In Whitman's Hand

Marginalia

About this Item

Title: Ascent of Mount Popocatapetl

Creators: Walt Whitman, Gerard Noel, Anonymous

Annotation Date: After March 23, 1854

Base Document Citation: Anonymous, "Ascent of Mount Popocatapetl," New York Daily Tribune 13 (23 March 1854), 5.

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Transcribed from digital images of the original item.

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00086

Contributors to digital file: Lauren Grewe, Ty Alyea, Nicole Gray, and Matt Cohen


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Whitman's Hand | Highlighting | Paste-on | Erasure | Overwrite



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[Page image: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/manuscripts/marginalia/figures/duk.00086.001.jpg]

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ASCENT OF MOUNT POPOCATAPETL.

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The following is an extract of a letter published in an English paper, from the Hon. Gerard Noel, M. P., dated Mexico, Jan. 2, 1854, and describing his successful attempt to ascend Popocatapetl in the depth of winter:

"I returned yesterday from an expedition to Popocatapetl, the highest mountain in North America—17,000 feet above the level of the sea. I believe there is no record of an ascent before at this season of the year, although it has been frequently done in May and June. The first night of our ascent we slept at a hut at the line where vegetation ceases and perpetual snow commences, and at 5¼ the next morning we started for the summit, one of the guides leading. At 8 o'clock I found myself one hundred yards ahead of the rest of the party, (consisting of four,) at 9 out of sight of the party altogether, and at 11 o'clock I reached the crater. The crater is a vast basin, three miles in circumference and 900 feet deep; in some parts perpendicular, in others great masses of projecting rock form bold and stupendous outlines, with enormous icicles hanging from every point. The volcano itself has long since ceased to show any signs of eruption. I began to feel very much numbed with the cold, and my eyes suffered a good deal from the glare of the snow. I should have been very glad of something to eat, having had nothing but a cup of coffee and a biscuit before leaving the hut; but the guide who carried the breakfast had remained (the ruffian!) with the others, who had not come up. Having examined the crater for about a quarter of an hour, I told the guide who had persevered with me to lead the way up to the top. The fellow declared it was impossible; but not intending, as you may imagine, to give it up (having come so far) without any push, I started for the top alone. I was now only able to take three steps at a time without stopping, as my legs began to give way, and I had oppression of the head and chest. A little after 1 P. M. I reached the top, and enjoyed one of the finest views conceivable of the great valley of Mexico, and looking down on the twin volcano (I forget the Mexican name, but in English it means the White Lady, from its top resembling a woman lying in full length) seemingly miles below me, but actually only about 2,000 feet. The cold was too intense for me to remain more than ten minutes at the top, and I commmenced the descent to the crater. By this time the mountain was enveloped in clouds, and I could see nothing distinctly, so I commenced a further descent, and in a few moments came in sight of the pole of Mr. S—e (one of my compagnons de voyage,) and soon after of himself, lying down, black in the face, and wishing to be let alone to die. A little lower down I saw Mr. C—d, rolling about like a drunken man, but still, with undoubted pluck, struggling toward the summit at the rate of about a yard in three minutes. However after a little rest and encouragement, they both rallied, and I returned with them as far as the crater, but no human effort could get them any higher. I attribute my being able to reach the top to my wind; I never felt want of breath at any time, while the others blew like porpoises. In our descent from the crater we encountered the only real danger. At first the snow was good walking, but as we came lower, where the sun makes a sheet of ice of the surface of the snow, it became so slippery that we frequently lost our footing, and if, after a slip, you get so much impetus that you can't stop yourself, the certainty is that you arrive at the bottom in much the same condition as the man who jumped off the monument. At one time I almost gave myself up. However, no accident did happen, though it makes me creep to think of the slide I took. At five P. M., with my hands cut to bits, my nails worn to the quick with holding on, I reached the hut and there got my breakfast, glad to think it was over, as hungry as fourteen hours' abstinence and battling with 17,000 feet of mountain snow and ice could make me. One of my eyes is completely 'bunged up,' the other just enables me to see to write this. My face is a mass of raw flesh and blisters; but I have the satisfaction of having perched upon a higher mountain than exists in Europe, and climbed 2,500 feet nearer to heaven than Albert Smith."

Tribune March 23d '54


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