The New International Encyclopædia/Mountain Climbing

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The New International Encyclopædia
Mountain Climbing
Edition of 1905. Written by Charles Ernest FaySee also Mountaineering on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

MOUNTAIN CLIMBING. The awakening of man's interest in mountains is chiefly due to Rousseau, though earlier writers, while approaching them as scientists, were also susceptible to their charm. This two-fold interest led Saussure to incite J. Balmat to find a way to the summit of Mont Blanc in 1786 and to accompany him thither in 1787. From that ascent alpinism is generally dated. In London in 1857 was formed the first Alpine Club to foster “the community of feeling amongst those who in the life of the High Alps have shared the same enjoyments, the same labours, and the same dangers.” This idea, in a modified form, was taken up throughout Continental Europe and advocated with such enthusiasm that more than 100,000 persons of both sexes are now enrolled in the various alpine societies. The largest of these are the German and Austrian (founded in 1862), about 55,000 members; Swiss (1863), 7000; Italian (1863), 54,000; and French (1874), 6000. In America three strong societies came into being: the Appalachian Mountain Club (q.v.) in Boston (1876), 1300 members; the Sierra Club (1892) in San Francisco, 800; and the ‘Mazamas’ (1894) in Portland, Ore. In these derivative societies eligibility is based upon a love of nature and of the mountain in particular rather than on alpinism proper, though most of them contain a contingent of expert climbers. The American Alpine Club (1902), with its home in Philadelphia, aims to revert to the original type, but adds to its field polar exploration and the study of glaciers.

Thus cultivated, Alpine climbing has attained almost to a science. Its principles are set forth in extended manuals, such as Dent's Mountaineering, Badminton Library (London, 1892). It has called into existence the class of professional guides — Swiss, Tyrolese, and Italian — whose skill far exceeds that of the best amateurs. Their aid, always expedient in tours above snow line, is indispensable in attacks upon giant peaks in distant lands, such as have frequently been made within recent times.

The most dangerous accidents in mountain climbing, those which consist in falls from a great height, rarely occur when guides are taken and the party is properly roped together in a chain of mutual support. Occasionally some foothold seemingly secure gives way beneath the climber's weight; but more frequently the fall takes place because the climber is overtired, or has started too quickly, without the necessary training and hardening, in consequence of which at a critical moment some muscle fails to answer. Overexertion of either body or mind is always to be avoided; for alertness of both is essential. The rope is the sheet anchor of mountaineering, whether it be on the snow or on the equally dangerous grassy slopes. On really difficult mountains no more than three persons should be on the same rope. With the rope the ice-axe is used, and indeed is a very necessary adjunct to the climber. It consists of a steel axe with a cutting edge crosswise to the handle, like an adze and a pick. The handle is of such length that it makes a convenient staff, and is shod with a steel point. The cutting edge of the axe is employed for making steps in an ice wall, the pick for holding and aiding the climber in pulling himself up, while the axe when used as a staff or alpenstock enables the climber to hold securely, or it can be employed as a brake when descending. Accidents which come from the fall of large masses of rock, snow, or earth may be largely obviated by a careful observation of the position of the sun with regard to snowfields below upon which the path is to be taken. If the snow begins to slide, carrying the climber with it, the utmost nimbleness of resource, wit, and strength applied to the alpenstock as a brake is the only remedy that can he formulated beforehand. In ascending an ordinary couloir the axe must be constantly used for cutting footholds step by step.


NAME Locality Height Year Party





Mont Aiguille  Dauphiné 7,000   1492   Dompjulinn de Beaupré
Pic du Midi  Pyrenees 9,547  15—  De Candale
Titlis[1]  Swiss Alps 10,627  1739  Anonymous
Mont Blanc[2]  Swiss Alps 15,781  1786  Balmat and Paccard
Jungfrau  Swiss Alps 13,672  1811  J. R. and H. Meyer
Finsteraarhorn  Swiss Alps 14,026  1812  H. Meyer, et al.
Monte Rosa[3]  Swiss Alps 15,217  1855  Smyth, et al.
Schreckhorn  Swiss Alps 13,385  1861  Leslie Stephen
Weisshorn  Swiss Alps 14,803  1861  J. Tyndall
Dent Blanche  Swiss Alps 14,318  1862  E. S. Kennedy, C. Wigram
Matterhorn  Swiss Alps 14,780  1865  E. Whyraper, et al.
Gross Glockner  Tyrolese Alps 12,457  1799   
Ortler[2]  Tyrolese Alps 12,800  1804  Josele (a hunter)
Kasbek  Caucasus 16,546  1868  D. W. Freshfield
Elbruz[2]  Caucasus 18,470  1868  D. W. Freshfield
Ushba  Caucasus 15,700  1888  J. G. Cockin
Dikhtaw  Caucasus 17,000  1888  A. F. Mummery
Kabru[4]  Himalayas  24,015  1883  M. W. Graham
Pioneer Peak  Himalayas 22,600  1892  W. M. Conway
Koser Gunge  Himalayas 21,010  1898  Dr. W. H. and Mrs. Workman
Mount Cook[2]  New Zealand 13,349  1895  M. Zurbriggen (guide)
Chimborazo  Andes 20,498  1879  E. Whymper
Aconcagua  Andes 22,860  1897  S. Vines, Zurbriggen
Illimani  Andes 21,030  1898  W. M. Conway
Mount Washington[2]  White Mountains 6,293  1642  Darby Field
Pike's Peak  Rocky Mountains 14,147  1820  E. James, et al.
Hood  Cascades 11,934  1854  Stevens and Van Trump
Rainier  Cascades 14,526  1870  Barlow, et al.
Saint Elias[4]  Cascades 18,024  1897  Duke of the Abruzzi, et al.
Bonney  Selkirks 10,645  1888  W. S. Green, H. Swanzy
Sir Donald  Selkirks 10,652  1890  E. Huber, C. Sulzer
Dawson[2]  Selkirks 11,100  1899  C. E. Fay, H. C. Parker
Temple  Canadian Rockies  11,637  1894  S. E. Allen, W. D. Wilcox, et al.
Victoria  Canadian Rockies 11,150  1897  J. W. Collie, et al.
Assiniboine  Canadian Rockies 11,860  1901  J. Outram
Columbia[4]  Canadian Rockies ........ 1902  J. Outram

  1. The first snow peak.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 The highest in range.
  3. The highest summit.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The highest thus far climbed.

(In most instances the guides are not mentioned in this list.)

The list on the preceding page presents some of the principal first ascents since the earliest authentic records.

Consult: J. Forbes, Travels Through the Alps (Edinburgh, 1843); A. W. Moore, The Alps in 1864, from MS. copy (Edinburgh, 1902); J. Ball and E. S. Kennedy, Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers (London, 1859-62); G. Studer, Ueber Eis und Schnee (Bern, 1869-71); J. Tyndall, Mountaineering in 1861 (London, 1862); id., Hours of Exercise in the Alps (ib., 1871); L. Stephen, The Playground of Europe (ib., 1871); E. Whymper, Scrambles Among the Alps (ib., 1871): id., Travels in the Great Andes of the Equator (ib., 1892); C. T. Dent, Above the Snow-line (ib., 1885); Clarence King, Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada (Boston, 1886); W. M. Conway, Climbing in the Karaoram-Himalayas (London, 1894); id., The Alps from End to End (ib., 1895); id., The Bolivian Andes (New York, 1901); A. F. Mummery, My Climbs in the Alps and Caucasus (ib., 1895); E. A. Fitzgerald, Climbs in the New Zealand Alps (ib., 1896); id., The Highest Andes (ib., 1899); F. M. B. Workman, In the Ice World of the Himalaya (New York, 1898); C. E. Mathews, The Annals of Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn (London, 1898); F. De Filippi, The Ascent of Mount Saint Elias (London, 1900); W. D. Wilcox, Camping in the Canadian Rockies (New York, 1900); J. N. Collie, Climbing in the Himalayas and Other Mountains (Edinburgh, 1902). For recent American mountaineering, consult Appalachia, vols, i.-ix. (Boston, 1876-1902), and Sierra Club Bulletin, vols. i.-iii. (San Francisco, 1893-1903).