Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

success, at the expense of his feet, which were destroyed by the cold.

Those who wish to ascend Mont Blanc, have to provide themselves at Chamounix with a party of guides, six or eight in number, the necessary clothing and accouterments, and provisions for three days. The guides of Chamounix are a remarkably-intelligent, sagacious, and enterprising class of men. One named Coutet, who ascended with Dr. Barry for the ninth time, has been spoken of by various travelers as a most spirited, and, in every respect, estimable person. Immediately after a narrow escape, which he made in 1820, from an avalanche which had destroyed three of his companions, he exclaimed to the gentleman who had engaged him: “Now, sir, for the summit! The proposal, as may be imagined, was declined; but there could be no doubt, from the earnestness of his manner, that he would have proceeded at whatever risk. He had, on this occasion, expressed some fears as to the propriety of making the attempt at so unfavorable a period of the day, and thus excited a suspicion that he wished to secure his hire without performing the full service. Having perceived this suspicion in his employer, he wished to prove that, even after his fears had been in some degree fatally realized, he was still willing to fulfill his contract.

Most of the Chamounix guides are ambitious of the distinction to be obtained by climbing Mont Blanc; but, from a sense of the extreme danger of the enterprise, their female relatives exercise all possible influence to prevent them from undertaking the task. We have been informed by one of the gentlemen who most reverently performed the enterprise, that the expenses, in all, amounted to between £40 and £50.

When Mr. Auldjo ascended in August, 1827, he spent the whole morning in crossing the lower and vegetating portion of the mountain. On approaching the glacier at the commencement of the upper and snowy stage, he thought that it would be impossible to enter upon it, “or at all events to proceed any great distance along it, from the masses of ice which are piled on one another, and the deep and wide fissures which every moment intersect the path pointed out as that which is about to be proceeded in.. Here," says Mr. Auldjo, “the skill and knowledge of the guide is shown; the quickness and ease with which he discovers a practicable part is quite extraordinary; he leads the way over places where one would believe it impossible for human foot to-tread. We passed along the remains of innumerable avalanches, which had long been accumulating, and formed a most uneven and tiresome footway. An extended plain

of snow now presented itself, here and there covered with masses of broken ice; sometimes a beautiful tower of that substance raised its blue form, and seemed to mock the lofty-pointed rocks above it; sometimes an immense block, its perpendicular form broken into pinnacles, now bearing a mass of snow, now supporting long and clear icicles, looked like some castle, on whose dilapidated walls the ivy, hanging its clustering beauty, or lying in rich and dark luxuriance, was, by the wand of some fairy, changed into the bright matter which now com

posed it.”

con

In these lower parts of the mountain, the chief danger is from avalanches, which, however, are most apt to fall in the afternoon when the sun has operated in loosening the huge masses of superincumbent ice. On advancing a little farther, Mr. Auldjo found equal danger in threading his way along and across the numerous fissures and crevices which are stantly to be found in the vast, icy mantle of Mont Blanc, in consequence of the slipping of portions of it to the lower places along the declivity. Tied together in threes by a piece of rope, so as to diminish the chance of being precipitated into these openings, and after having sworn to be faithful to each other in all dangers, Mr. Auldjo and his guides entered upon

this perilous part of their march. “We were surrounded,” says he, aby ice piled up in mountains, crevices presenting themselves at every step, and masses half-sunk in some deep gulf; the remainder, raised above us, seemed to put insurmountable barriers to our proceeding; yet some part was found where steps could be cut out by the hatchet; and we passed over these bridges, often grasping the ice with one hand, while the other, bearing the pole, balanced the body, hanging over some abyss, into which the eye penetrated, and searched in vain for the extremity. Sometimes we were obliged to climb up from one crag of ice to another, sometimes to scramble along a ledge on our hands and knees, often descending into a deep chasm on one side, and scaling the slippery precipice on the other. No men could be in higher spirits than my guides, laughing, singing, and joking; but when we came to such passes, the grave, serious look which took the place of the smiling countenance was a sure indication of great danger: the moment we were safely by it, the smile returned, and every one vied in giving amusement to the other. ... A large mass of ice now opposed our progress: we passed it by climbing up its glassy sides. It formed a bridge over a fissure of great width, which would have otherwise put an end to our expedition. After

winding some time among chasms and enormous towers, we arrived at the edge of another crevice, over which we could see but one bridge, that not of ice, but of snow only, and so thin, that it was deemed impossible to trust to it. A plan was resorted to, which enabled us to pass over in safety: our batons were placed on it, and in doing so, the center gave way, and fell into the gulf; however, enough remained on each side to form supports for the ends of these poles, and nine of them made a narrow bridge, requiring great precaution and steadiness to traverse. Other crevices were passed over on bridges of snow too weak to allow walking on, or too extended to admit this application of the poles. A strong guide managed to creep over, and a rope being tied round the waist of a second, who lay on his back, he was in that position pulled across by the first. In this manner the whole party were drawn singly over the crevice.”

Rather more than half-way up the mountain, two sharp pinnacles of rock, called the Grand and Petit Mulets, rise above the snow and ice. The Grand Mulet usually affords shelter to the adventurers during the first night of their journey, if not also during the second--for the ascent and descent together more frequently require three than two days. When Auldjo and

« ForrigeFortsæt »