THE ASCENT OF DENALI
A NARRATIVE OF THE FIRST COMPLETE ASCENT OF THE HIGHEST PEAK IN NORTH AMERICA
HUDSON STUCK, D.D.
ARCHDEACON OF THE YUKON
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
Published February, 1914
BOOKS BY HUDSON STUCK, D.D., F.R.G.S.
PUBLISHED BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
VOYAGES ON THE YUKON AND ITS TRIBUTARIES
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THE ASCENT OF DENALI (MT. MCKINLEY)
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—New York Times.
TEN THOUSAND MILES WITH A DOG SLED
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SIR MARTIN CONWAY
ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST TRAVELLERS AND CLIMBERS WHOSE FASCINATING NARRATIVES HAVE KINDLED IN MANY BREASTS A LOVE OF THE GREAT HEIGHTS AND A DESIRE TO ATTAIN UNTO THEM
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED WITH RESPECT AND ADMIRATION
Forefront in this book, because forefront in the author's heart and desire, must stand a plea for the restoration to the greatest mountain in North America of its immemorial native name. If there be any prestige or authority in such matter from the accomplishment of a first complete ascent, "if there be any virtue, if there be any praise," the author values it chiefly as it may give weight to this plea.
It is now little more than seventeen years ago that a prospector penetrated from the south into the neighborhood of this mountain, guessed its height with remarkable accuracy at twenty thousand feet, and, ignorant of any name that it already bore, placed upon it the name of the Republican candidate for President of the United States at the approaching election—William McKinley. No voice was raised in protest, for the Alaskan Indian is inarticulate and such white men as knew the old name were absorbed in the search for gold. Some years later an officer of the United States army, upon a reconnoissance survey into the land, passed around the companion peak, and, alike ignorant or careless of any native name, put upon it the name of an Ohio politician, at that time prominent in the councils of the nation, Joseph Foraker. So there they stand upon the maps, side by side, the two greatest peaks of the Alaskan range, "Mount McKinley" and "Mount Foraker." And there they should stand no longer, since, if there be right and reason in these matters, they should not have been placed there at all.
To the relatively large Indian population of those wide regions of the interior of Alaska from which the mountains are visible they have always borne Indian names. The natives of the middle Yukon, of the lower three hundred miles of the Tanana and its tributaries, of the upper Kuskokwim have always called these mountains "Denali" (Den-ah'li) and "Denali's Wife"—either precisely as here written, or with a dialectical difference in pronunciation so slight as to be negligible.
It is true that the little handful of natives on the Sushitna River, who never approach nearer than a hundred miles to the mountain, have another name for it. They call it Traleika, which, in their wholly different language, has the same signification. It is probably true of every great mountain that it bears diverse native names as one tribe or another, on this side or on that of its mighty bulk, speaks of it. But the area in which, and the people by whom, this mountain is known as Denali, preponderate so greatly as to leave no question which native name it should bear. The bold front of the mountain is so placed on the returning curve of the Alaskan range that from the interior its snows are visible far and wide, over many thousands of square miles; and the Indians of the Tanana and of the Yukon, as well as of the Kuskokwim, hunt the caribou well up on its foot-hills. Its southern slopes are stern and forbidding through depth of snow and violence of glacial stream, and are devoid of game; its slopes toward the interior of the country are mild and amene, with light snowfall and game in abundance.
Should the reader ever be privileged, as the author was a few years ago, to stand on the frozen surface of Lake Minchumina and see these mountains revealed as the clouds of a passing snow-storm swept away, he would be overwhelmed by the majesty of the scene and at the same time deeply moved with the appropriateness of the simple native names; for simplicity is always a quality of true majesty. Perhaps nowhere else in the world is so abrupt and great an uplift from so low a base. The marshes and forests of the upper Kuskokwim, from which these mountains rise, cannot be more than one thousand five hundred feet above the sea. The rough approximation by the author's aneroid in the journey from the Tanana to the Kuskokwim would indicate a still lower level—would make this wide plain little more than one thousand feet high. And they rise sheer, the tremendous cliffs of them apparently unbroken, soaring superbly to more than twenty thousand and seventeen thousand feet respectively: Denali, "the great one," and Denali's Wife. And the little peaks in between the natives call the "children." It was on that occasion, standing spellbound at the sublimity of the scene, that the author resolved that if it were in his power he would restore these ancient mountains to the ancient people among whom they rear their heads. Savages they are, if the reader please, since "savage" means simply a forest dweller, and the author is glad himself to be a savage a great part of every year, but yet, as savages, entitled to name their own rivers, their own lakes, their own mountains. After all, these terms—"savage," "heathen," "pagan"—mean, alike, simply "country people," and point to some old-time superciliousness of the city-bred, now confined, one hopes, to such localities as Whitechapel and the Bowery.
There is, to the author's mind, a certain ruthless arrogance that grows more offensive to him as the years pass by, in the temper that comes to a "new" land and contemptuously ignores the native names of conspicuous natural objects, almost always appropriate and significant, and overlays them with names that are, commonly, neither the one nor the other. The learned societies of the world, the geographical societies, the ethnological societies, have set their faces against this practice these many years past, and to them the writer confidently appeals.
* * * * *
This preface must bear a grateful acknowledgment to the most distinguished of Alaskans—the man who knows more of Alaska than any other human being—Peter Trimble Rowe, seventeen years bishop of that immense territory, for the "cordial assent" which he gave to the proposed expedition and the leave of absence which rendered it possible—one more in a long list of kindnesses which have rendered happy an association of nearly ten years. Nor can better place be found for a tribute of gratitude to those who were of the little party: to Mr. Harry P. Karstens, strong, competent, and resourceful, the real leader of the expedition in the face of difficulty and danger; to Mr. Robert G. Tatum, who took his share, and more than his share, of all toil and hardship and was a most valuable colleague; to Walter Harper, Indian-bred until his sixteenth year, and up to that time trained in not much else than Henry of Navarre's training, "to shoot straight, to speak the truth; to do with little food and less sleep" (though equal to an abundance of both on occasion), who joyed in the heights as a mountain-sheep or a chamois, and whose sturdy limbs and broad shoulders were never weary or unwilling—to all of these there is heartfelt affection and deep obligation. Nor must Johnny be forgotten, the Indian boy who faithfully kept the base camp during a long vigil, and killed game to feed the dogs, and denied himself, unasked, that others might have pleasure, as the story will tell. And the name of Esaias, the Indian boy who accompanied us to the base camp, and then returned with the superfluous dogs, must be mentioned, with commendation for fidelity and thanks for service. Acknowledgment is also made to many friends and colleagues at the mission stations in the interior, who knew of the purpose and furthered it greatly and held their tongues so that no premature screaming bruit of it got into the Alaskan newspapers: to the Rev. C. E. Betticher, Jr., particularly and most warmly.
The author would add, perhaps quite unnecessarily, yet lest any should mistake, a final personal note. He is no professed explorer or climber or "scientist," but a missionary, and of these matters an amateur only. The vivid recollection of a back bent down with burdens and lungs at the limit of their function makes him hesitate to describe this enterprise as recreation. It was the most laborious undertaking with which he was ever connected; yet it was done for the pleasure of doing it, and the pleasure far outweighed the pain. But he is concerned much more with men than mountains, and would say, since "out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh," that his especial and growing concern, these ten years past, is with the native people of Alaska, a gentle and kindly race, now threatened with a wanton and senseless extermination, and sadly in need of generous champions if that threat is to be averted.
I. PREPARATION AND APPROACH 3
II. THE MULDROW GLACIER 25
III. THE NORTHEAST RIDGE 53
IV. THE GRAND BASIN 80
V. THE ULTIMATE HEIGHT 92
VI. THE RETURN 117
VII. THE HEIGHT OF DENALI, WITH A DISCUSSION OF THE READINGS ON THE SUMMIT AND DURING THE ASCENT 141
VIII. EXPLORATIONS OF THE DENALI REGION AND PREVIOUS ATTEMPTS AT ITS ASCENT 157
IX. THE NAMES PLACED UPON THE MOUNTAIN BY THE AUTHOR 180
Ice fall of nearly four thousand feet by which the upper or Harper Glacier discharges into the lower or Muldrow Glacier (photogravure) Frontispiece
The author and Mr. H. P. Karstens 4
Tatum, Esaias, Karstens, Johnny, and Walter, at the Clearwater Camp 8
Striking across from the Tanana to the Kantishna 12
One of the abandoned mining towns in the Kantishna 14
Denali from the McKinley fork of the Kantishna River 16
Entering the range by Cache Creek 18
The base camp at about 4,000 feet on Cache Creek 20
Some heads of game killed at the base camp 22
The Muldrow Glacier. Karstens in the foreground 26
Ascension Day, 1913 30
Bridging a crevasse on the Muldrow Glacier 32
Hard work for dogs as well as men on the Muldrow Glacier 34
The Northeast Ridge shattered by the earthquake in July, 1912 48
Cutting a staircase three miles long in the ice of the shattered ridge 52
The shattered Northeast Ridge 56
Camp at 13,000 feet on Northeast Ridge 60
A dangerous passage 64
The Upper Basin reached at last. Our camp at the Parker Pass at 15,000 feet 72
Above all the range except Denali and Denali's Wife 76
Traverse under the cliffs of the Northeast Ridge to enter the Grand Basin 82
First camp in the Grand Basin—16,000 feet, looking up 84
Second camp in the Grand Basin—looking down, 16,500 feet 86
Third camp in the Grand Basin—17,000 feet, showing the shattering of the glacier walls by the earthquake 88
The North Peak, 20,000 feet high 90
The South Peak from about 18,000 feet 94
The climbing-irons 98
Denali's Wife from the summit of Denali (photogravure) 102
Robert Tatum raising the Stars and Stripes on the highest point in North America 104
The saying of the Te Deum 106
Beginning the descent of the ridge; looking down 4,000 feet upon the Muldrow Glacier 122
Johnny Fred, who kept the base camp and fed the dogs and would not touch the sugar 128
"Muk," the author's pet malamute 136
Approaching the range 164
Map showing route of the Stuck-Karstens expedition to the summit of Mt. Denali (Mt. McKinley) End of volume
THE ASCENT OF DENALI
PREPARATION AND APPROACH
The enterprise which this volume describes was a cherished purpose through a number of years. In the exercise of his duties as Archdeacon of the Yukon, the author has travelled throughout the interior of Alaska, both winter and summer, almost continuously since 1904. Again and again, now from one distant elevation and now from another, the splendid vision of the greatest mountain in North America has spread before his eyes, and left him each time with a keener longing to enter its mysterious fastnesses and scale its lofty peaks. Seven years ago, writing in The Spirit of Missions of a view of the mountain from the Pedro Dome, in the neighborhood of Fairbanks, he said: "I would rather climb that mountain than discover the richest gold-mine in Alaska." Indeed, when first he went to Alaska it was part of the attraction which the country held for him that it contained an unclimbed mountain of the first class.
Scawfell and Skiddaw and Helvellyn had given him his first boyish interest in climbing; the Colorado and Canadian Rockies had claimed one holiday after another of maturer years, but the summit of Rainier had been the greatest height he had ever reached. When he went to Alaska he carried with him all the hypsometrical instruments that were used in the ascent as well as his personal climbing equipment. There was no definite likelihood that the opportunity would come to him of attempting the ascent, but he wished to be prepared with instruments of adequate scale in case the opportunity should come; and Hicks, of London, made them nine years ago.
[Sidenote: Members of the Party]
Long ago, also, he had picked out Mr. Harry P. Karstens, of Fairbanks, as the one colleague with whom he would be willing to make the attempt. Mr. Karstens had gone to the Klondike in his seventeenth year, during the wild stampede to those diggings, paying the expenses of the trip by packing over the Chilkoot Pass, and had been engaged in pioneering and in travel of an arduous and adventurous kind ever since. He had mined in the Klondike and in the Seventy-Mile (hence his sobriquet of "The Seventy-Mile Kid"). It was he and his partner, McGonogill, who broke the first trail from Fairbanks to Valdez and for two years of difficulty and danger—dogs and men alike starving sometimes—brought the mail regularly through. When the stampede to the Kantishna took place, and the government was dilatory about instituting a mail service for the three thousand men in the camp, Karstens and his partner organized and maintained a private mail service of their own. He had freighted with dogs from the Yukon to the Iditarod, had run motor-boats on the Yukon and the Tanana. For more than a year he had been guide to Mr. Charles Sheldon, the well-known naturalist and hunter, in the region around the foot-hills of Denali. With the full vigor of maturity, with all this accumulated experience and the resourcefulness and self-reliance which such experience brings, he had yet an almost juvenile keenness for further adventure which made him admirably suited to this undertaking.
Mr. Robert G. Tatum of Tennessee, just twenty-one years old, a postulant for holy orders, stationed at the mission at Nenana, had been employed all the winter in a determined attempt to get supplies freighted over the ice, by natives and their dog teams, to two women missionaries, a nurse and a teacher, at the Tanana Crossing. The steamboat had cached the supplies at a point about one hundred miles below the mission the previous summer, unable to proceed any farther. The upper Tanana is a dangerous and difficult river alike for navigation and for ice travel, and Tatum's efforts were made desperate by the knowledge that the women were reduced to a diet of straight rabbits without even salt. The famine relieved, he had returned to Nenana. The summer before he had worked on a survey party and had thus some knowledge of the use of instruments. By undertaking the entire cooking for the expedition he was most useful and helpful, and his consistent courtesy and considerateness made him a very pleasant comrade.
Of the half-breed boy, Walter Harper, the author's attendant and interpreter, dog driver in the winter and boat engineer in the summer for three years previous, no more need be said than that he ran Karstens close in strength, pluck, and endurance. Of the best that the mixed blood can produce, twenty-one years old and six feet tall, he took gleefully to high mountaineering, while his kindliness and invincible amiability endeared him to every member of the party.
The men were thus all volunteers, experienced in snow and ice, though not in high-mountain work. But the nature of snow and ice is not radically changed by lifting them ten or fifteen or even twenty thousand feet up in the air.
A volunteer expedition was the only one within the resources of the writer, and even that strained them. The cost of the food supplies, the equipment, and the incidental expenses was not far short of a thousand dollars—a mere fraction of the cost of previous expeditions, it is true, but a matter of long scraping together for a missionary. Yet if there had been unlimited funds at his disposal—and the financial aspect of the affair is alluded to only that this may be said—it would have been impossible to assemble a more desirable party.
Mention of two Indian boys of fourteen or fifteen, who were of great help to us, must not be omitted. They were picked out from the elder boys of the school at Nenana, all of whom were most eager to go, and were good specimens of mission-bred native youths. "Johnny" was with the expedition from start to finish, keeping the base camp while the rest of the party was above; Esaias was with us as far as the base camp and then went back to Nenana with one of the dog teams.
[Sidenote: Methods of Approach]
The resolution to attempt the ascent of Denali was reached a year and a half before it was put into execution: so much time was necessary for preparation. Almost any Alaskan enterprise that calls for supplies or equipment from the outside must be entered upon at least a year in advance. The plan followed had been adopted long before as the only wise one: that the supplies to be used upon the ascent be carried by water as near to the base of the mountain as could be reached and cached there in the summer, and that the climbing party go in with the dog teams as near the 1st March as practicable. Strangely enough, of all the expeditions that have essayed this ascent, the first, that of Judge Wickersham in 1903, and the last, ten years later, are the only ones that have approached their task in this natural and easy way. The others have all burdened themselves with the great and unnecessary difficulties of the southern slopes of the range.
It was proposed to use the mission launch Pelican, which has travelled close to twenty thousand miles on the Yukon and its tributaries in the six seasons she has been in commission, to transport the supplies up the Kantishna and Bearpaw Rivers to the head of navigation of the latter, when her cruise of 1912 was complete. But a serious mishap to the launch, which it was impossible to repair in Alaska, brought her activities for that season to a sudden end. So Mr. Karstens came down from Fairbanks with his launch, and a poling boat loaded with food staples, and, pushing the poling boat ahead, successfully ascended the rivers and carefully cached the stuff some fifty miles from the base of the mountain. It was done in a week or less.
Unfortunately, the equipment and supplies ordered from the outside did not arrive in time to go in with the bulk of the stuff. Although ordered in February, they arrived at Tanana only late in September, just in time to catch the last boat up to Nenana. And only half that had been ordered came at all—one of the two cases has not been traced to this day. Moreover, it was not until late the next February, when actually about to proceed on the expedition, that the writer was able to learn what items had come and what had not. Such are the difficulties of any undertaking in Alaska, despite all the precautions that foresight may dictate.
The silk tents, which had not come, had to be made in Fairbanks; the ice-axes sent were ridiculous gold-painted toys with detachable heads and broomstick handles—more like dwarf halberds than ice-axes; and at least two workmanlike axes were indispensable. So the head of an axe was sawn to the pattern of the writer's out of a piece of tool steel and a substantial hickory handle and an iron shank fitted to it at the machine-shop in Fairbanks. It served excellently well, while the points of the fancy axes from New York splintered the first time they were used. "Climbing-irons," or "crampons," were also to make, no New York dealer being able to supply them.
One great difficulty was the matter of footwear. Heavy regulation-nailed alpine boots were sent—all too small to be worn with even a couple of pairs of socks, and therefore quite useless. Indeed, at that time there was no house in New York, or, so far as the writer knows, in the United States, where the standard alpine equipment could be procured. As a result of the dissatisfaction of this expedition with the material sent, one house in New York now carries in stock a good assortment of such things of standard pattern and quality. Fairbanks was ransacked for boots of any kind in which three or four pairs of socks could be worn. Alaska is a country of big men accustomed to the natural spread of the foot which a moccasin permits, but we could not find boots to our need save rubber snow-packs, and we bought half a dozen pairs of them (No. 12) and had leather soles fastened under them and nailed. Four pairs of alpine boots at eleven dollars a pair equals forty-four dollars. Six pairs of snow-packs at five dollars equals thirty dollars. Leather soles for them at three dollars equals eighteen dollars; which totalled ninety-two dollars—entirely wasted. We found that moccasins were the only practicable foot-gear; and we had to put five pairs of socks within them before we were done. But we did not know that at the time and had no means of discovering it.
All these matters were put in hand under Karstens's direction, while the writer, only just arrived in Fairbanks from Fort Yukon and Tanana, made a flying trip to the new mission at the Tanana Crossing, two hundred and fifty miles above Fairbanks, with Walter and the dog team; and most of them were finished by the time we returned. A multitude of small details kept us several days more in Fairbanks, so that nearly the middle of March had arrived before we were ready to make our start to the mountain, two weeks later than we had planned.
Karstens having joined us, we went down to the mission at Nenana (seventy-five miles) in a couple of days, and there two more days were spent overhauling and repacking the stuff that had come from the outside. In the way of food, we had imported only erbswurst, seventy-two four-ounce packages; milk chocolate, twenty pounds; compressed China tea in tablets (a most excellent tea with a very low percentage of tannin), five pounds; a specially selected grade of Smyrna figs, ten pounds; and sugared almonds, ten pounds—about seventy pounds' weight, all scrupulously reserved for the high-mountain work.
For trail equipment we had one eight-by-ten "silk" tent, used for two previous winters; three small circular tents of the same material, made in Fairbanks, for the high work; a Yukon stove and the usual complement of pots and pans and dishes, including two admirable large aluminum pots for melting snow, used a number of years with great satisfaction. A "primus" stove, borrowed from the Pelican's galley, was taken along for the high work. The bedding was mainly of down quilts, which are superseding fur robes and blankets for winter use because of their lightness and warmth and the small compass into which they may be compressed. Two pairs of camel's-hair blankets and one sleeping-bag lined with down and camel's-hair cloth were taken, and Karstens brought a great wolf-robe, weighing twenty-five pounds, of which we were glad enough later on.
Another team was obtained at the mission, and Mr. R. G. Tatum and the two boys, Johnny and Esaias, joined the company, which, thus increased to six persons, two sleds, and fourteen dogs, set out from Nenana across country to the Kantishna on St. Patrick's day.
Travelling was over the beaten trail to the Kantishna gold camp, one of the smallest of Alaskan camps, supporting about thirty men. In 1906 there was a wild stampede to this region, and two or three thousand people went in, chiefly from the Fairbanks district. Town after town was built—Diamond City, Glacier City, Bearpaw City, Roosevelt, McKinley City—all with elaborate saloons and gambling-places, one, at least, equipped with electric lights. But next summer the boom burst and all the thousands streamed out. Gold there was and is yet, but in small quantities only. The "cities" are mere collections of tumble-down huts amongst which the moose roam at will. Interior Alaska has many such abandoned "cities." The few men now in the district have placer claims that yield a "grub-stake" as a sure thing every summer, and spend their winters chiefly in prospecting for quartz. At Diamond City, on the Bearpaw, lay our cache of grub, and that place, some ninety miles from Nenana and fifty miles from the base of Denali, was our present objective point. It was bright, clear weather and the trail was good. For thirty miles our way lay across the wide flats of the Tanana Valley, and this stage brought us to the banks of the Nenana River. Another day of twenty-five miles of flats brought us to Knight's comfortable road-house and ranch on the Toklat, a tributary of the Kantishna, the only road-house this trail can now support. Several times during these two days we had clear glimpses of the great mountain we were approaching, and as we came out of the flat country, the "Sheephills," a foot-hill range of Denali, much broken and deeply sculptured, rose picturesquely before us. Our travel was now almost altogether on "overflow" ice, upon the surface of swift streams that freeze solidly over their riffles and shallows and thus deny passage under the ice to the water of fountains and springs that never ceases flowing. So it bursts forth and flows over the ice with a continually renewing surface of the smoothest texture. Carrying a mercurial barometer that one dare not intrust to a sled on one's back over such footing is a somewhat precarious proceeding, but there was no alternative, and many miles were thus passed. Up the Toklat, then up its Clearwater Fork, then up its tributary, Myrtle Creek, to its head, and so over a little divide and down Willow Creek, we went, and from that divide and the upper reaches of the last-named creek had fine, clear views not only of Denali but of Denali's Wife as well, now come much nearer and looming much larger.
[Sidenote: The Faces of the Mountain]
But here it may be stated once for all that the view which this face of the mountains presents is never a satisfying one. The same is true in even greater degree of the southern face, all photographs agreeing with all travellers as to its tameness. There is only one face of the Denali group that is completely satisfying, that is adequate to the full picturesque potentiality of a twenty-thousand-foot elevation. The writer has seen no other view, no other aspect of it, comparable to that of the northwest face from Lake Minchumina. There the two mountains rise side by side, sheer, precipitous, pointed rocks, utterly inaccessible, savage, and superb. The rounded shoulders, the receding slopes and ridges of the other faces detract from the uplift and from the dignity, but the northwestern face is stark.
One more run, of much the same character as the previous day, and we were at Eureka, in the heart of the Kantishna country, on Friday, 21st March, being Good Friday.
We arrived there at noon and "called it a day," and spent the rest of it in the devotions of that august anniversary. Easter eve took us to Glacier City, and we lay there over the feast, gathering three or four men who were operating a prospecting-drill in that neighborhood for the first public worship ever conducted in the Kantishna camp. Ten miles more brought us to Diamond City, on the Bearpaw, where we found our cache of food in good condition save that the field-mice, despite all precautions, had made access to the cereals and had eaten all the rolled oats.
Amongst the Kantishna miners, who were most kindly and generous in their assistance, we were able to pick up enough large-sized moccasins to serve the members of the party, and we wore nothing else at all on the mountain.
Our immediate task now lay before us. A ton and a half of supplies had to be hauled some fifty miles across country to the base of the mountain. Here the relaying began, stuff being taken ahead and cached at some midway point, then another load taken right through a day's march, and then a return made to bring up the cache. In this way we moved steadily though slowly across rolling country and upon the surface of a large lake to the McKinley Fork of the Kantishna, which drains the Muldrow Glacier, down that stream to its junction with the Clearwater Fork of the same, and up that fork, through its canyon, to the last spruce timber on its banks, and there we made a camp in an exceedingly pretty spot. The creek ran open through a break in the ice in front of our tent; the water-ousels darted in and out under the ice, singing most sweetly; the willows, all in bud, perfumed the air; and Denali soared clear and brilliant, far above the range, right in front of us. Here at the timber-line, at an elevation of about two thousand feet, was the pleasantest camp of the whole excursion. During the five days' stay here the stuff was brought up and carried forward, and a quantity of dry wood was cut and advanced to a cache at the mouth of the creek by which we should reach the Muldrow Glacier.
It should be said that the short and easy route by which that glacier is reached was discovered after much scouting and climbing by McGonogill and Taylor in 1910, upon the occasion of the "pioneer" attempt upon the mountain, of which more will be said by and by. The men in the Kantishna camp who took part in that attempt gave us all the information they possessed, as they had done to the party that attempted the mountain last summer. There has been no need to make reconnoissance for routes since these pioneers blazed the way: there is no other practicable route than the one they discovered. The two subsequent climbing parties have followed precisely in their footsteps up as far as the Grand Basin at sixteen thousand feet, and it is the merest justice that such acknowledgment be made.
At our camp the Clearwater ran parallel with the range, which rose like a great wall before us. Our approach was not directly toward Denali but toward an opening in the range six or eight miles to the east of the great mountain. This opening is known as Cache Creek. Passing the willow patch at its mouth, where previous camps had been made, we pushed up the creek some three miles more to its forks, and there established our base camp, on 10th April, at about four thousand feet elevation. A few scrubby willows struggled to grow in the creek bed, but the hills that rose from one thousand five hundred to two thousand feet around us were bare of any vegetation save moss and were yet in the main covered with snow. Caribou signs were plentiful everywhere, and we were no more than settled in camp when a herd appeared in sight.
[Sidenote: Game and Its Preparation]
Our prime concern at this camp was the gathering and preserving of a sufficient meat supply for our subsistence on the mountain. It was an easy task. First Karstens killed a caribou and then Walter a mountain-sheep. Then Esaias happened into the midst of a herd of caribou as he climbed over a ridge, and killed three. That was all we needed. Then we went to work preparing the meat. Why should any one haul canned pemmican hundreds of miles into the greatest game country in the world? We made our own pemmican of the choice parts of this tender, juicy meat and we never lost appetite for it or failed to enjoy and assimilate it. A fifty-pound lard-can, three parts filled with water, was set on the stove and kept supplied with joints of meat. As a batch was cooked we took it out and put more into the same water, removed the flesh from the bones, and minced it. Then we melted a can of butter, added pepper and salt to it, and rolled a handful of the minced meat in the butter and moulded it with the hands into a ball about as large as a baseball. We made a couple of hundred of such balls and froze them, and they kept perfectly. When all the boiling was done we put in the hocks of the animals and boiled down the liquor into five pounds of the thickest, richest meat-extract jelly, adding the marrow from the bones. With this pemmican and this extract of caribou, a package of erbswurst and a cupful of rice, we concocted every night the stew which was our main food in the higher regions.
[Sidenote: The Instruments]
Here the instruments were overhauled. The mercurial barometer reading by verniers to three places of decimals was set up and read, and the two aneroids were adjusted to read with it. These two aneroids perhaps deserve a word. Aneroid A was a three-inch, three-circle instrument, the invention of Colonel Watkins, of the British army, of range-finder fame. It seems strange that the advantage of the three-circle aneroid is so little known in this country, for its three concentric circles give such an open scale that, although this particular instrument reads to twenty-five thousand feet, it is easy to read as small a difference as twenty feet on it. It had been carried in the hind sack of the writer's sled for the past eight winters and constantly and satisfactorily used to determine the height of summits and passes upon the trails of the interior. Aneroid B was a six-inch patent mountain aneroid, another invention of the same military genius, prompted by Mr. Whymper's experiments with the aneroid barometer after his return from his classic climbs to the summits of the Bolivian Andes. Colonel Watkins devised an instrument in which by a threaded post and a thumb-screw the spring may be relaxed or brought into play at will, and the instrument is never in commission save when a reading is taken. Then a few turns of the thumb-screw bring the spring to bear upon the box, its walls expand until the pressure of the spring equals the pressure of the atmosphere, the reading is taken, and the instrument thrown out of operation again—a most ingenious arrangement by which it was hoped to overcome some of the persistent faults of elastic-chamber barometers. The writer had owned this instrument for the past ten years, but had never opportunity to test its usefulness until now. So, although it read no lower than about fifteen inches, he took it with him to observe its operation. Lastly, completing the hypsometrical equipment, was a boiling-point thermometer, with its own lamp and case, reading to 165 deg. by tenths of a degree.
Then there were the ice-creepers or crampons to adjust to the moccasins—terribly heavy, clumsy rat-trap affairs they looked, but they served us well on the higher reaches of the mountain and are, if not indispensable, at least most valuable where hard snow or ice is to be climbed. The snow-shoes, also, had to be rough-locked by lashing a wedge-shaped bar of hardwood underneath, just above the tread, and screwing calks along the sides. Thus armed, they gave us sure footing on soft snow slopes, and were particularly useful in ascending the glacier. While thus occupied at the base camp, came an Indian, his wife and child, all the way from Lake Minchumina, perhaps one hundred miles' journey, to have the child baptized. It was generally known amongst all the natives of the region that the enterprise was on foot, and "Minchumina John," hoping to meet us in the Kantishna, and missing us, had followed our trail thus far. It was interesting to speculate how much further he would have penetrated: Walter thought as far as the glacier, but I think he would have followed as far as the dogs could go or until food was quite exhausted.
Meanwhile, the relaying of the supplies and the wood to the base camp had gone on, and the advancing of it to a cache at the pass by which we should gain the Muldrow Glacier. On 15th April Esaias and one of the teams were sent back to Nenana. Almost all the stuff we should move was already at this cache, and the need for the two dog teams was over. Moreover, the trails were rapidly breaking up, and it was necessary for the boy to travel by night instead of by day on his return trip. Johnny and the other dog team we kept, because we designed to use the dogs up to the head of the glacier, and the boy to keep the base camp and tend the dogs, when this was done, until our return. So we said good-by to Esaias, and he took out the last word that was received from us in more than two months.
[Sidenote: McPhee Pass]
The photograph of the base camp shows a mountainous ridge stretching across much of the background. That ridge belongs to the outer wall of the Muldrow Glacier and indicates its general direction. Just beyond the picture, to the right, the ridge breaks down, and the little valley in the middle distance sweeps around, becomes a steep, narrow gulch, and ends at the breach in the glacier wall. This breach, thus reached, is the pass which the Kantishna miners of the "pioneer" expedition discovered and named "McPhee Pass," after a Fairbanks saloon-keeper. The name should stand. There is no other pass by which the glacier can be reached; certainly none at all above, and probably no convenient one below. Unless this pass were used, it would be necessary to make the long and difficult journey to the snout of the glacier, some twenty miles farther to the east, cross its rough terminal moraine, and traverse all its lower stretch.
On the 11th April Karstens and I wound our way up the narrow, steep defile for about three miles from the base camp and came to our first sight of the Muldrow Glacier, some two thousand five hundred feet above camp and six thousand, three hundred feet above the sea. That day stands out in recollection as one of the notable days of the whole ascent. There the glacier stretched away, broad and level—the road to the heart of the mountain, and as our eyes traced its course our spirits leaped up that at last we were entered upon our real task. One of us, at least, knew something of the dangers and difficulties its apparently smooth surface concealed, yet to both of us it had an infinite attractiveness, for it was the highway of desire.
THE MULDROW GLACIER
Right opposite McPhee Pass, across the glacier, perhaps at this point half a mile wide, rises a bold pyramidal peak, twelve thousand or thirteen thousand feet high, which we would like to name Mount Farthing, in honor of the memory of a very noble gentlewoman who died at the mission at Nenana three years ago, unless, unknown to us, it already bear some other name. Walter and our two Indian boys had been under her instruction.
At the base of this peak two branches of the glacier unite, coming down in the same general direction and together draining the snows of the whole eastern face of the mountain. The dividing wall between them, almost up to their head and termination, is one stupendous, well-nigh vertical escarpment of ice-covered rock towering six thousand or seven thousand feet above the glacier floor, the first of the very impressive features of the mountain. The other wall of the glacier, through a breach in which we reached its surface—the right-hand wall as we journeyed up it—consists of a series of inaccessible cliffs deeply seamed with snow gullies and crusted here and there with hanging glaciers, the rock formation changing several times as one proceeds but maintaining an unbroken rampart.
Now, it is important to remember that these two ridges which make the walls of the Muldrow Glacier rise ultimately to the two summits of the mountain, the right-hand wall culminating in the North Peak and the left-hand wall in the South Peak. And the glacier lies between the walls all the way up and separates the summits, with this qualification—that midway in its course it is interrupted by a perpendicular ice-fall of about four thousand feet by which its upper portion discharges into its lower. It will help the reader to a comprehension of the ascent if this rough sketch be borne in mind.
The course of the glacier at the point at which we reached it is nearly northeast and southwest (magnetic); its surface is almost level and it is free of crevasses save at its sides. For three or four miles above the pass it pursues its course without change of direction or much increase in grade; then it takes a broad sweep toward the south and grows steep and much crevassed. Three miles farther up it takes another and more decided southerly bend, receiving two steep but short tributaries from the northwest at an elevation of about ten thousand feet, and finishing its lower course in another mile and a half, at an elevation of about eleven thousand five hundred feet, with an almost due north and south direction (magnetic).
A week after our first sight of the glacier, or on the 18th April, we were camped at about the farthest point we had been able to see on that occasion—just round the first bend. Our stuff had been freighted to the pass and cached there; then, in the usual method of our advance, the camp had been moved forward beyond the cache on to the glacier, a full day's march. Then the team worked backward, bringing up the stuff to the new camp. Thus three could go ahead, prospecting and staking out a trail for further advance, while two worked with the dog team at the freighting.
For the glacier difficulties now confronted us in the fullest degree. Immediately above our tent the ice rose steeply a couple of hundred feet, and at that level began to be most intricately crevassed. It took several days to unravel the tangle of fissures and discover and prepare a trail that the dogs could haul the sleds along. Sometimes a bridge would be found over against one wall of the glacier, and for the next we might have to go clear across to the other wall. Sometimes a block of ice jammed in the jaws of a crevasse would make a perfectly safe bridge; sometimes we had nothing upon which to cross save hardened snow. Some of the gaps were narrow and some wide, yawning chasms. Some of them were mere surface cracks and some gave hundreds of feet of deep blue ice with no bottom visible at all. Sometimes there was no natural bridge over a crevasse, and then, choosing the narrowest and shallowest place in it, we made a bridge, excavating blocks of hard snow with the shovels and building them up from a ledge below, or projecting them on the cantilever principle, one beyond the other from both sides. Many of these crevasses could be jumped across by an unencumbered man on his snow-shoes that could not have been jumped with a pack and that the dogs could not cross at all. As each section of trail was determined it was staked out with willow shoots, hundreds of which had been brought up from below. And in all of this pioneering work, and, indeed, thenceforward invariably, the rope was conscientiously used. Every step of the way up the glacier was sounded by a long pole, the man in the lead thrusting it deep into the snow while the two behind kept the rope always taut. More than one pole slipped into a hidden crevasse and was lost when vigor of thrust was not matched by tenacity of grip; more than once a man was jerked back just as the snow gave way beneath his feet. The open crevasses were not the dangerous ones; the whole glacier was crisscrossed by crevasses completely covered with snow. In bright weather it was often possible to detect them by a slight depression in the surface or by a faint, shadowy difference in tint, but in the half-light of cloudy and misty weather these signs failed, and there was no safety but in the ceaseless prodding of the pole. The ice-axe will not serve—one cannot reach far enough forward with it for safety, and the incessant stooping is an unnecessary added fatigue.
[Sidenote: Heavy Hauling]
For the transportation of our wood and supplies beyond the first glacier camp, the team of six dogs was cut into two teams of three, each drawing a little Yukon sled procured in the Kantishna, the large basket sled having been abandoned. And in the movement forward, when the trail to a convenient cache had been established, two men, roped together, accompanied each sled, one ahead of the dogs, the other just behind the dogs at the gee-pole. This latter had also a hauling-line looped about his breast, so that men and dogs and sled made a unit. It took the combined traction power of men and dogs to take the loads up the steep glacial ascents, and it was very hard work. Once, "Snowball," the faithful team leader of four years past, who has helped to haul my sled nearly ten thousand miles, broke through a snow bridge and, the belly-band parting, slipped out of his collar and fell some twenty feet below to a ledge in a crevasse. Walter was let down and rescued the poor brute, trembling but uninjured. Without the dogs we should have been much delayed and could hardly, one judges, have moved the wood forward at all. The work on the glacier was the beginning of the ceaseless grind which the ascent of Denali demands.
How intolerably hot it was, on some of these days, relaying the stuff up the glacier! I shall never forget Ascension Day, which occurred this year on the 1st May. Double feast as it was—for SS. Philip and James falls on that day—it was a day of toil and penance. With the mercurial barometer and a heavy pack of instruments and cameras and films on my back and the rope over my shoulder, bent double hauling at the sled, I trudged along all day, panting and sweating, through four or five inches of new-fallen snow, while the glare of the sun was terrific. It seemed impossible that, surrounded entirely by ice and snow, with millions of tons of ice underfoot, it could be so hot. But we took the loads right through to the head of the glacier that day, rising some four thousand feet in the course of five miles, and cached them there. On other days a smother of mist lay all over the glacier surface, with never a breath of wind, and the air seemed warm and humid as in an Atlantic coast city in July. Yet again, starting early in the morning, sometimes a zero temperature nipped toes and fingers and a keen wind cut like a knife. Sometimes it was bitterly cold in the mornings, insufferably hot at noon, and again bitterly cold toward night. It was a pity we had no black-bulb, sun-maximum thermometer amongst our instruments, for one is sure its readings would have been of great interest.
It was a pity, also, that we had no means of making an attempt at measuring the rate of movement of this glacier—a subject we often discussed. The carriage of poles enough to set out rows of them across the glacier would have greatly increased our loads and the time required to transport them. But it is certain that its rate of movement is very slow in general, though faster at certain spots than at others, and a reason for this judgment will be given later.
[Sidenote: The Fire on the Glacier]
The midway cache between our first and last glacier camps was itself the scene of a camp we had not designed, for on the day we were moving finally forward we were too fatigued to press on to the spot that had been selected at the head of the glacier, and by common consent made a halt at the cache and set up the tent there. This is mentioned because it had consequences. If we had gone through that day and had established ourselves at the selected spot, a disaster that befell us would, in all probability, not have happened; for the next day, instead of moving our camp forward, we relayed some stuff and cached it where the camp would be made, covering the cache with the three small silk tents. Then we sat around awhile and ate our luncheon, and presently went down for another load. Imagine our surprise, upon returning some hours later, to see a column of smoke rising from our cache. All sorts of wild speculations flew through the writer's mind as, in the lead that day, he first crested the serac that gave view of the cache. Had some mysterious climber come over from the other side of the mountain and built a fire on the glacier? Had he discovered our wood and our grub and, perhaps starving, kindled a fire of the one to cook the other? Was there really, then, some access to this face of the mountain from the south? For it is fixed in the mind of the traveller in the north beyond eradication that smoke must mean man. But ere we had gone much farther the truth dawned upon us that our cache was on fire, and we left the dogs and the sleds and hurried to the spot. Something we were able to save, but not much, though we were in time to prevent the fire from spreading to our far-hauled wood. And the explanation was not far to seek. After luncheon Karstens and the writer had smoked their pipes, and one or the other had thrown a careless match away that had fallen unextinguished upon the silk tents that covered the cache. Presently a little wind had fanned the smouldering fabric into flame, which had eaten down into the pile of stuff below, mostly in wooden cases. All our sugar was gone, all our powdered milk, all our baking-powder, our prunes, raisins, and dried apples, most of our tobacco, a case of pilot bread, a sack full of woollen socks and gloves, another sack full of photographic films—all were burned. Most fortunately, the food provided especially for the high-mountain work had not yet been taken to the cache, and our pemmican, erbswurst, chocolate, compressed tea, and figs were safe. But it was a great blow to us and involved considerable delay at a very unfortunate time. We felt mortification at our carelessness as keenly as we felt regret at our loss. The last thing a newcomer would dream of would be danger from fire on a glacier, but we were not newcomers, and we all knew how ever-present that danger is, more imminent in Alaska in winter than in summer. Our carelessness had brought us nigh to the ruining of the whole expedition. The loss of the films was especially unfortunate, for we were thus reduced to Walter's small camera with a common lens and the six or eight spools of film he had for it.
[Sidenote: Camping Comfort]
The next day the final move of the main camp was made, and we established ourselves in the cirque at the head of the Muldrow Glacier, at an elevation of about eleven thousand five hundred feet, more than half-way up the mountain. After digging a level place in the glacier and setting up the tent, a wall of snow blocks was built all round it, and a little house of snow blocks, a regular Eskimo igloo, was built near by to serve as a cache. Some details of our camping may be of interest. The damp from the glacier ice had incommoded us at previous camps, coming up through skins and bedding when the tent grew warm. So at this camp we took further precaution. The boxes in which our grub had been hauled were broken up and laid over the whole portion of the floor of the tent where our bed was; over this wooden floor a canvas cover was laid, and upon this the sun-dried hides of the caribou and mountain-sheep we had killed were placed. There was thus a dry bottom for our bedding, and we were not much troubled thenceforward by the rising moisture, although a camp upon the ice is naturally always a more or less sloppy place. The hides were invaluable; heavy as they were, we carried them all the way up.
So soon as we were thus securely lodged, elated when we thought of our advance, but downcast when we recalled our losses, we set ourselves to repair the damage of the fire so far as it was reparable. Walter and Johnny must go all the way down to the base camp and bring up sled-covers out of which to construct tents, must hunt the baggage through for old socks and mitts, and must draw upon what grub had been left for the return journey to the extreme limit it was safe to do so.
Karstens, accustomed to be clean-shaven, had been troubled since our first glacier camp with an affection of the face which he attributed to "ingrowing whiskers," but when many hairs had been plucked out with the tweezers and he was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse and the inflammation spread to neck and temple, it was more correctly attributed to an eczema, or tetter, caused by the glare of the sun. So he was not loath to seclude himself for a few days in the tent while we set about the making of socks and mitts from the camel's-hair lining of the sleeping-bag. Walter's face was also very sore from the sun, his lips in particular being swollen and blistered. So painful did they become that I had to cut lip covers of surgeon's plaster to protect them. Then the boys returned with the sorry gleanings of the base camp, and the business of making two tents from the soiled and torn sled-covers and darning worn-out socks and mittens, was put in hand. Our camp looked like a sweat-shop those days, with its cross-legged tailormen and its litter of snippets. In addition to the six-by-seven tent, three feet six inches high, in which we were to live when we left the glacier, we made a small, conical tent in which to read the instruments on the summit. And all those days the sun shone in a clear sky!
[Sidenote: Amber Glasses]
Here, since reference has just been made to the effect of the sun's glare on the face of one member of the party, it may be in place to speak of the perfect eye protection which the amber snow-glasses afforded us. Long experience with blue and smoke-colored glasses upon the trail in spring had led us to expect much irritation of the eyes despite the use of snow-glasses, and we had plentifully provided ourselves with boracic acid and zinc sulphate for eye-washes. But the amber glasses, with their yellow celluloid side-pieces, were not a mere palliative, as all other glasses had been in our experience, but a complete preventive of snow-blindness. No one of us had the slightest trouble with the eyes, and the eye-washes were never used. It is hard for any save men compelled every spring to travel over the dazzling snows to realize what a great boon this newly discovered amber glass is. There is no reason anywhere for any more snow-blindness, and there is no use anywhere for any more blue or smoked glasses. The invention of the amber snow-glass is an even greater blessing to the traveller in the north than the invention of the thermos bottle. No test could be more severe than that which we put these glasses to.
We were now at the farthest point at which it was possible to use the dogs, at our actual climbing base, and the time had come for Johnny and the dogs to go down to the base camp for good. We should have liked to keep the boy, so good-natured and amiable he was and so keen for further climbing; but the dogs must be tended, and the main food for them was yet to seek on the foot-hills with the rifle. So on 9th May down they went, Tatum and the writer escorting them with the rope past the crevasses as far as the first glacier camp, and then toiling slowly up the glacier again, thankful that it was for the last time. That was one of the sultriest and most sweltering days either of us ever remembered, a moist heat of sun beating down through vapor, with never a breath of breeze—a stifling, stewing day that, with the steep climb added, completely exhausted and prostrated us.
[Sidenote: The Great Ice-Fall]
It is important that the reader should be able to see, in his mind's eye, the situation of our camp at the head of the glacier, because to do so is to grasp the simple orography of this face of the mountain, and to understand the route of its ascent, probably the only route by which it can be ascended. Standing beside the tent, facing in the direction we have journeyed, the great highway of the glacier comes to an abrupt end, a cul-de-sac. On the right hand the wall of the glacier towers up, with enormous precipitous cliffs incrusted with hanging ice, to the North Peak of the mountain, eight or nine thousand feet above us. About at right angles to the end of the glacier, and four thousand feet above it, is another glacier, which discharges by an almost perpendicular ice-fall upon the floor of the glacier below. The left-hand wall of the glacier, described some pages back as a stupendous escarpment of ice-covered rock, breaks rapidly down into a comparatively low ridge, which sweeps to the right, encloses the head of the glacier, and then rises rapidly to the glacier above, and still rises to form the left-hand wall of that glacier, and finally the southern or higher peak of the mountain.
So the upper glacier separates the two great peaks of the mountain and discharges at right angles into the lower glacier. And the walls of the lower glacier sweep around and rise to form the walls of the upper glacier, and ultimately the summits of the mountain. To reach the peaks one must first reach the upper glacier, and the southern or left-hand wall of the lower glacier, where it breaks down into the ridge that encloses the head of the glacier, is the only possible means by which the upper basin may be reached. This ridge, then, called by Parker and Browne the Northeast Ridge (and we have kept that designation, though with some doubt as to its correctness), presented itself as the next stage in our climb.
[Sidenote: Last Year's Earthquake]
Now just before leaving Fairbanks we had received a copy of a magazine containing the account of the Parker-Browne climb, and in that narrative Mr. Browne speaks of this Northeast Ridge as "a steep but practicable snow slope," and prints a photograph which shows it as such. To our surprise, when we first reached the head of the glacier, the ridge offered no resemblance whatever to the description or the photograph. The upper one-third of it was indeed as described, but at that point there was a sudden sharp cleavage, and all below was a jumbled mass of blocks of ice and rock in all manner of positions, with here a pinnacle and there a great gap. Moreover, the floor of the glacier at its head was strewn with enormous icebergs that we could not understand at all. All at once the explanation came to us—"the earthquake"! The Parker-Browne party had reported an earthquake which shook the whole base of the mountain on 6th July, 1912, two days after they had come down, and, as was learned later, the seismographic instruments at Washington recorded it as the most severe shock since the San Francisco disturbance of 1906. There could be no doubt that the earthquake had disrupted this ridge. The huge bergs all around us were not the normal discharge of hanging glaciers as we had at first wonderingly supposed; they were the incrustation of ages, maybe, ripped off the rocks and hurled down from the ridge by this convulsion. It was as though, as soon as the Parker-Browne party reached the foot of the mountain, the ladder by which they had ascended and descended was broken up.
What a wonderful providential escape these three men, Parker, Browne, and La Voy had! They reached a spot within three or four hundred feet of the top of the mountain, struggling gallantly against a blizzard, but were compelled at last to beat a retreat. Again from their seventeen-thousand-foot camp they essayed it, only to be enshrouded and defeated by dense mist. They would have waited in their camp for fair weather had they been provided with food, but their stomachs would not retain the canned pemmican they had carried laboriously aloft, and they were compelled to give up the attempt and descend. So down to the foot of the mountain they went, and immediately they reached their base camp this awful earthquake shattered the ridge and showered down bergs on both the upper and lower glaciers. Had their food served they had certainly remained above, and had they remained above their bodies would be there now. Even could they have escaped the avalanching icebergs they could never have descended that ridge after the earthquake. They would either have been overwhelmed and crushed to death instantly or have perished by starvation. One cannot conceive grander burial than that which lofty mountains bend and crack and shatter to make, or a nobler tomb than the great upper basin of Denali; but life is sweet and all men are loath to leave it, and certainly never men who cling to life had more cause to be thankful.
The difficulty of our task was very greatly increased; that was plain at a glance. This ridge, that the pioneer climbers of 1910 went up at one march with climbing-irons strapped beneath their moccasins, carrying nothing but their flagpole, that the Parker-Browne party surmounted in a few days, relaying their camping stuff and supplies, was to occupy us for three weeks while we hewed a staircase three miles long in the shattered ice.
[Sidenote: Glacier Movement]
It was the realization of the earthquake and of what it had done that convinced us that this Muldrow Glacier has a very slow rate of movement. The great blocks of ice hurled down from above lay apparently just where they had fallen almost a year before. At the points of sharp descent, at the turns in its course, at the points where tributary glaciers were received, the movement is somewhat more rapid. We saw some crevasses upon our descent that were not in existence when we went up. But for the whole stretch of it we were satisfied that a very few feet a year would cover its movement. No doubt all the glaciers on this side of the range are much more sluggish than on the other side, where the great precipitation of snow takes place.
We told Johnny to look for us in two weeks. It was thirty-one days ere we rejoined him. For now began the period of suspense, of hope blasted anew nearly every morning, the period of weary waiting for decent weather. With the whole mountain and glacier enveloped in thick mist it was not possible to do anything up above, and day after day this was the condition, varied by high wind and heavy snow. From the inexhaustible cisterns of the Pacific Ocean that vapor was distilled, and ever it rose to these mountains and poured all over them until every valley, every glacier, every hollow, was filled to overflowing. There seemed sometimes to us no reason why the process should not go on forever. The situation was not without its ludicrous side, when one had the grace to see it. Here were four men who had already passed through the long Alaskan winter, and now, when the rivers were breaking and the trees bursting into leaf, the flowers spangling every hillside, they were deliberately pushing themselves up into the winter still, with the long-expected summer but a day's march away.
The tedium of lying in that camp while snow-storm or fierce, high wind forbade adventure upon the splintered ridge was not so great to the writer as to some of the other members of the expedition, for there was always Walter's education to be prosecuted, as it had been prosecuted for three winters on the trail and three summers on the launch, in a desultory but not altogether unsuccessful manner. An hour or two spent in writing from dictation, another hour or two in reading aloud, a little geography and a little history and a little physics made the day pass busily. A pupil is a great resource. Karstens was continually designing and redesigning a motor-boat in which one engine should satisfactorily operate twin screws; Tatum learned the thirty-nine articles by heart; but naval architecture and even controversial divinity palled after a while. The equipment and the supplies for the higher region were gone over again and again, to see that all was properly packed and in due proportion.
[Sidenote: The Language of Commerce]
[Sidenote: "Talcum and Glucose"]
As one handled the packages and read and reread the labels, one was struck by the meagre English of merchandisers and the poor verbal resources of commerce generally. A while ago business dealt hardly with the word "proposition." It was the universal noun. Everything that business touched, however remotely, was a "proposition." When last he was "outside" the writer heard the Nicene creed described as a "tough proposition"; the Vice-President of the United States as a "cold-blooded proposition," and missionaries in Alaska generally as "queer propositions." Now commerce has discovered and appropriated the word "product" and is working it for all it is worth. The coffee in the can calls itself a product. The compressed medicines from London direct you to "dissolve one product" in so much water; the vacuum bottles inform you that since they are a "glass product" they will not guarantee themselves against breakage; the tea tablets and the condensed pea soup affirm the purity of "these products"; the powdered milk is a little more explicit and calls itself a "food product." One feels disposed to agree with Humpty Dumpty, in "Through the Looking-Glass," that when a word is worked as hard as this it ought to be paid extra. One feels that "product" ought to be coming round on Saturday night to collect its overtime. The zwieback amuses one; it is a West-coast "product," and apparently "product" has not yet reached the West coast—it does not so dignify itself. But it urges one, in great letters on every package, to "save the end seals; they are valuable!" Walter finds that by gathering one thousand two hundred of these seals he would be entitled to a "rolled-gold" watch absolutely free! This zwieback was the whole stock of a Yukon grocer purchased when the supply we ordered did not arrive. The writer was reminded of the time when he bought several two-pound packages of rolled oats at a little Yukon store and discovered to his disgust that every package contained a china cup and saucer that must have weighed at least a pound. One can understand the poor Indian being thus deluded into the belief that he is getting his crockery for nothing, but it is hard to understand how the "gift-enterprise" and "premium-package" folly still survives amongst white people—and Indians do not eat zwieback. What sort of people are they who will feverishly purchase and consume one thousand two hundred packages of zwieback in order to get a "rolled-gold" watch for nothing? A sack of corn-meal takes one's eye mainly by the enumeration of the formidable processes which the "product" inside has survived. It is announced proudly as "degerminated, granulated, double kiln-dried, steam-ground"! But why, in the name even of an adulterous and adulterating generation, should rice be "coated with talcum and glucose," as this sack unblushingly confesses? It is all very well to add "remove by washing"; that is precisely what we shall be unable to do. It will take all the time and fuel we have to spare to melt snow for cooking, when one little primus stove serves for all purposes. When we leave this camp there will be no more water for the toilet; we shall have to cleanse our hands with snow and let our faces go. The rice will enter the pot unwashed and will transfer its talcum and glucose to our intestines. Nor is this the case merely on exceptional mountain-climbing expeditions; it is the general rule during the winter throughout Alaska. It takes a long time and a great deal of snow and much wood to produce a pot of water on the winter trail. That "talcum-and-glucose" abomination should be taken up by the Pure Food Law authorities. All the rice that comes to Alaska is so labelled. The stomachs and bowels of dogs and men in the country are doubtless gradually becoming "coated with talcum and glucose."
It was during this period of hope deferred that we began to be entirely without sugar. Perhaps by the ordinary man anywhere, certainly by the ordinary man in Alaska, where it is the rule to include as much sugar as flour in an outfit, deprivation of sugar is felt more keenly than deprivation of any other article of food. We watched the gradual dwindling of our little sack, replenished from the base camp with the few pounds we had reserved for our return journey, with sinking hearts. It was kept solely for tea and coffee. We put no more in the sour dough for hot cakes; we ceased its use on our rice for breakfast; we gave up all sweet messes. Tatum attempted a pudding without sugar, putting vanilla and cinnamon and one knows not what other flavorings in it, in the hope of disguising the absence of sweetness, but no one could eat it and there was much jeering at the cook. Still it dwindled and dwindled. Two spoonfuls to a cup were reduced by common consent to one, and still it went, until at last the day came when there was no more. Our cocoa became useless—we could not drink it without sugar; our consumption of tea and coffee diminished—there was little demand for the second cup. And we all began to long for sweet things. We tried to make a palatable potation from some of our milk chocolate, reserved for the higher work and labelled, "For eating only." The label was accurate; it made a miserable drink, the milk taste entirely lacking, the sweetness almost gone. We speculated how our ancestors got on without sugar when it was a high-priced luxury brought painfully in small quantities from the Orient, and assured one another that it was not a necessary article of diet. At last we all agreed to Karstens's laconic advice, "Forget it!" and we spoke of sugar no more. When we got on the ridge the chocolate satisfied to some extent the craving for sweetness, but we all missed the sugar sorely and continued to miss it to the end, Karstens as much as anybody else.
Our long detention here made us thankful for the large tent and the plentiful wood supply. That wood had been hauled twenty miles and raised nearly ten thousand feet, but it was worth while since it enabled us to "weather out the weather" here in warmth and comparative comfort. The wood no more than served our need; indeed, we had begun to economize closely before we left this camp.
We were greatly interested and surprised at the intrusion of animal life into these regions totally devoid of any vegetation. A rabbit followed us up the glacier to an elevation of ten thousand feet, gnawing the bark from the willow shoots with which the trail was staked, creeping round the crevasses, and, in one place at least, leaping such a gap. At ten thousand feet he turned back and descended, leaving his tracks plain in the snow. We speculated as to what possible object he could have had, and decided that he was migrating from the valley below, overstocked with rabbits as it was, and had taken a wrong direction for his purpose. Unless the ambition for first ascents have reached the leporidae, this seems the only explanation.
At this camp at the head of the glacier we saw ptarmigan on several occasions, and heard their unmistakable cry on several more, and once we felt sure that a covey passed over the ridge above us and descended to the other glacier. It was always in thick weather that these birds were noticed at the glacier head, and we surmised that perhaps they had lost their way in the cloud.
But even this was not the greatest height at which bird life was encountered. In the Grand Basin, at sixteen thousand five hundred feet, Walter was certain that he heard the twittering of small birds familiar throughout the winter in Alaska, and this also was in the mist. I have never known the boy make a mistake in such matters, and it is not essentially improbable. Doctor Workman saw a pair of choughs at twenty-one thousand feet, on Nun Kun in the Himalayas.
Our situation on the glacier floor, much of the time enveloped in dense mist, was damp and cold and gloomy. The cliffs around from time to time discharged their unstable snows in avalanches that threw clouds of snow almost across the wide glacier. Often we could see nothing, and the noise of the avalanches without the sight of them was at times a little alarming. But the most notable discharges were those from the great ice-fall, and the more important of them were startling and really very grand sights. A slight movement would begin along the side of the ice, in one of the gullies of the rock, a little trickling and rattling. Gathering to itself volume as it descended, it started ice in other gullies and presently there was a roar from the whole face of the enormous hanging glacier, and the floor upon which the precipitation descended trembled and shook with the impact of the discharge. Dense volumes of snow and ice dust rose in clouds thousands of feet high and slowly drifted down the glacier. We had chosen our camping-place to be out of harm's way and were really quite safe. We never saw any large masses detached, and by the time the ice reached the glacier floor it was all reduced to dust and small fragments. One does not recall in the reading of mountaineering books any account of so lofty an ice-fall.
 I have since learned that this mountain was named Mount Brooks by Professor Parker, and so withdraw the suggested name.
 See frontispiece.
THE NORTHEAST RIDGE
Some of the photographs we succeeded in getting will show better than any words the character of the ridge we had to climb to the upper basin by. The lowest point of the ridge was that nearest our camp. To reach its crest at that point, some three hundred feet above the glacier, was comparatively easy, but when it was reached there stretched ahead of us miles and miles of ice-blocks heaved in confusion, resting at insecure angles, poised, some on their points, some on their edges, rising in this chaotic way some 3,000 feet. Here one would have to hew steps up and over a pinnacle, there one must descend again and cut around a great slab. Our wisest course was to seek to reach the crest of the ridge much further along, beyond as much of this ice chaos as possible. But it was three days before we could find a way of approach to the crest that did not take us under overhanging icebergs that threatened continually to fall upon our heads, as the overhanging hill threatened Christian in the "Pilgrim's Progress." At last we took straight up a steep gully, half of it snow slope, the upper half ice-incrusted rock, and hewed steps all the five hundred feet to the top. Here we were about half a mile beyond the point at which we first attained the crest, with that half mile of ice-blocks cut out, but beyond us the prospect loomed just as difficult and as dangerous. We could cut out no more of the ridge; we had tried place after place and could reach it safely at no point further along. The snow slopes broke off with the same sharp cleavage the whole ridge displayed two thousand five hundred feet above; there was no other approach.
[Sidenote: The Shattered Ridge]
So our task lay plain and onerous, enormously more dangerous and laborious than that which our predecessors encountered. We must cut steps in those ice-blocks, over them, around them, on the sheer sides of them, under them—whatever seemed to our judgment the best way of circumventing each individual block. Every ten yards presented a separate problem. Here was a sharp black rock standing up in a setting of ice as thin and narrow and steep as the claws that hold the stone in a finger-ring. That ice must be chopped down level, and then steps cut all round the rock. It took a solid hour to pass that rock. Here was a great bluff of ice, with snow so loose and at such a sharp angle about it that passage had to be hewed up and over and down it again. On either side the ridge fell precipitously to a glacier floor, with yawning crevasses half-way down eagerly swallowing every particle of ice and snow that our axes dislodged: on the right hand to the west fork of the Muldrow Glacier, by which we had journeyed hither; on the left to the east fork of the same, perhaps one thousand five hundred feet, perhaps two thousand feet lower. At the gap in the ridge, with the ice gable on the other side of it, the difficulty and the danger were perhaps at their greatest. It took the best part of a day's cutting to make steps down the slope and then straight up the face of the enormous ice mass that confronted us. The steps had to be made deep and wide; it was not merely one passage we were making; these steps would be traversed again and again by men with heavy packs as we relayed our food and camp equipage along this ridge, and we were determined from the first to take no unnecessary risks whatever. We realized that the passage of this shattered ridge was an exceedingly risky thing at best. To go along it day after day seemed like tempting Providence. We were resolved that nothing on our part should be lacking that could contribute to safety. Day by day we advanced a little further and returned to camp.
[Sidenote: The Hall of the Mountain King]
The weather doubled the time and the tedium of the passage of this ridge. From Whitsunday to Trinity Sunday, inclusive, there were only two days that we could make progress on the ridge at all, and on one of those days the clouds from the coast poured over so densely and enveloped us so completely that it was impossible to see far enough ahead to lay out a course wisely. On that day we toppled over into the abyss a mass of ice, as big as a two-story house, that must have weighed hundreds of tons. It was poised upon two points of another ice mass and held upright by a flying buttress of wind-hardened snow. Three or four blows from Karstens's axe sent it hurling downward. It passed out of our view into the cloud-smother immediately, but we heard it bound and rebound until it burst with a report like a cannon, and some days later we saw its fragments strewn all over the flat two thousand feet below. What a sight it must have been last July, when the whole ridge was heaving, shattering, and showering down its bergs upon the glacier floors! One day we were driven off the ridge by a high wind that threatened to sweep us from our footholds. On another, a fine morning gave place to a sudden dense snow-storm that sent us quickly below again. Always all day long, while we were on that ridge, the distant thunder of avalanches resounded from the great basin far above us, into which the two summits of Denali were continually discharging their snows. It sounded as though the King of Denmark were drinking healths all day long to the salvoes of his artillery—that custom "more honored in the breach than in the observance." From such fancy the mind passed easily enough to the memory of that astonishing composition of Grieg's, "In the Hall of the Mountain King," and, once recalled, the stately yet staccato rhythm ran in one's ears continually. For if we had many days of cloud and smother of vapor that blotted out everything, when a fine day came how brilliant beyond all that lower levels know it was! From our perch on that ridge the lofty peaks and massive ridges rose on every side. As little by little we gained higher and higher eminence the view broadened, and ever new peaks and ridges thrust themselves into view. We were within the hall of the mountain kings indeed; kings nameless here, in this multitude of lofty summits, but that elsewhere in the world would have each one his name and story.
And how eager and impatient we were to rise high enough, to progress far enough on that ridge that we might gaze into the great basin itself from which the thunderings came, the spacious hall of the two lords paramount of all the mountains of the continent—the north and south peaks of Denali! Our hearts beat high with the anticipation not only of gazing upon it but of entering it and pitching our tent in the midst of its august solitudes. To come down again—for there was as yet no spot reached on that splintered backbone where we might make a camp—to pass day after day in our tent on the glacier floor waiting for the bad weather to be done that we might essay it again; to watch the tantalizing and, as it seemed, meaningless fluctuations of the barometer for encouragement; to listen to the driving wind and the swirling snow, how tedious that was!
[Sidenote: Camp on the Ridge]
At last when we had been camped for three weeks at the head of the glacier, losing scarce an hour of usable weather, but losing by far the greater part of the time, when the advance party the day before had reached a tiny flat on the ridge where they thought camp could be made, we took a sudden desperate resolve to move to the ridge at any cost. All the camp contained that would be needed above was made up quickly into four packs, and we struck out, staggering under our loads. Before we reached the first slope of the ridge each man knew in his heart that we were attempting altogether too much. Even Karstens, who had packed his "hundred and a quarter" day after day over the Chilkoot Pass in 1897, admitted that he was "heavy." But we were saved the chagrin of acknowledging that we had undertaken more than we could accomplish, for before we reached the steep slope of the ridge a furious snow-storm had descended upon us and we were compelled to return to camp. The next day we proceeded more wisely. We took up half the stuff and dug out a camping-place and pitched the little tent. Every step had to be shovelled out, for the previous day's snow had filled it, as had happened so many times before, and it took five and one-half hours to reach the new camping-place. On Sunday, 25th May, the first Sunday after Trinity, we took up the rest of the stuff, and established ourselves at a new climbing base, about thirteen thousand feet high and one thousand five hundred feet above the glacier floor, not to descend again until we descended for good.
We were now much nearer our work and it progressed much faster, although as the ridge rose it became steeper and steeper and even more rugged and chaotic, and the difficulty and danger of its passage increased. Our situation up here was decidedly pleasanter than below. We had indeed exchanged our large tent for a small one in which we could sit upright but could not stand, and so narrow that the four of us, lying side by side, had to make mutual agreement to turn over; our comfortable wood-stove for the little kerosene stove; yet when the clouds cleared we had a noble, wide prospect and there was not the sense of damp immurement that the floor of the glacier gave. The sun struck our tent at 4.30 A. M., which is nearly two and one-half hours earlier than we received his rays below, and lingered with us long after our glacier camp was in the shadow of the North Peak. Moreover, instead of being colder, as we expected, it was warmer, the minimum ranging around zero instead of around 10 deg. below.
[Sidenote: Clouds and Climate]
The rapidity with which the weather changed up here was a continual source of surprise to us. At one moment the skies would be clear, the peaks and the ridge standing out with brilliant definition; literally five minutes later they would be all blotted out by dense volumes of vapor that poured over from the south. Perhaps ten minutes more and the cloud had swept down upon the glacier and all above would be clear again; or it might be the vapor deepened and thickened into a heavy snow-storm. Sometimes everything below was visible and nothing above, and a few minutes later everything below would be obscured and everything above revealed.
This great crescent range is, indeed, our rampart against the hateful humidity of the coast and gives to us in the interior the dry, windless, exhilarating cold that is characteristic of our winters. We owe it mainly to this range that our snowfall averages about six feet instead of the thirty or forty feet that falls on the coast. The winds that sweep northward toward this mountain range are saturated with moisture from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean; but contact with the lofty colds condenses the moisture into clouds and precipitates most of it on the southern slopes as snow. Still bearing all the moisture their lessened temperature will allow, the clouds pour through every notch and gap in the range and press resolutely onward and downward, streaming along the glaciers toward the interior. But all the time of their passage they are parting with their moisture, for the snow is falling from them continually in their course. They reach the interior, indeed, and spread out triumphant over the lowlands, but most of their burden has been deposited along the way. One is reminded of the government train of mules from Fort Egbert that used to supply the remote posts of the "strategic" telegraph line before strategy yielded to economy and the useless line was abandoned. When the train reached the Tanana Crossing it had eaten up nine-tenths of its original load, and only one-tenth remained for the provisioning of the post. So these clouds were being squeezed like a sponge; every saddle they pushed through squeezed them; every peak and ridge they surmounted squeezed them; every glacier floor they crept down squeezed them, and they reached the interior valleys attenuated, depleted, and relatively harmless.
The aneroids had kept fairly well with the mercurial barometer and the boiling-point thermometer until we moved to the ridge; from this time they displayed a progressive discrepancy therewith that put them out of serious consideration, and one was as bad as the other. Eleven thousand feet seemed the limit of their good behavior. To set them back day by day, like Captain Cuttle's watch, would be to depend wholly upon the other instruments anyway, and this is just what we did, not troubling to adjust them. They were read and recorded merely because that routine had been established. Says Burns:
"There was a lad was born in Kyle, But whatna day o' whatna style, I doubt it's hardly worth the while To be sae nice wi' Robin."
So they were just aneroids: aluminum cases, jewelled movements, army-officer patented improvements, Kew certificates, import duty, and all—just aneroids, and one was as bad as the other. Within their limitations they are exceedingly useful instruments, but it is folly to depend on them for measuring great heights.
Perched up here, the constant struggle of the clouds from the humid south to reach the interior was interesting to watch, and one readily understood that Denali and his lesser companions are a prime factor in the climate of interior Alaska.
Day by day Karstens and Walter would go up and resume the finding and making of a way, and Tatum and the writer would relay the stuff from the camp to a cache, some five hundred feet above, and thence to another. The grand objective point toward which the advance party was working was the earthquake cleavage—a clean, sharp cut in the ice and snow of fifty feet in height. Above that point all was smooth, though fearfully steep; below was the confusion the earthquake had wrought. Each day Karstens felt sure they would reach the break, but each day as they advanced toward it the distance lengthened and the intricate difficulties increased. More than once a passage painfully hewn in the solid ice had to be abandoned, because it gave no safe exit, and some other passage found. At last the cleavage was reached, and it proved the most ticklish piece of the whole ridge to get around. Just below it was a loose snow slope at a dangerous angle, where it seemed only the initial impulse was needed for an avalanche to bear it all below. And just before crossing that snow slope was a wall of overhanging ice beneath which steps must be cut for one hundred yards, every yard of which endangered the climber by disputing the passage of the pack upon his shoulders.
[Sidenote: The Primus Stove]
Late in the evening of the 27th May, looking up the ridge upon our return from relaying a load to the cache, we saw Karstens and Walter standing, clear-cut, against the sky, upon the surface of the unbroken snow above the earthquake cleavage. Tatum and I gave a great shout of joy, and, far above as they were, they heard us and waved their response. We watched them advance upon the steep slope of the ridge until the usual cloud descended and blotted them out. The way was clear to the top of the ridge now, and that night our spirits were high, and congratulations were showered upon the victorious pioneers. The next day, when they would have gone on to the pass, the weather drove them back. On that smooth, steep, exposed slope a wind too high for safety beat upon them, accompanied by driving snow. That day a little accident happened that threatened our whole enterprise—on such small threads do great undertakings hang. The primus stove is an admirable device for heating and cooking—superior, one thinks, to all the newfangled "alcohol utilities"—but it has a weak point. The fine stream of kerosene—which, under pressure from the air-pump, is impinged against the perforated copper cup, heated to redness by burning alcohol, and is thus vaporized—first passes through several convolutions of pipe within the burner, and then issues from a hole so fine that some people would not call it a hole at all but an orifice or something like that. That little hole is the weak spot of the primus stove. Sometimes it gets clogged, and then a fine wire mounted upon some sort of handle must be used to dislodge the obstruction. Now, the worst thing that can happen to a primus stove is to get the wire pricker broken off in the burner hole, and that is what happened to us. Without a special tool that we did not possess, it is impossible to get at that burner to unscrew it, and without unscrewing it the broken wire cannot be removed. Tatum and I turned the stove upside down and beat upon it and tapped it, but nothing would dislodge that wire. It looked remarkably like no supper; it looked alarmingly like no more stove. How we wished we had brought the other stove from the launch, also! Every bow on an undertaking of this kind should have two strings. But when Karstens came back he went to work at once, and this was one of the many occasions when his resourcefulness was of the utmost service. With a file, and his usual ingenuity, he constructed, out of the spoon-bowl of a pipe cleaner the writer had in his pocket, the special tool necessary to grip that little burner, and soon the burner was unscrewed and the broken wire taken out and the primus was purring away merrily again, melting the water for supper. We feel sure that we would have pushed on even had we been without fire. The pemmican was cooked already, and could be eaten as it was, and one does not die of thirst in the midst of snow; but calm reflection will hardly allow that we could have reached the summit had we been deprived of all means of cooking and heating.
[Sidenote: Germless Air]
On this ridge the dough refused to sour, and since our baking-powder was consumed in the fire we were henceforth without bread. A cold night killed the germ in the sour dough, and we were never again able to set up a fermentation in it. Doubtless the air at this altitude is free from the necessary spores or germs of ferment. Pasteur's and Tyndall's experiments on the Alps, which resulted in the overthrow of the theory of spontaneous generation, and the rehabilitation of the old dogma that life comes only from life, were recalled with interest, but without much satisfaction. We tried all sorts of ways of cooking the flour, but none with any success. Next to the loss of sugar we felt the loss of bread, and in the food longings that overtook us bread played a large part.
On Friday, 30th May, the way had been prospected right up to the pass which gives entrance to the Grand Basin; a camping-place had been dug out there and a first load of stuff carried through and cached. So on that morning we broke camp, and the four of us, roped together, began the most important advance we had made yet. With stiff packs on our backs we toiled up the steps that had been cut with so much pains and stopped at the cache just below the cleavage to add yet further burdens. All day nothing was visible beyond our immediate environment. Again and again one would have liked to photograph the sensational-looking traverse of some particularly difficult ice obstacle, but the mist enveloped everything.
Just before we reached the smooth snow slope above the range of the earthquake disturbance lay one of the really dangerous passages of the climb.
[Sidenote: A Perilous Passage]
It is easier to describe the difficulty and danger of this particular portion of the ascent than to give a clear impression to a reader of other places almost as hazardous. Directly below the earthquake cleavage was an enormous mass of ice, detached from the cleavage wall. From below, it had seemed connected with that wall, and much time and toil had been expended in cutting steps up it and along its crest, only to find a great gulf fixed; so it was necessary to pass along its base. Now from its base there fell away at an exceedingly sharp angle, scarcely exceeding the angle of repose, a slope of soft, loose snow, and the very top of that slope where it actually joined the wall of ice offered the only possible passage. The wall was in the main perpendicular, and turned at a right angle midway. Just where it turned, a great mass bulged out and overhung. This traverse was so long that with both ropes joined it was still necessary for three of the four members of the party to be on the snow slope at once, two men out of sight of the others. Any one familiar with Alpine work will realize immediately the great danger of such a traverse. There was, however, no avoiding it, or, at whatever cost, we should have done so. Twice already the passage had been made by Karstens and Walter, but not with heavy packs, and one man was always on ice while the other was on snow. This time all four must pass, bearing all that men could bear. Cautiously the first man ventured out, setting foot exactly where foot had been set before, the three others solidly anchored on the ice, paying out the rope and keeping it taut. When all the first section of rope was gone, the second man started, and when, in turn, his rope was paid out, the third man started, leaving the last man on the ice holding to the rope. This, of course, was the most dangerous part of this passage. If one of the three had slipped it would have been almost impossible for the others to hold him, and if he had pulled the others down, it would have been quite impossible for the solitary man on the ice to have withstood the strain. When the first man reached solid ice again there was another equally dangerous minute or two, for then all three behind him were on the snow slope. The beetling cliff, where the trail turned at right angles, was the acutely dangerous spot. With heavy and bulky packs it was exceedingly difficult to squeeze past this projection. Ice gives no such entrance to the point of the axe as hard snow does, yet the only aid in steadying the climber, and in somewhat relieving his weight on the loose snow, was afforded by such purchase upon the ice-wall, shoulder high, as that point could effect. Not a word was spoken by any one; all along the ice-wall rang in the writer's ears that preposterous line from "The Hunting of the Snark"—"Silence, not even a shriek!" It was with a deep and thankful relief that we found ourselves safely across, and when a few minutes later we had climbed the steep snow that lay against the cleavage wall and were at last upon the smooth, unbroken crest of the ridge, we realized that probably the worst place in the entire climb was behind us.
Steep to the very limit of climbability as that ridge was, it was the easiest going we had had since we left the glacier floor. The steps were already cut; it was only necessary to lift one foot after the other and set the toe well in the hole, with the ice-axe buried afresh in the snow above at every step. But each step meant the lifting not only of oneself but of one's load, and the increasing altitude, perhaps aggravated by the dense vapor with which the air was charged, made the advance exceedingly fatiguing. From below, the foreshortened ridge seemed only of short length and of moderate grade, could we but reach it—a tantalizingly easy passage to the upper glacier it looked as we chopped our way, little by little, nearer and nearer to it. But once upon it, it lengthened out endlessly, the sky-line always just a little above us, but never getting any closer.
[Sidenote: The Cock's Comb]
Just before reaching the steepest pitch of the ridge, where it sweeps up in a cock's comb, we came upon the vestiges of a camp made by our predecessors of a year before, in a hollow dug in the snow—an empty biscuit carton and a raisin package, some trash and brown paper and discolored snow—as fresh as though they had been left yesterday instead of a year ago. Truly the terrific storms of this region are like the storms of Guy Wetmore Carryl's clever rhyme that "come early and avoid the rush." They will sweep a man off his feet, as once threatened to our advance party, but will pass harmlessly over a cigarette stump and a cardboard box; our tent in the glacier basin, ramparted by a wall of ice-blocks as high as itself, we found overwhelmed and prostrate upon our return, but the willow shoots with which we had staked our trail upon the glacier were all standing.