1 OCTOBER 1921, Page 10


NO feat in the history of mountaineering has ever achieved such importance or become such a general topic for speculation with the public as the attempt to reach the highest summit of the globe. In that summit every living man can claim a certain interest ; it is a world possession. Moreover, the expedition has been advertised in a fashion hitherto unknown in the secluded quarters of the Alpine Club and by a Press that wields almost despotic powers. How far have expectations been fulfilled / The latest message from Colonel Howard Bury, published in the Times, made it clear that only one route up the mountain offers even a possibility of success. The climbers are pushing up a camp to a col at 23,000 feet, in a subsidiary ridge descending from the north-east face, from which they expect to be able to gain access to a gap in the great north ridge, a mile away across a glacier. The difficulties of reaching and crossing this glacier, which is presumably steep and hanging below precipices which occasionally pour avalanches upon it, are indicated by the intention to camp again, if all goes well, at 23,000-24,000 feet. Above the gap -rise more than 5,000-feet of the north ridge, formed by the intersection of two terrific slopes. In one of his letters written from a camp at about 18,000 feet nearly due north of Everest, Mr. Mallory describes the upper part of the ridge as apparently climbable ; but he says of the whole northern aspect that, from a mountaineering point of view, " no more appalling sight can be imagined. If he and Mr. Bullock. with Major Morehead, reach a height of 25,000 feet on the ridge they will have done magnificently. The difficulties from fatigue and breath- lessness, overcome by the first two in climbing to the summit of Mount Kellas, nearly 24,000 feet, after a week at the high camp, make one doubtful about their reaching much more than a thousand feet higher, even in full training. Art if Mount Everest remains unclimbed, if he has administered a check to the orgy of sporting records and achievements to which our morning paper summons us, if he has even dared to disappoint the owner of the Times, we need not talk of failure. I am sure he has not dis- appointed the climbing members of the expedition or any to whom mountains are a spiritual force. In proving that snow mountains were not the abode of demons, but dis- pensers of health and peace and exquisite enjoyment, the pioneers of the Alps were benefactors of humanity. The subsequent attainment of the less accessible summits was not more than a source of satisfaction to the few. It is hard to believe that the people of Turin are one whit the better for the knowledge that every snowy peak that rises on their horizon has been ascended. It is far easier to believe that it has helped to dim their perception of spiritual things by removing a mystery which nothing but the solemn touch of mountain solitude can restore. The actual conquest of Everest will give nothing to mankind, beyond a slight addition to his already paralysing vanity in his achievements. The survey of the country, the descriptions and photographs of it, will be of the greatest interest. And to the climbers themselves the revelation of the final peak, magnificent and inaccessible, set on the most splendid throne of rock and ice on which man has ever gazed, is the great reward. The men who have slept beneath that throne and have watched the clouds and sun, the night and day work, as in a great artist's hand upon it, can feel no sense of failure. The path of fame is not necessarily the path of progress as the daily Press would have us believe, and it may be that a kindly Providence has appointed Everest to see we do not stray too far, surely the tallest, grandest "gendarme" that ever stopped a moun-