12th June 1901: Misty Mountain Hop

Belloc stopped walking for the day a little past Meiringen where he heard the horrid tourist traders

Today, Belloc made his way towards the Brienzergrat.

The Brienzer Grat is an extraordinary thing. it is quite straight; its summits are, of course, of different heights, but from below they seem even, like a ridge: and, indeed, the whole mountain is more like a ridge than any other I have seen…

There are no precipices on it, though there are nasty slabs quite enough to kill a man – I saw several of three or four hundred feet. It is about five or six thousand feet high, and it stands right up and along the northern shore of the lake of Brienz.

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome (Ignatius Press, pp.206-7)

He began his ascent. It was already raining, and now, as he climbed the mountain, mist fell upon him. By the time he reached the peak, Belloc had – unsurprisingly – met the sum total of no one.

He met people on the other side, though; which is to say, in Brienz, but did not get on with them – no one believed he had come over the mountain.

However, they weren’t unfriendly: Belloc still managed to get people’s advice on which path he should take next – several ways were open to him, though as it turned out, even though it was now June, some were blocked due to winter weather.

In the end, Belloc decided to cross the Grimsel and Gries Passes and via the latter enter Italy. But, the best laid plans…

It was now midday. Belloc had a big lunch before setting out. He had a long way to go.

From Brienz to the top of the Grimsel is, as the crow flies, quite twenty miles, and by the road a good twenty-seven.

The Path to Rome, p.230

Early in the afternoon, he reached Meiringen. He hated it for there he found the tourist trade in full effect. The traders were

… all bawling and howling, with great placards and tickets… saying, “This way to the Extraordinary Waterfall; that way to the Strange Cave. Come with me and you shall see that never-to-be-forgotten Falls of the Aar,”

The Path to Rome, p.222

Needless to say, Belloc made no friends here.

Afternoon turned into evening. flap flap The soles of Belloc’s boots were coming loose. He stopped, not at a cobblers, but at a hotel (?) or private house (it’s not quite clear which) for a meal before moving on again. Foolishly, he declined an invitation to stay overnight. In doing so, he overworked himself; for,

… that sustaining surface which hides us in our health the abyss below the mind – I felt it growing weak and thin.

The Path to Rome, p.226

Coming off the back of yesterday’s mental stress, this is not a statement to take lightly. It’s a very true one, though. I realise this every time I feel unwell.

Presently, Belloc arrived at a new hotel. There, he took a room and was fed ‘hot rum and sugar’. He did not sleep well –

… twice that night I woke suddenly, staring at darkness. I had outworn the physical network upon which the soul depends, and I was full of terrors.

The Path to Rome, p.226

Nightmares. Fed by – ? Deeper problems than The Path to Rome explains.

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