7 JULY 1894, Page 20


IT is more difficult to sympathise with other people's amusements than with their troubles in this world. The reflection is not new, but so many amusements are, that we are constantly invited to recognise its truth. The attraction of mountain-climbing, especially in the minor form in which either can be enjoyed in England, is a case in point. Yet the enjoyment of our mountain scenery is a semi-modern senti- ment. Speaking of the beautiful Lune Valley, Defoe wrote, "This part of the country seemed very strange and dismal to us (nothing but mountains in view, and stone walls for hedges, some oatcakes for bread, or olapat bread as it is called). As these hills were so lofty, so they had an aspect of terror. Here were no rich pleasant valleys between them as in the Alps; no lead-mines and veins of rich ore as in the Peak; no coal-pits as in the hills about Halifax ! " The pleasure of climbing for climbing's sake is almost as little understood by many minds at the present day, as the picturesque forms of the mountains were by Defoe. Yet it is increasingly popular, as may be seen from the work on this amusement as now practised in this country, which Mr. Haskett Smith has just published,* though it is not in the Cumberland Fells that the taste for mountain-craft usually originates. It is the High Alps that make the first and obvious appeal to the uninitiated. The gratification of the sense of sight is the main inducement held out by the mountain-tops. The rims and peaks of the ice-capped walls which rise so high and so steep that the eye does not readily see clear of their summits, unless the natural poise of the head be altered, promises a view so boundless and majestic if once the barrier be topped, that the imagination is kept in a constant crescendo of excitement and curiosity until the summit is reached. To stand level with the beads of twenty Alps, whose glittering peaks stud the horizon like a riviere of brilliants, or to see the plains of Lombardy spread, like a carpet, ten thousand feet below, and thirty miles beyond, or the rising sun "stand tiptoe on the misty mountain-top," or the " bright white lightning" leap from the thunderstorm in the valley below, or, best of all, to look from some un- trodden peak from which no human eye ever yet gazed, these are the promises which beckon the climbers to the moun- tain. Experience often shows them to be delusive ; but it is -not experience which issues the first summons. That is the work of imagination, though experience often transforms it into a longing which outlasts the ability to gratify it. The exhilaration of the air is such that at reasonable heights of from five to ten thousand feet, a buoyancy of spirits and strength of body seem to accrue such as is only felt elsewhere in rare and happy dreams. All sights and sounds are new and beautiful. The flora changes, and the climber finds himself among flowers and plants unknown, in a setting equally unfamiliar. Sounds gain a strange clearness and resonance, and the mere effort of producing the voice has an effect of sonority such as nothing but some mechanical in- strument could render in the dull air which creeps on the level ground. Then at the last comes the need for physical exertion, coolness, and skill, under the very circumstances of atmosphere and mental exhilaration most likely to secure their successful development. The extent to which the English mountains are now used as a training-ground for the delights of Alpine climbing is evident from the familiarity with particular spots which Mr. Haskett Smith's book pre- supposes in his readers. The delightful difficulties which may be found and surmounted in the ascents of the Pillar Rock, of Pavey Ark, Napes Needle, and Moss Gill, are given with the minuteness of detail which is usually bestowed on the climb of some High Alp with- out a guide. Ice-climbing needs special practice in the glacial regions. But rock-climbing can be learnt almost as well on the mountains of the Lake district as on any others. There, according to recent experience, it " may be 'enjoyed by amateurs without incurring the reproach of recklessness, while they may at the same time enjoy the exquisite pleasure of forming their own plans of attack, of varying the execution of them according to their own judg- ment, and finally of meeting obstacles, as they arise, with their own skill and by their own strength, and overcoming them without the aid of a hired professional." The peculiar 'charm of these mountains, to the initiated, consists in the cracks, or " chimneys," which seam the precipices from top to bottom. Sometimes these are damp, with trickling water, and Nature has thoughtfully lined them with moss. Too often they are only hard and angular crevices, like three sides of a chimney-top. Up these the climber wriggles, like an eel in a pipe. In reading the records of their ascent, one is tempted to muse on the relative nature * Climbing in the British Islos—Nnglanci. By W. P.H:mkott Smith. London : Cougmana, of pleasure. It is not long since master-sweeps were sent to prison for sending their apprentice boys up real chimneys, not nearly so high, or so dangerous, as those of Moss Gill. It was in the interest of these human victims that a philanthropist made the happy suggestion that a live goose pulled up the flue with a string would do just as well,—or, if not, that a couple of ducks would answer the purpose. Now, amateurs in climbing go to Cumberland to experience the sensations which must have been part of the every-day lot of the chimney boy, and record their enjoy- ment in print. The high spirits and serious fun which underlie these accounts speak volumes for the benefits of mountain air. Winter climbing adds the pleasures of sur- mounting snow and ice in considerable quantities, in addition to the difficulties of the natural rooks. The " Lakes " have now a winter season, entirely devoted to the best class of English climbing. " There is no time," writes Mr. Haskett Smith, "at which a trip to Lakeland is more thoroughly enjoyable. In the first place, there is no crowd. You can be sure that you will get a bed, and that the people of the house will not be too overworked to make you comfortable. You will have no companions but life-long lovers of the mountains, and robust young fellows whose highest ambition is to gain admission to the Alpine Club, or having gained it, to learn to wield with some appearance of dexterity the ponderous ice-axes which are indispensable to the dignity of their position. How different are the firm outlines of the distant peaks from the hazy indistinctness which usually falls to the lot of the summer tourist ! What sensation is more delightful than that of tramping along while the smooth crisp snow crunches under the feet, and gazing upward at the lean black crags standing out boldly from the long smooth slopes of dazzling white I Christmas in Cumberland is usually dry and fine, as is pointed out triumphantly by those who resent Mr. James Payn's sarcastic allusion to " dry weather " in the Lakes " which is said to have occurred about the year 1824."

The Yorkshire dales, Cornwall, and Dartmoor, though their beauties are not disparaged, have less attraction for the ardent learner in mountaineering. The axiom that " a very fine bill may be a very bad climb," applies both to the " tors " and the limestone earn and crags of millstone grit. But the great sea-cliffs of England offer a peculiar and natural playground to the devotee of climbing. Old-fashioned cragsmen, who, unlike the modern school, risked their necks with a purpose, if only for the very inadequate one of gathering sea-fowl's eggs, or taking a falcon's or raven's eyrie, chose an exactly opposite method of attack to that now in favour. They accepted the fact that it is usually easier to reach the juts and ledges of a cliff from the top than from the bottom, and that scrambling about on slippery chalk or treacherous limestone was quite dangerous enough for glory, if the rope were made fast to a crowbar above, and not to the waists of a line of climbers tied together like bits of paper on the tail of a kite. Of course, these men sometimes grew over-confident, and paid the penalty with their lives ; but the margin of safety is usually ample, and there is no reason why the particular crags- man who has taken the young ravens from the Culver Cliffs, in the Isle of Wight, for the last seven years should not do so till he is too stiff to climb. But the modern athlete prefers to treat the cliffs as training-grounds for practising manoeuvres likely to be useful in recognised mountaineering. The use of the rope is not discountenanced, but only in Alpine form, as a link between the climbers. Some of the directions for the " use of cliffs " seem horribly dangerous ; and the art of climbing is considered so entirely an end in itself, that the precipices are merely mentioned in the terms of the material for the exercise of a fine art, chalk being described rather quaintly as a " treacherous and difficult medium, and one which is likely to lead those practising on it to be very careful climbers." The uses of the magnificent cliffs of Dover, and between that place and Folkstone, with the precipices of Beachy Head, and the vertical cliffs to the west of it, are thus indicated for the enjoyment of seaside visitors who may think of a visit to the English Lakes next year, and of qualifying for the Alps the year after. "As a rule, chalk is only sufficiently solid for real climbing for the first 20 ft. above high-water mark, though here and there 40 ft. of fairly trustworthy rock may be found. These sections of hard chalk are invariably those which at their base are washed by the sea at high tide. "Traverses," or scrambles sideways, are the proper exercises in these de- lightful spots ; " a good objectif may be found in the endeavour to work out a route to the various small beaches that are cat off by the high tide and the cliffs." The dis- covery of these little hidden bays and rock-gardens is always interesting ; but though Mr. Haskett Smith properly cautions his readers that in climbing the upper precipices of the chalk slopes " a slip would almost certainly prove fatal," he omits to mention that, if not killed, the modest "passager " who breaks his leg by a slip from the sea-washed base is also pretty certain to drown at high tide. Nor should it be forgotten that climbing, even on Cumberland fells, is perhaps the severest form of exercise known, and that the results of overstrain are almost equally dangerous with those of a fall, when the exhilaration of mountain air has led to an overtax of a frame fresh from the sedentary life of professional work.