Monday, November 30, 2020

"Mode of Travelling in the High Alps" (4)

From C T Dent's Mountaineering in the Badminton Library Series.

Alpine advice from a founder of modern mountaineering

For surmounting steep ice slopes the axe is the proper instrument, but there is some difference of opinion as to the most available form and dimensions to be given to it. In considerable expeditions, it is well to be provided with two axes, both to save time, by enabling two to work together, and to provide for the accident of one being lost or broken.

 In cases where there is not much work to be done in cutting steps, a moderately heavy geological hammer, of which one side is made in the form of a short pick, is sometimes a serviceable weapon. 

In the lower part of a glacier, a traveller is sometimes arrested by a short, steep bank of ice, when unprovided with any convenient means of cutting steps. In such a case, and especially when armed with steel points in the heels of his boots, he will sometimes find it easier and safer to mount backwards, propping himself with his alpenstock,and biting into the ice with his heels.
To experienced travellers, no caution as to alpenstocks is needed, but to others it may be well to say, that those commonly sold in Switzerland are never to be relied upon. There is scarcely one of them that is not liable to break, if suddenly exposed to a severe strain. A stout ash pole, well seasoned, and shod with a point of tough, hardened steel, three inches long, instead of the soft iron commonly used, will not only serve all the ordinary purposes, but help to cut steps in a steep descent where it is difficult to use the axe with effect.

The general experience of Alpine travellers is not favourable to crampons, but many have found advantage in screws armed with a projecting double-pointed head which are sold at the Pavillon on the Montanvert. Screws of the same kind, but made of better steel, and arranged in a convenient way for driving them into the soles and heels of boots, are sold in London by Lund in Fleet Street.



From J Ball, “Suggestions for Alpine travellers”, Chapter XVIII, Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers: A series of excursions by members of the Alpine Club, London, 1859.



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