Billeder på siden

his party approached the Grand Mulet, they found it nearly inaccessible, in consequence of a tremendous fissure immediately below it. In front was a solid wall of ice, of prodigious hight, to which there was only one perilous approach, by means of a promontory projecting from the side on which the party stood. Coutet cut steps in the wall with his hatchet, and thus enabled the party to climb over it. When Dr. Barry came to the same place, Coutet had to cut and climb his way for a considerable distance along the front of an equally-terrific wall, and then to climb up to the top, to which, by means of ropes, he pulled up the rest.

After ascending the wall Mr. Auldjo's route lay for some distance along the top, which was very narrow, and inclined in each direction toward unfathomable gulfs. “Taking my steps," says he," with the greatest caution, I could not prevent myself from slipping; as the space became wider, I became less cautious, and while looking over the edge into the upper crevice, my feet slid from under me: I came down on my face, and glided rapidly toward the lower one: I cried out, but the guides who held the ropes attached to me did not stop me, though they stood firm. I had got to the extent of the rope, my feet hanging over the lower crevice, one hand grasping firmly the pole, the other my hat. The guides called to me to be cool, and not afraid : a pretty timo to be cool, hanging over an abyss, and in momentary expectation of falling into it! They made no attempt to pull me up for some moments, but then, desiring me to raise myself, they drew in the rope till I was close to them and in safety. The reason for this proceeding is obvious. Had they attempted, on the bad and uncertain footing in which they stood, to check me at the first gliding, they might have lost their own balance, and our destruction would have followed; but by fixing themselves firmly in the cut step, and securing themselves with their batons, they were enabled to support me with certainty when the rope had gone its length. This also gave me time to recover, that I might assist them in placing myself out of danger.”

The place appropriated for the repose of the travelers during the night, is a ledge near the top of the Grand Mulet, where it is just possible, by laying the batons against the rock, to form a kind of tent sufficient to cover the party during their sleep. Dr. Barry here found the air at forty of Fahrenheit, so that there was no suffering from cold. This gentleman, awaking at midnight, drew himself forth from the tent, and beheld a scene of unexampled magnificence and impressiveness. “It was," says he, “a brilliant night. The full moon had risen over the summit of the mountain, and shone resplendent on the glazed surface of its snowy covering. The guides were sleeping. Thus, in the midnight hour, at an elevation of ten thousand feet, I stood-alone: my resting-place a pinnacle of rock, that towered darkly over the frozen wilderness above which it, isolated, rose. Below me lay, in the wildest confusion, the colossal masses of ice we had been climbing, and whose dangers we had narrowly escaped: around and above was a sea of fair but treacherous snow, whose hidden perils we had yet to encounter. The Jura Mountains, and many an unknown peak of Switzerland, seen dimly in the distance, gave me an earnest of the prospect from still more elevated regions. The vale of Chamounix was sleeping at the foot of the mountain: and, broken by the occasional thunder of an avalanche, the profoundest silence reigned. It seemed the vastest, sternest, sublimest of nature's imagery reposing-now starting as in a fitful dream—then sinking again into the stillest calm. It held me till, at the end of an hour and a half, a recollection of the coming day's fatigues rendered it prudent again to take repose.”

Between the Grand Mulet and the base of the summit expressly termed Mont Blanc, the way zigzags along a vast ascending hollow, broken by three plains of ice, the last and largest of which is called the Grand Plateau. This part of the journey is also obstructed by fissures and the debris of avalanches — vast masses, as formerly, being sometimes found serving as bridges across the openings. At one place, Mr. Auldjo and his party crossed a vast chasm by a large and lofty block of ice, which had stuck in it, and the side of which had to be cut by the hatchet, to allow of places for the feet and hands; so that the party passed along as boys are sometimes observed to do on the outside of the parapet of a bridge, with nothing, in the event of their falling, to save them from destruction. At another place, they came to a chasm crossed by a hollow or pendulous bridge of snow; and on this insecure place were induced to breakfast, on account of the shelter it afforded from the piercing wind which swept over the ice. “In one moment,” says the traveler, “without a chance of escape, the fall of the bridge might have precipitated them into the gulf beneath. Yet no such idea ever entered the imagination of my thoughtless but brave guides, who sat at their meal singing and laughing, either unconscious or regardless of the danger of their present situation.”

A little above the Grand Plateau, the traveler usually begins to feel intense thirst and great dryness of the skin, while the reflection of the sun's rays from the glittering snow can only be endured by the use of green spectacles, or a green vail. The aşcent along the upper ridges to the top is extremely difficult, partly on account of the greater steepness, and partly owing to the phenomena arising from natural circumstances. “We had now reached an elevation where I had to verify the testimony of preceding travelers, by experiencing the exhaustion consequent on any slight exertion, in an atmosphere whose density is so exceedingly reduced. Only a few steps could now be taken at a time, and these became fewer and slower. three deep inspirations appeared sufficient at each pause to enable me to proceed; but on making the attempt, I found the exhaustion returned as before. Slight faintness came on, so that I had at last to sit down for a few minutes; when, a little wine having been taken, one more effort was made, and at a quarter past two o'clock we stood on the highest summit. Such were the sensations of Dr. Barry. Mr. Auldjo seems to have been in a still more distressed condition. “I was exhausted; the weakness of my legs had become excessive; I was nearly choking from the dryness of my throat and the difficulty of breathing, and my head was almost bursting

Two or

« ForrigeFortsæt »