ; at last, however, after about six hours 
of Martin's fond embrace, one consented to burn, 
and I succeeded in lighting the pipe. We took 
turns at twelve whiffs each, and no smoke, I can 
conscientiously say, have I ever enjoyed like that 
one. During this never-ending day we got a few 
B 17 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

snatches of sleep, but the cold consequent on our 
wet clothes was so great, our position so cramped, 
and the rocks on which we lay so abominably 
sharp, that these naps were of the shortest dura- 
tion. ' 

" A little before six the snow ceased, and for a 
moment the sun tried to wink at us through a 
chink in his snow-charged blanket, before he went 
to bed — long enough, however, for us to see La 
Grave far below, with every alp almost down to 
the village itself covered with its white mantle. 

"And then, as our second night closes in, the 
snow recommences, and we draw closer together 
even than before ; for we feel that during the long 
hours to come we must economise to the fullest 
the little animal heat left in us. 

"That night I learnt to shiver, not the ordinary 
shivers, but fits lasting a quarter of an hour, during 
which no amount of moral persuasion could keep 
your limbs under control ; and it was so catching ! 
If either of us began a solo, the other was sure 
to join in, and we shivered a duet until quite 
exhausted. As we had nothing to drink, I had 
swallowed a considerable quantity of snow to 
quench my thirst, and this, acting on an almost 
empty stomach, produced burning heat within, 
while the cold, which was now intense, acting 
externally, induced fever and light-headedness, and 



SOME TALES OF ALPINE GUIDES 

once or twice I caught myself rambling. Martin, 
too, was affected in the same way. The long 
hours wore on, and still there was no sign of 
better weather. Towards midnight things looked 
very serious. Martin, who had behaved like a 
brick, thought *it was very hard to perish like this 
in the flower of his age,' and I, too, thought of 
writing a line as well as I was able in my pocket- 
book, bequeathing its contents to my finder, then 
of sleeping if I could and waking up with the 
Houris ; but I had the laugh of him afterwards, 
because he thought aloud and I to myself. How- 
ever, this mood did not last long, and after shaking 
hands, I do not quite know why, because we had 
not quarrelled, we cuddled up again, and determined, 
whatever the weather, to start at daybreak. In 
half an hour the snow ceased, the wind backed to 
the S., and the temperature rose as if by magic ; 
while the snow melting above trickled down in 
little streams upon us. We cleared the snow off 
the mackintosh, and putting it over us again, slept 
like logs in comparative warmth. When I awoke 
the sun was well up, and on looking round I could 
hardly realise the scene. Not a cloud in the sky ! 
Not a breath of wind ! The rocks around us, 
which yesterday were absolutely buried, were 
showing their black heads everywhere, and only a 
few inches of snow remained, so rapid had been 

19 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

the thaw ; while far away to the N. the snow- 
capped summits of the Pennine Alps stood out in 
bold relief against the cloudless sky. 

" I woke Martin, and at a quarter to six, after 
thirty-five hours' burial, we crawled out of our 
shelter. At first neither of us could stand, so 
chilled were we by long exposure, and so cramped 
by our enforced position, but after a good thaw in 
the hot sun we managed to hobble about, and pack 
the knapsacks. After eating the few scraps that 
remained, we started at seven o'clock up the ridge 
that we had descended two days before, 

" We were very shaky on our legs at first, but at 
each step the stiffness seemed to wear off, and 
after half an hour we quite recovered their use; 
but there remained an all-pervading sense of 
emptiness inside that was not exhilarating. After 
ascending a short distance, and with my telescope 
carefully examining the rocks, we determined to 
descend to the glacier below us (the western 
branch), and crossing this get on to some more 
rocks beneath the lower ice-fall. If we could get 
down these our way seemed clear. 

" I won't trouble you with the details of the 
descent : suffice it to say that, without encountering 
any difficulty, we stepped on to grass about twelve 
o'clock, and descending green slopes, still patched 
here and there with snow (which would have provided 



SOME TALES OF ALPINE GUIDES 

sufficient Edelweiss for all the hats of the S.A.C.), 
we arrived safely at La Grave, after a pleasant 
little^ outing of fifty-six hours. Mr Middlemore, 
despairing of my coming, had started for England 
the night before, and had left Jaun to await my 
arrival. 

" After a hot bath, and some bread-crumbs soaked 
in warm wine, I went to bed, and the next morning 
I awoke as well as I am now, with the exception 
of stiffness in the knees, and a slight frost-bite on 
one hand. Martin, however, who, I suspect, had 
eaten a good deal on his arrival, was seized with 
severe cramp, and for some hours was very ill. 
"Two days' rest put us all to rights again." 
Though rivalry may be keen between first-class 
guides, and bitter things be said now and then in 
the heat of the struggle for first place, yet when 
a great guide has passed away, it is seldom that 
one hears anything but good of him. A pretty 
story is told — and I believe it is true — of the son 
of old Maquignaz of Valtournanche, which ex- 
emplifies this chivalrous trait. Maquignaz and 
Jean Antoine Carrel were often in competition in 
the early days of systematic climbing, and if not 
enemies, they were at any rate hardly bosom 
friends. Carrel's tragic and noble death on the 
Matterhorn will be recalled by readers of my True 
Tales of Mountain Adventure. Not very long ago 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

a French climber was making an ascent of the 
Italian side of the Matterhorn, with "young" 
Maquignaz as guide. "Where did Carrel fall?' 
he innocently enquired, as they ascended the pre- 
cipitous cliffs on the Breuil side of the mountain. 
Young Maquignaz turned sharply to him and ex- 
claimed : "Carrel n'est pas tombe ! II est inortr' 



a^ 



CHAPTER II 

TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

' I ""HERE are few instances so striking of the 
capacity of a party of thoroughly experienced 
mountaineers to get out of a really tight place, as 
was the outcome of the two days spent by Messrs 
Mummery, Slingsby, and Ellis Carr, on an ice 
slope in the Mont Blanc district. The party in- 
tended trying to ascend the Aiguille du Plan direct 
from the Chamonix valley. Mr Ellis Carr has 
generously given me permission to make use of 
his account, which I quote from The Alpine Journal. 
He relates the adventures of himself and his two 
friends, whose names are household words to climbers, 
as follows : — 

" Mummery, Slingsby, and I started at 4 P.M., 
with a porter carrying the material for our camp. 
This comprised a silk tent of Mummery's pattern, 
only weighing 1 1 to 2 lbs. ; three eider-down sleep- 
ing-bags, 9 lbs. ; cooking apparatus of thin tin, 
\\ lbs. ; or, with ropes, rucksacks, and sundries, 
about 25 lbs., in addition to the weight of the 

23 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

provisions. Though not unduly burdened, the porter 
found the valley of boulders exceedingly trouble- 
some, and in spite of three distinct varieties of 
advice as to the easiest route across them, made 
such miserably slow progress, often totally disap- 
pearing amongst the rocks like a water-logged ship 
in a trough of the sea, that we were forced to pitch 
our tents on the right moraine of the Nantillons 
Glacier, instead of near the base of our peak, as 
intended. The gtte, built up with stones on the 
slope of the moraine, with earth raked into the 
interstices, was sufficiently comfortable to afford 
Mummery and myself some sleep. A stone, how- 
ever, far surpassing the traditional gite lump in 
aggressive activity, seemed, most undeservedly, to 
have singled out Slingsby as its innocent victim, 
and, judging by the convulsions of his sleeping-bag, 
and the sighs and thumps which were in full swing 
every time I woke up, it must have kept him pretty 
busy all night dodging its attacks from side to side. 
His account of his sufferings next morning, when 
Mummery and I were admittedly awake, fully con- 
firmed and explained these phenomena, but on 
going for the enemy by daylight, he had the 
satisfaction of finding that he had suffered quite 
needlessly, the stone being loose and easily removed 
We used Mummery's silk tent for the first time, 

and found that it afforded ample room for three 

24 



TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

men to lie at full length without crowding. The 
night, however, was too fine and still to test the 
weather-resisting power of the material, and as this 
was thin enough to admit suf^cient moonlight to 
illuminate the interior of the tent, and make candle 
or lamp superfluous, we inferred that it might possibly 
prove to be equally accommodating in the case of 
rain and wind. It was necessary, moreover, on 
entering or leaving the tent, to adopt that form of 
locomotion to which the serpent was condemned 
to avoid the risk of unconsciously carrying away 
the whole structure on one's back. We started 
next morning about three o'clock, leaving the camp 
kit ready packed for the porter, whom we had 
instructed to fetch it during the day, and pushed 
on to the glacier at the foot of our mountain at 
a steady pace, maintained in my case with much 
greater ease than would have otherwise been possible 
by virtue of some long, single-pointed screw spikes 
inserted overnight in my boot soles ; and I may 
here venture to remark that a few of these spikes, 
screwed into the boots before starting on an ex- 
pedition where much ice-work is expected, appear 
to offer a welcome compromise between ponderous 
crampons and ordinary nails. They do not, I 
think, if not too numerous, interfere with rock- 
climbing, and can be repeatedly renewed when 
worn down. A slight modification in the shape 

25 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

would further facilitate their being screwed in with 
a box key made to fit.^ 

" Leaving the rock buttress, the scene of our recon- 
naissance on the nth, on the right, we struck straight 
up the glacier basin between it and the Aiguille de 
Blaitidre, which glacier appeared to me to be largely 
composed of broken fragments of ice mixed with 
avalanche snow from the hanging glaciers and slopes 
above. Keeping somewhat to the left, we reached 
the bergschrund, which proved to be of considerable 
size, extending along the whole base of the couloir, 
and crossed it at a point immediately adjoining the 
rocks on the left. The axe at once came into re- 
quisition, and we cut steadily in hard ice up and 
across the couloir towards the small rib or island of 
rock before-mentioned as dividing it higher up into 
two portions. The rocks at the base of this rib, 
though steep, gritty, and loose, offered more rapid 
going than the ice, and we climbed then to a gap 
on the ridge above, commanding a near view of the 
perpendicular country in front of us. Far above us, 
and immediately over the top of the right-hand 
section of the couloir, towered the ice cliffs of the 
hanging glacier we had tried to reach on the nth, 
and beyond these again, in the grey morning light, 
we caught the glimpse of a second and even a third 

1 These are now known as Mummery nails, and are often 
used by climbers. 

26 



TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

rank of seracs in lofty vista higher up the mountain. 
As before observed, this section of the couloir seemed 
admirably placed for receiving ice-falls, and we now 
saw that it formed part of the natural channel for 
snow and debris from each and all of these glaciers. 
We therefore directed our attention to our friend on 
the left, and after a halt for breakfast, traversed the 
still remaining portion of the dividing ridge, turning 
a small rock pinnacle on its right, and recommenced 
cutting steps in the hard ice which faced us. As 
has been before remarked, it is difficult to avoid 
over-estimating the steepness of ice - slopes, but, 
allowing for any tendency towards exaggeration, 
I do not think I am wrong in fixing the angle of 
the couloir from this point as not less than 50°. We 
kept the axe steadily going, and with an occasional 
change of leader, after some hours' unceasing work, 
found ourselves approaching the base of the upper 
portion of the couloir, which from below had appeared 
perpendicular. We paused to consider the situation. 
For at least 80 to 100 feet the ice rose at an angle 
of 60' to 70', cutting off all view of the face above, 
with no flanking wall of rock on the right, but 
bounded on the left by an overhanging cliff, which 
dripped slightly with water from melting snow 
above. The morning was well advanced, and we kept 
a sharp look-out aloft for any stray stones which 
might fancy a descent in our direction. None came, 

27 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

and we felt gratified at this confirmation of our 
judgment as to the safety of this part of the couloir. 
However, the time for chuckling had not yet come. 
As I stated, we had halted to inspect the problem 
before us. Look as we might we could discover 
no possibility of turning the ice wall either to the 
right or left, and though, as we fondly believed and 
hoped, it formed the only barrier to easier going 
above, the terrible straightness and narrowness of 
the way was sufficient to make the very boldest 
pause to consider the strength of his resources. 

" How long / should have paused before beating 
a retreat, if asked to lead the way up such a place, 
I will not stop to enquire, but I clearly remember 
that my efforts to form some estimate of the prob- 
able demand on my powers such a feat would 
involve were cut short by Mummery's quiet an- 
nouncement that he was ready to make the attempt. 
Let me here state that amongst Mummery's other 
mountaineering qualifications not the least remark- 
able is his power of inspiring confidence in those 
who are climbing with him, and that both Slingsby 
and I experienced this is proved by the fact that we 
at once proceeded, without misgiving or hesitation, 
to follow his lead. We had hitherto used an 8o-feet 
rope, but now, by attaching a spare lOO-feet length of 
thin rope, used double, we afforded the leader an 

additional 50 feet. Mummery commenced cutting, 

28 



TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

and we soon approached the lower portion of the 
actual ice wall, where the angle of the slope cannot 
have been less than 60°. 

" I am not aware that any authority has fixed the 
exact degree of steepness at which it becomes im- 
possible to use the ice axe with both hands, but, 
whatever portion of a right angle the limit may be, 
Mummery very soon reached it, and commenced 
excavating with his right hand caves in the ice, each 
with an internal lateral recess by which to support 
his weight with his left. Slingsby and I, meanwhile 
possessing our souls in patience, stood in our re- 
spective steps, as on a ladder, and watched his steady 
progress with admiration, so far as permitted us by 
the falling ice dislodged by the axe. 

" Above our heads the top of the wall was crowned 
by a single projecting stone towards which the leader 
cut, and which, when reached, just afforded sufficient 
standing-room for both feet. The ice immediately 
below this stone, for a height of 12 or 14 feet, 
was practically perpendicular, and Slingsby's de- 
finition of it as a ' frozen waterfall ' is the most 
appropriate I can find. Here and there Mummery 
found it necessary to cut through its entire thickness, 
exposing the face of the rock behind. 

" On reaching the projecting stone the leader was 
again able to use the axe with both hands, and 
slowly disappeared from view ; thus completing, 

29 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

without pause or hitch of any kind, the most 
extraordinary feat of mountaineering skill and 
nerve it has ever been my privilege to witness. 

"The top of the wall surmounted, Slingsby and 
I expected every moment to hear the welcome 
summons to follow to easier realms above. None 
came. Time passed, the only sounds besides the 
occasional drip of water from the rocks on our 
left, or the growl of a distant avalanche, being that 
of the axe and the falling chips of ice, as they 
whizzed by or struck our heads or arms with in- 
creasing force. The sounds of the axe strokes 
gradually became inaudible, but the shower con- 
tinued to pound us without mercy for more than 
an hour of inaction, perhaps more trying to the 
nerves, in such a position, than the task of leading. 
The monotony was to some extent varied by efforts 
to ward off from our heads the blows of the falling 
ice, and by the excitement, at intervals, of seeing 
the slack rope hauled up a foot or so at a time. 
It had almost become taut, and we were preparing 
to follow, when a shout from above, which sounded 
from where we stood muffled and far away, for 
more rope, kept us in our places. It was all 
very well to demand more rope, but not so 
easy to comply. The only possible way to give 
extra length was to employ the lOO feet of thin 
rope single, instead of double, at which we hesi- 

30 



TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

tated at first, but, as Mummery shouted that it 
was absolutely necessary, we managed to make the 
change, though it involved SHngsby's getting out 
of the rope entirely during the operation. To 
any one who has not tried It I should hardly 
venture to recommend, as an enjoyable diversion, 
the process, which must necessarily occupy both 
hands, of removing and re-adjusting i8o feet of rope 
on an ice slope exceeding 60° at the top of a steep 
couloir some 1000 feet high. The task accomplished, 
we had not much longer to wait before the shout 
to come on announced the termination of our 
martyrdom. We went on, but, on passing in turn 
the projecting stone, and catching sight of the 
slope above, we saw at a glance that our hopes 
of easy going must, for the present, be postponed. 
Mummery, who had halted at the full extent of 
his tether of about 120 feet of rope, was standing 
in his steps on an ice slope quite as steep as that 
below the foot of the wall we had just surmounted. 
He had been cutting without intermission for two 
hours, and suggested a change. Being last on the 
rope, I therefore went ahead, cutting steps to pass, 
and took up the work with the axe. The ice here 
was occasionally in double layer, the outer one 
some 3 or 4 inches in thickness, which, when cut 
through, revealed a space of about equal depth 
behind, an arrangement at times very convenient, 

31 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

as affording good hand-holes without extra labour. 
I went on for some time cutting pigeon-holes on 
the right side of the couloir, and, at the risk of 
being unorthodox, I would venture to point out 
what appears to me the advantages of this kind of 
step on very steep ice. Cut in two perpendicular 
rows, alternately for each foot, the time lost in 
zigzags is saved, and no turning steps are neces- 
sary ; they do not require the ice to be cut away 
so much for the leg as in the case of lateral steps, 
and are therefore less easily filled up by falling 
chips and snow. Being on account of their shape 
more protected from the sun's heat, they are less 
liable to be spoiled by melting, and have the further 
advantage of keeping the members of the party in 
the same perpendicular line, and consequently in 
a safer position. They also may serve as hand- 
holds. To cut such steps satisfactorily it is neces- 
sary that the axe be provided with a point long 
enough to penetrate to the full depth required for 
the accommodation of the foot up to the instep, 
without risk of injury to the shaft by repeated 
contact with the ice. 

" As we had now been going for several hours 
without food, and since leaving the rock rib, where 
we had breakfasted, had come across no ledge or 
irregularity of any kind affording a resting-place, 
it was with no little satisfaction that I descried, 

32 



TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

on the opposite side of the couloir, at a spot about 
30 or 40 feet above, where the cliff on our left 
somewhat receded, several broken fragments of rock 
cropping out of the ice, of size and shape to provide 
seats for the whole party. We cut up and across 
to them, and sat down, or rather hooked ourselves 
on, for a second breakfast. We were here approxi- 
mately on a level with the summit of our rock 
buttress of the nth, and saw that it was only 
connected with the mountain by a broken and 
dangerous-looking ridge of ice and n^v4 running 
up to an ice-slope at the foot of the glacier 
cliffs. The gap in the latter was not visible from 
our position. The tower we had tried to turn 
appeared far below, and the intervening rocks of 
the buttress, though not jagged, were steep and 
smooth like a roof The first gleams of sunshine 
now arrived to cheer us, and, getting under way 
once more, we pushed on hopefully, as the couloir 
was rapidly widening and the face of the mountain 
almost in full view. We had also surmounted the 
rock wall which had so long shut out the prospect 
on our left, and it was at this point that, happening 
to glance across the slabs, we caught sight of a 
large flat rock rapidly descending. It did not 
bound nor roll, but slid quietly down with a kind 
of stealthy haste, as if it thought, though rather late, 
it might still catch us, and was anxious not to alarm 
c 33 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

us prematurely. It fell harmlessly into the couloir, 
striking the ice near the rock rib within a few feet 
of our tracks, and we saw no other falling stones 
while we were on the mountain. 

" Leaving the welcome resting-place, Mummery 
again took the lead, and cut up and across the 
couloir, now becoming less steep, to a rib or 
patch of rocks higher up on the right, which we 
climbed to its upper extremity, a distance of some 
70 or 80 feet. 

" Here, taking to the ice once more, we soon 
approached the foot of the first great snow-slope 
on the face, and rejoiced in the near prospect of 
easier going. At the top of this slope, several 
hundred feet straight before us, was a low cliff 
or band of rocks, for which we decided to aim, 
there being throughout the entire length of the 
intervening slope no suspicious grey patches to 
indicate ice. The angle was, moreover, much less 
severe, and it being once more my turn to lead, 
I went at it with the zealous intention of making 
up time. My ardour was, however, considerably 
checked at finding, when but a short distance up 
the slope, that the coating of ndve was so exceedingly 
thin as to be insufficient for good footing without 
cutting through the hard ice below. Instead, 
therefore, of continuing in a straight line for 
the rocks, we took an oblique course to the right, 

34 



TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

towards one of the hanging glaciers before referred 
to, and crossing a longitudinal crevasse, climbed 
without much difficulty up its sloping bank of 
nev^. Hurrah ! here was good snow at last, only 
requiring at most a couple of slashes with the adze 
end of the axe for each step. If this continued 
we had a comparatively easy task before us, as 
the rocks above, though smooth and steep, were 
broken up here and there by bands and streaks 
of snow. Taking full advantage of this our first 
opportunity for making speed, we cut as fast as 
possible and made height rapidly. We still aimed 
to strike the band of rocks before described, though 
at a point much more to the right, and nearer 
to where its extremity was bounded by the ice- 
cliffs of another hanging glacier ; but, alas ! as we 
approached nearer and nearer to the base of the 
cliffs, looming apparently higher and higher over 
our heads, the favouring neve^ over which we had 
been making such rapid progress, again began to 
fail, and before we could reach the top of the once 
more steepening slope the necessity of again 
resorting to the pick end of the axe brought 
home the unwelcome conviction that our temporary 
respite had come to an end, and that, instead of 
snow above, and apart from what help the smooth 
rocks might afford, nothing was to be expected 
but hard, unmitigated ice. 

35 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

"We immediately felt that, as it was already 
past noon, the establishment of this fact would 
put a totally different complexion on our prospects 
of success, and, instead of reaching the summit, 
we might have to content ourselves with merely 
crossing the ridge. We continued cutting, however, 
and reached the rocks, the last part of the slope 
having once more become exceedingly steep. To 
turn the cliff, here uncHmbable, we first spent 
over half an hour in prospecting to the right, 
where a steep ice-gully appeared between the rocks 
and the hanging glacier ; but, abandoning this, 
we struck off to the left, cutting a long traverse, 
during which we were able to hitch the rope to 
rocks cropping out through the ice. The traverse 
landed us in a kind of gully, where, taking to 
the rocks whenever practicable, though climbing 
chiefly by the ice, we reached a broken stony 
ledge, large and flat enough to serve as a luncheon 
place, the only spot we had come across since 
leaving the rock rib, where it was possible really 
to rest sitting. Luncheon over, we proceeded as 
before, choosing the rocks as far as possible by 
way of change, though continually obliged to 
take to the ice -streaks by which they were 
everywhere intersected. This went on all the 
rest of the afternoon, till, when daylight began to 
wane, we had attained an elevation considerably 

36 



TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

above the gap between our mountain and the 
Aiguille de Blaitiere, or more than 10,900 feet 
above the sea. 

" The persistent steepness and difficulty of the 
mountain had already put our reaching the ridge 
before dark entirely out of the question, though we 
decided to keep going as long as daylight lasted, 
so as to leave as little work as possible for the 
morrow. 

"The day had been gloriously fine, practically 
cloudless throughout, and I shall never forget the 
weird look of the ice -slopes beneath, turning 
yellow in the evening light, and plunging down 
and disappearing far below in the mists which 
were gathering at the base of the mountain ; also, 
far, far away, we caught a glimpse of the Lake 
of Geneva, somewhere near Lausanne. I had 
turned away from the retrospect, when an exclama- 
tion from Slingsby called me to look once more. 
A gap had appeared in the mists, and there, some 
2700 feet below us, as it were on an inferior stage 
of the world, we caught a glimpse of the snow- 
field at the very foot of the mountain, dusky 
yellow in the last rays of the sun. Mummery was 
in the meantime continuing the everlasting chopping, 
in the intervals of crawling up disobliging slabs 
of rock, till twilight began to deepen into darkness, 
and we had to look about for a perch on which 

37 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

to roost for the night. The only spot we could 
find, sufficiently large for all three of us to sit, 
was a small patch of lumps of rocks, more or less 
loose, some 20 or 30 feet below where we stood, 
and we succeeded, just as the light failed, or 
about 8.30 P.M., and after some engineering, in 
seating ourselves side by side upon it. Our boots 
were wet through by long standing in ice-steps, 
and we took them off and wrung the water out 
of our stockings. The others put theirs on again, 
but, as a precaution against frost-bite, having 
pocketed my stockings, I put my feet, wrapped 
in a woollen cap, inside the rucksack, with the 
result that they remained warm through the night. 
The half hour which it took me next morning to 
pull on the frozen boots proved, however, an 
adequate price for the privilege of having warm 
feet. As a precaution against falling off our shelf 
we hitched the rope over a rock above and passed 
it round us, and to make sure of not losing my 
boots (awful thought !), I tied them to it by the 
laces. 

"After dinner we settled down to spend the evening. 
The weather fortunately remained perfect, and the 
moon had risen, though hidden from us by our 
mountain. Immediately below lay Chamonix, like 
a cheap illumination, gradually growing more 
patchy as the night advanced and the candles 

38 



TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

went out one by one, while above the stars looked 
down as if silently wondering why in the world we 
were sitting there. The first two hours were passed 
without very much discomfort, but having left behind 
our extra wraps to save weight, as time wore on the 
cold began to make itself felt, and though fortu- 
nately never severe enough to be dangerous, made 
us sufficiently miserable. Packed as we were, we 
were unable to indulge in those exercises generally 
adopted to induce warmth, and we shivered so 
vigorously at intervals that, when all vibrating in 
unison, we wondered how it might affect the stability 
of our perch. Sudden cramp in a leg, too, could 
only be relieved by concerted action, it being 
necessary for the whole party to rise solemnly 
together like a bench of judges, while the limb 
was stretched out over the valley of Chamonix till 
the pain abated, and it could be folded up and 
packed away once more. We sang songs, told 
anecdotes, and watched the ghostly effect of the 
moonlight on a subsidiary pinnacle of the mountain, 
the illuminated point of which, in reality but a 
short distance away, looked like a phantom Matter- 
horn seen afar off over an inky black arete formed 
by the shadow thrown across its base by the adjoin- 
ing ridge. We had all solemnly vowed not to drop 
asleep, and for me this was essential, as my centre 
of gravity was only just within the base of support ; 

39 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

but while endeavouring to give effect to another 
chorus, in spite of the very troublesome vibrato 
before referred to, I was grieved and startled at the 
sudden superfluous interpolation of two sustained 
melancholy bass notes, each in a different key and 
ominously suggestive of snoring. The pensive 
attitude of my companions' heads being in keeping 
with their song, in accordance with a previous 
understanding, I imparted to Mummery, who sat 
next to me, a judicious shock, but, as in the case 
of a row of billiard balls in contact, the effect was 
most noticeable at the far end, and Slingsby awoke, 
heartily agreeing with me how weak it was of 
Mummery to give way thus. The frequent necessity 
for repeating this operation, with strengthening varia- 
tions as the effect wore off, soon stopped the chorus 
which, like Sullivan's ' Lost Chord,' trembled away 
into silence. 

" The lights of Chamonix had by this time shrunk 
to a mere moth-eaten skeleton of their earlier glory, 
and I became weakly conscious of a sort of resent- 
ment at the callous selfishness of those who could 
thus sneak into their undeserved beds, without a 
thought of the three devoted explorers gazing 
down at them from their eyrie on the icy 
rocks. 

" From 2 to 4 o'clock the cold became more intense, 

aggravated by a slight ' breeze of morning,' and 

40 



TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

while waiting for dawn we noticed that it was light 
enough to see. 

" Daylight, however, did not help Mummery to find 
his hat, and we concluded it had retired into the 
bergschrund under cover of darkness. 

" We helped each other into a standing position, 
and decided to start for the next patch of rocks 
above, from there to determine what chance of 
success there might be in making a dash for the 
summit, or, failing this, of simply crossing the ridge 
and descending to the Col du Geant There was 
very little food left, and, as we had brought no wine, 
breakfast was reduced to a slight sketch, executed 
with little taste and in a few very dry touches. 
Owing to the time required to disentangle virulently 
kinked and frozen ropes, etc., the sun was well above 
the horizon when we once more started upwards, 
though unfortunately, just at this time, when his life- 
giving rays would have been most acceptable, they 
were entirely intercepted by the ridge of the Blaiti6re. 
We started on the line of steps cut the night before, 
but soon after Mummery had recommenced cutting, 
the cold, or rather the impossibility, owing to the 
enforced inaction, to get warm, produced such an 
overpowering feeling of drowsiness that Slingsby 
and I, at Mummery's suggestion, returned to the 
perch, and jamming ourselves into the space which 
had before accommodated our six legs, endeavoured 

41 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

to have it out in forty winks. Mummery meanwhile 
continued step-cutting, and at the end of about half 
an hour, during which Slingsby and I were somewhat 
restored by a fitful dose, returned, and we tied on 
again for another attempt. 

" Surmounting the patches of rock immediately 
above our dormitory, we arrived at the foot of 
another slope of terribly steep, hard ice, some 200 
feet in height. At the top of this again was a vertical 
crag 14 or 15 feet high, forming the outworks of 
the next superior band of rocks, which was inter- 
spersed with ice-streaks as before. A few feet from 
the base of this crag was a narrow ledge about i foot 
in width, where we were able to sit after scraping 
it clear of snow. Slingsby gave Mummery a leg 
up round a very nasty corner, and he climbed to a 
point above the crag, whence he was able to assist 
us with the rope up a still higher and narrower ledge. 
Beyond was another steep slope of hard ice, topped 
by a belt of rocks, as before. 

"Before reaching this point the cold had again 
begun to tell upon me, and I bitterly regretted the 
mistaken policy of leaving behind our extra wraps, 
especially as the coat I was wearing was not lined. 
As there was no probability of a change for the 
better in the nature of the going before the ridge 
was reached, I began to doubt the wisdom of pro- 
ceeding, affected as I was, where a false step might 

42 



TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

send the whole party into the bergschrund 3000 feet 
below ; but it was very hard, with the summit in 
view and the most laborious part of the ascent 
already accomplished, to be the first to cry * Hold ! ' 
I hesitated for some time before doing so, and the 
others meanwhile had proceeded up the slope. The 
rope was almost taut when I shouted to them the 
state of the case, and called a council of war. They 
returned to me, and we discussed what was practi- 
cally something of the nature of a dilemma. To go 
on at the same slow rate of progress and without 
the sun's warmth meant, on the one hand, the 
possible collapse of at least one of the party from 
cold, while, on the other hand, to turn back involved 
the descent of nearly 3000 feet of ice, and the passage, 
if we could not turn it, of the couloir and its ghastly 
ice- wall. Partly, I think, to delay for a time the 
adoption of the latter formidable alternative, partly 
to set at rest any doubt which might still remain 
as to the nature of the going above. Mummery 
volunteered to ascend alone to the rocks at the 
summit of the ice -slope, though the chance of their 
offering any improved conditions was generally felt 
to be a forlorn hope. He untied the rope, threw the 
end down to us, and retraced his steps up the slope, 
in due time reaching the rocks some 100 or 130 feet 
above, but, after prospecting in more than one 
direction, returned to us with the report that they 

43 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

offered no improvement, and that the intersecting 
streaks were nothing but hard ice. He, however, 
was prepared to continue the attempt if we felt 
equal to the task. If we could at that moment have 
commanded a cup of hot soup or tea, or the woollen 
jackets which in our confidence in being able to 
reach the ridge we had left behind, I am convinced 
I should have been quite able to proceed, and that the 
day and the mountain would have been ours ; but 
in the absence of these reviving influences and that 
of the sun, I was conscious that in my own case, at 
any rate, it would be folly to persist, so gave my 
vote for descending. As the food was practically 
exhausted, the others agreed that it would be wiser 
to face the terrible ordeal which retracing our steps 
involved (we did not then know that it meant re- 
cutting them), rather than continue the ascent with 
weakened resources and without absolute certainty 
of the accessibility of the summit ridge. 

"As Slingsby on the previous day had insisted 
on being regarded merely as a passenger, and had 
therefore not shared in the step-cutting, it was now 
arranged that he should lead, while Mummery, as a 
tower of strength, brought up the rear. Though it 
was past five o'clock, and of course broad daylight, a 
bright star could be seen just over the ridge of our 
mountain, not far from the summit — alas ! the only 
one anywhere near it on that day. We started 

44 



TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

downwards at a steady pace, and soon were re- 
joicing in the returning warmth induced by the 
more continuous movement. Before we had gone 
far, however, we found that most of the steps were 
partially filled up with ice, water having flowed 
into them during the previous afternoon, and the 
work of trimming or practically recutting these was 
at times exceedingly trying, owing to their distance 
apart, and the consequent necessity of working in a 
stooping and cramped position. 

" But if the work was tough the worker, fortunately, 
was tougher still, and Mummery and I congratulated 
ourselves on being able to send such powerful reserves 
to the front. 

"The morning was well advanced before the sun 
surmounted the cold screen of the Blaiti^re, but 
having once got to work he certainly made up by 
intensity for his tardy appearance. 

" The provisions, with the exception of a scrap or two 
of cheese and a morsel of chocolate, being exhausted, 
and having, as before stated, nothing with us in the 
form of drink, nothing was to be gained by a halt, 
though, as we descended with as much speed as 
possible, we kept a sharp look-out for any signs of 
trickling water with which to quench the thirst, 
which was becoming distressing. 

" Since finally deciding to return, we had cherished 
the hope that it might still be possible to turn the 

45 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

of the ice where it adjoined the rocky slab under 
which we stood. This weariness, however, must 
have been quite as much mental as physical from 
the long-continued monotony of the work, for when 
Mummery at last reappeared we felt perfectly equal 
to the task of descending. The rope was passed 
behind a boss of nivi ingeniously worked by 
Mummery as a hitch to keep it perpendicular, and I 
descended first, but had no occasion to rely upon it 
for more than its moral support, as the steps and 
hand-holds had been so carefully cut I climbed 
cautiously down the icy cataract till I reached a 
point where hand-holds were not essential to 
maintain the balance, and waited with my face 
almost against the ice till Slingsby joined me. 
Mummery soon followed, and rather than leave the 
spare rope behind detached it from the stone and 
descended without its aid, his nerve being to all 
appearance unimpaired by the fatigues he had gone 
through. I had before had evidence of his indiffer- 
ence while on the mountains to all forms of food 
or drink, with the single exception, by the way, of 
strawberry jam, on the production of which he 
generally capitulates. 

" Rejoicing at having successfully passed the steepest 
portion of the ice-wall without the smallest hitch of 
the wrong sort, we steadily descended the face of 

the couloir. 

48 



TWO DAYS ON AN ICE-SLOPE 

" Here and there, where a few of the steps had been 
hewn unusually far apart, I was fain to cut a notch 
or two for the fingers before lowering myself into 
the next one below. At last the rock rib was 
reached, and we indulged in a rest for the first time 
since turning to descend. 

"Time, however, was precious, and we were soon 
under way again, retracing our steps over the steep 
loose rocks at the base of the rib till forced again 
on to the ice. 

" Oh, that everlasting hard ice-slope, so trustworthy 
yet so relentlessly exacting ! 

" Before we could clear the rocks, and as if by way 
of hint that the mountain had had enough of us, and 
of me in particular (I could have assured it the feel- 
ing was mutual), a flick of the rope sent my hat 
and goggles flying down to keep company with 
Mu'nmery's in the bergsckrund, and a sharp rolling 
stone, which I foolishly extended my hand to check, 
gashed me so severely as to put climbing out of the 
question for more than a week. As small pieces of 
ice had been whizzing down for some time from 
above, though we saw no stones, it was satisfactory 
to find our steps across the lower part of the couloir 
in sufficiently good order to allow of our putting on 
a good pace, and we soon reached the sheltering 
rock on the opposite side and the slopes below the 

bergsckrund wherein our hats, after losing their heads, 
D 49 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

had found a grave. The intense feeling of relief on 
regaining, at 5.55 P.M., safe and easy ground, where 
the lives of the party were not staked on every step, 
is difficult to describe, and was such as I had never 
before experienced. I think the others felt some- 
thing like the same sensation. Fatigue, kept at bay 
so long as the stern necessity for caution lasted, 
seemed to come upon us with a rush, though 
tempered with the sense of freedom from care afore- 
said, and I fancy our progress down the glacier snow 
was for a time rather staggery. Though tired, we 
were by no means exhausted, and after a short rest 
on a flat rock and a drink from a glacier runnel, found 
ourselves sufficiently vigorous to make good use of 
the remaining daylight to cross the intervening 
glaciers, moraines, and valley of boulders, before 
commencing to skirt the tedious and, in the dark, 
exasperating stony wastes of the Charmoz ridge. 
Sternly disregarding the allurements of numerous 
stonemen, which here seem to grow wild, to the 
confusion of those weak enough to trust them, we 
stumbled along amongst the stones to the brow of 
the hill overlooking the hotel, where shouts from 
friends greeted the appearance of our lantern, and, 
descending by the footpath, we arrived among them 
at 10,30 P.M., more than fifty-four hours after our 
departure on the 12th." 



50 



CHAPTER III 

SOME AVALANCHE ADVENTURES 

TT /"E should never have got into such a position, 
but vi^hen definite orders are not carried out 
the General must not be blamed. The adventure 
might easily have cost all three of us our lives. 

This is how we came to be imperilling our necks 
on an incoherent snow-ridge 13,000 feet above the 
sea. It was the end of September, and my two 
guides and I were waiting at Zermatt to try the 
Dent Blanche, a proceeding which, later on, was 
amply justified by success. Much fresh snow had 
recently fallen, and the slopes of the mountains 
were running down towards the valleys faster than 
the most active chamois could have galloped up 
them. Idleness is an abomination to the keen 
climber, and doubly so if he be an enthusiastic 
photographer, and the sun shone each day from a 
cloudless sky. Something had to be done, but 
what could we choose? All the safe second-class 
ascents up which one might wade through fresh 

51 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

snow without risk, we had accomphshed over and 
over again. Something new to us was what we 
wanted, and what eventually we found in the stately 
Hohberghorn. Now this peak is seldom ascended. 
It is overtopped by two big neighbours, and until 
these have been done, no one is likely to climb 
the less imposing peak. Furthermore, the Hohberg- 
horn is a grind, and though we got enough excite- 
ment and to spare out of it, yet in our case the 
circumstances were peculiar. The view was certain 
to be grand, and, faute de mieux, we decided to start 
for it. 

On this occasion, in addition to my guide of 
many years' standing, the famous Joseph Imboden 
of St Nicholas, I had a second man, who had a 
great local reputation in his native valley at the 
other end of Switzerland (and deservedly so, as far 
as his actual climbing ability was concerned), but 
who had never been on a rope with Imboden before. 
This was the cause of the appalling risk we ran 
during our expedition. We arrived in good time 
at the hut, and found another party, who proposed 
going up the Dom, the highest mountain entirely 
in Switzerland (14,900 feet) next day. Our way 
lay together for a couple of hours over the great 
glacier, and we proceeded the following morning 
in magnificent weather towards our respective peaks. 

It was heavy work ploughing our way through 
52 



SOME AVALANCHE ADVENTURES 

the soft new snow, and we could not advance except 
very slowly. As a result, it was already mid-day 
when we gained the ridge of the Hohberghorn, not 
far below the summit. The sun streamed pitilessly 
down, the snow cracked and slipped at every step. 
To understand what followed, our position must now 
be made clear. Imboden, who led, was on the very 
crest of the ridge. Next to him on the rope, at 
a distance of about 20 feet, was my place, also on 
the ridge. At an equal distance behind me was 
the second guide. He was a trifle below the ridge, 
on the side to our left. We stood still for a 
moment, and then Imboden distinctly but very 
quietly remarked to the other man, " Be on your 
guard. At any moment now we may expect an 
avalanche." I never to this day can understand 
how he failed to grasp what this meant. It should 
have been obvious that it was a warning to look 
out, and at the first sign of approaching danger to 
step down on to the other side of the ridge. Had 
not this been a perfectly simple thing to do, we 
should not have continued the ascent, but the 
second guide failed us hopelessly when the critical 
moment came. Imboden, to avoid a small cornice 
or overhanging eave of snow to our right, now 
took a few steps along and below the ridge to 
the left, while the man behind me came in the 
tracks to the crest, and I followed the leader. From 

S3 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

this position tiie last man could in an instant have 
been down the slope to his right, and have held 
us with the greatest ease. 

We advanced a yard or two further, and then 
the entire surface upon which we stood commenced 
to move ! A moment more and we were struggling 
for our lives, dashing our axes through the rush- 
ing snow, and endeavouring to arrest our wild 
career, which, unless checked at once, would cause 
us to be precipitated down the entire face of the 
mountain, to the glacier below. Then it was that 
the firm bed of snow beneath the newer layer 
stood us in good stead. Our axes held, and, 
breathless, bruised and startled, we found our- 
selves clinging to the slope, while the avalanche, 
momentarily increasing in volume, thundered down 
towards the snow-fields below, where at length, 
heaped high against the mountain-side, it came to 
rest. 

We now took stock of the position. We were 
practically unhurt, but so confused and rapid had 
been the slip that the rope was entangled round 
us in a manner wonderful to behold. There was 
nothing to prevent us reaching the summit, for 
every atom of fresh snow had been swept away 
from the slope, so we continued our climb, and 
soon were able to rest on the top. To this day, 
Imboden and I always look back to our adventure 

54 



SOME AVALANCHE ADVENTURES 

on the Hohberghorn as the greatest peril either 
of us has ever faced. 

More than one instance has been recorded where, 
owing to the prompt action of the last man on 
the rope, fatal accidents on snow-ridges have 
been avoided. The two most famous occasions 
in Alpine annals^ were when Hans Grass saved 
his party on Piz Palii, and when Ulrich Aimer 
performed his marvellous feat on the Gabelhorn. 
It is true that in both these cases the risk was 
due to the breaking away of a snow-cornice, but 
the remedy was exactly the same as it ought to 
have been when our avalanche was started. 

I have only to add that we found the other 
party at the hut, much exhausted by their un- 
successful attempt on the Dom, and very anxious 
on our account, as they both heard and saw the 
avalanche which had so nearly ended our moun- 
taineering career. 

The famous climber, Mr Tuckett, has very 
kindly allowed me to quote from Peaks, Passes, 
and Glaciers, the following description of a narrow 
escape from an avalanche while descending the 
Aletschhorn : 

"We had accomplished in safety a distance of 

scarcely more than 150 yards when, as I was 

looking at the Jungfrau, my attention was 

^ True Tales of Mountain Adventure, pp. 42 and 43. 

55 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

attracted by a sudden exclamation from Victor, 
who appeared to stagger and all but lose his 
balance. At first, the idea of some sort of seizure 
or an attack of giddiness presented itself, but, 
without stopping to enquire, I at once turned 
round, drove my good 8-foot ash-pole as deeply 
as possible through the surface layer of fresh 
snow into the firmer stratum beneath, tightened 
the rope to give Victor support, and shouted to 
Peter to do the same. All this was the work of 
an instant, and a glance at once showed me 
what had happened. Victor was safe for the 
moment, but a layer or couche of snow, lO inches 
to a foot in thickness, had given way exactly 
beneath his feet, and first gently, and then fleet as 
an arrow, went gliding down, with that unpleasant 
sound somewhat resembling the escape of steam, 
which is so trying to the nerves of the bravest man, 
when he knows its full and true significance. At 
first a mass 80 to 100 yards in breadth and 10 
or 15 in length alone gave way, but the contagion 
spread, and ere another minute had elapsed the 
slopes right and left of us for an extent of at 
least half a mile, were in movement, and, like a 
frozen Niagara, went crashing down the ice- 
precipices and seracs that still lay between us 
and the Aletsch glacier, 1800 to 2000 feet below. 
The spectacle was indescribably sublime, and the 

56 



SOME AVALANCHE ADVENTURES 

suspense for a moment rather awful, as we were 
clinging to an incline at least as steep as that on 
the Grindelwald side of the Strahleck — to name a 
familiar example — and it was questionable whether 
escape would be possible, if the layer of snow 
on the portion of the slope we had just been 
traversing should give way before we could retrace 
our steps. 

" Not a moment was to be lost ; no word was 
spoken after the first exclamation, and hastily 
uttered, ' Au col ! et vite ! ' and then in dead 
silence, with batons held aloft like harpoons, ready 
to be plunged into the lower and older layers of 
snow, we stole quietly but rapidly up towards the 
now friendly-looking corniche, and in a few minutes 
stood once more in safety on the ridge, with 
feelings of gratitude for our great deliverance, 
which, though they did not find utterance in 
words, were, I believe, none the less sincerely 
felt by all of us. 'II n'a manqu6 que peu a un grand 
malheur,' quietly remarked Victor, who looked 
exhausted, as well he might be after what he 
had gone through ; but a goutte of cognac all 
round soon set us right again, and shouting to 
Bennen, who was still in sight, though dwindled 
in size to a mere point, we were soon beside him, 
running down the nev^ of our old friend, the Aren 
Glacier. The snow was now soft and the heat 

57 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

tremendous, and both Bennen and Bohren showed 
signs of fatigue ; but a rapid pace was still main- 
tained in spite of the frequent crevasses. Some 
were cleared in a series of flying leaps, whilst into 
others which the snow concealed, one and another 
would occasionally sink, amid shouts of laughter 
from his companions, who, in their turn, under- 
went a similar fate. To the carefully secured 
rope, which, with the alpenstock and ice axe, are 
the mountaineer's best friends, we owed it that 
these sudden immersions were a mere matter of 
joke ; but even the sense of security which it 
confers does not altogether prevent a ' creepy ' 
sensation from being experienced, as the legs 
dangle in vacancy, and the sharp metallic ring 
of the icy fragments is heard as they clatter 
down into the dark blue depths below." 

The higher and more snow-laden the mountain 
chain, the more risk is there from avalanches. It 
seems practically certain that Mr Mummery met 
his death in the Himalayas from an avalanche, 
and that Messrs Donkin and Fox and their two 
Swiss guides perished in the Caucasus from a like 
cause. Sir W. Martin Conway, in his book on the 
Himalayas, makes several allusions to avalanches, 
and on at least one occasion, some members of 
his party had a narrow escape. He relates the 

adventure as follows : 

58 



SOME AVALANCHE ADVENTURES 

"Zurbriggen and I had no more than set foot 
upon the grass, when we beheld a huge avalanche- 
cloud descending over the whole width of the 
ice-fall, utterly enveloping both it and a small rock- 
rib and couloir beside it. Bruce and the Gurkhas 
were below the rib, and could only see up the 
couloir. They thought the avalanche was a small 
one confined to it, and so they turned back and 
ran towards the foot of the ice-fall. This was no 
improvement in position, and there was nothing 
for them to do then but to run straight away from 
it, and get as far out to the flat glacier as they 
could. The fall started from the very top of the 
Lower Burchi peak, and tumbled on to the plateau 
above the ice-fall ; it flowed over this, and came 
down the ice-fall itself. We saw the cloud before 
we heard the noise, and then it only reached us 
as a distant rumble. We had no means of guessing 
the amount of solid snow and ice that there might 
be in the heart of the cloud. The rumble increased 
in loudness, and was soon a thunder that swallowed 
up our puny shouts, so that Bruce could not hear 
our warning. Had he heard he could easily have 
reached the sheltered position we gained before 
the cloud came on him. Zurbriggen and I cast 
ourselves upon our faces, but only the edge of the 
cloud and an ordinary strong wind reached us. 
Our companions were entirely enveloped in it 

59 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

They afterwards described to us how they raced 
away like wild men, jumping crevasses which they 
could not have cleared in cold blood. When the 
snow just enveloped them, the wind raised by it 
cast them headlong on the ice. This, however, 
was the worst that happened. The snow peppered 
them all over, and soaked them to the skin, but 
the solid part of the avalanche was happily arrested 
in the midst of the ice-fall, and never came in sight. 
When the fog cleared they were all so out of 
breath that for some minutes they could only 
stand and regard one another in panting silence. 
They presently rejoined us, and we halted for a 
time on the pleasant grass." 

In the olden days, before the great Alpine lines 
had tunnelled beneath the mountains and made a 
journey from one side of the range to the other 
in midwinter as safe and as comfortable as a run 
from London to Brighton, passengers obliged to 
cross the Alps in winter or spring were exposed 
to very real peril from avalanches. Messrs Newnes 
have courteously allowed me to make a short 
extract from an article which appeared in one of 
their publications, and in which is described the 
adventures of two English ladies who were obliged 
to return home suddenly from Innsbruck on 
account of the illness of a near relative. Their 
shortest route was by diligence to Constance, over 

60 



SOME AVALANCHE ADVENTURES 

the Arlberg Pass, and although it was considered 
extremely dangerous at that time of year — the 
beginning of May 1880 — they resolved to make the 
attempt. Much anxiety with regard to avalanches 
was felt in neighbouring villages, as the sun had 
lately been very hot, and the snow had become 
rotten and undermined. Owing to heavy falls 
during the previous winter, the accumulation of 
snow was enormous, and thus the two travellers 
set out under the worst possible auspices. The 
conductor of the diligence warned them of the 
danger, and told them on no account to open a 
window or to make any movement which could 
shake the coach. He got in with them and sat 
opposite, looking very worried and anxious. They 
reached the critical part of their journey, and, to 
quote Mrs Brewer's words : 

" Suddenly a low, booming sound, like that of 
a cannon on a battlefield or a tremendous peal 
of thunder, broke on our ears, swelling into a 
deafening crash ; and in a moment we were 
buried in a vast mass of snow. One of the 
immense piles from the mountain above had 
crashed down upon us, carrying everything with 
it. At the same moment we felt a violent jerk 
of the coach, and heard a kind of sound which 
expressed terror ; but, happily, our vehicle did 
not turn over, as it seemed likely to do for a 

61 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

minute or so. There we sat — for how long I 
know not — scarcely able to breathe, the snow 
pressing heavily against the windows, and utterly 
blocking out light and air, so that breathing was 
a painful effort. And now came a curious sensa- 
tion. It was an utter suspension of thought, and 
of every mental and physical faculty, 

"True, in a sort of unconscious way I became 
aware that the guard was sobbing out a prayer 
for his wife and children ; but it had not the 
slightest effect on me. 

"We might have been buried days and nights 
for all I knew, for I kept no count of time. In 
reality, I believe it was but a couple of hours 
between the fall of the avalanche and the first 
moment of hope, which came in the form of men 
striking with pickaxes. The sound seemed to 
come from a long distance — almost, as it were, 
from another world. 

" The guard, roused by the noise, said earnestly : 
' Ach Gott ! I thank Thee.' And then, speaking 
to us, he said : ' Ladies, help is near ! ' 

"Gradually the sound of the digging and the 
voices of the men grew nearer, till at length one 
window was open — the one overlooking the valley ; 
and the life-giving air stole softly in upon us. 
Even now, however, we were told not to move ; 
not that we had any inclination to do so, for we 

62 



SOME AVALANCHE ADVENTURES 

were in a dazed, half-conscious condition. When 
at length we used our eyes, it was to note that the 
valley did not seem so deep, and that the villages 
with their church spires had disappeared ; the 
meaning of it was not far to seek. 

" We were both good German scholars, and 
knew several of the dialects, so that we were 
able to learn a good deal of what had happened 
by listening to the men's talk. The school inspector 
in his terror had lost all self-control, and forgetful 
of the warnings given him, threw himself off the 
seat and leaped into space, thereby endangering 
the safety of all. He mercifully fell into one of 
the clumps of trees some distance down the slope, 
and so escaped without very much damage to 
himself, except shock to the system and bruises. 
The poor horses, however, fared infinitely worse. 
The weight of the snow lifted the rings from 
the hooks on the carriage, and at the same 
time carried the poor brutes down with it 
into the valley — never again to do a day's 
work. 

" The difficulties still before us were very serious. 
We could neither go backward nor forward, and 
there was danger of more avalanches falling. The 
next posting village was still far ahead, and there 
was no chance of our advancing a step until the 
brave body of men could cut a way through or 

63 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

make a clearance, and even then time would be 
required to bring back horses," 

The ladies were at last extricated from their still 
dangerous position, and amid a scene of the greatest 
excitement, arrived at a little Tyrolese village. The 
people could not do enough to welcome them, and 
every kindness was shown to them. Thus ended 
a wonderfully narrow escape for all who were con- 
cerned in the adventure. 



64 




A mountain path. 








A \411age completely buried beneath an 
avalanche. 
To face p. 65. 



Terraces cut on the hill sides and planted with trees 
to prevent the fall of avalanches. 



CHAPTER IV 

A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

/^NE of the treasures of collectors of Alpine 
^^^ books is a small volume in Italian by 
Ignazio Somis. The British Museum has not 
only a copy of the original, but also a couple of 
translations, from one of which, published in 1768, 
I take the following account. I have left the 
quaint old spelling and punctuation just as they 
were ; they accentuate the v'ividness and evident 
truth of this " True and Particular Account of the 
most Surprising preservation and happy deliverance 
of three women," who were buried for a month 
under an avalanche. The occurrence was fully 
investigated by Ignazio Somis, who visited the 
village of Bergemoletto, and obtained his narrative 
from the lips of one of the survivors. 

" In the month of February and March of the 
year 1755, we had in Turin, a great fall of rain, 
the sky having been almost constantly overcast 
from the ninth of February' till the twenty-fourth of 
March. During this inter\'al, it rained almost every 
E . 65 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

day, but snowed only on the morning of the twenty- 
first of February, when the hquor of Reaumur's ther- 
mometer stood but one degree above the freezing 
point. Now, as it often snows in the mountains, 
when it only rains in the plain ; it cannot appear 
surprising that during this interval, there fell vast 
quantities of snow in the mountains that surround 
us, and in course, several valancas^ were formed. 
In fact, there happened so many in different places 
on the side of Aosta, Lanzo, Susa, Savoy, and the 
county of Nice, that by the end of March, no less 
than two hundred persons had the misfortune of 
losing their lives by them. Of these overwhelmed 
by these valancas, three persons, however, Mary 
Anne Roccia Bruno, Anne Roccia, and Margaret 
Roccia, had reason to think themselves in other 
respects, extremely happy, having been dug alive 
on the twenty-fifth of April, out of a stable, under the 
ruins of which, they had been buried, the nineteenth 
of March, about nine in the morning, by a valanca 
of snow, forty-two feet higher than the roof, to 
the incredible surprise of all those who saw them, 
and afterwards heard them relate how they lived 
all this while, with death, as we may say, continu- 
ally staring them in the face. 

" The road from Demonte to the higher valley 
of Stura, runs amidst many mountains, which, join- 

^ Or, in modern phraseology, " avalanches." 
66 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

ing one another, and sometimes rising to a great 
height, form a part of those Alps, by historians 
and geographers, called maritime Alps, separating 
the valley of Stura and Piedmont, from Dauphiny 
and the county of Nice. Towards the middle of 
the road leading to the top of these mountains, and 
on the left of the river Stura, we meet with a 
village called Bergemolo, passing through which 
village, and still keeping the road through the 
said valley, we, at about a mile distance, arrive 
at a little hamlet called Bergemoletto, containing 
about one hundred and fifty souls. From this place 
there run two narrow lanes, both to the right and 
left, one less steep and fatiguing than the other, 
and in some measure along two valleys, to the 
mountains. The summit of the mountain makes 
the horizon an angle much greater than 45°, and 
so much greater in some places, as to be in a 
manner perpendicular, so that it is a very difficult 
matter to climb it, even by a winding path. Now 
it was from the summit of the aforesaid mountains 
that fell the valancas of snow, which did so much 
mischief, and almost entirely destroyed the hamlet 
of Bergemoletto. 

"The bad weather which prevailed in so many 
other places, prevailed likewise in the Foresta of 
Bergemoletto, By this word Foresta, the Alpineers 
understand the villages dispersed over the vallies 

67 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

covered with small trees and bushes, and sur- 
rounded with high mountains ; for it began to 
snow early in March, and the fall increased so 
much on the i6, 17, 18 and 19, that many of the 
inhabitants began to apprehend, and not without 
reason, that the weight of that which was already 
fallen, and still continued to fall, might crush their 
houses, built with stones peculiar to the country, 
cemented by nothing but mud, and a very small 
portion of lime, and covered with thatch laid on 
a roof of shingles and large thin stones, supported 
by thick beams. They, therefore, got upon their 
roofs to lighten them of the snow. At a little 
distance from the church, stood the house of Joseph 
Roccia, a man of about fifty, husband of Mary 
Anne, born in Demonte, of the family of Bruno ; 
who, with his son James, a lad of fifteen, had, like 
his neighbours, got upon the roof of his house on the 
19th in the morning in order to lessen the weight 
on it, and thereby prevent its destruction. In the 
meantime the clergyman who lived in the neighbour- 
hood, and was about leaving home, in order to 
repair to the church, and gather his people together 
to hear mass ; perceiving a noise towards the top 
of the mountains, and turning his trembling eyes 
towards the quarter from whence he thought it 
came, discovered two valancas driving headlong 
towards the village. Wherefore raising his voice 

68 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

he gave Joseph notice, instantly to come down 
from the roof, to avoid the impending danger, and 
then immediately retreated himself into his own 
house. 

"These two valancas met and united, so as to 
form but one valanca which continued to descend 
towards the valley, where, on account of the increase 
of its bulk, the diminution of its velocity and the 
insensible declivity of the plane it stopped and 
arrested by the neighbouring mountain, though it 
covered a large tract of land, did no damage either 
to the houses or the inhabitants. Joseph Roccia, 
who had formerly observed that the fall of one 
valanca was often attended with that of others, 
immediately came off the roof at the priest's notice, 
and with his son fled as hard as lie could towards 
the church, without well knowing, however, which 
way he went; as is usually the case with the 
Alpineers, when they guess by the report in the 
air, that some valanca is falling or seeing it fall 
with their own eyes. The poor man had scarce 
advanced forty steps, when hearing his son fall 
just at his heels, he turned about to assist him, 
and taking him up, saw the spot on which his 
house, his stable, and those of some of his neigh- 
bours stood, converted into a huge heap of snow, 
without the least sign of either walls or roofs. 
Such was his agony at this sight, and at the 

69 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

thoughts of having lost in an instant, his wife, his 
sister, his family, and all the little he had saved, 
with many years increasing labour and economy, 
that hale and hearty, as he was, he immediately, 
as if heaven and earth were come together, lost 
his senses, swooned away, and tumbled upon the 
snow. His son now helped him, and he came to 
himself little by little ; till at last, by leaning upon 
him, he found himself in a condition to get on the 
valanca, and, in order to re - establish his health 
there, set out for the house of his friend, Spirito 
Roccia, about one hundred feet distant from the 
spot, where he fell. Mary Anne, his wife, who was 
standing with her sister-in-law Anne, her daughter 
Margaret, and her son Anthony, a little boy two 
years old, at the door of the stable, looking at the 
people throwing the snow from off the houses, and 
waiting for the ringing of the bell that was to call 
them to prayers, was about taking a turn to the 
house, in order to light a fire, and air a shirt for 
her husband, who could not but want that refresh- 
ment after his hard labour. But before she could 
set out, she heard the priest cry out to them to 
come down quickly, and raising her trembling eyes, 
saw the foresaid valancas set off, and roll down the 
side of the mountain, and at the same instant heard 
a horrible report from another quarter, which made 
her retreat back quickly with her family, and shut 

70 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

the door of the stable. Happy it was for her, that 
she had time to do so ; this noise being occasioned 
by another immense valanca, the whole cause of all 
the misery and distress, she had to suffer for so long 
a time. And it was this very valanca, over which 
Joseph, her husband was obliged to pass after his 
fit, in his way to the house of Spirito Roccia. 

" Some minutes after the fall of the valanca 
another huge one broke off driving along the 
valley and beat down the houses which it met 
in its course. This valanca increased greatly, by 
the snow over which it passed, in its headlong 
course, and soon reached with so much impetuosity, 
the first fallen valanca, it carried away great part 
of it ; then returning back with this reinforcement, 
it demolished the houses, stopping in the valley 
which it had already overwhelmed in its first pro- 
gress. So that the height of the snow, Paris 
measure, amounted to more than seventy - seven 
feet; the length of it to more than four hundred 
and twenty -seven and the breadth above ninety- 
four. Some people affirm that the concussion of 
the air occasioned by this valanca, was so great, 
that it was heard at Bergemolo, and even burst 
open some doors and windows at that place. This 
I know that nothing escaped it in Bergemoletto, 
but a few houses, the church, and the house of John 
Arnaud. 

7' 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

"Being therefore gathered together, in order to 
sum up their misfortunes, the inhabitants first 
counted thirty houses overwhelmed ; and then 
every one calling over those he knew, twenty-two 
souls were missing, of which number, was D. Giulio 
Caesare Emanuel, their parish priest, who had lived 
among them forty years. The news of this terrible 
disaster, soon spread itself over the neighbourhood, 
striking all those who heard it, with grief and 
compassion. All the friends and relations of the 
sufferers, and many others, flocked of their own 
accord, from Bergemolo and Demonte ; and many 
were dispatched by the magistrates of these places, 
to try if they could give any relief to so many poor 
creatures, who, perhaps, were already suffocated by 
the vast heap of snow that lay upon them ; so that 
by the day following, the number assembled on this 
melancholy occasion amounted to three hundred. 
Joseph Roccia, notwithstanding his great love for 
his wife and family, and his desire to recover part of 
what he had lost, was in no condition to assist them 
for five days, owing to the great fright and grief, 
occasioned by so shocking an event, and the swoon 
which overtook him at the first sight of it. In the 
meantime, the rest were trying, if, by driving iron- 
rods through the hardened snow, they could dis- 
cover any roofs ; but they tried in vain. The great 
solidity and compactness of the valanca, the vast 

72 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

extent of it in length, breadth and heighth, together 
with the snow, that still continued to fall in great 
quantities, eluded all their efforts ; so that after 
some days' labour, they thought proper to desist from 
their trials, finding that it was throwing away their 
time and trouble to no purpose. The husband of 
poor Mary Anne, no sooner recovered his strength, 
than in company with his son, and Anthony and 
Joseph Bruno, his brothers-in-law who had come to 
his assistance from Demonte, where they lived, did 
all that lay in his power to discover the spot, under 
which his house, and the stable belonging to it, were 
situated. But neither himself, nor his relations, 
could make any discovery capable of affording them 
the smallest ray of comfort ; though they worked 
hard for many days, now in one place, and now in 
another, unable to give up the thoughts of knowing 
for certain, whether any of their family was still alive, 
or if they had under the snow and the ruins of the 
stable, found, at once, both death and a grave. But 
it was all labour lost, so that, at length, he thought 
proper to return to the house of Spirito Roccia, and 
there wait, till, the weather growing milder, the 
melting of the snow should give him an opportunity 
of paying the last duty to his family, and recovering 
what little of his substance might have escaped this 
terrible calamity. 

" Towards the end of March, the weather, through 
73 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

the lengthening of the days, and the setting in of the 
warm winds, which continued to blow till about the 
twentieth of April, began to grow mild and warm ; 
and, of course, the great valanca to fall away by the 
melting of the snow and ice that composed it ; 
so that little by little, the valley began to assume 
its pristine form. This change was very sensible, 
especially by the eighteenth of April, so that the time 
seemed to be at hand for the surviving inhabitants 
of Bergemoletto to resume their interrupted labours, 
with some certainty of recovering a good part of 
what they had lost on the unfortunately memorable 
morning of the nineteenth of March. Accordingly, 
they dispersed themselves over the valanca, some 
trying in one place, and some in another, now with 
long spades, and another time with thick rods of iron, 
and other instruments proper to break the indurated 
snow. One of the first houses they discovered by 
this means, was that of Louisa Roccia, in which they 
found her dead body, and that of one of her sons. 
Next day, in the house called the confreria, that had 
two rooms on the ground floor, and one above them, 
they found the body of D. Giulio Caesare Emanuel, 
with his beads in his hand. Joseph Roccia, animated 
by these discoveries, set himself with new spirits 
about discovering the situation of his house, and the 
stable belonging to it ; and with spades and iron 
crows, made several and deep holes in the snow, 

74 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

throwing great quantities of earth into them ; earth 
mixed with water, being very powerful in destroying 
the strong cohesion of snow and ice. On the twenty- 
fourth, having made himself an opening two feet 
deep into the valanca, he began to find the snow 
softer and less difficult to penetrate ; wherefore, 
driving down a long stick, he had the good fortune 
of touching the ground with it. 

" It was no small addition to Joseph's strength 
and spirit, to be thus able to reach the bottom ; 
so that he would have joyfully continued his 
labour, and might perhaps on that very day, had it 
not been too far advanced, have recovered some part 
of what he was looking for, and found that which, 
assuredly, he by no means expected to meet with. 
When, therefore, he desisted for that time, it was 
with much greater reluctance than he had done 
any of the preceding days. The anxiety of Joseph, 
during the following night, may well be compared 
to that of the weather-beaten mariner, who finding 
himself, after a long voyage, at the mouth of his 
desired port, is yet, by the coming on of night 
obliged to remain on the inconstant waves till next 
morning. Wherefore, at the first gleam of light, 
he, with his son, hastened back to the spot, where 
the preceding day he had reached the ground with 
the stick, and began to work upon it again ; but 
he had not worked long, when lo, to his great 

75 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

surprise, who should he see coming to his assist- 
ance but his two brothers-in-law Joseph and 
Anthony Bruno. 

" Anthony, it seems, the night between the pre- 
ceding Thursday and Friday, being then in 
Delmonte, dreamed that there appeared to him, 
with a pale and troubled countenance, his sister 
Mary Anne Roccia, who, with an earnestness in- 
termixed with grief and hope, called upon him for 
assistance in the following words : 

" ' Anthony, though you all look upon me as 
' dead in the stable where the valanca of snow over- 
whelmed me on the nineteenth of March, God has 
' kept me alive. Hasten therefore to my assistance, 
' and to relieve me from my present wretched condi- 
' tion ; in you, my brother, have I placed all my 
' hopes, dont abandon me ; help, help I beseech you.' 
Anthony's imagination, was so affected by the 
thoughts of thus seeing his sister, and hearing her 
utter these piteous words, that he immediately 
started up, and calling out to his brother Joseph, 
he acquainted him with what he had seen and 
heard. They both, therefore, as soon as it was 
day, set out for Bergemoletto, where they arrived 
a little before eight, tired and out of breath, for 
they seemed to have their sister continually before 
their eyes, pressing them for help and assistance. 

Having therefore taken a little rest and refresh- 

76 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

ment, they set out again for the place, where 
Joseph Roccia, and many others, were hard at 
work in looking for the wrecks of their houses. 
Joseph had left the spot> where, the day before 
he thought he had reached the ground, and was 
trying to reach it in other places. His brothers- 
in-law immediately fell to work with him, and 
making many new holes in the snow, the interior 
parts of which were not so very hard, with the 
same iron rods, with earth and with long poles, 
they at last, about ten, discovered the so long 
sought for house, but found no dead bodies in it. 
Knowing that the stable did not lie one hundred 
feet from the house, they immediately directed 
their search towards it, and proceeding in the 
same manner, about noon, they got a long pole 
through a hole, from whence issued a hoarse and 
languid voice, which seemed to say : ' help, my 
' dear husband, help, my dear brother, help.' The 
husband and brother thunderstruck, and at the 
same time encouraged by these words, fell to their 
work with redoubled ardour, in order to clear 
away the snow, and open a sufficient way for 
themselves, to the place from whence the voice 
came, and which grew more and more distinct as 
the work advanced. It was not long, therefore, 
before they had made a pretty large opening, 
through which (none minding the danger he 

77 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

exposed himself to) Anthony descended, as into a 
dark pit, asking who it was, that could be alive 
in such a place. Mary Anne knew him by his 
voice, and answered with a trembling and broken 
accent, intermixed with tears of joy. ' Tis I, my 
'dear brother, who am still alive in company with 
* my daughter and my sister-in-law, who are at my 
'elbow. God, in whom I have always trusted, still 
' hoping that he would inspire you with the thought 
'of coming to our assistance, has been graciously 
' pleased to keep us alive.' God, who had preserved 
them to this moment, and was willing they should 
live, inspired Anthony with such strength and spirits, 
that, notwithstanding the surprise and tenderness 
with which so joyful and at the same time so sad 
a sight must have affected him, had presence of 
mind enough to acquaint his fellow-labourers, all 
anxiously waiting for the report of his success, 
that Mary Anne, Margaret, and Anne Roccia were 
still alive. Whereupon Joseph Roccia, and Joseph 
Bruno, enlarging the passage as well as they could, 
immediately followed him into the ruins ; whilst 
the other Alpineers, scattered over the valanca in 
quest of their lost substance, and the dead bodies 
of their relations, on the son's calling out to them, 
flocked round the mouth of the pit, to behold 
so extraordinary a sight ; not a little heightened 
by that of two live goats scampering out of 

78 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

the opening. In the meantime, those who had 
descended into the hole, were contriving how to 
take out of it the poor and more than half dead 
prisoners, and convey them to some place, where 
they might recover themselves. The first thing 
they did was to raise them up, and take them 
out of the manger in which they had been so 
long stowed. They then placed them one by one 
on their shoulders, and lifted them up to those 
who stood round the mouth of the pit, who with 
very great difficulty took hold of them by the 
arms, and drew them out of their dark habitation, 
Mary Anne, on being exposed to the open air, 
and seeing the light, was attacked by a very acute 
pain in the eyes, which greatly weakened her 
sight, and was attended with so violent a fainting 
fit, that she had almost like to have lost, in the 
first moment of her deliverance, that life, which 
she had so long and with such difficulty preserved. 
But this was a consequence that might be easily 
foreseen. She had been thirty-seven days, secluded, 
in a manner entirely, from the open air ; nor had 
the least ray of light, in all that time, penetrated 
her pupils. 

" Her son found means to bring her to herself with 
a little melted snow, there being nothing else at hand 
fit for the purpose, and the accident that happened 
her was improved into a rule for treating the com- 

79 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

panions of her misfortune. The}-, therefore, covered 
all their faces, and wrapped them up so well, as to 
leave them but just room to breathe, and in this 
condition took them to the house of John Arnaud, 
where Mary Anne was entirely recovered from her 
fit, b}' a little generous wine. They then directly 
placed them in some little beds put up in the stable, 
which was moderately warm, and almost entirely 
without light, and prepared for them a mess of r}'e 
meal gruel, mixed with a little butter ; but they 
could swallow but very little of it." 



80 



CHAPTER V 

A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE — {continued) 

" TT is now proper I should say something of the 
most marvellous circumstance, attending this 
very singular and surprising accident, I mean their 
manner of supporting life, during so long and close 
a confinement. I shall relate what I have heard of 
it from their own mouths, being the same, in 
substance, with what Count Nicholas de Brandizzo, 
intendant of the city and province of Cuneo, heard 
from them on the sixteenth of May, when, by 
order of our most benevolent sovereign, he repaired 
to Bergemoletto, effectually to relieve these poor 
women, and the rest of the inhabitants, who had 
suffered by the valanca. 

" To begin then ; on the morning of the twenty- 
ninth of March, our three poor women, expecting every 
minute to hear the bell toll for prayers, had in the mean 
time, taken shelter from the rigour of the weather, 
in a stable built with stones, such as are usually 
found in these quarters, with a roof composed of 

large thin stones, not unlike slate, laid on a beam ten 
F 8i 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

inches square, and covered with a small quantity of 
straw, and with a pitch sufficient to carry of the 
rain, hail or snow, that might fall upon it. In the 
same stable were six goats, (four of which I heard 
nothing of) an ass and some hens. Adjoining to 
this stable, was a little room, in which they had fixed 
a bed, and used to lay up some provisions, in order 
to sleep in it in bad weather without being obliged 
to go for anything to the dwelling-house, which lay 
about one hundred feet from it. I have already taken 
notice, that Mary Anne was looking from the door 
of the stable at her husband and son, who were clear- 
ing the roof of its snow, when warned by a horrible 
noise, the signal by which the Alpineer knows the 
tumbling of the valancas, she immediately took her- 
self in with her sister-in-law, her daughter, and her 
little boy of two years old, and shut the door, telling 
them the reason for doing it in such a hurry. Soon 
after they heard a great part of the roof give way, 
and some stones fall on the ground, and found them- 
selves involved on all sides with a pitchy darkness ; all 
which they attributed, and with good reason, to the 
fall of some valanca. Upon this, they for some time 
thought proper to keep a profound silence, to try if 
they could hear any noise, and by that means have 
the comfort of knowing that help was at hand, but 
they could hear nothing. They therefore set them- 
selves to grope about the stable, but without being 

82 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

able to meet with anything but solid snow. Anne 
light upon the door, and opened it, hoping she had 
found out the way to escape the imminent danger 
they thought they were in of the buildings 
tumbling about th-^ir ears ; but she could not dis- 
tinguish the least ray of light, nor feel any thing but 
a hard and impenetrable wall of snow, with which 
she acquainted her fellow prisoners. They, therefore, 
immediately began to bawl out with all their might ; 
* help, help, we are still alive ' ; repeating it several 
times ; but not hearing any answer, Anne put the 
door to again. They continued to grope about the 
stable, and Mary Anne having light upon the 
manger, it occurred to her, that, as it was full of 
hay, they might take up their quarters there, and 
enjoy some repose, till it should please the Almighty 
to send them assistance. The manger was about 
twenty inches broad, and lay along a wall, which, by 
being on one side supported by an arch, was enabled 
to withstand the shock, and upheld the chief beam of 
the roof, in such a manner, as to prevent the poor 
women from being crushed to pieces by the ruins. 
Mary Anne placed herself in the manger, putting her 
son by her, and then advised her daughter and her 
sister-in-law to do so too. Upon this, the ass which 
was tied to the manger, frightened by the noise, began 
to bray and prance at a great rate ; so that, fearing 
lest he should bring the parapet of the manger, or 

83 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

even the wall itself about their ears ; they immediately 
untied the halter, and turned him adrift. In going 
from the manger, he stumbled upon a kettle that 
happened to lie in the middle of the stable, which 
put Mary Anne upon picking it up, and laying it by 
her, as it might serve to melt the snow in for their 
drink, in case they should happen to be confined long 
enough to want that resource. Anne, approving this 
thought, got down, and groping on the floor till she 
had found it, came back to the manger. 

" In this situation the good women continued many 
hours, every moment expecting to be relieved from 
it ; but, at last, being too well convinced, that they 
had no immediate relief to expect, they began to 
consider how they might support life, and what 
provisions they had with them for that purpose. 
Anne recollected that the day before she had put 
some chestnuts into her pocket, but, on counting 
them, found they amounted only to fifteen. Their 
chief hopes, therefore, and with great reason now 
rested on thirty or forty cakes, which two days 
before had been laid up in the adjoining room. 
The reader may well imagine, though Anne had 
never told me a word of it, with what speed and 
alertness she must, on recollecting these cakes, have 
got out of the manger, to see and find out the 
door of the room where they lay ; but it was to 
no purpose ; she roved and roved about the stable 

84 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

to find out what she wanted, so that she was 
obliged to come as she went, and take up her seat 
again amongst her fellow - sufferers, who still com- 
forted themselves with the hopes of being speedily- 
delivered from that dark and narrow prison. In 
the mean while, finding their appetite return, they 
had recourse to their chestnuts. The rest of the 
chestnuts they reserved for a future occasion. They 
then addressed themselves to God, humbly beseech- 
ing him to take compassion on them, and vouchsafe 
in his great mercy to rescue them from their dark 
grave, and from the great miseries they must 
unavoidably suffer, in case it did not please him 
to send them immediate assistance. They spent 
many hours in ejaculations of this kind, and then 
thinking it must be night, they endeavoured to 
compose themselves. Margaret and the little boy, 
whose tender years prevented their having any 
idea of what they had to suffer in their wretched 
situation, or any thought of death, and of what 
they must suffer, before they could be relieved, fell 
asleep. But it was otherwise with Mary Anne and 
Anne, who could not get the least rest, and spent 
the whole night in prayer, or in speaking of their 
wretched condition, and comforting one another 
with the hopes of being speedily delivered from it. 
As it seemed to them, after many hours, that it 
was day again, they endeavoured to keep up their 

85 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

spirits with the thoughts, that Joseph with the 
rest of their friends and relations not getting any 
intelh'gence of their situation, would not fail of doing 
all that lay in their power to come at them. The 
sensation of hunger was earliest felt by the two 
youngest ; and the little boy crying out for some- 
thing to eat, and there being nothing for him but 
the chestnuts, Anne gave him three. 

" I said, that these women seemed to have some 
notion of the approach of day and night, but I 
should never have dreamed in what manner this 
idea could be excited in them, shut up as they 
were in a body of ice, impervious to the least ray 
of light, had not they themselves related it to me. 
The hens shut up in the same prison, were it seems 
the clocks, which by their clucking all together, 
made them think the first day that it was night, 
and then again after some interval that it was day 
again. This is all the notion they had of day and 
night for two weeks together ; after which, not 
hearing the hens make any more noise, they no 
longer knew when it was day or night. 

" This day the poor women and the boy supported 
themselves with their chestnuts ; and at the return 
of the usual signal of night, the boy and Margaret 
went to sleep ; while the mother and aunt spent 
it in conversation and prayer. On the next day 
the ass by his braying, gave now and then, for the 

86 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

last time, some signs of life. On the other hand, 
the poor prisoners had something to comfort them- 
selves with ; for they discovered two goats making 
up to the manger. This, therefore, was a joyful 
event, and they gave the goats some of the hay 
they sat upon in the manger, shrunk up with their 
knees to their noses. It then came into Anne's 
head to try if she could not get some milk from 
the milch goat ; and recollecting that they used to 
keep a porringer under the manger for that 
purpose, she immediately got down to look for it, 
and happily found it. The goat suffered herself to 
be milked, and yielded almost enough to fill the 
cup which contained above a pint. On this they 
lived the third day. The night following the boy 
and the girl slept as usual, while neither of the two 
others closed their eyes. Who can imagine how 
long the time must have appeared to them, and 
how impatient they must have been to see an 
end to their sufferings ? This, after offering their 
prayers to the Almighty, was the constant subject 
of their conversation. ' O, my husband,' Mary 
Anne used to cry out, ' if you two are not buried 
' under some of the valancas and dead ; why do 
' not you make haste to give me, your sister, and 
' children, that assistance which we so much stand 
*in need of? We are thank God, still alive, but 
'cannot hold out much longer, so it will soon be too 

87 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

'late to think of us.' 'Ah, my dear brother,' added 
Anne, ' in you next to God, have we placed all 
' our trust. We are alive, indeed, and it depends 
'upon you to preserve our lives, by digging us out 
' of the snow and the ruins, in which we lie buried.' 
'But let us still hope,' both of them added, 'that 
'as God has been pleased to spare our lives, and 
' provide us with the means of prolonging it, he will 
' still in his great mercy put it into the hearts of 
' our friends and relations to use all their endeavours 
'to save us.' To this discourse succeeded new 
prayers, after which they composed themselves as 
well as they could, in order to get, if possible, a 
little sleep. 

" The hens having given the usual signal of the re- 
turn of day, they began again to think on the means 
of spinning out their lives. Mary Anne bethought 
herself anew of the cakes put up in the adjacent room ; 
and upon which, could they but get at them, they 
might subsist a great while without any other nourish- 
ment. On the first day of their confinement, they 
had found in the manger a pitch fork, which they 
knew used to be employed in cleaning out the stable, 
and drawing down hay through a large hole in the 
hay-loft, which lay over the vault. Anne observed, 
that such an instrument might be of service in break- 
ing the snow, and getting at the cakes, could they 
but recover the door leading into the little room. 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

She, therefore, immediately got out of the manger, 
from which she had not stirred since the first day, 
and groping about, sometimes meeting with nothing 
but snow, sometimes with the wall, and sometimes 
loose stones, she, at length, light upon a door, which 
she took for the stable door, and endeavoured to open 
it as she had done the first day, but without success ; 
an evident sign that the superincumbent snow had 
acquired a greater degree of density, and pressed more 
forcibly against it. She, therefore, made step by 
step, the best of her way back to the manger, all the 
time conversing with her fellow-sufferers ; and taking 
the fork with her, continued to rove and grope about, 
till at last she light upon a smooth and broad piece 
of wood, which to the touch had so much the appear- 
ance of the little door, as to make her hope she had 
at last found what she had been so earnestly looking 
for. She then endeavoured to open it with her hand^ 
but finding it impossible, told the rest that she had 
a mind to employ the pitch fork ; but Mary Anne 
dissuaded her from doing so. ' Let us,' said she, 
'leave the cakes where they are a little longer, and 
' not endanger our lives any further, by endeavouring 
«to preserve them. Who knows but with the fork, 
' you might make such destruction, as to bring down 
' upon our heads, that part of the stable that still con- 
' tinues together, and which, in its fall, could not fail 
' of crushing us to pieces. No, God keep us from that 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

' misfortune. Lay down your fork Anne, and come 
' back to us, submitting yourself to the holy will of 
'the Almighty, and patiently accept at his hands 
* whatever he may please to send us.' Anne, moved 
by such sound and affecting arguments and reasons, 
immediately let the fork fall out of her hands, and 
returned to the manger. 'Let us,' continued Mary 
Anne, ' let us make as much as we can of our nursing 
' goats, and endeavour to keep them alive by supplying 
'them with hay. Here is a good deal in the manger, 
' and it occurs to me, that when that is gone, we may 
' supply them from another quarter, for by putting up 
' my hand, trying what was above me, I have discovered 
' that there is hay in the loft, and that the hole to it 
' is open, and just over our heads ; so that we have 
' nothing to do, but to pull it down for the goats, 
' whose milk we may subsist upon, till it shall please 
' God to dispose otherwise of us." 

This reasoning was not only sound in itself, but 
supported by facts ; for ever since their confinement. 
they had heard stones fall from time to time upon the 
ground, and these stones could be no others than 
those of the building, which the shock of the valanca 
had first loosened, and which the weight it every day 
acquired by encreasing in density, afterwards enabled 
it to displace. Wherefore, had she happened to 
disturb with the pitch-fork, as there was the greatest 
reason to fear she might, any of those parts, which, 

90 



A MONTH liENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

united together, served to keep up the beam that 
supported the great body of snow, under which they 
lay buried, the fall of the stable, and their own 
destruction, must have infallibly been the conse- 
quence of it. 

" This day the sensation of hunger was more and 
more lively and troublesome, without their having 
anything to allay it with but snow, and the milk 
yielded them by one of the goats their fellow 
prisoners. I say one of the goats for as yet they 
had milked but one of them, thinking it would be 
useless, or rather hurtful, even if they could, to take 
any milk from that in kid. Anne had recourse to 
the other, and in the whole day, got from her about 
two pints of milk, on which, with the addition of a 
little snow, they subsisted." 

The little boy, unable to struggle against the 
terrible conditions, grew rapidly weaker and weaker, 
and the time had now come when he passed painlessly 
away. 

" The death of this poor child proved the severest 
trial that the three women, the two eldest especially, 
had to suffer during their long confinement ; and 
from this unfortunate day, the fear of death, which 
they considered as at no great distance, began to 
haunt them more and more. The little nourishment, 
which the goat yielded the poor women, had made 
them suffer greatly on the preceding days ; they 

91 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

were, besides, benumbed, or rather frozen with the 
intense cold. Add to this the necessary, but 
inconvenient and tormenting posture of their feet, 
knees, and every other part of their bodies ; the 
snow, which melting over their heads, perpetually 
trickled down their backs, so that their clothes, 
and their whole bodies were perfectly drenched 
with it : they were often on the point of swooning 
away, and obliged to keep themselves from fainting, 
by handling the snow, and putting some of it into 
their mouths ; the thirst with which their mouths were 
constantly burnt up ; the thoughts, that in all this 
time no one had been at the pains to look for and 
relieve them ; the consideration, that all they had 
hitherto suffered, was nothing in comparison of 
what they had still to suffer before they could 
recover their liberty, or sink under the weight of 
all the evils which encompassed them ; all these, 
certainly, were circumstances sufficient to render 
them to the last degree, wretched and miserable. 
Add to this, that the milk of their fond and loving 
nurse, fell away little by little, till at length, instead 
of about two pints, which she, in the beginning 
used to yield, they could not now get so much 
as a pint from her. The hay that lay in the 
manger was all out, and it was but little the poor 
women could draw out of the hole which lay 
above them ; so that as the goats had but little 

92 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

fodder, little sustenance could be expected from 
that which they thought proper to milk. These 
animals were become so tame and familiar, in 
consequence of the fondness shewn them, that 
they always came on the first call to the person 
that was to milk them, affectionately licking her 
face and hands. Anne, encouraged by this tameness 
of theirs, bethought herself of accustoming them 
to leap upon the manger, and from thence upon 
her shoulders, so as to reach the hole of the hay- 
loft, and feed themselves ; so apt is hard necessity 
to inspire strength and ingenuity. She began by 
the goat that yielded them milk, helping her up 
into the manger, and then putting her upon her 
shoulders. This had the desired effect, the animal 
being thereby enabled to reach much further with 
its head, than they could with their hands. They 
did then the same by the other goat, from whom, 
as soon as she should drop her kid, they expected 
new relief She, too, in the same manner, found 
means to get at the hay, which afforded the poor 
women some relief in the midst of their pressing 
necessity. After this day, the goats required no 
further assistance, they so soon learned to leap 
of themselves on the manger, and from thence on 
the women's shoulders. But we must not conclude 
that hunger was the chief of the poor women's 
sufferings ; far from it. After the first days, during 

93 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

which it proved a sore torment to them, they 
through necessity, grew so accustomed to very 
little and very light nourishment, that they no 
longer felt any sensation of that kind, but lived 
contentedly on the small quantity of milk they 
could get from their goat, mixed with a little snow. 
Their breath was what gave them most uneasiness ; 
for it began to be very difficult on the fifth or 
sixth day, every inspiration being attended with 
the sensation of a very heavy and almost insupport- 
able load upon them. 

" They now had lost all means of guessing at the 
returns of night and day, and their only employ- 
ment was to recommend themselves fervently to 
God, beseeching him to take compassion of them, 
and at length, put an end to their miseries, which 
increased from day to day. At last, their nurse 
growing dry, they found themselves without any 
milk, and obliged to live upon snow alone for 
two or three days, Mary Anne not approving an 
expedient proposed by her sister. This was to 
endeavour to find the carcasses of the hens ; for 
as they had not heard them for some days past, 
they had sufficient reason to think they were 
dead ; and then eat them, as the only thing with 
which they could prolong life. But Mary Anne, 
rightly judging that it would be almost impossible 
to strip them clean of their feathers, and that 

94 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

besides, the flesh might be so far putrified, as to 
do them more harm than good, thought proper 
to dissuade her sister from having recourse to 
this expedient. But the unspeakable providence 
of God, whose will it was that they should live, 
provided them with new means of subsistence, 
when least they expected it, by the kidding of the 
other goat By this event, they judged themselves 
to be about the middle of April ; wherefore, after 
offering God their most humble thanks, for having 
preserved them so long, in the midst of so many, 
and such great difficulties they again beseeched 
him to assist them effectually, till they could find 
an opportunity of escaping their doleful prison, 
and see an end to their great sufferings. Their 
hopes of this their humble supplication being 
heard, were raised on the appearance of this new 
supply, and on their reflecting that the snow begins 
to thaw in April, in consequence of which that 
about the stable would soon dissolve enough to 
let some ray of light break in upon them. Mary 
Anne told me, that, though she was thoroughly 
sensible of the badness of her condition, in which 
it was impossible for her to hold out much longer, 
and saw it every day grow worse and worse ; she 
never, however, despaired of her living to be 
delivered. For my part, I cannot sufficiently 
admire the courage and intrepidity of Anne, who 

95 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

told me, that in all this time she never let a tear 
escape her but once. This was on its occurring to 
her, that, as they must at length perish for want, it 
might fall to her lot to die last. For the thought 
of finding herself amidst the dead bodies of her 
sister and her niece, herself too in a dying condition, 
terrified and afflicted her to such a degree, that she 
could no longer command her tears, but wept bitterly. 
" I observed, that the goat had kidded. This event 
afforded the poor women a new supply of milk, 
Anne for a while getting two porringers at a time 
from her, with which they recruited themselves a 
little. But as the goats began to fall short of hay, 
the milk of the only one that gave them any, began 
to lessen in proportion, so that at length they saw 
themselves reduced to a single, and even half a 
porringer. It was, therefore, happy for them, that 
the time drew nigh, in which God had purposed to 
rescue them from their horrible prison and confine- 
ment, and put an end to their sufferings. One 
time they thought they could hear a noise of some 
continuance at no great distance from them. This 
was probably the 20th, when the parish priest's 
body was found. And, upon it, they all together 
raised their weak and hoarse voices, crying out, 
* Help, help ! ' but the noise ceased, and they this 
time neither saw nor heard anything else that might 
serve as a token of their deliverance being at hand, 

96 



A MONTH BENEATH AN AVALANCHE 

However, this noise alone was sufficient to make 
them address God with greater fervour than ever, 
beseeching him to have compassion on them, and 
to confirm them still more and more in their warm 
hopes, that the end of their long misery was not 
far off. In fact, they again heard another noise, 
and that nearer them, as though something had 
fallen to the ground. On this they again raised 
their voices, and again cried out, ' Help, help ' : but 
no one answered, and soon after the noise itself 
entirely ceased. Their opinion concerning this noise, 
and in this they certainly were not mistaken, was 
that it came from the people, who were at work 
to find them, and who left off at the approach of 
night, and went home with a design to return to 
their labour the next morning. After the noise of 
the body fallen to the ground in their neighbour- 
hood, they seemed for the first time to perceive 
some glimpse of light. The appearance of it scared 
Anne and Margaret to the last degree, as they took 
it for a sure fore-runner of death, and thought it was 
occasioned by the dead bodies ; for it is a common 
opinion with the peasants that those wandering 
wild-fires, which one frequently sees in the open 
country, are a sure presage of death to the persons 
constantly attended by them, which ever way they 
turn themselves; and they accordingly call them 
death fires. But Mary Anne, was very far from 
G 97 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

giving in to so silly a notion. On the contrary the 
light inspired her with new courage, and she did 
all that lay in her power to dissipate the fears of 
her sister and daughter, revive their hopes in God, 
and persuade them that their deliverance and the 
end of all their sufferings was at hand ; insisting 
that this light could be no other than the light of 
heaven, which had, at last, reached the stable, in 
consequence of the valanca's melting, and still more 
in consequence of the constant boring and digging 
into it by their relations, in order to come at their 
dead bodies. Mary Anne guessed right for it was 
the next day that Anthony descended into the 
ruins of the stable, and to his unspeakable surprise 
found the poor women alive, blessing and exalting 
the most high, and restored them from darkness 
to light, from danger to security, from death to 
life, by drawing them out of the manger, and re- 
moving them to the house of Joseph Arnaud, where 
they continued to the end of July. 

" Thirty-seven entire days did these poor women 
live in the most horrible sufferings occasioned no 
less by filth and the disagreeable posture they were 
confined to, than by cold and hunger ; but the Lord 
was with them. He kept them alive, and they are 
still living, in a new cottage built the same year in 
the Foresta of Bergemoletto, at no great distance 

from their former habitation." 

98 



CHAPTER VI 

AN EXCITING CAUCASIAN ASCENT 

^TT^HE following account of the ascent of Gestola, 
in the Central Caucasus, is taken from The 
Alpine Journal, and the author, Mr C. T. Dent, has 
most kindly revised it for this work, and has added 
a note as follows : 

"At the time (1886) when this expedition was 
made, the topography of the district was very im- 
perfectly understood. The mountain climbed was 
originally described as Tetnuld Tau — Tau = Mountain. 
Since the publication of the original paper a new 
survey of the whole district has been carried out 
by the Russian Government and the nomenclature 
much altered. The peak of Tetnuld is really to 
the south of Gestola. The nomenclature has in the 
following extract been altered so as to correspond 
with that at present in use and officially sanctioned." 

The party consisted of Mr Dent, the late Mr 
W. F. Donkin, and two Swiss guides. They had 
safely accomplished the first part of their ascent of 
a hitherto unclimbed peak, and were on the ridge 

99 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

and face to face with the problem of how to reach 
the highest point. After describing the glorious 
scenery which lay around them, Mr Dent writes : 

" Woven in between all these peaks lay a wilder- 
ness of crevassed slopes, jagged rock ridges, and 
stretching glaciers, bewildering in their beauty and 
complexity. To see the wondrous sights that were 
crowded into those few minutes while we remained 
on the ridge, we would willingly have gone five times 
further and fared ten times worse. In high spirits 
we turned to the left (S.S.E.), and began our journey 
along the ridge which was to lead us to Gestola, ever 
keeping an eye on the snowy form of Tetnuld, and 
marvelling whether it would overtop our peak or not. 
For a few steps, and for a few only, all went well. 
The snow was in good order on the ridge, but we 
had to leave this almost immediately and make S.W. 
in order to skirt the heights which still intervened 
between l s and our peak. The ice began to change 
its character. Two or three steps were cut with a few 
strokes of the axe, and then all went well again for 
a time. Then more steps, and a more ringing sound 
as the axe fell. We seemed, too, however we might 
press on, to make no impression on this first slope. 
Our doubt returned ; the leader paused, drew up 
the rope, and bit at a fragment of ice as he gazed 
anxiously upwards over the face. No ! we were on 
the right track, and must stick to it if we would 



AN EXCITING CAUCASIAN ASCENT 

succeed. For an hour and a quarter we kept at it 
in silence, save for the constant ringing blows of the 
axe. Our courage gradually oozed out, for when 
we had worked back to the ridge again, we seemed 
to have made no progress at all. The top of the 
mountain far above was already swathed in cloud, 
and a distant storm on the south side was only too 
obvious. Another little peak was won before we 
looked about again, but the summit seemed no 
nearer. The exertion had begun to tell and the 
pace became slower. Some one remarked that he 
felt hungry, and we all thereupon realised our empty 
state, so we fortified ourselves for further efforts on a 
dainty repast of steinbock, black bread a week old, and 
water — invigorating victuals and exhilarating drink, 
rather appropriate to the treadmill kind of exercise 
demanded. It is under conditions such as these 
that strange diet tells on the climber ; but even 
more trying and more weakening than the poor 
quality of the food was the want of sleep from which 
we had suffered for a good many nights. In the 
language of science, our vital force and nervous 
energy were becoming rather rapidly exhausted, or, 
to put it more colloquially and briefly, we were 
awfully done. Three hours more at least was the 
estimate, and meanwhile the weather was growing 
worse and worse. Reflecting that all points fall to 
him who knows how to wait and stick to it, we 

lOI 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

pressed on harder to escape from the dispiriting 
thoughts that suggested themselves, and almost of 
a sudden recognised that the last of the deceptive 
little tops had been left behind us, and that we were 
fighting our way up the final peak. Better still, 
Tetnuld, which for so long had seemed to tower 
above us, was fast sinking in importance, and there 
really seemed now, as we measured the peak with 
the clinometer between the intervals of step-cutting, 
to be little difference between the two points. The 
air was so warm and oppressive that we were able 
to dispense with gloves. One of the guides suffered 
from intense headache, but the rest of us, I fancy, 
felt only in much the same condition as a man does 
at the finish of a hard-run mile race. The clouds 
parted above us for a while, mysteriously, as it 
seemed, for there was no wind to move them ; but 
we could only see the slope stretching upwards, and 
still upwards. Yet we could not be far off now. 
Again we halted for a few seconds, and as we 
glanced above, we mentally took stock of our 
strength, for there was no question the pleasure had 
been laborious. Some one moved, and we were all 
ready on the instant. To it once more, and to the 
very last victory was doubtful. True, the summit 
had seemed close enough when the last break in the 
swirling clouds had enabled us to catch a glimpse 
of what still towered above; but our experience of 

102 



AN EXCITING CAUCASIAN ASCENT 

Swiss snow mountains was long enough to make us 
sceptical as to apparent tops, and possibly the Cauca- 
sian giants were as prone to deceive as the human 
pigmies that crawled and burrowed at their bases. 

" Still anxious, still questioning success, we stepped 
on, and the pace increased as the doubt persisted. 
It is often said to be impossible, by those who don't 
try, to explain why the second ascent of a mountain 
always appears so much easier than the first ; some 
explanation may be found in the fact that on a 
virgin peak the uncertainty is really increasing 
during the whole time, and the climax comes in the 
last few seconds. Every step upwards make success 
more probable, and at the same time, would make 
failure more disappointing. In fact, the only periods 
when we are morally certain of success on a new 
expedition are before the start and when victory 
is actually won. Still, we could hardly believe that 
any insuperable obstacle would now turn us back ; 
yet all was new and uncertain, and the conditions 
of weather intensified the anxiety. The heavy 
stillness of the air seemed unnatural, and made 
the mind work quicker. The sensibility became so 
acute that if we ceased working and moving for a 
moment the silence around was unendurable, and 
seemed to seize hold of us. A distant roll of 
thunder came almost as a relief. A step or two 

had to be cut, and the delay appeared interminable. 

103 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

Suddenly, a glimpse of a dark patch of rocks 
appeared above looming through the mist. The 
slope of the ridge became more gentle for a few 
yards. Our attention was all fixed above, and we 
ascended some distance without noticing the change. 
Another short rise, and we were walking quickly 
along the ridge. We stopped suddenly ; the rocks 
we had seen so recently, had sunk below us on our 
left, while in front the arete could be followed with 
the eye, sloping away gradually for a few yards, 
and then plunging sharply down to a great depth. 
It was all over ; through fair weather and through 
foul we had succeeded ; and there was yet another 
peak to the credit of the Alpine Club. 

" It was not a time for words. Burgener turned to 
us and touched the snow with his hand, and we sat 
down in silence. Almost on the instant as we took 
our places a great burst of thunder rolled and echoed 
around — a grim salvo of Nature's artillery. The 
sudden sense of rest heightened the effect of the 
oppressive stillness that followed. Never have I 
felt the sense of isolation so complete. Gazing in 
front into the thin mists, the very presence of 
my companions seemed an unreality. The veil of 
wreathing vapour screened the huge panorama of 
the ice-world from our sight. The black thunder- 
clouds drifting sullenly shut out the world below. 

No man knew where we were ; we had reached our 

104 



AN EXCITING CAUCASIAN ASCENT 

furthest point in a strange land. We were alone 
with Nature, far from home, and far from all that 
we were familiar with. Strange emotions thrilled 
the frame and quickened the pulse. Weird thoughts 
crowded through the mind — it was not a time for 
words. Believe me, under such conditions a man 
will see further across the threshold of the un- 
known than all the book-reading or psychological 
speculation in the world will ever reveal to him. 

" Coming back to considerations more prosaic and 
practical, we found that it was 1.15 p.m. We realised, 
too, that the ascent had been very laborious and 
exhausting, while there was no doubt that evil 
times were in store for us. There were no rocks 
at hand to build a cairn, but we reflected that the 
snow was soft, and that our footsteps would easily 
be seen on the morrow. The aneroid marked the 
height we had attained as 16,550 feet.^ A momen- 
tary break in the mist gave us a view of Dych Tau, 
and we had just time to get a compass observation. 
After a stay of fifteen minutes we rose and girded 
ourselves for the descent. I think we all felt that 
the chief difficulty was yet to come, but we had 
little idea of what was actually to follow. Directly 
after we had left the summit a few puffs of wind 

1 Mountain aneroids generally overstate the heights. The 
height of Gestola is now computed at 15,932 feet, and that of 
Tetnuld at 15,918 fefet. 

105 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

began to play around and some light snow fell. 
Still, it was not very cold, and if the storm would 
only keep its distance all might be well. Down 
the first slope we made our way rapidly enough, 
and could have gone faster had we not deemed it 
wise to husband our strength as much as possible. 
In an hour and twenty minutes we reached the 
place where we had left the provisions and the 
camera. The feast was spread, but did not find 
favour. Never did food look so revolting. The 
bread seemed to have turned absolutely black, while 
the steinbock meat looked unfit to keep company 
with garbage in a gutter ; so we packed it up again 
at once, more from a desire to hide it from our eyes 
than from any idea that it might look more appetis- 
ing later on. Andenmatten's headache had become 
much worse, and he could scarcely at starting stand 
steady in his steps. Possibly his suffering was due 
to an hour or two of intensely hot sun, which had 
struck straight down on us during the ascent. I 
could not at the moment awaken much professional 
interest in his case, but the symptoms, so far as I 
could judge, were more like those experienced by 
people in diving-bells — were pressure effects in short 
— for the pain was chiefly in the skull cavities. I 
may not here enter into technical details, and can 
only remark now that though Andenmatten suffered 
the most it by no means followed on that account 

io6 



AN EXCITING CAUCASIAN ASCENT 

that his head was emptier than anybody else's. In 
due course we came to the ice-slope up and across 
which we had cut our way so laboriously in the 
morning ; here, at least, we thought we should make 
good progress with little trouble ; but the sun had 
struck full on this part of the mountain, and all the 
steps were flattened out and useless. Every single 
step ought to have been worked at with as much 
labour as in the morning, but it was impossible to 
do more than just scratch out a slight foothold, as 
we made our way round again to the ridge. Below, 
on the west side, the slope plunged down into the 
Ewigkeit, and our very best attention had to be 
given in order to avoid doing the same. It was one 
of the worst snow faces I ever found myself on, 
perhaps, under the conditions, the worst. The direc- 
tion in which we were travelling and the angle of 
the slope made the rope utterly useless. Close 
attention is very exhausting : much more exertion 
is required to walk ten steps, bestowing the utmost 
possible care on each movement, than to walk a 
hundred up or down a much steeper incline when 
the angle demands a more accustomed balance. 
Not for an instant might we relax our vigilance 
till, at 5.30 P.M., we reached once more the ridge 
close to the place where we had forced our way 
through the cornice in the morning. 

" We had little time to spare, and hurrying up to 
107 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

the point, looked anxiously down the snow wall. A 
glance was sufficient to show that the whole aspect 
of the snow had entirely altered since the morning. 
Burgener's expression changed suddenly, and a 
startled exclamation, which I trust was allowed to 
pass unrecorded, escaped from him. Andenmatten 
brought up some stones and rolled them down 
over the edge ; each missile carried down a broad 
hissing band of the encrusting snow which had 
given us foot-hold in the morning, and swept the 
ice-slope beneath as black and bare as a frozen 
pond ; here and there near rocks the stones stopped 
and sank deeply and gently into the soft, treacherous 
compound. The light had begun to fail, and snow 
was falling more heavily as we pressed on to try 
for some other line of descent. A hundred yards 
further along the ridge we looked over again; the 
condition of the snow was almost the same, but 
the wall was steeper, and looked at its very worst 
as seen through the mist. Some one now suggested 
that we might work to the north-west end of the 
ridge and make our way down to the pass by the 
ice-fall. We tramped on as hard as possible, only 
to find at the end of our journey that the whole 
mass seemed abruptly cut away far above the Adine 
Col, and no line of descent whatever was visible. 
We doubled back on our tracks till we came within 
a few yards of the summit of a small peak on the 

io8 



AN EXCITING CAUCASIAN ASCENT 

ridge, the height of which was probably not less 
than 15,000 feet. Already the cold was numbing 
and our wet clothes began to stiffen ; again we 
peered over the wall, but the rocks were glazed, 
snow-covered, and impossible. The leader stopped, 
looked right and left along the ridge, and said, ' I 
don't know what to do ! ' For the moment we 
seemed hopelessly entrapped ; the only conceivable 
place of shelter for the night was a patch of rocks 
close to the summit of the peak near at hand, and 
for these we made. It was an utter waste of time. 
Apart from sleeping, we could not have remained 
there an hour, for we met the full force of the wind, 
which by this time had risen considerably, and was 
whirling the driving snow into every crack and 
cranny. What might have begun as a temporary 
rest would infallibly have ended in a permanent 
occupation. Indeed, the cold would have been far 
too intense that night for us to have lived on any 
part of the bleak ridge. The situation was becoming 
desperate. 'We must get down off the ridge and 
out of the wind.' 'Ay,' said Burgener, 'we must, 
I know ; but where ? ' The circumstances did not 
call for reasonable answers, and so we said, * Any- 
where! To stay up here now means that we shall 
never get down at all.' Burgener looked up quickly 
as if to say no, but hesitated, and then muttered, 
'That is true. Then what will you do? There is 

109 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

no way down anywhere along the wall with the 
snow as it is now. There are great ice-slopes a 
little way down.' As he spoke he leant over and 
looked along the wall for confirmation of his 
opinions. A little way off a rib of rock, blacker 
than the rest, showed through the mist. We both 
saw it at the same time ; Burgener hesitated, looked 
at it again, and then facing round glanced at the 
prospect above. The wind was stronger and colder 
and the snow was driving more heavily. There 
was no room for doubt. We must put it to the 
touch and take the risk. We turned again, and in 
a few minutes had squeezed ourselves through the 
cornice, and were fairly launched on the descent. 

" We were now at a much higher level on the 
ridge than at the point we had struck in ascending. 
It was only possible to see a few yards down ; 
the rocks looked appallingly steep, glazed, and 
o-rizzly, and we knew not what we were coming 
to. But at any rate we were moving, and in a 
stiller atmosphere soon forgot the cold. We went 
fast, but only by means of doing all we knew, for 
the climbing was really difficult. It was a case of 
every man for himself, and every man for the rest 
of the party. Now was the time to utilise all that 
we had ever learned of mountain craft. Never 
before, speaking for myself only, have I felt so 
keenly the pleasure of being united to thoroughly 



AN EXCITING CAUCASIAN ASCENT 

trustworthy and good mountaineers ; it was like 
the rush of an eight-oar, where the sense of 
motion and the swish through the water alone are 
sufficient to make every member of the crew 
put all his strength into each stroke. The 
mind was too active to appreciate the pain of 
fatigue, and so we seemed strong again. Now on 
the rocks, which were loose and crumbly in parts, 
elsewhere big and glazed, now in deep snow, now 
on hard crusts, we fought our way down. So rapid 
was the descent that, when the opportunity offered, 
we looked anxiously through the mist in the hope 
of seeing the glacier beneath. Surely we had hit 
on a possible line of descent to the very bottom. 
But there was not a moment for the grateful repose 
so often engendered by enquiring minds on the 
mountains. We were racing against time, or at 
least against the malevolent powers of darkness. 
Down a narrow flat couloir of rock of no slight 
difficulty we seemed to go with perfect ease, but 
the rocks suddenly ceased and gave way to an ill- 
favoured snow-slope. The leader stopped abruptly 
and turned sharp to the right. A smooth ice-gully 
some 30 feet wide separated us from the next ridge 
of rock. The reason for the change of direction was 
evident enough when Burgener pointed it out. As 
long as the line of descent kept to the side that 
was more sheltered during the day from the sun, 

III 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

so long was the snow fairly good. Our leader 
judged quickly, and with the soundest reasoning, as 
it proved directly afterwards, that the line we had 
been following would infallibly lead, if pursued 
further, to snow as treacherous as that with which 
we were now so familiar. Across the ice-slope 
then we must cut, perhaps a dozen or fifteen steps. 
" The first two or three Burgener made vigorously 
enough, but when within lo or 15 feet of the 
rocks the extra effort told. He faltered suddenly ; 
his blow fell listlessly, and he leant against the 
slope, resting hands and head on his axe. ' I am 
almost exhausted,' he said faintly, as he turned 
round to us, while his quivering hands and white 
lips bore evidence to the severity of the exertion. 
So for a minute or two we stood in our tracks. 
A word of encouragement called up what seemed 
almost a last effort, some little notches were cut, 
and we gained the rocks again. A trickling stream 
of water was coursing down a slab of rock, and at 
this we gulped as eagerly as a fevered patient. 
Standing on the projecting buttress, we looked 
anxiously down, and caught sight at last of the 
glacier. It seemed close to us ; the first few steps 
showed that Burgener's judgment was right ; he 
had changed the line of descent at exactly the right 
moment, and at the best possible place. Down 

the last few hundred feet we were able to go as 

112 



AN EXCITING CAUCASIAN ASCENT 

fast as before. The level glacier beneath seemed 
in the darkness to rise up suddenly and meet us. 
We tumbled over the bergschrund, ran down a 
short slope on the farther side of it, and stood in 
safety on the glacier, saved by as fine a piece of 
guiding as I have ever seen in the mountains. We 
looked up at the slope. To our astonishment all 
was clear, and I daresay had been so for long. 
Above, in a blue-black frosty sky, the stars were 
winking merrily ; the mists had all vanished as by 
magic. No doubt the cold, which would have settled 
us had we stayed on the ridge, assisted us materially 
in the descent by improving the snow. 

" There seemed still just light enough to search 
for our tracks of the morning across the glacier, and 
we bore well to the right in the hope of crossing 
them. I fancy that the marks would have been 
really of little use, but, anyhow, we could not find 
them, and so made a wide sweep across the upper 
part of the snow basin. As a result we were soon 
in difficulty with the crevasses, and often enough 
it seemed probable that we should spend the rest 
of the night in wandering up and down searching 
for snow bridges. But we reached at last a patch 
of shale and rock, which we took to be the right 
bank of the little glacier we had crossed in 
the morning. Our clothes were wet, and the 
cold was becoming so sharp that it was wisely 
decided, against my advice, to push on if possible 

H 113 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

to the tent at once. For some three or four hours 
did we blunder and stumble over the moraine, 
experiencing not a few tolerably severe falls as we 
did so. Andenmatten selected his own line of 
descent, and in a few minutes we had entirely 
lost sight of him. It was too dark to find our 
way across the glacier, and we could only hope 
by following the loose stone ridge to make our 
way to the right place. So we stuck to the rocks, 
occasionally falling and nearly sticking on their detest- 
ably sharp points. Even a Caucasian moraine leads 
somewhere if you keep to it long enough, and as 
we turned a corner, the huge glimmering mass of 
Dych Tau, towering up in front, showed that the end 
of our journey was not far off. Presently the little 
white outline of the tent appeared, but we regarded 
it with apathy, and made no effort to quicken our 
movements, although the goal was in sight ; it 
seemed to require, in our semi-comatose condition, 
almost an effort to stop. As we threw open the 
door of the tent the welcome sight of divers packets, 
neatly arranged in a corner, met our gaze. The 
head policeman had proved himself an honour to 
his sex, an exception to his compatriots, and a 
credit to the force. There were bread, sugar, rice, 
meat, and firewood — yet we neither spoke nor were 
moved. Andenmatten spurned the parcels with his 
foot and revealed the lowermost. A scream of 
delight went up, for they had found a packet of 

114 



AN EXCITING CAUCASIAN ASCENT 

tobacco. The spell was broken, and once more all 
were radiant. Such is man. A strange compound 
— I refer to the tobacco — it proved to be, that would 
neither light nor smoke, and possessed as its sole 
property the power of violently disagreeing with the 
men. It was past midnight before the expedition was 
over. There were few preliminaries observed before 
going to bed. I don't think that even Donkin took 
more than a quarter of an hour in arranging a couch 
to his satisfaction, and placing a very diminutive 
air-cushion on anatomical principles in exactly the 
right place, while Andenmatten was fast asleep in 
two minutes, his head pillowed gently on some cold 
mutton, and his boots reposing under the small of 
his back. Something weighed on our minds as we 
too lay down and tried to sleep. The towering cone 
of Tetnuld, the distant view of Uschba, Elbruz, and 
the giant Dych Tau, the rock and snow-slopes, 
pictured themselves one after another as dissolving 
views on the white walls of the tent. The expedi- 
tion was over, but the pleasure and the impressions 
it had evoked were not. Faster and faster followed 
the visions as in delirium. I sat up, and in the 
excitement of the moment dealt a great blow at 
the nearest object, which, as it chanced, was Anden- 
matten's ribs. I shouted out to my companion. A 
muffled ' hulloa ' was the response, and he too rose 
up. 'What is it?' 'By Heavens! it is the finest 
climb we have ever made.' And so it was." 

"5 



CHAPTER VII 

A MELANCHOLY QUEST 

THE accident in the Caucasus in 1888, by which 
Messrs Donkin and Fox and their two Swiss 
guides lost their lives, was one of the saddest that 
has ever happened in the annals of mountaineering. 
I will not dwell on it, but will rather pass on to 
the search expedition, a short account of whose 
operations will serve to illustrate how a thorough 
knowledge of mountaineering may be utilised in 
finding a conjectured spot in an unmapped region 
in the snow world. 

The year after the accident — for the season when 
it occurred was too advanced for a thorough search 
to be then undertaken — a party of four Englishmen, 
Messrs Douglas Freshfield, Clinton Dent, Hermann 
Woolley, and Captain Powell, with Maurer of the 
Bernese Oberland as leading guide, set out from 
England to try and ascertain how the accident 
happened, and, if possible, recover the remains. 
They succeeded, in the course of a profoundly inter- 
esting journey, in finding the last camp of their 

116 



A MELANCHOLY QUEST 

friends, and from Mr Clinton Dent's fine description 
in The Alpine Journal I make, with his kind consent, 
the following extracts. They show how well the 
old school of climbers learnt all the routine of their 
art, and how superior is the trained mountaineer of 
any nationality to the inexperienced dweller amongst 
mountains, who is utterly unable to advance a single 
step upon them. 

Having journeyed to the district and got over all 
the easier ground at first met with, the party was 
now fairly embarked in the region of ice and snow. 

" The day was well advanced," writes Mr Dent, 
"and it is only on rare occasions in the Central 
Caucasus that the valleys and sky are free from 
cloud at such an hour. But not a vestige of mist 
was to be seen. The conditions were not merely of 
good omen, but were also in the hightest degree 
fortunate, for the object of our search seemed very 
minute in the presence of such gigantic surroundings. 
The air was clear and soft, and the snow in perfect 
order for walking. We worked our way due west, 
and gradually, as we turned the buttress of rock, a 
steep and broad ice -gully came into view, leading 
up to the pass. This consisted of a broad snow- 
topped depression, from 1500 to 1800 feet above the 
snow-field. On the right or east of the pass the 
ridge ran sharply up to the pinnacle already 
mentioned, while on the left the ridge, broken up 

"7 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

on its crest by great towers of rock, stretched away 
to the summit of Dych Tau, the peak of which from 
our point of view was not visible. A careful inspec- 
tion of the rocks with the telescope revealed nothing. 
A possible place for a bivouac might have been 
found at any point on the rocks below the pass, 
but no particularly likely spot was evident. It was 
conceivable too, of course, that the travellers had 
discovered a more suitable place on the UUu Auz 
side, close to the summit of the pass. In any case 
our plan of action was clear, and we set forth without 
delay to ascend the wall. Two long ribs of rock 
lying on the right of the ice-gully offered the best 
means of access. Both looked feasible, but it was 
only after a moment's hesitation that the left-hand 
one was selected, as it seemed more broken, was 
broader, and ran up higher. If the right-hand rib 
had been chosen, we might conceivably have missed 
the object of our search altogether. We made our 
way up the rocks without any great difficulty. 
Half-melted masses of snow constantly hissed down 
the ice-gully as we ascended, and the great chasm 
that extends along the base of the cliff was choked 
for the most part with avalanche snow. The rocks 
were steep, but so broken as to offer good hand- and 
foot-hold. Still, the mind was sufficiently occupied 
in attending to the details of climbing to prevent 
the thoughts from wandering. Insensibly, we began 

ii8 



A MELANCHOLY QUEST 

to think little save of the view that would be revealed 
from the top of the pass. From time to time an 
opportunity would be found of gazing to the right 
or left, but progress was tolerably continuous. 
Maurer, who was leading, looked upwards now and 
again, as he worked out the best line of ascent, but 
the rocks were so steep that he could only see a 
very few feet. Just about mid-day, as he stopped 
for a moment to look upwards, I saw his expression 
suddenly change. ' Herr Gott ! ' he gasped out, 
' der Schlafplatz ! ' ^ I think I shall never forget 
the thrill the words sent through me. We sprang 
up, scrambling over the few feet that still intervened, 
and in a moment were grouped on a little ledge just 
outside the bivouac. There was little enough to be 
seen at the first glance save a low horse-shoe shaped 
wall of stones, measuring some 6 feet by 8, and 
carefully built against an overhanging rock. The 
enclosure was full of drifted snow, raised up into a 
hump at the back, where it covered a large rucksack. 
On a ledge formed by one of the stones, a little tin 
snow spectacle-box caught the eye as it reflected 
the rays of the sun. For a few moments all was 
excitement as the presence of one object after 
another was revealed. 'See here,' cried Maurer, as 
he scooped away the snow with his hands, 'the 
sleeping - bags ! ' ' And here a riicksack,' said 
1 " Good God 1 The Sleeping-place ! " 
119 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

another. ' Look, they made a fire there,' called 
out a third, ' and here is the cooking kettle and the 
revolver.' Then came somewhat of a reaction, and 
for a few minutes we could but gaze silently at the 
place that told so clear a tale, and endeavour to realise 
to the full the evidence that had come upon us with 
such overwhelming suddenness. 

" It is most probable that the accident occurred on 
the south side of the cliffs forming the eastern ridge 
of Dych Tau. The party must have been roped at 
the moment, and it is very reasonable to suppose 
that they were engaged in traversing one of the 
many ice and snow covered slopes that exist on 
this side. What the exact nature of the accident 
was matters little ; but it may be remembered that 
the snow on such slopes and ledges often binds 
very lightly, and that there are no mountains, 
perhaps, where these places are more numerous or 
more treacherous than in the Caucasus. It was 
possibly one of those rare instances in which the 
rope was a source of danger and not of security to 
the party as a whole. Yet the rule is clear, and it 
amounts to this : if a place is too dangerous to cross 
with a party roped, lest the slip of one drag down 
all, then it is too dangerous to cross at all. So 
steep are the cliffs that a fall must have meant in- 
stantaneous death. As an example, a torn sleeping- 



A MELANCHOLY QUEST 

bag which was thrown over the bivouac wall fell to 
the very bottom of the slope, and we saw it just 
above the bergschrund as we descended. It was 
necessary to take down some of the articles dis- 
covered, for we might otherwise have found difficulty 
in convincing the natives of the success of the ex- 
pedition, and this was an important point. The 
height of the pass is 14,350 feet, and of the bivouac 
about 14,000 feet. We left the bivouac at 3.30 P.M., 
the day being still perfectly cloudless. The ice-fall 
offered some little difficulty, one or two of the 
bridges by which we had crossed in the morning 
having broken down. Still we were able to keep to 
almost the same line as that adopted in ascending. 

"No one familiar with the Caucasus would be 
willing to believe that any native could have reached 
the bivouac. The people are still very timorous on 
ice, and are wholly incapable of facing an ice-fall, 
much less of making any way through one. No 
native could have been got to the place even if in 
the train of competent mountaineers ; alone, he would 
not have set foot on the glacier at all. 

"A day or two later we made our way down to the 

collection of villages known as Balkar, a good three 

and a half hours' walk from Karaoul. The place is 

not well spoken of, but we were hospitably received 

and entertained. In this, as in many other villages 

121 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

subsequently, the story of our search excited much 
interest. On every occasion the proceedings were 
almost exactly identical. As usual in the Caucasus, 
the natives all crowded into our apartment soon 
after arrival. Powell would then select some 
Russian - speaking man in authority, and announce 
through him that the results of our expedition 
would be made known to all who cared to hear 
them. The whole story was then told, and admir- 
ably Powell used to narrate it, winding up by 
pointing out how the people of the district were 
now exonerated from any suspicion that may have 
lain on them. Such suspicion, he used to add, had 
never been entertained by any English people. The 
account was always listened to in breathless silence. 
At the conclusion it was repeated by the chief to 
the natives in their own language. Then the 
rucksack was brought in and the articles found 
shown. These were always instantly accepted as 
absolute proof; the rusty revolver especially excited 
attention. Expressions of sorrow and brief inter- 
jections were always heard on all sides. Then the 
chief spoke to some such effect as follows : ' We 
are indeed rejoiced that you have found these traces. 
It relieves our people from an irksome and unjust 
suspicion. It is well that Englishmen came to our 
country for this search, for we believe that no others 
could have accomplished what you have done. We 



A MELANCHOLY QUEST 

are all very grateful to you. Englishmen are always 
most welcome in our country. We are glad to 
receive them. Our houses are theirs, and the best 
we can do shall always be done for your country- 
men.' In several places — at Chegem, for instance 
— words were added to this effect : ' We remember 
well Donkin and Fox ; they were brave and good 
men, and we loved them. It is very sad to us to 
think that they are lost.'" 

A more detailed account of this melancholy quest 
will be found in Messrs Douglas Freshfield's and 
Vittorio Sella's v.'ork. The Exploration of the Caucasus. 
It is from this, the most beautifully illustrated of any 
book on mountaineering, that, with Mr Freshfield's 
kind permission and that of Mr Willink, I take the 
picture of the sleeping-place. The finished drawing 
was made by Mr Willink from a sketch by Captain 
Powell. 



123 



CHAPTER VIII 

SOME NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

P ROB ABLY not half the narrow escapes experi- 
enced by climbers are ever described, even in 
the pages of the various publications of English and 
foreign Alpine Clubs, though when an accident by 
the breaking of a snow-cornice is just avoided, the 
incident is so terribly impressive that several accounts 
have found their way into print. Scarcely anything 
more startling than a certain occurrence on a ridge 
of the Monch, which happened to the late Mr Moore 
and his two guides, Melchior and Jacob Anderegg, 
has ever been related. The party had succeeded in 
making the ascent of the Monch from the Wengern 
Alp, it being only the third occasion when this long 
and difficult climb was accomplished, each of their 
predecessors spending three days and three flights on 
the expedition. 

Having gained the summit, the party proceeded 
to go down by the usual route towards the Trugberg. 
This follows a very narrow arete. " On the left hand," 

says Mr Moore in The Alpine Journal, " is an absolute 

124 




Melchior Anueregg, ok Meiringen. 




A SON AND A GRANDCHILD OF MeLCHIOK AnDEREGG, I903 



To face i,. 124. 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

precipice ; on the right a slope, which might be called 
precipitous, falls to the Aletsch Glacier, The quantity 
of snow on the ridge was enormous, and the sun had 
begun to tell upon it. We knew too much to attempt 
to approach the upper edge, and kept at a distance 
of some 12 feet below it on the Aletsch side; 
lower down we dared not go, owing to the steepness 
of the slope and the danger of starting an avalanche. 
With Melchior in front it is unnecessary to say that 
we moved with the greatest caution. No man is 
more alive than he to the danger arising from a snow- 
cornice. He sounded with his axe at every step, and 
we went steadily along, anxious, but with every 
reason to believe that we were giving the cornice a 
wide berth. Suddenly came a startling cry from 
Melchior. At the same instant I felt myself stagger, 
and, instinctively swinging ever so slightly to the 
right, found myself the next moment sitting astride 
on the ridge. With a thundering roar the cornice on 
our left for a distance of some 200 yards went 
crashing down to the depths below, sending up 
clouds of snow-dust which completely concealed my 
companions from me. It was only by the absence 
of all strain on the rope that I knew — though at the 
moment I scarcely realised the fact — that they were, 
like myself, safe. As the dust cleared off, Melchior, 
also sitting astride of the ridge, turned towards me, 
his face white as the snow which covered us. That 

135 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

it was no personal fear which had blanched our 
leader's sunburnt cheeks his first words, when he 
could find utterance, showed. * God be thanked ! ' 
said he ; ' I never thought to see either of you there.' 
We had, in fact, escaped destruction by a hand's- 
breadth. As I believe, our right feet had been on 
the ridge, our left on the cornice ; we had thus just 
sufficient firm standing-ground to enable us to make 
that instinctive movement to the right which had 
landed us a cheval, for Jacob had fallen in the same 
position as Melchior and myself. Few words were 
said ; but words poorly express the emotions at such 
a moment. Melchior's axe had been carried down 
with the cornice as it fell, but had fortunately lodged 
on the face of the precipice 50 feet below. It was 
too precious to leave behind, so we let him down by 
the rope, and descending in a cat-like way peculiar 
to first-class guides when not hampered by Herrshaft, 
he regained it without difficulty. 

" Our further descent was uneventful." 
One of the greatest dangers of mountaineering is 
from falling stones, yet the number of fatal accidents 
from this cause is as few as the narrow escapes are 
many. As exciting an experience as can well be 
imagined took place on the Aiguille du Midi at 
Chamonix in 1871. The party consisted of Messrs 
Horace Walker and G. E. Foster. The latter wrote 
a graphic account in The Alpine Journal, and kindly 

126 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

allows me to make the following extracts. The 

guides were Jacob Anderegg and Hans Baumann, 

and the climbers wished to ascend from the 

Montanvert and be the first to go down the steep 

face of the mountain on the Chamonix side. 

After some difficulty in finding the route, for both 

the guides were unacquainted with the district, and 

Mr Walker alone knew in a vague sort of way that 

the peak was somewhere in the neighbourhood of 

the G^ant ice-fall, they eventually stood on the top. 

It had taken them ten hours, and they sat for some 

time on the more sheltered Chamonix side, debating 

by what route they should descend. The slopes 

below were very steep, so they decided to retrace 

their steps to the foot of the rocks, and then, turning 

over on to the Chamonix side of the mountain, 

make their way as best they could down ice-filled 

gullies and precipitous rocks. All at first went 

well, and soon they commenced to cross the face 

of the cliff to gain a rocky buttress that offered a 

likely route some hundred feet below the top of 

the wall. "Jacob was leading," writes Mr Foster, 

"Walker next, I followed, and Baumann brought 

up the rear. Only one was moving at a time, and 

every one had the rope as taut as possible between 

himself and his neighbour. Jacob was crossing a 

narrow gully, when suddenly, without any warning, 

as though he had trod on the keystone of the wall, 

137 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

the whole face for some 30 or 40 feet above him 

peeled off, and with a crash like thunder, hundreds 

of tons of rocks precipitated themselves on him. 

In an instant he was torn from his hold, and hurled 

down the precipice with them. Fortunately, Walker 

was able to hold on, though the strain on him was 

something awful. As the uproar ceased, and silence 

even more impressive succeeded, we looked in one 

another's faces with blank dismay. From our 

position it was impossible to see what had become 

of Jacob, and only the tight rope told us that his 

body at least, living or dead, was still fastened to us. 

In a voice singularly unlike his own, Walker at 

length cried out, ' Jacob,' and our hearts sank within 

us as it passed without response. ' Jacob ! Ach 

Jacob ! ' V^alker repeated ; and I trust none of my 

readers may ever know the relief we felt when the 

reply came back, ' Ich lebe noch.' ^ 

" From where I was I could not see him, but Walker 

craned over a rock, and then turned round. ' I see 

him. He is awfully hurt, and bleeding frightfully.' 

I then contrived to shift my position, and saw that 

he was indeed hurt. His face was black with blood 

and dirt, the skin torn from his bleeding hands, while 

his clothes in ribands threatened worse injuries still 

unseen. After a moment, he managed to recover his 

footing, and then untied the rope with trembling 

^ " I am still living." 
128 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

fingers, and crawled along the face of the cliff to 
the other side of the gully, where some snow offered 
means to stanch his wounds. 

" As soon as he was safe, Baumann called on us 
to stand still, and clambered carefully over the spot 
where the rocks had given way, our only road lying 
there. I followed, and then Walker, knotting up 
the rope to which Jacob had hung, crossed last 
With Jacob below us, care was necessary in climbing 
so as to send no more loose fragments on his head, 
but we at last reached the spot where he was stand- 
ing. Thanks to the snow, the bleeding had already 
stopped to a great extent, and with the aid of some 
sticking-plaster Walker had with him, and some torn 
strips from a pocket-handkerchief, we bound up 
his wounds as well as we could. He had had a 
marvellous escape ; no fragment had struck him 
fully, the rock that had grazed his face having 
missed knocking out his brains from his presence 
of mind in throwing back his head. Fortunately, 
no bones were broken, though he was badly bruised 
all over, and after a quarter of an hour's rest and a 
good pull at the brandy-flask, he said he was ready 
to start again. 

" On taking hold of the rope to tie him on again, 

we were awestruck to find all its strands but one 

had been severed, so that his w^hole weight had hung 

literally on a thread. Strange as it may appear, the 

I 129 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

rock that had done this had probably saved his life 
by jerking him out of the line of fire. Still, all 
honour to Messrs Buckingham for their good work- 
manship, to which, and Walker's holding powers, 
we owe our escape from a miserable ending of our 
day's work. As it was, poor Walker's ribs had 
suffered sadly, and with two wounded men we re- 
commenced our descent. 

" Naturally, our trust in the rocks was gone, and 
we took as soon as possible to the steep snow of the 
couloir. This, however, lay so thin on the ice, that 
we found we had only exchanged one danger for 
another. Baumann led and we followed, driving in 
our axe-heads at every step, but were soon forced to 
descend into a narrow gully, cut by avalanches, where 
the snow was deep enough to give better footing. 
The sides of this were above our heads, and the 
bottom not more than a foot wide, so that the danger 
from avalanches was very great, but for a time we 
descended safely. Then a startled shout from 
Walker warned me that something was wrong, and 
driving my axe desperately into the side, I found 
myself up to the neck in a snow avalanche. For a 
moment I thought all was up, but held on to the 
best of my powers. Then finding the stream did 
not stop, I looked back, and found Walker and Jacob 
had contrived to get out of the gully. With a shout 

to Baumann, I gave a desperate struggle, and followed 

130 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

their example, and instantly saw the snow I had 
held up surge over Baumann's head. For a moment 
he held on, then climbed out on my side. We waited 
till the avalanche had passed, two of us on one side of 
the gully and two on the other, and then Walker 
and Jacob jumped into it with a groan, as it shook 
their bruised bones, and climbed up to our side, and 
with an occasional look for Baumann's hat, which 
the avalanche had carried off with it, pursued our 
way. 

"So long and steep was the couloir, so thin and 
treacherous the snow layer on the ice, that a good 
hour elapsed before we reached the bottom, where 
a formidable bergschrund cut off access to the 
glacier. Only at one point could we find a bridge, 
and that was where our old enemy, the avalanche 
gully, terminated, choking the crevasse with its 
snows, and spreading in a fan-like mass below. 
With some hesitation, as our recollection of it was 
not pleasant, and it was here all hard ice, Baumann 
cut his way down into it. We were scarcely all 
fairly in it, when we heard a tremendous crash 
above. Clearly, another avalanche was descending, 
this time composed of rocks. As it was 2000 feet 
above us, and would take some time to clear the 
distance, a short race for life ensued. Baumann cut 
steps with amazing rapidity. Fortunately, some 
half dozen only were necessary. With one eye on 

131 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

him and one keeping a sharp look-out for the advent 
of the unwelcome stranger, we hastened down, 
crossed the bridge, scampered down a slope, and 
merely stooping down to pick up Baumann's hat, 
which turned up here, got out of the way just in 
time, as an enormous mass of snow and rocks dashed 
over where we had stood not a minute before." 

This was the last adventure the party had that 
day from avalanches, but their troubles were as yet 
by no means over. Some formidable glacier work 
had to be accomplished before all was plain sailing. 
"Though we were now tolerably reckless, the diffi- 
culties in our way nearly beat us," Mr Foster 
goes on to say. " Three times we tried, and thrice 
in vain, though knife edges of the most revolting 
description were passed, and crevasses of fabulous 
width and depth jumped or got over as seemed 
best. Again and again we were forced to return. 
At length, when we were almost in despair, a way 
was found, and at 6.30, drenched by the storm 
which by this time had burst upon us, we reached 
the little hotel at the Pierrepointue." 

There are no climbing dangers which skill and 
care can more surely avert than those which are 
ever present on a crevassed, but snow-covered 
glacier. 

Should a party fail to arrest the fall of one of 
its members, and have difficulty in pulling him 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

above ground, however, the position may become 
most serious. If another party is within hail, 
matters are generally simple enough, yet even for 
four or five people it is not always the easiest 
thing in the world to haul up a companion who 
has disappeared into the bowels of the earth, especi- 
ally if the folly of walking unroped has been in- 
dulged in. 

A good description of what might have been a 
serious business but for the skill and resource of a 
member of the party is given in the course of a 
description of some climbs in the Rocky Mountains. 
The writer, Mr Harold B. Dixon, says in The Alpine 
Journal: " A snow-covered crevasse crossed our route 
at right angles. The party in front, who were with- 
out ropes, saw the crevasse, and proceeded to leap 
it. All crossed in safety but the last man, who 
broke through the snow and disappeared. Through 
the hole the wide mouth of the crevasse was revealed, 
showing the danger of trusting to the frail bridge. 
It was obviously dangerous to recross without a 
rope, so his companions signalled to us for help, 
but for some time we failed to observe their signals. 

"Though stunned by the fall our friend was not 
materially damaged, but he was in a sufficiently 
awkward fix. Jammed between the narrowing 
walls of ice, he was unable to move a limb except 
his right arm. The crevasse did not drop perpendi- 

133 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

cularly, but the ice-wall bulged out from the side 
we stood on, and then curved over out of sight; 
we could not see down more than i8 feet. We stood 
in a little semicircle at the hole, and one short 
sentence was spoken : ' Some one must go down.' 
We looked at each other. Sahrbach and Baker are 
large and heavy men : it was obvious they must 
' pass,' I am of lighter build ; I proclaimed my 
II stone and readiness to go. But Collie went 
better. ' I am 9 stone 6,' was his deliberate state- 
ment. There was no means of seeing if this was a 
bluff, so we threw up our hands — the trick was his. 
Tying a stirrup loop for one foot and a noose round 
his waist, Collie attached himself to one rope, which 
was then joined to a second. Meanwhile the 
Americans were brought across the crevasse by the 
aid of another rope, and axes were fixed deep in 
the snow in suitable positions to fasten the rope to. 
Then we let Collie down as far as he would go. 
An anxious moment followed. ' I can't reach him,' 
came Collie's voice from below. Then, after a few 
minutes, ' Send down a slip knot on the other rope.' 
We made the knot and lowered the rope. How 
Collie managed it I don't know, for he could not 
reach his man, but he threw the loop round the 
prisoner's right arm, and then called on us to pull. 
At the second haul we felt something give, and our 
friend was pulled into an upright position, when 

134 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

Collie could just reach him with his left hand, and 
with this he tied a knot above the elbow of his right 
arm. By this knot we hauled him out of the narrow 
crevasse and on to the bulge of ice without difficulty. 
But as we pulled the rope cut into the snow, and 
we could not raise our burden within 6 feet of the 
surface. Then, while the rope was held taut, one 
of us worked the handle of an axe along under the 
rope by sitting on the snow and pushing it forward 
with his feet. In this way the rope was loosened, 
and we could haul up another 3 feet, and then 
Sahrbach, leaning over, reached his collar, and our 
half-frozen friend was deposited on the snow with 
an assortment of flasks, while we fished out Collie 
from his uncomfortable position. They were both 
very wet and cold, but no bones were broken." 

Here we see that even with a large party of 
competent people, it was no easy matter to rescue 
a comrade from his icy prison. The details are well 
given, and may be useful to any one so unfortunate 
as to require by personal experience a knowledge 
of what should be done under similar circum- 
stances. 

The danger of crossing snow-covered glaciers when 
the party does not number more than two was 
brought home to those who heard of it by one of 
the most tragical events which has ever been 
recorded in the annals of mountaineering. A 

135 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

German, Dr Schafifer, had been celebrating his 
golden wedding at a small place on the Brenner 
on 22nd August 1900. He engaged a guide, by 
name Johann Offerer, and, sleeping at a hut, started 
early next morning. They reached the Wildlahner 
Glacier in an hour and a half from their sleeping 
quarters, and after traversing it for some distance 
came to a large crevasse. This the guide crossed 
safely on a snow bridge, but the tourist, a much 
heavier man, broke through, and pulled his com- 
panion down with him. They fell about 100 feet, 
with the result that the guide had a broken thigh 
and arm, while Dr Schaffer only bruised his knee. 
He put his coat round Offerer and left food beside 
him, and then tried to get out of the crevasse. After 
hours of toil and pain he managed to reach a ledge not 
very far below the mouth of the crevasse, but further 
he could not get. At last he gave up all hope, and 
sat down to die, first, however, writing a full account 
of the accident, and leaving a sum of money for the 
widow of his guide. It is to this pathetic last effort 
of his life that we owe our knowledge of what 
happened. The only other instance at all like it is 
the terrible accident on Mont Blanc in 1870, when 
eleven persons perished in a snow-storm, one of their 
number, Mr Bean, leaving details in his diary of the 
events immediately preceding the catastrophe. 

It was only on 5th September, after a long search, 
136 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

that the remains of the two unfortunate men were 
discovered. 

The following is of special interest, because, of late 
years, the Norwegian sport of ski-ing has become 
exceedingly popular in Alpine winter resorts. It is 
impossible, however, owing to the great length of the 
ski, to go in difficult places on them, and therefore 
mountaineers have only used them when intending to 
ascend to points accessible entirely over snow-slopes, 
not much broken up by crevasses. The first fatal 
accident to a climbing party on ski took place in 
1902, and may serve as a warning to those intending 
to traverse glaciers in winter on skis, or indeed even 
without them. I take my account from a translation 
from the Italian, which appeared in The Alpine 
Journal. The comments by the editor should be laid 
to heart. 

" A party of five gentlemen and four Zermatt guides 
left Zermatt on 24th February for the Betemps Hut, 
with the intention of ascending the Signalkuppe and 
the Zumstein, via the Grenz Glacier and the Capanna 
Margherita. 

"The 25th was spent in ski practice in the neigh- 
bourhood of the hut. On the 26th the whole party, 
with the exception of one guide who had brought 
a defective pair of skis, left the hut at 3.30 A.M. in 
weather marked by no adverse conditions of any 
kind. The Grenz Glacier was reached somewhat 

137 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

west of the point marked 3344 metres on the 
Siegfried map. The party unroped, proceeded 
upwards on their skis towards the point marked 
3496 metres, the surface of the glacier, covered 
with deep snow, showing no crevasses nor the 
indications of any. About midway between 3300 
metres and the point 3344 metres the caravan found 
itself on a gentle slope, when a muffled crack was 
heard, and Herr Koenig, Herr Flender, and one of 
the guides, Hermann Perren, were seen to sink almost 
simultaneously into a concealed crevasse about 6 
feet in width, which ran in a direction parallel with 
the glacier, carrying with them a mass of snow about 
65 feet in length and over 14 feet in thickness. 
Obviously, no amount of probing would have indicated 
the presence of the crevasse, and thus by an un- 
fortunate coincidence the three men were standing at 
the same time over the hidden abyss without knowing 
it. One of the other guides was instantly lowered into 
the crevasse by the only available rope (the other being 
on Herr Flender's back), which proved to be just too 
short to reach Hermann Perren, who had fallen about 
90 feet, and was standing upright against the side of 
the crevasse, held fast in a mass of snow which had 
left his head and one arm free. Two of the party 
hurried down to fetch another rope, from the B^temps 
Hut. In the meanwhile Perren had managed, after a 
struggle of two and a half hours, almost to set himself 

138 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

free, and was eventually drawn out safely, practically 
uninjured, save a slightly frost-bitten hand. The 
dead body of Herr Flender, found with his neck 
broken, partially covered with some 2 feet of hard 
snow, was then extricated, but in spite of persistent 
efforts the body of Herr Koenig was not recovered 
until the next day, when he was found lying face 
downwards under a mass of compact snow over lo 
feet thick. Death in his case was instantaneous, 
caused by suffocation, the body bearing no signs 
whatever of external injury. Herr Koenig was laid 
to rest in the English cemetery at Zermatt, while the 
body of Herr Flender was conveyed by his relatives to 
its last resting-place at Diisseldorf This is, we think, 
the first fatal accident which has occurred to a party 
of climbers on skis bound on a serious climbing 
expedition. The party on this occasion cannot with 
justice be accused of recklessness, for the apparent 
neglect of the usual precaution of putting on the 
rope on a snow-covered glacier will not be mis- 
understood by those accustomed to the use of 
skis, who will readily understand that the rope is 
practically impossible, and even dangerous, for a 
party on skis. 

" A remarkable feature of the accident was the 
thickness of the mass of snow which gave way 
under the three men, and demonstrates the extreme 
insecurity of winter snow on a crevassed glacier. It 

139 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

is possible that the three men were perhaps too 
close to each other at the time of the accident. 

" It is evident that winter climbers who wish to use 
skis must carry their lives in their own hands, and 
perhaps the safer plan for future expeditions of this 
kind will be to make the ascent roped in the usual 
way on snow racquettes carrying the skis on the 
back. On the descent the risk of breaking through 
the snow covering during the rapid progress on 
skis would of course be very much less than on the 
ascent." 

One of the most fruitful causes of accidents on 
mountains is the underrating of difficulties by 
ignorant persons who, having been hauled up and 
let down precipices by a couple of sturdy guides in 
fine weather, proceed to inform their friends and 
acquaintances that " Nowadays the Matterhorn is 
mere child's play, don't cher know." 

A sorry tale is told by the famous climber, Mr 
Cecil Slingsby, who, himself accustomed to under- 
take the hardest climbs without guides, would be 
the first to discourage imitation in any unfit to 
follow in his steps. 

Writing of Skagastoldstind, in Norway, of which 
he made the first ascent, and which is still considered 
the most difficult of the fashionable climbs in that 
country, he says in The Alpine Journal : 

"In i8So a young tourist, son of a rich banker, 
140 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

whom I will call Nils, desirous of emulating our 
exploits, attempted the mountain, and with the 
assistance of two good climbers, who shoved and 
hauled him up the rocks, succeeded in reaching 
the summit. Unfortunately, he afte/wards wrote a 
pamphlet of sixty-six pages about the mountain, in 
which he underrated its difficulties. This pamphlet, 
I unhesitatingly assert, has been the main cause of a 
terrible tragedy which took place on Skagastoldstind. 
It was in this manner. At one of the series of huts 
built by the tourist club a young man, named 
Tonsberg, who had been partially deranged, was 
staying with his wife, and was deriving much benefit 
from the mountain air. Here he read this pamphlet, 
and inferred that though Skagastoldstind was un- 
doubtedly a very fine mountain, yet the difficulties 
of its ascent had been much exaggerated, and that 
any one might make it. Upon this he set off with 
a lad seventeen years of age, at 9.30 P.M., in vile 
weather ; walked through the night (in the middle 
of summer it is never dark), and reached a saetor 
(or chalet) at 3 A.M. ; here they found Peter, one of 
Nils' guides, who refused to have anything more to 
do with the mountain. At last, by means of bribes, 
and by promising to turn back at once if the 
mountain should prove impracticable, Peter was 
persuaded to go forward ; and at 6 o'clock they 
sallied out into the wet. Wind and snow soon 

141 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

assailed them, but Tonsberg would persist in his 
rash work. At ii they reached the actual base of 
the peak, 4100 feet below the top. The lad was 
frost-bitten and could go no further ; neither could 
Peter. They tried to tie the man with ropes, but 
he was too strong for them, and used his alpenstock 
against them, and it was no good. Soon afterwards 
he left them in the mist, and in twenty strides was 
out of sight. A month or five weeks after this his 
remains were found in a deep chasm between a 
glacier and the rocks, amidst crags at least 2000 
feet higher up on the mountain. I may add that the 
valley Midt Maradal, out of which Skagastoldstind 
rises, is so difficult to approach, that though it 
contains rich pasturage at its lower end — a mine 
of wealth in Norway — its owner, a man of forty-five 
years, who has overlooked it hundreds of times and 
lives within three miles of it as the crow flies, had 
never been in it when I saw him last, and has asked 
me several times to guide him into it." 

Referring to an expedition from Mouvoison, 
which began, as do most climbs, over grass slopes, 
Mr Clinton Dent remarks in Above the Snow Line : 

" One ascent over a grass slope is very much 
like another, and description in detail would be as 
wearisome as the slopes themselves often prove. 
Yet it is worthy of notice that there is an art to 
be acquired even in climbing grass slopes. We 

142 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

had more than one opportunity on the present 
occasion of seeing that persons look supremely 
ridiculous if they stumble about, and we noticed 
also that, like a bowler when he has delivered a 
long hop to the off for the third time in one over, 
the stumbler invariably inspects the nails in his 
boots, a proceeding which deceives no one. It is 
quite easy to judge of a man's real mountaineer- 
ing capacity by the way in which he attacks a 
steep grass slope. The unskilful person, who 
fancies himself perfectly at home among the in- 
tricacies of an ice-fall, wall often candidly admit 
that he never can walk with well-balanced equi- 
librium on grass, a form of vegetable which it 
might be thought in many instances of self-sufficient 
mountaineers, would naturally suit them. There is 
often real danger in such places, and not in- 
frequently the wise man will demand the use of 
the rope, especially when there are any tired 
members among the party. There is no better 
way of learning how to preserve a proper balance 
on a slope than by practising on declivities of 
moderate steepness, and it is astonishing to find 
how often those who think they have little to learn, 
or, still worse, that there is nothing to learn, will 
find themselves in difficulties on a mountain-side, 
and forced to realise that they have got them- 
selves into a rather humiliating position. We may 

143 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

have seen, before now, all of us, distinguished 
cragsmen to whom an ascent of the Weisshorn or 
Matterhorn was but a mere stroll, utterly pounded 
in botanical expeditions after Edelweiss, and com- 
pelled to regain a position of security by very 
ungraceful sprawls, or, worse still, have to resort 
to the unpardonable alternative of asking for 
assistance," 

The following accounts of adventures on grass 
slopes, taken from The Alpine Journal, may serve 
to bear out the truth of Mr Dent's remarks : 

"On Monday, 31st August, Mr J. F. C. Devas, 
aged 26, accompanied by a friend, Mr A. G. 
Ferard, proceeded after lunch to take a stroll from 
the Riffel-Haus towards the Corner Glacier by 
the Theodule path. Before reaching the glacier 
they returned, Mr Ferard by the ordinary route. 
Mr Devas, leaving the path to the left, attempted 
a short cut by climbing some wet and slippery 
rocks leading to a grass slope above. He reached 
a difficult place, immediately below the slope, 
beyond which he was unable to go. Mr Ferard 
made his way as speedily as possible to the grass 
slope and to within a few yards of his friend. 
While Mr Ferard was endeavouring to render 
assistance, Mr Devas, in trying to pull himself up, 
lost his footing and slid down about 70 feet to a 
ledge covered with turf, which it might have been 

144 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

hoped would have arrested his fall. Unfortunately, 
the impetus was sufficient to carry him over the 
ledge to a further distance of about 70 feet below. 
His friend hastened to the Riffel-Haus for assist- 
ance, and a number of guides and porters, accom- 
panied by Mr Ferard and a French gentleman, 
hurried to the scene of the accident. Mr Devas, 
who had sustained a severe fracture of the skull, 
was brought back to the Riffel-Haus about 5 P.M., 
where he received the most unremitting care from 
M. Seiler's staff of servants. He was unconscious 
from the moment of the accident till he died at 
noon of the following day." 

Another writer gives an account of an adventure 
on a grass slope which, happily, had a less serious 
ending. He also attempted to make a short cut. 

" I entangled myself in an adventure which, as 
nearly as possible, ended in a catastrophe. Not 
caring to turn back, I followed a track past the 
chalets of Cavrera, in hope of being able to find a 
direct ascent over the steep lower ground that en- 
closed the head of the valley. It seemed as I advanced 
that among the ledges of rock and grass at the left- 
hand corner there would be access to the path 
above. A dubious and attenuated track which led 
me up in this direction after giving evidence of 
design in a few steps notched in the great gneiss 
slabs, vanished, leaving me to choose between the 

K 145 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

slabs which sloped up in front and a line of juniper 
bushes on the left of them. As the slabs at this 
spot could be walked upon, and higher up seemed 
to ease off again, I kept to the rocks without 
investigating the juniper belt. But walking ex- 
changed itself for climbing, and I continued to 
ascend under the impression that I should shortly 
gain the inclination above. I came to a spot where 
I had to raise myself on to a small rounded knob of 
rock with a slight effort, there being no hand-hold 
above. From this vantage-ground I was able to 
repeat the process, still buoyed up with the belief 
that the easy part would be reached above, and to 
hoist myself on to the only remaining hold in the 
neighbourhood— a strong tuft of grass in a sort of 
half corner in the slabs — which supported one foot 
well, but one foot only, I now found I could go 
no further. The strata inclined downwards, so that 
the smooth and crackless slabs overlay one another 
like the slates on a house-roof, and there was no 
more hold for hand or foot apparent, while the slabs 
were far too steep for unsupported progression. 
The next discovery was a much more alarming one ; 
I looked below, wondered why on earth I had come 
up such a place, and saw at a glance that I could 
not get down again. If I fell, moreover, it would 
not be by the line of my ascent, but down steeper 
rocks and to a lower depth. Generally in a dilemma 

146 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

in climbing there is a sort of instinctive feeling that 
an escape will be made at last, but now, for the first 
time, I was seized with a sentiment akin to despair. 
One chance only remained, and that was to take off 
my boots and stockings and try the slabs above. 

" The stories of extraordinary predicaments in the 
Alps one is apt to receive with some incredulity. I 
never altogether accepted the tale of the chamois- 
hunter's gashing his feet, and, needless to say, it did 
not occur to me to imitate him in this particular. 
For the rest, I can only promise the literal narration 
of circumstances as they presented themselves to vie 
at the time. It is, indeed, sufficiently sensational 
without exaggeration. Well, it appeared at first 
impossible to take my boots off; I was facing the 
rocks with one toe on the turf, and the necessary 
manipulation could not be accomplished. What was 
to be done? This was, perhaps, the worst moment 
of the whole, as far as sensation went. However, 
by turning round, and planting my heel on the tuft 
and my back on the rock, I found myself in a secure 
and tolerably comfortable position. I now set to 
work and slung my boots separately round my neck 
as I took them off, pocketing the socks. All was 
done with deliberation ; the laces were as usual 
untied with the button-hook in my cherished knife, 
and the latter was carefully returned to my pocket 
with the thought that if it went down it should be 

147 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

in my company. Meantime the necessary rigidity 
of position had to be preserved ; there was only room 
in the turf for one heel, and for the point of my 
ice-axe, for which there was no other possible 
resting-place. Its preservation, indeed, that day 
was wonderful ; at one time I felt a momentary 
temptation to throw it down in order to better the 
hold with the hand, but this would not bear a second 
thought. 

" I now lost no time in placing myself on the 
slabs. I found that I dare not move on them in an 
upright position, and had to seek support with both 
hands. My condition was not an enviable one, and 
in no direction could an effort to proceed be made 
without danger. The situation was as follows : If 
I could manage to advance in front, I should, 
eventually, reach the more easily inclined slabs, on 
which I could walk ; but then it was some way. 
If I could cross the much shorter interval (some 
15 feet) to the right, I should reach a grass 
band below the rocks at the side ; but then there 
intervened a broad, black, glistening streak, where 
waters oozed down and where to tread was fatal. 
Suddenly, without any warning, I found myself 
going down. I remember no slip, but rather that 
it was as if all hold gave way at once under the 
too potent force of gravity. Anyhow I was sliding 
down the rocks, and that helplessly I made, I 

148 





'I'lie balloon '' Stella " getting ready to start from 

Zermatt for the first balloon passage of the Alps, 

September, 1903. 

(P. 301.) 



A bivouac in the Alps in the olden days. 
By the late .Mr. \V. F. Donkin. 





Boulder practice on an off day. 
To face p. US. 



The last rocks on the descent. 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

believe, little or no attempt to obtain fresh hold ; 
I simply remained rigid in the position in which I 
was, waiting for the fatal momentum to come which 
should dash me below. The instants passed, and 
at each I expected the momentum to begin. I felt 
quite a surprise when, instead, the sliding mass 
slowly pulled up and came to a stoppage. The 
scales of fate had been most delicately balanced, 
and a hair's weight in the right one decided that 
this paper should be written. Had I floundered, like 
a non-swimmer out of his depth, I must have gone 
down ; but the first moments of despondency past 
the opening for action had once for all brought with 
it that species of mechanical coolness which is the 
happy concomitant of so many forms of habitual 
physical occupation. 

"If it be asked, what were my thoughts when I 
was going down, I can only reply that they chiefly 
amounted to a sort of dull feeling that I was 
actually in for a fall, being concentrated on waiting 
for its inevitable commencement ; and that there 
was no such terror or disagreeable realisation of 
the situation as people are apt to assign to such 
moments. Such realisations exist most deeply in 
the imaginations of the non-combatants outside the 
fray. During the whole affair my attention was 
mainly directed to the physical combating with 

difficulties, and the passing reflections were partly 

149 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

indifferent, partly frivolous. A sort of acceptance 
of the position, indeed, possessed me, which almost 
amounted to a melancholy complacency, and, at 
most, perhaps, the customary ' When I get out of 
this' was changed as fast as it rose up in my 
imagination into a sadder ' If even' It was the 
feeling of the gamester or the soldier surprised at 
last by adverse odds, intent on his craft as at other 
times, but with a new and melancholy consciousness. 
" My first thought when I came to a standstill — I 
cannot have gone more than a couple of feet at 
most — was what I could do even then, with no 
more hold than before? But I placed myself again 
in my old position on the tuft ; and reflecting that 
if I had been intended to go down I should have 
gone then, and almost feeling as if, having escaped 
that extremity of risk, I had a sort of security for 
the rest, I resolved without further hesitation to 
make a determined effort. I once more raised 
myself on my feet and decided to make a push 
across the slabs to the grass belt at all hazards ; 
possibly, in case of slipping on the way, I might 
be able to make a desperate sort of rush for it. 
I now found two unevennesses in succession, which 
would allow the side of the foot to rest in them 
with some chance of staying, while I moved my 
body along, there being at no time hold for the 
hand. The second of these slight hollows was 

ISO 



NARROW ESCAPES AND FATAL ACCIDENTS 

fortunately in the dread bank of moisture itself. 
Below, the rocks shelved away to a steep fall ; in 
front, the grass tufts smiled on me nearer and 
nearer. While I was feeling along the slabs with 
the hand that held my ice-axe, the latter by chance 
fixed itself in a cavity that would otherwise have 
escaped my notice. It was just about the size and 
depth of a half-crown, and could not have been 
caught by the fingers, but the rigid iron stuck in 
it. This was perhaps the first bit of direct hold I 
had. A yard further on was another of the same 
size. But now I had passed the wet rock and was 
nearing the grass, and carefully launching my ice- 
axe, so as not to disturb my balance, I hooked it 
in the grass, and in another moment had reached 
its hospitable tufts. Creeping up the side, I at last 
found terra firma!* 



iSi 



CHAPTER IX 

A NIGHT ADVENTURE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

lyrR CECIL SLINGSBY has kindly allowed me 
to extract the following admirable account 
of a guideless ascent with two friends of the Dent 
Blanche. It will be noticed that during a very cold 
night they "avoided" their "brandy-flask like 
poison." When a climber is exhausted and help is 
near a flask of brandy is invaluable, but when a party 
has to spend a bitterly cold night in the open, it is 
madness to touch spirits at all. The effect of a 
stimulant is to quicken the action of the heart and 
drive the blood with increased rapidity to the surface. 
Here it is continually cooled, and before long the 
heart finds it has to work double hard to keep up the 
circulation. Therefore to take brandy in order to 
resist the cold for hours together is like stirring up a 
cup of hot fluid, whereby fresh surfaces are continually 
brought in contact with the air and cooled with far 
greater rapidity than if left quiet. The best com- 
panion a climber can have during a night out above 
the snow-line is a small spirit-lamp. With this he 

i5« 











iM 


^H 


M 




m 




H 


w§ 



NIGHT ADVENTURE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

can amuse and fortify himself at intervals, melting 
snow and making tea or soup, which will be of real 
help in enabling the party to pass without injury 
through the ordeal. Doctors and climbers of ex- 
perience will, I know, bear out what I say. The 
truth of it was once more shown not very long ago 
under the following circumstances : 

In August 1902 two French tourists with a guide 
and a porter set out to ascend Mont Blanc. The 
weather became very bad, nevertheless they pressed 
on, hoping to reach that veritable death-trap, the 
Vallot Hut. In this they failed, and as the hour was 
late they took the fatal course of digging a hole in 
the snow in which to pass the night. They were 
provided with brandy, and, doubtless in ignorance of 
the results it was sure to cause, they shared all they 
had. Both travellers died before morning, and the 
guides then attempted to descend to Chamonix. 
They seem to have been dazed, and to have lost their 
heads, and within a few minutes of each other each 
fell into a crevasse. The porter was killed on the 
spot, the guide was rescued, but little injured, after 
six hours' imprisonment. 

Will people ever realise that Mont Blanc, by reason 
of the very facility by which it may be ascended, is 
the most dangerous mountain a beginner can ascend ? 
He is almost certain to chance on incompetent guides, 
and these, if the weather becomes bad, have not the 

153 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

moral force — indeed a first-class man would have 
something even more compelling — to insist on an 
immediate return. The size of the mountain is so 
great that to be lost on it is a risk a really good guide 
would simply refuse to face. 

To turn now to Mr Slingsby's narrative. His 
party had reached the arete of the Dent Blanche 
without incident, and he writes : 

" The rocks on the crest of the ridge were in 
perfect order. The day was magnificent, and there 
was not the remotest sign of a storm. Climbers 
who were on neighbouring mountains on this day 
all speak of the fine weather. My friend, Mr Eric 
Greenwood, who was on the Rothhorn, told me 
that that peak was in capital condition, but that 
there was a strong N.W. wind blowing at the top. 
We had perfect calm. Mr Greenwood stopped on 
the snow arete till a late hour in the afternoon, 
taking photographs, and neither his guides nor 
he had the slightest expectation of a thunder- 
storm. 

"We stuck faithfully to the ridge, and climbed 
up, and as nearly as possible over, each point as 
we reached it, because of the ice which shrouded 
the rocks almost everywhere on the west face. 

"We were forced on to the face of one little 
pinnacle, and had to use the greatest care. 

' Nowhere did we come to any place where we 
154 



NIGHT ADVENTURE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

felt that our powers were overtaxed ; still, the 
work was difficult, though not supremely so. 

" A few days later I met Mr Conway at Breuil, 
and I asked him what he meant in this case by 
the term, ' following the arete! His interpretation, 
which is rather an elastic one, is this : * Climb over 
the pinnacles if it is convenient to do so. If not 
convenient, shirk them by passing below their 
western bases.' This latter method was most prob- 
ably impracticable on the occasion of our ascent, 
which fully accounts for the great difference between 
Mr Conway's ' times ' and our own, as we certainly 
climbed at least as quickly as an average party on 
the Dent Blanche during the whole of our ascent. 

" The time sped merrily and quickly by, and 
the difficulties decreased as we hastened onward. 
Just as we left the last rocks a light filmy 
cloud, sailing up from the north, hovered for an 
instant over the top of the mountain, and then 
settled upon it ; otherwise, though it had then 
become exceedingly cold, the sky was clear and 
the day perfect, and we could not help comparing 
our good fortune with that of those early climbers 
who fought their way upwards, step by step, 
against most ferocious gales. 

" After some tiring step-cutting on the gentler 
slopes above the rocks, which, like the west face, 
were sheathed in ice, we reached at last the south 

155 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

end of the little flat ridge which forms the summit of 
the Dent Blanche, where a small flagstaff is usually 
to be seen. Here there was an enormous snow cornice 
which overhung the eastern side. The little cloud 
merely clung to the cornice on the ridge, and evidently 
had no malice in it at all. None of us put down the 
time at which we reached the top. One of us thinks 
that it was just after four o'clock, but the memory of the 
two others is clear that it was between three and four ; 
at any rate, of this we are all agreed, that it was 
not so late as 4.12, the hour when the author of 
Scrambles in the Alps reached the summit in bad 
weather. My watch, being out of order, was left at 
Zermatt. 

" We left directly, and in less than a minute were 
out of the little cloud, which was uncommonly 
cold, and again we revelled in bright sunshine. We 
were under no apprehension of danger, nor had 
we any reason whatever to be anxious, as our way 
was clear enough : there was no doubt about that. 
We were in capital training, and we had, most 
certainly, a sufficiency of daylight still left to allow us 
to get well beyond every difficulty upon the mountain. 
Moreover, Solly, with his usual instinctive thoughtful- 
ness, carried a lantern in his pocket, and we had left 
another lower down. Thus we had a most reasonable 
expectation of reaching the Stockje that evening, and 

Zermatt early the next morning. 

156 





It on the Col de Bertol, where climbers now often 
5;leep for the ascent of the Dent Blanche. 

Bv Mr. Leonard Rawlence. 



.\ party ascending the Aiguilles Rouges (Aijolla). The 

people can be seen on the sky-line to the left, at the 

top of the white streak. 

By Mr. Leonard Rawlence. 



f>^-,4kV*^f 





'I he Miiiimit of the Dent Blanclie. 

By Mr. Leonard Rawlence. 

'I'l fice }'. 156. 



Cornice on the .•juninlit of the Dent Blanche. 

By Mr. Leonard Rawlence. 



NIGHT ADVENTURE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

" When we had come down for about an hour, 
we saw an occasional flash of lightning playing 
about the Aiguilles Rouges d'Arolla. This was 
the first indication that we had of foul weather. 
Soon afterwards a dark cloud crept up ominously 
over the shoulder of Mont Collon, and on to the 
Pigne d'Arolla. Still no cloud seemed to threaten 
us, but we hurried on very quickly. 

" On arriving at the col, just above the great 
rock tower, we turned down a little gully on the 
west face. Here, though the work was exceedingly 
difficult, we lost no time whatever, and undoubtedly 
we chose the best route. The storm, meanwhile, had 
crossed over the east Arolla ridge, and we saw 
the lightning flashing about the Aiguille de la Za 
and Dent Perroc, and the clouds, as they advanced, 
grew more and more angry looking. 

"We were advancing as quickly as the nature of 
the ground would allow on a buttress which supports 
the great tower on the west. It was then about six 
o'clock. We had, at the most, only 150 feet of 
difficult ground to get over, when a dark and dense 
cloiid fell upon us, and it became, suddenly and 
almost without any warning, prematurely dark. 
Our axes emitted electric sparks, or rather faint 
but steady little flames, on both the adze and pick 
part ; so also did our gloves, the hair of which stood 
out quite straight. A handkerchief, which I had 

157 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

tied over my hat, was like a tiara of light. This 
was very uncanny, but still deeply interesting. The 
sparks, when touched by the bare hand or the cheek, 
gave out no heat. There was no hissing to be heard 
on our axes or on the rocks, but Solly felt a sort of 
vibration about the spectacles which were on his 
forehead that he did not at all like, so he put them 
under his hat, 

" Under ordinary circumstances we should have put 
away our axes until the storm should had passed away. 
Of course we did not do this, nor indeed would any 
other member of the Alpine Club have done so if 
he had had the good fortune to be with us. We 
wished to get across the 150 feet which was the only 
difficulty yet remaining before us. Each one of us 
was quite capable of undertaking the work, and, in 
spite of the unusual darkness, we had sufficient light 
for the purpose. 

" Solly was leading across a difficult bit of rock, 
and clearing away the ice ; Haskett-Smith was pay- 
ing out the rope as required ; I was perched firmly 
at the bottom end of a narrow and steep ledge round 
the corner of a crag above them with the rope firmly 
hitched. We were all working steadily and most 
carefully, and hoped in a few minutes to clear our 
last difficulty. All at once the whole mountain 
side seemed to be ablaze, and at the same time there 
was a muzzled, muffled, or suppressed peal of thunder, 

158 



NIGHT ADVENTURE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

apparently coming out of the interior of the mountain 
— so much so that, if a great crevice had been opened 
in the rocks and fire had burst out from it, we should 
hardly have been more surprised than we were. 
Solly and Haskett-Smith each exclaimed, ' My axe 
was struck,' and each of them, naturally enough, 
let his axe go. Where to none knev/. Solly, de- 
scribing this, says, * At the moment I was standing 
with my face towards the mountain, with my right 
arm stretched out, feeling for a firm foothold with 
my axe, which I held just under its head. For 
perhaps a minute the lightning was coming very 
fast ; then came the noise, and I saw a curve of 
flame on the head of my axe. I involuntarily let it 
go. The whole place seemed one blaze of light, 
and I could distinguish nothing. The thought that 
rushed through my mind was — Am I blinded? the 
intensity of the light was so terrible. It is difficult 
to put such events in any order of time; but I 
think the noise or explosion came first, before the 
blaze of light, and the light seemed to flicker as if 
a series of flashes were coming. I hardly know 
whether my body or any part of my clothing was 
actually struck. My axe certainly was, and I think 
the rocks just by me were.' 

" Haskett-Smith said that his neck was burnt, and 
we saw later that a dark-brown band, an inch and 
a quarter wide, had been burnt exactly half way 

^59 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

round his neck. I was untouched. All the sparks 
disappeared with the flash. 

" Now the matter was serious enough, as we had 
only one axe, and we felt that we had had a most 
providential escape. There is little doubt that, if 
this had occurred upon the crest of the ridge above 
us, the electric current would have been much 
stronger, and the consequences much worse. 

" My two companions then climbed up to the little 
ledge where I was sitting, to wait at least until the 
storm should pass away. Whilst Solly was doing 
this, a tremendous gust of wind swept up from the 
N.W., and nearly carried him off his feet. 

" The storm lasted much longer than we expected it 
to do, and by the time it had vanished it was quite 
dark. All climbers will readily agree with me when 
I say that the storm, seen from such a point of view, 
where the mountain forms are so wild, and their 
guardian glaciers so vast and glittering, was inde- 
scribably grand — so much so that, even under our 
circumstances, there was a kind of grim enjoyment 
which we could not help feeling. 

" I put my axe upon a higher ledge for safety's sake. 
When the storm had gone by we took stock of our 
goods. Solly had a lantern. We each had two shirts, 
scarfs, and unusually warm clothing. We had plenty 
of food, some cold tea, and a flask of brandy. We 
knew well that we must stop where we were until 

i6o 



NIGHT ADVENTURE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

morning. It was hard luck :ertainly, as there was 
only one narrow prison moat between us and freedom. 
Once over these 1 50 feet, we could have reached the 
Stockje by lantern light. Of this I am certain. But 
no man living could cross the moat except in day- 
light. 

" Haskett - Smith, who is a marvellous man for 
making all sort of hitches, knots, and nooses, managed 
to get a capital hitch for our rope, and lashed us to the 
rock most skilfully. The ledge was steep, and varied 
from 1 1 to 2 feet wide. As we could not sit back to 
back, which is the best plan when possible, we did 
the next best thing, and sat, squatted, or leaned, face 
to back. Solly, who sat at the bottom, had a loose 
piece of friable rock which supported one foot. I 
was in the middle, with my knees up to my chin, 
on a steep slope, but was supported by Solly's back 
and by a singularly sharp little stone on which I 
squatted. Haskett-Smith leaned with his back 
against a corner, and with his knees against my back. 
Each of us had a rucksack, which helped to keep out 
the cold. We made a good meal of potted meat, 
bread, chocolate, and an orange, and left a box of 
sardines and other food for the morning. 

" Several short but heavy snow and hail showers 

fell after the thunderstorm had subsided, but we were 

thankful that there was no rain. The wind got up 

too, and whistled wildly through the crags above us. 
L 161 



ADVENTURES ON THE "ROOF OF THE WORLD 

Fortunately, a screen of rock above our ledge partly 
sheltered us. We faced a grim and grisly little 
pinnacle on the west face of the mountain, which 
became, hour after hour, if possible, more ghostly. 
How we did hate it, to be sure. A light in a chalet 
near Ferpecle shone like a beacon for some hours, 
which was a pleasant contrast to the near view of the 
ghost, but it seemed to be a terribly long way off. 
We kept up our spirits capitally, and from previous 
experience I, at least, knew how thankful we ought 
to be that no member of our party was of a 
pessimistic turn of mind. At the same time, we 
were fully aware how serious the matter was, but we 
were determined to get well through it, helped, we 
trusted, by a power not our own. 

" Our greatest trouble during the night arose from 
the consciousness that Mr Schuster, Herr Seller, and 
other friends at Zermatt would be very anxious about 
us, and we often spoke of it with regret. 

" We were most careful to keep moving our hands 
and feet all the night, and, though the temptation to 
indulge in sleep was very great, we denied ourselves 
this luxury. After two o'clock an increased vigilance 
was necessary, as the sky became clearer, and the 
cold much more intense. Mr Aitkin's guides, who 
were then bivouacking above the Stockje, 'com- 
plained much of the cold.' We probably suffered 

less than they did, as, at our great altitude, the air 

162 



NIGHT ADVENTURE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

was doubtless much drier than below. At the same 
time, gentlemen who were occupying comfortable 
beds in luxurious hotels in the Vispthal thought the 
night was unusually warm. Haskett-Smith imagined 
the whole night that Solly was another member of 
the A.C., and invariably addressed him by the wrong 
name. This hallucination was, no doubt, the result 
of the electric shock. 

" Shortly before 5 A.M. we opened our sardine- 
box, which was no easy task, as our outer gloves 
were like iron gauntlets. We made a good meal 
of petrified fish, frozen oranges, and bread. We 
avoided our brandy-flask like poison on the whole 
expedition. 

"We soon discovered the lost axes below us, half 
embedded in hard snow. Then we began to move. 
Solly took my axe, and with much difficulty, and 
at the expense of a good deal of time, cut down to 
and recovered one of the missing ones. We found, 
however, that it was then far too cold, and we were 
too benumbed to work safely, so we returned to 
our ledge again until eight o'clock. Long before this 
hour the ghostly pinnacle was gilded by the morning 
sun, and, if possible, we hated it more than ever, 
as no warm rays could reach the place where we 
were for hours to come. On telling several of the 
leading guides in Zermatt about waiting until eight 
o'clock on the ledge, they all said that it was quite 

163 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

early enough for us to move after spending a night 
out in the cold, and that they had done exactly the 
same under similar circumstances. We were sure 
we were right ; still their testimony is valuable. 
Messrs Kennedy and Hardy, when they had their 
' Night Adventure on the Bristenstock,' say they 
were ' obliged to stamp about for some twenty 
minutes in order to restore circulation, or we should 
not have had sufficient steadiness to have continued 
our descent in safety.' Well, these gentlemen 
had neither waistcoats nor neckties, and had only 
a lump of bread and one bottle of wine. We were 
at least well fed and warmly clad, but we had no 
room to stamp about. Having now two axes, we 
were able to work again with renewed confidence 
in our powers. We saw the third axe lying half 
imbedded in the snow a long way below us, and 
about a rope's length from some firm rocks. The 
hail and snow, which had partly covered the rocks, 
increased the difficulty, and the ice in which we had 
to cut steps was unusually hard. In fact, our 150 
feet were gained with much difficulty, and, by the 
exercise of great caution and severe labour, at last, 
after much time and manoeuvring, we recovered the 
third axe, and were indeed happy. 

" Two minutes later we stood in bright sunshine, 
and such was its invigorating power that in ten 
minutes all our stiffness had vanished. My hat 

164 



NIGHT ADVENTURE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

blew off here, and rolled on its stiffened brim at a 
tremendous pace down a couloir of ice. Fortunately, 
I had a woollen helmet which Miss Richardson had 
knitted for me. We hastened on very quickly in 
order to relieve, as soon as possible, the anxiety which 
we well knew our friends at Zermatt were enduring. 

"When on the snow ridge between points 3912 
metres and 3729 metres we heard voices far below 
us on the west, and soon saw what we knew after- 
wards to be Mr Aitkin, Imboden, and a porter. 
They had abandoned their intention of climbing 
the Dent Blanche 'on account of bad weather.' 
Indeed, Miss Richardson, who had spent the night 
at the Stockje, was told by Imboden that 'in such 
weather it would be impossible, and probably would 
remain so for a day or two ; therefore, they might as 
well go to Ferpecle and do another col the next day.' 

" Seeing that the party were above the route to 
Ferpecle, we knew at once that they were looking 
for us. Imboden shouted out to us, ' Where do you 
come from?' We pointed to the Dent Blanche, 
and they immediately turned towards Zermatt, and 
we only missed them by about five minutes at the 
usual breakfast place. 

" Now, as we knew that there was no need for us to 
hurry, we rested, and made a most hearty breakfast, 
as we had left on the rocks a whole chicken, some 
ham, bread, plums, and a bottle of white wine. 

16s 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

" On crossing the glacier to the Wandfluh rocks 
our axes and rucksacks hissed Hke serpents for a 
long time, while we saw in the distance the storm 
which overtook Mr Macdonald on the Lyskamm 
that very morning ; and none of us liked the renewal 
of electric energy, which may well be believed. A 
heavy mist also threatened us. Mr Aitkin had a 
similar experience to ours. 

" We descended by way of the Wandfluh, and above 
the Stockje untied the rope which we had had on 
for thirty-eight hours ; and such is the virtue of the 
Alpine knot that we were as firmly tied at the end 
of this time as we were when we first put on the 
rope. 

" On the Zmutt Glacier we bathed our hands 
repeatedly in the glacier pools as a safeguard against 
possible frost-bites with entirely satisfactory results. 
On the glacier we were delighted to meet Mr E. T. 
Hartley, who welcomed us most warmly, and told us 
of the anxiety of our friends ; he, however, and one 
good lady in Zermatt said all the time that we 
should return safe and sound again. Just off the 
glacier we met three porters provided with blankets 
and provisions sent by the kind thoughtfulness of 
Mr Schuster and Herr Seller. 

" We rested at the Staffel Alp, where we had some 

most refreshing tea, and reached Zermatt in the 

evening." 

i66 



CHAPTER X 

ALONE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

T AM indebted to Mr Harold Spender, the author 
-*" of a fine description of the accident in 1899 
on the Dent Blanche, for permission to reprint the 
greater portion of it, and also to the proprietors of 
McClure's Magazine and of The Strand Magazine, 
in which publications it first appeared. The safe 
return of one of the party is alluded to in The 
Alpine Journal 2,s one of the most wonderful escapes 
in the whole annals of mountaineering. 

"Mr F. W. Hill, whose narrative in The Alpine 
Journal necessarily forms the best evidence as to 
the incidents, says that it was Glynne Jones who 
wanted to climb the Dent Blanche by its western 
arete — a notably difficult undertaking, and one that 
has probably only twice been achieved. 

" Glynne Jones had discussed the possibilities of the 
undertaking with his own guide, Elias Furrer, of 
Stalden, and they had come to the conclusion that 
the conditions were never likely to be more favour- 
able than in this August of 1899. Glynne Jones, 

167 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

therefore, asked Mr Hill to accompany them, and 
to bring along with him his own guide, Jean 
Vuignier, of Evolena. Both guides knew their 
climbers very well ; for Furrer had been with 
Glynne Jones on and off for five years, and Vuignier 
had climbed at Zermatt with Hill the year before. 
But Mr Hill, who had promised to take his wife 
to Zermatt over the Col d'Herens, refused to go. 
Glynne Jones accordingly secured a second guide in 
Clemens Zurbriggen, of Saas-F6e, a young member 
of a great climbing clan. Vuignier, however, was 
so disappointed at his employer's refusal, that Mr 
Hill, finding that his wife made no objection, finally 
consented to join the party. Thus, with the addition 
of Mr Hill and his guide, the expedition numbered 
five members. They left Arolla on Sunday morning, 
27th August, with a porter carrying blankets. They 
intended to sleep on the rocks below the arete. 
Arriving at the Bricolla chalets, a few shepherds' 
huts high up the mountain, at four in the afternoon, 
they changed their minds, sent the blankets down to 
Arolla, and slept in the huts. 

" They started at three o'clock in the morning in 
two parties, the first consisting of Furrer, Zurbriggen, 
and Jones, roped in that order, and the second of 
Vuignier and Hill. They crossed the glacier and 
reached the ridge in good time. ' It was soon very 

evident,' says Mr Hill in his narrative, 'that the 

168 



ALONE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

climbing was going to be difficult, as the rocks were 
steep slabs, broken and easy occasionally, but, on 
the whole, far too smooth.' Rock-climbers do not 
particularly care how steep a rock may be so long 
as it is broken up into fissures which will give hold 
to the feet and hands. In the steepest mountains 
of the Dolomite region, for instance, the rocks are 
thus broken, and therefore mountains can be climbed 
easily which, from their bases, look absolutely in- 
accessible. 

" As they progressed up and along the ridge the 
climbing became more and more difficult. They 
had to go slowly and with extreme caution, and 
often they were in doubt as to the best way to 
proceed. Sometimes, indeed, there seemed no 
possible route. In these places Furrer, who seems 
to have been accepted as the leader of the party, 
would detach himself from the rope and go forward 
to find a passage. 

" On entering upon this part of the climb the two 
parties had joined ropes, and were now advancing 
as one, and roped in this order — Furrer, Zurbriggen, 
Glynne Jones, Vuignier, and Hill. 

" It is evident that between nine o'clock and ten 
climbing had become exceedingly arduous. ' In two 
or three places,' says Mr Hill, 'the only possible 
way was over an overhanging rock up which the 
leader had to be pushed and the others helped from 

169 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

above and below.' This gives us a graphic picture 
of the nature of the climb. Nothing is more fatigu- 
ing than to climb over a rock which is in the least 
degree overhanging. Mr Hill tells me that Furrer 
showed him his finger-tips at breakfast-time — 9 A.M. 
— and that they were severely cut. 

" Yet no one must imagine for an instant that the 
party was in the least degree puzzled or vexed. 
There is nothing so exhilarating as the conflict with 
danger, and it generally happens in climbing a 
mountain that the party is merriest at the most 
difficult places. Mr Hill, indeed, tells us that they 
were in the ' highest spirits.' ' Climbing carefully,' 
he says, ' but in the highest spirits, we made good 
progress, for at ten o'clock it was agreed we were 
within an hour of the summit' It was at this point 
and time that the accident occurred. 

" They had been forced below the ridge by the 

difficulty of the rocks, and had come to a place 

where their obvious route lay up a narrow gully, 

or sloping chimney. On an ordinary day it is 

possible that they would have found no difficulty 

in going forward, but a few days before there had 

been rain, and probably snow, on these high rock 

summits. At any rate, the rocks were ' glazed ' ; 

covered, that is, with a film of ice, probably snow 

melted and re - frozen, just sufficiently thick to 

adhere, and sufficiently slippery to make the fingers 

170 



ALONE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

'slither' over the rocks. If the cHmber cannot clear 
away the ice with his ice-axe, he must go round 
another way, and if the rocks are steep the first 
course becomes obviously impossible. That was 
the condition of affairs at ten o'clock on the morning 
of 28th August 1899. 

" In a party of five roped together, with 30 feet 
of rope between each member, the amount of space 
covered by the party will obviously be 40 yards ; 
and it frequently happens that those who are roped 
last cannot see the leaders. Mr Hill, as we have 
seen, was roped last, and by the time he reached the 
level of the other climbers Furrer had already 
turned away from the gully and was attempting to 
climb to the ridge by another route. To the left of 
the gully in front of them was a vertical rock face 
stretching for about 30 feet. Beyond this was a 
smooth-looking buttress some 10 feet high, by 
climbing which the party could regain the ridge. 
When Hill came up with the rest, Furrer was already 
attempting to climb this buttress. 

" But the buttress was quite smooth, and Furrer 
was at a loss to find a hold. Unable to support 
himself, he called to Zurbriggen to place an axe 
under his feet for him to stand on. In this way he 
might be able to reach with his hands to the top of 
the buttress. There was nothing unusual in this 
method of procedure. In climbing difficult rocks, 

171 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

when the hand-holds are far up, it is frequently the 
custom to help the climber by placing an ice-axe 
under his feet. But in this case Furrer discovered 
that he could not climb the buttress with the help 
of Zurbriggen alone, and he would probably have 
done more wisely if he had abandoned the attempt. 
But, instead of that, he called Glynne Jones to help 
Zurbriggen in holding him up. 

" ' Apparently,' says Mr Hill, ' he did not feel safe, 
for he turned his head and spoke to Glynne Jones, 
who then went to hold the axe steady.' 

" From Mr Hill's own explanations the situation 
was as follows : The leading climber, Furrer, was 
grasping the rock face, standing on an ice-axe held 
vertically by Zurbriggen and Glynne Jones. These 
two were forced, in order to hold the ice-axe securely, 
to crouch down with their faces to the ground, and 
were, therefore oblivious of what was going on above 
them. But the important point is, that their four 
hands were occupied in holding the ice-axe, and 
that as they were standing on a narrow ledge, with 
a very sharp slope immediately below, these two 
men were in a helpless position. They were unready 
to stand a shock. Thus, at the critical moment, out 
of a party of five climbers, three had virtually cast 
everything on a single die ! 

" Mr Hill, standing level with the rest of the party, 

could see quite clearly what was happening. He 

172 



ALONE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

was about 60 feet distant from them, the guide 
Vuignier being roped between them at an equal 
distance of some 30 feet from each. Furrer 
could now stand upright on the axe, which was 
firmly held by four strong hands, and could reach 
with his own fingers to the top of the buttress. It 
was a perilous moment. It is the rule with skilled 
climbers that you should never leave your foot-hold 
until you have secured your hand-hold. The natural 
issue would have been that Furrer, finding it im- 
possible to secure on the smooth rock a steady grip 
with his hands, should have declined to trust himself. 
But the science of the study is one thing and the 
art of the mountain another. There are moments 
when a man does not know whether he has secured 
a steady grip or an unsteady, and the question can 
only be answered by making the attempt. If the 
party blundered at all, it was in allowing the second 
and third men to be so completely occupied with 
holding the axe that there was no reserve of power to 
hold up Furrer in case of a slip. But it is easy to 
speak after the event. 

" What Hill now saw was this : He saw Furrer 
reach his hands to the top of the buttress, take a grip, 
and attempt to pull himself up. But his feet never 
left the ice-axe beneath, for in the process of gripping 
his hands slipped. And then, as Hill looked, Furrer's 
body slowly fell back. It seemed, he has told him- 

173 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

self, to take quite a long time falling. Furrer fell 
backwards, right on to the two oblivious men beneath 
him, causing them to collapse instantly, knocking 
them off their standing-place, and carrying them 
with him in his fall from the ridge. ' All three,' says 
Mr Hill in his narrative, ' fell together.' Instinctively 
he turned to the wall to get a better hold of the 
rock, and therefore did not see the next incident in 
the fatal sequence. Vuignier, as we have seen, was 
standing 30 feet from the first three, and the 
weight of three human bodies swinging at the end 
of the rope must have come directly on him. He 
was, apparently, taken by surprise, and immediately 
pulled off the rock. Hill heard that terrible sound 
— the scuffle and rattle of stones that meant the 
dragging of a helpless human being into space — 
and he knew, or thought he knew, that his own 
turn would come in a moment ; but as he clung there 
to the rock, waiting for the inevitable end, there was 
a pause. Nothing happened. 

" After a few endless seconds of time he faced round 
and found himself alone. Looking down, he saw 
his four companions sliding down the precipitous 
slopes at a terrific rate, without a cry, but with 
arms outstretched, helplessly falling into the abyss. 
Between him and them, and from his waist, there 
hung 30 feet of rope swinging slowly to and fro. 
The faithful Vuignier had probably fastened the 

174 



ALONE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

rope securely round some point of rock to protect 
his master. The full weight of the four bodies had 
probably expended itself on the rock-fastening of 
the rope, and thereby saved the life of the fifth 
climber. Dazed and astonished to find himself still 
in the land of the living, Mr Hill stood for some 
time watching his comrades fall, until, sickened, he 
turned away to face his own situation. 

" It was not very promising. He was without 
food, drink, or warm clothing. No man alone could 
climb down by the ridge up which those five experts 
had climbed in the morning. And in front lay a 
difficulty which had already destroyed his friends 
when attempting to overcome ;t by mutual help. 
It seemed impossible. 

" Perhaps it was fortunate that Hill was not only 
a mathematician, but a man of characteristic mathe- 
matical temperament — cool, unemotional, long-headed. 
Most men in his situation would have gone mad. 
Some would have waited right there till starvation 
overcame them or a rescue party arrived. But there 
was little or no chance of a rescue party, and Mr 
Hill was certainly not the man to wait for starvation. 
It was a curious irony that probably at that very 
moment there was a party on the summit of the 
Dent Blanche. Mr Hill's party had seen two 
climbers on the south arete at half-past eight o'clock, 
and again about an hour later. At this moment 

175 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

they were probably at the summit. But Mr Hill 
had no means of communicating with them, and 
the hour's climb which lay between him and them 
might as well have been the length of Europe. An 
hour later he himself heard a faint ' cooey ' (the party 
were probably on the way down) — a jovial, generous 
hail from men unconscious of any catastrophe. 

" Mr Hill's immediate task was to regain the 
ridge and reach the summit. At the moment of 
the accident he was some 60 feet from the fatal 
buttress, and now wisely made no attempt to get 
near it. Instead, he moved to circumvent the 
glazed gully from its other side. After long 
and tedious efforts, lasting for a period of time 
which he cannot now even approximately estimate, 
he succeeded in his flanking movement, and finally, 
with great labour and peril, climbed back to the 
ridge by a slope of frozen snow and ice broken with 
rocks. It would be difficult to imagine anything 
more terrible than this lonely climb over ice-covered 
rocks, the painful cutting of steps up an almost 
precipitous wall, with a precipice many thousand 
feet deep at his back, down which the smallest slip 
would send him to certain death. But at last he 
regained the ridge, and the difficulties of ascent were 
now mainly overcome. In about another hour he 
found himself on the summit — a solitary, mournful 
victor. It was there he heard the shout from the 

176 



ALONE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

other party. But he could not see them or 
make them hear, and so he made his way down 
with all reasonable speed, hoping to overtake 
them. 

" Hill had climbed the Dent Blanche in the previous 
year with a guided party, and therefore, to some 
extent, knew the route. Without much difficulty 
he was able to follow the ridge as far as possible 
down to the lowest gendarme, a pile of rock with 
a deep, narrow fissure. Then a sudden mist hid 
everything from view, and it was impossible to see 
the way off the gendarme. He tried several routes 
downward in the mist, but at last wisely resolved 
to wait till it lifted. While he was searching, a 
snow-storm and a cold wind came up. ' They 
drove me,' says Mr Hill in his plam way, ' to seek 
shelter in the lee of the rocks.' There he tied 
himself with his rope, and, to avoid the danger of 
falling off in a moment of sleep, still further secured 
himself by an ice-axe wedged firmly in front of 
him — poor protections to a man absolutely without 
food or wraps, clinging to the side of an abyss in 
the searching cold and stormy darkness of mist 
and snow, wedged under the eave of an over- 
hanging rock, and only able to sit in a cramped 
posture. But Mr Hill was no ordinary man. If 
the Fates were asking for his life he determined 

to sell it dearly, sustained in his resolve by the 
M 177 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

thought of that waiting wife, unconscious of ill, 
below in Zermatt. 

" It must have been, at this time, past mid-day on 
Monday, 28th August 

" The storm lasted all that Monday, and Monday 
night, and Tuesday morning. All through those 
dreadful hours of darkness Hill sat in the cleft of 
rock, sleeping most of the time, but always half- 
frozen with the cold, and whenever he awoke obliged 
to beat himself to regain his natural warmth. 
Happily, he was well protected against the falling 
snow by the eave of the overhanging rock, but 
it covered his knees and boots, causing him intense 
cold in the feet. 

" At last, at mid-day on Tuesday, the mist cleared 
and the sun shone again in a sky of perfect blue. 
He could now resume his descent. To climb 
over snow-covered rocks in a roped party is difficult 
enough, but to do it alone is to risk your life many 
times over. But there was no alternative. 

"At last the rocks ended and the worst of the 
peril was over. He had reached the snow arete, 
where not even the heavy fall of snow had quite 
obliterated the tracks of those who had gone in 
front of him. These helped him to find his way. 
But the steps had mostly to be recut, and that must 
have been very fatiguing after his previous ex- 
periences. The next difficulty was the lower part 

178 



ALONE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

of the Wandfluh, a bold wall of rock which leads 
down first to the Schonbuhl and then to the Zmutt 
Glaciers, and which, at its base, ends in a steep 
precipice that can be descended only by one gully. 
Here Mr Hill's memory failed him. He could not 
remember which was the right gully. This was, 
perhaps, the most terrible trial of all. If he could 
find that gully his task was almost accomplished. 
The rest of the descent to Zermatt is little more 
than a walk. But hour after hour passed ; he 
descended gully after gully, only to find himself 
blocked below by one precipice after another. In 
one of these attempts he dropped his ice-axe, without 
which he could never hope to return alive. Unless 
he could recover it he was a dead man. But, no, it 
was not quite lost. There it lay, far below him, on 
the rocks. Slowly and painfully he descended 
the gully to fetch it. At last he reached it. In 
this quest he wasted a whole hour! 

" At last he discovered a series of chimneys to the 
extreme right of the Wandfluh and leading down to 
the glacier. Letting himself down these steep 
chimneys, he found himself at last, on Tuesday 
evening, on the high moraines of the Zmutt Glacier. 
He must have reached the glacier about six o'clock, 
but he had only the sun to reckon by. Here the 
steep descent ends, and there is but a stony walk 

of two and a half hours down the glacier by a path 

179 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

which leads to the Staffel Alp Inn. The sun set 
while he was still on the moraine, and he has a 
vivid recollection of seeing the red 'Alpengluh' on 
Monte Rosa. But as the darkness grew it became 
more and more difficult to keep to the path. 

" Here at last his marvellous strength began to 
fail him. He had no snow-glasses, and his eyes were 
suffering from the prolonged glare of the snow. A 
sort of waking trance fell on him. As he stumbled 
forward, over the stones of that horrible moraine, 
he imagined that his companions were still alive and 
with him. He kept calling to them to 'come 
along.' ' It is getting late, you fellows,' he shouted ; 
come along.' 

"At last he was brought up by a great rock. In 
the darkness he had wandered below the path. 
The rock entirely barred his way. He had a 
vague illusion that it was a chalet, and wandered 
round it searching for a door. At last he settled 
down by it in a semi-conscious condition. Then 
he must have fallen asleep, probably about ten 
o'clock. The sleep lasted about twelve hours, and 
was better than meat and drink. To most men 
it would have ended in death. 

"When he woke up at ten o'clock on Wednesday 
morning, in broad daylight, he soon saw that he 
had been sleeping quite near the path. A few 
minutes' scramble brought him back to it, and he 

1 80 



ALONE ON THE DENT BLANCHE 

soon came to a little wooden refreshment-house, 
about an hour below the Staffel Inn, which he 
had passed in the darkness. He went up to the 
woman at the hut and asked for some beer ! He 
had only fifty centimes in his pocket ; one of 
his dead companions had held the purse. He 
volunteered no complaint; but the woman was 
sympathetic, and soon found out whence he came. 
She then gave him a little milk and some dry 
bread — all she had. After a short rest he resumed 
his way to Zermatt, distant about half an hour, 
and reached the village at 11.30. As he was 
walking down the main street past the church he 
met his wife. 

" He told her simply what had happened. Then 
he had lunch. ' I was now ravenous,' he says, 
' and devoured a beefsteak, with the help of a glass 
of whisky and soda, and a bottle of champagne.' 
Within an hour or two he was entirely recovered." 



181 



CHAPTER XI 

A STIRRING DAY ON THE ROSETTA 

A MONGST the many rock scrambles in the 
neighbourhood of St Martino in the 
Dolomites of Tyrol, the Rosetta when ascended 
by the western face can be counted on to awaken 
an interest in the most stolid of climbers. I am 
indebted to the courtesy of a girl friend for the 
loan of her mountaineering diary, and permission 
to make extracts from its very interesting contents, 
of which her account of an ascent of the Rosetta 
will, I feel sure, be read with keen enjoyment by 
climbers and non-climbers alike. That a young 
English girl on her first visit to the mountains 
should carry out with such success so difficult an 
expedition, is much to the credit of both herself 
and her guides. Her brother accompanied her, 
and the climb took place on loth August 1898. 

" A cautious bang at my door, a faint ' Si ! ' 
from me, and steps departing. Then I lit a 
candle and dressed. But it was the critical 
moment when the dawn comes jquickly, and I 

182 



A STIRRING DAY ON THE ROSETTA 

blew it out in five minutes and watched the blue 
light brighten on the dusky outlines of the white 
church and houses. The Cimone was growing 
pink as I got on my heavy hob-nailed boots, and, 
taking my tennis shoes also, I tramped softly 
down to breakfast. Bettega, our leading guide, was 
there, with his cordial smile and hand-shake, and 

G and Tavernaro soon appeared. We were off 

before long, taking with us a porter in addition 

to the two guides, and G and I let Bettega see 

plainly that we thought this a little superfluous, 
but later on we were glad we had him. I must 
admit that I never met such good-natured and 
thoughtful guides, nor such excellent ones. After 
passing through forest, we had to ascend up steep 
shingle, and as this steepened I reeled a little, my 
feet being not as yet well used to this sort of 
work. Bettega, however, put his hand behind him, 
I crooked my fingers into his, and that gave me 
all the balance I needed. Finally we crossed some 
snow, and sitting on a little platform under a 
towering rock, we perceived that the way we were 
to ascend the Rosetta would be a very different 
experience to the climb by the ordinary route. 

" At this point I took off my skirt, and removed 
my boots, putting on tennis shoes instead. The 
rubber soles of these are far safer than nails on 
the smooth and slabby Dolomite rock. 

183 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

" The guides jabbered between themselves ; 
Bettega smiled sublimely and looked utterly in his 
element, but Tavernaro seemed rather subdued ; 
he is under the moral influence of Bettega, for 
though Tavernaro may have more education and 
cleverness he rounds upon his comrade at times 
owing to his excitable disposition. But on the 
mountains he slinks at Bettega's elbow, as the two 
roll along with the peculiar mountaineer's bending 
stride on level ground, and Tavernaro never asks 
a price or arranges for an excursion without con- 
sulting Bettega. But, on the other hand, Bettega 
lives in fear of Tavernaro's lively tongue, so it is 
about balanced ! 

" Having finished our meal, we set off. I was roped 
to Bettega, who led. After about five minutes 
Bettega, who till then had held in his hand all the 
rope we were not using, dropped it in a big coil, and 
told me to ' Remain firm ' where I was. He then 
climbed upwards for a few minutes, but I did not 
watch, for though my head had not swum at all as 
yet, I wasn't too sure of it, and the rock face was 
very sheer, so I neither looked up nor down, but 
sat with my cheek against the rock and held on ! 
But all went merrily. Tavernaro occasionally placed 
one of my feet, which was placeless, and we got 
up the first camino, or rocky chimney, fairly well. 
'Wait a moment, signorina,' said Bettega, and then 

184 



A STIRRING DAY ON THE ROSETTA 

he disappeared overhead — literally disappeared, for 
he was quite hidden when he cried cheerily, ' Come ! 
Come!' I got up, and found a very small posto 
or tiny platform on which to wait, with a disagreeably 
obtrusive precipice below it. Above was a second 
camino, which looked smooth and gloomy. I leant 
affectionately against the rock, pondering deeply 
of anything except ' empty space.' * The signorina 
is all right there?' enquired Bettega solicitously. 
' To be sure she is ! ' cried Tavernaro gaily, as he 
leant over me against the rock. Then up clomb 

Bettega, and G advanced slowly and surely 

from below. As the minutes went by I shut my 
eyes, and was gloomily thankful when the summons 
came from above. Looking up, I could just see 
Bettega's bushy black head and flannel cap couched 
amongst the rocks. Fifteen feet up the camino a big 
stone was wedged, and between this and the back of 
the chimney one had to pass, emerging above at the 

top of the wall. G having now reached \ki&posto^ 

I began to go up, with Tavernaro closely following 
me. Bit by bit I climbed ; a grab, a hoist, a foot 
tucked into a crevice on either side of the camino, a 
long reach with my arm, a steady pull — and like- 
wise, it must be confessed, a pull from the rope! — 
and so up, up again. The rock wall was abominably 
straight and holeless. Under the stone, with the 
three members placed on ledges or in cracks, I in 

i8s 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

vain sought a point of rest for the fourth before 
hauling. ' Good heavens ! ' I exclaimed in melan- 
choly undertones, and a gurgling chuckle from below- 
showed that Tavernaro sympathised. ' Here you are, 
signorina,' he said, giving me his shoulder for a 
momentary foot-hold. With that instant of support 
I swung up on to the stone, and so to the next posto 

sicuro, or safe spot. G came up without help, 

but he assured me that it was a really hard place. 

"Of course I don't pretend I did it all myself. 
Quite half a dozen times I doubt if I could have 
got up without material aid from the cord, or from 
Tavernaro below. Once, in a camino, the latter gave 
me a butt with his head, which made me reflect how 
great a man was lost to the game of football, while 
the way he placed my feet was a great help to one 
who, as a novice, had not yet learnt to study the 
foot-holds in advance. 

" We now reached a place where a third camino 

ran up above us, while an awkward traverse led 

to another on the right. Here I heard Tavernaro 

remonstrate with Bettega on the route he had taken, 

but the latter said, very decidedly, that he intended 

going straight on, so Tavernaro, as usual, subsided, but 

became very quiet. He had never before ascended 

this camino, which was a discovery of Bettega's, but 

no doubt he had heard about it. 

" We began to climb it, Bettega first and I following 
i86 



A STIRRING DAY ON THE ROSETTA 

him closely. It had rained heavily the previous day, 
and all the loose stones had been washed to the 
very edge of the ledges. Not having been cautioned 
about these, and intent on getting up, I let several fall. 
' Hi ! Gently with the stones ! ' gasped Tavernaro 
from below, and when he reached my side I saw 
that his knuckles were bleeding. ' Have you hurt 
yourself? ' I enquired. ' No, it is you who have done 
it, and you've twice nearly killed your brother,' he 

replied, but G told me to tell Tavernaro he had 

sent down a much worse stone than any of mine, 
whereat he looked resigned, and remarked, ' Oh, yes, 
these things can't always be avoided.' 

" ' Stay quietly where you are, and wait till I tell 
you to come on,' Bettega now remarked. I crouched 
in a very narrow chimney for a little, watched not — 
a hundred pities— and heard Bettega go up beyond. 
Not more than three minutes elapsed before his deep 
voice sang out : ' Now, come up ! ' and though I 
replied : ' I'm coming,' I wondered how I was to do 
it. We were near the top of the chimney. Further 
up, it became too narrow for any human form to 
squeeze into. One had therefore to come out of it 
to the right and climb up and over a huge bulging 
mass of rock about 15 feet high, which overhung 
the precipice. This mass of gently bulging rock 
was worn smooth by rain and stones. There was 

no proper foot-hold, hardly the tiniest crack. How 

187 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

had Bettega managed it? I got up the cold, damp 
chimney as far as I could, leant gasping against 
the rock, and felt near the end of my courage. 

Tavernaro was stowed away yards below, G also 

out of sight, Bettega invisible above. There was 
just the cord, pulling me away from the inhospitable 
rocks, and at my very heels an abyss of 2000 feet, 
I made one bold grab on the smooth wall, but 
speedily retired to the end of the camino, and feebly 
yelled, 'Wait! Ah, I can't do it!' 'All right! 
Catch hold of this cord ! ' came the answer, and a 
loop of rope was let slowly down. I seized it, 
contrived to get one foot on to a tiny, weeny point, 
came out of the chimney, and heard Bettega call, 
' To the right, signorina ! ' 'To the right ; that's 
all very well ! ' I muttered fiercely, and felt my 
hand slipping ; my foot gave, my fingers ran down 
the rope, the cord round my waist tightened, I 
pushed my arm through the loop of the free rope 
with one last effort, and then finding no support 
of any kind for my feet, was ignominiously pulled, 
kicking, up the precipice by Bettega, who, firmly 
fixed with both feet against rocks, hauled me up 
most joyously hand over hand. 

" ' But, Michele, how did you manage to get up ? ' 
I panted, as I sank on a ledge, and gazed in awed 
admiration at him. ' Well, not like that, signorina ! ' 
he said, with his honest laugh ; ' I really came up 

188 



A STIRRING DAY ON THE ROSETTA 

by pressure. There are no hand-grips, so you have 
to do without.' 'It's marvellous! It's stupendous!' 
murmured I, really awed by the man's power. Then 
we both listened for Tavernaro's coming, and a 
proper little comedy, for us two at least, ensued. 
Of course one could see nothing, the rock bulged 
too much, but one could hear Tavernaro's voice 
some 20 feet below, as he groped about, swearing 
softly. Five minutes went by and all was still, so 
Bettega began haranguing him. ' More to the right, 
Tony ; you must come out, don't go too high in 
the chimney ! ' Then — ' Look out, Tony, I'll send 
you the rope-end ! ' But an ominous ' Nol quickly 
answered this proposal. A guide's honour is very 
sensitive on this point. Another three or four 
minutes passed. ' How is Tavemaro getting on ? ' 
I whispered, and Bettega replied, smiling broadly, 
* He wishes to try,' 

" Some gasps from the direction of the chimney 
were now heard, and Bettega again expostulated 
gently. ' Look here, Tony, we are old friends ; take 
the rope ! ' * Nol in gloomy defiance. ' Oh, if we 
were alone it would be different, but we must not 
keep the rest of the party waiting, and the signorina 
may take cold.' This was all in patois, but I caught 
some of it, and here struck in quickly, ' Oh, not at 
all ! ' Bettega looked surprised, and resumed more 
energetically his exhortations to Tony to pocket 

189 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

his pride and accept the loop of rope. At last 
Tony, who must have been within lo feet of the 
top and so at the worst spot, suddenly jerked 
on to the proffered cord, and was up the next 
moment, hatless, with huge beads of sweat on his 
forehead and his black hair as straight as matches. 
There was a great rent in the side of one of his 
hands, which bled profusely. What struck me 
most, however, was the expression of suffering and 
shaken confidence on his face. Tavernaro ranks 
only second to Bettega and Zecchini, and was 
asked to go to the Caucasus and other distant 
mountains. He just stumbled to a safe spot, wrung 
his left hand, and panted out, ' Jesu Maria ! it was 
cruel ! ' I fear that Bettega's smile was more 
triumphant than sympathetic. Nevertheless, he 
enquired kindly for Tavernaro's hand, but for fully 
two minutes the latter's loquaciousness was lost. 
The look of anguish on his face meant, I think, 
that he had seen death pretty near to him. He 
told us that he went far too much into the crack 
on the left, and had remained sticking in it till his 
hands got so cold he feared he would lose his 

grip. If he had, he was lost, and probably G 

also, so he had actually held on with his head and 

left his cap jammed in the crack. I called to G 

to hook the rope over a point of rock in case 
Tavernaro fell, and this he had done, but even 

190 



A STIRRING DAY ON THE ROSETTA 

so the frightful jerk might have torn him down, 
and in any case Tavernaro must have been either 
killed or frightfully hurt, as he had, I should think, 
about 30 feet of rope out. 

" While I was in the throes of the difficult part, 
Papa's cap fell off my head, but Tavernaro caught 
it and brought it up. He was in an awful state of 
mind about his own cap, which had his guide's 
badge, etc., on it, and begged me to call down to 

my brother about it. I did so, but G replied 

several times with some asperity that he had 
enough to do to get himself up. 'Why can't he 
bring it up in his mouth ? ' cried Tavernaro ex- 
citedly, and, in the end, G brought it in his belt. 

" My opinion is that both G and Tavernaro 

ran a great risk, and that Tavernaro was fully aware 
of it, and, for a few minutes after, was not a little 
shaken. 

" After half an hour at this notable spot Bettega 
resumed the ascent. * I hope we shall have nothing 
more so difficult,' I said eagerly, and Bettega replied 
soothingly that it became ' much less arduous,' but 
the chimney we were now in was gloomy and 
slippery, at best very sheer. The guides had resumed 
their coats, which they had taken off for the bad bit. 
At the end of the chimney we came to a high 
overhanging wall, at the foot of which Tavernaro 
and I reposed, while Bettega climbed over it and 

191 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

disappeared. ' Come ! ' and I rose wearily. Bettega 
kept that cord very tight on me, and it certainly, 
as Tavernaro afterwards said, inclined to pull me 
to the right, away from the best holds, for the wall 
was comparatively easy, though perpendicular, and 
I ought not to have swung out quite free from it ! 
But that is what I did. As I rose from the second 
grip with the right hand, my muscles suddenly 
relaxed, I lost hold, gave a sigh to signify ' It's no 
good ! ' and swung clear out, dangling over 2000 
feet of precipice on a single cord which nearly 

cut me in two. G and Tavernaro were much 

excited below, suddenly seeing me appear hurtling 
overhead. Of course, in a moment, I swung in 
again, grabbed afresh, and with terrific tightening 
of the rope from Bettega, got up in no time. As 

I swung in the air, I remember G , in a curiously 

calm voice, asking, 'Are you all right?' and Tavernaro 
crying, ' Don't be afraid, signorina, it's all right ! ' 

" Five minutes later we left the huge iron walls of 
rock, and emerged suddenly on to the flat. Here 
one realised what breadth and width meant, as 
opposed to height and profundity. In two seconds 
Bettega and I romped to the top, where the cairn 
of stones marking the highest point rose, and shak- 
ing hands heartily I gasped with intense feeling, 
' O Michele, how grateful I am to you ! Twice 
to-day I owe you my life ! ' a debt he utterly 

192 



A STIRRING DAY ON THE ROSETTA 

disclaimed, remarking that whatever he had done 
was merely in the day's work, and that on him 
rested the responsibility of bringing us up that way ; 
as of course it did. Our porter was waiting for us 
on the summit, and we sat down there, while 
Bettega and Tavernaro, still looking impressed, knelt 
attentively to take off our light shoes and put on 
our nailed boots instead." 

The party descended by the ordinary route, a 
pleasant change after all the difficult work they 
had accomplished during the upward climb. 

The foregoing account gives what is rare amongst 
the descriptions beginners usually furnish of any- 
thing particularly hard they may have undertaken, 
for the writer has obviously jotted down, within a few 
hours of her return, an exact impression of how 
things struck her during the day. It is refreshing 
to find some one who admits that at certain points 
her courage nearly gave out, and at others that her 
guide had to assist her with the rope, for we know 
that while the very best climbers have had to train 
their nerves and muscles before they became what 
they are, some of the very worst are most ready to 
exclaim that they never felt fear or accepted 
assistance, and that a certain mountain up which they 
were heaved like sacks of corn and let down like 
buckets in a well is "a perfect swindle; any fool 
could go up it ! " Unluckily, every fool does, and 
N 193 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

each one prepares the way for an appallingly increas- 
ing death-roll. 

The ascent of the Rosetta by the western face 
must not be condemned as an imprudent expedition 
on the occasion just mentioned. True, there was a 
novice in the party, but she was the only inexperi- 
enced member of it. They had ample guiding power, 
they were properly equipped, and they had good 
weather. Tavernaro had an offer of help at the 
critical moment, and availed himself of it when he 
saw there was real danger. It will be noticed that 
the four climbers were on two separate ropes. This 
is usual in the Dolomites, but the majority of ex- 
perienced mountaineers condemn the practice even 
on rocks, while on snow it is positive madness. It 
was owing to this, that, as related in the foregoing 
narrative, the lady's brother and Tavernaro ran a 
greater risk than was at all necessary. 



194 



CHAPTER XII 

THE ZINAL ROTHHORN TWICE IN ONE DAY 

TGXORAXCE of what the future has in store is 
often not a bad thing. Had I realised that at 
the hour when we ought to have been at Zinal we 
should be sitting — and for the second time in one 
day — on the top of the Rothhorn, we should hardly 
have set out in so light-hearted a fashion from the 
little inn in the Trift Valley, above Zermatt, at 
4 A.M. on 14th September 1895. 

The party consisted of my two guides, Joseph and 
Roman Imboden, father and son, and myself, and 
our idea was to cross the fine peak of the Rothhorn, 
13,855 feet high, from Zermatt to Zinal. I had been 
up that mountain before, and so, on many previous 
occasions, had Imboden, but, oddly enough, he had 
never been down the other side. Roman, however, 
had once or twice made the traverse, and, in any case, 
we knew quite enough about the route from hear- 
say to feel sure we could hit it off even without 
Roman's experience. 

Some fresh snow had fallen a few days previously, 
195 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

and the slabby part of the Rothhorn on the north 

side was unpleasantly white, besides which there was 

a strong and bitterly cold wind. We pretty well 

abandoned all idea of getting down on the other side 

when we saw how unfavourably things were turning 

out, and though I felt greatly disappointed I never 

have and never would urge a guide in whom I have 

confidence to undertake what he considers imprudent. 

We left the matter open till the last minute, however, 

and took both the knapsacks to the top, where we 

arrived at 9.15. 

Warming ourselves in a sunny and sheltered corner 

of the by no means inhospitable summit, we had 

some food and a pleasant rest. I cannot say if the 

meal and the cheering effects of the sunshine made 

things look different, but it is a fact that after, 

perhaps, an hour's halt, Imboden shouldered his 

knapsack and remarked to me, " Come along, ma'am, 

as far as the end of the ridge ; we will just have a 

look." Hope awakened in me, and scrambling to 

my feet I followed him. The wind was certainly 

high ; I had difficulty even on those easy rocks in 

keeping my footing ; how, I wondered, should we 

manage when the real climbing began ? I had read 

of an arite of rock, little broader than one of the 

blunt knives we had used at breakfast, and the idea 

of passing along it with a shrieking gale trying to 

tear us from our perch was not alluring. Presently 

196 



THE ZINAL ROTHHORN TWICE IN ONE DAY 

we reached the spot where one quits the gentle slope 
and comparatively broad ridge, and embarks on the 
profile of a slender and precipitous face of rock, with 
nearly vertical forehead and small and infrequent 
cracks for hands and feet. We were going to do 
more than look at it, apparently ; we were about to 
descend it, for without any further remark Imboden 
began to get ready, letting Roman pass ahead. 
Taking hold of the rope between his son and himself 
he told me to stand aside while he gradually paid it 
out as Roman went down. The first yard or two 
consisted of slabs, set at a high angle. Then the 
ridge abruptly curved over and one saw nothing but 
air till the eye rested on the glacier thousands of feet 
below. In a few minutes Roman had disappeared, 
and the steady paying out of the rope alone indicated 
that he was climbing downwards. After a time he 
reached almost the end of his tether of about 30 feet 
— for we were on a very long rope — and his father 
called out, " Rope up ! " " Let the lady come to the 
edge and give me a little more," came a voice from 
far down. Putting the final loop into my hand and 
bidding me sit down, Imboden held me hard by the 
cord behind until the tautness of the piece between 
Roman and me showed it was time to be moving 
I then advanced very cautiously to what seemed 
like the edge of the world. Turning round with 
my face to the rock I had my first glance below. 

197 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

Far down was the top of Roman's hat, and as he 
saw the advancing soles of my boots he grinned 
with appreciation, feeling that now we really were 
embarked on the enterprise. " There's a good place 
down here, ma'am, come along ! " he called up, with 
one toe on a ledge 3 inches wide, two fingers 
thrust into a crack, and the rope held out of his 
way by being put, the remark concluded, between 
his teeth. I had no doubt it was a nice place when 
one got there, but meanwhile I had to make the 
best use I could of my eyes to find a suitable assort- 
ment of hand- and foot - holes. Soon I, too, was 
clinging to the face of the precipice, and Imboden 
was left above out of sight and before long almost 
out of hearing. The wind here was far less trying 
as we were sheltered by the topmost pinnacle of 
the mountain. To me the feeling of danger from 
a gale on a rock peak is due even more to the 
difficulty of hearing what one's companions are 
saying than to the risk of one's balance being 
upset. It is extremely disconcerting, when a 
climber, descending steep rocks and anxious to 
make a long but perhaps an easy step downwards to 
good foot-hold, calls for more rope, and is promptly 
swung clear out into space by an invisible guide 
above, who has misunderstood his orders. When a 
party is accustomed to work together, this sort of 

thing seldom happens, still it makes all the difference 

198 



THE ZINAL ROTHHORN TWICE IN ONE DAY 

in the pleasure of negotiating difficult rocks if the 
air is calm. 

Our only trouble now was owing to the fresh snow, 
but this had partially consolidated, and we got down 
steadily and safely, gradually leaving behind the 
cold wind which whistled amongst the crags above. 

It was early in the day, and we went slowly, 
stopping once or twice to photograph where warm 
and sheltered resting-places of comfortable propor- 
tions tempted us to linger. The rocky knife edge 
was unpleasantly sharp for the arms bent over it, 
but useful ledges down the side helped to distribute 
the weight and amuse and occupy the mind. When 
finally we reached the end of the rocks, and had 
nothing but snow between us and the Mountet Hut, 
we considered ourselves as good as there, and made 
a long halt on the last stones. 

We were wrong, however. " My boy, I will go 
ahead now," remarked Imboden, stepping off into 
the snow. He went a few paces, and then looked 
first all round him and lastly at us. " Blue ice ! " he 
muttered, with intense disgust. " Blue ice right 
down to the bottom ! " We shrugged our shoulders ; 
Imboden was ahead doing the work ; we could 
afford to be philosophical. I should not like to say 
how many strokes of the axe each step required, but 
the slope was steep, a slip could not be risked, and 

Imboden hewed out great foot-holds in the slippery 

199 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

wall. After this had gone on for some time he 
paused, " Upon my word," remarked he, " it will take 
us the rest of the day to get down at this rate ! I 
shall try another way." So we turned and re- 
mounted the slope, and sitting down once more on 
the stones, Imboden traced out a possible route down 
the face of the mountain, bearing diagonally across 
it. It looked dullish ; besides, thought I, after all, 
we don't particularly want to go to Zinal, Roman 
put into words what, I think, sprung simultaneously 
into both our minds, " Let us go back to Zermatt 
over the top of the Rothhorn again ! " " Yes, let 
us do that!" I exclaimed. Imboden gazed from 
one to the other of us in amazement, "Go back 
over the top of the Rothhorn ? " he repeated. " Why, 
we should simply be out all night ! " Roman didn't 
answer, but his eyes wandered persistently up the 
arete. His father now began to calculate, and by 
some strange process of arithmetic he came to the 
conclusion that if we hurried very much it was just 
possible that we might get off the difficult part of 
the peak before night overtook us. Still, he was 
far from reconciled to the idea, while every moment 
Roman and I liked it better. Imboden saw how 
keen we were, and presently exclaimed : " Well, I'll 
go if you both want it, but we must be quick ; if we 
spend the night on the top of the Rothhorn and a 

storm comes on, we may simply lose our lives ! " 

200 



THE ZINAL ROTHHORN TWICE IN ONE DAY 

There was no need however, to tell Roman to be 
quick. He was told off to lead, and I followed, with 
Imboden last. The memory of that ascent has 
remained in my mind as a confused dream. Every 
scrap of my attention was given to holding on and 
pulling myself upwards, never pausing, except in the 
very worst places, to see what either of the guides 
was doing, and, with every foot- and hand-hold fresh 
in my memory, I was full of a delightful sense of 
security which muscles in first-class condition and 
complete absence of any sensation of fatigue fully 
justified. We rose at an incredible pace, and after 
an hour and twenty-five minutes of splendid exercise, 
we threw ourselves once more on the flat little top 
of the Rothhorn. We had now only the descent 
by the ordinary route between us and Zermatt, and 
this seemed a small matter compared to what we 
had accomplished that day. 

We did not remain long on the summit, and the 
first part of the descent was quickly ended. We had 
now reached that point on the mountain where it is 
necessary to leave the ridge and go down for some 
distance on the precipitous north face. This bit of 
the climb, always requiring great care on account of 
the smoothness and steepness of the rock, was on this 
occasion particularly difficult because of the powdery 
snow which covered everything, and the bitterly 
cold wind to which here, and, luckily for us, here 

20I 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

only, we were exposed. The associations of these 
slabs are not of a nature to reassure the timid climber. 
Many years ago, in fact on the very first occasion 
when the Rothhorn was ascended from the Zermatt 
side, a startling incident took place near this spot 
The party consisted of Messrs Dent and Passingham, 
with Alexander Burgener, Ferdinand Imseng, and 
Franz Andermatten as guides, and they were descend- 
ing the mountain when the exciting occurrence de- 
scribed by Mr Dent happened.^ He has kindly 
allowed me to reprint his account. 

" Down the first portion of the steep rock slope we 
passed with great caution, some of the blocks of stone 
being treacherously loose, or only lightly frozen to the 
face. We had arrived at the most difficult part of the 
whole climb, and at a rock passage which at that time 
we considered was the nastiest we had ever encoun- 
tered. The smooth, almost unbroken face of the slope 
scarcely afforded any foot-hold, and our security almost 
entirely depended on the rope we had laid down 
in our ascent. Had not the rope been in position we 
should have varied our route, and no doubt found a 
line of descent over this part much easier than the 
one we actually made for, even without any help from 
the fixed cord. Imseng was far below, working his 
way back to the arete, while the rest of the party 
were holding on, moving but slowly, with their faces 
Above the Snow Line, by Clinton Dent. 

202 




The Zinal Rothhorn from the breakfast 

I'LACE ON THE WeLLENKUI'PE. 





The top of a Cha.monix Aiguille. 

By Signor Cajrati Crivelli Mesmer. 




A STEEl' FACE OF ROCK. 

> face )■>. 202, 



' Leading strings.' 



THE ZINAL ROTHHORN TWICE IN ONE DAY 

to the mountain. Suddenly I heard a shout from 
above ; those below glanced up at once : a large flat 
slab of rock, that had afforded us good hold in ascend- 
ing, but proved now to have been only frozen in to 
a shallow basin of ice, had been dislodged by the 
slightest touch from one of the party above, and was 
sliding down straight at us. It seemed an age, 
though the stone could not have had to fall more 
than lo feet or so, before it reached us. Just above 
me it turned its course slightly ; Franz, who was just 
below, more in its direct line of descent, attempted to 
stop the mass, but it ground his hands against the rock 
and swept by straight at Imseng. A yell from us 
hardly awoke him to the danger ; the slab slid on 
faster and faster, but just as we expected to see our 
guide swept away, the rock gave a bound for the first 
time, and as, with a startled expression, he flung him- 
self against the rock face, it leapt up, and, flying by 
within a few inches of his head, thundered down 
below. A moment or two of silence followed, and 
then a modified cheer from Imseng, as subdued as that 
of a * super ' welcoming a theatrical king, announced 
his safety, and he looked up at us with a serious ex- 
pression on his face. Franz's escape had been a 
remarkably lucky one, but his hands were badly cut 
about and bruised. In fact, it was a near thing for all 
of us, and the mere recollection will still call up that odd 
sort of thrill a man experiences on suddenly recollect- 

203 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

ing at II P.M. that he ought to have dined out that 
evening with some very particular people. Had not 
the rock turned its course just before it reached Franz, 
and bounded from the face of the mountain over 
Imseng's head, one or more of the party must un- 
questionably have been swept away. The place was 
rather an exceptional one, and the rock glided a re- 
markably long distance without a bound, but still the 
incident may serve to show that falling stones are not 
a wholly imaginary danger." 

A far more serious occurrence, however, took place 
on the north side of the Rothhorn in 1894, involving 
the loss of a life, the rest of the party escaping in 
a miraculous manner. 

I take my account of the disaster from The Alpine 
Journal. 

" On 20th September an accident occurred on the 
Zinal Rothhorn, in which Joseph Marie Biner, a well- 
known Zermatt guide, lost his life. The other 
members of the party were Dr Peter Horrocks and 
Peter Perren, both of whom are to be congratulated 
on their very narrow escape. The party had already 
effected the ascent of the mountain, and were de- 
scending towards Zermatt. On reaching the well- 
known Blatte overlooking the Durand Glacier, the 
usual precautions were observed. Biner, who was 
leading, crossed the awkward slab, and planted him- 
self firmly on the opposite side. Perren, who was 

204 



I 



THE ZINAL ROTHHORN TWICE IN ONE DAY 

last, was standing behind and holding on to a fair- 
sized rock, round which he was paying out the 
rope ; while Dr Horrocks crossed the slab, and 
Biner gradually pulled in the slack. Suddenly, the 
rock in which Perren placed such confidence came 
out, and bounded down the mountain side. Perren 
slid rapidly down the steep rocks ; Dr Horrocks, 
who had no foot-hold and very little hand-hold, was 
jerked from his position, turning a somersault, and 
becoming momentarily stunned from his head strik- 
ing against the rock. The strain on the rope was 
too great for Biner to withstand, and he was dragged 
down too. The whole party half tumbled, half slid, 
down the very steep smooth rocks for 30 feet or 
40 feet, when the rope between Dr Horrocks and 
Perren caught behind a projecting reck, and brought 
them both to a standstill. Perren found himself 
landed in a small patch of soft snow some 15 feet 
below the rock, which had so fortunately engaged 
the rope, while Dr Horrocks, some 7 feet higher 
up, though at first suspended with his back to the 
steep rocks, was very soon able to get more or less 
foot-hold. Poor Biner had the extra length of his 
own rope still to fall, and, when the strain came, 
the rope broke, according to one account, half-way 
between him and Dr Horrocks ; according to another, 
rather nearer to the latter. Biner fell down on to 

the Durand Glacier, some 2000 feet below, whence 

205 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

his mutilated body was recovered by a search party 
which crossed the Trift Pass, carried the body down 
to Zinal, and so by road and train brought it to 
Zermatt, where the funeral took place. Dr Horrocks 
and Perren were rescued from their dangerous posi- 
tion some ten or twelve minutes after the accident 
occurred, by the guides Emile Gentinetta and Edouard 
Julen, who were following down the mountain with 
another party." 

To return to ourselves. We steadily progressed 
down the cold and snowy face, with rope kept taut 
and paid out slowly as, one by one, we moved 
lower. I need not follow our climb, which was 
tvithout incident, and while it was still daylight, 
we reached the snow ridge, on the stones just below, 
which in ascending it is usual to pause for break- 
fast. We were particularly anxious to be off the 
stony rocks below and to gain the little glacier and 
pass over the moraine before dark, but this we 
could not manage, so in spite of our lantern we 
wandered about on those odious rocks for hours 
before we found the gully by which alone it is 
possible to get off them. Our various attempts en- 
tailed the descent of slippery chimneys leading to 
the top of black precipices, with nothing to be done 
but scramble up again, merely to embark in other 
chimneys with precisely similar consequences. I got 
so sick of the whole thing that I would gladly have 

2 06 



THE ZINAL ROTHHORN TWICE IN ONE DAY 

dozed under a rock and awaited daylight. The 
guides, however, stuck to the business, and after 
a positive nightmare of gulHes they at last hit off 
the right and only one. I have seldom felt greater 
satisfaction than when I stepped off those detestable 
rocks on to the snow, shimmering beneath our feet 
in the starlight. We had now only to cross the 
glacier and make our way down an exceedingly 
steep but well-defined foot-path over the sharply- 
crested moraine. Once we had left this behind us 
we had nothing more than grass-slopes between us 
and the Trift Inn. As soon as we reached this 
final stage in our day's work, we selected the most 
comfortable-looking hollow, and hanging the lantern 
to an axe stuck upright in the ground, we prepared, 
at a somewhat unorthodox hour and within only 
thirty minutes of the hotel, to enjoy a well-earned 
meal. 



207 



CHAPTER XIII 

BENIGHTED ON A SNOW PEAK 

TX a most interesting account of a mountain 
adventure which, by the courtesy of the writer, 
Sir H. Seymour King, I am enabled to reprint from 
The Alpine Journal^ we are once more reminded 
that a party of thoroughly competent and robust 
mountaineers can come without evil after-effects out 
of a night of great hardship which would have un- 
doubtedly proved fatal to ill-equipped and inex- 
perienced amateurs and guides, such as those 
accompanying Mr Burckhardt, who perished from 
exposure on the ?>Iatterhorn.^ 

After describing a previous ascent, Sir H. Seymour 
King goes on to say : 

" A few days later we went to Miirren, with the 

intention of carrying out a long-cherished plan of 

mine and testing the possibility of ascending the 

Silberhorn from the Roththal. Previous ascents had 

proved so lengthy, necessitating, I think, in nearly 

every case, the passing of a night on the rocks or 

^ True Tales of Mountain Adventure^ p. 269. 
208 



BENIGHTED ON A SNOW PEAK 

the glacier, that I thought it would be highly desirable 
if some shorter route could be discovered. I had an 
idea that the route by the western arete would prove 
to be the one sought for. Unfortunately, we were 
delayed in making an attempt by bad weather until 
the 23rd of September, which is undoubtedly too late 
in the year for so difficult an expedition. 

" I left the Hotel Silberhorn with Ambrose Supersax 
and Louis Zurbriicken as guides, and a porter, at ten 
o'clock on the morning of the 23rd of September, 
and followed for some distance the usual path to the 
Jungfrau Hut ; at length, leaving the Roththal path 
on the right, we struck off into a goat track, which 
leads by narrow ledges round the shoulder of the 
great bluffs forming the northern boundary of the 
Roththal. In this way gaining the face of the alp 
fronting Miirren, we made our way to the base of 
the ' Strahlplatten,' where we had determined to 
encamp for the night. 

" The nights were already lengthening out, and 
where we were it was not light before six, and it was 
not possible to move earlier than five ; punctually at 
that hour we started. We took only one knapsack 
with us, leaving the rest of the things with the porter, 
whom we instructed to stay where he was until he 
saw whether we were going to return the same way 
or not, as we thought it was quite possible we might 
have to pass another night at the same place. We 
o 209 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

therefore arranged with him that when we got 
to a certain point on the ridge, if we intended to 
return, we would wave our hats ; but if we made no 
sign, he might pack up his things and go home, as 
in that case he might understand that we had 
determined either to descend from the Silberhorn 
across the glacier to the Wengern Alp, or else make 
our way over the Jungfrau, and pass the night in the 
Bergli Hut. 

" Now let me try for a moment to describe the 
appearance of the rock face up which we purposed 
making our way on to the arete. From where we 
were the arete appeared to run nearly due east and 
west. At the west it terminated in the precipices 
which face Miirren, and at the east with the peak 
whence we had arranged to signal to our porter. 
From this peak a ridge descended towards the 
valley bounding the side facing us. On that side the 
rock face itself was divided into two compartments 
by a well-marked ridge running down the middle, 
giving the appearance of two couloirs leading to the 
arete; the whole side was composed of extremely 
smooth rocks, with very little foot-hold or hand- 
hold which would be extremely dangerous, if 
not impossible, to attempt, if they were not dry. 
Fortunately, we found them perfectly free from 
either water or ice, and, with the exception of one 
difficult piece, which it took us some little time to 

210 



BENIGHTED ON A SNOW PEAK 

surmount, we found nothing to check us until we 
were just under the arete. We ascended by the 
right-hand couloir, if I may so term it, and then 
made for the gap on the ridge at the extreme 
westerly end. Just below this gap we experienced 
some difficulty, owing to the excessive smoothness 
of the rocks, but finally reached the gap I have 
mentioned a little before nine. 

" I need not say that our hopes rose high, and 
that we were in the very best of spirits, and when 
we finally stood in the gap itself we began to 
think the worst part of the work was over. We 
soon found, however, that it had hardly begun ; 
it was all very well being in the gap, but the 
problem was how to get from there on to the 
arete itself; for, though the latter was not more 
than 20 feet above us, the peculiar formation 
of the rocks rendered every attempt to get on to 
it fruitless. The rocks hung over on every side. 
We exhausted ourselves in vain attempts to sur- 
mount them. An hour soon passed away, and 
after each of us in turn had failed, we sat down 
disconsolately to consider the situation under the 
lee of the ridge, so as to be out of the way of 
the biting north wind which was blowing. Looking 
round as we sat mournfully consuming some 
breakfast, I spied a bottle in a crevice, and found 
it contained the names of Mr C. E. Matthews and 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

Herr E. von Fellenberg, with Melchior Anderegg 
and two other guides ; it was undated, but re- 
counted how they had reached this spot and had 
been obliged to return without achieving their 
object, which apparently was identical with our 
own. This was the last straw, and exasperated 
Ambrose to the highest degree. That we should 
have gone through so much only to have gained 
the same spot where another party several years 
before had arrived was too much for his equanimity. 
He vowed he would never go back, and nothing 
under heaven should turn him back, he would get 
on to the ridge. We might do as we liked, he 
meant to stay there until he had. All of which 
I pointed out to him was very fine talk, but, as 
men were at present constructed, it did not appear 
to me possible to climb an acute angle. Ambrose, 
however, persisted that he would make another 
attempt to get on to the ridge, and, as it was quite 
hopeless anywhere on the side by which we had 
ascended, he roped himself, and insisted on being 
let down the northern face of the mountain. 

"With great skill he managed to work himself 
along the face for the full length of the rope, and 
the first lOO feet being exhausted, a second of 
80 feet was tied to it, and this again paid out 
to its utmost length ; still he could find no way 
up to the ridge. He thereupon demanded that the 



BENIGHTED ON A SNOW PEAK 

rope should be let go, and, in spite of our remon- 
strances at the danger he was running, he pulled it 
in, slung it on his back, and proceeded, while we 
sat down and waited with no little anxiety lest 
some accident should befall him. 

" For half an hour we neither saw nor heard 
anything of him, and our shouts remained un- 
answered. Zurbriicken muttered at intervals some- 
thing about ' Dummheit,' and was evidently very 
uneasy. Suddenly we heard a shout from above, 
which told us he had succeeded in ascending the 
wall above him, and getting on to the ridge, down 
which he was actually coming at the moment, and 
the next minute he was peering over the point 
where we had been stuck. 

" It was really a magnificent exhibition both of 
pluck and skill, and Ambrose deserves the highest 
credit for his success. Letting the rope over, and 
fastening it well to a piece of rock, he first hauled 
up the ice axes and knapsacks, and then we each 
in turn were half hauled, and half climbed to the 
place where he stood. I know when I arrived at 
the top I was nearly speechless from the terrible 
exertion it was necessary to make, and the pressure 
of the rope on my ribs ; I could only lie on my 
back and gasp feebly for brandy ! 

" However, it was imperative to proceed ; more 
than two hours had been wasted here, and it was 

213 



AD\^NTURES OX THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

nearly eleven o'clock. The way in front of us 
looked fairly plain and easy, and our hopes once 
again began to rise ; but soon, as we proceeded 
along the ridge, it became narrower and narrower, 
until from walking we were reduced to kneeling, 
and at last could only proceed h cheval ; in this 
elegant position we struggled along for some little 
distance, until the arete widening out again per- 
mitted us once more to stand up ; but here we 
found the rocks much more difficult, and finally 
absolutely impossible, At the foot of the peak at 
the easterly end of the ridge which I have before 
mentioned we were forced off the arete on to a 
wall of ice which led to the summit ; the slope 
was at a very sharp angle, the ice very hard and 
blue, and at last became so steep that we were 
forced back on to the rocks, and with some con- 
siderable difficulty reached the summit ; from there 
we could see the Silberhorn in front of us jutting 
out like a great white promontory' into a frozen 
sea, It being then one o'clock, we saw there was 
no possibility of our getting back the same way 
that evening, so we made no sign to our porter, 
whom we could see watching us far down below. 

" The formation of the ridge here is somewhat 
curious. After a slight descent it broadens out into 
a small and much crevassed glacier, shut in on the 

further side by a level snow wall, the promontory 

214 



BENIGHTED ON A SNOW PEAK 

which I have mentioned above. The arete of this 
wall appears to run level from the rock ridge to its 
northern termination ; indeed, I am of opinion that 
the highest point is on the rock ridge itself, and that 
the extreme end of the ridge facing the Wengern 
Alp is a few feet lower than the rocks overlooking the 
Roththal. 

" We speedily crossed the little intervening glacier, 
or snow-field, and commenced to ascend diagonally 
the snow wall, but found the snow in such a 
dangerous condition, lying as it was loosely on the 
surface of ice, that from the fear of starting an 
avalanche we once more made our way back to the 
ridg-e which formed the continuation of the arete 
along which we had been climbing. Here the rocks 
were extremely difficult, being inter-^persed with ice 
and very rotten. I think this was one of the most 
difficult parts of the expedition. It was half-past 
three when we reached the final summit, and then 
made our way along the snow ridge nearly to its 
extremity. The snow arete was very narrow, and in 
its then condition not very pleasant to traverse ; the 
day too was far advanced, and we had no time to 
spend in much exploration, so we returned as quickly 
as we could to the ridge which leads down to the 
Silberlucke ; we were already getting very doubtful 
as to whether we should get any shelter for the night. 
We had reached the narrow rock arete joining the 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

Silberhorn with the precipices of the Jungfrau ; in 
the middle was the narrow gap called the Silberliicke, 
and to that we crawled down and halted a moment 
to consider whether it would not be better to descend 
on to the glacier and strike across to the Wengern 
Alp ; but we knew from the results of previous expedi- 
tions that crossing the glacier would probably take 
four, if not five hours. None of us had ever been 
across it ; it was then four o'clock, and it would be 
dark at six. Our only hope lay in getting across the 
Jungfrau before the daylight finally died out. In the 
gap we found a ladder left by some previous explorer, 
and two or three pieces of wood ; and after debating 
whether we had not better pass the night there, 
finally decided to push on for the Jungfrau. 

" Our chance of escaping a night in the open air 
depended mainly on two points : first, whether the 
snow leading to the Jungfrau was in fairly good con- 
dition ; and, secondly, whether anybody whose steps 
we could make use of for descending had been on 
the mountain that day. A few minutes settled the 
first question ; we found that the slopes leading up to 
the upper snow-field which circles round the base of 
the Jungfrau were hard as ice, and we were soon 
laboriously cutting steps upwards. We pushed on 
with all speed, but step-cutting is at the best a slow 
operation, and before we got into the Roththal track 

the lengthening shadows had almost overtaken us. 

216 



BENIGHTED ON A SNOW PEAK 

We hurried on and managed to get across the 
bergscJirund before the last rays of sunlight left the 
summit of the Jungfrau. As we surmounted the 
final rocks I turned for a minute to look across 
Switzerland, and was rewarded by one of the most 
beautiful spectacles it has ever been my good fortune 
to witness. The valleys were filled with mist, but 
the setting sun tinged their surface with a deep 
crimson glow ; the last rays were still lingering round 
Mont Blanc and one or two of the higher mountains ; 
where we stood was still filled with golden light from 
the last rays of the sinking sun. The sky was 
perfectly clear, and the panorama which unrolled 
itself before our eyes with its mingled light and 
shadow was one of the most wonderful that lover 
of mountain scenery could desire to gaze on. A 
justification for the erection of a hut on the summit 
of the Jungfrau might almost be found in the 
possibility of obtaining such a view. 

" But we had no time for indulging in rhapsodies ; 
a bitter north wind was still blowing so keenly, that 
the upper leather of our boots had frozen stiff as 
boards while we walked. The moon was well up, 
and if only our second hope were realised, and some 
one had been on the mountain that day, we might 
find a refuge from the wind in the Bergli or Con- 
cordia Huts. We tumbled rather than scrambled 

down the rocks by the flickering moonlight, until 

217 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

we reached the well-known point where it is 
necessary to strike across the face just above the 
Roththal Sattel. Our last hope was dashed to the 
ground. No one had been there that day, and if 
we were to get down it must be by our own efforts. 
So Ambrose at once set to work to cut steps across 
the face. We had been there a fortnight before, 
and gone up and down the Jungfrau without cutting 
hardly a step ; now the face was all blue ice, and 
in five minutes I made up my mind that the risk 
of such a descent was too much to take. 

" The wall above the great bergschrund was in 
shadow, the bergschrund last year was especially 
formidable, and we were all too exhausted safely 
to face the freezing wind on such a steep ice-slope 
in the dark. We returned, therefore, to the rocks, 
and, after a brief consultation, decided to pass the 
night there as best we could. We managed to find 
a corner shut in on two sides by rock about 5 
feet high, from the floor of which we set to work 
to rake out the snow with our axes. The snow had 
drifted to a considerable depth, and its excavation 
gave us a good quantity of heat to start the night 
with, but our boots refused to thaw, and do what 
we would our feet would not get warm. 

" Our provisions being nearly exhausted, we agreed 

only to take a mouthful of brandy and a little bread 

that night, and keep the bulk of the provisions until 

218 



BENIGHTED ON A SNOW PEAK 

next morning, when we expected to be in a more 
or less exhausted condition, as the cold was very 
great, and it was obvious that we had a pretty 
severe ordeal before us. It was by this time half- 
past seven o'clock. We put on our gloves and 
gaiters, buttoned up our coats, and after making a 
seat apiece out of three smooth stones, sat down as 
close together as we could, and commenced to smoke. 

" The night was beautifully clear, but far away to 
the south we could see a great thunderstorm raging 
over the Italian hills, and were in no little trepida- 
tion lest it should be coming up in our direction, as 
indeed a storm had done in exactly a similar way 
a week before ; but the north wind kept it at bay, 
and we luckily had not a snow-storm to face in 
addition to the other discomforts. 

" The night passed slowly enough ; it was neces- 
sary to keep shuffling our feet and beating our arms 
together the whole night long without cessation, in 
order to prevent being frost-bitten, and it was even 
more difficult to keep awake. The hours, however, 
passed somehow, and at half-past four the first 
primrose streaks in the sky heralded the coming 
day. By five o'clock the welcome face of the sun 
peeped over the Trugberg, and we began to prepare 
for a start. 

" Our first thought was breakfast, but this solace 
was denied us ; the wine and brandy had frozen 

219 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

during the night, and were solid lumps of ice; the 
bread required nothing less than an ice-axe to cut 
it, and then probably would have flown into chips 
like a log of wood ; the three remaining eggs we 
possessed had been converted during the night into 
icicles ; there was nothing for it, therefore, but to 
start hungry and thirsty. Ambrose proposed that 
he and Zurbriicken should first cut the steps, and 
then come back for me, but after a very few minutes' 
exposure to the wind they were obliged to return 
and wait until the sun had warmed them a little, 
the biting cold of the night and exhaustion from 
tvant of sleep rendered it impossible to face the 
work of step-cutting in such a bitter wind. We 
resumed our seats, therefore, and waited another 
hour, and then commenced our descent to the 
bergschrund. We had to cut steps the whole way 
down, and very glad I was we had not attempted 
it in the dark, as I think it would have been almost 
impossible to get over without an accident. 

" We pushed on steadily, but the night had taken 
all the spurt out of us, and our progress across the 
Jungfrau Firn was not very rapid. We hoped to 
find water under the Monch Joch, where we had 
found a good supply a fortnight previously, but the 
wind had prevented the snow melting at the time 
we reached the spot, and there was nothing for it 
but to press on to Grindelwald, and it was not until 



BENIGHTED ON A SNOW PEAK 

we reached the end of the Viescher Glacier that we 
found any water to drink. At the Baregg we got 
some ginger nuts to eat, and by three o'clock in 
the afternoon were being hospitably welcomed by 
the Bosses at the ' Bar,' whose welcome was never 
more appreciated. These estimable hosts soon had 
an excellent dinner ready, and by half-past four I 
was driving to Interlaken to rejoin the rest of my 
party." 



231 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE STORY OF A BIG JUMP 

nr^HROUGH the kindness of Dr Kennedy, I am 
enabled to reprint from his new edition of 
The Alps in i86^, by the late Mr A. W. Moore, an 
admirable account of the first passage of the Col 
de la Pilatte in Dauphind This expedition has 
become classical, thanks to Mr Whymper's fine 
description of it,^ so it is interesting to read what 
impression the adventures of the day made on 
another member of the party. The first part of the 
expedition was easy, but, wrote Mr Moore, " before 
fretting near the foot of the couloir, we had some- 
thing to do in threading a way up and through the 
huge chasms into which the glacier was broken. 
Croz was here thoroughly in his element, and led 
the way with great skill and determination, passing 
one obstacle after another, and bearing gradually 
to the left towards the enemy. At every step we 
took, it became more apparent that nature had never 
intended any one to pass this way, and had accord- 

^ True Tales of Mountain Adventure, p. 134. 

222 



THE STORY OF A BIG JUMP 

ingly taken more than usual pains to render the 

approach to the couloir difficult and dangerous. 

Below the highest bergscJiriind were a series of 

smaller ones, arranged systematically one above the 

other, stretching completely across a very steep slope, 

so that they could not be turned, but must each in 

succession be attacked en face. Fortunately at this 

early period of the season, and with so much snow, 

the difficulty was less considerable than it would 

have been under other circumstances, and, exercising 

every precaution, we finally passed the last of the 

outer lines of defence, and had nothing but a short 

steep slope between us and the final schrund, above 

which the couloir rose more unfriendly than ever, 

as we approached it nearer. I had been sorely 

puzzled in my mind how we wure going to get 

across this chasm, as from below it appeared to 

have a uniform width of about lo feet, the upper 

edge, as usual, much higher than the lower, and no 

visible bridge at any point. On getting up to it, 

however, we found that on the extreme right it had 

been choked by a considerable mass of snow, the 

small remains of which at one point formed a narrow, 

rotten, and most insecure bridge, over which Croz 

cautiously passed, and made himself firm in the 

soft snow above. Walker, Whymper, Mons. Renaud, 

myself, and Aimer, then followed, as if we were 

treading on eggs, and all got safely over, much 

223 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

to our relief, as there really appeared no small chance 
of the bridge going to grief before we were all across, 
which would have been awkward for those on the 
wrong side. 

" It was just 9.30 when we fairly took to this extra- 
ordinary gully, which, above the bergschrund was 
certainly not more than 12 feet wide, and gradually 
narrowed in its upward course. For the first few 
steps we trod in a sufficiency of soft snow in good 
condition, but, to our dismay, this soon sensibly 
diminished both in quantity and quality, until at 
last there was nothing but the old, disgusting, 
powdery snow resting on hard ice. The axe accord- 
ingly came into play ; but if steps were cut of the 
ordinary size, we should never get to the top till 
night, so Croz just hacked out sufficient space for 
the feet to cling to, and worked away as fast as 
possible, cautioning us emphatically to look out, and 
to hold on well with our axes while each step was 
being cut. Another argument in favour of rapid 
progress arose from the palpable danger in which we 
were. The centre of the couloir was occupied by 
a deeply-scored trough, evidently a channel for stones 
and avalanches, while the space on either side was 
so narrow that in case of a large fall we could scarcely 
expect to escape unharmed. Looking up to see what 
was likely to come down, we discovered at the very 

head of the couloir a perpendicular or slightly over- 

224 



THE STORY OF A BIG JUMP 

hanging wall of neve, some 30 feet in height, and 
lower down, projecting over the rocks on our left, 
an enormous mass of icicles, on which the sun was 
playing, and, of course, momentarily loosening their 
tenure to the rocks. At the moment we were exactly 
in the line which they must follow, if they fell, as 
they evidently would before long, so we lost no 
time in crossing the stone channel to the other side, 
where the great mass was scarcely likely to come, 
and we might probably ward off any stray fragments. 
I received a lively hint as to the effect of a large mass 
of ice coming suddenly down on one's head, by the 
effect of a blow from a comparatively small piece, 
which Croz hewed out from one of the steps. 
Being so far down in the line, it had time to gain 
momentum before it struck me, which it did on 
the head with such violence that for a few 
moments I felt quite sick and stupid. The in- 
cident will give a very good idea of the steepness 
of the slope on which we were. I had too much to 
think of to measure it with a clinometer, but it was 
certainly steeper than any part of the couloir leading 
to the Col des Ecrins, the greatest inclination of 
which was 54°. At one point a little water trickled 
over the rocks, which the two front men managed to 
get a suck at, but those behind were out of reach, 
and the footing was too precarious for more than a 
minute's halt, not to mention occasional volleys of 
p . 225 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

small stones which shot by us, and might be the 
precursors of large ones. I don't think that I ever 
experienced a greater feeling of insecurity than 
during the whole of this ascent, which was unavoid- 
ably long. What with the extreme steepness of the 
slope, and the necessary vagueness of the steps, 
which were made additionally unsafe by the powdery 
snow which filled them up as soon as they were 
cut, I felt that a slip was a by no means unlikely 
contingency, and was glad enough upon occasions 
to find Aimer's hand behind, giving me a friendly 
push whenever a particularly long stride had to be 
made. When we were nearing the top, our attention 
was attracted by a tremendous uproar behind us, 
and, looking round, we were just in time to see a 
prodigious avalanche falling over the cliffs of the 
Pic de Bonvoisin, on the other side of the valley. 
It was at least a quarter of a mile in length, and 
many minutes elapsed before the last echoes of its 
fall died away. We were now so near the great 
snow-wall that it was time to begin to circumvent 
it ; so, crossing the couloir again, we clambered up 
the rocks on that side in order to get out of it, 
hoping to be able from them to get on to the 
main ridge to the left of the wall, which itself was 
quite impassable. As Aimer had expected, the snow 
was here very thin over the rocks, and what little 
there was, was converted into ice, so that the climb- 

226 



THE STORY OF A BIG JUMP 

ing was most diTficult and perilous, and we had no 
small trouble to get on at all. However, we 
managed to scramble up, and found ourselves over- 
looking a gully running parallel, and of a similar 
character, to the one we had been ascending, but free 
from snow and ice, and much more precipitous. On 
our side it was quite impossible to get on to the 
main ridge as an impracticable rock rose above our 
heads, and it was, therefore, necessary to step across 
this second couloir. I never made a nastier step ; 
the stride was exceedingly long, there was nothing 
in particular to stand on, and nothing at all but a 
smooth face of rock to hold on by, so that we had 
literally to trust to the natural adhesiveness of our 
hands. Fortunately, there was sufficient rope to 
allow the man in front to cross and get on to the 
main ridge, and make himself fast before his 
successor followed, so we attacked the difficulty in 
turn. I got over somehow, but did not like it at 
all ; lifted myself on to the ridge. Aimer followed, 
and at 10.45 A.M., the Col was gained. 

" During our ascent of the couloir, the weather, 
though doubtful, had not been unfavourable, but, 
just as we got on to the ridge, a cloud swooped 
down, and enveloped us in its dense folds, and at 
the same moment it began to snow violently. 
Luckily Croz, who was first on the top, had been 
able to satisfy himself that we were above the 

227 



AD^^:NTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

Glacier de la Pilatte. and got a glimpse of what 
lay between us and it ; but the state of the 
atmosphere was, nevertheless, sufficiently disappoint- 
ing, as we were unable to fix with accuracy the 
exact position of our gap with reference to the peak 
of Les Bans, and the highest point of the Boeufs 
Rouges, or to determine its height From the 
Breche de la ]^Ieije, we had seen clearly that we 
were then considerably lower than any point on 
the ridge south of the Glacier de la Pilatte, and, 
taking this into consideration, together with the 
apparer.t l:e:~ht of our gap, seen from the valley 
below, we estimated the height of the Col, which 
we proposed to call Col de la Pilatte, at about 
11,500 feet I« is certainly not much below this, 
and is, therefore, probably the highest pass yet 
effected in the Dauphine Alps. 

" It was no less provoking to have missed the view 
of the Ecrins and Ailefroide, which we had expected 
to be particularly fine. But there was no help for it, 
and no prospect of immediate im.provement ; so, 
without halting for a minute, v.e commenced the 
descent in the same order as before. All we could 
see was a steep ice-wall, stretching downwards from 
our feet, the actual ridge not being more than a 
couple of feet wide. What was the length of the 
wall, or what lay below it, we could not discover, but 

had a shrewd suspicion that we should anyhow find 

228 



THE STORY OF A EIG JUMP 

a considerable bergschrund. Croz steered to the left, 
and began cutting steps diagonally downwards. The 
snow was in a much worse condition than it had been 
in the couloir ; there was more of it, but it was so 
exceedingly soft, that our feet pressed through it to 
the hard ice, as though it had been water, and we 
were ver\' rarely able to trust to it without cutting a 
step. We should have been better pleased had there 
been no snow at all, as the whole slope, the angle of 
which was about 50', was in just the proper condition 
for an avalanche. I never saw Aimer so ner\-ous, 
and with reason ; for, as he himself said, while he 
implored us not to move from one step into another 
before we felt that one foot at least v.-as secured, this 
was just one of those places where no amount of skill 
on the part of Croz or himself could entirely prevent 
the chance of a serious accident It was a wonder 
how we did manage to stick to some of the steps, the 
objectionable character of which was increased from 
their being cut along the side of the slope, a position 
in which it is always more difficult to get from one 
to the other than when they are cut straight up or 
down. As we got lower down there was more snow, 
which, though softer than ever, was so steep that we 
could tread tolerably secure steps on it, by help of 
which we worked down, until we found ourselves 
brought up short on the upper edge of the expected 
bergschrund. Croz had hoped to hit this at a point 

229 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

where it was partially choked, but he was dis- 
appointed, as the chasm yawned below us, entirely 
unbridged. A glance right and left showed that 
there was no more assailable point within reach, so 
Croz gave out the unwelcome intelligence that if we 
wished to get over we must jump and take our chance. 
The obstacle appeared to be about lo feet wide, of 
uncomfortable depth, and the drop from the upper 
to the lower edge about 15 feet. From the lower 
edge the glacier sloped away, only less steep than the 
wall on which we were, of which it was a continua- 
tion, but cut off by this sudden break. There was, 
however, so much soft snow that we should fall easy, 
and the only difficulty, therefore, was to take a 
sufficiently fair spring to clear the chasm ; for, good 
as I believed my rope to be, I should have been sorry 
to see any one suspended by it, with a sudden jerk, 
over such a gulf as that we had beneath us. Walker 
was untied, so as to give rope enough to Croz, who 
then boldly sprung over, and landed heavily on the 
lower edge in the snow, where he stood to receive the 
rest of the party. Walker followed, and then 
Whymper, leaving Mons. Renaud, myself, and 
Aimer above. Mons. Renaud advanced to the 
edge, looked, hesitated, drew back, and finally 
declared that he could not jump it ; he felt perfectly 
convinced that he should be unable to clear the 
distance, and should jump in instead of over. We 

230 




A VEKY TAME BeRGSCHRUND. 

By Mr. Leonard Rawlence. 




Homeward over the snow-sloi'Es. 



To face j), 230. 



THE STORY OF A BIG JUMP 

encouraged him, but without effect, and at last 
proposed to lower him down, when the others would 
hook hold of his legs somehow and pull him across. 
Aimer and I, therefore, made our footing as secure as 
possible, anchored ourselves with our axes, and made 
all ready to lower our friend, but his courage failed 
him at the last moment, and he refused to go. We 
were now obliged to use stronger arguments, as it was 
snowing fast, and time was passing, so we pointed out 
that, if we wished to return ever so much, we could 
not get the others back across the sckrund, and that, 
in point of fact, there was no chance — over he must 
go. Again did he advance to the edge, again draw 
back, but finally, with a despairing groan, leaped, and 
just landed clear of the chasm, but, instead of letting 
his rope hang loose, he held it in one hand, and 
thereby nearly pulled me over head foremost. Then 
came my turn, and I must confess that, when I stood 
in the last step from which I had to spring, I did not 
like the look of the place at all, and, in fact, felt un- 
deniably nervous. But I had not been one of the least 
backward in objurgating Mons. Renaud, so felt con- 
strained to manifest no hesitation myself, whatever 
might be my private feelings. I, therefore, threw 
over my axe and spectacles, gathered myself up, 
and took the leap. The sensation was most peculiar. 
I had not the faintest idea whether I should or should 
not clear the chasm, but the doubt was soon solved 

231 



ADATXTURES OX THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

by my landing heavily on the further side, rather to 
the right of the rest of the party. The hea%y load 
on my back sent me forwards on my face, and I 
shot down the slope with tremendous velocit}-, head 
foremost, until I was suddenly stopped by the 
tightening round my waist of the rope, the other 
end of which was held by Aimer above. My first 
impression was, that half my ribs were crushed in ; 
as it was, my wind was so completely bagged by the 
severity- of the jerk that I could not speak, but 
laughed hysterically, until nature's bellows had 
replenished my unlucky carcass. The incident 
was so far satisfactor}' that it showed the enormous 
strength of the rope, and also hov/ severe a shock 
a man like Aimer, standing in a most insecure 
position, can bear unmoved when he is prepared 
for it. My vreight, unloaded, is loi stone, and the 
strain on the rope was certainly nearly as great 
as though I had jumped into the crevasse. Aimer 
now followed us over, and at 11.35 v."e v.'ere all 
together without accident below the schrund, which, 
with the v.-all above it, was as ugly-looking a place 
as I would v."ish to see. 

" We now floundered down the slope of soft snow, 
without taking much care, as we imagined that hence- 
forward it was all plain sailing, but v,-ere abruptly 
checked in our pace by coming upon a huge crevasse, 
of great length and breadth, but covered over in 

2.^2 



THE STORY OF A BIG JUMP 

places. Several attempts were made to cross at one 
of these points, but without success, as the breadth 
was too great, and the snow unsubstantial in the 
extreme, and a long detour was necessary before 
we were able to get over near its eastern extremity. 
This proved to be the beginning of a new series of 
troubles, as the chasms became more and more 
numerous and complicated, until the slope which 
we had imagined would be so easy, resolved itself 
into a wall of gigantic seracs, the passage of which 
tasked our energies to the utmost The difficulty of 
the position was increased by our still being enveloped 
in a mist so thick that we could not see a distance 
of 20 feet belov,- us, and were in a happy state of 
ignorance as to whether we were steering properly, 
or were only plunging deeper into the mire. Nothing, 
however, could exceed the energ}' and skill with 
which Croz threaded his way through the labyrinth 
which surrounded us. He never once had to retrace 
his steps, but, cutting along the sides of some 
crevasses and underneath others, he steadily gained 
ground. In spite of the generally deep snow, a good 
deal of step-cutting was necessarj- here and there, 
and we had nearly an hour of most exciting work 
before the inclination of the glacier diminished, and 
at 12.30 P.M., for the first time since leaving the Col, 
we stood at ease upon a flat plain of snow. But how 
long would it last? A fog on an unknown glacier 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

always suggests to my desponding mind the proba- 
bility of marching round and round in a circle, and 
finally having to pass the night in a crevasse, so that 
I, personally, was particularly relieved when, just as 
we emerged from the seracs, the mist suddenly lifted 
sufficiently to let us see a long way over the glacier 
in front, which displayed itself to our admiring eyes 
perfectly level and uncrevassed." 



234 





to,. 




/' 


1 


L 




1 


P 



CHAPTER XV 

A PERILOUS FIRST ASCENT 

TtyTR WHYMPER has also immortalised the 
■*■-*■ first ascent of the Ecrins. Here is the 
account Mr Moore wrote in his diary of that 
eventful day : 

" It must be confessed that the higher we climbed, 
the greater became our contempt for our peak. It 
certainly seemed that, once over the bergschrund, 
we ought very soon to be on the top, and so per- 
suaded was I of this, that I hazarded the opinion 
that by 9.30 we should be seated on the highest 
point. Whymper alone was less sanguine; and, 
probably encouraged by the result of his former 
bet, on hearing my opinion, offered to bet Walker 
and myself two francs that we should not get up 
at all, an offer which we promptly accepted. We 
were now sufficiently near to the bergschrund to be 
able to form some idea of its nature and difficulty. 
It certainly was a formidable -looking obstacle 
running completely along the base of the final 
peak, or rather ridge from which the peak itself 

235 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

rose. For a long distance the chasm was of great 
width, and, with its upper edge rising in a wall 
of ice, fringed with icicles, to a height of, perhaps, 
30 feet above the lower edge, was obviously 
quite impassable. But on the extreme right 
(looking up), the two lips so nearly met that we 
thought we might be able to get over, and on the 
extreme left, it seemed possible, by a considerable 
detour, to circumvent the enemy, and get round 
his flank. We finally determined on the latter 
course, as, to the right, the slope above the chasm 
seemed to be steeper than at any other point. 
After the first start, we had been steering tolerably 
straight forwards up the centre of the glacier, and 
were now approaching the bergschrundy just under 
the highest peak of the mountain, at about its 
most impracticable point. The more direct course 
would have been to attack it on the right, but, 
for the reason above stated, we chose the opposite 
end, so had to strike well away to the left diagon- 
ally up the slope. We here first began to suspect 
that our progress would not be quite so easy and 
rapid as we had hoped, as the snow became less 
abundant, and the use of the axe necessary. Still 
we worked away steadily, until, at 8.10 A.M., in 
one hour and forty minutes from the Col, we 
turned the bergschrimd, and were fairly on its 

upper edge, clinging to an ice-step which promised 

236 



A PERILOUS FIRST ASCENT 

to be only the first of an unpleasantly long 
series. 

"Above us the slope stretched up to some rocks, 
which continued without interruption to the main 
ridge, a prominent point on which was just above 
our heads. The rocks looked quite easy, and it 
seemed that, by making for them just under the 
small peak, we should be able to work round the 
latter, and get on to the main ridge to the right 
of it without serious difficulty. Aimer led, and 
wielded his axe with his usual vigour, but the ice 
was fearfully hard, and he found the work very 
severe, as the steps had to be cut sufficiently 
large and good to serve for our retreat, if need be. 
After each blow, he showered down storms of 
fragments which came upon the hands and legs 
of his followers with a violence that rendered their 
position the reverse of pleasant. Still the rocks 
kept their distance, and it was a long time before 
we scrambled on to the lowest of them, only to 
find that, although from below they had appeared 
quite easy, they were in reality very steep, and 
so smooth that it was scarcely possible to get 
along them at all, the hold for hands and feet 
being almost nil. The rocky peak, too, above us 
turned out to be much further off than we had 
supposed, and, to reach the point on the main 
ridge to the right of it, we had before us a long 

237 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

and difficult climb up and along the face of the 
rocks. The prospect was not pleasant, but we 
scrambled along the lower part of the rocks for 
a short time, and then Aimer started off alone to 
reconnoitre, leaving us rather disconsolate, and 
Walker and myself beginning to think that there 
was a considerable probability of our francs, after 
all, finding their way into Whymper's pocket. 
Croz did not approve of the rocks at all, and 
strongly urged the propriety of getting down on to 
the ice-slope again, and cutting along it above the 
bergschrund until we should be immediately under 
the peak, and then strike straight up towards it. 
He accordingly cast loose the rope, and crawling 
cautiously down, began cutting. I am not very 
nervous, but, as I saw him creeping alone over the 
ice-covered rocks, I felt an unpleasant qualm, which 
I was doomed to experience several times before 
the end of the day. Just as Croz had begun to 
work Aimer returned, and reported that things ahead 
were decidedly bad, but that he thought we could 
get on to the arete by k3eping up the rocks. We 
passed his opinion down to Croz, and, while he was 
digesting it, we communicated to Aimer what Croz 
had been saying to us. Now, up to the present 
time no two men could have got on better, nor 
more thoroughly agreed with each other, than Croz 

and Aimer. We had been slightly afraid that the 

238 



A PERILOUS FIRST ASCENT 

natural antipathy between an Oberlander and a 
Chamouniard would break out upon every occasion, 
and that a constant series of squabbles would be our 
daily entertainment. We were, however, agreeably 
disappointed, as Aimer displayed such an utter 
abnegation of self, and such deference to Croz's 
opinion, that had the latter been the worst-tempered 
fellow in the world, instead of the really good fellow 
that he was, he could not have found a cause of 
quarrel. Upon this occasion, although Aimer ad- 
hered to his own opinion that it would be better to 
keep to the rocks, he begged us to follow the advice 
of Croz, who was equally strong in favour of the ice, 
should he, on further consideration, prefer that course. 
Croz protested emphatically against the rocks, but 
left it to us to decide, but in such a manner that it 
was plain that a decision adverse to his wishes would 
produce a rumpus. The position was an awkward 
one. The idea of cutting along a formidably-steep 
slope of hard ice immediately above a prodigious 
bcrgschrimd was most revolting to us, not only on 
account of the inevitable danger of the proceeding, 
but also because of the frightful labour which such 
a course must entail on the two men. On the other 
hand, a serious difference with Croz would probably 
destroy all chance of success in our attempt. So 
convinced, however, were we that the rocks offered the 
most advisable route that we determined to try the 

239 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

experiment on Croz's temper, and announced our 
decision accordingly. The effect was electric ; Croz 
came back again in the steps which he had cut, anger 
depicted on his countenance, giving free vent to the 
ejaculations of his native land, and requesting us to 
understand that, as we had so chosen, we might do 
the work ourselves, that he would do no more. 
Affairs were evidently serious, so each of us cried 
peccavi, and, to calm his irritation, agreed, it must 
be confessed against our better judgment, to adopt 
his route. Aimer was more amused than annoyed, 
and concurred without a word, so the storm blew 
over ; the sky was again clear, and we resumed our 
labours, which, during the discussion, had been 
suspended for a few minutes. 

" The half-dozen steps that led us to the ice were 
about the most unpleasant I ever took. The rocks 
were glazed with ice ; there was nothing in particular 
to hold on by, and without the trusty rope I should 
have looked a long time before trusting myself to 
move. As it was, I was very considerably relieved 
when we were all standing in the steps, and Crozi 
again roped on to us, began at 9.35 to cut in front. 
I must do him the justice to say that, so soon as 
we were committed to his line of march, he worked 
splendidly, bringing the whole force of his arm to 
bear in the blows with which he hewed the steps. 
Never halting for a moment nor hesitating, he 

240 



A PERILOUS FIRST ASCENT 

hacked away, occasionally takinc^ a glance behind 
to see that all was iic,rht. We could not but admire 
the determination with which he laboured, but the 
exertion was fearful, and we became momentarily 
more of opinion that our original decision was the 
wisest. The slope on which we were was inclined 
at an angle of 50°, never less, sometimes more, for 
the most part of hard blue ice, bare of snow. This 
was bad enough ; but far worse were places which 
we occasionally came to, where there was a layer 
of soft, dry, powdery snow, without cohesion, so that 
it gave no footing, and steps had to be cut through 
it into the ice below, steps which were filled up 
almost as soon as cut, and which each man had to 
clear out with his hands before trusting his feet in 
them. All the time the great bergschrund yawned 
about 100 feet below us, and the knowledge of this 
fact kept us well on the alert, although, from the 
steepness of the slope below, the chasm itself was not 
visible. One hears people talk occasionally of places 
where the rope should not be used, because one 
person slipping might entail the loss of the whole 
party ; but I never heard a guide give vent to any 
such idea, and certain I am that had any one of us 
now proposed to take off the rope and go alone on 
that account, Aimer and Croz would never have 
allowed it, and, indeed, would not have advanced 
another step. It must be admitted, however, that 
Q . 241 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

all along this slope, had one of us unfortunately 
slipped, the chance of the others being able to hold 
him up would have been very small, and the prob- 
ability of the party in their fall being shot over, 
instead of into, the bergschrund, still smaller. But, in 
my opinion, the use of the rope on such places gives 
so much more confidence, if it is no real protection, 
that the chances of a slip are much diminished, and 
certainly a party can progress more rapidly. For an 
hour Croz kept on his way unwearied, cutting the 
steps for the most part beautifully, but occasionally 
giving us rather a long stride, where every one held 
on like grim death, while each man in succession 
passed. But at last even his powerful frame required 
rest ; so Aimer relieved him, and went to the front. 
" All this time we had risen but little, but we were 
now very nearly under the highest peak, and it was 
necessary to think of getting on to the ridge ; so we 
at last fairly turned our faces to the slope, and began 
cutting straight up what appeared to be a great 
central couloir. Unlike most couloirs, this one did 
not run without interruption to the ridge above, but 
came to an abrupt termination at a considerable 
distance below it, leaving an intervening space of 
rock, which promised some trouble. But we were 
yet far from the lowest point of these rocks, and 
every step towards them cost no small amount of 

time and labour. I have rarely been on harder ice, 

242 



A PERILOUS FIRST ASCENT 

and, as blow after blow fell with so little apparent 
result in raising us towards our goal, an inexpres- 
sible weariness of spirit and a feeling of despair 
took possession of me. Nevertheless we did mount, 
and at 11.30, after two hours of terribly hard work 
(for the guides), we grasped with our hands the 
lowest of the crags. To get on them, however, was 
no easy task, as they were exceedingly smooth, and 
coated with ice. Aimer scrambled up, how I know 
not, and, taking as much rope as possible, crawled on 
until he was fest, when, by a combined operation of 
pulling from above and pushing from below, each of 
us in turn was raised a few steps. We hoped that 
this might be an exceptional bit, and that higher up 
matters would improve. But it was a vain hope ; 
the first few steps were but a foretaste of what was to 
follow, and every foot of height was gained with the 
greatest difficulty and exertion. As we climbed with 
the tips of our fingers in some small crevice, and the 
tips of our toes just resting on some painfully minute 
ledge, probably covered with ice or snow, one question 
gradually forced itself upon us, almost to the exclusion 
of the previously absorbing one, whether we should 
get to the top of the mountain, and this was, how 
on earth we should ever get down again — get down, 
that is to say, in any other state than that of debris. 
The idea that it would be possible to descend these 
rocks again, except with a rush in the shape of an 

243 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

avalanche, seemed rather absurd ; and at last, some 
one propounded the question to Aimer and Croz, 
but those worthies shirked the answer, and gave us 
one of those oracular replies which a good guide 
always has at the tip of his tongue when he is asked a 
question to which he does not wish to give a straight- 
forward response, to the effect that we should prob- 
ably get down somehow. They were, perhaps, of 
opinion that one thing at a time was sufficient, and 
that they had work enough to settle the question of 
how we were to get up. Our progress was unavoid- 
ably slow, and the positions in which one was 
detained, while the man in front was going the full 
length of his tether, were far from agreeable 4 while 
hanging on by my eyelids, the view, seen between my 
legs, of the smooth wall of rock and ice on which we 
had been so long engaged, struck me as being 
singularly impressive, and gave me some occupation 
in discussing mentally where I should stop, if in an 
oblivious moment I chanced to let go. But to all 
things must come an end, and, at 12,30 P.M., with 
a great sigh of relief, we lifted ourselves by a final 
effort on to the main ridge, which had so long 
mocked at our efforts to reach it, and, to our huge 
delight, saw the summit of the mountain on our right, 
led up to by a very steep arete of rocks, but evidently 
within our reach. 

"The work of the last four hours and a half had 
244 



A PERILOUS FIRST ASCENT 

been so exciting that we had forgotten to eat, and, 
indeed, had not felt the want of food ; but now the 
voice of nature made itself heard, and we disposed 
ourselves in various positions on the ridge, which in 
many places we might have straddled, and turned 
our attention to the provisions. As we sat facing the 
final peak of the Ecrins, we had on our left the 
precipice which falls to the head of the Glacier 
Noir. Without any exaggeration, I never saw so 
sheer a wall ; it was so smooth and regular that it 
might have been cut with a knife, as a cheese is cut 
in two. Looking over, we saw at once that, as we 
had thought probable, had we been able to get from 
La Berarde on to the ridge at the head of the Glacier 
du Vallon, it would have been impossible to get 
down on to the Glacier Noir, as the cliffs are almost 
as precipitous as those down which we were looking. 
On the right bank of the Glacier Noir towered the 
dark crags of the Pelvoux, Crete du Pelvoux, and 
Ailefroide, a most glorious sight, presenting a com- 
bination of, perhaps, the finest rock-forms in the 
Alps ; I certainly never saw so long and steep a line 
of cliffs, rising so abruptly from a glacier. 

"At 12.50 we started again. Aimer leading. We 
had first to cross a very short but very narrow neck 
of snow, and Aimer had scarcely set foot on this, 
when a great mass of snow, which had appeared 
quite firm and part of the ridge, suddenly gave way, 

245 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

and fell with a roar to the Glacier Noir below. 
Aimer's left foot was actually on this snow when it 
gave way. He staggered, and we all thought he was 
over, but he recovered himself and managed to 
keep steady on the firm ridge. It is true he was 
roped ; but the idea of a man being dropped with a 
sudden jerk, and then allowed to hang suspended, 
over that fearful abyss, was almost too much for my 
equanimity, and for the second time a shudder ran 
through my veins. This little isthmus crossed, we 
tackled the rocks which rose very steeply above our 
heads, and climbed steadily up along the arete, 
generally rather below the edge on the side of the 
Glacier de I'Encula. The work was hard enough, 
but easier than what we had gone through below, 
as the rocks were free from ice, and the hold for 
hands and feet was much better, so that there was 
no fear of slipping. I don't think a word was said 
from the time we quitted our halting-place until we 
were close to the top, when the guides tried to 
persuade us to go in front, so as to be the first 
to set foot on the summit. But this we declined ; 
they had done the work, let them be the first 
to reap the reward. It was finally settled that we 
should all go on together as much as possible, as 
neither party would give way in this amicable 
contest. A sharp scramble in breathless excitement 
ensued, until, at 1.25 p.m., the last step was taken, 

246 




The EcRiNS (in the centre) from the Glacier Blanc. _ 

By Signer Vittorio Sella. 



A PERILOUS FIRST ASCENT 

and we stood on the top of the Ecrnis, the worthy 
monarch of the Dauphine Alps. 

" In that supreme moment all our toils and dangers 
were forgotten in the blissful consciousness of success, 
and the thrill of exultation that ran through mc, 
as I stood, in my turn, on the very highest point 
of the higher pinnacle — a little peak of rock with 
a cap of snow — was cheaply purchased by what we 
had gone through. Close to us was a precisely 
similar point, of much the same height, which 
scarcely came up to the rank of a second summit. 
It could have been reached in a few seconds from 
our position, but, as our point was actually the 
higher of the two, and was also more convenient 
for sitting down, we remained where we were. I 
must confess to a total inability to describe the 
wonderful panorama that lay extended before us. 
I am not one of those happily constituted in- 
dividuals who, after many hours of excitement, can 
calmly sit on the apex of a mountain, and discuss 
simultaneously cold chicken and points of topo- 
graphy. I am not ashamed to confess that I was 
far too excited to study, as I ought to have done, 
the details of a view which, for extent and variety, 
is altogether without a parallel in my Alpine ex- 
perience. Suffice it to say that over the whole sky 
there was not one single cloud, and that we were 
sitting on the most elevated summit south of Mont 

247 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

Blanc, and it may fairly be left to the imagination 
to conceive what we saw, as, at an elevation of 
13,462 feet, we basked in the sun, without the cold 
wind usually attendant at these heights. There was 
not a breath of air, and the flame of a candle would 
have burnt steadily without a flicker. In our im- 
mediate neighbourhood, after the range of the 
Pelvoux, before described, the most striking object 
was the great wall of the Meije, the western summit 
of which, from here, came out distinctly the highest. 
The Aiguilles d'Arves stood out exceedingly well, 
and, although 2Cxx) feet lower than our position, 
looked amazingly high. Almost the only trace of 
civilisation we could distinctly make out was the 
Lautaret road, a portion of which, probably near 
the entrance of the valley leading to the Glacier 
d'Arsines, was plainly visible. On the side of the 
mountain towards La Bdrarde, what principally 
struck us was a very great and extensive glacier, 
apparently not marked on the map, which appeared 
to be an arm of the Glacier du Vallon, but far more 
considerable itself than the whole glacier is depicted 
on the French map. Of the extent of the view, 
and the wonderfully favourable condition of the 
atmosphere, a fair idea may be gained from the 
fact that we clearly identified the forms and ridges 
of the Matterhorn and Weisshorn, the latter at a 

distance of 120 miles, as the crow flies, and that 

248 



A PERILOUS FIRST ASCENT 

those were by no means the most distant objects 
visible. 

"So soon as the first excitement consequent on 
success had subsided, we began seriously to meditate 
upon what during the ascent had frequently troubled 
us, viz. the descent. With one consent we agreed 
that unless no other route could be found, it would 
be most unadvisable to attempt to go down the 
way we had mounted. The idea of the rocks, to 
be followed by the ice-slope below — in a doubly 
dangerous state after being exposed all day to the 
scorching sun — was not to be entertained without a 
shudder. The only alternative route lay along the 
opposite arete to that which had led us to the top, 
and, although we could not see far in this direction, 
we determined, after very little discussion, to try it. 
Accordingly, after twenty minutes' halt, we each 
pocketed a small fragment of the stone that was 
lying on the snow, and, regretting that we had no 
bottle to leave, and no materials with which to 
construct a cairn, took our departure at 1.45 from 
the lofty perch which, I fancy, is not likely to 
receive many subsequent visitors. Passing im- 
mediately below the second point before mentioned, 
so that our hands almost rested on it, and also 
several similar pinnacles, our work commenced. I 
never, before or since, was on so narrow an arctc of 
rock, and really from step to step I was at a loss 

249 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

to imagine how we were to get on any further. We 
kept, as a rule, just below the edge, as before, on 
the side of the Glacier de I'Encula, along a series 
of ledges of tlie narrowest and most insecure 
character ; but we were always sufficiently near the 
top to be able to look over the ridge, down the 
appalling precipices which overhang, first the Glacier 
Xoir, and later, the Glacier du Vallon. Of course, 
ever}' single step had to be taken with the greatest 
care, only one person moving in turn, and the rest 
holding on for dear life, Croz coming last to hold 
all up. In spite of the great difficult}^ of the route, 
the obstacles were only such as required more or 
less time to surmount, and although the slightest 
nervousness on the part of any one of us would 
have endangered the whole party and delayed us 
indefinitely, in the absence of that drawback we got 
on pretty v,-ell. We were beginning to hope that 
the worst was over, vrhen Aimer suddenly stopped 
short, and looked about him uneasily. On our 
asking him what was the matter, he answered 
vaguely that things ahead looked bad, and that 
he was not sure that we could pass. Croz accord- 
ingly undid the rope, as also did Aimer, and the 
two went forward a little, telling us to remain where 
we were. We could not see what was the nature 
of the difficulty, but vre cauld see the countenances 
of the men, which sufficiently showed us that the 



A PERILOUS FIRST ASCENT 

hitch was serious. Under any other circumstances 
we should have been amused at Aimer's endeavours 
to communicate his views to Croz in an amazing 
mixture of pantomime, bad German, and worse 
French. He evidently was trying to persuade Croz 
of something, which Croz was not inclined to agree 
to, and we soon made out that the point at issue 
was, whether we could get over this particular place, 
or whether we must return to the summit, and go 
down the way we had come. Croz was of the 
latter opinion, while Aimer obstinately maintained 
that, bad as the place was, we could get over it, and 
proceeded to perform some manoeuvres, which we 
could not clearly see, by way of showing the 
correctness of his opinion. Croz, however, was un- 
convinced, and came back to us, declaring plainly 
that we should have to return. We shouted to 
Aimer, who was still below, but he evidently had 
not the slightest intention of returning, and in a 
few moments called upon us to come on, an in- 
junction which we cheerfully obeyed as, in our 
opinion, an}i:hing would be preferable to a retreat, 
and Croz perforce followed. A very few steps 
showed us the nature of the difficulty. The arete 
suddenly narrowed to a mere knife-edge of rock, 
while on one side a smooth wall, some ^ooo feet 
in height, fell sheer towards the Glacier du Vallon, 
and on the other side, above the Glacier de I'Encula, 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

the slope was not much less steep and equally 
smooth. To pass below the ridge on either side 
was obviously quite impossible ; to walk along the 
ridge, which was by no means level, was equally 
so, and the only way of getting over the difficulty, 
therefore, was to straddle it, an operation which the 
sharpness of the ridge, putting aside all other con- 
siderations, would render the reverse of agreeable. 
However, there, perched in the middle of this fiendish 
place, sat Aimer, with one leg over Glacier du Vallon 
and the other over the Glacier de I'Encula, calm and 
unmoved, as if the position was quite an everyday 
one. He had not got the rope on, and as he began 
moving along the ridge we shrieked at him to take 
care, to which he responded with a ^ja, gewiss ! ' and 
a chuckle of satisfaction. We threw him the end of 
the rope, and then cautiously moved, one at a time, 
towards him. I must confess that when I found 
myself actually astride on this dizzy height I felt 
more inclined to remain there for ever, contemplating 
the Glacier du Vallon, on to which I might have 
dropped a stone, than to make my way along it. The 
encouraging voice of Aimer, however, urged me on, 
and I gradually worked myself along with my hands 
until I was close up to him and Walker, with no 
damage save to the seat of my trousers. Whymper 
and Croz followed. From this point forwards we 
had for half-an-hour,' without exception, the most 

252 







Slab climhing. 

Hv A[r, Leonard Kawlence. 








O.N iHh Deni- du Geant. 

By ihe late Mr. \V. F. Donkin 
'o ftici- ji. 2o.i. 




A NARROW ROCK RIDGE. 

By Mr. Leonard Rawlence. 




The TOl' AT LAST I 



A PERILOUS FIRST ASCENT 

perilous climbing, I ever did. We crept along the 
cliffs, sometimes on one side of the ridge, sometimes 
on the other, frequently passing our arms over the 
summit, with our feet resting on rather less than 
nothing. Aimer led with wonderful skill and courage, 
and gradually brought us over the worst portion of 
the arite, below which the climbing was bad enough, 
but not quite such nervous work as before, and we 
were able to get along rather quicker. At length, at 
345, in two hours from the top, we were not far above 
the well-marked gap in the ridge, between the highest 
peak and the one marked on the French map 3980 
metres, or 13,058 feet. There we thankfully left the 
arete, and, turning to the right, struck straight down 
the ice-slope towards the bergschrund. Almost every 
step had to be cut, but, in spite of all he had done. 
Aimer's vigour seemed unimpaired, and resolutely 
declining Croz's offers to come to the front, he 
hacked away, so that we descended steadily, if 
slowly. We could not see the bergschrund, and were 
therefore uncertain for what exact point to steer, 
for we knew that at only one place would it be pos- 
sible to get over it at all, where from below we had 
seen that the two edges nearly met — at all others the 
breadth and height would be far too great for a jump. 
For some distance we kept straight down, but after a 
time bore rather to the left, cutting diagonally along 

the slope, which was inclined at an angle of 52°, and, 

253 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

below us, curled over so rapidly, that we could see 
the glacier on to which we wished to descend, but 
could not see what lay between us and it. Passing 
over a patch of ice-covered rocks which projected 
very slightly from the general level of the slope, we 
were certain that we could not be far above the 
schrund, but did not quite see how we were to get 
down any further without knowing whether we were 
above a practicable point or not. It was suggested 
that one of the party should be let down with a rope, 
but, while we were discussing who should be the one. 
Aimer cut a few steps more, and then, stooping down 
and craning over, gave a yell of exultation, and 
exclaimed that it was all right, and that we might 
jump over. By a marvellous bit of intuition, or good 
luck, he had led us to the only point where the two 
edges of the chasm so nearly met that we could get 
across. He cut down as low as possible, and then, 
from the last step, each man, in turn, sprang without 
difficulty on to the lower edge of the crevasse, and at 
4.45 the problem of getting off the mountain was 
solved. 

" The return from this point was uneventful." 
A few days later Mr Moore had an amusing con- 
versation with a chance acquaintance, who made a 
remark that has since been often quoted. Mr Moore 
relates it as follows : — 

" At the door of the hotel was standing a young 
254 



A PERILOUS FIRST ASCENT 

Frenchman, with whom we got into conversation, 
observing that wc had just made the ascent of the 
highest mountain in the country. 'Oh,' replied he, 
* sans doute, le Pic de Belledonne ' ; a rather elevated 
Rigi in the neighbourhood. We informed him that 
our conquest was not the Pic de Belladonne, but the 
Pic des Ecrins, on hearing which he smiled blandly, 
never having heard the name before, and, evidently 
meditating how he might avoid showing his ignorance, 
finally contented himself with a spasmodic 'Ah!' 
After a short pause, he inquired whether we had 
been up Mont Blanc, and, on viy replying in the 
negative, went on to say that he had, about ten days 
before. We were astonished, as, without wishing to 
reflect on the appearance of the worthy Gaul, I must 
say that he did not give us the idea of a man capable 
of such a performance. However, we, in our turn, 
smiled blandly, and inquired whether, so early in the 
season, he had found the ascent difficult, and whether 
he had had a good view from the summit. 'From 
the summit ! ' said he ; * I did not go to the summit.' 
We ventured to inquire how high his wanderings 
had reached. ' Mon Dieu!' replied he, 'jusqu'au 
Montanvert ! ' Our politeness was not proof against 
this, so we broke off the conversation abruptly, and 
retired to indulge our merriment unchecked." 

The Ecrins is now frequently climbed. A new 
way up the rocky south side was discovered by a 

255 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

Frenchman, and is now usually taken for the ascent, 
the descent being accomplished by the north face which 
the party that included Mr Moore went up by and 
which has just been described. The route is now well 
known, and thus it is possible to hit off the easiest 
passages, but the traverse of what is known to the 
guides as ' the Couloir Whymper ' always requires 
the greatest care. 



256 



CHAPTER XVI 

THUNDERSTORMS IN THE ALPS 

'nr^HE fatal accident caused by lightning on the 
Wetterhorn in 1902 has emphasized the 
curious fact that, except on that occasion, and once 
before, many years ago, when Mrs Arbuthnot was 
killed on the Schildthorn, no lives ^ have been lost 
in a thunderstorm on the Alps. This is the more 
remarkable when we glance through books on 
mountaineering, and notice how often climbers have 
been exposed to the full fury of summer storms, and 
what narrow escapes they have had. In July 1863, 
Mr and Mrs Spence Watson, with two friends and 
two guides, made an excursion from the ^ggisch- 
horn to the high glacier pass of the Jungfraujoch, an 
admirable account of the day's adventures having 
been contributed by Mr Watson to The Alpine 
Journal^ from which I extract the following details. 
After starting on a lovely morning, the weather 
changed, and when they got to the pass they en- 
countered a severe storm of wind, snow, and hail. 
They quickly turned to descend, the snow falling so 

' At the moment of going to press, I must note a fatal accident 
on the mountains due to lightning, namely, the death of the 
guide, Joseph Simond, on the Dent du G^ant. This I had 
overlooked. 

•R 257 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

heavily that they could not for a time see their old 
tracks. Suddenly a loud peal of thunder was heard, 
" and shortly after," writes Mr Watson, " I observed 
that a strange singing sound like that of a kettle was 
issuing from my alpenstock. We halted, and finding 
that all the axes and stocks emitted the same sound, 
stuck them into the snow. The guide from the hotel 
now pulled off his cap, shouting that his head burned, 
and his hair seemed to have a similar appearance 
to that which it would have presented had he been 
on an insulated stool under a powerful electrical 
machine. We all of us experienced the sensation of 
pricking or burning in some part of the body, more 
especially in the head and face, my hair also standing 
on end in an uncomfortable but very amusing manner. 
The snow gave out a hissing sound, as though a 
shower of hail were falling ; the veil in the wide- 
awake of one of the party stood upright in the air ; 
and on waving our hands, the singing sound issued 
loudly from the fingers. Whenever a peal of thunder 
was heard the phenomenon ceased, to be resumed 
before its echoes had died away. At these times we 
felt shocks, more or less violent, in those portions of 
the body which were most affected. By one of these 
shocks my right arm was paralysed so completely 
that I could neither use nor raise it for several minutes, 
nor, indeed, till it had been severely rubbed by Claret, 
and I suffered much pain in it at the shoulder joint 

258 



THUNDERSTORMS IN THE ALPS 

for some hours. At half-past twelve the clouds began 
to pass away, and the phenomenon finally ceased, 
having lasted twenty-five minutes. We saw no 
lightning, and were puzzled at first as to whether we 
should be afraid or amused. The young guide was 
very much alarmed, but Claret, who had twice 
previously heard the singing (unaccompanied by the 
other symptoms), laughed so heartily at the whole 
affair that he kept up our spirits." 

The position of the party, was, however, by no 
means safe, yet though I have often heard the buzzing 
of ice-axes and rocks when in a thunderstorm on the 
mountains, I have never seen any ill effects from it. 

A little later another description appears in The 
Alpine Journal, by Mr C. Packe, who, during the 
descent of a peak in the Pyrenees, was astonished 
to hear a curious creaking sound proceeding from 
behind him. He was carrying various heavy articles 
at the time, and imagined that the noise was due to 
the straining of the straps of his knapsack. He 
presently unslung his load, and was amazed to find 
a strange buzzing noise proceeding from his rifle, 
" as though it had been an air gun trying to discharge 
itself. As I held it away from me, pointed upwards," 
he continues, "the noise became stronger, and as I 
in vain sought to account for it, I thought it possible 
that some large insect — a bee or beetle — might have 
got down the barrel, and be trying to escape. I held 

259 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

the barrel downwards, with a view to shake it out ; 
but on lowering the gun the sound at once ceased, 
but was renewed as often as I raised it." It then 
began to occur to Mr Packe that the sound was 
electrical, and he felt sure this was so when he found 
that his alpenstock had joined in the buzzing. He 
therefore made a hasty retreat out of the highly- 
charged upper regions. Several peals of thunder had 
previously been heard but no lightning was seen. 
A violent storm had, however, been experienced in a 
neighbouring district. That similar conditions may 
seem delightful to one man and entirely odious to 
another will strike whoever reads the following short 
extract from an account of a climb in the Pyrenees 
made by Mons. Henri Brulle. It was translated 
by Count Russell for The Alpine Journal^ and runs as 
ollows : 

"Another time I crossed the Vignemale alone, 
en col, under conditions which made this expedi- 
tion the pleasantest of my souvenirs. A furious 
storm was raging. Enveloped in the morning in a 
dense fog, annoyed in the steep couloirs of the 
Cerbillonas by vultures which swept over me like 
avalanches, just grazing me with their long wings, 
assailed during three hours by hailstones of such size 
that they bruised and stunned me, deafened by 
thunder, and so electrified that I was hissing and 
crepitating, I notwithstanding reached the summit at 

260 



THUNDERSTORMS IN THE ALPS 

half-past four in the evening, amidst incessant de- 
tonations. In descending the glacier I got lost in 
a labyrinth of crevasses, and while balancing myself 
on an ice-wave I nearly dropped my ice-axe. As a 
climax, night came on as black as ink, and I had to 
grope and feel my way down the endless valley of 
Ossoue. It was eleven o'clock at night when I 
reached Gavarnie, almost starved and quite exhausted, 
but having lived the crowning day of my life." 

Here is indeed Mark Tapley in the flesh ! 

Captain E. Clayton relates in The Alpine Journal 
an adventure that nearly cost him his life, 

"On 17th August last I left the Hochjoch Haus 
with Gabriel Spechtenhauser with the intention of 
ascending the Weisskugel at the head of the 
Oetzthal. The weather for the past week had 
been very changeable, but when wc started at 
3 A.M. it was fine and starlight. A German gentle- 
man with two guides and two others with two 
guides started at the same time. As long as the 
aid of a lantern was desirable we kept together, 
but as it grew light Gabriel and I gradually drew 
ahead. As day broke clouds began to gather, 
and when we halted for breakfast at 6.10 A.M. 
they hung so heavy on the Weisskugel that after 
breakfast, instead of going straight on, we diverged 
to the top of the rocks leading down towards 
Kurzras, with the intention of waiting a short t«qie 

a6z 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

to see what the weather would do, and if it did 
not mend, of going down to Kurzras, where a 
friend was awaiting me. 

" At these rocks we were overtaken by the single 
German gentleman with his guides, who had out- 
stripped the other party. Before long the weather 
seemed to improve, the clouds on the Weisskugel 
got lighter, the sky seemed bright to the north, 
and we thought that very soon everything would 
be quite clear. The German quickly made a fresh 
start, but Gabriel and I waited to finish our pipes. 
However, we soon passed the other party, and, 
passing over a minor summit, where we left the 
rope, reached the real summit at 8.30 A.M. We 
had heard one or two peals of thunder on the 
way, but none appeared very close, and they 
seemed to be getting more distant. The summit 
was still in cloud, but it did not seem thick, and 
I thought it would soon blow away. But almost 
directly we reached the top it began to hail, and 
we went down a few steps on the rocky ridge 
that falls towards the Langtauferer Glacier, to be 
somewhat sheltered. 

" Here I remember handing Gabriel my map to 
put in his pocket to keep dry, and knew nothing 
more till I woke to the consciousness that he was 
lifting me up from where I was lying on the rocks, 
some 20 feet, I suppose, lower than the point 

262 



THUNDERSTORMS IN THE ALPS 

where we had been standing. I was bleeding from 
a cut on the head, and my riglit arm was very 
painful, and turned out afterwards to be broken. 
Gabriel said that he had been knocked down also, 
but not rendered insensible, and, falling on his 
hands towards the upward slope, was not hurt. 
He also said that he was to a certain extent 
conscious of there having been a sudden glare 
and explosion, but I knew nothing of it. The 
German and his two guides, who at the time were 
just below the first summit, but not within sight 
of us, were so alarmed at the lightning and 
thunder, that they turned at once and never 
stopped till they reached Kurzras. The other 
party, who had not got beyond the rocks where 
we halted during the ascent, waited there for us, 
and Joseph Spechtenhauser, one of their guides, 
came to meet us and see if we wanted assistance. 
However, I was quite myself when I came to, 
which was directly Gabriel lifted me up, and the 
mountain is so easy that my disabled arm was of 
little consequence. I did not notice any more 
thunder or lightning after the flash that knocked 
us down, and the day cleared up to a lovely one. 
I have every reason to be pleased with Gabriel's 
kindness and attention to me without regard to 
himself, and very much regret that my accident 
prevented me from carrying out any of the other 

263 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

expeditions which I had promised myself the 
pleasure of making in his company." 

One of the most exciting accounts of an adven- 
ture in the Alps is Mr Tuckett's description of " A 
Race for Life," ^ on the Eiger. Hardly less stirring 
is a paper in The Alpine Journal by the same famous 
climber, from which he most kindly allows me to 
give a long quotation, telling of a narrow escape 
during one of the most appalling thunderstorms that 
could be experienced. The party were making the 
ascent of the Roche Melon, a peak 11,593 ^^^t high 
not far from the Mont Cenis. The weather was 
unsettled, and grew worse as they mounted, 

" Proceeding very cautiously through the whirling 

wreaths of vapour lest we should suddenly drop over 

upon Italy and hurt it — or ourselves — we struck up the 

' final incline ' — as an American companion of mine 

once dubbed the cone of Vesuvius as we looked down 

upon it from its rim — and at 11.15 stood beside the 

ruins of the signal and enjoyed a very magnificent 

view of nothing in particular. As we had plenty of 

time at our disposal — three and a half hours sufficing 

for the descent to Susa — and the wind was keen and 

damp, our first proceeding was to search for the chapel, 

which we knew must be quite close to the summit 

of the peak ; and, about 30 feet lower down, on the 

southern side, which was entirely free from snow, we 

^ See True Tales of Mountain Adventure. 
264 



THUNDERSTORMS IN THE ALPS 

came upon a tight little wooden building, some 6 or 
7 feet long and high by 5 broad, very carefully con- 
structed, with flat bands of thin iron on the outside 
covering the lines of junction of the planks, so as 
effectually to keep out both wind and moisture. 
Opposite the door, which we found carefully bolted, 
was a wooden shelf against the wall serving as an 
altar, on which stood a small bronze statuette of the 
Virgin, whilst on either hand hung the usual curious 
medley of votive paintings, engravings, crosses, tapers 
etc., not to mention certain pious scribblings. Taking 
great care to disturb nothing, we arranged a loose 
board and our packs on the rather damp floor so as 
to form a seat, and waited for the clouds to disperse 
and disclose the superb panorama that we knew 
should here be visible. 

" Here I may be allowed to mention that a chapel, 
said to have been originally excavated in the rock, 
and subsequently buried under ice or snow, was here 
dedicated to the Virgin by a crusader of Asti, 
Boniface by name, of the house of Rovero, in fulfil- 
ment of a vow made whilst a captive in the hands 
of the Saracens. More recently the present wooden 
structure has taken its place, and every year, on 5th 
August, pilgrims resort to it in considerable numbers. 
Lower down on the Susa side is a much more 
substantial structure, at a height of 9396 feet, called 
the Ca d'Asti, in allusion to the circumstances of 

265 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

its foundation. The last is a solidly, not to say 
massively, constructed circular edifice of stone and 
mortar, some 15 or 16 feet in diameter, and perhaps 
rather more in height, with a vaulted roof of solid 
masonry covered externally with tiles, and sur- 
mounted by an iron cross. Seen from below, it 
stands out boldly on a mass of crags which conceal 
the actual summit of the Roche INIelon, and close by 
are some low sheds, which appear ordinarily to serve 
as shelter for flocks of sheep browsing on the grassy 
slopes around, but on the night preceding the festa 
of 5th August, furnish sleeping quarters for the 
assembled pilgrims, who attend mass in the adjoining 
chapel, if the weather, as frequently happens, does 
not permit of its being celebrated on the summit of 
the mountain, in what is probably the most elevated 
shrine in Europe. 

" The Roche Melon stands just in the track of 
the great storms which, brewed in the heated plains 
of Lombardy and Piedmont, come surging up 
through the valley of the Dora Riparia, and burst, 
hurling and crashing over the depression of Mont 
Cenis, to find or make a watery grave in the valley 
of the Arc. Of their combined fierceness and 
grandeur we were soon to have only too favourable 
an opportunity of judging, for scarcely more than 
five minutes after we had comfortably established 

266 



THUNDERSTORMS IN THE ALPS 

ourselves under shelter, suddenly, without a moment's 
warning, a perfect viitraille of hail smote the roof 
above us, tore through the mist like grape-shot 
through battle-smoke, and whitened the ground like 
snow. We closed the door carefully, for now came 
flash after flash of brilliant lightning, with sharp, 
angry, snapping thunder, which, if we had been a 
quarter of an hour later, would have made our 
position on the exposed northern side anything but 
pleasant We congratulated ourselves on our good 
fortune, but were glad to pitch our axes amongst 
the debris of rock above us and await patiently the 
hoped-for dispersal of the fog. In a few minutes 
the hail ceased, the mist became somewhat brighter, 
rifts appeared in all directions, and, issuing forth, 
we were amply rewarded by such glimpses of the 
wonderful view as, if not fully satisfactory for topo- 
graphical purposes, were, in a picturesque and artistic 
point of view, indescribably grand and interesting. 
The extent of level country visible is a remarkable 
feature in the view from the Roche Melon, as also 
in that from the summit of the Pourri, where Imseng 
not a little amused me on first catching sight of 
the plains of France stretching away till lost in 
the haze, by shouting in a fit of uncontrollable 
enthusiasm, * Ach ! Das ist wunderschon ! — ganz 
ebenl'i 

* " Ah ! That is really wonderfully beautiful I " 
267 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

"We had not had more than time enough to 
seize the general features of the panorama and 
admire the special effects with their ever-changing 
and kaleidoscopic combinations, when the mist once 
more swooped upon us, again to be followed by 
hail, lightning, and thunder, and a fresh clearance. 
But this second visitation left behind it a further 
souvenir in the shape of a phenomenon with which 
most mountaineers are probably more or less familiar, 
but which I never met with to the same extent 
before — I allude to an electrified condition of the 
summit of the mountain and all objects on its 
surface by conduction. As the clouds swept by, 
every rock, every loose stone, the uprights of the 
rude railing outside the chapel, the ruined signal, 
our axes, my lorgnette and flask, and even my 
fingers and elbows, set up 

" ' a dismal universal hiss.' 
It was as though we were in a vast nest of excited 
snakes, or a battery of frying-pans, or listening at 
a short distance to the sustained note of a band 
of cigali in a chestnut wood — a mixture of com- 
parisons which ma^' serve sufficiently to convey the 
impression that the general effect was indescribable. 
I listened and looked and tried experiments for 
some time, but suddenly it burst out with an energy 
that suggested a coming explosion, or some equally 

unpleasant denouements and, dropping my axe, to 

268 








i 


" •-i--'? 

h 








^ 


1 


■-. :1 





THUNDERSTORMS IN THE ALPS 

whose performance I had been listening, I fairly 
bolted for the chapel. 

"We had now spent a couple of hours on the 
summit, and had succeeded in getting, bit by bit, 
a sight of most of the principal features of the very 
remarkable view, with the exception of Monte Viso, 
which persistently sulked ; so at 1.15, as there seemed 
a probability of the weather becoming worse before 
it improved, we quitted our excellent shelter, and, 
after putting everything in order and carefully 
closing and bolting the door, sallied forth into the 
mist, which was again enshrouding the mountain, 
apparently as the advance guard of the fiercest 
storm in the neighbourhood, which we had for some 
time been watching as it swept solemnly towards 
us down the valley of the Dora. 

" There is a sort of track, rather than well-defined 
path, down the bare, rocky, and dSris-covQVQd 
southern face of the mountain, but in the fog and 
momentarily increasing gloom of the coming tempest 
it was not always very easy to distinguish it. Still, 
we descended rapidly, and in less than half an hour 
had dropped down some 2000 feet to a point where, 
during an instant's lift, we descried the outline of 
the Ck d'Asti five minutes below us, just as the 
edge of the coming hail smote us with a fury which 
it was hard at times to face. We dashed on — it 
was a regular sauve qui peut — blinded and stagger- 

269 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

ing under the pitiless pelting and the fury of the 
blast, gained the door of the chapel, which faced 
the storm, deposited our axes outside, and darted 
in, thankful again to find ourselves under so good 
a roof just when it was most needed. 

" For, if there had been at times wild goings on 
upon the summit during the morning, they were 
merely a faint prelude to the elemental strife which 
now raged around. The wind roared and the hail 
hissed in fiendish rivalry, and yet both seemed 
silenced when the awful crashes of thunder burst 
above and about us. We were in the very central 
track and focus of the storm, and, as we sat crouched 
upon the floor, the ground and the building seemed 
to reel beneath the roar of the detonations, and our 
heads almost to swim with the fierce glare of the 
lightning. I had carefully closed the door, not only 
to keep the wind and hail out, but also because 
lightning is apt to follow a current of air, and, to the 
right on entering, at about the height of a man, 
was a small unglazed window some 2 feet square. 
Opposite the door was the altar, on the step of which 
I seated myself. Imseng took a place by my side, 
between me and the window, whilst Christian perched 
himself on the coil of rope with his back to the wall, 
not far from the door, and between it and the window. 
A quarter of a hour may have gone by when a flash 
of intense vividness seemed almost to dart through 

270 



THUNDERSTORMS IN THE ALPS 

the window, and so affected Imseng's nerves that he 
hastily quitted his seat by me and coiled himself up 
near Christian, remarking that 'that was rather too 
close to be pleasant' Then came four more really 
awful flashes, followed all but instantaneously by 
sharp, crackling thunder, which sounded like a volley 
of bullets against a metal target, and then a fifth with 
a slightly increased interval between it and the report. 
I was just remarking to Christian that I thought the 
worst was past, and that we should soon be liberated, 
adding, ' How fortunate we are for the second time 
to-day to get such shelter just in the nick of time,' 
when — crash ! went everything, it seemed, all at once : 

'* * No warning of the approach of flame, 
Swiftly like sudden death it came.' 

If some one had struck me from behind on the 
bump of firmness with a sledge-hammer, or if we 
had been in the interior of a gigantic percussion shell 
which an external blow had suddenly exploded, I 
fancy the sensation might have resembled that which 
I for the first instant experienced. We were blinded, 
deafened, smothered, and struck, all in a breath. 
The place seemed filled with fire, our ears rang with 
the report, fragments of what looked like incan- 
descent matter rained down upon us as though a 
meteorite had burst, and a suffocating sulphurous 
odour — probably due to the sudden production of 
ozone in large quantities — almost choked us. For 

27 1 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

an instant we reeled as though stunned, but each 
sprang to his feet and instinctively made for the door. 
What my companions' ideas were I cannot tell ; 
mine were few and simple — I had been struck, or 
was being struck, or both ; the roof would be down 
upon us in another moment ; inside was death, outside 
our only safety. The door opened inwards, and our 
simultaneous rush delayed our escape ; but it was 
speedily thrown back, and, dashing out into the 
blinding hail, we plunged, dazed and almost stupefied, 
into the nearest shed. For the next few minutes the 
lightning continued to play about us in so awful a 
manner that we were in no mood calmly to investigate 
the nature or extent of our injuries. It was enough 
that we were still among the living, though I must 
own that, at first, I had a fearful suspicion that poor 
Imseng was seriously wounded. He held his head 
between his hands, and rolled it about in so daft a 
manner, and was so odd and unnatural in his move- 
ments generally, that it struck me his brain might 
have received some injury. I, for my part, was 
painfully conscious of a good deal of pain in the 
region of the right instep, and I saw that one of 
Christian's hands was bleeding, and that he was 
holding both his thighs as if in suffering. 

" Gradually the storm drew off towards the Mont 
Cenis, and, with minds free from the tension of 
imminent peril, we had time to take stock of our 

272 




Monte Rosa from the Fukggen Grat. 




Tllli ISIaTTEKHOR.V IRO.M the \VeLLEN1vI,1'1'E. 



To face j-. 272. 



THUNDERSTORMS IN THE ALPS 

condition. It was a relief to see Imseng let go his 
head and observe that it remained erect ; to hear 
Christian say that his thighs were getting better ; and 
to find, on examining my foot, that the mischief was 
nothing more than a flesh wound, which was bleeding 
but slightly. My hat, indeed, was knocked in, my 
pockets filled with stones and plaster, and my heart, 
it may be, somewhat nearer my mouth than usual, 
but otherwise we could congratulate ourselves, with 
deep thankfulness on a most marvellous escape 
from serious harm. 

"On comparing our impressions, Imseng declared 
that the lightning had entered through the window, 
struck the altar, glanced off from it to the wall, and 
then vanished, whilst Christian and I agreed in the 
belief that the roof had been the part struck, and 
the flash had descended almost vertically upon us. 
Quitting our place of refuge and repairing to the 
chapel, we encountered a scene of ruin which at once 
confirmed the correctness of our views. The lightning 
had evidently first struck the iron cross outside and 
smashed in the roof, dashing fragments of stone and 
plaster upon us which, brilliantly illuminated, looked 
to our dazed and confused vision like flakes of fiery 
matter. It had then encountered the altar, over- 
turning the iron cross and wooden candlesticks only 
3 feet from the back of my head as I sat on the 

step, tearing the wreath of artificial flowers or worsted 
$ 273 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

rosettes strung on copper wire which surrounded the 
figure of the Virgin, and scattering the fragments in 
all directions. Next it glanced against the wall, tore 
down, or otherwise damaged, some of the votive 
pictures (engravings), and splintered portions of their 
frames into ' matchwood.' The odour of ozone was 
still strong, the water from the melting hail was 
coming freely through the roof, and the walls were in 
two places cracked to within 5 feet of the ground. 
In fact, as a chapel, the building was ruined, though 
showing little traces, externally, of the damage done, 
so that it is possible — unless a stray shepherd 
happened to look in — that its condition would for the 
first time become known upon the arrival of the 
pilgrims on the eve of 5th August. 

"We stood long watching our departing foe, and 
then three very sobered men dropped down silently 
and quickly that afternoon upon Susa, thinking of 
what might have been our fate." 



?74 



CHAPTER XVII 

LANDSLIPS IN THE MOUNTAINS 

OIR W. MARTIN CONWAY has been good 
enough to allow me to extract from The Alps 
from End to End the following account of the destruc- 
tion of Elm. Mountain falls have a special interest 
for all who travel in Switzerland, where the remains 
of so many are visible. 

" The Himalayas are, from a geological point of 
view, a young set of mountain ranges ; they still 
tumble about on an embarrassingly large scale. The 
fall, which recently made such a stir, began on 
6th September 1893. That day the Maithana Hill 
(11, 000 feet), a spur of a large mountain mass, pitched 
bodily rather than slid, into the valley. 

" * Little could be seen of the terrible occurrence, for 
clouds of dust instantly arose, which darkened the 
neighbourhood and fell for miles around, whitening 
the ground and the trees until all seemed to be snow 
covered. The foot of the hill had been undermined 
by springs until there was no longer an adequate base, 
and in the twinkling of an eye a large part of the 

275 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

mountain slid down, pushed forward, and shot across 
the valley, presenting to the little river a lofty and 
impervious wall, against which its waters afterwards 
gathered. Masses of rocks were hurled a mile away, 
and knocked down trees on the slopes across the 
valley. Many blocks of dolomitic limestone, weigh- 
ing from 30 to 50 tons, were sent like cannon-shots 
through the air. The noise was terrific, and the 
frightened natives heard the din repeated at intervals 
for several days, for the first catastrophe was 
succeeded by a number of smaller slides. Even five 
months after the mountain gave wa}-, every rainy day 
was succeeded by falls of rocks. A careful computa- 
tion gives the weight of the enormous pile of rubbish 
at Soo,cxx),ooo tons.' 

" The Himalayas are indeed passing through their 
dramatic geological period, when they give rise to 
such landslips as this at relatively frequent intervals. 
Plenty of landslips quite as big have been recorded in 
the last half-century, and, amongst the remote and 
uninhabited regions of the great ranges, numbers more 
of which no record is made constantly happen. The 
catastrophic period has ended for the Alps. Land- 
slips on a great scale seldom occur there now ; when 
they do occur, the cause of them is oftener the 
activity of man than of natural forces. But of a great 
landslip in the Alps details are sure to be observed, 

and we are enabled to form a picture of the occurrence. 

276 



I 



LANDSLIPS L\ THE MOUNTAINS 

When the Alps tremble the nations quake ; the 
Himalayas may shudder in their solitudes, but the 
busy occidental world pays scant attention, unless 
gathering waters threaten to spread ruin afar. Of the 
Gohna Lake we have been told much, but little of the 
fall that caused it. E\-e-witnesses appear not to 
have been articulate. We can, however, form some 
idea of what it was like from the minute and accurate 
account we possess of a great and famous Alpine 
landslip. I refer to that which buried part of the 
\-illage of Elm, in Canton Glarus, on nth September 
1881.1 

" Elm is the highest village in the Sernf Valley. 
Its position is fixed by the proximity of a meadow- 
flat of considerable extent. Above this three minor 
valleys radiate, two of which are separated from one 
another by a mountain mass, whose last buttress was 
the Plattenbergkopf, a hill with a precipitous side and 
a flat and wooded summit, which used to face the 
traveller coming up the main valley. It was this 
hill that fell. 

" The cause of the fall was simple, and reflects little 
credit on Swiss communal government. About half- 
way up the hill there dips into it a bed of fine slate, 
excellent for school-slates. In the year 1868 con- 
cessions were given by the commune for working 

^ All details connected with this avalanche were collected on 
the spot, and shortly afterwards published in a volume, Der 
Bergstnrz von El/n, by E. Buss and A. Heim. Zurich, 1881. 

277 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

this slate for ten years without any stipulation as to 
the method to be employed. Immense masses of 
the rock were removed. A hole was made i8o 
metres wide, and no supports were left for the roof 
It was pushed into the mountain to a depth of 65 
metres! In 1878, when the concessions lapsed, the 
commune, by a small majority, decided to work the 
quarry itself Every burgher considered that he had 
a right to work in the quarry when the weather was 
unsuitable for farm labour. The place was therefore 
overcrowded on wet days, and burdened with unskil- 
ful hands. The quarry, of course, did not pay, 
and became a charge on the rates, but between 
eighty and one hundred men drew wages from it 
intermittently. 

" The roof by degrees became visibly rotten. 
Lumps of rock used to fall from it, and many fatal 
accidents occurred. The mass of the mountain above 
the quarry showed a tendency to grow unstable, yet 
blasting went forward merrily, and no precautions 
were taken. Cracks opened overhead in all direc- 
tions ; water and earth used to ooze down through 
them. Fifteen hundred feet higher up, above the 
top of the Plattenbergkopf, the ground began to be 
rifted. In 1876 a large crack split the rock across 
above the quarry roof, and four years later the mass 
thus outlined fell away. In 1879 serious signs were 
detected of coming ruin on a large scale. A great 

278 



LANDSLIPS IN THE MOUNTAINS 

crack split the mountain across behind the top of the 
hill. The existence of this crack was well known to 
the villagers, who had a special name for it. It 
steadily lengthened and widened. By August 1881 
it was over four metres wide, and swallowed up all 
the surface drainage. Every one seems then to have 
agreed that the mountain would ultimately fall, but 
no one was anxious. The last part of August and 
the first days of September were very wet. On 7th 
September masses of rock began to fall from the 
hill ; more fell on the 8th, and strange sounds were 
heard in the body of the rock ; work was at last 
suspended in the quarry. On the loth a commission 
of incompetent people investigated the hill, and pro- 
nounced that there was no immediate danger. They, 
however, ordered that work should cease in the 
quarry till the following spring, whereat the work- 
men murmured. All through the loth and the 
morning of the nth falls of rock occurred every 
quarter of an hour or so. Some were large. They 
kept coming from new places. The mountain 
groaned and rumbled incessantly, and there was no 
longer any doubt that it was rotten through and 
through. 

" The I ith of September was a wet Sunday. Rocks 
and rock-masses kept falling from the Plattenberg. 
The boys of the village were all agog with excite- 
ment, and could hardly be prevented by their parents 

279 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

from going too near the hill. In the afternoon a 
number of men gathered at an inn in the upper 
village, just at the foot of the labouring rocks, to 
watch the falls. They called to Meinrad Rhyner, as 
he passed, carrying a cheese from an alp, to join them, 
but he refused, ' not fearing for himself, but for the 
cheese.' Another group of persons assembled in a 
relative's house to celebrate a christening. A few 
houses immediately below the quarry were emptied, 
but the people from them did not move far. At 
four o'clock Schoolmaster Wyss was standing at his 
window, watch in hand, registering the falls and the 
time of their occurrence. Huntsman Elmer was on 
his doorstep looking at the quarry through a telescope. 
Every one was more or less on the qui vive, but none 
foresaw danger to himself 

" Many of the people in the lower village, called 
Miisli, which was the best part of a mile distant from 
the quarry, and separated from it by a large flat area, 
were quite uninterested. They were making coffee, 
milking cows, and doing the like small domestic 
business, 

" Suddenly, at a quarter past five, a mass of the 

mountain broke away from the Plattenbergkopf 

The ground bent and broke up, the trees upon it 

nodded, and folded together, and the rock engulfed 

them in its bosom as it crashed down over the 

quarry, shot across the streams, dashing their water 

280 



LANDSLIPS IN THE MOUNTAINS 

in the air, and spread itself out upon the flat. A 
greyish-black cloud hovered for a while over the 
ruin, and slowly passed away. No one was killed 
by this fall, though the debris reached within a 
dozen yards of the inn where the sightseers were 
gathered. The inhabitants of the upper village 
now began to be a little frightened. They made 
preparations for moving the aged and sick persons, 
and some of their effects. People also came up 
from the lower villages to help, and to see the 
extent of the calamity. Others came together to 
talk, and the visitors who had quitted the inn 
returned to it. Some went into their houses to 
shut the windows and keep out the dust. No one 
was in any hurry. 

"This first fall came from the east side of the 
Plattenbergkopf ; seventeen minutes later a second 
and larger fall descended from the west side. The 
gashes made by the two united below the peak, 
and left its enormous mass isolated and without 
support. The second fall must have been of a 
startling character, for Schoolmaster Wyss forgot 
his watch after it. It overwhelmed the inn and 
four other houses, killed a score of persons, and 
drove terror into all beholders, so that they started 
running up the opposite hill. Oswald Kubli, one 
of the last to leave the inn, saw this fall from 
close at hand. He was standing outside the inn 

281 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

when he heard some one cry out : ' My God, here 
comes the whole thing down ! ' Every one fled, 
most making for the Diiniberg. * I made four or 
five strides, and then a stone struck Geiger and 
he fell without a word. Pieces from the ruined 
inn flew over my head. My brother Jacob was 
knocked down by them.' Again a dark cloud 
of dust enveloped the ruin. As it cleared off. 
Huntsman Elmer could see, through his glass, the 
people racing up the hill (the Diiniberg) 'like a 
herd of terrified chamois.' When they had reached 
a certain height most of them stood still and 
looked back. Some halted to help their friends, 
others to take breath. 

" ' Of those who were before me,' relates Meinrad 
Rhyner, 'some were for turning back to the valley 
to render help, but I called to them to fly. 
Heinrich Elmer was carrying boxes, and was only 
twenty paces behind me when he was killed. 
There were also an old man and woman, who were 
helping along their brother, eighty years old ; they 
might have been saved if they had left him. I 
ran by them, and urged them to hasten.' 

"Of all who took refuge on the Diiniberg, only 

six escaped destruction by the third fall, and they 

held on their way, and went empty-handed. Ruin 

overtook the kind and the covetous together. 

" At this time, before the third fall, fear came 
282 



LANDSLIPS IN THE MOUNTAINS 

also upon the cattle. A cow, grazing far down 
the valley, bellowed aloud and started running for 
the hillside with tail out-straightened. She reached 
a place of safety before her meadow was over- 
whelmed. Cats and chickens likewise saved them- 
selves, and two goats sought and found salvation 
on the steps of the parsonage. 

"During the four minutes that followed the 
second fall every one seems to have been running 
about, with a tendency, as the moments passed, to 
conclude that the worst was over. Then those who 
were watching the mountain from a distance be- 
held the whole upper portion of the Plattenbergkopf, 
io,cxx),ooo cubic metres of rock, suddenly shoot 
from the hillside. The forest upon it bent 'like a 
field of corn in the wind,' before being swallowed 
up. ' The trees became mingled together like a 
flock of sheep.' The hillside was all in movement, 
and 'all its parts were playing together.' The 
mass slid, or rather shot down, with extraordinary 
velocity, till its foot reached the quarry. Then the 
upper part pitched forward horizontally, straight 
across the valley and on to the Diiniberg. People 
in suitable positions could at this moment clearly 
see through beneath it to the hillside beyond. 
They also saw the people in the upper village, and 
on the Diiniberg, racing about wildly. No individual 
masses of rock could be seen in the avalanche, 

283 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

except from near at hand ; it was a dense cloud of 
stone, sharply outlined below, rounded above. The 
falling mass looked so vast that Schoolmaster Wyss 
thought it was going to fill up the whole valley. 
A cloud of dust accompanied it, and a great wind 
was flung before it. This wind swept across the 
valley and overthrew the houses in its path ' like 
haycocks.' The roofs were lifted first, and carried 
far, then the wooden portions of the houses were 
borne bodily through the air, 'just as an autumn 
storm first drives off the leaves and then the dead 
branches themselves from the trees.' In many 
cases wooden ruins were dropped from the air on 
to the top of the stone debris when the fall was at 
an end. Eye-witnesses say that trees were blown 
about ' like matches,' that houses were ' lifted through 
the air like feathers,' and ' thrown like cards against 
the hillside,' 'that they bent, trembled, and then 
broke up like little toys ' before the avalanche came 
to them. Hay, furniture, and the bodies of men 
were mixed with the house-ruins in the air. Some 
persons were cast down by the blast and raised 
again. Others were carried through the air and 
deposited in safe positions ; others, again, were 
hurled upward to destruction and dropped in a 
shattered state as much as a hundred metres away. 
Huntsman Elmer relates as follows : 

" ' My son Peter was in Miisli (nearly a mile from 
284 



LANDSLIPS IN THE MOUNTAINS 

the quarry) with his wife and child. He sought 
to escape with them by running. On coming to 
a wall, he took the child from his wife and leaped 
over. Turning round, he saw the woman reach out 
her hand to another child. At that moment the 
wind lifted him, and he was borne up the hillside. 
My married daughter, also in Miisli, fled with two 
children. She held the younger in her arms and led 
the other. This one was snatched away from her, 
but she found herself, not knowing how, some 
distance up the hillside, lying on the ground face 
downwards, with the baby beneath her, both 
uninjured.' 

"The avalanche, as has been said, shot with in- 
credible swiftness horizontally across the valley. It 
pitched on to the Diiniberg, struck it obliquely, and 
was thus deflected down the level and fertile valley- 
floor, which it covered in a few seconds, to the 
distance of nearly a mile and over its whole width, 
with a mass of rock debris more than 30 feet 
thick. Most of the people on the hillside were 
instantly killed, the avalanche falling on to them 
and crushing them flat, ' as an insect is crushed into 
a red streak under a man's foot.' Only six persons 
here escaped. Two of them were almost reached 
by the rocks, the others were whirled aloft through 
the air and deposited in different directions. One 
survivor describes how the dust-cloud overtook him, 

28s 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

' and came between him and his breath ! ' He sank 
face downwards on the ground, feeling powerless to 
go further. Looking back, he saw 'stones flying 
above the dust-cloud. In a moment all seemed to 
be over. I stood up and climbed a few yards to a 
spring of water to wash out the dust, which filled 
my mouth and nose' (all survivors on the Diiniberg 
had the same experience). 'All round was dark 
and buried in dust.' 

"It was only when the avalanche had struck the 
Diiniberg and began to turn aside from it — the 
work of a second or two — that the people in the 
lower village, far down along the level plain, had 
any suspicion that they were in danger. Twenty 
seconds later all was over. Some of them who 
were on a bridge had just time to run aside, not a 
hundred yards, and were saved, but most were killed 
where they stood. The avalanche swept away half 
the village. Its sharply defined edge cut one house 
in two. All within the edge were destroyed, all 
without were saved. Almost the only persons 
wounded were those in the bisected house. 
Huntsman Elmer with his telescope, and School- 
master Wyss with his watch, whose houses were 
just beyond the area of ruin, beheld the dust- 
cloud come rolling along, ' like smoke from a 
cannon's mouth, but black,' filling the whole width 
of the flat valley to about twice the height of a 

286 



LANDSLIPS IN THE MOUNTAINS 

house. The din seemed to them not very great, 
and the wind, which, in front of the cloud, carried 
the houses away Hke matchwood, did not reach 
them. Others describe the crash and thunder of 
the fall as terrific ; it affected people differently. 
All agree that it swallowed up every other sound, 
so that shrieks of persons near at hand were in- 
audible. The mass seemed to slide or shoot along 
the ground rather than to roll. One or two men 
had a race for life and won it, but most failed to 
escape who were not already in a place of safety. 
Fridolin Rhyner, an eleven-year-old boy, kept 
his head better than any one else in the village, 
and succeeded in eluding the fall. He saw, too, 
'how Kaspar Zentner reached the bridge as the fall 
took place, and how he started running as fast as he 
could, but was caught by the flood of rocks near 
Rhyner's house ; he jumped aside, however, into a 
field, limped across it, got over the wall into the 
road, and so just escaped.' 

" The last phase of the catastrophe is the hardest 
to imagine, and was the most difficult to foresee. 
The actual facts are these. Ten million cubic metres 
of rock fell down a depth (on an average) of about 
450 metres, shot across the valley and up the 
opposite (Diiniberg) slope to a height of 100 metres, 
where they were bent 25° out of their first direction, 
and poured, almost like a liquid, over a horizontal 

287 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

plane, covering it, uniformly, throughout a distance 
of 1500 metres and over an area of about 900,000 
square metres to a depth of from 10 to 20 metres. 
The internal friction of the mass and the friction 
between it and the ground were insignificant forces 
compared with the tremendous momentum that was 
generated by the fall. The stuff flowed like a liquid. 
No wonder the parson, seeing the dust-cloud rolling 
down the valley, thought it was only dust that went 
so far. His horror, when the cloud cleared off and 
he beheld the solid grey carpet, beneath which one 
hundred and fifteen of his flock were buried with 
their houses and their fields, may be imagined. He 
turned his eyes to the hills, and lo ! the familiar 
Plattenbergkopf had vanished and a hole was in 
its place. 

"The roar of the fall ceased suddenly. Silence 
and stillness supervened. Survivors stood stunned 
where they were. Nothing moved. Then a great 
cry and wailing arose in the part of the village that 
was left. People began to run wildly about, some 
down the valley, some up. As the dust-cloud grew 
thinner the wall-like side of the ruin appeared. It 
was quite dry. All the grass and trees in the 
neighbourhood were white with dust. Those who 
beheld the catastrophe from a distance hurried 
down to look for their friends. Amongst them 

was Burkhard Rhyner, whose house was untouched 

288 



LANDSLIPS IN THE MOUNTAINS 

at the edge of the debris. He ran to it and found, 
he said, ' the doors open, a fire burning in the kitchen, 
the table laid, and coffee hot in the coffee-pot, but 
no living soul was left.' All had run forth to help 
or see, and been overwhelmed — wife, daughter, son, 
son's wife, and two grandchildren. ' I am the sole 
survivor of my family.' Few were the wounded 
requiring succour ; few the dead whose bodies could 
be recovered. Here and there lay a limb or a trunk. 
On the top of one of the highest debris mounds was 
a h-^ad severed from its body, but othenvise un- 
inju.vd. Every dead face that was not destroyed 
wore a look of utmost terror. The crushed remains 
of a youth still guarded with fragmentary arms the 
body of a little child. There were horrors enough 
for the survivors to endure. The memory of them 
is fresh in their minds to the present day. 

" Such was the great catastrophe of Elm. The 
hollow in the hills, whence the avalanche fell, can 
still be seen, and the pile of ruin against and below 
the Diiniberg ; but almost all the rest of the debris- 
covered area has been reclaimed and now carries 
fields, which were ripening to harvest when I saw 
them. The fallen rocks, some big as houses, have 
been blasted level ; soil has been carried from afar 
and spread over the ruin. A channel, 40 feet 
deep or more, has been cut through it for the river, 
so that the structure of the rock-blanket can still 
T 289 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

be seen. The roots of young trees now grasp stones 
that took part in that appalling flight from their 
old bed of thousands of years to their present place 
of repose. The valley has its harvests again, and 
the villagers go about their work as their forefathers 
did, but they remember the day of their visitation, 
and to the stranger coming amongst them they tell 
the tragic tale with tears in their eyes and white 
horror upon their faces." 



290 



CHAPTER XVIII 

SOME TERRIBLE EXPERIENCES 

A LL must have noticed, summer after summer, in 
the daily papers, a recital from time to time 
under some such heading as, " Perils of the Alps," of 
a variety of disasters to Germans or Austrians on 
mountains the names of which are unfamiliar to 
English people or even to English climbers. Many 
young men, of little leisure and of slight means, 
develop a passionate love for the peaks of their native 
land. The minor ranges of Austria and Germany 
offer few difficulties to really first-class, properly 
equipped parties, but nasty places can be found on 
most of them, and the very fact that they do not 
boast of glaciers removes the chief argument against 
solitary ascents. 

The Rax, near Vienna, is a mountain which can be 
reached in a few hours from that city, and while a 
good path has been laid out to the summit, many 
other routes requiring climbing — by climbing I mean 
the use of the hands — are available for the hardier 
class of tourists. One route in particular, that from 

291 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

the Kaiserbrunn through the Wolfsthal, appears to 
be really difficult, and is unfit for a man to ascend 
alone unless he is a climber of great skill. A terrible 
experience fell to the lot of a young Viennese com- 
positor, employed on the Neue Freie Presse, and by 
name Emil Habl. He set out by himself to make 
the expedition referred to, and, having fallen and 
broken his leg, he managed, thanks to his pluck and 
endurance, to escape with his life. " Despite injuries 
which made it impossible for him to stand," says a 
writer in one of Messrs Newnes' publications, from 
which I am courteously permitted to quote, " he yet 
succeeded in conveying himself from the scene of his 
accident into the valley in the neighbourhood of 
human dwellings. Three dreadful days and three 
awful nights lasted that memorable descent — a 
descent which can easily be made in two hours by 
any one able to walk. It may almost certainly be 
said that the case is without a parallel in the annals 
of Alpine accidents." 

Herr Habl had ascended the Rax on previous 
occasions, and twice before by the Wolfsthal. It is 
the custom on many of the easier Austrian mountains 
to mark the way by painted strips on the rocks. 
These are sometimes very useful, but occasionally 
they tempt the tourist into tracks which may be 
beyond his powers, or lure him on till, at last, losing 
sight of them, he is induced to strike out a route — 

292 



SOME TERRIBLE EXPERIENCES 

and perhaps an impracticable one — for himself. The 
Wolfsthal route up the Rax is marked in green, but 
the paint had worn off in many places, and after a 
time Herr Habl could no longer trace it. At last 
the way was barred by a precipice, but while pausing 
in uncertainty beneath it, the climber noticed two 
iron clamps fixed far apart on the face of the cliff, 
and argued that they must at one time have supported 
ladders and formed, perhaps, part of a hunter's path. 
He made an attempt to scramble up the rock, in 
spite of the absence of the ladder, but when more 
than 30 feet up saw that it was impossible to scale it. 
He therefore determined to return, but a loose stone, 
giving way beneath him, he was precipitated from his 
precarious hold, and fell with a crash straight to 
the bottom. This happened at about 7.30 A.M., and 
for a long time he lay unconscious. When he came 
to himself again he was suffering greatly. 

" The first thing I noticed," he says, " was a terrible 
pain in my right leg, my head, and left side ; I was 
also bleeding profusely from several wounds. At the 
same time, considering the fearful fall I had had, I 
felt thankful I had not been killed outright. On 
trying to get up I discovered, to my utter horror, that 
I had broken my right shin-bone. It was quite im- 
possible to rise. The break was about 6 inches 
below the knee, and at the first glance I knew it to 

be a very bad fracture. It was what the doctors 

293 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

call an ' open ' fracture — that is, the bone projected 
through the skin." 

It was in vain that he shouted for help. Tourists 
seldom pass that way, and it was useless to expect 
any one to hear him. To make matters worse, the 
weather had changed, and rain now fell heavily. 
But Herr Habl did not lose courage. He writes : 
" Unless I wanted miserably to die a long-drawn-out, 
hideous death from hunger and thirst, I knew / must 
saz'e myself. I decided not to lose another moment 
in fruitless brooding, and waiting, and shouting, but 
to act at once. 

" I perceived that first of all I must set my broken 
leg and bandage it in some rough fashion. In spite 
of the agony it caused me, I rolled over and over 
the ground in different directions like a bale of goods 
— a few yards here and a few yards there — until I 
had collected a sufficient quantity of fallen branches, 
bits of fir and moss ; this strange collecting process 
took me some hours. The next thing was to tear off 
the sleeves of my shirt and such other parts of my 
underwear as I could spare. On my mountain ex- 
cursions I always took with me a box containing 
iodoform gauze and cambric ; and now these things 
were more than welcome. 

" At last, then, I was ready to begin the operation. 
But, good heavens, what agony ! My deadliest enemy 
I would not wish such excruciating pains as I suffered 

294 



SOME TERRIBLE EXPERIENXES 

when setting the poor splintered bone — which, be it 
remembered, was not broken straight across. The 
dreadful splinters, indeed, dug deep into my flesh. 
Not regarding the pain (although nearly fainting 
therewith) I exerted my whole force, and at last 
succeeded in getting the bone into what, as far as I 
could judge, was its right position. Then I wound 
the iodoform gauze round it, and over that I put the 
cambric, the bits of underclothing, and a layer of 
moss. Next in the queer operation came my alpen- 
stock and some boughs in place of splints ; and finally 
I tied the whole together with the string, my hat-line, 
and neck-tie." 

During the rest of the day the agonising descent 
continued, down rocks which were difficult even for 
a sound man to ascend. As evening approached 
Herr Habl bethought him of the need of food, but, 
alas ! all was gone from his knapsack, doubtless left 
at the spot where the bandages had been put on. 
To regain this point was out of the question, so 
berries and leaves were resorted to, to appease the 
craving of hunger. 

That night was passed in pain and weariness. The 
rain never ceased, the poor wounded man was soaked 
to the skin. The next day, from dawn to dark 
the fearful descent continued, and was followed by 
another night of indescribable miser\\ The morning 
after Herr Habl could hardly drag himself a yard, 

'95 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

and the temptation to lie down and await the end 
was ver>' great. Still, for the sake of his parents at 
home, he continued his efforts, though bleeding now 
from the contact of the sharp rocks over which he 
pushed himself in a half-lying, half-sitting posture. 
By four o'clock that afternoon it seemed as if human 
endurance could bear no more, and for two hours he 
lay in an awful apathy he could not shake off Then, 
when all hope seemed over, help came, for he heard 
the sound of human voices, and this so stirred him 
that once more he began to crawl downward, though 
unable to obtain any reply to his cries for assistance. 
Another night passed, and during it, for the first 
time, he got some sleep. The next morning, he 
once more dragged his poor lacerated body down- 
wards and at last came in sight of some houses. 
Calling feebly for help, he was delighted beyond 
measure to receive an answer, and soon he was 
carried to Hotel Kaiserbrunn, and the same evening 
transported to the hospital at Vienna. He concludes 
his most interesting account by remarking : " I do 
not think that my accident, terrible as it is, has 
cured me of my love of mountaineering. But 
certainly the remembrance of those three terrible 
days and nights will deter me from again under- 
taking difficult climbs by myself" 

An adventure, having a happier termination, 

befell some friends of mine in the Bregaglia group, 

296 







e- 








^fha.^aj^A'aMKja "J 





SOME TERRIBLE EXPERIENCES 

owing to the marking of a route with paint. The 
district was but little known to them, so they were 
glad to follow where the marks led. One of the 
party, writing in The Alpine Journal, says : 

"The descent began by a grass ledge. After a 
few yards this was suddenly closed by overhanging 
rocks. Francois, who was first, appeared to us to 
plunge down a precipice. He answered our criticism 
by pointing to the red triangles. They indicated 
the only means of advance. It was requisite to 
go down a dozen feet of nearly vertical rock by the 
help of two grass tufts, and then for several yards 
to walk across a horizontal crack which gave foot- 
hold varying from 2 inches to nothing. Nominal 
support — help in balance — could be gained at first 
by digging axes into grass overhead ; further on 
hand-hold was obtainable. Frangois walked across 
without a moment's hesitation, but we did not 
despise the rope. This mauvais pas would not, 
perhaps, trouble younger cragsmen. It came upon 
us unprepared and when somewhat tired. But to 
indicate a route including such an obstacle to un- 
suspecting tourists as a Station Path is surely rash. 
A practical joke that may lead to fatal results 
should only be resorted to under exceptional cir- 
cumstances — as, for example, in the case of an 
hotel bore. There can be little doubt that in this 

instance the Milanese section entrusted their paint- 

297 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

pot to a conscious, if unconscientious, humorist ; 
for we found afterwards that he had continued his 
triangles through the village, along the high road, 
and finished up only on the ticket office." 

The following terrible experience did not, it is 
true, happen to a party of mountaineers, but as 
The Alpine Journal, from which I take my account, 
has considered a notice of it appropriate to its 
pages, I include it amongst my tales. 

" A distinguished aeronaut. Captain Charbonnet, 
of Lyons, married a young girl from Turin. On 
the evening of their wedding, in October, 1893, 
they set out in Captain Charbonnet's balloon 
'Stella,' and covered about 10 miles on their way 
towards Lyons. 

" Next morning, accompanied by two young 
Italians named Durando and Botto, one of whom 
had made many previous ascents with Captain 
Charbonnet, they started again. Stormy weather 
seemed to be brewing, and after rising to a height 
of 3000 metres they were caught in a current. At 
Saluggia they nearly touched ground, then leapt 
up again to 4000, and presently to 6000 metres. 
About 2.30 P.M. the balloon began to descend 
rapidly, and they had some difficulty in stopping 
it at 3000 metres. 

" Here they were in dense clouds, and bitterly 
cold ; quite ignorant, moreover, of their position. 

298 



SOME TERRIBLE EXPERIENCES 

Captain Charbonnet made his crew lie down in 
the car, himself leaning out in order to try if he 
could catch a glimpse of any point from which he 
could learn his bearings. The balloon was drifting 
at a great rate, and nothing could be done to 
check it. Presently there was a shock, and Captain 
Charbonnet was thrown to the bottom of the car, 
by a heavy blow over his left eye. 

" The balloon rebounded, and dashing across a 
gully struck the other side of it, and it finally 
settled down on a steep rocky spur on the east 
side of the Bessanese (3632 metres= 11,917 feet), 
just above the small glacier of Salau. It had 
struck the wall of the mountain which faces the 
Rifugio Gastaldi, at a height of about 3000 metres 
(9843 feet). 

" The aeronauts reached the ground a good deal 
shaken and bruised, but none of them, except the 
leader, suffering from any serious injuries. . , . Their 
sole provision was one bottle of wine ; but they 
were fairly well off for covering, and they cut up 
the balloon to supply deficiencies. In the night a 
violent storm came on, to add to their misery. In 
spite of his injuries, Captain Charbonnet kept up 
the spirits of his companions as well as might be, 
but towards morning his powers failed, and when 
day dawned his young wife, a girl of eighteen, had 
some difficulty in bringing him round. 

299 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

" They started to descend the snow-slope, 
Durando going first, and making steps to the best 
of his power with his feet 'and with a long key 
which he happened to have in his pocket.' Of 
course they had neither nails nor poles ; and, by 
a fatal imprudence, they did not tie themselves 
together, though ropes must have been in plenty 
in the wreck of the balloon. 

"Presently Charbonnet slipped. He was held 
up by his wife and Botto ; but a few minutes later 
he disappeared into a hidden crevasse. The others 
could see him far below, but as he neither moved 
nor answered their call, they rightly assumed that 
he was beyond the reach of any human help, and 
proceeded downwards. 

"With infinite difficulty, owing to their utter 
ignorance of the country, and after another night 
spent in the open air, they found a path which 
brought them to the hut under the Rocca Venoni, 
Thence a shepherd guided them to the Cantina 
della Mussa, where they were at first taken for 
deserters or spies ; the lady, it should be said, had 
been obliged to put on a suit of her husband's 
clothes, her own having been torn to pieces. 

" The sight of her hair and bracelets convinced 
the inhabitants of the true state of the case ; a 
telegram was sent to Turin, and a message to 
Balme, and a search party came up from the latter 

3C0 



SOME TERRIBLE EXPERIENCES 

place in the afternoon. Captain Charbonnet's body 
was recovered the next day. It was found at the 
bottom of a crevasse more than 60 feet deep, and 
completely doubled up ; but medical examination 
showed that his death was primarily due to the 
injury received when the balloon first struck." 

The first passage of the Alps by balloon was 
made in September 1903, by Captain Spelterini, of 
Zurich, accompanied by Dr Hermann Seller and 
another friend. They started from Zermatt, crossed 
the Mischabel group, passed over the valley of 
Saas, then rose above the Weissmies range, and 
approached the Lago Maggiore so closely that 
they were able to converse with the passengers of 
a steamer. They then rose again and spent the 
night above the mountains not far from the 
Gotthard. The next day it would have been 
possible to clear the Bernese Alps and descend 
somewhere near Lucerne, but though Dr Seller, 
who is a climber and was fully equipped for a 
descent above the snow line, urged the attempt 
being made to cross the chain. Captain Spelterini 
and his friend, unused to the aspect of the higher 
peaks, considered it more prudent to descend, and 
so the expedition came to an end after twenty 
hours aloft, during which no discomfort from cold 
was experienced. 

When an accident happens in the Alps involving 
301 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

loss of life, it is not difficult to learn whatever facts 
may be known with regard to it, but when climbers 
have a narrow escape from death the occurrence is 
often hushed up and nothing said or written about 
the matter. And yet it is just the narrow escapes 
that furnish the most interesting Alpine narratives. 
Amongst them are few more exciting than a mishap 
on the Matterhorn which happened in 1895, and 
is admirably described by an onlooker, Mr Ernest 
Elliot Stock, in the pages of one of Messrs Newnes' 
periodicals, from which I am courteously permitted to 
quote a portion of the tale. 

Mr Stock's party consisted of himself, his sister, 
Mr Grogan (the well-known traveller who first 
crossed Africa from South to North), Mr Broadbent, 
and the guides, P. A. and Alois Biner, Peter Perrin, 
and Zurmatter. An American of no climbing 
experience, with Joseph Biner and Felix Julen, was 
on the mountain at the same time, and both parties 
having made the ascent by the ordinary route, were 
coming down the same way, and had descended in 
safety to just below " Moseley's Platte " when the 
incident which so nearly cost them their lives took 
place. They were on a steep slope and the 
American party was slightly in advance. Mr Stock 
writes : 

" We had been working slowly, and at a slight zig- 
zag, down this for some 150 feet, only one member of 

302 




'he Mattekhorn from the Hornli ridge. 




% 





The Matterhorn from the Fupcg Glacier. 




face p. 3<>2. 



Josefh Bi.ver. 



The Matterhorn hut. 



SOME TERRIBLE EXPERIENCES 

the party moving at a time, and keeping carefully 
within the steps cut by the leader, when suddenly a 
flat stone, some 6 inches across, became detached 
from a small pile either to the side of or directly 
behind me — possibly loosened by our passage or 
picked up by the rope as it tautened between myself 
and Peter Biner, who came next. Peter's cry of 
warning was echoed by his brother at the tail of 
the party, and I half turned to see it slipping past on 
the right. 

" Reaching out with my axe I endeavoured to stop 
it, but its impetus had become too great. Getting 
upon its edge it rolled and struck a small rock ; then 
jumped some 20 feet down the ice-slope, narrowly 
missing Perrin and ' America,' and struck again upon 
a larger and flatter rock, when, amidst a flight of 
smaller stones, it bounded outwards and down- 
wards, striking the leading guide, Joseph Biner, full 
and square on the head. He fell as though he had 
been shot, dragging ' America ' after him amidst a 
perfect shower of snow and stones. Julen, who came 
third, with the greatest presence of mind drov-e his 
ice-axe hard and deep into the ice, took a turn round 
it with his left arm, and, though dragged violently 
from his steps, to our intense relief held on. 

" But we were in an awkward plight. Poor Joseph 
half lay, half hung, without movement, at the end of 
some 30 feet of rope, bleeding copiously from a deep 

303 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

gash in the head and another across the forehead 
caused by his fall ; ' America ' clung to a small rock 
projecting from the snow, beating a tattoo with his 
boots on the ice and wailing dismally ; Julen held the 
two by favour of his ice-axe and firmly planted feet 
only. For a space no one moved, excepting to get 
such anchorage as was possible upon the spur of the 
moment, each expecting a rope-jerk, the forerunner 
of a swift and battered end in the ice-fall of the 
Furgg Glacier thousands of feet below. 

" The guides for a time seemed utterly stunned by 
the catastrophe, and to all suggestions could only 
reply with muttered prayers and exclamations. So 
exasperating did this become at last, with the thought 
of the man below bleeding to death, if not dead 
already, that Mr Grogan, who had vainly been 
endeavouring to bring the guides to a sense of the 
position, quietly slipped the rope, and, amid a storm 
of protest from them, traversed out some distance to 
avoid a patch of loose stones, and descended inwards 
again, cutting his steps as he went, till he reached a 
spot immediately below the wounded man. Poor 
Joseph hung with his head buried in a patch of snow, 
and in an extremely awkward position to reach from 
above. Mr Grogan, however, refused to be daunted 
by the difficulties, and we were treated to a fine piece 
of ice-craft during his descent." 

After a little time Mr Grogan managed to cut a 
304 



SOME TERRIBLE EXPERIENCES 

seat in the slope of ice and placing the still breathing 
but insensible man in it, he bandaged the wounds on 
his head, and before long had the satisfaction of seeing 
him recover his senses. With great difficulty, as he 
was very weak and shaken, poor Joseph was helped 
down the mountain, and at last every one arrived safe 
and sound at the lower hut. 

There is no doubt that Joseph owed his life to 
Mr Grogan's skill, promptness, and courage. Had the 
travellers in the party following " America's " been of 
the usual type of tourist, who is hauled up and let 
down the Matterhorn, one dare not think what would 
probably have been the result, for the description 
Mr Stock gives of the behaviour of his guides seems 
in no way exaggerated. I edit this account in sight of 
the very spot where the accident occurred, and I have 
made careful enquiries here as to the accuracy of the 
story, and am assured that it is true in every detail. 
It is a pleasure to feel that a fellow-countryman 
should show so brilliant an example to those who 
were not willing and probably would have hardly 
been able to rescue their comrade, although to 
attempt such a task was one of the prior obligations 
of their profession. 

To be bombarded by falling stones in the Alps is 

bad enough. To be hurled from one's foot-hold by 

a flock of eagles seems to me even more appalling. 

Though on one occasion, when on the slopes of a 

u _ 305 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

bleak and rocky peak in Lapland, in company with 
my husband, a pair of eagles came screaming so 
close to us that we drove them away by brandishing 
our ice-axes and throwing stones at them, I did 
not till recently believe that there could be positive 
danger to a climbing party from an onslaught by 
these birds. It was only a few weeks ago that 
taking up one of Messrs Newnes' publications I 
came upon an account of a tragedy in the Maritime 
Alps caused by an attack from eagles. On applying 
to the editor of the magazine in question, he kindly 
allowed me to make some extracts from a striking 
article by Mons. Antoine Neyssel. This gentle- 
man with a friend, Mons. Joseph Monand, was 
making a series of ascents in the Maritime Alps 
with Sospello as their headquarters. From here 
they took a couple of guides and got all ready for 
a climb on the following morning, 23rd July. During 
the evening the amazing news reached them that 
a postman, while crossing a high pass, had been 
attacked and nearly killed by eagles. They at once 
went into the cottage where the poor man lay un- 
conscious on two chairs, a pool of blood beneath 
him and his clothes torn to ribbons. A few days 
later he died from the terrible injuries he had 
received. 

Though much shocked at the sad event, the 
climbers believed that their party of four would be 

306 



SOME TERRIBLE EXPERIENCES 

quite safe, for each man had an ice-axe and some 
carried rifles. So the next morning they set out, 
and, ascending higher and higher, reached the glacier 
and put on the rope. They had forgotten all about 
the ferocious birds when suddenly, as they traversed 
the upper edge of a crevasse near the summit of 
their peak, the leading guide stopped with an 
exclamation of horror. Close to them the ground 
was strewn with feathers and marked with blood, 
doubtless the spot where the postman was attacked. 
They passed on, however, and remembering that 
they were a party of four, felt reassured. But soon 
after weird cries came to their ears from below, 
followed by the whirr and beating of great wings. 
Looking cautiously over the abyss, they saw a fight 
of eagles in progress ; feathers flew in the air and 
strange sounds came out of the seething mass. It 
seemed to rise towards them, and in their insecure 
position on the edge of a crevasse, they were badly 
placed to resist an attack. The foot-hold was of 
frozen and slippery snow. Suddenly the eagles 
burst up and around them. The guides immediately 
cut the rope and each person did what he could 
to save himself " Wherever possible," says Mons. 
Neyssel, " we simply raced over the frozen snow like 
maniacs. In another moment they dashed upon us 
like an avalanche. I heard a shot — I suppose 
Monand fired, but I did not : I do not know why. 

307 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

The attack was quite too dreadful for words. Speak- 
ing for myself, I remember that the eagles struck 
me with stunning force with their wings, their hooked 
beaks, and strong talons. Every part of my body 
seemed to be assailed simultaneously. It was a 
fierce struggle for life or death. Strangely enough, 
I remember nothing of what happened to my 
companions. I neither saw nor heard anything of 
them after the first great rush of the eagles. It is 
a miracle I was not hurled to death into the 
crevasse. 

" Do not ask me how long this weird battle lasted. 
It may have been five or six minutes, or a quarter 
of an hour. I do not know. I grew feebler, and 
felt almost inclined to give up the struggle, when 
the blood began to trickle down my face and nearly 
blinded me. I knew that every moment might be 
my last, and that I might be hurled into the crevasse. 
Strangely enough, the prospect did not appal me. 
From this time onward I defended myself almost 
mechanically, inclined every moment to give up and 
lie down. 

" I gave no thought to the guides and my poor 

friend Monand. If I am judged harshly for this, 

I regret it ; but I could not help it. All at once I 

heard loud, excited voices, but thought that these 

were merely fantastic creations of my own brain. 

In a moment or two, however, I could distinguish a 

308 



SOME TERRIBLE EXPERIENCES 

number of men laying about them fiercely with 
sticks, and beating off the eagles." 

The villagers, having watched the ascent through 
a telescope had come to the rescue and had saved 
the lives of the writer and his two guides. His poor 
friend, however, was dashed into the crevasse, at 
the bottom of which his body was found five days 
later. 



309 



CHAPTER XIX 

FALLING STONES AND FALLING BODIES 

T AM indebted to the editor of The Cornhill and 
^ the author of an article entitled " The Cup and 
the Lip " for permission to reprint portions of a paper 
containing much shrewd wisdom, several accounts 
of narrow escapes, and withal of a wittiness and 
freshness that brings to the reader a keen blast of 
Alpine air and the memory, if by chance he be a 
climber, of his own early days upon the mountains. 
The writer, after remarking that even in these 
days when the traveller, by the purchase of a few 
climbing requisites, is inclined to consider himself a 
mountaineer before he has ever set foot on a peak, 
goes on to say that, in reality, "for the most of 
us the craft is long to learn, the conquering hard. 
And in the experience of many there are two distinct 
phases. There is the time when, flushed with youth 
and victory, you seem to go on from strength to 
strength, faster from year to year, more confident 
in foot and hand, more scornful of the rope which 
you have seen so often used, not as a means of 

310 



FALLING STONES AND FALLING BODIES 

safety, but as an assistance to the progression of 
the weaker brethren, until one day your foot un- 
accountably finds the step too small, or the bit of 
rock comes away in your hand, or the outraged 
spirit of the mountains smites you suddenly with 
a stone, and all is changed. Henceforth every well- 
worn and half-despised precaution has a new mean- 
ing for you ; it becomes a point of honour to walk 
circumspectly, to turn the rope round every helpful 
projection when the leader moves, and to mark 
and keep your distance ; and you begin to catch 
a little of the wisdom of your fathers. It is not 
until the slip comes — as it comes to all — that you 
believe a slip is possible ; and were it not for slips 
the continual advance of cup to lip might become 
in time monotonous and irksome, and mountaineer- 
ing nothing but a more laborious and elaborate form 
of walking up a damp flight of stairs. But when 
it has come, and there has passed away the result 
of the consequent shock to your self-esteem, and 
to other even more sensitive portions of your person, 
there succeeds a new pride of achievement, and 
you will have the advantages of the converted sinner 
over the ninety-and-nine just persons whose knicker- 
bockers are still unriven. Furthermore, you will 
have commenced the graduate stage of your moun- 
taineering education. Unlucky, too, will you be 
if your experience has not given you something 

311 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

more than a juster estimate of your own moral 
and physical excellence ; for your misfortune, if you 
have chosen your companions aright, will suddenly 
turn your grumbling hireling into a friend as gentle 
and as patient as a nurse, and disclose in those who 
were your friends qualities of calm and steadfastness 
never revealed in the fret of the valley ; while, if 
you need wine and oil for your wounds, when you 
reach home again, you will find in the inn some 
English doctor, asking nothing better than to devote 
the best part of his holiday to the gratuitous healing 
of the stranger. 

"The form of my own awakening was not such 
as to require wine or oil or consolation, and indeed, 
had I spoken of it at the time, would have scarcely 
escaped ridicule. We had reached the summit of 
our pass, and the guides and myself had decided 
that the steep wall of snow on the further side was 
an admirable place for a glissade. Accordingly, we 
went through the inevitable ritual of the summit, 
consumed as much sour bread and wine as we 
could, with unerring inaccuracy applied the wrong 
names to all the newly disclosed mountain-tops, 
adjusted the rope and prepared for the descent. 
Unfortunately, we omitted to explain the particular 
form of pleasure in which we were about to indulge 
to my companion, who was ignorant alike of moun- 
taineering and the German tongue. The result was 

312 




f 




A TEDIOUS SNOW SLOPE TO ASCEND. 



A SITTING GLISSADE AND A QUICK DESCENT. 





A GLACIER-CAI'I'EI) SUMMIT. 

ce p. 312. 



Italy to the lf.it, Switzerland to ihe kight. 



FALLING STONES AND FALLING BODIES 

simple : the second guide, who was in front, set off 
with his feet together and his axe behind him ; I 
followed in as correct an imitation of his attitude 
as I could induce my body to assume ; but the 
novice stood still on the crest of the pass to ' await 
in fitting silence the event,' and the rope tightened. 
The jerk, after nearly cutting me in two, laid me 
on my back in the snow, and was then transmitted 
to the guide, who was also pulled off his feet and 
plunged head foremost down. Our combined 
weights drew after us both my companion and the 
chief guide, who was taken unawares, and both 
came crushing upon me. We rolled over and over, 
mutually pounding one another as we rolled ; hats 
and spectacles and axes preceded us, and huge 
snowballs followed in our wake, until, breathless 
and humiliated, we had cleared the schrund, and 
came to an ignominious halt on the flat snow below. 
" This was no very rude introduction to my climb- 
ing deficiencies, but before the end of the season 
I had felt fear at the pit of my stomach. We (that 
is A. T. and myself) had scrambled up an Austrian 
mountain, and, on our way down, had come to where 
the little glacier intervenes between the precipice 
and the little moraine heaps above the forest. The 
glacier would hardly deserve the name in any other 
part of the Alps, so small is it ; but it makes up 
for what it lacks in size by its exceeding steepness ; 

313 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

the hardness of its ice, and the ferocity (if one may 
attribute personal characteristics to Nature) of the 
rock walls which keep in its stream on either hand, 
hem it in so closely that I think it must be always 
in deep shadow, even in the middle of a June day. 

" Here you must cross it very nearly on a level, 
and then skirt down its further side between ice 
and rock for a few feet before you come to a suitable 
place for the crossing of the big crevasse below you ; 
and then a short slide down old avalanche debris 
shoots you deliciously into the sun again. The 
crossing of the glacier in the steps cut by the 
numerous parties who have passed on previous days 
is an extremely simple affair. But you must not 
hurry, for a slip could not be checked, and would 
probably finish in the before-mentioned crevasse. 
We started, however, in some fear ; for a party 
ascending the mountains favoured us with continual 
showers of stones of all sizes, and the higher they 
climbed the more viciously came their artillery. 
Hence I was nervous and apt^to go carelessly when 
we reached the middle of the ice, and here the noise 
began. I heard a strange, whizzing, whirring noise 
which sounded strangely familiar, accompanied by 
a physical shiver on my part and a curious knocking 
together of the knees ; again and again it came, 
followed each time by a slight dull thud ; and, 
looking at the rocks below us on each side, I saw a 

314 



FALLING STONES AND FALLING BODIES 

little white puff of dust rising at every concussion. 
Then I knew why the sound seemed familiar. I 
was reminded how, as a panting schoolboy, I had 
toiled up a long dusty road to a certain down with 
a rifle much too large for me, in the vain hope of 
shooting my third-class, and how, as we bruised our 
shoulders at the 200 yards' range, another young 
gentleman firing at the 400 yards at the parallel 
range on the left, had mistaken his mark and fired 
across our heads at the target beyond us on the 
right. Everything was present : the indescribable 
whirring of the bullet, its horrible invisibility while 
it flew, and the grey little cloud as it flattened itself 
on the white paint of the target. The sensation was 
horrible, the tendency to hurry irresistible, and but 
for my companion I should have risked slip and 
crevasse and everything to get out of the line of fire. 
But my companion remained absolutely steady ; 
while he poured forth curses in every language and 
every patois ever spoken in the Italian Tyrol, he 
still moved his feet as deliberately, improved the 
steps with as much care and minuteness as if he were 
a Chamonix guide conducting a Frenchman on the 
Mer de Glace. I know he felt the position as acutely 
as I did, for when, a week later, we had to cross the 
same place under a similar fire, and the third member 
of the party was sent on in front with a large rope 
to recut the steps, be turned to me with impressive 

315 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

simplicity, and sSiid/ A desso e quello in grande pericolo. 
If he is hit, we cannot save him.' How long we took 
to cross I do not know. But when at last we reached 
the other bank we cast the rope off with one impulse, 
and, bending under the shelter of the rocks, ran 
where I had found climbing hard in the morning, 
jumped the bergschrujid, fell and rolled down the 
snow under a final volley from the mountain, and lay 
long by the stream panting and safe. 

" I suspect the danger here was far more apparent 
than real. My next adventure with a falling stone 
was more real than I like to think of. Four of us 
had been scrambling round the rocks beside the 
Ventina Glacier, and were returning to our camp to 
lunch. By bad luck, as it turned out, I reached level 
ground first, and, lying on my back amongst great 
boulders, watched with amusement the struggles of 
my companions who were about a hundred feet above 
me, apparently unable to get up or down. They 
were screaming to me, but the torrent drowned their 
voices, and I smoked my pipe in contentment. Suave 
mart viagfio. At last they moved, and with them the 
huge rock which they had been endeavouring to up- 
hold and shouting to me to beware of. It crashed 
down towards me, but I determined to stop where 
I was. The roughness of the ground would have 
hindered my escape to any distance, and I calculated 
on stepping quickly aside when my enemy had 

316 



FALLING STONES AND FALLING BODIES 

declared himself for any particular path of attack. 
So I did, but the stone at that moment broke in 
pieces, and, quick as I was with desperation, one 
fragment was quicker still. It caught me, glancing 
as I turned between the shoulder and the elbow, 
only just touching me, as I suppose, for the bone 
was quite unhurt. Up I went into the air and down 
I came among the stones, with all the wind knocked 
out of me, large bruises all over me, not hurt, but 
very much frightened. 

" Such experiences as this leave no very lasting 
impression, and might just as easily happen were the 
party accompanied by the best of guides. But I 
hardly think that any guide would have been crack- 
brained enough to take part in two expeditions which 
taught me what it feels like to slip on rock and ice 
respectively. The first slip took place during the 
winter. With one companion I was climbing in 
a long and not very difficult gully on 'a Welsh 
mountain. The frost had just broken, and there was 
more water in the pitches than was quite pleasant. 
It was very cold water, and my hands, which had 
been frost-bitten the week before, were still swathed 
in bandages. Hence progress was very slow, and at 
last my friend took the lead to spare me. He was 
climbing over a big overhanging stone jammed 
between the walls of the gully and forming an 
excellent spout for the water, which was thus poured 

317 



I 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

conveniently down his neck. I stood on the shelving 
floor of the gully in perfect safety, and watched the 
shower-bath, which was gradually exhausting him. 
He asked for his axe, and I, in a moment of madness, 
came near and handed it up ; his legs, which were all 
I could then see of him, were kicking in the water 
about 5 feet above my head. What happened next 
I do not know, but I shall always maintain that, 
seeing an eligible blade of grass above him, he 
plunged the adze in and hauled with both hands. 
The blade resented such treatment, and came out. 
Anyhow he fell on my head, and we commenced a 
mad career down the way we had ascended, rather 
rolling than falling, striking our heads and backs 
against the rocks, and apparently destined for the 
stony valley upon which we had looked down 
between our legs for hours. People who have 
escaped drowning say that, in what was their 
struggle for life, their minds travelled back over their 
whole history. I know that my brain at this moment 
suddenly acquired an unusual strength. In a few 
seconds we were safe, but in those seconds there was 
time for centuries of regret. There was no fear ; that 
was to come later. But I felt vividly that I was 
present as a spectator of my own suicide, and thought 
myself a feeble kind of fool. Had it been on the 
Dru or the Meije, I thought, it might have been 
worth it, but, half-drowned, to plunge a poor 40 

318 



FALLING STONES AND FALLING BODIES 

feet over the next pitch on a hill not 3000 feet high, 
with a carriage road in sight, and a girl driving in 
the cows for milking in Nant Francon ! We did not 
roll far, and stuck between the walls of the gully, 
where they narrowed. Then I arose and shook 
myself, unhurt. My companion made me light his 
pipe, which cheered me very much, and we each 
partook of an enormous mutton sandwich. Help 
was near, for another party of three was climbing in 
the next gully, and came to our shouts ; one ran 
down to the farm for a hurdle, the rest began the 
descent. For hours we seemed to toil, for my com- 
panion, though with admirable fortitude he supported 
the pain of movement, had temporarily no power 
over his legs and the lower part of his body. I could 
do little, but the others worked like blacks, and 
just at dark we reached the farm and the ministra- 
tions of a Welsh doctor, who told my friend, quite 
erroneously, that there was nothing the matter with 
him, pointed out a swelling on my face as big as a 
pigeon's egg, which, he said, would probably lead to 
erysipelas, and then departed into the darkness. 

" A fall on ice has something in it more relentless, 
though, until the last catastrophe, less violent. We 
had all been victims to the flesh-pots of the valley, 
and were, perhaps, hardly fit for a long ice-islope, 
when we began to cut up the last few feet to gain 
the are^e of our mountain. The incline seemed to 

319 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

me very steep, and, third on the rope, I was watching 
the leader at his labours, half pitying him for his 
exertions, half envying him his immunity from the 
ice fragments wjiich he was sending down to me. 
Below me the fourth man had barely left the great 
flat rock on which we had breakfasted ; there was 
no reason to think of danger; when to my horror 
I saw the leader cut a step, put out his foot slowly, 
and then very slowly and deliberately sway over 
and fall forwards and downwards against the ice. 
We were in a diagonal line, but almost immediately 
beneath one another, and he swung quietly round 
like a pendulum, his axe holding him to the slope, 
until he was immediately beneath the second man. 
Very slowly, as it seemed, the rope grew taut ; the 
weight began to tug at his waist ; and then he, too, 
slowly and reflectively in the most correct mountain- 
eering attitude, as though he were embarking upon 
a well-considered journey, began to slide. Now was 
the time for me to put into practice years of patient 
training. I dug my toes in and stiffened my back, 
anchored myself to the ice, and waited for the 
strain. It was an unconscionable time coming, and, 
when it came, I still had time to think that I 
could bear it. Then the weight of 27 stone in a 
remorseless way quietly pulled me from my stand- 
point, as though my resistance were an impudence. 
Still, like the others, I held my axe against the ice 

320 



FALLING STONES AND FALLING BODIES 

and struggled like a cat on a polished floor, always 
seeing the big flat rock, and thinking of the bump 
with which we should bound from it, and begin our 
real career through the air ; when suddenly the bump 
came and we all fell together in a heap on to the 
rock and the fourth man, who had stepped back 
upon it, my crampons running into his leg, and my 
axe, released from the pressure, going off through 
the air on the very journey which I had anticipated 
for us all. The others were for a fresh attack on 
the malicious mountain ; but I was of milder mood, 
and very soon, torn and wiser, we were off on a 
slower but more convenient path to the valley than 
had seemed destined for us a few minutes before. 
But our cup was not yet full. Having no axe with 
which to check a slip, I was placed at the head of 
the line, and led slowly down, floundering a good 
deal for want of my usual support. The great 
couloir was seamed across with a gigantic crevasse, 
the angle of the slope being so sharp that the upper 
half overhung, and we had only crossed in the 
morning by standing on the lower lip, cutting hand- 
holes in the upper, and shoving up the leader from 
the shoulder of the second man : hence, in descend- 
ing, our position was similar to that of a man on 
the mantel-shelf who should wish to climb down 
into the fire itself. We chose the obvious alterna- 
tive of a jump to the curb, which was, I suppose, 
X 321 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

about 15 feet below us and made of steep ice with a 
deep and deceptive covering of snow. I jumped and 
slid away with this covering, to be arrested in my 
course by a rude jerk. I turned round indignant ; 
but my companions were beyond my reproaches. 
One by one, full of snow, eloquent, and bruised, they 
issued slowly from the crevasse into which I had 
hurled them, and, heedless of the humour of the 
situation, gloomily urged me downwards, 

" Some hours still passed before we reached our 
friendly Italian hut, left some days before for a raid 
into Swiss territory ; there on the table were our 
provisions and shirts as we had left them, and a 
solemn array of bottles full of milk carried up during 
our absence by our shepherd friends ; and there, on 
the pile, in stinging comment on our late proceedings, 
lay a slip of paper, the tribute of some Italian tourist, 
bearing the inscription ' Omaggio ai bravi Inglesi 
ignoti.' We felt very much ashamed. 

" When the soup has been eaten and the pipes are 
lighted, and you sit down outside your hut for the 
last talk before bed, you will find your guides' 
tongues suddenly acquire a new eloquence, and, if 
you are a novice at the craft, will be almost over- 
whelmed by the catalogue of misfortune which they 
will repeat to you. And so, too, upon us in the 
winter months comes the temptation to dwell on 
things done long ago and ill done, and, as we write 

322 



f 



FALLING STONES AND FALLING BODIES 

of the sport for others, we give a false impression of 
peril and hardihood in things that were little more 
than matter for a moment's laughter. I too must 
plead guilty to a well-meant desire to make your 
flesh creep. 

" Mountaineering by skilled mountaineers is about 
as dangerous as hunting in a fair country, and 
requires about as much pluck as to cross from the 
Temple to the Law Courts at midday. Difficult 
mountaineering is for the unskilled about as danger- 
ous as riding a vicious horse in a steeplechase for a 
man who has never learnt to ride. But the tendency 
in those who speak or write of it for the outer world 
who are not mountaineers is to conceal a deficiency 
of charm of style by an attempt to slog in the melo- 
dramatic, and I plead guilty at once. 

" So we think and write as though to us our 
passion for the hills were a fancy of the summer, a 
mere flirtation. Yet no one has lost the first bloom 
of his delight in Alpine adventure before the element 
of sternness has come to mar his memory and bind 
more closely his affections. You find the mildly 
Horatian presence of death somewhere near you, 
and that at a moment when, whatever your age 
and strength, and whatever your infirmities, you are 
at the full burst of youth ; when Nature has been 
kindest she has been most capricious, and has 
flaunted her relentless savagery just when she has 

323 



ADVENTURES ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD 

bent to kiss you. The weirdest rocks rise from 
Italian gardens, and the forms of hill seem oldest 
when you are most exultant — immortal age beside 
immortal youth. Yet is it not this, 'the sense of 
tears,' in things which are not mortal which must 
mark your Alpine paths with memories as heavy 
and as definite as those inscriptions which tell of 
obscure and sudden death on every hillside, and 
invite your prayers for the woodcutter and the 
shepherd? You too will have seen friends go out 
into the morning whom you have never welcomed 
home. There is a danger, sometimes encountered 
recklessly, sometimes ignorantly, but sometimes — 
hard as it may be to understand the mood — not 
in the mere spirit of the idle youth, but met with 
and overcome, or overcoming, in a resolution which 
knows no pleasure in conquest save when the essay 
is fierce, and is calmly willing to pay the penalty of 
failure. While for ourselves we enjoy the struggle 
none the less because we have taken every care that 
we shall win, they freely give all ; and for such 
there is surely no law. While by every precept 
and example we impress the old rules of the craft 
on our companions and our successors, how can we 
find words of blame for those who have at least paid 
the extreme forfeit, and found 'the sleep that is 
among the lonely hills ' ? 

" The penalty for failure is death ; not always 
324 



FALLING STONES AND FALLING BODIES 

exacted at the first slip, for Nature is merciful and 
ofttimes doth relent ; but surely waiting for those 
who scorn the experience of others and slight her 
majesty' in wilfulness, in ignorance, in the obstinate 
following of a fancy, in the vain pursuit of notoriety. 
The rules are known, and those who break them, 
and by precept and example tempt to break them 
those whom they should teach, wrong the sport which 
they profess to love. 

" In this game as in any other, it should be a 
point of honour for us not to make the sport more 
difficult for others, and not to bring unnecessary 
sorrow upon the peasants, who help us to play it, 
and upon their families. It should be a point of 
honour to play the game, and, if disaster comes in 
playing it, we have at least, done our best" 



3*5 



GLOSSARY 



Alp . . .A mountain pasture, usually with chalets 

tenanted only in summer. 
Arete . . A ridge. 

Bergschrund . A crevasse between the snow adhering to 
the rocks and the lower portion of the 
glacier. 

Col . . .A pass between two peaks. 

Couloir . . A gully, usually filled with snow or stones. 

Crevasse . . A crack in a glacier, caused by the move- 
ment of the ice over an uneven bed or 
round a comer. 

FiRN . . . The snow of the upper regions, which is 
slowly changing into glacier ice. 

Grat . . .A ridge. 

JOCH . . .A pass between two peaks. 

Kamm . . A summit ridge. 

Moraine . . An accumulation of stones and sand which 
has fallen from bordering slopes on to 
a glacier. Medial moraines are formed 
by the junction of glaciers, their lateral 
moraines joining. 

327 



GLOSSARY 



Moulin 



Rucksack 

SCHRUND 
SfeRAC 



A glacier mill, or shaft through the ice, 
formed by a stream which has met a 
crevasse in its course, and plunging 
into its depths has bored a hole right 
through the glacier and often into the 
rock beneath. 

The French of Firn. (See Fim.) 

The bag type of canvas knapsack now in- 
variably used by guides and climbers. 

A crevasse. (See Crevasse.) 

A cube of ice, formed by transverse crevasses, 
and found where a glacier passes over 
steep rocks. This part of a glacier is 
called an ice-falL 



338 



INDEX 



Abruzzi, Duke of, 8 
Adine Col, io8 
^ggischhom, 257 
Ailefroide, 228, 245 
Aitkins, Mr, 162 
Aletsch Glacier, 125 
Aletschhom, avalanche on, 55 
Aimer, Christian, 223, 237 
Aimer, Ulrich, 55 
Andenmatten, 108 
Anderegg, Jacob, 126, 127 
Anderegg, Melchior, 125, 212 

Andermatten, Franz, 202 

Arbuthnot, Mrs, 257 

Arc, Valley of, 266 

Aren Glacier, 57, 61 

Arlberg Pass, 61 

AroUa, 168 

Arves, Aiguilles d', 248 

Asti, 265 

B 

Baker, Mr, 134 

Balloon (crossing Alps), 298 



Balme, 300 
Bans, Les, 228 
Baumann, Hans, 127 
Bean, Mr, 136 
Bennen, 57 
Bergemoletto, 65 
Bergh Hut, 210 
Bessanese, 299 
Bettega, 183 
Biner, Alois and P., 302 
Biner, Joseph, 204, 302 

Blaiti^re, Aiguille de, 26, 37 

Blanc, Mont, 136, 153 

Blanche, Dent, 51, 152, 167 

Boeufs Rouges, 228 

Bohren, 58 

Boniface, 265 

Bonvoison, Pic de, 226 

Botto, 298 

Bregaglia group, 296 

Brenner, 136 

Brewer, Mrs, 61 

Bricolla chalets, 168 

Bristenstock, 164 

Broadbent, Mr, 302 
1 Bruce, Major, 59 
329 



INDEX 



Brulle, Mons. H., 260 
Burckhardt, Mr, 208 
Burchi peak, 59 
Burgener, Alexander, 104, 202 



CA D'ASTi, 265 
Carr, Mr Ellis, 23 
Carrel, J. A., 21 
Caucasus, 58, 99, 116 
Cenis, Mont, 264 
Cerbillonas, the, 260 
Chamonix, 8, 23, 126, 153 
Charbonnet, Captain, 298 
Charmoz ridge, 50 
Claret, 258 

Clayton, Captain, 261 
Collie, Dr Norman, 134 
Constance, 60 

Conway, Sir W. M., 155, 275 
Copland Valley, 4 
Croz, Michel, 222, 238 



Dauphin^ h 

Dent, Mr C. T., 99, 116, 142, 202 

Devas, Mr J. F. C, 144 

Dixon, Mr H. B., 133 

Dolomites, 182 

Dom, 52 

Donkin, Mr W. F., 58, 99, 116 

Dora Riparia, Valley of, 266 

Diiniberg, 282 



Durand Glacier, 204 
Durando, 298 
Dych Tau, 105 



ECRINS, 228, 235 
Ecrins, Col des, 225 
Eiger, 264 
Elbruz, 115 
Elm, landslip of, 275 
Elmer, Huntsman, 280 
Encula, Glacier de 1', 246 
i^tangons, Val des, 1 1 



Fellenberg, E. Von, 212 
Ferard, Mr A. G., 144 
Fitzgerald, Mr E., 3 
Flender, Herr, 138 
Foster, Mr G. E., 126 
Fox, Mr, 116 

Freshfield, Mr Douglas, 116 
Furgg Glacier, 304 
Fiirrer, Alphons, 8 
Furrer, Elias, 167 



Gabelhorn, Ober, 55 
Gastaldi, Rifugio, 299 
Gavarnie, 261 
Geant, Dent du, 257 
Geneva, Lake of, y] 
330 



INDEX 



Gentinetta, A., 8 
Gentinetta, E., 206 
Gestola, 99 
Glace, Mer de, 8 
Glarus, Canton, 277 
Gohna Lake, 277 
Grass, Hans, 55 
Greenwood, Mr Eric, 154 
Grogan, Mr, 302 
Grove, F. Craufurd, 2 
Gurkhas, 59 

H 

Habl, Herr Emil, 292 
Hardy, Mr, 164 
Hartley, Mr E. T., 166 
Hill, Mr, 167 
Himalayas, 58, 275 
Hochjoch Haus, 261 
Hohberghom, 52 
Homli, 9 
Horrocks, D. P., 204 



Imboden, J06EPH, 52, 165, 195 
Imboden, Roman, 195 
Imseng, Ferdinand, 202, 267 
Innsbruck, 60 
Interlaken, 221 



Jones, Mr Glynne, 167 
Julen, Edouard, 206 



Julcn, Felix, 302 
Jungfrau, 55, 210 
Jungfrau Hut, 209 



Kaiserbrunn, 292 
Kennedy, Dr, 164, 222 
King, Sir H. S., 208 
Koenig, Herr, 138 
Kubli, Herr Oswald, 281 
Kurzras, 261 



La B^rarde, II, 245 
La Grave, 1 1 
Langtauferer Glacier, 262 
Lapland, 306 
Lausanne, yj 
Lucerne. 301 
Lyons, 298 

M 

Maggiore, Lago, 301 
Maithana Hill, fall of, 275 
Maquignaz, 21 
Maritime Alps, 305 
Martino, St, 182 
Matthews, Mr E. C., 211 
Matterhom, 8, 21, 248, 302 
Maund, Mr, 11 
Maund, Mrs, 11 
Maurer, 11, 116 
Meije, 12, 248 



331 



INDEX 



Meije, Br^che de la, 12, 228 
Middlemore, Mr, rr 
'^idi, Aiguille du, 126 
ischabel group, 301 
ivlonand, Mons. J., 306 
Monch, 124 
Montanvert, 8 

Moore, Mr A. W., 124, 222, 235 
" Moseley's Platte," 302 
Mouvoison, 142 
Mueller Valley, 4 
Mummery, Mr, 23, 58 
Miirren, 208 
Miisli, 280 
Mussa, Cantina della, 300 

N 

Nant Francon, 319 
Nantillons Glacier, 24 
Neyssel, Mons. Antoine, 306 
Noir, Glacier, 245 



Oktzthal, 261 
Offerer, J., 136 
Ossoue, Valley of, 261 



PALtJ, PiZ, 55 
Passingham, Mr, 202 
Packe, Mr C., 259 
Pelvoux, 245 
Pelvoux, Crete du, 245 



Perren, H., 138 
Perren, P., 204 
Pilatte, Col de la, 222 
Plan, Aiguille du, 23 
Plattenbergkopf, 277 
Pourri, Mont, 267 
Powell, Captain, 116, 123 
Pyrenees, 259 



Rax, the, 291 
Renaud, Mons., 223 
Rey, Emil, 8 
Rhyner, Fridolin, 287 
Rhyner, Meinrad, 280 
Richardson, Miss, 165 
Rocca Venoni, 300 
Roccia, Family of, 68 
Roche Melon, 264 
Rocky Mountains, 133 
Rodier, 11 
Rosetta, 182 
Rothhorn, Zinal, 195 



Saas, Valley of, 301 
Sahrbach, 134 
Schaffer, Dr, 136 
Schildthorn, 257 
Schuster, Mr, 162 
Schwarzsee Hotel, 10 
Sefton, Mount, 4 
Seiler, Herr, 145, 162 



332 



INDEX 



Seller, D. H., 301 

Sernf Valley, 277 

Silberhom, 208 

Skagastoldstind, 140 

Ski accident, 137 

Slingsby, Mr Cecil, 23, 140, 152 

Sloggett, Mr, 8 

Smith, Mr Haskett-, 158 

Solly, Mr, 156 

Somis, Ignazio, 65 

Sospello, 306 

Spechtenhauser, 261 

Spelterini, Captain, 301 

Spender, Mr H. 167 

Strahlplatten, 209 

Stock, Mr E. E., 302 

Stockje, 156 

Supersax, Ambrose, 209 

Susa, 265 



Tavernaro, 183 
Tetnuld Tau, 99 
Tonsberg, 141 
Trift Valley, I95 
Tuckett, Mr F., 55, 264 
Tuckett Glacier, 5 
Turin, 298 



U 



USCHBA, 115 



Vallon, Glacier du, 245 
Vallot Hut, 153 
Valtournanche, 21 
Ventina Glacier, 316 
Vignemale, 260 
Viso, Monte, 269 
Vuignier, Jean, 168 

W 

Walker, Mr, 223, 235 
Walker, Mr Horace, 126 
Wandfluh, 166, 179 
Watson, Mr and Mrs, 257 
Weisshorn, 248 
Weisskugel, 261 
Weissmies, 301 
Wengern Alp, 124, 210 
Willink, Mr, 123 
Wildlahner Glacier, 136 
Wolfsthal, 292 
Woolley, Mr H., 116 
Whymper, Mr E., 222, 235 
Wyss, Schoolmaster, 280 



Zentner, Kaspar, 287 
Zermatt, 10, 51, 139, 181, 301 
Zmutt Glacier, 166, 179 
Zurbriggen, 3, 59 
Zurbriggen, Clemens, 168 
Zurbrucken, Louis, 209 
Zurmatter, 302 

333 



PRINTED AT THE EDINBURGH PRESS, 
9 AND 11 YOUNG STREET 



'^ 



DQ Le Blond, Elizabeth Alice 

823 Frances (hav/kins-Whitshed) 
L43 "Mrs. Aubrey Le blond." 

Adventures on the roof 
of the v;orld 



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