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this ascent; and to those who, being struck by their singular form and wild aspect as seen from the Parc at Pau, may wish to view the giant nearer, I could give no better advice than that they should undertake a pilgrimage to the Lac de l'Ours. Among the rocks of this wilderness we met three young mountaineers conducting a white steed to the country below. As a matter of course they took off their caps to me,- for such even is the uni. versal custom among these sons of nature, -and they then laughed and joked with the old man, with whom they seemed on terms of familiarity, probably belonging to the same settlement. I was very much struck with the magnificent appearance of one of them : he was upwards of six feet in height, with dark curling hair, full expressive eyes, and with a mouth that disclosed a row of teeth as white as they were regular. He inquired where I was going, and then wished me every delight and happiness : such is the innate politeness of a Frenchman, even in his most uncivilized condition. The air became now sharp and chilly; we had left the shelter of the pine-woods and had entered the open regions of pasture, where nothing met the eye but huge rocks, gorges deep and dangerous, wherein the snow yet lay unmelted, and a wild expanse of grass bedecked with the purple flower of the Iris. About five o'clock in the day my aged guide and his donkey came to a sudden pause in the midst of an assemblage of granite boulders, but my eye, unacquainted as yet with mountain dwellings, did not comprehend the object of our delay: the old man, however, began to unpack, and upon observing a pile of stones that appeared to be artificially arranged, I was told that it was the hut where I was to pass the night. This wild habitation, composed of pieces of rock roughly piled together to the height of four or five feet, was covered in by rude planks of pine-wood, which in turn were kept in their places by an outer layer of stones. Stooping low I entered, and found two highlanders asleep, covered with bear-skins and heavy cloaks upon a raised platform composed of the leaves of the fir, which occupied the whole cabane, with the exception of a narrow strip at the end, where a wood-fire was burning, before which I eagerly seated myself, and was soon joined by my venerable guide, who invited me out to eat some black bread and drink a bowl of milk with him after our fatigues. Upon issuing forth the air felt both cold and wintry, and was strongly contrasted with the temperature to which I had been lately accustomed, whence I inferred the great elevation of my present position. I perceived that we were among barren summits and dreary hills of grass, and at length I discerned the tawny cattle hitherto lost to my careless eye from the immensity of the slopes upon which they were feeding. The dews now began to fall and the mists to boil up from the deep gulph below, and ere I had finished my rude repast they came careering along the mountain sides, and shortly involved us in a premature night.
The hut was not without abundance of occupants for its dimensions. Conversation, of course, as best could be done, was kept up. A supper
of boiled milk and black bread was also hospitably furnished.
Having satiated our appetites we retired to rest, but it was stifling work, the cabane being far too small for five men and a stout boy; for we lay
close to each other like niggers in a slave-ship, the heels of the alternate bodies being placed in juxta-position with the heads of their neighbours, and the entire mass being then covered with cloaks and the skins of sheep and bears. You may well imagine that sleep came with some reluctance: I was desperately cramped, the cattle-bells rang incessantly, and the fleas came in troops and marked me as their own. At length the Lethean dew fell upon me, and I tossed about in disturbed slumbers, pursued with agony through my dreams by wild goblin clouds, or by mountains quickened into life and preparing to smother me. I awoke at sunrise with most unpleasing sensations of cold ; the cabane was empty, and the doorless aperture gave access to the heavy mist of the morning. At about half past five my old friend returned from the cattle, and we then sat down to bread and milk ; after which, having received from him all proper instructions, I started for the lake, which was about an hour's scramble distant. The day overhead promised fairly, but bodies of mist were whisking and flying round the shoulders of the Pic du Midi, like the giant's dress fluttering in the wind : I, however, commenced by climbing a steep hill of stones and slippery grass, and then traversing the sloping side of a most dismal and barren ridge.
There was a very awqward place to pass, where the rock was smooth and slaty, and ran down with an inclination that was almost perpendicular towards the torrent: it was luckily only about six yards across, but yet of sufficient width to render its passage unpleasant. I crept over that distance on the sides of my feet, but not without the expectation of being shot like an arrow to the regions below. I found the lake as I had supposed, a small sheet of water, with the attributes of the mountain element, -transparency and beauty of colouring; it was surrounded also by savage summits of austere aspect, sprinkled with snows and strewed with débris. I looked around in vain for the bears which have given it their name ; they no longer range the mountains unmolested, and it is but seldom that one visits even this remote spot. I gazed, however, with infinite satisfaction upon the desolate scene, where not a sound disturbed the air save the rushing of water, neither did a living object present itself except an eagle, whose majestic movements I watched with much interest; but soon the rising mists shrouded the prospect and heavy clouds came battling up the hollows, reminding me that I had to recross the slaty pass which I had before encountered. It was lucky that I took the hint; for suddenly so dense a fog enveloped me, that I could see only a few yards in advance ; however, I reached the herdsman's hut in safety.
Another and a still more hazardous excursion will detain us a few seconds. The journey and ascent was from Gavarnie to the Brèche de Roland, “ generally considered the most difficult adventure in the Pyrenees.” Our adventurer reaches a point surrounded with a black precipices that rise so grimly," and which “appear as perfectly inaccessible.” A spot, however, is discovered where the traveller can climb aloft with the assistance of his hands and feet and a steady head,' the inclined plane consisting of débris. He is now at the foot of the precipice which has to be ascended, a rock-ladder offering the only assistance by which to scale the height, the adventurer being "en
abled to invade the higher regions by grasping projections and ledges which are afforded by the crumbling strata, and following exactly in the footsteps that have been imprinted on the rock by former explorers, or by the contrabandistas who frequently pass by this difficult route into Spain.” As Mr. Paris went aloft, he "rested now and then to look down into the huge amphitheatre, or to gaze in wonder at the cascade and glaciers.” The columns of the bold-leaping torrent" are precipitated like rushing rockets or broad-headed arrows, dispersing in spray before they gain half the descent, when they again assemble on a jutting ledge and fall once more in a cloud of watery spears towards the Oude of the Circus.” At length he reached a kind of platform “immediately below the glacier and summit.”
What a stern wilderness here opened upon me,-a region of ice, torn and rent into chasms, and a series of black precipices and ranges of decomposing rocks that crumbled beneath the touch! In one place a series of slates rose in bristling ranks like so many razors, to fall upon which would have been certain mutilation, and on the right stood a jagged ridge, wonderfully fissured in the direction of its highly inclined strata, from the hollows of which I summoned innumerable echoes, and so repeatedly were my yellings bandied about, that I verily believe they would have scared a pack of wolves from the mountain ; demoniacal laughter rang around me on all sides, and groans appeared to issue from the deep crevasses of the glacier; nor was the breathless silence that succeeded less appalling, and I was fain for mere companionship again and again to disturb it. Having reached the foot of the glacier I now turned up its side, the rock often giving way under my weight and lacerating my hands by the roughness of its surface; but however distressing this might be, it was with reluctance that I left it for a yielding mass of loose rubbish, where it was a much more difficult task to keep my legs, and where nothing lay below me but a smooth snow-field that sloped towards precipices. However, having passed this unpleasant spot, and after a climb of three hours and a half from the Circus, I reached a place where I must repose a few minutes, in order to give you a notion of the wonderful sight that there met my view,—the far-famed Brèche de Roland. Along the summit of the Marboré mountain, which forms a prominent feature in the great ridge of the Pyrenees, runs a wall of rock from 300 to 600 feet in height, dividing France from Spain, in the centre of which appears an enormous gap or brèche about 300 feet wide, of such regularity as to resemble a portal between the two kingdoms, though it gives ingress and egress to little else than the drifting snow and howling wind.
This icebound gateway is the Brèche de Roland, but is seldom used, “except by the smugglers, who care not for its difficulties, or by the few travellers who ascend Mount Perdu."
The danger lies on the French side, and I had now arrived at the point where it begins; a smooth glacier that slopes to the distant circus is to be crossed. This dizzy labour is generally effected by the traveller with a guide on each side, who have their feet armed with crampons, and are fur
nished with hatchets in order to notch the slippery surface. I essayed the snow with my feet, looked at the stupendous gateway so provokingly near, and then down the huge slope of the smooth ice, which went down and down, and grew steeper and steeper, until it was lost in the hideous precipices of the Circus. The sight was too appalling: I could not summon sufficient resolution to attempt the passage, which was in distance about a quarter of a mile, and wisely, I think, abandoned it, considering I was without crampons or any knowledge of the proper mode of effecting it. To understand all its terrors the place must be seen; once slip, and you are gone for ever past all human aid : the death is too frightful for contemplation. The guides tell a story of an unhappy traveller who perished a short time ago in the passage of this glacier. He was crossing it with every possible precaution, when his trousers by some unaccountable accident became entangled with his crampons—he lost his balance, and in vain attempted to recover it, since there was nothing at which he could grasp to save himself—in an instant he shot down the sloping ice with the rapidity of a thunderbolt; while his borrified companions watched his awful career to those fearful precipices where he must have been dashed to pieces, and where of course all search for his remains would have been fruitless. When my friend Oascended, the whole region was covered with fresh-fallen snow, in which he had traced the course of a gigantic set of paws, which the guide de. clared were those of a bear; the passage of the glacier under such circumstances was of course comparatively easy. I also found the frozen mass coated with a layer of snow, with the exception of a portion in the middle, where the blue ice was laid bare and glittered in the sun: bad it not been for this, I think I might have crossed to the Brèche with safety.
Mr. Paris attempts another dizzy path that was accessible, and which formed " as it were the coping of a precipice that fell perpendicularly some thousand feet.” As I walked along it, he says, “I could stretch my right hand over the abyss, and touch with my
left a wall of snow that constituted the crest of the great glacier I had been skirting." He now sat down "to enjoy the pleasures of so exalted a position, and to look down into the gulf at the dark blue rents and chasms in the ice,” listening the while “to the strange noises in the restless glacier, or to the dull sound of falling rocks or snow which alone disturb the air” He also took to pencil sketching, "while an eagle soaring above me appeared to be taking considerable interest in my operations." The cold was too intense for the comfortable execution of this part of his task. He had now to retrace his steps, but found a difficulty he had not anticipated; for although he had before crossed a chasm where the ledge had been broken down, by keeping a light hold on the inequalities of the rock, he now found that the surface down which he must lower himself, with a precipice upwards of a thousand feet immediately beneath him, had very few projections that could render assistance, and even these upon trial yielded to his weight. We take up the narrative at this predicament, the extract with which we conclude narrating how it fared with him ere he again was comfortably situated.
I think I must have been a quarter of an hour in planning different positions for my hands and attitudes for my body, before I slid down to the narrow glacis that sloped to the precipice; but the rocks held firm, and I soon regained the ledge on the opposite side in safety. This was one of the most disagreeable places I passed on that day; the gulf being so deep, and the slope to it so inexpressibly terrific. I had left my high perch near the Fausse Brèche at five o'clock, and I reached the foot of the glacier with tolerable ease, but there I was rather startled by the view that presented itself, and I felt the imprudence of having started so late. It was really fearful to look upon the long ridges of inclined strata, running down steeper and steeper towards the gulf of the Circus, with the sudden conviction of the extreme difficulty of finding the right direction to that exact spot at which I ascended, and by which alone an exit from the mountain could be accomplished; for from the puzzling formation of the strata, it is almost impossible for the stranger to retrace his steps with certainty. I accordingly found that I repeatedly went wrong, and was obliged to scramble back again over slopes ending in precipices, and as the daylight was rapidly fading these successive failures at length began seriously to alarm me. Luckily, however, I espied at some distance a Spanish shepherd gathering together his flock, and hurrying towards him I made a signal that he should point out the right direction, which he immediately did, and I then proceeded with fresh assurance of finding my way. But I was doomed to further disappointments--the fearful labyrinth was far from being unravelled-again and again did I find myself on the brink of the gulf: but the sun was down, and I had already left the shepherd far above me; so, growing desperate at the rapid approach of night whilst I was in so dangerous a position, I clambered down perpendicular rocks at the most imminent hazard, for a yielding ledge or an incautious step would have shot me down to the regions below like an an avalanche. But this rash descent was fruitless—I could not hit the track—darkness was falling rapidly upon the mountains, and I was surrounded by the most hideous precipices without knowing whether to go to the right or to the left. My situation at that moment was certainly not enviable. I looked around at the distant ridges growing momentarily more indistinct, and searched ahout for some projecting crag that might afford me shelter and protection for the night; but in so doing my eye suddenly recognised a riven rock as an acquaintance I had passed in the morning: no chance of escaping from these dismal heights was to be neglected-I made another attempt, and happily descended into the Circus ; but down rocks with my hands and feet and in perfect darkness.
Art. VII.—Diary of the Times of Charles the Second, by the
Honourable Henry Sidney, including his Correspondence, &c.
Edited by R. W. BLENCOWE, Esq. 2 vols., Colburn. HENRY SIDNEY was the younger brother of Algernon, and although neither a virtuous character nor apparently a man of ability, fortune and intrigue brought him into considerable notice at the Revolution