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Written in the Year 1786.

[From SAUSSURE *.]

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THEN I was writing the preliminary difcourfe and the first part of this work, I looked upon the fummit of Mont-blanc as abfolutely unattainable. In my first excurfions to Chamouni in 1760 and 1761, I had it published in all the parishes of the valley, that I would give a confiderable recompence to whoever fhould find a practicable route. I had even promised to those who made unfuccessful trials to pay them for their labour thefe promifes were of no avail. Pierre Simon made one attempt at the Tacul fide, and another at the fide of the glacier of Buiffons, but returned without any hope of fuccefs.

However fifteen years after, that is to fay in 1775, four of the Chamouni guides attempted to gain it by the mountain de la Côte, this mountain which forms a ridge pretty near parallel to the glacier of Buiffons, approaches to the ices and fnows which continue without interruption to the top of Mont-blanc.

There is fome difficulty to overcome before entering on thefe ices, and to cross the first crevices; but thefe firft obftacles once furmounted, there remains no more than the length of the way, and the difficulty of accomplishing in one day the afcent and defcent. I fay in one day, becaufe the people of the country think it not fafe to run the risk of paffing the night on these fnows.

Thefe four travellers got very well over the firft obftacles; they then endeavoured to follow a great valley of fnow, which appeared to conduct them immediately to the fummit of the mountain. All appeared to promise them the most happy fuccefs; they had the finest weather imaginable, they neither met with openings too large, nor preci pices too rapid but the reverberation of the fun on the fnow, and the ftagnation of the air in this valley made them undergo as they faid a fuffocating heat, and gave them at the fame time fuch a diftafte for the provifions with which they were provided, that overcome by inanition and wearinefs, they had the grief to be forced to return the fame way they went, without having met any vifible infurmountable obftacle. It however appears that the efforts they had made were very great, for their ftrength was very much tried in this excurfion, and from it they became more or lefs ill.

Th's disappointment however did not prevent three other of Chamouni guides from undertaking the fame tafk, and by the fame road in 1783. They paffed the night at the top of the mountain de la Côte, croffed the glacier, and followed the fame valley of fnow. They had already got to a good height, and were proceeding courageoufly; when one of the boldest and most vigorous of the three was fuddenly feized with an infurmountable propensity to fleep: he defired the other two to leave him and go on without, but they could not think of abandoning him, and leaving him to fleep on the fnow; perfuaded as they were that the heat of the fun would kill him: they therefore * Voyage dans les Alpes, ii. 550. 14


renounced the undertaking and returned back together to Chamouni. For this propenfity to fleep, produced by the rarity of the air, left him as foon as they had defcended low enough to find themfelves in a thicker atmosphere.

It is very likely that even if this overpowering propensity to fleep had not stopped thefe brave fellows, they would not have been able to have gained the fummit of the mountain, for in effect though they had attained a great height, they had ftill a great way to go, the heat incommoded them exceffively, a thing furprifing at this height; they had no appetite; the wine and provifions that they took with them had no charms for them. One of them* told me feriously that it was ufelefs to carry any provisions in this excurfion; and that if he should make another trial by the fame way, he would only take a parafol and a fuelling bottle. When I figured to myfelf this tall and vigorous ountaineer grapling with the fnow, and holding in one hand a little parafol, and in the other a bottle of cau fans pareille, this image had fomething in it fo ridiculous and ftrange, that nothing could be more convincing to my mind than the idea he had formed to himself of the difficulty of this undertaking, and of confequence of its abfolute impoffibility for people who have neither the head or the joints of a good guide of Chamouni. Yet M. Bourrit would again make another trial at the end of the feafon, he likewife flept at the mountain de la Côte, but an unexpected ftorm coming on obliged him to turn back juft at the entrance of the glacier.

For my part, after the informations which I had received from thofe who had made the attempt at this fide, I looked on the fuccefs as abfolutely impoffible, and this was the opinion of all the intelligent people of Chamouni.

M. Bourrit, who interefted himself more than I did in the conqueft of Mont Blanc, thought he ought to try it by fome other fide; he gained from all parts all the intelllgence he could; at length he learned that two hunters in following fome chamois had got on fome ridges of rocks to fo very great a height, that from the place to which they were come, to the fummit of Mont Blanc, there remained no more than four or five hundred toifes to get up by the declivities of fnow which were not very rapid, and in fo open an air that there was nothing to fear from that fort of fuffocation, that had been found in the valley of fnow which ends at the mountain de la Côte.

Charmed with this difcovery, M. Bourrit ran to La Grue, the village where these hunters lived, and immediately engaged them to make another trial with him. He left the village the fame evening, and arrived with them at break of day at the foot of fome fteep rocks which it was neceffary to pafs. The morning air was of an extraordinary keennefs; M. Bourrit feized by the cold and overpowered by fatigue could not follow his guides. Two of thofe, after having left him with the third at the foot of the rocks mounted alone, not only to the top of the fame rocks but very far on the fnow: they faid that they had reached to the foot of the highest fummit of Mont Blanc, from which they were feparated only by a ravine of ice, in which, if they had had more tine and help they could have made ftairs by which they might eafily have got to the top.

As foon as this trial had permitted me to believe in the poflibility of fuccefs, I refolved to make the attempt as foon as the feafon would permit; I charged two men of the neighbourhood † to watch near the mountain, and to give me notice as foon as the melting of the fnows would render it poffible. Unhappily they accumulated during the rigorous winters of 1784 and 1785, and those which have frequently fallen during the cold and rainy fummer, which has fucceeded this winter have retarded my departure till the middle of September.

• Joraffe.

Pierre Balme and Marie Coutet.

I always

I always prefer making these excurfions with my guides only; but M. Bourrit, who was the first to make known this route, having defired that we should make this attempt together, I confented with pleasure. We took with us his fon, a young man of twentyone years of age, whofe talents promise a moft happy fuccefs, and whom the love of botany, and the grand objects of contemplation that our Alps prefent, has often conducted on the traces of his father.

I had reckoned on fleeping as high as poffible under coverings in form of tents: but M. Bourrit had conceived the happy idea of fending two days before three men of Chamouni to conftruct for us under fhelter of a rock, near the bafe of the Aiguille du Gouté, a fort of hut or hovel of dry ftones; an excellent precaution which would fecure us from the danger of a storm, if we should have the misfortune to meet one.

These difpofitions made, we agreed to meet on Monday the twelfth of September at the village of Bionaffay, fituated about a league to the north-eaft above that of Bionnay, M. Bourrit and his fon came there from the Priory of Chamouni, which is four leagues to the north-caft of this village. I left Geneva the eleventh of September, and came in a carriage to Sallenche; and the next morning I went on horfeback to Bionaffy paffing by St. Gervais and by Bionnay.

The village of Bionaffay is fituated in a very uneven valley, open to the fouth-east, andfhut at all other fides. It is commanded by the glacier of the fame name, and feparated, at the north-east, from the valley of Chamouni by a small chain of flate and calcareous


I obferved between Bionnay and Bionaffay fome remarkable ftones, but I mean to give the lithological account of this little journey in another place; those details would. too much damp the interest of which it is fufceptible.

I arrived the first at Bionaffay with Pierre Balme, who had come as far as Sallenche to meet me; we should have flept at this village, but as there was no inn there, I had afked at Bionnay which of the peasants of the place was in the best fituation to entertain us, they directed me to the Confeiller de la Commune named Batandier. This honeft peasant received me with great cordiality; and M. Bourrit coming in the evening from. Chamouni, our hoft gave each of us a good little room, with a bed filled with fresh. ftraw on which I paffed a very good night.

The next morning I felt fome uneafinefs for the weather, the barometer not having mounted during the night more than the fixteenth of a line; which is much under what it rises to from evening to morning, when fine weather is perfectly fettled. My ob fervation, compared with that which M. Pictet made at Geneva, gives to the fituation of Batandier's houfe four hundred and eighty-eight toifes above our lake, and of confequence fix hundred and eighty above the fea.

We had then still to mount one thousand eight hundred toifes before we could get to the fummit of Mont Blanc, but we had two days to perform it in: as the first day we . were only to go as far as our hut. As its fituation had been left to the choice of its constructers, we were ignorant of its height, but wifhed to find it placed as high as. poffible.

At day-break one of the Chamouni guides, who had worked at the construction of the hut, came to inform us it was almost finished, but that it would be neceffary to take another piece of fir, to make the roof more folid. We ordered a man of Bionaffay to carry one, and two others loaded themselves with straw, and two more with wood for. firing. Others carried provifions, furs, and my phyfical inftruments, and thus we formed a caravan of fixteen or feventeen people.

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