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able as the pearly lining of a sea-shell. The sheen on the surface of the frosted snow suggests the fancy that there the spirits of the Alpine flowers have their paradise.
Beautiful as were the every-day scenes about our camps in the snow, there came at length one rare evening when the mountains assumed a superlative grandeur. We had retired to our tent early in the evening, but on looking out a few hours afterward to see if the conditions were favorable for making a night march, I was surprised to see the change that had taken place in the usually pale-blue night landscape. The sun had long since gone down behind the great peaks to the northwest, but an afterglow of unusual brightness was shining through the deep clefts in the Augusta range, and illuminating a few mountain-slopes here and there which chanced to be so placed as to catch the level shafts of rosy light. The contrast between the peaks and snow-fields of delicate blue faintly illuminated by the light of the moon, and the massive mountains of flame, made one of the most striking scenes that can be imagined. The boldness and strength of the picture, the wonderful detail of every illuminated precipice and glittering ice-field, in contrast with the uncertain, shadowy forms of half-revealed pinnacles and spires, together with the absence of light in the sky and the absolute stillness of the mighty encampment of snowy mountains, was something so strange and unreal that it bordered on the supernatural.
But the great mountains are not always beautiful or always inspiring. When the clouds thickened about us and enshrouded our lonely tent,
which always seemed lost in the vast wilderness of snow and ice, and when the snow fell in fine crystals hour after hour and day after day with unvarying monotony, burying our tent and blotting out the trail which was our only connection with the land of verdure and flowers in the region below, our life was dreary enough. Camp-fires, the ingleside of tent life, were impossible, as we were over 6000 feet above the timber-line, and fully 30 miles distant from the nearest trees. During storms there was nothing to be seen from our tent but the white snow immediately around us, and the vapor- and snow-filled air above. The only evidence of the near presence of lofty mountains was the frequent crash and prolonged, rumbling roar of avalanches, which shook the glacier beneath and seemed to threaten us with annihilation. We occupied our camp at the entrance of the amphitheater at the head of the Newton glacier for twelve days, and during that time, owing to the prevalence of clouds and snow-storms, were able to advance only once.
On the morning of July 24, McCarty, Stamy, and I were early astir, and, having had our breakfast, left the tent at two o'clock and started to climb to the divide between Mount Newton and Mount St. Elias, and as much higher as possible. The morning was clear and cold, but the snow, owing to its extreme dryness, was scarcely firm enough to sustain our weight. On account of the advance of the season, we now had about four hours each night during which the light was not sufficient, even during clear weather, to allow us to travel
over crevassed ice in safety. When we started, the twilight was sufficiently bright to reveal the outlines of the great peaks about us, but every detail in their rugged sides was lost. All within the vast amphitheater was dark and shadowy. On our right rose Mount Newton in almost vertical precipices a mile in height, with great glaciers pouring down like frozen cataracts from unseen regions above. On the left stood the crowning pyramid of Mount St. Elias, its roof-like slope rising nearly two miles in vertical height above the even snow-field we were crossing. The saddle between these two giant summits is the lowest point in the wall of the amphitheater, but even that was 4000 feet above us. During the earlier portion of our stay in our highest camp, when the weather was warm and
On the morning of July 24, however, all was still. Jack Frost, working stealthily throughout the night, had silenced the music of the rills, and fettered the mighty avalanches with chains of crystal. As we advanced, the soft twilight grew stronger, and just as we reached the base of the icy precipices we were to scale, on looking up, I saw the summit of Mount St. Elias aflame with the first ruddy light of morning,
An Apennine, touched singly by the sun,
In front of us rose steep cliffs, the height and ruggedness of which appeared to increase as we approached. Across the slope from side to
the peaks surrounded by clouds or shut out from view by snow-storms, the roar of avalanches was frequent both day and night. Sometimes three great snow-slides would come thundering down the cliff at one time, and pour hundreds of tons of snow and ice into the valley. Avalanches of great size were frequent, both from the slopes of Mount Newton and Mount St. Elias, and from the precipices beneath the saddle. To venture into the valley when the south winds were blowing, and the lower ice-slopes were trickling with water, would have been rash in the extreme.
side ran blue walls of ice, marking the upper sides of crevasses. In several places avalanches had broken away, leaving pinnacles and buttresses of stratified snow, 200 or 300 feet high, ready to topple over in their turn as soon as the sun touched them. Trails of rough, broken snow, below the cliffs, marked the paths avalanches had taken during the day previous. On the right of the slope leading to the divide rose the frowning wall of Mount Newton, and on the left the still greater slope of Mount St. Elias. From each of these we had seen magnificent avalanches descend upon the slope we
were to climb, and then, turning, rush down into the valley below. The grooved and icesheathed paths of these great snow-slides were plainly visible, and were to be avoided if possible. At first the slope was not so steep but that we could climb by digging in the long spikes with which our shoes were provided, and with the constant aid of our alpenstocks; but soon we came to a broad crevasse which we had to follow for several rods before finding a bridge by which to cross. Owing to the steepness of the slope on which the snow rested, the crevasses were really faults, their upper edges rising high above the lower. This made them especially troublesome in ascending. The bridges spanning the chasms were usually poor, and in crossing them we had to exercise the greatest precautions. In some instances, where
ENGRAVED BY F. W. SUTHERLAND,
the slivers of ice crossing a crevasse diagonally seemed too weak to hold the weight of a man, should he try to walk across, we would place two alpenstocks from the lower lip out on the central portion of the bridge, and then one of us would crawl out, and lying flat on the bridge, so as to distribute his weight, advance the alpenstock to the other side and so gain the opposite brink. In one place, where the hanging wall of the crevasse offered no ledge or foothold of any kind, we pushed the sharp end of the alpenstock well into it, and one of us, standing on the poles, cut a step in the cliff, and then, making a hand-hold with another alpenstock, cut steps to the top. Some of the way we climbed in the paths of small avalanches that had left rough snow on the slope and saved us the trouble of cutting steps. But for half the
way probably to the divide we had to cut our trail up slopes that were too steep and too smooth to climb. In this way we slowly advanced, varying our course now toward the base of the cliff leading up to Mount Newton, and again toward the great pyramid forming the summit of Mount St. Elias, according as the ascent was more gentle, or the crevasses less difficult, on one side or the other. In two or three instances our progress seemed barred by impassable crevasses, but a search always revealed a bridge or a place where the openings were narrow, and we were able to advance.
At length we could see that only one crevasse intervened between us and the smooth slope leading to the divide. This crossed diagonally downward from the south side of the slope to near the base of Mount Newton. Beyond where it ended on the right there was an exceedingly steep slope, sheathed with ice, that led to the divide. This seemed the only way we could expect to advance. The upper wall of the crevasse rose about fifty feet above its lower edge, and was hung with icicles. At the east end a curtain of ice, starting from the top of the upper wall, arched over and joined the lower brink, leaving a hollow chamber within hung with thousands of icicles. In spite of my anxiety to press on, I could not but admire the beauty of the glittering mass of fluted columns, arranged like the pipes of a great organ and fully exposed to the morning sun at the top, while their tapering ends were lost in the obscurity of the blue gulf below. Each icicle was frosted on one side with snow-flakes that had been blown against it and frozen to its surface. The play of rainbow tints among these millions of flashing crystals and burnished pendants made a scene of unusual beauty, even in a region whose wonders multiply as one advances. The lower lip of the crevasse had been built up with snow blown from the heights above, and formed a sharp-crested drift, along which we worked our way to the north end of the crevasse. I then fastened the end of a life-line about my waist, while Stamy and McCarty, placing an alpenstock deep in the snow and taking a half-turn with the line around it, slowly paid out the slack as I advanced. Where the dome of ice curved down and met the lower edge of the crevasse, there was a little ledge about six inches broad, and where this ended only the overhanging shoulder formed by the dome remained. Once around the shoulder we would be able to reach the ice-slope leading to the divide. Cutting holes through the ice-dome a little below the height of my shoulder, I thrust my left arm through, and thus had a sure hold while cutting steps for my feet. Progressing in this way, I was soon around the curve, out of sight of my companions, and
in a short time gained the foot of the slope leading upward. But I found that the ascent was so steep, and composed of such smooth ice, that it would require several hours of hard work for us to cut a way to the top, and before undertaking such a severe task I concluded to search for a more practicable route. Being no longer engaged in cutting steps, I became aware that I was in a somewhat dangerous position. The dome which I had passed around curved inward just below me, leaving a sheer descent of several hundred feet to the steep slope beneath, which fell away almost perpendicularly into the valley 3000 feet below. Had I fallen, I should have gone to the bottom of the cliffs before stopping, if some yawning crevasse had not received me. I worked my way slowly back to my companions, and we then followed the crevasse in the opposite direction. Near its highest portion there was a narrow space, where the snow blown from above had built up the snow-bank on the lower lip of the crevasse until it touched the top of the cliff of ice formed by the upper wall. The snow had also bridged a deep crevasse that ran at right angles to the main one, thus rendering us double assistance. These bridges were of light snow, and were so thin that we had to exercise great caution in crossing them lest we should break through. McCarty was now in the lead on the line to which we were all fastened, and, slowly making steps up the curtain of snow that descended from the top of the icecliff, he made his way upward out of sight of Stamy and myself who waited below. When he had progressed about 100 feet, the length of our line, he planted his alpenstock deep in the snow and shouted for us to come up. With the aid of the line and the steps that had been made, I was soon beside him, and, detaching myself from the line, continued up the slope, leaving the men to coil up the rope and follow.
I was now so near the crest of the divide that only a few yards remained before I should be able to see the country to the north; a vast region which no one had yet beheld. Pressing on, I pictured in fancy the character of the land beyond. Having crossed this same mountain-belt at the head of Lynn Canal, and traversed the country to the north of it, I fancied that I should behold a similar region north of Mount St. Elias. I expected to see a comparatively low, wooded country stretching away to the north, with lakes and rivers and perhaps some signs of human habitation, but I was entirely mistaken. What did meet my eager gaze was a vast snow-covered region, limitless in its expanse, through which hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of barren angular mountainpeaks projected. There was not a stream, not a lake, and not a trace of vegetation of any
LOOKING UP THE NEWTON GLACIER, MOUNT SAINT ELIAS ON THE LEFT. The on the upper border of the picture is placed over the highest point on the mountain-side reached by the explorers.-EDITOR.
kind in sight. A more desolate or a more utterly lifeless land one never beheld. Vast, smooth snow-surfaces, without crevasses or breaks, so far as I could judge, stretched away to unknown distances, broken only by jagged and angular mountain-peaks. The general elevation of the snow-surface is about 8000 feet. and the mountains piercing it are from 10,000 to 12,000 feet, or more, in altitude above the sea. To the northward I could see every detail in the forbidding landscape for miles and miles. The most distant peaks in view in that direction were thirty or forty miles away. One flat-topped mountain, due north by compass from my station, and an exception in its form to all the other peaks, I have called Mount Bear, in memory of the good ship which took us to Icy Bay. The other peaks were too numerous to name. To the southeast rose Mount Fairweather, plainly distinguishable although 200 miles away. At an equal distance to the northwest are two prominent mountain-ranges, the highest peaks of which appeared as lofty as Mount Fairweather. These must be in the vicinity of Mount Wrangle, but their summits were unclouded and gave no token of volcanic activity. I could look down upon the coast about Yakutat Bay, and distinguish each familiar is
land and headland. The dark shade on the shore, too distant to reveal its nature, was due to the dense forests on the lowlands between the mountains and the sea. This was the only indication of vegetation in all the vast landscape that lay spread out beneath my feet. The few rocks near at hand, which projected above the snow, were without the familiar tints of mosses and lichens. Even the ravens, which sometimes haunt the higher mountains, were nowhere to be seen. Utter desolation claimed the entire land. The view to the north called to mind the pictures given by Arctic explorers of the borders of the great Greenland ice-sheet, where rocky islands, known as "nunataks," alone break the monotony of the boundless sea of ice. The region before me was a land of nunataks.
The divide which we had reached was a narrow crest at the north end, but broadened to about fifty yards at the south. Along each side were snow-banks facing each other, and inclosing a V-shaped area some ten feet lower than the bordering crests of snow. We excavated a little chamber near the base of one of the steep snow-banks, in which to place a small lamp that we had brought with us, and melted some snow to obtain drinking-water. Owing to the lightness of the snow it required some time to get