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"Mountains and Mankind" ----.,-


"Mountains and Mankind" LECTURE! BY MRi. J. M. ARCHER THOMSON, M.A. The third lecture- of the present season was given on Tuesday evening1 last in the school hall of thei John Bright County School, and in addition to the members of the school, there was a good attendance of members of the public, who were ad- mitted by ticket. Quite a respectable sum will be. realised for the purchase of pictures for the central hall. Mr Thomson is not given to self- advertisement or he would be known as the greatest living authority of the moun- tains of North Wales. On many of the now numerous routes up the chief peaks he has been the pioneer, while his ascents of Snowdon and its various arms by 'face,' 'buttress' and 'gully" climbs number several hundred. He has also done much exploration in the Alps with other skilled friends without the assistance of guides, and it was to the Alps that he took us in his admirable lecture. The. mountains, the lecturer said, have been in most ages objects of wonder, love and a-we. If we turn to the pages of literature in which we find mirrore-d the thoughts of the past we find that the Greeks and the Jews, to whom we owe so much of what. is grandest in the world of letters, made frequent and reverent refer- ence to mountains. They were entwined with the Hfe and history of the nations. To the Jews Moses gave the law after being withdrawn from sight on Sinai, while from Mount Pisgah he view the pro- mised land and there died and was buried in a spot not known to man. The Greeks built on the cliffs a temple to theDelilan Apollo, god of prophecy, while on the lofty -Olympus they imagined that Zeus and his attendant deities dwelt high above the common world. The middle ages were times of superstition, and it is possible that the many mountain deiaies of pagan times were now converted in imagination to elves, hobgoblins and terrible dragons breathing fire that winged their way from icrag to crag. Science has driiven away the hobgoblins and demons, but the lee- turer, with a fine caricature of a glacier, reproduced from an old print in posses- sion of the Royal Society, showed how the dragons still existed, but now crawled only in the 'valleys, breathing no longer fire, but water, their backs stilli scaly with moraine and crevasse) and still exacting their toll of human lives. A number of slides showed the main features of glaciers and their formation. The lecturer very clearly explained how the crevasses were made, and by the end of the lecture we felt we understood some- thing about the history of the glacier dragons from their birth in the neve to their watery death. Especially well did Mr Thomson ex- plain the presence of moraine in the centre of the glacier. Many of the elders I ¡present. must have gained some insight into his abilities as a teacher as he patiently showed how lateral moraines of branches become the medial moraines of the main glacier. One admirable slide showed a glacier T—table in position, a giant block of stone being supported on a pedestal of ice. As the south side melts under the- heat of the sun the table- top tilts 'and after a time slides, from its ped-estai. A second slide showed what the lecturer describe as "A domestic -catas- trophe—the T—taible upset by 'the sun and a-ir' In a second portion of his lecture Mr Thomson took us upon a mountain exped-i- tion up the Finster-Aar-horn, the highest mountain of the Bernese Oberland. We started from an inn, climbed through the forest-clad slopes of the hills until we reached our glacier. Here we were, much annoyed by a pertinacious tourist who dogged our steps. We warned hi an of his risk, and soon were gratified by seeing him disappear in a snow-drift. Leaving him there we marched on to the hut up the glacier. Arriving here towards dusk the leader went on to prospect, while we prepared a meal, for which we found some materials in the hut, while some we had j brought up in our rucksacks. This over, we turned in, turning out again rather unwillingly in the dark at one o,clock. Leaving the hut at 2 a.m., after making a futile attempt at breakfast we found the world in darkness, our only light a feeble candle-lantern carried by the leader. At this early hour the sounds and sights of the glacier were most unusual, and we felt much relieved when the first rays of dawn Ibegan to illumine the peaks. The glorious colour-effects on rock and snow, as point after point was bathed in rosy red, deep purple and tender pink, brought us to a halt, and we stood spell-bound. When the day was fully come, on we went, as a hard day's work lay before us. Crevasses yawned all round us as we reached the ice fall, and we had to pass them by all manner of stratagems. W.e stepped over them, we jumped, we laboriously descended into and climbed out of them, and at one- point after beat- ing the snow of a snow-bridge we lay prone and wriggled over. However, the ice-fall and its great seracs once- passed we were on tihe higher glacier and at once made for a col, or depression in the moun- tain-ridge, by which we intended to attack the ascent. Our line of ascent was along a snow arete, or ridge, and for dizzy heads the sensation was at times appalling1. Only confidence in our leader and the moral support of the- rope -could have induced us to continue the, climlb. Imagine ice-slopes tilted at an angle of 450 to 60 degress across which we had to pass with our feet iin steps cut out by our leader with his axe, where a whole party might- easily slip—to fa,T\l, thousands of feet on to a. glacier below. At one point indeed one member of the party did but he was held up by the rope, and after some delay caused by his cutting steps to regain hvs former position we went b-oldlv on. Our final approach lay along a narrow ridge, rendered somewhat dangerous by an everhangingj lip or cornice of snow. Here we still had to cut our way, though, at times this work was made easier by the leader choosijng the top of the ridge where he cut a path some four inches wide. At- tention to balance, we were told, was very necessary here. Inattention would pro- bably have meant a swift descent down a nearly vertical ice-slope to instantaneous death on the glacier far below. Had the leader slipped the only hope for the party would lie in the second man throwing himself instantly down the opposite side of the ridge. However, at length we gained the summit, and thence had glorious views of myriiad peaks, of gla-ciers and of the swirling clouds that rolled over the valleys, and here and there eddied round the rocky aretes, At this point in the lecture we were shown some very remarkable views of mountain summits, including the Matter- horn, Dent Blanche, Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, La Meige, Pic Zinal, and others. The most wonderful, however, was that of an unnamed and unclimbed mountain in the Himalayas, rising grandly to a height of 28,000 ft. from a glacier 17,000ft. above sea-level. This picture had never before been shown to any audience. Our descent soon began, this time by the rocks. The lecturer had pressed into his service views of many mountains—in various parts of the alps as well as in Cun-iberla,nd-to illustrate the difficulties that may be met with in a rock-climb. It is in this work that Mr Thomson specially excels, but photography is often impos- sible. One picture of a chimney-climb, however, took away the breath, the muscular energy required appearing to be very great, while the least mistake would be attended by grave possibilities. For the rest, we scrambled down as best we might, our 'leader' now occupying the post of honour in the rear. A very hearty vote of thanks was pro- posed by the Rector, and seconded by Councillor James J. Marks. This was very heartily received, and was followed by three ringing cheers from the boys. The lantern was well manipulated by Mr Owen, of Clifton Road, assisted by Master Tom Bevan.



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