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the pleasure of tracing out the next day’s ascent on the far hillside.
He will follow the line of path through the pine wood, and train his
powers of observation, learning, moreover, to trust his own eyes in
preference to the map. Though he may not see cities, he will see many
men, and will find hospitality as unselfish as in the days when all
travellers and pilgrims were objects of pity. He travels from place to
place with a pilgrim’s desire to find the ideal peak or valley. There
are not many that find it; and this failure in the search is due partly
to the climber’s own natural restlessness, partly to his intense desire
to see if the Happy Valley may not lie just round the corner. He feeds
this discontent with his present circumstances, knowing that in so
doing he gets the greatest joy. He is in no hurry to find this Happy
Valley; nor, if he never find it, will he consider that he has climbed
in vain.


Both pilgrim and mountaineer may claim for themselves the virtue of
enthusiasm. But if they be humble-minded men they will not deny the
possible existence of other and nobler forms of enthusiasm. If this
virtue of theirs be not identical with all excellence, it must be
capable of definition or analysis in terms other than itself. The
pilgrim’s answer is easily given: he goes out to seek recreation, in
the fullest sense of the word, to introduce a new element into his
life. ‘I go to free myself from the Wheel of Things by a broad and
open road.’ Less easy to define is the τέλος of the mountaineer; under
no moral compulsion, he endures the pilgrim’s hardships for a less
definite end, yet returns year after year in search of discomfort. A
writer endeavouring to analyse this enthusiasm has put it down as a
mild madness, a drawback to mountain-climbing. It is in great part an
enthusiasm for past and future: put the mountaineer among his hills,
and he is no sooner in full training than he begins to anticipate
with joy his return to civilisation. Place him once more at home, and
he will be eager to return to his old haunts, will busy himself in
planning for the next year. He climbs, as it seems, against his will.

Yet he sets out willingly in search of recreation, knowing that he
will certainly find it through hours of toil. He finds also a very
full pleasure, forgetting readily the early start and all the thousand
inconveniences which afford copy for the scribbler. The moon in the
pine woods, the early dawn in the upper snow, the descent of Mont
Blanc towards the sunset are not for valley-dwellers; and to attain
these rewards the mountaineer welcomes the opportunity of an enforced
self-denial: -

‘Carnis terat Superbiam
Potus cibique parcitas.’

He shares also the pilgrim’s joy of solitude and contemplation in the
long hours of silence, and the joy of friendly conversation with all
manner of men at the close of day. He regards no day, however trying,
as wasted which is spent above snow-line, and next day he can take his
ease in the valley with a clear conscience. ‘It is pleasant,’ says
Leslie Stephen, ‘to lie on one’s back in a bed of rhododendrons, and
look up to a mountain-top peering at one from above a bank of cloud;
but it is pleasantest when one has qualified oneself for repose by
climbing the peak the day before, and becoming familiar with its
terrors and its beauties.’ Herein lies a point of resemblance between
pilgrim and mountaineer: to feel the need of qualifying for this
repose, which loses half its value when it is not the reward of labour.

Finally, the mountaineer will learn two secrets by experience. He will
discover the secret of those philosophers that have dominion over the
young, that one may argue (on mountains as elsewhere) from any given
premise with equally convincing logic to two contrary conclusions.
This is the essence of the mountaineer’s freedom of mind; for wherever
he may find himself he can advance many reasons for or against every
proposal, as conscience-free as the pilgrim himself, calling in
prudence to support equally his bold or his lazy wishes; which is a
dangerous thing for all climbers, as Mr. Worldly Wiseman knows. He will
learn also the secret of a true holiday, which the pilgrim possesses:
that this lies, not in the abandonment of everything familiar in search
of distraction, but in taking up some fresh and absorbing interest,
which will continue from one holiday to another.





There are few people who are not at heart geographers; the passion may
be repressed or forgotten, but it is probably ready to reappear, and
elderly persons often surprise themselves no less than their youthful
companions by the zeal with which they attempt to mould the face of the
earth by amateur engineering: it is in early years, however, that the
passion inevitably shows itself.

It was the chief delight of a community of cousins, brought together
each summer at the sea-side, to spend as much of the day as the day
left possible in altering in every conceivable manner, by dams,
diversions, or channels, the geography of a wet strip of sand, which
the tide in its next advance would restore to its old conformation.
Sometimes operations, more ambitious in the durability of their
materials, were begun in a stream inland; pools were made, and the
stream diverted into a new, or perhaps a long disused, channel.
Sometimes, too, a party of us would explore along a stream to its
source, which we rarely reached, since even small streams are apt to
extend farther than childish zeal will endure, though fired by the
ambition of finding a real spring, entrancing to the dwellers among
sluggish south-country rivers.

But it was with our first visit to the Alps that the revelation came.
Here were streams without number, small enough to follow, during the
course of a long picnicking day, up to real authentic springs, which
bubbled clear and cold from the ground at our feet. Geography could
be made and altered; our dams made pools where none were before, or
caused the paths and water-courses of the neighbourhood to exchange
their functions, so that the inhabitants of lonely chalets found their
water supply miraculously curtailed, and visited the culprits up above
with guttural wrath. Watersheds, things hard for the low-lander
to comprehend - mere imaginary lines drawn across gently swelling
sand-ridges or downs - gained new life when seen as the jagged ridge
of the Engelhörner, or the great line of green hills north from the
Schwartzhorn to the bastion of Tschingli over Haslithal.

With the magic of water was joined the mystery of the other side. If
we followed any of the streams up and up, to the Engelhörner or the
Schöniwanghörner, whither should we see the torrents going, when the
rain that fell on the mountains streamed down the far side? The quest
of the geographer was made concrete; and as water has been the chief
power in the making of geography, so it is first to start the quest
in a child’s imagination, and the best guide in the knight-errantry
of childhood. But the streams that fell from the precipices of the
Engelhörner and Wellhorn pointed out a course beyond our ambitions; not
yet could we aspire to be climbers, and they still guard their secret,
though ready to yield it, now the time has come, to an ambition
strengthened with strengthened limbs. Even the grass slopes of the
Schöniwanghörner were too high to cross; but the great day came when
we started at six, with two mules, to cross the Great Scheidegg, so
long a barrier at the head of the valley slung between Wetterhorn and
Schwartzhorn, with Grindelwald as our object.

It was a water-following on a great scale; we started with the sound
of the Reichenbach falls in our ears, and followed along the line
of least resistance, made by the stream. Still before breakfast we
passed the Schwartzwald, where the stream was already shorn of so much
of its strength that it could be harnessed and made to pass through
hollowed half tree-trunks to do the work of a saw-mill. Higher up was
the region of bogs and grass slopes, each few hundred yards sending
its half-buried tinkling trickle to join the head waters of the river
itself. And then, without warning, the path took a final zig, and
brought us to the top; and for the first time we saw part of the land
of the other waters, with the other glaciers and snow-fields, grass
peaks and stony ones, which gave them birth. We saw how the valleys
bent round to Thun and Brienz, how the valley of Lauterbrunnen and
the peak of the Jungfrau fitted on to a world whose horizon had been
suddenly enlarged; looking for those places above all which had gained
special interest and familiarity from the pictured slips in our
chocolate packets.

That evening, after a hot trudge up from Grindelwald, and a cool
descent along the home stream that somehow rested our tired limbs, we
returned to Rosenlaui with a new sense of expansion and a vague feeling
of the coherence of things, for the dead lines of the map had become
actual and living before our eyes. Yet this feeling soon gave place
to the disappointing yet somehow thrilling thought, that by enlarging
our horizon we had only left ourselves ringed about by a wider circle
of other sides, making it still less likely than before that we should
ever solve the abiding questions of our childhood.

For four years the Alps remained a memory and a hope, till in 1907 the
long horrors of the Certificate Examination were followed by the thrill
of the night journey, enjoyed to the full owing to a constitutional
inability to sleep, and a drive from Martigny to the upper part of the
Val de Bagnes, a shut-in and self-centred valley presided over by the
Combin. It was here that Italy became identified with the other side.
Here I was first initiated as a climber, and taken up the Ruinette; and
for two lazy hours on the top I watched the Italian mountains raise
themselves up from the ever-thickening screen of mist with which the
Lombard plains seemed to be hiding their secret. A few weeks later came
twenty minutes’ actual walking on Italian soil, between the Great St.
Bernard and the Col de Fenêtre. Italy lay at our feet, brought near to
us by the road winding down visibly to Aosta, and by the first Italian
notices of ‘Caccia Riservata,’ as well as by the southward-flowing

That day saw, too, the registering of a vow, fulfilled in the next
year, to visit the country of the Gran Paradiso and the Grivola. Peaks
there and around Mont Blanc fell before our onslaught, and we grew
to be hardened climbers; while passes became mere incidents in the
journey between one peak and another. But Geography was roused from her
hiding-place by a walking tour two years later - part of the regular
‘Tour of Mont Blanc’ from Chamonix to Champex with variations. The Col
du Bonhomme was unsatisfactory because, after much display, it failed
to turn a watershed at the first attempt, and, after including the Col
des Fours, left us still in the Rhone basin, with the Col de la Seigne
between us and Italy. Geography was displeased, but her craving after
completeness was satisfied by the long drive from Aosta up the Italian
side of the Great St. Bernard. Two known regions were linked up, and
of the remembered dips and corners of the road seen from the top, each
had had its answer. Also I had a sense of triumph in having cheated the
powers of the universe by taking several ounces of water in my soaked
clothes across the watershed to the Swiss side of the Col de Fenêtre.

The passion still retained its childish power, but in a wider sense.
By being children we had been nearly in the position of the first
primitive inhabitants of such a country of mountain and valley: to them
peaks are haunts of terror and danger, the parents of all the powers
of destruction - winds, avalanches, and lightnings - which descend upon
them; their situation makes them geographers by profession: at first
their eyes are turned down stream, and communication only extends over
the main valley and its tributaries, till a more venturesome spirit
arises and uses the water as his guide, but now, ascending it, takes
the line of least resistance over the passes to the peoples of the
neighbouring river-basins; and ancient legends of hill tribes give
a prominent place to watersheds, and great heroes are often made to
conquer a monster which has been terrorising the valley, and fling him
into some great lake at the head of the waters of the next basin.
Did he not embody the terror of those frowning walls, and was not his
conquest a victory indeed?

Thus the passes gained in importance, while the peaks were afar off
and terrible: they were already in use when there filtered through to
Herodotus across section after section of trade route the tradition,
confused in its long journey, of a town of Pyrene and a river Alpis;
when a new wave of inhabitants, scarcely pushing communication between
valley and valley themselves, used their mountain hardiness to extract
toll from the Roman merchants whose enterprise brought them across
the St. Bernard and the Mont Cenis to Vienna and Lugdunum; and each
traveller added to their importance and fame, while the local paths
were linked up into great highways, joining country to country, and
shrine to shrine, making a way for invasions, for pilgrims, or for
traders. The pass where Xenophon’s men cried θάλασσα! θάλασσα!
possesses a reality and interest of its own, not shared by the almost
laughable description of the mythical peaks of Krophi and Mophi in
Herodotus. But for us, even as children, there was a difference: the
prowess and achievements of our elders made impossible the fear which
our ancestors felt even for ‘Helm Crag, Helvellyn, and Butterlip
Howe’ - the last-named a small wooded eminence about two hundred feet
high - yet we lacked the spiritual and bodily pride which the attainer
of summits must possess. What climber has not known the moment when
this has failed him suddenly, and he has realised the impudence of
his presence among the mountain sanctuaries and of his trial of
strength face to face with the mountain’s bulk; when he either expiates
the crime of his intrusion by a great and tranquillising humility,
or struggles, only to find all he sees assume a mask of grinning
hatefulness? The attainer of summits follows a way which, even if
definite, is none the less new and none the less formidable to each
successive user: we children, like them, were pass-goers, enterers of
a sanctuary of a different kind, one hallowed by the slow toil of
generations, where the mountains could not resent intrusion, since it
was the mark of their community of life with the humble folk whom they

Even then we were no longer geographers by profession, still less now,
when the Alps are to us no longer a barrier to be forced, but the
playground of Europe, whither we in our sophisticated age make trains
convey us; and it seems as if the amateur geography of our childhood
were a mere survival, to be put away together with other childish
things when we grow up to be ‘modern men,’ with the climber’s devotion
to peaks, and the true modern appreciation of mountains. Shall we not
come to treat passes as highest minima instead of lowest maxima, and so
despise them; and will not our new mystical attitude make the partial
survival in us of primitive man a bar to the growth of a right spirit?

For your true mountain lover professes himself a mystic: he is one of
those that ‘live by places,’ and he waits upon the fruition of those
moments in which his senses give him a sudden feeling of fellowship
with his surroundings, when

‘A gentle shock of mild surprise
Has carried far into his heart the voice
Of mountain torrents; or the visible scene
Would enter unawares into his mind
With all its solemn imagery....’

These moments, he will tell you, are an end in themselves, and not
pursued for any moral strengthening of our social fibre for fighting
the battles of life. Only in isolation from his fellows, from science,
and from the interference of intelligence, when he adopts a ‘wise
passivity’ of mere sensation, is this sense of fellowship granted
him; and among the peaks, under the spell of his rhythmical bodily
movements, he and the silent mountains stand face to face, as pure
living sensation and lifeless matter, and each finds in the other a
mysterious completion.

This is the creed he professes; but how rarely comes one who can
practise it or achieve its enjoyment. Nearly all indeed share in some
degree this passion for fellowship; nearly all live their lives as
much by places as by people. The contrast is put by Wordsworth in one
of the poems on the Naming of Places, that called ‘Joanna’s rock’: -

‘Amid the smoke of cities did you pass
The time of early youth; and there you learned,
From years of quiet industry, to love
The living beings by your own fireside
With such a strong devotion, that your heart
Is slow towards the sympathies of them
Who look upon the hills with tenderness,
And make dear friendships with the streams and groves.’

They are the extremes: Joanna cannot understand the frame of mind at
all; Wordsworth is, in this mood, the perfect example of the life lived
in the fellowship of inanimate things.

But to few is the fellowship thus whole-heartedly given. For this it
is necessary to be a true æsthete (using the word in an unprejudiced
sense), so that in the one indivisible act of seeing, the one great
moment, a whole message is revealed. But life refuses to divide
itself into such moments; we cannot isolate ourselves either from the
continuity of the past or the community of the present. Most men move
on a plain of less concentration and greater self-consciousness, where
the act of seeing inevitably includes and leads up to reflection and
analysis. We still have the animal and the primitive man within us,
linking us to the past and the flow of time; and reason, the common
gift of all men, keeps always lurking in the background. Yet we still
strive after this immediacy of fellowship, but there come times when
the snow-peaks and the rocks have fed our appreciation on too strong a
draught, when our senses, relying on themselves alone, are over-sated,
and there seems a film before our eyes, so that we are no longer ‘alive
and drinking up our wonder,’ but the draught stagnates without us and
turns to bitterness.

Then we must be humble, and resign our pretensions to an ‘æsthetic
geography’ for one on a lower scale; we shall return to the passes,
which will remain to us the emblem of a new ‘geography of the spirit’
which, instead of trying to gain all in one tremendous moment, will
be content to browse upon the myriad things which intelligence sees
displayed. Even as a picture, an arrangement of lines and colours, the
pass has much that the higher peaks cannot give us: the deep curve of
the summit, slung between its supporting peaks, appeals to us by its
grace and weakness; there is a discontinuity of colour and clearness
as each bastion of the valley comes out from the curve its forerunner
had hidden. But these effects are heightened and brought together by
our geography; we imagine the glaciers that separated those bastions
from one another; that cup at the end is perhaps the work of some other
mighty glacier of the far side, piled up so high that it fell across
the watershed and cut its way down; maybe there is a giant moraine,
bigger than most of our English mountains, still to bear witness of it.

But it is the stream and the road which hold our imagination; the
water tells us of all the powers which we know to be at work, but
which our senses are too slow to perceive. Each stream is itself part
of the great cycle of water, each is an agent in the mountain cycle,
perpetually hurrying the actual fabric of the mountains down to the
sea; their voice is never silent even on the summits; they are the
lords of the peaks, moulding them slowly to new shapes, and their
murmur seems to call the clouds, ‘chased by the hounding winds from
distant seas,’ to come and renew their springs for a new course of the
never-ending circle.

But the road takes our geography farther afield and peoples our
imaginings. We have softened the immediacy of our ‘æsthetic geography’
by the aid of intelligence; the road softens it by bringing in
humankind to stand with us facing the gulf between the living and the
inanimate. As the water alters our view of the mountains by bringing
to light the importance of time, so does the road alter our view of
ourselves. As we look up a pass from below, the view of the road
appearing and vanishing round the folds of the valley brings to us
two pictures of men. Winding away from us up to the skyline goes the
pilgrim’s progress, the slow toiling advance upwards to gain the
view of things not seen. Many there are, but few together; some on
side-tracks; some on the old steep road with its rough stones now
overgrown, more on the new smooth driving road which turns about so
that they can take their eyes from the goal; some even making a path
for themselves, either above on the hillside, steering for some nearer
gap on the skyline, which does not cross the main watershed; others
below the road, toiling painfully along the stream-bed. And each in
turn we see reach the summit and disappear; we cannot see what they
see, nor even the expression of their faces as they confront the other

But the same valley can be the setting for another picture: down
from the top there seem to come great processions, gay like Benozzo
Gozzoli’s ‘Procession of the Magi,’ many leagues long and all ordered
and together, though part is hidden in the green woods, part in the
valley’s folds. We seem to take our place in the upward journey, and
soon it will be our turn to wonder what new thing we shall see beyond
the barrier. Perhaps encompassing mists will give place suddenly at
the summit to a sunny prospect of some great cathedral range, to take
our place in one of those processions and descend to the richness of
an Italian land. Or, if it is on the far side that the mists have
gathered, and the gateway of the pass is barred by a deep grey veil of
nothingness, at least the mists will lift high enough to show the two
gentle arms of our mother earth descending to where we are, strong and
lit by a strange internal light, ready to hold us up as we take the
last step into the grey, where we shall see no more.



(New College)


Not much more than a hundred years ago a tourist remarked that he found
the Scottish hills ‘most of all disgusting when the heather was in
bloom.’ There is something very taking about this phrase. It was, of
course, a commonplace of the eighteenth century to feel aversion, awe,
horror, even hatred for mountains, but the epithet ‘disgusting’ is a
refinement of abuse. The Scottish hills failed to arouse any of the
deeper emotions in this gentleman - it would have been a compliment to
them to suggest they could. They merely filled him with disgust, and
the feeling was aggravated by the sight of a profusion of flowers of an
unpleasant purple colour.

We have no reason to suppose that the author of this judgment was
deficient in taste or sensibility according to the standards of his
time. We may credit him with a happy turn for expression, but not
with any originality of view. The resulting reflections are rather
surprising. It seems natural that men should once have looked on the
Alps with horror and repulsion. They were the abode of storms and
killing cold and avalanches, and stood for all the forces of nature
which war most fiercely against man. But the British hills never stood
for the negation of life. At the worst they were only waste land,
unreclaimed from nature. So there seems to be something perversely
utilitarian in the man who could observe their soft colours and
graceful outlines with nothing but disgust. But the perversity - if
perversity is a fair name for the æsthetic attitude in disagreement
with our own - belonged to the age and not to the man. To-day, no doubt,
he would have quoted descriptive poetry with the loudest, and mountain
literature would have lost an adjective.

A generation or two later came the first real explorers of our hills,
and left behind them a record of their sensations in language which

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