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THE

CHRISTIAN PARLOR MAGAZINE.

NOVEMBER, 1844.

MONT BLANC.

BY REV. R. BAIRD, D. D.

(SEE PLATE.)

THE Alps are admitted on all hands to be by far the most remarkable of all the mountainranges in Europe. Commencing at the Mediterranean, they form a vast crescent, one of its horns reaching to that sea, and the other terminating in Austria, north-eastward of the Gulf of Venice, and in fact, uniting with the Hæmus or Balkan. Beginning at the Mediterranean, there are no fewer than ten divisions, called by as many names, viz., the Maritime, the Cottian, the Grey, the Pennine, the Leopontine, the Rhetian, the Noric, the Carnic, the Julian, and the Dinarian Alps. The centre of this vast range of mountains is in Switzerland, whence branches run off, in something like a detached form, into Savoy, France, Germany, Italy, Slavonia and Dalmatia.

The word alp, it may be remarked, is of Celtic origin, and signifies an elevated verdant spot of pasture land, lying on the summit, or on an elevated bench or slope of a mountain. Many of these natural mountain prairies, if they may be so called, exist in the range of which we are speaking, and are resorted to by the shepherds and herdsmen of the valleys below, who depasture their flocks and herds there during the summer months, occupying for this purpose rude little houses, built of stone or of wood, and called chalets.

Mont Blanc (White Mountain, as its name

signifies), is the highest mountain in Europe, having an elevation of 15,781 feet. It stands like a great giant in the midst of his fellows, rearing his snow-clad head above them all. Nevertheless, he is not without some noble companions, who are not much his inferiors either in point of grandeur or of venerable appearance. Away off in the south, in the Cottian Alps, is Mont Viso, that has the respectable height of 13,828 feet; and a little nearer is Mont Iseran, in the same division, that is almost as high. Mont Rosa, which is still nearer, being, like Mont Blanc, in the Pennine Alps, is 15,540 feet high, and is only 241 feet lower than its great compeer. Mont Cervin is 14,784, L'Alle Blanche is 14,775, the Great Glockner 13,713, and the Jungfrau (Virgin) 13,720. Besides these, there are several others that exceed 10,000 feet, and a host of smaller ones which vary from that height on a descending scale down as low as 5000. So that it may be said that Mont Blanc is most honorably guarded in the midst of his vast mountain domain.

There is no feature of the Alps more striking than that of the beautiful valleys, that lie between the successive ranges of mountains, that often run in parallel courses, one rising above another, till the centre of the whole system is reached. These valleys are generally long and narrow, and well cultivated. Even the sides

of the mountains are often cultivated up to a considerable height. Nothing can be more charming to the eye of a traveller, as he wends his

way in mid-summer, through these vast mountains, than the sight of these lovely valleys. Fields of wheat, rye, oats, potatoes, flax, buckwheat, &c., stretch throughout these valleys, and along the skirts of the adjoining mountain-barriers, and make him feel that though he is in the midst of the stupendous works of God, yet he is not severed from the great family of mankind.

Such a valley is that of Chamoun,* which runs along by the northern base of Mont Blanc. The Arve, or rather a main branch of it called the Arveron, runs through it from the east to the west, and then turning to the north, flows away to join the Rhine, just below the city of Geneva.

Those who visit Mont Blanc from Switzerland, usually go by way of Chamouni. To reach this valley, the traveller, who sets off from Geneva, may go up the valley of the Arve, passing through a number of little Savoyard villages; or he may go up to the head of the Lake Leman, and thence pursuing the valley of the Rhone a considerable distance, cross over the mountain ridge which separates the head streams of the Arveron and the Rhone, and so enter the valley of Chamouni from the east.

The village of Chamouni which is well delineated in the engraving which is given in this number of the Christian Parlor Magazine, stands about mid-way in the valley of the same name, and considerably east of the central part of Mont Blanc, as the reader will perceive. The middle peak of the portion of the mountain that is covered with snow, is called the Dôme, and is the highest point of the entire mountain. The dark looking portion of the mountain which fills up the left end of the plate might be supposed to be higher than any of the summits covered with snow. But this is an illusion. To one standing at Chamouni it has that appearance, because it is much nearer to the village than the summits referred to, which are, in reality, the highest points of the mountain.

The reader will remark that a great body of what appears to be snow, but what is really ice, descends seemingly at no great distance

*This word is spelled very differently, Chamouni, Chamouny, Chamonix, all pronounced alike, víz, as if written Shamoonee. As to the origin of this name, M. de Saussure and others contend that it comes from the Latin, Campus munitus, a fortified camp.

from the village; this is the glacier of Buisson. It is said that twenty-five such glaciers descend from Mont Blanc into the valleys of Chamouni, Entreves and Bionnay. The whole number which belong to this mountain is sometimes estimated at sixty. In the whole chain of the Alps, it is believed that the number of the The apglaciers is between 500 and 600. pearance as well as the formation of these glaciers are very remarkable.

The cold of the atmosphere increases, as is well known, with the elevation; and at a certain height, depending on the latitude, it is so great as to cause perpetual frost. At that point, and at all places above, snow will lie all the year, unless the nature of the ground or of the rocks-being too steep, as in the case of mural precipices-will not permit it to lie. Above the snow-line, that is, the line at which perpetual frost commences, snow will not only lie all the year, but it will increase in depth, because only a portion of that which successively falls, is carried away by evaporation or the influence of the sun during the summer. During the winter, the snow-line descends at times, from the height of 6000 or 7000 feet, where in latitude 45°, there is perpetual frost, to the bases of the mountains. The glaciers are formed by the partial melting of the lower edges of the masses of perpetual snow which lies above the snow-line, and which degeals in the summer through the action of the sun and rain, and then becomes frozen in the winter. These vast masses of ice lying embedded in the ravines and valleys which descend from the highest Alps, vary in length, breadth and depth. Some are as long as fifteen or twenty miles; some no more than two or three. Some are half a mile in width; and some are two miles and more. The depth of some is thirty, forty or fifty feet; that of others is five or six hundred. There is a glacier of immense size which descends from behind the portion of Mont Blanc which fills the left part of the view which we have given in the plate which accompanies this number, that contains a large expansion at the height of 6000 feet, called the Mer de Glace, or sea of ice. This glacier, like that of the Buisson, descends even in summer, down to the valley of Chamouni. And from beneath a vast arch of ice, issues a very considerable branch of the Arveron. This stream is comparatively insignificant in the winter, because its sources are locked up in ice; whilst in summer it is a large

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ice and snow which are above, are more or less constantly in motion. As masses of ice are perpetually detaching themselves and moving down, often with tremendous noise, chasms and fissures are formed, which make it extremely dangerous to walk upon these glaciers, and none should attempt it without a skilful guide. Not a few persons have fallen into these crevices and been lost. Indeed, nothing can be more appalling scarcely than the sight of those chasins, some of them only a few inches, and others several feet in width, and extending down in some cases hundreds of feet. M. de Luc makes mention of a Mr. Escher who, notwithstanding the remonstrances of his guides, undertook to traverse a glacier, in order to reach two chamois-hunters whom he saw sitting on a rock at the upper end of the glacier, and at no great distance from him. In an instant, losing his foot-hold, he fell into a fissure and disappeared for ever from their sight! The moving masses of ice carry with them the bodies of persons who have thus fallen into the chasms, and in process of time carry them down to the valleys below. In the same way masses of rock are carried down.

The first attempt to ascend to the top of Mont Blanc, was made, it is said, in 1762, by Pierre Simon, of Chamouni. It was unsuccessful. Mr. Bourrit, of Geneva, and M. de Saussure made fruitless attempts in 1784 and 1785. Other unsuccessful attempts had been made. But in 1786, on the 8th of August, Jacques Balma (who had ascended with a party in June of that year, that had failed to reach the top) succeeded in going up with a Dr. Pachard, of Chamouni. On the 2d of August, 1788, M. de Saussure reached the summit; and gave to the world a glowing account of the wonderful, and almost boundless, vision which he enjoyed from that great elevation. Since that epoch, almost every year some persons have attempted to ascend. Down till 1827, there had been only fourteen successful ascents, and eighteen persons, exclusive of guides, had gained the height. Ten of these were Englishmen, two Americans (Dr. Van Rensselaer and Mr. Howard), two Swiss, one Russian, one German, and one Savoyard. Since 1827, several others have succeeded in ascending. About fifteen years ago, a party of guides ascended, and took with them Maria de Mont Blanc, as she is called, a high-spirited girl; and in 1838, a Mademoiselle D'Angeville also succeeded in reaching the

summit.

The valley of Chamouni is visited every sum

195

mer by strangers from all parts of the civilized world; and not without reason. There is no scenery of the kind in any part of the world, that is so beautiful and so grand. The view of the valley itself, carpeted over with smiling fields and meadows, and of the hoary head of Mont Blanc, with the Aiguilles, or sharp-pointed rocky masses, which, like turrets, rise from the various summits around, that one has from La Flegère, on a mountain which stands on the north side of Chamouni, cannot be conceived by those who have not enjoyed it. Chamouni and Mont Blanc are to Europe what Niagara is to America, each is excellent of its kind; and both display in the most wonderful manner the grandeur which the infinite God can give to his works when he chooses. The albums of the hotels of the village of Chamouni contain the names of those who annually visit this delightful valley. Many have left other memorials of their visits than the mere inscription of their names in the books of a tavern. Those who have, or think they have, the spirit of the muses, are careful not to lose the opportunity to record some verses.* But we have never seen anything in these effusions to compare with some things of the kind which one finds at Niagara, and especially the immortal ode of the lamented Brainard.

"The thoughts are strange that crowd into my brain,

While I look upward to thee It would seem
As if God poured thee from his 'hollow hand,'
And hung his bow upon thine awful front;
And spoke in that loud voice, which seemed to
him,

Who dwelt in Patmos for his Saviour's sake,
'The sound of many waters; and had bade
Thy flood to chronicle the ages back,
And notch his centuries in the eternal rocks.

Deep calleth unto deep. And what are we,
That hear the question of that voice sublime?
O, what are all the notes that ever rung
From war's vain trumpet, by thy thundering
side!

Yea, what is all the riot man can make,
In his short life, to thy unceasing roar!
And yet, bold babbler, what art thou to Him
Who drowned a world, and heaped the waters far
Above its loftiest mountains ?-a light wave
That breaks, and whispers of its Maker's might."

*Lord Byron, during one of his visits to Chamouni, wrote some verses in the album of the Hotel de l'Europe; but some vandal of a traveller has torn out the leaf in order to have Lord B's autograph.

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