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torious that arsenic was often mixed with the tallow to make it white, and that if it got into the system, it would be certain death. On naming this to Couttet, he said that “they did not know of such things here.” The arts and sciences have not yet reached them. Poor benighted mortals ! living on pure unadulterated food, when will the light of civilisation dawn upon you all!
As the study of the glaciers is one of deeper interest, however, than the study of defrauding your neighbour, even in the matter of a tallowcandle, I will now call the attention of my reader to a somewhat remarkable formation on the Glacier du Gorner Grat, which lies at the foot of Monte Rosa ; I allude to what, for want of a name, I shall call the “ Slab Structure." I do not find, nor does my memory serve me to have read, any allusion to it in the works of Agassiz (who made the glaciers of Monte Rosa his particular study), nor in those of Professors Forbes, Tyndall, or Wills, or other eminent men, although I think that they must have noticed it.
I found the whole surface of that portion of the Gorner Grat, which lies immediately at the foot of Monte Rosa, studded with innumerable slabs of ice, varying from six or eight inches in height, to twelve or eighteen, with vertical sides facing due north, and rising above the level surface of the glacier like so many tablets, which, with the light upon them, presented a very singular appearance, like a vast burial-ground; they were rounded off on the obverse side, and, in point of fact, were sections of cones, which, as every one knows, are common to all glaciers. In front of these tablets I found, without a single exception, a small reservoir, or basin of water in the ice, all partaking of one form, viz. the segment of a circle, at the bottom of which was a deposit of grit. The formation struck me as singular, being wholly unlike anything that I had ever observed on other glaciers, upon which for the last three years I had passed the summers, making them my study. Not being able to account for the formation, nor why the vertical sides of these semi-cones, with the basin at their foot, should invariably face due north, I merely call attention to the fact in the hope that others will take notice of it, and enlighten me upon the subject. Some of our small drinking-fountains placed against the wall of a building will convey some notion of the ice structure I allude to. I never saw a precisely similar formation on any of the glaciers I have visited.
Of all these there is not one, not even excepting the turnpike-road over the Mer de Glace from Chamounix by the Mauvais Pas to the Chapeau, which is so easily traversed as the Gorner Grat. It appeared to me, as I crossed it at this early hour of morning, to be entirely free from crevasses.
Viewed from the glacier, Monte Rosa is visible (as Professor Tyndall says) “ from top to bottom.” There it stands directly in front of you, and so deceived is the eye, that you think it can be but a small matter to reach its summit. Surrounded by gigantic mountains of snow and ice, there is no standard of comparison ; but if St. Paul's stood at its foot, or one of the great Pyramids, it would not, I take it, appear quite so easy of access as it does, and would prepare the aspirant for a more difficult enterprise than he perhaps had contemplated.
The ascent of Monte Rosa commences directly from the glacier. We climbed up some smooth polished rocks on to the snow, and soon afterwards reached some other rocks, after which our entire ascent was up the snow-fields. As on Mont Blanc so on Monte Rosa, there is a “grand plateau ;" the latter, however, though a grand and comparatively level piece of snow, is quite insignificant as compared with the far-famed plateau of Mont Blanc, where I first found my respiration affected in ascending that mountain.
Here I did not suffer at all, and only in a modified degree afterwards, just enough to be disagreeable, as on the Col du Géant, but not to impede my progress, as it did ou Mont Blanc. The sensation, however, was of a precisely similar character.
One of my guides, Jean Krönig, of Zermatt, suffered awfully in the head, and was constantly calling out. By way of cure (on our descent) he repeatedly placed large masses of snow or ice on the top of his felt 6" wide-a wake," which, being soft and pliable, retained it in a cup. “O ma tête, ma tête," he would exclaim in great suffering, as he occasionally halted. This terrible kind of brow ague attacked all the guides on my ascent of Mont Blanc, but, strange to say, I felt nothing of it on either occasion,
From the grand plateau it is a continual ascent up the snow-slope. We were all attached to the rope, and it was necessary to cut steps in the ice occasionally, as it was hard frozen, and the footing insecure.
During my ascent of Monte Rosa I repeatedly looked back upon the Matterhorn, and thought of Professor Tyndall's bold attempt. The clouds clung all round it, as I have said, about two-thirds of the way up, and I feared that he had lost all chance of success this year, as afterwards proved to be the case. The Lyskamm and the whole of the connecting range were entirely free from clouds, but as we ascended, all mountains beyond were obscured, except the summit of Mont Blanc, which for ten minutes or more rose most majestically above the clouds, towering above the Lyskamm, and apparently just over it, though some thirty miles off at least.
I have often thought, even at Chamounix, that one realises the stupendous height of Mont Blanc much more when its summit only is seen rising in its majestic grandeur above the clouds.
The principal difficulty in the ascent of Monte Rosa is in the last portion of it—that part which is sometimes called the cone. It consists first of an exceedingly precipitous snow-slope, which can only be ascended by breasting it. To do this, it is of course necessary to cut steps in the ice all the way up. At the foot of this is a level spot of ice, where the guides leave what little provision they may have brought thus far, and where we all took a little repast. How different from the ascent of Mont Blanc, where we took nothing, and could not have eaten it if we had! Even the rope and bâtons were here deposited, and we had nothing but our ice-axes, which were also left when the rocks were reached, all of us being prepared for a stiff climb with hands and feet. The last step cut in the ice brought us on to the Arête. I found it to be like walking on the ridge of a very steeply pitched church roof, with a smooth precipice of ice slanting off almost vertically on one side, many hun.. dred feet below, while on the other was a sheer descent into a fearful abyss.
The space on which we walked was not, as I found it, more than the width of a good sized plank.
Mr. Wills has most accurately described it in his work, “ The Eagle's Nest, and Excursions among the great Glaciers.” “In many places,'' he says, " at a couple of feet to our left, all was hard as ice and smooth as glass” (this is literally as I found it). “To our right was a few inches width of snow, and then a rocky precipice. The precipice was sometimes absolutely perpendicular, and of course quite bare of snow, and for scores of feet marked by the sheer descent, sometimes merely so steep as to be the next thing to perpendicular. Nowhere, however, could we see more than a dozen feet down the wall of rock, and then the next object was the glacier, a good thousand feet beneath. We trudged slowly up the snow," he continues, "for the ridge was very steep. I measured it in descending, and found the angle thirty-six degrees, and there was no room to zig-zag. At length the snow ended, and we took to a narrow ledge of rocks. The description usually given is literally true. It was in no place more than three feet wide, in many places not a third of that width. On the right is a precipice, on the left a bank of snow, so steep as to be just as bad.”
Safely passing the Arête, some protruding rocks are reached, round which we dodged, sometimes on one side of this frightful precipice, sometimes on the other, and so sharply cut out in parts, that a mere twist of the body brought you from one side to the other-in our case, from summer to winter, for the sun had been shining on the rocks, which were agreeably warm to the touch on one side, and icy cold on the other, so much so as instantaneously to benumb the fingers. After a little more climbing and holding grimly on to the rocks, we had the great gratification of reaching the Höchste Spitze of Monte Rosa, where I hoisted my colours—my blue veil-holding it extended in my hands in a strong breeze, having left my flagstaff (my bâton) below.
I confess it was with no small delight that I found myself now standing on the second highest mountain in Europe, at an elevation of 15,284 feet above the level of the sea, being less than five hundred feet lower than Mont Blanc.* Having, on my return last year, been elected a member of the Alpine Club, in consequence of my ascent of Mont Blanc and other glaciers, the satisfaction was thereby increased.
My friend, to whose successful ascent of Monte Rosa I have previously alluded, thus accurately describes in his private journal the last climb, which makes the accomplishment so difficult and trying:
“We left, on a small level part of the snow, the knapsacks and remaining bottles and provisions, and got into our rope harness. We had a good English rope, which we had brought with us, some seventy-five feet long. This was fastened securely round each of us, with a firm knot under the left arm. First went one guide with a hatchet, then my companion, then our chief guide with crampions on his feet, then myself, and the rear was brought up by our third and youngest guide. In this order we climbed yet a little farther, and, turning to our left, were at once introduced to the real difficulties which make Monte Rosa so
striking a day's walk, and which, for a long period, made the highest peak to be deemed inaccessible. The route here rises so steeply that it is necessary to cut steps in the ice, all the way, with the hatchet, and at the same time to keep on the verge of the tremendous precipice, which goes sheer down, some fifteen hundred feet, to a glacier below, in order to get the advantage of a little loose snow and level path, some foot or foot and a half broad; whilst on the left is a steep slope of hard ice, so steep that, when once launched on its surface, there could be no stop, and the lower end of it lost in rocks or crevasses. In short, here commenced a very remarkable walk, of nearly two hours, along an exceedingly narrow ridge, steeply inclined, of alternately rocks and intervals of snow: these latter often barely one foot wide, with, on one side, a drop of some thousand or fifteen hundred feet, sheer down on to lower glaciers, and on the other, though perhaps less awful, quite as dangerous an iceslope..
* I will not for one moment disguise the truth; I was exceedingly struck with the prospect. In fact, I was decidedly startled at the route which thus lay before me. I had expected some trial to both head and nerves; but the reality exceeded expectation, and my first impression was that the undertaking was far beyond me.
“ I, however, braced myself up for the task, determined, if possible, not to add cowardice to rashness, and taking a deliberate look down the abysses, right and left, so as thoroughly to take in all their features, and remove any subsequent longing to take a furtive glance when it were better not to do so, I gave my undivided attention to the path we had to follow. Slowly and cautiously we crept over or round the sharp ridges of rocks, or intervening spaces of snow. In many of the worst places, but one of the five moved at a time, so that the rope held by those who had a firm footing, and were stationary, gave considerable confidence to the one in action. Still much caution and steadiness is of course required in this portion of the route. It is extraordinary, however, how soon after the first necessary effort, steadiness of head, nerves, and muscles may be commanded. The snow intervals, with the fearful depth on each side, were to me by far the most trying ; but the rocks are more disliked by others. Going over a ridge is not so difficult; but worming round some projecting corner with the whole body actually overhanging the precipice, and feeling for a hold with hands and feet in the sharp angular inequalities on the rock, turning a corner which cannot well be craned round for personal inspection, clinging all the time to the face of the cold damp stone, is thought by some to be the worst bits. I, however, always think it a great point to get a firm hold with the hands, and therefore much preferred the rocks to the ice.
“Such is the upper or finishing touch of the route of Monte Rosa,” says my friend, from whose manuscript I have, with his kind permission, been making extracts-his description being extremely accurate. “Slowly and cautiously,” he continues, “we wound our way to what appeared to be the actual summit. That point attained, however, we found a considerable and precipitous descent in the rock, which we got down one by one; then another and a final ice-ridge, inclining steeply upwards; and at last the actual peak, which is reached by an all but perpendicular climb up many feet of rough weather-split rock, in a kind of natural cleft, where the lower man's hands follow close upon his predecessor's feet: and a striking effect it was in perspective for myself, looking up at my three singularly fore-shortened comrades, one above the other, right overhead. About two hours are required for the whole of this ridge, or Arête as it is called, of Monte Rosa, which time is quite out of proportion to the ascent in feet, or actual distance gone over ; but it is impossible to go very quick, and the various ascents give, I believe, little variation in the time occupied in this portion,
“A sharp scramble up the final rocks, and we were at last on the · Aller Höchste Spitze' of Monte Rosa !"
I have alluded to the gathering clouds which surrounded the Matterhorn, and excluded from our view the intervening snowy peaks beyond the Monte Rosa range, the summit of Mont Blanc being alone visible for about ten minutes, as I have stated, and showing out beautifully.
This will prepare my readers for the disappointment of seeing nothing but a thick seething caldron of clouds below us to the westward. The magnificent panorama described so well by Alfred Wills was lost to us, just as the no less grand panorama seen by me from the summit of Mont Blanc was lost to him on his ascent.
However, we consoled ourselves with the uninterrupted view of the Monte Rosa range, which is very superb. After we had been about a quarter of an hour on the summit, up came some of the clouds, and assailed us roughly with a pelting shower of hail, or fine icy particles, which stung the face sharply.
As there was no prospect of any improvement in the weather, but a certainty of its becoming worse, and as it is no joke to be caught in bad weather on the summit of Monte Rosa, we unanimously agreed with Falstaff that, on some occasions at least, " discretion is the better part of valour;" so, after partaking of some strongly diluted cognac, and drinking the health of the fair lady who gave me my colours, we beat a retreat, not, however, without obtaining a trophy. We found in a bottle a card left by Professor Tyndall on the occasion of his first ascent, which I brought away, and have had framed, as a certificate of my own ascent, as no register is kept at the Riffel or at Zermatt. It contains these few words:
Sun and Cloud. Water boils 184 deg., 92 Fahr. I value it greatly. Of course I replaced it by my own, and shall be very much pleased if any one brings it back to me. I also brought a fragment of rock from the very summit, on which it has been truly said not more than two persons can stand together. The first successful ascent of Monte Rosa was made only seven years ago, while Mont Blanc has been assailed these eighty years.
For my own part, I found no difficulty whatever in retracing our steps, either through the rocks which crop out of the ice and snow, or by the steps cut in the steep side which we had breasted on our ascent, and