Thursday, October 3, 2019


Project HaMo (translation): the aldermen of the Alps and their ill-kept secrets

At council, in some sun-drenched assembly hall, convene the venerable aldermen, white-bearded and surmounted with snowy periwigs, revered by all. For these are men of dignity, noblemen, the natural aristocracy of the stark mountain scene, the most exalted of their rugged tribe, overtopping all their electors by a head.

Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau in an old postcard (c. 1912)

Born to their station, these worthy lords look out with a freeman’s gaze. Their mien is serious, their vestments dignified, and their steeply raked backs exude authority. Looked up to on all sides, there they stand, peerless, and yet – is there none among them who harbours no secret weakness among the highest and best of his mountain peers?

Since time immemorial, these eminences have gazed proudly over their foothills, beaming magnificently and watching over the people of the plain. Time-honoured are their titles and names. Robed in silver and rose-red gold, tilting their ridges aloft, they have stood there in earnest convocation for ages eternal.

The great mountains are the first-born of the young mountain gods. By birth and blood they were ennobled. So what need have they to exert themselves? Invincible by sheer stature, they prevail without a struggle. Those of low degree, strive as they might, could never rise against them. Yet, should one or other of these make the effort to challenge the power of those hereditary heights, what mighty giants they will meet with. Then will you see the sacred mountains of your dreams made manifest.

With their glittering locks of snow, their rivers of flowing ice, their flanks sheer to the heavens, these four-thousanders are the noblest treasures of the world. And yet – surely there is not one without some hidden flaw of weakness.


This is an excerpt from a centennial translation of Ihr Berge (1916), a mountain memoir by Hans "Hamo" Morgenthaler (1890-1928). Translation (c) Project Hyakumeizan.

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