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At twenty minutes before twelve we left this station, and ascending a little further arrived at the edge of the glacier. We had not much difficulty in getting on it, but to an inexperienced eye it would seem impossible to do so, 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 you are about to proceed in. Here the skill and knowledge of the guide is shown: the quickness and ease with which he discovers a practicable part is quite extraordinary; be leads you over places where you would believe it impossible for human foot to tread. We passed among the remains of many avalanches, which had been long 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 front 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 in clustering beauty, or lying in rich and dark luxuriance, was by the wand of some fairy, changed into the bright matter which now composed it.'-p. 13.
-P Over this plain the party made the best of their way as rapidly as possible, in order to avoid the avalanches which fall continually from the Aiguille du Midi. Pyramids of ice appear on all sides, rising in every sublime and fantastic shape. Besides the avalanche, new dangers meet the adventurer amid these scenes. In consequence
of the constant movement of the field of ice towards the valley, deep clefts are formed which it requires all the skill and caution of the guides to avoid. For this reason the whole party are tied together by ropes, in a line at six or eight yards distance from each other, in order that, if one of them fall, he may have the immediate assistance of all his companions. This device, it will be seen, is essentially necessary :
• The benefit of being secured to each other by ropes is shown almost every instant, as not a minute passed without some one of the party slipping on the ice; and falling, had he not been linked to another, would have glided into some crevice, and inevitably have perished. We were surrounded by ice piled up in mountains, crevices presenting themselves at every step, and masses half sunk into 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 with 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. 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 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. These were situations in which the nerve was put to a severe test; for however stout the heart may be, if giddiness should take
possession of the brain, the most determined courage will be of little avail. Indeed it is exceedingly difficult to look into these depths, which must be passed over, and not be unnerved, knowing that if the head fails destruction is inevitable. I had been unaccustomed to look into such danger, but found my head could bear it, and with steady eye I could examine the beautiful abyss below me.
· 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 perhaps otherwise have put an end to our expedition, as we could discover no other way of crossing it but by this bridge. Soon after 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 so doing the centre 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 of 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. The snow was generally soft, so that the head and shoulders were covered with it. The passage of these bridges, though difficult and dangerous, excited the merriment of the party, and a loud laugh accompanied each man, as he was jerked over the gulf yawning beneath him.
· Again the glacier presented its beautiful and varied scenes, every moment the eye meeting with some new combination of icy grandeur. The crevices, numerous and deep, broken and full of hollows or caves, surpassed any thing I could have conceived. Some of these grottoes were accessible ; others, of which the entrance was blocked up by pillars studded with ornaments of ice or snow, could only be examined externally. We entered one so beauteous in construction and embellishments, that fancy might picture it to be the abode of the “ Spirit of the mountain.” It was large, its roof supported by thick icicles of blue or white, varying into a thousand different shades : on the floor were vast clumps of ice, resembling crystal flowers, formed by the freezing of the drops of water which are perpetually falling: in the centre, a pool of water, whose refreshing coolness and exquisite clearness almost excited thirst, stood in its blue basin: at the further end fell' a cascade, into a sort of spiral well formed by it, and in its passage through it, produced a sound much like that of water. boiling in some confined vessel. There are many caves, but this description may in some degree apply to all. They are formed by the water falling, and excavating a passage for itself: the ice melts away on all sides, and it soon becomes such as I have described it.'-pp. 15-18.
Mr. Auldjo had personal experience to assure him of the advantages which the ropes secured. Had it not been for their assistance, his bones would now have been bleaching on the Alps, and he would have been already forgotten as a rash young man.
Arriving near the base of those rocks called the “Grands Mulêts," we fouud that a chasm of eighty feet in width separated them from us. proceeded up an acclivity forming a narrow neck of ice, but at its termination a wall opposed us; on either hand yawned a wide and deep crevice, and it appeared that there was no advancing without climbing this perpendicular mass of twenty feet in height. The neck we were standing upon overhung a gulf formed by the chasm and crevices, the very sight of which was appalling: The wall met this neck with an angle formed by these two crevices, which continued on each side of it, the angle coming to a most acute and delicate point. No time was to be lost; we were standing in a very perilous situation, and Coutet commenced cutting steps on the angle with his hatchet, and after great labour and considerable danger, in the execution of his purpose, got to the top and was immediately followed by another guide. The knapsacks were then drawn up, and the rest of the party after them. In ascending this wall, being partly drawn up, partly clambering, I stopped for an instant and looked down into the abyss beneath me : the blood curdled in my veins, for never did I behold any thing so terrific. I have endeavoured, in a sketch which the singularity and peril of our position induced me to take, and from which Mr. Harding has been able to make a very interesting drawing, to represent the scaling of this wall. The great beauty of the immense crevices around us excited not only my admiration, but even that of the guides, accustomed as they were to such scenes.
*Safely on the top, on looking around, we discovered that these large crevices extended on each side to a very great distance, the plane of the wall sloping from the upper to the lower crevice with an inclination which rendered walking on it very perilous. Some proposed to return to the commencement of the neck of ice which we had passed, and making a circuit from it, to get to the base of the “ Grands Mulêts," on the other side of the great crevice, and climb up the rock : others were for proceeding, and their advice was followed. Walking with the greatest caution, in steps cut with the hatchet, we moved on very slowly: the ice was slippery, and a false step might have endangered the life of more than one individual. The wall now widened, but the slope became more inclined. Taking my steps with the greatest care, 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 slipped from under me: I came down on my face, and glided rapidly towards 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, and the other my hat. The guides called to me to be cool, and not afraid ;-a pretty time to be cool, hanging over an abyss, and in momentary expectation of falling into it! They made no attempt to pull
for some moments, and then desiring me to raise myself, they drew in the rope until 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: for it is not to be supposed that, in such a situation, I did not lose, in a great degree, my presence of mind. These were good reasons, no doubt; but placed as I was, in such imminent peril, I could not have allowed them to be so.'--pp. 18-21,
One of the guides had also a narrow escape. A fissure was in the way spanned by a bridge of snow; he plunged his staff into it, and then proceeding one step plunged again for a second, but the pole slipped through and fell into the gulph beneath, and he had scarcely time to spring back on the ice, when the whole bridge gave way and tumbled into the abyss.
Two rocks, rising perpendicularly near three hundred feet from the glacier on one side, and about one hundred on the other, which are called the Grands and the Petits Mulêts, usually form the termination of the first day's ascent. They afford a safe shelter from the avalanches, and here, at four o'clock in the evening, Mr. Auldjo and his auxiliaries took up their abode. The spectacle which presented itself even from this inferior part of Mont Blanc is magnificent.
The panorama, the finest that could possibly be presented, embraces within its mighty grasp, mountains than which there are none more sublime masses of ice and spow vying with them in grandeur—valleys smiling in sunshine and verdure--the placid lake Leman, showing like molten silver---the far blue hills of Jura,--and forms a picture more varied than can be conceived, the effect of which was much heightened by the deep colour of the sky, and the clearness of the atmosphere. I will endeavour to describe this panorama, beginning with Mont Blanc, the most prominent feature, which,
= “ High o'er the rest, displays superior state,
In grand pre-eminence, supremely great.” Moving round from left to right, the Dôme du Goaté and its Aiguille first present their lofty points. Turning still more, that part of the valley of Chamoix lying towards the west is discovered far beneath, with the Breven on the other side. Behind that mountain, many peaks between it and the Lake of Geneva rear their heads, in some places intercepting the view of the lake, from whose opposite shore rise the Jura, extending towards the right as far as the eye can reach, and the further distance behind this long chain melts into a line of blue vapour, scarcely to be distinguished from the horizon. On the right of the Breven appear the Aguilles Rouges, hanging over the rest of the valley of Chamonix-beyond them the Buetthe Diablerets above Martigny—the Dent du Midi-and still farther to the right, the Tete Noir and Col de Balme. Continuing the circuit towards Mont Blanc, some of the Aiguilles on the south side of the valley are seen, the Aiguille du Midi being nearest, and facing the point of view. The Mont Blanc du Tacul and Aiguille Sans Nom complete the Panorama, the glaciers du Buissons and Taconnay lay close around the Mulêts, and forming the foreground to the towering height of Mont Blanc, the first object which commands the attention, and the last to which it returns.' pp. 23, 24.
After a hearty dinner the party encamped on a ledge of the rock about twelve feet by five, and prepared to sleep upon straw, under a sheet laid upon poles, which were placed in a sloping direction against the rock that formed a back to their tent. Such was the rarity of the atmosphere, that the scent of tobacco was found powerful and disagreeable. The splendour of the setting sun seen from this station, would have almost tempted Mrs. Radcliffe to ascend the Grands Mulêts.
"The sun, now about to set, tinged with a purple of softest hue the whole scene below us, which, gradually deepening into a beautiful crimson, shaded every thing with its colour, the Jura seeming on fire, and the lake of Geneva reflecting the glow. Every moment, as the sun retired from the world beneath us, the hue shed by its departing rays became deeper, and then wore into a dull grey: the lake—the lower mountains, were soon clothed in the sombre shade, but we still enjoyed the presence of the god of day. Now the violet tint was on us, but the summit of the mountain was still burnished with a line of bright gold. It died away, leaving a bright lovely red, which, having lingered long, dwindled at last into the shade in which all the world around was enveloped, and left the sky clear and deeply azure.'--p. 25.
Some of the travellers who have ascended the mountain, have complained of the nausea and sickness by which they were attacked when sleeping on this rock. The probability is that they had participated too largely of the pleasures furnished by their cook, as Mr. Auldjo says that neither he nor any of his guides suffered from any such feelings. The solitude and stillness which prevail here during the night are singularly affecting. The thunder of the falling avalanches, now and then heard in the distance, serve only to make stillness more awful.
At three o'clock on the following morning, the party prepared for the prosecution of their journey. The moon shining with great brilliancy, displayed Mont Blanc in all its snowy grandeur. The weather was so excessively cold, that no exertion could prevent the whole frame from being pervaded by a sense of pain. The course was towards the part of the mountain called the Dôme du Goûté, obliquely up a gently inclined hill, then over a steep mound of snow, up which the party proceeded in a zig-zag direction. The glacier was full of immense fissures, which could only be passed by means of bridges formed of pieces of ice. One of these bridges, says our author,' was of a very difficult and perplexing nature.'
We passed one of a very difficult and perplexing nature. The side of the mass along which we were obliged to proceed was perpendicular. By clinging to the ice above the head, with the hand placed in a hole cut for the purpose, and stretching the feet from one resting place to another, also cut with the hatchet, we contrived to pass; but the footing was very slippery, uneasy, and dangerous. There was no bottom to be seen to the abyss below, and it certainly required a considerable exertion of nerve and determination to enable any one of us to get over such a spot. So peri