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morning for our departure; in the meantime, after some difficulty, we engaged nine guides to accompany us, with sufficient provisions for three days, and every requisite for the undertaking.
At balf-past eight o'clock on the morning of the 24th of Jaly we left Chamouni, amidst the good wishes, but gloomy countenances, of almost the whole of its inhabitants. Our provisions, &c. had been taken forward some time before, by men employed by the guides, as far as the commencement of the glaciers, in order that they might be less fatigued to begin their difficulties, with which several of them were acquainted. Our track lay for about a mile and a half along the valley, thence through a thick forest of pines, growing on the side of a steep rocky mountain, which we gradually ascended, occasionally passing along rugged paths, but a few inches in width, on the side of rocks rising perpendicularly above, and forming an abyss of several hundred feet below. At twelve o'clock we arrived at the foot of the Aiguille du Midi, about nine thousand feet above the valley, and within a few minutes' walk of the first glacier. We here sat down a party of twenty-two at dinner, and from this spot we afterwards started in the following order :-Two guides, tied together with a rope about fifteen feet long; two single guides with ropes in case of accident, and an axe, &c. for cutting the ice; two more guides, between whom I was tied, separated by a length of ten feet of rope: my friend was attended in a similar marner; and one man following, with ropes, brought up the rear. We had also a fine bold youth of eighteen, son of a guide, who requested to accompany us without pay, hoping, by his ascent, to commence with fame the profession of his fathers. Each guide had a knapsack laden with provisions, straw, fire-wood, saucepan for melting the snow, a blanket, &c. We all bad batons (poles about seven feet long, with iron spikes at the end); our dress was adapted to a cold climate (although the day was intensely hot), cloth dresses and gaiters, thick shoes with spikes or large nails, fur gloves, large straw hats, and green spectacles or veils. Thus equipped and provided, we commenced the pass of the Glacier de Bosson, where we at once saw that our task would be less diffi. cult than usual, but far more dangerous, in consequence of the unusually heavy snows of the last season having covered many of the crevices between the masses of ice, which formed, even now, a complete chaos around us, thus enabling us to pass over instead of descending and ascending these gulfs.
As we proceeded, we found that these bridges of snow were at times extremely thin and weak, which obliged us to vary our modes of crossing them, sometimes crawling on several of the poles laid together; at others lying down, keeping our bodies stiff, we were pulled over by our ropes. Notivithstanding these precautions, we at times fell through, and in one instance I was. suspeuded, at my own request, for several minutes, to survey
the grandeur of the objects around me, wbich I will endeavour to describe. The crevices are, perhaps, a quarter of a mile long, running across the mountain, and are formed by layers or cliffs of ice from ten to twenty feet thick, each of which, on falling, forms an avalanche. The depth of these crevices is generally one hundred feet, and is only to be judged of by the darker shades of colour. The sides vary from the whiteness of snow to dark shades of blue and green, blended with the soft brilliancy of crystal reflection; while from many parts of the overhanging snow, icicles are suspended above ten feet in length, which add beauty to the grandeur of the whole. ** After encountering, perhaps, less than the usual difficulties, at balf past four in the afternoon, we reached the foot of the Grand Mulets, a pile of perpendicular pointed rocks rising about sixty feet out of the snow, bounding the upper part of the Glacier de Bosson, which from its peculiar situation, although apparently in the midst of avalanches, is perfectly safe from the danger usually attending them. Near the top of this point of rock is a flat surface, eight feet long, and four wide, which, with one about four feet square, on the adjoining and smaller rocks, called the Petit Mulets, formed our resting-places for the night. After a hearty meal, we retired to rest, being covered with a sheet, supported by our batons against the rocks. Some of the guides lay on our feet, others leaned against the rock to sleep, or sat up to attend the fire. The thermometer here was at twenty-five degrees of Fahrenheit—too cold an air to enjoy a long night, which was also disturbed by the frequent avalanches commencing close to us, resembling loud claps of thunder, and gradually dying into the distant sound of the roaring Arve, now scarcely audible. At halfpast three o'clock we were glad to resume our labours, leaving bebind all our luggage except a small portion of eatables, wine, lemonade, &c. We were now much struck with the intense dark blue colour of the sky, and the appearance of the stars, which, instead of seeming to be studded on the surface of the heavens, Jooked as if suspended at various distances, and greatly diminished in magnitude, being deprived of their misty rays occasioned by the dense atmosphere through which they are generally viewed.
After passing through several valleys of snow, intersected with the usual difficulties, we stood under a range of ice-cliffs, majestically rising above 200 feet above us—some overbanging our path, and threatening an immediate avalanche-all varying in situation, showing splendidly the light of the sun, which but a few minutes before had only tinged, with the most delicate pink, the summit to wbich we were slowly advancing. Passing this barrier, we arrived at the Grand Plateau, a valley at the foot of the Dome de Gouté, at half-past eight o'clock, where we found our progress, by the usual route, was impeded by the continual falling of the
ice: being determined, however, to proceed, we sent four guides forward to discover some new passage; and after breakfast, of which scarcely any of us partook-indeed, for the next 28 hours my only food was a few raisins-we lay down to sleep on the snow. In about an hour and a half we were awoke by our guides, who said they feared the four men in advance were lost, not having been seen for twenty minutes. From this state of alarm we were soon relieved by perceiving them, one by one, gain the summit of a crevice, in passing which they had experienced much difficulty. They gave us the signal to follow, and we started with nothing but a bottle of wine and one of lemonade. At this time we were about 13,000 feet above the level of the sea, and began to feel the effect of the rarity of the air. We all had bad head-aches, which increased as we advanced; our veins appeared swollen, and our pulsation was strong and rapid.
This new pass, which lies to the left instead of the right, is so extremely steep, that we had to cut each step in the snow; the crevices were here less frequent, and, to the summit, our labour was very great, but with comparatively little danger. By this steep, but safe ascent, we avoided the great, and, in many instances, fatal dangers of the old pass, and also saved, in distance, about half a mile. We had now proceeded to within about 1,000 feet of the summit; several of our guides' noses began to bleed, and almost all spat blood. I also experienced the latter inconvenience, but my friend did not; our respiration was also much affected, being unable to walk more than six or eight steps without stopping to recover breath. On arriving at a small point of granite rock, which just appears above the snow, about three hundred feet from the bighest point, we stopped to break off some small pieces, as relics, being the highest visible rock on the mountain. Here two of our guides seemed quite exhausted; they were very sick, and threw up a great quantity of blood. We most of us experienced indications of internal loss of blood ; and our faces were much blistered, apparently from the reflection of the snow. The cold was intense; even the ropes with which we were tied were frozen quite stiff.
With slow steps and frequent rests (not from fatigue, but from difficulty of breathing), we reached the summit, at twenty minutes past two o'clock in the afternoon of the 25th of July, 1827. We now stood 15,665 feet above the level of the sea, and on the highest spot in Europe. We all assembled (excepting the two guides, who were ill, and did not arrive till we began to return), and, after congratulating each other, drank the general toast,
Health to all below.' We were much favoured in the day; no clouds røse so high as where we were standing, and the whole country was cloudless, excepting the distant valleys of Italy, which appeared as if filled with wool. Clouds also seemed lying over the country between Marseilles and Lyons; all else was beautifully clear, and lay as a map beneath ; while nearer to us, for miles, we seemed surrounded with snow. The valley of Chamouni (the church and larger houses of Chamouni were visible); the whole lake of Geneva, except the neighbourhood of Lausanne, which was hidden by a mountain rising immediately from the Jake; the Jura Mountains, Lake of Neufchatel, a series of Alps ranging into Italy, Mount Rosa, and lesser mountains interminable; the valley of Piedmont, and in every valley the silvery track of rivers. Of colours we saw but little variety: from the immense distance, the boasted green valleys were
as the mountains that surrounded them. The summit of Mont Blanc I paced, and found it to be somewhat in the form of an egg, about 150 feet long and 50 wide-an inclined plane, the higher end towards Chamouni. We tried to sing, but the Swiss cbant of the guides was even less barmonious than usual, owing to the want of vibratory power in the atmosphere. Birds, are unable to fly in this region—we saw none; but while at the top, a Papilio flew with great rapidity over our heads, und we saw another in descending? The Italian side of Mont Blanc is quite inaccessible, being one Glacier from the summit to the valley.
We were fortunate enough to hear an avalanche wbile at the top ; it was heard for four minutes.
The descent, which we began at three o'clock, was so totally different to the ascent, that we forgot our past labours, and started with the spirit of a fresh undertaking.
We were now only tied to one guide. The mode of travelling down the very deep sides of snow, is sitting behind our guide, with our legs round his body; he then raises his own feet from the snow, and we descend with incredible velocity, frequently seven hundred feet at a time. In this manner we soon again breathed a more suitable air, and entirely lost the unpleasant effects experienced above. Clouds, which had begun to rise from the eastern mountain, now encircled us, and we were in a snow storm which lasted nearly two hours, greatly increasing our danger, and preventing our seeing above twenty yards before us.
Arriving near ihe Grand Plateau, we heard the thunder of an avalanche close to us ; we stood still, not knowing in what direction it was coming, but soon found, by the agitation of the show and the bounding of a block of ice, that it was immediately before us. During the remainder of our journey to the Grand Mulet, we found the snow so soft, that at each step we sunk in above our knees, making us wet and cold, and on our arrival we found that the cloud in which we had been enveloped had extended to this region, and all our bedding, cloaks, &c.
. 1 The insect alluded tu was probably the Bombyx Puvonia Major, or a species nearly allied to it, and not a papilio.-G. s.
were as wet as ourselves. Seeing every prospect of an uncomfortable night, and that it was now only six o'clock, we proposed continuing our journey, and attempting to reach Chamouni by midnight; but on examining the route, we found that in our absence the whole surface of the mountain had been changed by the largest avalanche known for several years. To cut a new path at this time was impossible, so we reluctantly took up our quarters on the bare rock, where we had not lain long before a heavy rain commenced, and continued without intermission for several hours. I frequently squeezed the water from my cap, and found the silk tassel at the top frozen. In this state, of course sleeping was impossible, and I counted, during an hour and three quarters, seven avalanches. Our faces suffered extreme pain, owing to the cold. Long looked-for daylight at last appeared; and at balf-past three o'clock, after baying had some hot wine and water, we again started on our route towards the valley.
The difficulty and dangers we bere experienced were far greater than any we had hitherto encountered: after many perils we descended to the foot of a cliff of ice, which hung over us; it was about 200 feet high, and in front of it was a deep crevice, down the sides of which we had to cut holes for hands and feet: this operation our guides said would take a quarter of an hour, and for this period we had to wait in a situation from which our oldest guides thought it probable we should never escape, and even speaking was probibited, lest the vibration of the air should cause the impending avalanche to fall. Three times we heard cracks resembling the firing of a pistol: we exchanged looks, but I do not think a word was spoken. By slow and silent steps we descended, and in less than a quarter of an hour had escaped this awful spot; but after bearing to the left for about a quarter of a mile, we heard the fall of the cliff under which we bad been standing. Without further difficulty we arrived again on the rock, and at the first Chalet, or cottage, left two of our guides, who in consequence of having reached the summit of the mountain an hour before us, and remaining there so long, were quite blind with a violent inflammation in the eyes, from which, however, they had nearly recovered the following day. We arrived at Chamouni about nine o'clock on the morning of the 27th of July, and were welcomed by tenfold its inhabitants: people from all quarters had been attracted to the spot by our adventure. Inquiry seemed as strongly depicted on every countenance as gloom bad been when we left. We were presented with certificates of our ascent from the Syndic, wbich contained also the names of our guides, who deservedly rank high in their profession. We did not suffer in the least from fatigue, and in a few days our faces were well. We returned from tbis hazardous en