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My Climbs in the Alps and Caucasus

Nature volume 52, pages 219220 | Download Citation



MR. MUMMERY is a bold man. Not only has he dared greatly among peaks and glaciers, but also he does not scruple to declare that he enjoys mountain climbing for its own sake. He leaves science for others, cares nothing for topography except as ministering to his pastime, and holds a plane-table in abhorrence. Thus between his book and Sir W. M. Conway's “Climbing in the Karakoram Himalayas,” there is a great difference. Still this is common to both: a delight in the wild beauty and silent grandeur of the crags, pinnacles and snows of the higher peaks. There is, no doubt, a beauty in the Alps which all the world can see, as Ruskin has truly remarked; but there is another aspect, solemn, almost stern, yet with a strange, thrilling fascination, which he only can appreciate who has grasped their rocky ledges, or planted his ice-axe in their unsullied snows. Vain it is to rebuke Mr. Mummery for treating the mountains like greased poles. He retorts, unabashed, that the pole is slippery, not greasy, and that he enjoys trying to climb it. But he seeks not to vulgarise the mountains; he has no love for the crowd of tourists which now annually deluges the Alps, nothing but contempt for the cockney “mountaineer” who is hauled up a peak by his guides, like a bale of goods, or who makes an ascent simply because it is “the thing to do.” Perhaps Mr. Mummery may sometimes carry daring beyond the verge of rashness. It is to be hoped that few readers of this book will be tempted to follow his example of making difficult ascents without guides; for such work requires not only gymnastic skill, but also knowledge and judgment, which very few amateurs can ever acquire. Still it is difficult to avoid sympathising with his love of a struggle—it is the spirit which has made England great, a spirit which is too often lacking in this age of molluscous sentimentality and invertebrate opportunism.

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