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Swiss Holiday Diary 1908..
by Margaret Wilson McNee (born 1881 in Glasgow, Lanarkshire)

Part 8 "A Lazy Day"



Wednesday July 29th

This has been a lazy day.  My slumbers were disturbed as usual by the blacksmith and the goat, and I was by no means anxious to get up at 6.30 for photographic purposes.  However, as it had rained all night, and was still at it, we lay till 7.  It would have been utter nonsense to think of photos.  After breakfast the English folks in a body, and a few of the Scotties set off to Kleine Scheidegg.  Mrs Smith and Agnes Millar exchanged their Faulhorn tickets for todays (expedition) ones.  The rains had ceased, but it was still cloudy and dull.  Phys, the Gilberts and ‘T’ and I walked to the Ice Grotto of the Lower Glacier, or, as the folks here called it the “Unterer Gletscher”.  It was a stiff pull up, practically over the same ground that we covered on Monday, and it was dreadfully close. 

We had a good view of the Lutschinenschlucht from above, but we did not go into it.  At one of the little huts, we met a lady and gentleman, who had been at the Kurhaus with us.  They are now staying at Grindelwald and had called at the Eiger to pay us a little visit.  We were all away when they called.  It was pleasant to see them again.  At the entrance to the grotto, we got shawls from the old man, to protect us from the cold.  The Grotto is just a tunnel in the ice, ending in a sort of room, with two large pillars of ice in the centre.  The most remarkable thing about the grotto, I think, was the beautiful blue colour of the ice.  It made us all look ghastly.  The inner part was lit with lamps.  We sang a verse of “All people” in the little round room before returning to the open air.  Jeanie Rae took a photo of the entrance, with Aunt Sal and Beery to give the “human interest”.  We each paid the old man our ½ fr and descended.  Rain began to fall again, and we had to hurry back to the Hotel, where we shortly afterwards had lunch.  The little picnic we had planned was ‘off’, so we trotted upstairs and had a nap.  I made up for the lost sleeping time, but ‘T’ and Nan & a few others went to the little tea shop, recommended by the driver yesterday, and had tea.  They were quite delighted with the tea cakes, and last, but by no means least, the price.  The last was very reasonable.

At 6.30. Mr Lister photographed us.  The Niesen party had a little group of themselves, taken by Mr Thomas.  The dinner bell rang, before we were quite finished, so we had to ‘scurry’.  Mr Morgan has arrived, and we had him at the head of our table.  He kept Nan in order, though he told some fine tales himself.  For some time we sat on the Balcony listening to the band, but left this to go in search of those members of the party, who are leaving tomorrow.  We got hold of Mr & Miss Lister and came back with them.  ‘T’ said, when we halted to say goodbye: “Saying Goodbye is like taking a pill, the sooner it is over the better.  Goodbye, I’m off.” And away she trotted, without once looking back.  The folks around, for the first moment, were speechless with amazement, then they all burst into laughter.  The rest of us said our Adieus in decency and order, then trotted off to bed.


Thursday, July 30th

We had an early start today, our intention being to climb the Faulhorn.  We meant to profit by the experience we had in climbing the Niesen, and start early in the morning, so as to have the greatest part of our work over, before the heat of the day.  We arose at 5.30 a.m. and had breakfast before 7.  Our guide awaited us as we came out from breakfast, so we at once, prepared to set out.  We hired Alpenstocks and tucked up our skirts.  The following people made up the party Nan, Phys, Beery, Jeanie, Misses Cassels, Bryce & Barr and Donaldson, Lois, Aggie, Mrs Gilbert, Aunt Sal, Mr Evans, ‘T’ and myself.  Our guide was rather a nice boy and liked his little joke.  He could speak English very well, having been six months in London, and a year in Worthing.  Nan lost no time in letting him know, that we were Scotch, and not English, and volunteered to give him an education on the way to the Faulhorn Kulm.  I hope he has profited by this experience of Scotch folks!!!  He got a good deal of amusement, if he got naught day’s else.  Having left the hotel a short distance behind, we turned to the left, and at once began to ascend.  Ever thing looked lovely in the morning sunshine, especially the snow mountains.  The road just at first, was narrow, rough and steep, and climbing was hot work, till we got into the pinewoods.  We were grateful for the shade that the trees afford.  Our guide went slowly, in fact he accused Nan of going too fast, and took the lead himself.  I was glad. The slow pace suited my little infirmities nicely. I rejoiced also, that there were others of the party, even slower than myself so that I got little rests, while the smart folks were waiting on the slow ones.  The day became exceedingly hot, and we were glad we had started early, as our hardest work was over before we reached the halfway Chalet.  We congratulated ourselves on our good luck in having such a lovely day, after yesterday’s rain.  (The poor folks who went to Klein Scheidegg yesterday could not finish their excursion, and had to take the first train home again, without really having seen what they had set out to see.)  Everything was beautifully clear – a great contrast to yesterday.  As we were trudging peacefully along, we were startled by a tremendous noise.  This was a fall of snow on the Wetterhorn.  It poured over a precipice like a great waterfall, for quite five minutes.  This is the largest avalanche that we have seen.  It fell from a great height, and there must have been tons upon tons of falling snow, as the pile formed at the foot of the cliff was very large.  Fortunately, there were no dwellings in the neighbourhood.

There were no troughs of water on the way which was a sad drawback, so far as I was concerned.  I was miserable with thirst.  When we had passed the half-way hut, I saw that there were some mountain streams near, and I made up my mind, that at the first I came to, I should have a good drink of water.  The guide was much opposed to this water-drinking, but I had one notwithstanding.  He does not know me, nor my water drinking capacity, and after this I drank when it suited me, and felt a great deal more lively and able for work.  From bottom to top there was only one single solitary trough.  The higher we climbed, the stonier and more barren became the way.  We left most of the pretty flowers behind and grass took their place.  We passed a cattle farm, and soon came upon the cows with their tinkling bells.  They were in considerable numbers.  On the way, we had met men carrying wooden vessels full of milk on their backs.  Others were in charge of a sort of wooden sledge, with barrels of milk in it.  Probably they came from this farm.  Our party was now augmented by one gentleman whom Phys had “picked up” near the half-way hut.  He was a very nice ‘chiel’.  We were now quite near the snow, but not-withstanding this, we were excessively hot.  We came to a little lake in which the cattle were standing cooling themselves.  We envied them their ‘coolth’.  Several people came down from the top of the mountain and it was just at this little lake that we met them.  Miss Barr took a handful of snow from a pile near and gave me a share.  This I carried to keep me cool.  Needless to say it gradually grew less, and my energy seemed to ooze away with it.  ‘T’, Nan, and some others were ever so far in front, but it rejoiced my heart not a little to know that there were a greater number behind.  I pegged on (not meant to be punny) all my ‘lee lane’, taking frequent little standing rests.  Aggie Dewar and the stranger made up on me, gradually.  The road wound about a great deal and was indicated by piles of stones with poles up the centre.  These would be there to show the way when snow hid the track, I expect.  We passed two rough huts or shelters, with the name “Schirmhaus” over the door.  (Schirmhaus means a shelter house as Regen-schirm means a shelter from the rain, i.e. an umbrella.)

The top of the mountain was still out of sight, as were ‘T’, the guide and the other members of the vanguard.  A sudden turn on the road however gave us a view of the top, and a very pleasant sight it was.  The top of the Faulhorn resembles that of Ben Lomond, in that in shape it is like a sugar loaf, and that the last climb is a very hard one.  The sight of the hotel inspired me to further efforts, and I put a stout heart to a “gay stey brae”.  Both heart and lungs objected and my poor ribs suffered.  I had to sit down, lest I should “bust”, and I did not want Aggie Dewar and “the man”, who were close behind, to come upon my mangled remains.  I thought on ‘T’s idea of bidding Goodbye, so got to my feet once more, and soon reached the goal.  ‘T’ and the others were at lunch.  Aggie and I shared a bottle of lemonade, which cost 2fs, and after our hard labour and thirst, tasted exceedingly fine.


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© Winamop 1908