Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

January 14. The party on this occasion was composed of Zurbriggen, Mr. FitzGerald, Joseph Pollinger and Lantiwho is said to be a miner. They started at 7 A.M., "all in excellent spirits, yet by one o'clock Mr. FitzGerald found that "he felt it was impossible for him to go any farther."

Zurbriggen was sent forward, while the others descended.

I shall never forget the descent that followed. I was so weak that my legs seemed to fold up under me at every step, and I kept falling forward and cutting myself on the shattered stones that covered the sides of the mountain. I do not know how long I crawled in this miserable plight, steering for a big patch of snow that lay in a sheltered spot, but I should imagine that it was about an hour and a half. On reaching the snow I lay down, and finally rolled down a great portion of the mountain side. As I got lower my strength revived, and the nausea that I had been suffering from so acutely disappeared, leaving me with a splitting headache. Soon after five o'clock I reached our tent. My headache was now so bad that it was with great difficulty I could see at all.

Zurbriggen arrived at the tent about an hour and a half later. He had succeeded in gaining the summit, and had planted an ice-axe there; but he was so weak and tired that he could scarcely talk, and lay almost stupefied by fatigue. Though naturally and justifiably elated by his triumph, at that moment he did not seem to care what happened to him. (Pp. 82, 83.)

A month later (on February 13), Mr. FitzGerald had another try, along with his companion, Mr. Vines, and the

This as an expression is quite wrong. Altitude in itself produces no effect. It is the diminution in atmospheric pressure, which becomes greater the higher one ascends, that affects the system.

What Mr. Vines says is unquestionably true. The pace of any given individuals has a constant tendency to diminish the higher they ascend; and it is this fact amongst others, which renders it certain that the highest summits of the earth will only be reached (if they are ever reached) with very great difficulty and at very great cost.

miner, Lanti. They left the upper camp at 8.30 A.M., on a fine day, with every prospect of success, and an hour and a half later the leader "was compelled to give in, in a state of complete collapse," and he went back (p. 103). Mr. Vines and Lanti proceeded. The latter had been selected, it is said, because he had "felt less the effects of the altitude than the other porters." He is described as a big-boned man, slightly above medium height, spare almost to emaciation, and is spoken of favorably in several places in the course of the volume. Lanti's opinion was that his constitution had been permanently

shattered by living at the upper camp, and, although he was, at the moment, in good condition, took the opportunity to express his views to Mr. Vines in: the following way. "Sir, the mountains of Europe are healthy; these mountains are very unhealthy. Why do we climb these mountains, and why encamp and sleep at these great heights? We who have done so will find our lives wrecked by it" (p. 109), and he is by no means the only person who has entertained that opinion.

Mr. Vines and Lanti continued upwards, and ultimately got to the summit. During the first hour the former said, they did not appear to make much progress, and he got anxious about their rate, as it could not be imagined that that they would go faster as they got higher; on the contrary, there was: every reason to expect that their pacewould decrease. I have been curious. to work out and compare the respective

On such ground as has to be traversed in. mounting the prinicipal peaks of the Alps, ascents are often made at the rate of, or about, 1,000 feet per hour; and upon still lower ground a much more rapid rate can be attained. One of the fastest performances on lower ground was accomplished in August 1898 by Edouard Payot, of Chamonix, aged 26. He started from Chamonix, 3,445 feet, and ascended the neighboring mountain called the Brevent, 8.284 feet, in 89 minutes; and descended the 4,839 feet in 31 minutes. This

was done in the presence of a large number of

rates of Zurbriggen on the first ascent, and of Mr. Vines and Lanti on the second ascent of Aconcagua. I find that (including halts) Zurbriggen went up at the rate of 449 feet per hour from the upper camp to the summit, and that the others ascended at the rate of 513 feet per hour. Either of these rates must be considered good, considering the great elevation at which they were attained.

They reached the top at 5 P.M., having taken eight hours and a half to ascend from the camp. Mr. Vines states that of the two he was himself the more done up. When they were above 21,000 feet they were in such a condition that the slightest rebuff damped their spirits, and forced them to stop and rest.

Our patience and endurance were tried to the utmost. We seemed to stop every ten yards, and, in fact, spent more time in resting than in advancing; and yet we found it impossible to sit, or lie down, as inclination dictated. The relaxing of the muscles of the legs on assuming a reclining position acted disastrously as soon as we resumed the ascent, for the lower limbs seemed first to have lost power, and then, after a step or two, were racked with a dull aching. Experience soon taught us that there was only one position for rest, to stand with the legs wide apart, the body thrown forward, the hands grasping the head of the ice-axe, and the forehead resting on the hands.

Mr. FitzGerald, who watched them from below, reports that they seemed excessively fatigued, and that he noticed that it caused them great efforts to go on, pausing every few moments, leaning on their ice-axes, and that at times they slipped and fell. Yet, upon getting to the summit, Mr. Vines says he felt stronger-"so soon as we ceased

spectators. Edouard Payot was promptly absorbed in the French Army. Although this young man is exceptionally nimble, it is by no

ascending the trouble seemed to leave" -which, as the barometer must have stood a little lower than 13 inches, shows that he is remarkably well fitted to live at low pressures. They found an ice-axe planted within a cairn which Zurbriggen had erected, and saw that, beyond doubt, he had actually reached the top. On the descent their troubles recommenced directly they got into movement-"the breathlessness and weariness continued to the end."

Although some felt it more and others. less, the universal experience of those who reached the greater heights which were attained upon this expedition was that low atmospheric pressures produce very great inconveniences and acute pains, and that life at high altitudes, at least temporarily, has a weakening effect. Upon their attempts to ascend Tupungato, the height of which is put at 21,550 feet, one after another collapsed. Zurbriggan was the first to be affected, nd "began to be very sick.. He had, no doubt, been feeling ill for some time" [during the ascent], "but had said nothing about it. His voice was full of chagrin as he confessed his condition. He could not understand it. He had never felt like this before. He looked very bad and groaned at every step. Certainly he was in no condition to continue the ascent." However, he went on slowly, and then another mishap occurred.

[blocks in formation]

loads, and saying that nothing was the matter, but that his legs had given out. (P. 183.)

Upon a fourth and successful attempt to ascend Tupungato, Joseph Pollinger (a very active young man and an excellent mountaineer) broke down. Mr. Vines says:

Zurbriggen and I turned round and looked at Pollinger, who was lying flat on his face and groaning. He was suffering violent pains in the abdomen, and he declared between his gasps that he felt very sick and ill, and could not go another step higher. We were anxious to take him with us, so I tried to persuade him that he would be all right after a short rest, and proposed that Zurbriggen and I should divide his pack between us, so as to make things as easy as possible for him. But, as he still insisted that he felt far too ill to go on, and seemed to have a great desire to descend as soon as possible, we gave up trying to persuade him. "Let me get down lower! For God's sake let me descend; I shall die if I stop here!" was his only answer to us. . . . The only remedy for his illness was to descend with all speed to a lower altitude; he would be well if only he could get down a thousand feet or more. (Pp. 197, 198.)

So Joseph turned back, and the two others continued upwards. Mr. Vines remarks that he himself was not in a good state, although the conditions were favorable-it was a fine day with a cloudless sky. The air seemed flat to his thirsty lungs. "Yet slowly, and with short steps, we tramped on, our eyes turned towards the summit, when suddenly, without a moment's warning, Zurbriggen sat down on the ground and exclaimed, 'I'm finished-I go no farther!'. . . In the greatest anxiety I asked him to tell me his symptoms. 'It's my legs!' he answered, 'they will not carry me a step farther' " (p. 200). This was no great distance below the top. Mr. Vines courageously pressed

on alone, and reached the summit in 9 1-4 hours from their camp, having mounted at the rate of 492 feet per hour, which was a shade slower than his pace upon Aconcagua. Zurbriggen joined him some time afterwards.

In the Andean regions of South America everybody has heard of the troubles which occur to respiration when one is at great elevations and various specifics are freely recommended to correct them. Acting under advice, the members of the FitzGerald expedition tried eating raw onions and a decoction of a herb (chacha coma), which had been praised as "a most wonderful remedy" apparently, with the usual-that is to say, with no-result. Of the herb, Mr. Vines says that he considered that it would be as well to get the whole party used to it by making a brew several times a day.

It has the appearance of a dried-up bramble, bright yellow in color, with a yellow, white flower, somewhat resembling edelweiss. Sticks and leaves were put each morning into a saucepan, boiling water poured on, and the whole left to soak a minute or two. Sugar was used according to taste. Then calling up the porters, I served half a cup all round. Each one would drink, thank me, and say it was very good. But they never asked for more. Doctors say that a great many patients think nothing of a remedy unless it has either a striking color, a nasty taste, or a strong smell. If the last two qualities are proof of a medicine's value, then chacha coma must be an excellent remedy. (P. 179.)

When the expedition came to an end, most of the staff returned to Europe via the Transandine Railway and Buenos Aires, and some of the others crossed the Cumbre Pass into Chili. There does not apear to be much inducement to reside at the terminus of the Transandine Railway in Argentina. The town which might be expected to be found at the terminal station of a

Trans-Continental line is scarcely in

embryo.

The only building in the place besides the station, a small, low, wooden shanty, is a little inn or house known as the "posada." There were also, it is true, a few sheds belonging to the Villa Longa Express Company, who run the coach service across the Andes. The posada itself is formed of mud huts round a courtyard, the doors of all the rooms opening into the open air. In the wet weather during the winter there is about six inches of water in most of the rooms, and I have seen the bar and dining-room with as much as two feet of water in it. For sleeping there are a few straw trucklebeds with blankets thrown over them. The only provision of which a large stock is kept in the place is Worcester Sauce.

There is a carriage road of a rough kind over the Cumbre, and not a few people cross this pass (12,800 feet) in the summer. Traffic is almost suspended in the winter, as the summit is snow-covered and storms are frequent. The manner of descending into Chili during the winter is rather original, and the description of the way in which goods are handled will not encourage exporters to send freight to Valparaiso by that route.

The way the natives conduct the descent is as follows. Each traveller is provided with a large and stout apron made of sheepskin, which is fastened on behind, the wool next to his body. He then sits down upon it, gathers his legs together, and pushes himself off. Protected thus against the roughness of the snow, he descends rapidly, guiding himself with a pointed staff, and steering in and out among the great and dangerous boulders studding the mountain side. This way of sliding down the snow-slopes is speedy and not unpleasing, but it is impossible to The Leisure Hour. LIVING AGE.

VOL. VIII. 403

take the luggage down in one's lap, and it therefore suffers a great deal before the bottom is reached. The men content themselves with rolling the panniers over from the top of the slope, and, in their downward course, they strike against projecting rocks, or occasionally land in a deep drift, from which they have to be rescued. nally, when they are gathered together, it is plain they have not been improved in strength or shape by the rough usage they have undergone. (Pp. 286, 287.)

Fi

There are many points of interest in Mr. FitzGerald's volume which cannot be touched upon here; but its chief attraction lies in the frank and clear description of the loftiest ascent which has hitherto been made, and in the candid avowal of the difficulties which were encountered. He indicates very clearly the troubles which will occur to those who try to reach great elevations. There is not the least doubt that those who may endeavor to scale the highest mountains will have similar experiences at all times, and in every part of the world. Some men, however, suffer more and earlier than others. Mr. Vines and Zurbriggen have shown themselves exceptionally able to withstand large reductions in atmospheric pressure; while the contrary is manifest in Mr. FitzGerald, who speaks repeatedly of being overcome by nausea, indigestion and other matters. At a comparatively low elevation the rate of his pulse was 130 to 140. He speaks even of spitting blood. It is certainly to be regretted that his enterprise did not meet with better success, and it is to be hoped that the knowledge which he has gained will serve him on future occasions in other mountainous regions equally interesting, though, perhaps, less lofty than the Highest Andes.

Edward Whymper.

THE HEART OF DARKNESS.*

BY JOSEPH CONRAD.

V.

"Toward the evening of the second day we judged ourselves about eight miles from Kurtz's station. I wanted to push on, but the manager looked grave, and told me the navigation up there was so dangerous that it would be advisable, the sun being very low already, to wait where we were till next morning. Moreover, he pointed out, that if the warning to approach cautiously was to be followed, we must approach in daylight-not at dusk, or in the dark. This was sensible enough. Eight miles meant nearly three hours' steaming for us, and I could also see suspicious ripples at the upper end of the reach. Nevertheless, I was annoyed beyond expression at the delay, and most unreasonably, too, since one night more could not matter much after so many months. As we had plenty of wood, and caution was the word, I brought up in the middle of the stream. The reach was narrow, straight, with high sides like a railway cutting. The dusk came gliding into it long before the sun had set. The current ran smooth and swift, but a dumb immobility sat on the banks. The living trees, lashed together by the creepers, and every living bush of the undergrowth, might have been changed into stone, even to the slenderest twig, to the lightest leaf. It was not sleep-it seemed unnatural, like a state of trance. Not the faintest sound of any kind could be heard. You looked on amazed, and began to suspect yourself of being deaf-then the night came suddenly, and struck you blind as well. About three in the morning some large fish

* Copyright by S. S. McClure & Co.

leaped and the loud splash made me jump as though a gun had been fired. When the sun rose there was a white fog, very warm and clammy, and more blinding than the night. It did not shift or drive; it was just there, standing all round you, like something solid. At 8 or 9, perhaps, it lifted as a shutter lifts. We had a glimpse of the towering multitude of trees, of the immense matted jungle, with the blazing little ball of the sun hanging over it-all perfectly still and then the white shutter came down again, smoothly, as if sliding in greased grooves. I ordered the chain, which we had begun to heave in, to be paid out again. It ran with a muffled rattle, and then a cry, a very loud cry, as of infinite desolation, soared slowly in the opaque air. It ceased. A complaining clamor, modulated in savage discord, filled our ears. The sheer unexpectedness of it made my hair stir under my cap. I don't know how it struck the others; to me it seemed as though the mist itself had screamed, so suddenly, and apparently from all sides at once did this tumultuous and mournful uproar arise. It culminated in a hurried outbreak of almost intolerably excessive shrieking, which stopped short, leaving us stiffened in a variety of attitudes, and obstinately listening to the nearly as appalling and excessive silence. 'Good God! What is the meaning-?' stammered at my elbow one of the pilgrims, a little, fat man, with sandy hair and red whiskers, who wore side-spring boots and pink pajamas tucked into his socks. Two others remained open-mouthed a whole minute, then dashed into the little cabin, to rush out incontinently and stand darting scared glances, with

« ZurückWeiter »