Thursday, December 3, 2020

"Mode of Travelling in the High Alps" (6)

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

Alpine advice from a founder of modern mountaineering

Besides the ordinary risks of Alpine adventure, which, by reasonable caution, may be brought within as narrow limits as those of other active pursuits, there are the special risks that are sometimes encountered during the continuance, or immediately on the cessation, of bad weather. These are sometimes serious, and should not be made light of by those who care either for their own safety, or that of their companions. 

Bearings carefully taken with the compass, and attention to land-marks, will generally enable a party to retrace their steps, even when these have been effaced by falling snow, and in case of decided bad weather, there is no other rational alternative. 

Newly fallen snow, lying upon the steep frozen slopes of the neve, presents a serious danger to those who attempt to traverse it. The well-known accident, by which three lives were lost, during Dr. Hamel's attempted ascent of Mont Blanc, is one instance of the effects of the avalanches which are easily produced in this condition of the snow; and the attempt to ascend the Great Schreckhorn, recounted in this volume, was near resulting in similar fatal consequences. 

A precaution strongly to be recommended before undertaking expeditions over unknown glaciers, is to make a preliminary survey from some point commanding a view of the route to be traversed, and to preserve a rough plan of the disposition of the crevasses, the direction of any projecting ridges of rock, and even of the situation of snow or ice-bridges in the crevassed parts of the glacier. A reconnaissance of this kind carefully executed, may save hours that would otherwise be lost in searching for a passage in difficult situations.


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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