Saturday, December 5, 2020

"Mode of Travelling in the High Alps" (8)

Horace-Benedict de Saussure, pioneer of Mt Blanc,
with barometer case in background

Alpine advice from a founder of modern mountaineering

Measurement of heights, distances, and angles: There are few travellers who do not from time to time feel the desire to ascertain the heights of objects, the distance from one point to another, or the steepness of slopes. The accurate determination of these requires the careful use of instruments, and the reduction of observations, both processes involving more trouble than unscientific travellers are willing to bestow. 

Setting aside levelling and triangulation, the best methods of determining elevations are by means of the barometer or aneroid, and the boiling point thermometer. Of these instruments the mercurial mountain barometer is undoubtedly the most reliable; but it is 3 ft. 4 in. long when packed in its case, an inconvenient affair for a mountain scramble, and is very liable to accident. 

The aneroid is now very extensively used in government surveys, and is available for altitudes up to about 8000 feet ; but, whether its accuracy beyond this limit has yet been sufficiently tested, may be doubted. A useful little pamphlet, explaining the use of these two instruments, has been published by Elliot Brothers, 30, Strand.


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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