« PreviousContinue »
BEFORE His PALACE, IN THE SUN, HE SAT to SEE HIS PEOPLE Pass
Hazel Frazee FRONTISPIECE
THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS (Color Plate)
Louis Grell 364
ASCENT OF THE JUNGFRAU
By John TYNDALL
HAD spent nearly a fortnight at the Eggischhorn in 1863, employing alternate days in wandering and musing over the green Alps, and in more vigorous action upon the Aletsch glacier. Day after day a blue sky spanned the
earth, and night after night the stars glanced down from an unclouded heaven. There is no nobler mountain group in Switzerland than that seen on a fine day from the middle of the Aletsch glacier looking southward; while to the north, and more close at hand, rise the Jungfrau and other summits familiar to every tourist who has crossed the Wengern Alp. The love of being alone amid those scenes caused me, on the 3rd of August, to withdraw from all society, and ascend the glacier, which for nearly two hours was almost as even as a highway, no local danger calling away the attention from the near and distant mountains. The ice yielded to the sun, rills were formed, which united to rivulets, and these again coalesced to rapid brooks, which ran with a pleasant music through deep channels cut in the ice. Sooner or later these brooks were crossed by cracks; into these cracks the water fell, scooping gradually out for itself a vertical shaft, the resonance of which raised the sound of the falling water to the dignity of thunder. These shafts constitute the so-called moulins of the glacier, examples of which are shown upon the Mer de Glace to every tourist who visits the Jardin from Chamouni. The moulins can only form where the glacier is not much riven, as here alone the rivulets can acquire the requisite volume to produce a moulin.
After two hours' ascent, the ice began to wear a more hostile aspect, and long stripes of last year's snow drawn over the sullied surface marked the lines of crevasses now partially filled and bridged over. For a time this snow was consolidated, and I crossed numbers of the chasms, sounding in each case before trusting myself to its tenacity. But as I ascended, the width and depth of the fissures increased, and the fragility of the snow bridges became more conspicuous. The crevasses yawned here and there with threatening gloom, while along their fringes the crystallizing power of water played the most fantastic freaks. Long lines of icicles dipped into the darkness, and at some places the liquefied snow had refrozen into clusters of plates, ribbed and serrated like the leaves of ferns. The cases in which the snow covering of the crevasses, when tested by the axe, yielded, became gradually more numerous, demanding commensurate caution. It is impossible to feel otherwise than earnest in such scenes as this, with the noblest and most beautiful objects in nature around one, with the sense of danger raising the feelings at times to the level of awe.
My way upward became more and more difficult, and circuit after circuit had to be made to round the gaping fissures. There is a passive cruelty in the aspect of these chasms sufficient to make the blood run cold. Among them it is not good for man to be alone, so I halted in the midst of them and swerved back toward the Faulberg. But instead of it I struck the lateral tributary of the Aletsch, which runs up to the Grünhorn Lücke. In this passage I was more than once entangled in a mesh of fissures; but it is marvelous what steady, cool scrutiny can accomplish upon the ice, and how often difficulties of apparently the gravest kind may be reduced to a simple form by skilful examination. I tried to get along the rocks to the Faulberg, but after investing half an hour in the attempt I thought it prudent to retreat. I finally reached the Faulberg by the glacier, and with great comfort consumed my bread and cheese and emptied my goblet in the shadow of its caves. On this day it was my desire to get near the buttresses of the Jungfrau, and to see what prospect of success a lonely climber would have in an attempt upon the mountain. Such an attempt might doubtless be made, but at a risk which no sane man would willingly incur.
On August 6th, however, I had the pleasure of joining Dr. Hornby and Mr. Philpotts, who, with Christian Almer and Christian Lauener for their guides, wished to ascend the Jungfrau. We quitted the Eggischhorn at 2:15 P. M., and in less than four hours reached the grottoes of the Faulberg. A pine fire was soon blazing, a pan of water soon bubbling sociably over the flame, and the evening meal was quickly prepared and disposed of. For a time the air behind the Jungfrau and Monk was exceedingly dark and threatening; rain was