Random Facts about the Alps
The Alps comprise about 180 mountains, from 4,000 to 15,732 feet high, the latter being the height of Mount Blanc, the highest spot in Europe. The summit is a sharp ridge, like the roof of a house, consisting of nearly vertical granite rocks. The ascent requires 2 days, 6 or 8 guides are required, and each guide is paid 100 francs ($20.00). It was ascended by two natives, Jacques Belmat and Dr. Packard, August 8, 1786, at 6 a.m. They staid up 30 minutes, with the thermometer at 14 degrees below the freezing point. The provisions froze in their pockets; their faces were frost-bitten, lips swollen, and their sight much weakened, but they soon recovered on their descent. De Saussure records in his ascent August 2, 1760, that the color of the sky was deep blue; the stars were visible in the shade; the barometer sunk to 16.08 inches (being 27.08 in Geneva) the thermometer was 26-1/2 degrees, in the sun 29 degrees (being 87 degrees at Geneva). The thin air works the blood into a high fever, you feel as if you hardly touched the ground, and you scarcely make yourself heard. A French woman, Mademoiselle d'Angeville, ascended in September, 1840, being dragged up the last 1,200 feet by guides, and crying out: "If I die, carry me to the top." When there, she made them lift her up, that she might boast she had been higher than any man in Europe. The ascent of these awful solitudes is most perilous, owing to the narrow paths, tremendous ravines, icy barriers, precipices, etc. In many places every step has to be cut in the ice, the party being tied to each other by ropes, so that if one slips he may be held up by the rest, and silence is enforced, lest the noise of talking should dislodge the avalanches of the Aiguille du Midi. The view from the mountain is inexpressibly grand. On the Alps the limit of the vine is an elevation of 1,600 feet; below 1,000 feet, figs, oranges and olives are produced. The limit of the oak is 3,800 feet, of the chestnut 2,800 feet,of the pine 6,500 feet, of heaths and furze to 8,700 and 9,700 feet; and perpetual snow exists at an elevation of 8,200 feet. Lauterbrunnen is a deep part of an Alpine pass, where the sun hardly shines in winter. It abounds with falls, the most remarkable of which is the Staubbach, which falls over the Balm precipice in a drizzling spray from a height of 925 feet; best viewed in the morning sun or by moonlight. In general, it is like a gauze veil, with rainbows dancing up and down it, and when clouds hide the top of the mountain, it seems as poured out of the sky.