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live in a world so petty as to be understandable by the human mind? No real scientist. No man blessed with a sense of humor. Nobody not demoniacally possessed. It is the things beyond the intellect which make life worth while, which engender poetry, romance, awe, reverence. Our day minimizes these elements of life, content more and more to live within the dull limitations of the understanding. And some of us, a bit sophisticated, have found that petty world grotesque. We have begun to laugh.

The twentieth century is sacrificing itself to goods and appetite and comfort and conceit. As long as it continues to do so, as long as these seem satisfying ends to its new, crude, and suddenly wealthy citizens, it is unlikely that any more subtle religion can make much headway. Jesus of Nazareth is an enigma to the moment. Occasionally we find somebody trying to dress up the Christ in modern terms, presenting him as a go-getter, a country-clubber, a master of advertising psychology. There is no god but our gods. We will make Jesus into our image. Popular though this sort of thing may be, it is of course not Christianity. Whatever else Jesus may mean, he is, in historical religion at any rate, the antithesis of all that our day deems most worth. He is poor when we would be rich. He seems to regard chastity as normal and healthy. To him comfort matters little one way or the other. He is the

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incarnation of humility. It can hardly be expected that he should be the chosen god of an adolescent civilization intent upon the hungry search for superficiality.

Christianity must wait for a slowly emerging maturity and urbanity. There are those who, wearied with strident clamor about nothing, repelled by the clash of battle for things of no particular moment, have, usually by chance, discovered Jesus as he hangs alone upon his silent crucifix. He is poor, not because he is too weak to gain wealth, but because his strength is needed elsewhere. He is chaste, not because he is too emasculated to feel the pull of passion, the pull of passion, but because that passion has been sublimated into something which includes the soul. He is emancipated from slavery to luxury and ease. He is humble, not because he is too ignorant to be proud, but because he is infinitely too wise. We have adored, as our fathers adored, and we have to our own astonishment discovered that in the light of that adoration the modern world is like a pageant produced by rude mechanicals. Reality lies elsewhere, at an altar where Jesus gives to disillusioned souls a peace which is not as the world gives. As civilization grows more experienced, there will be more and more such persons. Meanwhile, it is absurd to expect Christianity to appeal to the modern world. Can babies know beauty?



I HAVE walked forward eagerly to-day.

Each moment met my wits as foil meets foil
With lordly thrust and courteous counter-play
And quiet humor after each recoil;

Hour after hour came towards me as a sword

Whose point my own blade found and turned aside,

Leaving my faculties in smooth accord

And courage running through me like a tide.

Then, as the sun left and the silence came,

The stillness in my room confronted me
Like a last swordsman in a kingly game
Before whose skill my blade broke, suddenly;
And all the hours until our hands should meet
Surrounded me like ruffians in the street.



'RED with cutaneous eruption of conceit and voluble with convulsive hiccough of self-satisfaction,' the mountaineer strides into his hotel, back from his peak or his pass, no doubt jostling Ruskin in the doorway and so stirring him to this little masterpiece of descriptive vituperation. To-day Ruskin is almost forgotten; in his place (no more welcome in his eyes than the climber with his axe and rope and uncouth footwear) now stands the tourist, very often an American, who, if he has not the same feelings about the figure that shambles noisily by, is usually as hard put to it to explain why a reasonable soul should want to do just this, or what anyone gets out of it that he should keep at it with such stupid pertinacity. To go up one mountain would be possibly an interesting experience, especially if it were the highest; to keep on climbing mountains seems to be mere silliness.

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To describe a passion to those that do not share it is a difficult enough task, let alone explaining it. The passion I write of is eminently respectable. The Pope and the new Conservative Member of Parliament for Cambridge to mention several kings and queens have been among its devotees. It is a powerful passion, enthralling many until long past their sixtieth year. It is a serious passion, judged by the test that a considerable number of people have cheerfully lost their lives in its pursuit. They did not know, of course,


that they would lose them, but they were perfectly aware of the possibility, and had decided upon the question of 'Worth while?' And their fellow fanatics, when one of these calamities occurs, commonly treat it quite as a matter of course without raising questions of justification, unless carelessness or recklessness is suspected. Yet somehow this passion, more than most, does need some explanation. It is surprisingly new, having come in only about seventy-five years ago; and its activities are to the outside eye peculiarly pointless. In this it perhaps stands alone. Games, though no psychologist will claim that he can completely explain them, have at least a good historic standing. We are never really puzzled as to why people play them even when we feel no inclination to do likewise. Hunting, fishing, yachting, gardening, camping, and the rest of the sports can plausibly be regarded as survivals, although of course this is not the whole story. Immemorial antiquity lends them sanction; though I doubt whether many yachtsmen or amateur camping parties were about in the sixteenth century.

To enjoy unnecessary discomfort or insecurity, we must first be bored with comfort. These two sports in part appeal through their contrast with ordinary existence, and to some degree mountaineering shares this attraction. But while the positive lure of yachting and camping that is to say, the part

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over and above contrast links on to ancient and very widespread pursuits, the positive lure of mountaineering, including the impulse to go up to the top of the hill when the way is difficult, has a very meagre history. Unless hunting takes them there, the natives never climb their mountains. Genuine mountaineering - Alpinism, for example is an entirely new development, appealing only to a moderately sophisticated mind. It is, in fact, a strangely professorial pastime. What blend of what desires and delights will account for it, or what obscure needs and tendencies must we invoke?

Like other passions, this one has stages. And, again like other passions, it has degrees of impurity. We can study it here only at its ripest and purest. The novice, thrilling with anticipatory tremors at the largely erroneous picture which he makes for himself of his first serious climb, mixes in too much that is imaginary and has nothing to do with the matter. I have known one such novice afterward to confess that he 'got the wind up' far more on his first big mountain than ever on the battlefield and this was a man who saw a good deal of nasty fighting.

We must set aside also the confirmed habitué of the mountains, whose early ardor has declined the man who goes on climbing moderately difficult ordinary mountains by the best known routes in the company of guides who have such a reserve of mountaineering ability that only what the insurance companies style as an 'act of God' could prevent the caravan from returning in safety at the appointed time. Let me try to describe instead what happens in the mind of the guideless climber, experienced enough to know what he is doing, when he is engaged upon an ascent which is just within his powers as the leader of his party. He probably knows a good deal about

his proposed climb. The idea of it may have been in his mind for a long while. He will have read about it, studied it, surveyed it from neighboring summits, perhaps. One of the incidental charms of mountaineering is the unexampled opportunity for detailed, intricate, concrete planning which it allows. The mountaineer fanatic spends hours, whole long winter evenings, gazing at maps and photographs and talking to the other members of his climbing party about the expedition. This planning as the day approaches grows more and more responsible. Here is another attraction. There are very few pursuits in which the question of competence comes more sharply to a head. A great ascent shares the glamour of an Arctic journey—a point will come when the climber will need his strength and skill to extricate himself. The factors upon which success depends are varied enough to need careful thought, yet not too numerous or too uncertain to be estimated. In this a big climb resembles a miniature campaign. It is a concentrated form of exploration, with the tedium cut out and the dramatic intensity heightened. The man whose mountain career begins and ends with scrambling up the Matterhorn or treadmilling up Mont Blanc under professional guidance misses so much of all this that he may well conclude that climbing is an overestimated pastime. Mountaineering is a craft which requires years to master, and the sense of increasing competence is no small part of its attraction.


Some of the branches of this craft are never mastered and have therefore an inexhaustible fascination. Weather lore, for example. The condition of the mountain and the difficulty of the ascent vary with the weather and the

season in ways which may baffle the utmost sagacity. A stretch of glacier which early in a snowy year would be easy and would take but an hour to cross may a month later, after hot weather, be nearly impossible. Its ice is always cracked here and there, split by fissures which may be no more than a few inches or a few feet in width though hundreds of yards in length. When narrow, these 'crevasses' are covered by the carpet of the surface snow and can be crossed if the snow is hard, as it is in the early morning, without anyone being able to detect that the apparently innocent white expanse is actually stretched across what are in effect bottomless abysses of ice-walled darkness. These crevasses widen as the summer wears on. The snow that roofs them grows thinner; first a ripplelike hollow shows, then the ripple splits open; then the crevasse walls appear, smooth, shiny, blue-black, overhung with treacherous bulges of unsupported snow. Here and there the snow roof is more solid, and a bridge is left across which a climbing party can pass, if need be, at certain hours and under certain conditions. But sometimes the crevasse can widen out without clearly revealing its presence, and only the sudden collapse of the snow roof under the weight of one of the party will show that it is there. The crevasse may be several hundred feet deep. Picture yourself walking on a snow blanket stretched across an opening in the Dome of St. Peter's and you will be able to understand one of the possibilities of glacier travel. This is why the party will be walking in single file as far apart as they conveniently can, and why they will be keeping the rope which links them to one another reasonably taut. Should anyone fall into a crevasse far enough for his head to disappear, it is no easy matter to pull him out again. The quality of the snow, as much

when it is lying upon gentle glacier slopes as when it is draped about the wild upper ridges, or is clinging in seemingly precarious fashion to the steep mountain walls, changes with the hour of the day, the angle at which the sun strikes it, the wind, the weather of the last few days. To plan an interesting expedition wisely, all this must be reckoned with. Early enough in the morning the snow will generally be good. This is why the climber usually starts with the first daylight. But there are other reasons. In the Alps, unless he has slept in one of the many Swiss Alpine Club cabins that are perched for his convenience high up, often upon tiny outcrops of rock surrounded by glacier, he will have two or three hours of steady preliminary walking, on a path if he is lucky, before the difficulties and the high mountaineering proper begin. He has to start early to economize time and to make use of the cool of the day, for he will have from four to eight thousand feet to ascend, and time is precious. Every big climb, and above all every new climb, is a race against the sun.

The weather affects the rocks of the mountain as much as the glaciers. A light sprinkle of snow overnight will give the peaks a fairylike silvery glitter, but will put serious climbing out of the question not so much because it makes the rocks slippery as because it makes them so cold to the fingers. Only the easiest rocks can be climbed with fresh snow upon them. The slipperiness comes a day later when the new snow has melted and the moisture has refrozen to invisible ice, - Verglas, as it is called, - an abominable substance very difficult to deal with.

Often the descent will need special consideration. It will be late in the day, the snow will be soft, stones which in the morning are firmly bound by frost will be loosened by the sun and ready

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