Page:Whymper - Scrambles amongst the Alps.djvu/151

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chap. v.

Three possible causes of accidents have now been mentioned. From the first there is small risk, but unavoidable danger so long as mountaineering is practised; from the others there may be great risks, but they are easily avoided by the exercise of a little common sense. The largest part of the accidents, however, which occur in the Alps cannot be classed under these heads, but arise chiefly from momentary indiscretions, and from men trying to do that which is beyond their powers. It is not easy to find two cases exactly alike, although they principally come from the difficulty man experiences in keeping on his feet in slippery places. They come not from any dangers inherent to mountains, but from the frailties of the mountaineer. A volume might be filled with examples, and they would all be found to show that if this had been done, or that had not been done, the results would not have happened. In many cases some canon of mountaineering will be found to have been violated, and in all, the man rather than the mountain will be found to have been the offender.

I have now endeavoured to discriminate between that which is merely difficult and that which is absolutely dangerous; secondly, to distinguish unavoidable from avoidable dangers; and thirdly, to make a rough classification of the causes of accidents. If that which has been said is true, it follows that the dangers from the Alps themselves have been ridiculously overrated, and that the thing to be wished for is, not that the mountains should become easier, but that men should become wiser and stronger. It is too much to expect, however, so long as tyros attempt to imitate the doings of skilled mountaineers, and middle-aged gentlemen, with stiff knees, essay the things which are adapted only to the young and active, that accidents in the Alps will cease, or even diminish in number; and, although these too daring persons should, perhaps, be pitied rather than censured, it is very much to be desired that they would pay a little more attention to the truth "That which is sport to one may be death to another," instead of applying to themselves the maxim "What man has done man can do."