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tread; sometimes one must make himself tall, sometimes short, let himself slip intentionally, or stop the movement with a jerk; step, now heavily, now lightly ; practice all sorts of little arts, which each person must teach himself. In steep descents, there must be a certain stiffness of the back; in climbing upward,—and here the majority fail,—not only the ball of the foot, but the heel, must be used as much as possible. Generally, a light, graceful gait is preferable to a heavy tread; and it is no wonder ladies often do excellently in mountain climbing—so far as mere walking is concerned. This I can corroborate from my own observation ; for during the last few years I have made several difficult ascents with a lady, who climbed so cleverly and boldly,--even in the worst situations,—that old Galotte's words about women involuntarily occurred to my mind; “You are superior in almost every respect; only Nature made a mistake in the clay, and used it too fine.
The most important matter now is to maintain this firm step among the difficulties that often exist. Walking itself causes a number of injurious effects that may all be attributed to over-exertion. The duration of the longer expeditions among our Alps is from twelve to twenty-two hours, in which time very frequently but short intervals of rest are allowed. Thus it requires a welltrained body to escape over-fatigue ; indeed, this training does not refer exclusively to the muscles, but also to the lungs. While resting or taking moderate exercise, a person in normal condition finds no difficulty in breathing at the top of Monte Rosa or Mont Blanc. But as soon as violent exertion is made near the snow line, the lungs are forced into far more powerful action than on lower ground, and one must learn to breathe, as well as walk, in this lofty region. Many a traveller sinks exhausted, not because strength fails him, but breath. The stomach, an organ that does not allow itself to be bribed, and against which no energy avails, sensitively reacts against any over-exertion of the muscles and lungs. As soon as it feels it is doing too much for its master, it revolts. What is called mountain-sickness,—so far as I know, this idea is not yet fully endorsed by the medical fraternity,--is probably the combined operation of the following results of over-fatigue,—weakness, want of breath, and indisposition. Sometimes giddiness ensues. I believe that any person may fall a victim to giddiness, if the causesvisible precipices, unsteady footing, forced inactivity and long delay in one spot,-exist at the same time. The wearied traveller is undoubtedly more subject to giddiness than one in the full possession of his strength. All the previously mentioned consequences of over-exertion—whether they appear singly or together,—are so many attacks upon the steadiness of the tread; and, therefore, whoever climbs mountains must add to physical skill, endurance, strong lungs, and freedom from giddiness, in the ordinary sense of the word. Yet it may happen that, in spite of all these qualities, we shall succumb, for there is an enemy we can scarcely resist,—extreme cold. It makes us lose the mastery of ourselves,—the body no longer obeys the will, the mind sees everything in a desperate light; and many an expedition is thus utterly baffled. This danger is especially threatening where the ground will permit only very slow progress, or even demands frequent long-continued pauses. To accomplish a daring deed in extreme cold, requires a higher degree of courage than when the body is not suffering from a chill; the same thing is true of mountains, as of battles and saving lives.
But courage is a necessary quality of the mountaineer. Whoever is cowardly, is lost ; for lack of confidence, like over-fatigue and cold, imperils firmness of tread. Practice and habit are of great service here, and confidence increases with skill. But courage is not fool-hardiness. Courage must go hand-in-hand with caution; that is, the resolution to remember every instant the sleeping danger of falling. Lack of caution, understanding the existing obstacle, is the Achilles' heel of less experienced, though excellent, mountaineers. It seems like fatality, that the greatest foes of caution are consciousness of power and blind confidence in skill. Experience does reverence to caution, and gives courage a keener edge. Even the old, practiced mountaineer may sometimes do things in defiance of caution; but he is aware of the fact, and does not act from undervaluing the peril, but because he is superstitious and relies upon a lucky result.
Much as each individual may develop the qualities by which the difficulties of scaling lofty peaks may be conquered and their absolute dangers foreseen, there are limits where man must lower his weapons. Certain portions of the highest mountain ranges are utterly inaccessible, and will remain so until the great process of disintegration has effected a total change. Therefore, an expedition intended to reach a fixed goal requires the power of judging from a distance whether the difficulties of the road are unconquerable or not. This eye for mountain ranges, this power of judging their peculiarities, is a very rare quality; and yet without it the most skilful mountaineer is unsuccessful. Some few guides possess it to an amazing degree, and have thus made themselves famous. A thorough knowledge of mountain lore shows itself most strikingly where new peaks are to be scaled or passes traversed. Such expeditions are distinguished from those that have been frequently made by the greater uncertainty of the result. The decade from 1860 to 1870 was particularly fruitful in this respect; the places, especially in the Swiss Alps, that still remain unvisited are either very insignificant or present extraordinary difficulties. Even with this talent for finding the right way, a terrible danger threatens the traveller—the sudden rising of mist. In this case, a compass is valueless, for it only gives the direction, and there is no way of keeping it; the fog shrouds every landmark.
From the foregoing account, it would be supposed that the mountaineer makes his ascents alone. This never happens when the excursions are long or difficult. Even the most skilful Alpine wanderer cannot by himself secure the advantages obtained from mutual assistance. Apart from the plunge into some concealed abyss, there are portions of the way which tax the extreme limits of human power, and might cause the fall of the most experienced mountaineer. A single individual could not trust himself in these dangerous spots; but, where there are several companions, they fasten themselves together with a rope, and, while one crosses the treacherous place, the others stand still and let the rope slowly run out. Sometimes steep walls of ice are to be traversed, where the labor of cutting the necessary steps would be far beyond one man's power, and in climbing rocks mutual assistance is also absolutely needful.
In all these cases, those who ascend the mountains are supposed to be equally skilful, which, in reality, rarely occurs. The majority of the travellers who desire to enter the lofty ranges, possess only one requisite quality,—courage,—but have neither firmness of step nor experience. To make their way alone through the labyrinths of ice and rock, would be impossible, and, without sufficient confidence in their own skill, they would think many places impassable where the human foot could obtain a very firm support. Therefore, these travellers must seek people whose assistance will supply what they themselves lack. These are the guides,-men who have grown up among the mountains, and, .in proportion to the demand for their services, developed and trained their powers.
Good guides are as rare as good tenor singers,—and are spoiled in the same way. In return, they certainly accomplish some wonderful things. Wherever they may be, they always overlook the region and secure the road leading to the goal; they possess a firmness of step and skill in climbing which would not be expected from their plain, often clumsy appearance, and to the knowledge of danger unite the courage to conquer it. The younger ones are ambitious to win fame, and are most ready to go wherever people desire. When they are older,--perhaps, forty,—and their reputation is made, the temptation of money is the strongest motive ; they willingly leave the most perillous enterprises to their younger, unmarried successors, but always retain their position and show their full power when danger threatens suddenly and unexpectedly. The responsibility of their profession is great; for, under all circumstances, they are expected to protect the travellers' lives, and, in fatal accidents are often unjustly blamed. They are perfectly right, therefore, to claim entire control of the party on entering the dangerous region; but, on the other hand, the best guides are always ready to consult with travellers on whose experience and skill they can rely.
To this little group is added the army of second-class guides,-people useful enough in their way, but who have none of the power of mastering obstacles possessed by guides of the first rank. They are only required to step firmly and be able to carry a burden. They often impose upon travellers but slightly acquainted with the exigencies of the situation, and this sometimes induces them to pretend to be more skilful than they really are. Fond of boasting, they give themselves airs and talk of bold deeds accomplished, without adding that they were then under the direction of a firstclass guide. They also say, as a recommendation, that they are chamois-hunters, which in and of itself is no recommendation at all; for the chamois-hunter gains a very imperfect knowledge of the snow and ice formations of the upper mountain ranges, or the condition of the rocks more than 3,000 metres above the level of the sea, and an excellent chamois-hunter may be a very ordinary guide.
My admiration for the feats performed by the great guides has been repeatedly expressed in the chronicles of the Swiss Alpine Club. It is not owing to their characters, but their profession, if, in certain respects, they have forfeited our implicit confidence. Mutual rivalry, and too much willingness to enter into the wishes or weaknesses of many travellers, sometimes leads them to make statements which, under ordinary circumstances, could not be reconciled with their love of truth. Sometimes, with very honest faces, they totally deny the former exploits of others, in order to place their own successes in a brighter light, and even tell a traveller thirsting for action,who wants to strike out into new paths, that they have never before been trodden, making the falsehood so plausible, by the introduction of various little episodes, that one would need to have had dealings with negroes to doubt them.
Even the best guides cannot alone ensure the success of a difficult mountain expedition; the traveller must do his part; and, if not equal to such a feat, the undertaking will be a source of discomfort and weariness. Ignorance of the real nature of climbing among the loftiest mountain ranges is not exclusively to blame ; it may be blended with a mistaken idea of his own powers, often fostered by the cupidity of unemployed second-class guides, who, if possible, persuade the foreigner that he is an excellent mountaineer, and moves like a chamois. When the sorely tried man returns from his toilsome pilgrimage, natural reserve prevents him from speaking frankly of his experiences, and he conceals the secret of his sufferings under the indifferent tone of the story. This, perhaps, leads other travellers, no better prepared, to undertake the same or a similar expedition, and a circulus vitiosus arises, which constantly gains new members.
Such occurrences would scarcely be possible if mountain-climb. ing were universally recognized as an art which, even where great natural talent exists, requires long practice. The superiority of the best guides consists in the fact that they grew up among the mountains, discovered at an early age whether they had a talent for conquering their dangers, and developed the gift during the season of youth. Therefore, every one who approaches mountains covered with eternal snow, as an ignorant stranger, should first test his strength by easy tasks. It would be best to make his excursions attended only by able guides. Imprudence may become crime