Ascent Of Mont Cenis
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
At a very early hour the next morning, we resumed our journey, though still uncertain of getting on. Leaving Lans-le-Bourg, we crossed the Soliglia on a low bridge, and now proceeded by the course of this stream, rapid and furious as the Arco. On the way we passed through a sweet and romantic village, which, like the partial sunshine in a gloomy day, was rendered still more lovely by the contrast of the stony valleys and black mountains, by which it was surrounded. We had not proceeded far, when we reached the spot where one of the bridges had been carried away, a rapid current filling the space which it had occupied. To avoid this, we were obliged to mount a precipice of nearly two hundred feet, terminating in abrupt angles, over which we had to pass. We must now have been driven back a second time, had it not been for the assistance of workmen, to the number of more than a hundred, employed in repairing the passes, who, in a manner, bore the carriage across the gulf.
Nothing can exceed the alacrity and zeal with which the lower class of people in Italy offer their aid: It is true, their poverty, which renders a small remuneration valuable to them, acts as a spur to their exertions; yet, their cheerfulness, their obliging readiness, is so pleasing, that a traveller feels relieved and happy, in being able to shew his gratitude, by paying them for their services.
Safely landed on level ground, we resumed the usual road; and passing betwixt two steep rocks, that hung over a grand and tumultuous fall of water, we travelled for several miles, accompanied by the continued roar of a cataract, till 12 o'clock, when we reached the inn where our mules were to repose, before we began the ascent of Mont Cenis. Here we entered on a magnificent road, composed of a fine gravelly soil, upon a soft limestone rock, of thirty or forty feet wide. The easy ascent by traverses up this precipitous mountain, prevents the traveller from observing its steepness, till having proceeded about two miles, he reaches a point, where he suddenly perceives that he has ascended a complete precipice. The mountain here presents a barren aspect, and the eye rests on the country below, with a feeling of astonishment at the height already attained. The wild and broken valley seems now only as a pathway; the village, with its church and bar-racks, like a diminutive model; and the brawling stream, whose dashing roar no more reaches the ear, nor its foaming fury the sight, like a small rivulet. As you ascend the mountain, the parallels of the road become shorter, and the angles consequently more frequent; and at every turn you advance to the very brink of a tremendous precipice, where neither tree, nor bush, nor object intervenes, on which the eye can rest. After a continued as-cent of two hours, if the traveller looks upwards to the still narrowing conical mountain, rising precipitously above him, and then turns his eye downwards to the perpendicular depth below; he feels an awful sensation, nervous, dizzy, and insecure, accompanied by a consciousness of insignificance, amidst these stupendous objects, increased by the silence and solitude, the wildness and rude magnificence, of this elevated region.