Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

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point of view would also be interesting. Mr. N. C. Tufnell, the
wicket-keeper of the present Eton eleven, who exhibited such cool-
ness at the close of the match with Harrow last year, in response to
inquiry replied as follows : " Though I consider there are some
arguments in favour of the plan of Eton playing Winchester at
Lord's, on the whole I should deplore any change. Assuming that
all the difficulties in the way of the alteration were removed, I think
the form shown in the match would deteriorate. Batting at Lord's
is very nervous work, and nervousness is conspicuous by its absence
on ordinary school grounds with ordinary school spectators. From
the social point no doubt Wykehamists and Etonians would welcome
the prospect of a day or two in London if the match were during

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school-time, and we should also come well in sight of the much-
discussed Public School Week. But the present interchange of
matches is a most amicable affair ; and not only do we appreciate
Winchester's cordial hospitality, but we try in some measure to
repay it in our turn, and thus we hope they reciprocate a little of
what we so gratefully thank them for. This excellent fraternisation
would change its character were we all to migrate to Lord's."

Precisely the same views suggest themselves to that distinguished
cricketer, Mr. C. M. Wells, the Eton master who has charge of the
cricket, for he considers ** the chief charm of the match lies in the
close and friendly feeling which exists between the two elevens, and
this I am sure is fostered by the fact that the visiting teams are the
guests of the home team. I do not of course imply that there is
any kind of unfriendly feeling towards Harrow, but the boys who
meet in the match at Lord's do not know one another in the same
way as those meeting at Winchester or Eton."

The whole of the above valuable contributions combine to
provide a remarkable glimpse of amateur opinion extending in reality
far beyond the question where this especial match should be played.
Whereas county cricket is avowedly to-day a gate-money business
depending on public patronage, directly there comes any expression
about a genuinely sporting game played by two teams of boys, at
once there is manifested the general desire to promote the best
entente cordiale and to avoid greater publicity. Therefore a distinct
addition is hereby provided to our knowledge of contemporary views
on cricket, and those who declare so glibly that the modern game is
degenerating will obtain fresh testimony that the old spirit permeates
it to-day,

A further point which might be raised is that Rugby meets Marl-
borough and Cheltenham opposes Haileybury at Lord*s. It would
be pertinent to ask what effect this has had on the cricket of these
schools were the cases analogous. The matches are, however, played
after term time, under delightful conditions, which none the less
reveal some abatement of the usual customs of M.C.C. — for example,
the pavilion is freely opened to the two schools — and the attendance,
owing to the time of year, is not comparable wdth that which would
greet Winchester if the eleven came up in June. There is altogether
a healthy desire to avoid advertisement, and a pleasant absence of
wish to play to the gallery, in all that has been published in response
to my inquiries, which will encourage those labouring for the best
sporting interests of the game; and there can be no doubt that the
authorities at Lord's are steadily keeping this in view, and working
assiduously to promote genuine cricket and not mere record-

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In August 1899 the little Alpine railway up the valley of the Viege
to Zermalt carried a joyous trio : Eraser, Smith, and myself. Joyous
and happy we were, for our dearest wish was about to be realised ;
we were to attempt the ascent of the Matterhorn without guides or
porter?, our experience in the Alps giving us the right (if I may call
it so) to undertake ihis dangerous and tiring ascent in such a manner.
The question of the ascent of difficult mountains without guides is
often discussed in the Swiss journals, especially after any catastrophe;
it is a subject I do not wish to enter into here, but which will form
the theme of another special article later on.

Zermatt, where w^e arrive about noon, is a charming and cosmo-
politan village, which might provide to the satirical pencil of a Phil
May ample scope for his art. In the principal street, in fact the
only one, come and go all sorts and conditions of beings. See for
instance the inevitable Tartarin equipped fully for mountaineering,
from head to foot, by the first sport outfitters of Paris. He always
walks about with his " piolet '' (ice-axe) ; he talks very big, and knows
all the neighbouring mountains by heart, and by heart only, for he
invariably has inherited from his mother's side a certain '* weakness

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of the lungs," preventing him from climbing. In the comfortable
basket chairs of the Grand Hotel he is often seen explaining the
use of ropes and piolets to any ladies willing to listen. A little
further down the street we see a typical group of three fat Germans,
perspiring freely, dressed Tyrolean style with the little soft hat and
feather, gold-rimmed spectacles, and on their backs knapsacks, the
covers of which do not quite hide the bottles contained within. A
few steps further a worthy parson with his wife, accompanied by
two or three daughters, very sweet to look upon, returning from an
excursion on muleback. Amongst all these, several guides, with
their bearded and benevolent faces lit up by two blue eyes inspiring
confidence, quietly smoking their pipes. §0 to the hotel and lunch.

During this repast, to which full justice must be done, we learn
that a good deal of snow has fallen during the previous day, a fact
which will by no means facilitate the ascent.

Our host, having soon guessed our intentions, offers us at the
market price guides and porters, which offer we of course refuse,
as our object is to make the ascent unaccompanied by guides.
To give an idea of the money spent on guides and porters for the
Matterhorn alone, it was stated in one of the Alpine journals that
as large a sum as ^f 2,400 was earned by them for this one mountain
for one season only.

Soon after lunch, and each carrying his own knapsack, rope,
and piolet, we left Zermatt in the direction of the Lac Noir while
a scorching sun was pouring down upon us. The Matterhorn, also
known in Switzerland as "the Cervin," is the finest mass of rocky
mountain conceivable. There it is all alone, proud and terrible,
surrounded by glaciers, and raising its peak towards the sky as
though a menace from the earth to heaven, the snow-capped moun-
tains around appearing to hide away from their formidable rival.
Up to the year 1865 this mountain resisted all attempts of the
most intrepid climbers, and it was not until July 14 of that year
that a well-known English mountaineer was able to vanquish the
giant. His victory, however, was a costly one, and the story of the
descent and subsequent catastrophe wherein four men lost their lives
is too well known to need repetition here.

From that time the Matterhorn has been climbed times without
number, and catastrophes and deaths have been the all too frequent
result ; the Matterhorn has many fatal accidents to account for. Of
late years chains and cords have been placed in the most dangerous
spots ; a permanent danger, however, is the falls of stones that are
continually taking place, a danger which will always remain inevit-
able, and the man who contemplates the ascent must, to use a
colloquial expression, ** take his chance.*'

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The little footpath that we follow soon leaves the woods behind,
to be replaced by pasture land on all sides. To the left, far below
us, the Corner Glacier stretches its white and blue surface, while on
our right is the Z'mutt Glacier covered with stones and earth over
its lower part ; snowy mountains around ; and looking at us, rising
supreme and haughty, the Matterhorn.

We soon reach the Lac Noir, with its little chapel, where
formerly never a guide passed without entering for silent prayer
before climbing,
a pious custom
which has now
ceased to exist.
Why? Has a
wave of A-
theism reached
these crude sons
of the Alps, or
does the Matter-
horn no longer
inspire them
with the same
fear as before ?
We are now
soon on the
slopes of the
Hornli, which is
really the con-
tinuation of the
northern arete ^
of the Matter-

night begins to
fall ; the snow-

around become

grey ; Monte Rosa alone still glows with the last kiss of the fast-
setting sun; the valley is plunged into shade and darkness; all is
calm and wonderful ; absolute silence reigns, broken only by the
significant clatter of stones continually rattling down the rocky sides
of the Matterhorn.

'^ Arete, the edge formed by two faces of rock, snow, or ice meeting each other
at a sharp angle.

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From the valley below the purple haze rises and wraps us in its
embrace ; the stars appear and twinkle in the sky above like so many
diamonds ; we feel our hearts beat fast within us ; our thoughts go
back to those we love, wishing also they could share our lot.

Thus we reach the Hornli Cabin, tired, but happy in the thought
of our to-morrow's climb.

To the mountaineer these simple words la cabane convey a
great deal ; it is to him as is the green oasis to the traveller in the
desert ; it is as the port to the ship at sea ; it is the shelter to him
against the stormy elements of the Alps ; in fact it is la cabane ;
all those climbing in the Alps will know its meaning well. TheSwiss
Alpine Club (S.A.C.) have built about sixty of these cabanes, both
small and large, in the most inhospitable places among the Swiss
Alps. They are composed of stones or wood ; but the real type of
such huts is made of wood, solidly fixed to the rock by iron clamps;
the sides are of double thickness, and the interior makes a comfort-
able room wherein fifteen to twenty people can sleep at once.

The hut is provided with a stove, an ample provision of wood
for burning, and all the necessary cooking utensils; rugs and blan-
kets, and straw in sufficient quantities to make an excellent bed.
These huts are open to all comers, and as each person has to do his
own cooking, and put each article back in its place afterwards, this
picnicking lends still another charm to the courses dc mmtagncs.
The use of the hut costs nothing, except for a small charge made
for the wood burnt, which is put in a little box provided for the

The Hornli Cabin is situated right at the base of the Matter-
horn, 10,800 ft. above sea-level, and is built of stones lined with
wood; the sketch shows its position. We immediately enter
the hut, and are greeted by two Frenchmen with their two Chamonix
guides who had gone on before us. We make ourselves at home,
and as the fire is already burning brightly we soon have a hot
supper prepared, a great luxury at this high altitude. We then light
our pipes and go to sit outside. This is a delightful moment as we
smoke in peace. There we are, surrounded by nature at her grandest,
and in silence that can be felt we speak not a word, but think
of our next day's fight with the colossal rock which rises supreme
behind us. We even ask ourselves, "Shall we ever come back ? "
This last idea is, however, only a passing thought ; we are happy,
absolutely so ; and we agree, despite the saying of certain philo-
sophers, that life is worth living.

But the cold soon drives us back into the hut, we prepare
everything in complete readiness for the next day, then stretch
ourselves out on the straw, wrapped up well in blankets and rugs,

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and gradually fall off to sleep, in perfect stillness, broken only by the
noise of stones eternally falling down the rocky slopes of the Matter-
horn, and the far-away rumblings of avalanches on the other side of
the glaciers.

Looking at the Matterhorn from Zermatt one sees three
aretes. The centre one only interests us ; it is divided by two
rocky spurs into three parts. The higher of these spurs, known as
the Shoulder (Epaule), is covered with ice, and very steep ; the
lower spur has, so far as I know, no name at all ; and it is almost at


the same level, a little to the left, that the old " refuge " is, ot which
more anon.

The majority of visitors to Zermatt are led to believe that the
ascent is made in following the northern arete up to the summit,
but this is incorrect ; the ascent is made as shown by the sketch
reproduced on p. 651.

We are awake and ready by 2 a.m.; we take in our knapsack
only just sufficient food for the day ; we rope ourselves together very
carefully, having a space of about twenty-five to thirty feet between
each ; and lighting our lanterns we start, together with the two

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Frenchmen and their two guides. There is not a cloud in the sky,
it is very cold, quite dry, and everything augurs well for a beautiful
day. In ten minutes we arrive at the foot of a vertical wall of solid
rock. It is the Matterhorn. Here we are at last !

We hold a council of war. Only one of the two guides accom-
panying the Frenchmen had made the ascent before, and this only
once ; but, says he, with his unwise ** frenchy " assurance, " I know
the way." More out of courtesy than anything else we allow him
and his party to lead.

We attack the rock from the front, and a few good footholds, a
fissure in the rock, and a kind of rocky chimney, soon bring us up
thirty or forty feet. It is as dark as pitch ; we are forced to flash the
lanterns over the rock before finding a hold, so as to haul ourselves
up higher. The rock, however, is good and solid, the nails in our
boots bite well, and — pleasant surprise ! — although the air is cold the
rock itself is much less so, enabling us to keep our hands warm,
thereby retaining their elasticity. This first passage mastered, we
turn to our left towards the rocky wall which is seen from Zermatt,
and follow carefully along a narrow ledge of rock almost horizon-
tally. It is necessary to move along here very carefully, for the
feeble light of our lanterns distorts the shapes of the rocks, and
our rope catches everywhere.

Here we have on our left the Furggen Glacier, 600 ft. below
straight down — a false step would send us flying into space; and
on our right the solid paroi, ^ the top of which loses itself in
the night. The silence of our party is only broken now and then
by a few words of advice from one to the other. We catch up the
French caravan, who have lost their way, and are forced to retrace
their steps ; now they find themselves stopped by an apparently
impassable length of rock ; they have but one lantern between the
four, so we lend them one of ours, and with this supplementary
light the passage is safely negotiated. Two hundred paces further
on the same thing occurs, a proceeding costing us a lot of valu-
able time.

After about one hour's duration of this horizontal " walk,"
we arrive at the edge of a large couloir,^ full of frozen snow,
down which are coming helter-skelter all the stones which fall
on this part of the Matterhorn ; therefore we await our chance,
and hurry as fast as we dare over the sixty or seventy steps cut in
the ice by some climbers who had passed across a few days pre-
viously. This was very lucky : we were saved considerable fatigue

* Paroi, wall of rock or ice.

* Couloir, a long recess in the face of the rock, generally funnel-shaped at the top.

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in not having to cut the steps in the ice with our piolets, with the
happy result that we gain time, and save our strength for the greater
efforts later on.

We now clamber up a small rocky passage, somewhat diffi-
cult, and allow ourselves five minutes for breathing time and to
extinguish our lanterns. The day is breaking, and the snowy
peaks around us are already shining in the rays of the rising sun.
The climb now continues over a steep slope covered with loose blocks
of stone, which give way under our weight, and dislodging others
in their descent, form an avalanche of boulders, bounding along, and

finally disappearing, till they come to a stop on the glacier beneath
with a noise like that of artillery, leaving the air impregnated
with the characteristic smell that stones cause when hurled one
against the other. To avoid being struck by these boulders in their
descent, one is forced to keep as near to the other as possible. We
here lose a deal of time owing to one of the Frenchmen being
taken ill. We, however, are unable to remain with them, so we
leave them behind, when we can do so, and hoisting ourselves little
by little, and step by step, and profiting by the fissures in the rock,
we rise rapidly. We then scale a wall, interesting enough, some
30 ft. high, to reach a tiny natural terrace on which is built the old

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refuge of the Matterhorn (12,583 ft.); it is now seven o'clock in
the morning.

With a sigh of relief we loosen the rope around us and have
some breakfast consisting of biscuits and honey, washed down by
cold tea from our "gourds" (tin flasks). This refuge is simply a
small hut built of stones, with one side against the wall of rock.
Built in 1867 by the guides of Zermatt, it is only about 9 ft. long by
6ft. wide; but unfortunately it is entirely filled (as can be seen in


the photograph) by a hu^j^e block of ice, rendering it absolutely use-
less. The ice is formed in the inside by the melted snow and rain
dripping through the crevices between the stones. This is very
much to be regretted, as this hut would be a haven of refuge to
climbers were it habitable.

All around is desolate and grey, on our left the abyss, and on our
right, rising 2,127 ft* above us, stands the summit of the Matterhorn
— looking still more savage and terrible even than when seen from the

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base. This aspect impresses us strongly, and the stones which now
begin to roll down under the action of the sun make the air ring
with their cannonade. From our coign of vantage we study the
route and take careful note of the places most exposed to the chutes
of stones. The French party arrive and announce to us their inten-
tion of proceeding no further. Had they said that their guides
would not pull
them up any fur-
ther they would
have been nearer
the truth.

Taking only
one piolet and a
few biscuits in our
pockets (and my
folding kodak), so
as to leave our
arms and bodies as
free as possible, we
resume our climb.
The slope here
is decidedly stiflfer,
and we have to use
our hands more
than our feet (I
can assure you
that the work to
the biceps is worth
the best muscle

We push a-
long slowly, the
hard rock beneath

IS good, and the xhb old refuge on the matterhorn

nails of our boots

grind gaily as they bite into it. We here come to a rope fixed
to the rock, over a stiff part ; but the rope looks so rotten that
we prefer to manage without it. The slope becomes steeper
and steeper without presenting any great difficulties to us; but
when you have no guide to pull you and help you, you need
to be very experienced and keep a cool head, for you see below
in looking down between your feet an immense space, and space
only. Working on our hands and knees we crawl into a vertical
** chimney " (breathing hard, for the exercise is violent), and

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we make great progress by climbing rapidly higher. This part is
splendid, and we enjoy it right royally, though two or three isolated
stones whiz past and whistle in our ears, causing us to make our-
selves as small as possible. We now arrive on the side of a terri-
fically steep couloir that we are forced to mount to arrive on the
arfete itself, and as we peep on the other side we see a preci-
pice 4,000 ft. deep. It is magnificent, sublime, and we feast our
eyes on this immense space ; but as we are no longer sheltered by
the mountain the wind blows hard and cold, and we foresee
that the last part of the climb will be very difficult — more so than
usual. However, we proceed gingerly along during a few minutes,
and finally arrive at the Shoulder referred to above. There,
sheltered behind a rock, we carefully examine the last and most
difficult part of the ascent, which we are able to see well from
here. It will take about two hours to vanquish the remaining
880 ft. to 1,000 ft. straight up between us and the summit. This
part is covered with snow and ice, a difficulty we had not fore-
seen at this time of the year, and rendered more arduous still by
the fact of our having only one piolet; it was an error of judg-
ment on our part leaving the others at the refuge. In short, it
might well cost us the success of our undertaking. With a final
look at the knots of our rope we start afresh on the last part of
the ascent. The Shoulder is an enlargement of the ar^te and
is covered with snow; a rope fixed right across it for a length of
150 ft., however, makes the passage easier ; but this rope, covered as
it is with ice, hurts our hands badly — hands already sore with the
climbing on the rock below. At the highest point of the Shoulder
the ar^te closes in, and obliquely to the left finishes in the
summit of the vertical ** wall " (600 ft. high) of reddish rock forming
the terminal of the Matterhorn as seen from Zermatt.

We have before us some immense steps, very steep and
covered with ice, necessitating great care and attention, and we
bless the good guides who have in an otherwise inaccessible
place fixed a strong chain 150 ft. long. The chain is so frozen,
however, that the skin of our hands sticks to it, causing great
pain, and we are forced to put on gloves. We take them off at
the earliest opportunity, preferring to suffer from the cold, and
feeling more safe with our naked hands to grasp with. This
piece of work pumps us completely, for the rarefied air makes
itself felt, and we have to rest five minutes to recoup. Then on
again, climbing hard, straight before us, we rise step by step.
All this requires great perseverance, calmness, and prudence, for
we have to fight against the rock, against the ice, against the
cold, and against the wind, which is driving the powdered frozen

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snow in our eyes and throats. We move one after the other,
making the best of any ledge or crevice in the rock. Not a word
is spoken ; all our muscles, all our nerves, all our thoughts, are
strained to the utmost ; we forget all except our fight, our
splendid fight, with the mountain. And there below us, ready to
engulf us at any false step, the bottomless precipice. It was
grand !

Here now before us we meet a nearly smooth wall of rock,
absolutely vertical, and about thirty-five feet high ; but quite a
new rope is hanging and swaying in the wind. To climb it is not
so easy, however, as to be blown by a terrific wind, first against
the rock and then
out into space, is
an ordeal demand-
i n g considerable
strength of mind.
This takes a great
mental and physi-
cal effort on our
part, and on arri-
val at the top we
are completely
done. We still
have before us a
slope, very steep,
covered with ice,
across which we
perceive a few
rocky points that
give us a secure

hold ; but, having the Italian summit of the matteruorn as seen

onlytheone piolet, from the swiss summit

we are consider-
ably handicapped, and we are forced to use our sheath-knives by
thrusting them into the ice to give us a hold where no friendly
rocks help us.

" Nousy sommes ! " from the leading man announces his arrival
on the Swiss summit of the Matterhorn, 14,676 ft. above sea-level.

It is on this summit that most of the caravans coming from
Zermatt stop, but the real summit of the Matterhorn is known as

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 49 of 52)