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Meyringen, though a stout pedestrian might push on in one day either to Ober-Gestelen, or across the Furca to Hospital.
It is one of the grandest and most interesting passes across the Alps,
Above Meyringen (p. 112) the vale of Hasli contracts, and in about 2 miles is crossed by a mound or hill of considerable height, called the Kirchet, which appears at one time to have dammed up the waters of the Aar. At present they force their way through a singularly narrow rent, which cleaves the eminence from top to bottom. The path, quitting for a short time the side of the river, mounts this steep in zigzags, and then descends through a forest, into the retired green valley of Upper Hasli, which is in the form of a basin, surrounded by hills, and was once probably a lake. Two valleys open out into it; on the W. that of Urbach, on the E. that of Gadmen, up which runs the path leading by the pass of the Susten (Route 32) to Wasen. On the rt. lies the village Im-Grund, and, crossing the Aar, another village, called Im-Hof, situated between it and the Gadmen river, is passed. Another ravine is succeeded by a second enlargement of the valley called Im-Boden. Higher up is "the small and lonely village" of
3 Guttanen, where there is an inn; but the best place for a mid-day halt to rest the mules is the chalet of
1 1/4 The Handek, about 1 1/2 hour's walk beyond Guttanen. It can furnish a bed upon an emergency, and refreshments only of a very humble kind-such as milk, cheese, kirschwasser, and spirit of gentian. It stands at the distance of a few yards from the Falls of the Aar, perhaps the finest cataract in Switzerland, from its height (more than 100 feet), the quantity and rush of water, the gloom of the gorge into which it precipitates itself, and the wild character of the rocky solitude around it. It is also remarkably easy of access, so that the traveller may form a full estimate of its grandeur; surveying it, first from below, through the vista of black rocks into which it plunges, and afterwards from above, stretching his neck over the brow of the precipice from which the river takes its leap, and watching it (if his nerves be steady) till it is lost in the spray of the dark abyss below.
The view from this point, not more than 5 or 6 feet at ove the fall, which few will hesitate to call the best, is exceedingly impressive and stimulating. So plentiful is the rush of water that it reaches more than half way down in one unbroken glassy sheet before it is tossed into white foam; and, what adds to its beauty, is, that another stream (the Erlenbach), pouring in from the right at this very spot, takes pre
cisely the same leap, mingling its tributary waters midway with the more powerful column of the Aar.
The dark forest of fir through which the route has wound for a considerable distance, now dwindles away into a few dwarf bushes, and disappears entirely a little above Handek. To them succeed the scanty vegetation of rank grass, rhododendron, and lichen; and even this partial covering disappears prematurely, in some places being abraided and peeled off by the avalanches. There is a spot about 2 miles above Handek, where they descend in winter, directly across the path, and in their course over the sloping and convex mass of granite, have ground smooth, and polished its surface for a space of nearly a quarter of a mile. It is prudent to dismount here, and cross this bad bit of road (Böseplatte) on foot, since the path runs by the edge of the precipice, and the surface of the rock, though chiselled into grooves, to secure a footing for the horses, is very slippery. A single false step might be fatal to man and beast, precipitating both into the gulph below the slight wooden rail, which is swept away almost every winter, would afford but little protection. The valley of the Aar, up which the narrow path is carried, looks stern and forbidding from its sterility, and the threatening cliffs of granite which overhang it. The Aar is crossed several times by dizzy bridges of a single arch, formed of gra— nite slabs, without a parapet. There is but one human habitation between Handek and the Hospice, the miserable chalet of the Rätrisboden, or Röderichsboden, where the ravine expands once more into a basin-shaped hollow probably once a lake-bed, with a marshy bottom, affording scanty herbage for a few goats. A little above this the path quits the Aar, which rises in the Aar-glacier, about a mile higher up on the rt., and ascending a glen, strewed with shattered rocks, reaches
2 The Hospice of the Grimsel, an inn of the rudest kind, originally designed to shelter travellers from necessity, and afford a gratuitous aid to the poor; but now daily occupied during the summer months by travellers for pleasure, sometimes to the number of 40 or 50 at once, who pay for their accommodation, as in any other inn, and sit down at a table d'hôte usually about 7 o'clock in the evening the fare is plain, not delicate, but the charges are not high. It is a massy building of rough masonry, designed to resist a weight of snow, and with few windows to admit the cold. It contains about 20 beds, and affords such homely fare as may reasonably be expected in a spot 6000 feet above the sea, and removed by many miles from any other human dwelling. It is occupied by the innkeeper, who rents it from March to November. One servant passes the winter in the house, with
a provision of cheese, to last out the whole time, sufficient to support himself and any chance wanderer who might accidentally pass that way. Its situation is as dreary as can be conceived. It lies in a rocky hollow, about 1000 feet below the summit of the pass, surrounded by soaring peaks and steep precipices. The rocks around are bare and broken, scarcely varied by patches of snow, which never melt, even in summer, and by strips of grass and green moss, which shoot up between the crevices, and are eagerly browsed by a flock of goats. A considerable supply of peat is dug from a bog within a few yards of the door. In the bottom of this naked basin, close to the house, is a black tarn, or lake, in which no fish live. Beyond it lies a small pasturage, capable of supporting, for a month or two, the cows belonging to the hospice, and the servants cross the lake twice a-day, in a boat, to milk them. It is a landscape worthy of Spitzbergen or Nuova Zembla. This wilderness is the haunt of the marmot, whose shrill whistle frequently breaks the solitude; and the chamois, become rare of late, still frequents the neighbouring glaciers; both animals contribute at times to replenish the larder of the Hospice.
On the 22nd March, 1838, the Hospice was overwhelmed and crushed by an avalanche, which broke through the roof and floor, and filled all the rooms but that occupied by the servant, who succeeded with difficulty in working his way out through the snow, along with his dog, and reached Meyringen in safety. The evening before, the man had heard a mysterious sound, known to the peasants of the Alps, and believed by them to be the warning of some disaster: it appeared so like a human voice that the man supposed it might be some one in distress, and went out with his dog to search, but was stopped by the snow. The next morning the sound was again heard, and then came the crash of the falling avalanche. The Hospice will probably be repaired in the course of the summer (1838), but the traveller should ascertain beforehand in what state it is.
During the campaign of 1799 the Austrians actually encamped for some time upon the top of the Grimsel, and during their stay gutted the Hospice, using every morsel of woodwork for fuel. Every attempt of the French General Lecourbe to dislodge them had failed, when a peasant of Guttanen, named Nägeli, offered to conduct a detachment by a circuitous path, known only to himself, to the rear of the Austrian position, on condition that the mountain he was about to cross should-be given to him as his reward. This being agreed to, a party, commanded by General Gudin, led by Nägeli over the Döltihorn and the glaciers of Ghelmer, fell upon the Austrians unawares, from a point above that
which they occupied. They were seized with a panic and fled at once; many in the direction of the glacier of Aar, where escape was hopeless, and those who were not shot by the French, perished in the rents and chasms, where human bones, rusty arms, and tattered clothes are even now met with, and attest their miserable fate. The guide of the French did not profit by his barren mountain, remaining as poor as before he became possessed of it, but it has since been called after him, Nägeli's Grätli.
The source of the Aar lies in two enormous glaciers, the Ober and Unter-Aar-Gletscher, to the W. of the Hospice. The Unter-Aar glacier is the best worth visiting, and may be reached in 2 hours. It is remarkable for the evenness of the surface of ice and the rareness of cavities on its surface. In places it is covered with accumulated rubbish which has fallen from the granite rocks around. It is about 18 miles long, and from 2 to 4 broad. Out of the midst of it rises the Finster-Aarhorn; the Schreckhorn is also conspicuous. There is no danger and little difficulty in exploring it for 2 or 3 hours, accompanied by a guide; and a path has recently been made by which it is accessible even on horseback. Hugi traversed the whole glacier in this manner on a horse hired from the Hospice.
The best panorama of the Grimsel and the neighbouring peaks and glaciers may be seen from the top of the Seidelhorn, a mountain on the rt. of the path leading to Brieg and the Furca; its summit may be reached in 3 hours from the Hospice it is 8634 feet above the sea-level.
The summit of the pass of the Grimsel (7016 feet above the sca) is 2 miles from the Hospice--a steep path, marked only by tall poles stuck into the rock to guide the wayfarer, leads up to it. On the crest lies another small lake, called Todten See, or Lake of the Dead, because the bodies of those who perished on the pass were thrown into it by way of burial. Along the crest of the mountain runs the boundary-line between Berne and the Vallais, and here the path dividesthat on the 1. side of the lake leads by the Meyenwand to the glacier of the Rhone (distant about 5 miles), and to the pass of the Furca (Route 30); that on the rt. of it goes to OberGestelen, but it would be worth the while of the traveller bound thither to make a detour of about 6 miles to visit the glacier and source of the Rhone. By the direct road it is a walk of 6 miles from the summit to
3 Ober-Gestelen (Fr., Haut Châtillon). The inn, kept by Bertha, used to be a decent house. This is the highest village but one (Oberwald being the highest) in the Upper Vallais, and is 4360 feet above the sea-level. It is situated on the rt. bank of the Rhone, about 8 miles below its source in the
glacier. It is the dépôt for the cheese transported out of Canton Berne into Italy, and is a place of some traffic, as it lies at the junction of the three bridle-roads over the Grimsel, the Furca, and the Gries (Route 29).
In 1720, 84 men were killed here by an avalanche.
The descent of the Upper Vallais to Brieg, a distance of 35 miles, is very uninteresting. The road runs along the rt. bank of the Rhone. For a part of the way it is praticable for chars, and will be finished, it is said, all the way, in two or three years. (?) Opposite the village of Ulrichen, the valley of Eginen opens out-up it runs the path leading over the Gries and the Neüfnen (Route 35).
The Upper Vallais (Ober-Wallis) is very populous, and numerous unimportant villages are passed in rapid succession. One of the largest is Münster, containing about 400 inhabitants. The natives of the Upper Vallais are a distinct and apparently superior race to those of the Lower. The language is German. The Romans never penetrated into the higher part of the Rhone valley.
4 Viesch lies at the entrance of a side-valley, blocked up at its upper extremity by a glacier, above which rise the peaks called Viescher-Hörner. There exists a tradition, that a path once led up this valley to Grindelwald: it is now entirely stopped by the glacier, and this circumstance is supposed to prove a great increase of the mass of ice. From Laax to Brieg the char-road is completed.
The stream of the Massa, descending from the W., is supplied by the great glacier of Aletsch, a branch of that vast expanse of ice which extends to Grindelwald in Canton Berne (S 17).
314 Naters, a village of 600 inhabitants, lies in a milder climate, where the chestnut begins to flourish. Above it rises the ruined castle of Fluh, or Saxa (Supersax).
A wooden bridge leads across the Rhone to
1/2 Brieg, at the foot of the Simplon (Route 59).
PASS OF THE GRIES
OBER-GESTELEN TO DOMO D'OSSOLA, BY THE VAL FORMAZZA (POMMAT), and the falls of the
About 14 stunden-46 Eng. miles.
A mule-path, not dangerous, though it crosses a glacier, but difficult and very fatiguing. A guide should be taken over the Col.
The inns on the Italian side of the pass are wretched, but the traveller will be rewarded by its scenes of wildness and