Mountain climbing is jolly good fun, and certainly a sport at which every stout-hearted fellow should have a go. It combines bracing exercise in the clean outdoor air with the satisfaction of having planted the flag at the top. Afterwards, the climber can sit down to his tea with the feeling of a job well done.
[quoteright]For you chaps who can't manage a trip to the Himalayas or East Africa, the Swiss Alps offer some splendid climbing opportunities closer to home. So I have jotted down a few notes here, which you may find rather helpful. Although there are several jolly mountains in Switzerland, the customary ones are Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. Neither of them are exceptionally difficult to climb if you go about it properly.
Mont Blanc. The "White Mountain," as it is called by the natives, is approached through the village of Chamonix. You will need a goodly quantity of francs (the local currency) with which to barter for the supplies necessary for your assault on the peak. These can be exchanged for billets de telepherique at the "ticket office" in the village. Do not commit the error of the ill-equipped Mexican expedition of 1982, whose pesos failed them during the final dash to the cashier's window. With your billets firmly gripped, negotiate the (Grade 3) slope leading up to the cable car and secure yourselves inside. This completes the first stage of the climb.
Exit the cable car at the Auguille du Midi (3842 meters) and proceed immediately westward. Although the col is steep at this point you should not find it necessary to drive in pitons, as the flight of steps leading to the restaurant may be used for the climb. An alternative route, passing just south of the coin-operated telescopes and along a ridge to the eastern corner of the dining terrace, was explored by Whitcombe's expedition of 1963 but is not recommended because of frequent ice build-up on the handrails. You may either bivouac here for rest and refitting (prix fixe menu, F45) or, if you feel in top form, you can mount your dash to the top. The ascenseur marks the most direct route, although the more sporting may prefer the stairs. Either way, when you make your final rappel onto the observation platform you will enjoy the feeling of those who have striven and conquered in the face of raw nature.
The Matterhorn. Once an object of awe and native superstition, this magnificent mountain has finally yielded to man's skill. Following such courageous pioneers as Edward Whymper and Thomas Cook, the modern practice is to set up one's Base Camp at Zermatt (Hôtel Heftig Preis). With fair weather and the proper credit cards, make the (Grade 2) trek to the cog railway station, where more francs can be used to advantage. This will carry one to the Gornergrat station, where shelter can be found to establish one's High Camp.
The traverse to the souvenir shop, first explored in 1955 by Joe and Ethel Sculby of Ohio, USA, can now be executed without difficulty, thanks to the mapping efforts of Sir Reginald Whiteby. The preferred route to the summit passes just north of the "Golden Arches," bending to the west at the corner of the disco. From the platform one can view a panorama of the Alps, including fine prospects of the "Roof 0' The World" Hotel and the Matterhorn Golf Club. Truly a fitting climax to this challenging adventure!
In this all-too-brief memoire I have tried to convey some of the beauty and excitement to be found in climbing the Swiss Alps, as well as practical tips to guide the mountaineer. Obviously, there is no time like the present to get cracking on your expedition. As a matter of fact, in view of the plans to sell the Swiss Alps to Warner Communications and move them to Arizona, I would say there is not a moment to lose.
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