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Item #: OP1729D-281
TRAVELS AMONGST THE GREAT ANDES OF THE EQUATOR Edward Whymper 1987 Color Illustrated ed Hardcover DJ Fine
By Whymper, Edward
Price: $45.00


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Detailed Product Description
Utah, 1987. 456 pp, color photos, fold-out map. Large format hardcover with dust jacket. Fine condition.

Using the original Whymper illustrations plus new color photos, this is as fine a reprint of this great book that has ever been done.  

A nice copy of this scarce book by the celebrated British illustrator and engraver, explorer and mountaineer, Edward Whymper [1840-1911]. Twenty-three years after his triumphant and disastrous conquest of the Matterhorn, Whymper turned his attention to the soaring Andes peaks of Ecuador. As DNB states, 'From a climber's point of view the expedition was completely successful. The summits of Chimborazo (20,948 feet) and six other mountains between 15,000 and 20,000 feet were reached for the first time. A night was spent on the top of Cotopaxi (19,613 feet), and the features of that great volcano were thoroughly studied. From the wider points of view of the geographer, the geologist, and the general traveller, Whymper brought home much valuable material, which was carefully condensed and embodied in [this book].'

Jill Neate states that 'This book was the first of the few great mountaineering classics of South American mountaineering literature. It remains essential reading for anyone visiting Ecuador.' Whymper was also one of the leading wood-engravers of his time and engraved the many superb illustrations in these volumes.

One of the ostensible reasons for this expedition was to scientific investigate mountain-sickness. His findings and conclusions were correct as to its cause, and his suggestions for improving the unreliable aneroid barometer. For this work Whymper was awarded the Royal Geographical Society's highest honor, the 'Patron's Medal'.

From the Introduction: 'It will be within the knowledge of most of those who take up this book that it has long been much debated whether human life can be sustained at great altitudes above the level of the sea in such a manner as will permit of the accomplishment of useful work. The most opposite statements and opinions have been advanced concerning this matter. The extremes range from saying that fatal results may occur, and have occurred, from some obscure cause, at comparatively moderate elevations, down to that no effects whatever have been experienced at the greatest heights which have been attained.

Allegations of the latter class may be set aside for the present, for the evidence is overwhelming that, from 14,000 feet above the level of the sea and upwards, serious inconveniences have occurred; that prostration ( amounting in the more extreme cases to incapacitation has been experienced; and that, in some instances, perhaps, even death has resulted through some cause which operates at great elevations.....'

Contents include: from London to Guaranda; from Guaranda to the first camp on Chimborazo; the first ascent of Chimborazo; from Chuquipoquio to Ambato, Latacunga and Machachi; on an ascent of Corazon, and walks in the lanes of Machachi; on Cotopaxi and Illiniza; the ascent of Cotopaxi, and a night on the summit; the first ascent of Sinchoolagua; on Quito and the Quitonians; the first ascent of Antisana; upon an ascent of Pichincha; the first ascent of Cyambe; the first ascent of Sara-Urcu; on the province of Imbabura, and the first ascent of Cotocachi; a visit to the Pyramids of Quito; upon a walk on the Quito Road, and a journey to Altar; the first ascent of Carihuairazo; etc. etc.

Illustrations include: Chimborazo, from the Slopes above Guaranda; Chimborazo, from a little above the third camp; ice-cliffs under the summits of Chimborazo; carried on the litter into Ambato; Cotopaxi ( 19,613 feet ), from the Hacienda of S. Rosario; part of the interior of the Crater of Cotopaxi; Antisana ( 19,335 feet ), seen from the Hacienda; at samp on the Equator, at Corredor Machai; etc. etc.

INTRODUCTION TO THE 1987 EDITION:
At nightfall on 15 August 1966, as I was lying belly-down in my sleeping bag reading Travels Amongst the Great Andes of the Equator, 1 felt Cotopaxi groan and shudder as if alive. One of those small earthquakes that precede a volcanic eruption? Or just the daily slippage of a glacier down this enor­mous pile of lava and ash that Edward Whymper's superstitious Alpine guide called an 'animal?'

My candle guttered for lack of oxygen though 1 was still far below Cotopaxi's summit. Conscious of the icecaps poised a vertical mile above my tent, 1 turned to Whymper's account of an eruption of laval from Cotopaxi's crater in 1877:

'The weight must be reckoned by hundreds of millions of tons, its heat at thousands of degrees Fahrenheit, and when it . . . fell in cascades upon the surrounding slopes of snow, ice, and glacier, much of it must have. . . bounded downwards in furious leaps, plowing up the mountain like cannon-shot. Portions of the glaciers, uncemented from their attach­ments by the enormous augmentation of heat, slipped away. . . .'

He reported how floods swept down both sides of the Continental Divide, sluicing farmhouses and mule trains into the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Amazon Basin on the other. .

'When I passed this way,' noted Whymper three years later, 'I found the country a wilderness.' He scaled soft ash to Cotopaxi's summit and pitched his tent. His thermometer registered 13° F – the lowest reading of his entire equatorial journey. Soon he smelled burning rubber and found that the temperature of cinders under the tent floor was 110° F. He stayed the night above 19,000 feet to prove that conditioned humans could sur­vive awhile at that height.

The slopes cooled, and thousands of snowfalls later 1 clawed up massive new glaciers to reach the ice-free crater, a third of a mile across and still steaming. From the top, on that rare clear day, I sighted a dozen soli­tary snow peaks, nearly all of them volcanoes.

Eleven of the peaks were climbed during the first half of 1880 by Whymper, a Londoner, and his two Italian companions, Jean-Antoine Carrel and a nephew, Louis Carrel. Eight were first ascents. The Europeans deemed most of the remaining peaks over 13,000 feet (they number nearly forty) to be 'contemptible.' Whymper lost several weeks to a 'stomach gone all wrong,' a disablement that still afflicts travelers to the hinterlands of Ecuador. And Louis Carrel was laid up for two months after freezing his feet on Chimborazo during their first and highest climb.

The summit of Chimborazo was Whymper's major goal. He was pre­pared to devote all his time in Ecuador to Chimborazo alone to observe physiological effects of low atmospheric pressure. He also planned to study highland flora and fauna, and he brought eleven barometers to measure altitudes of mountains.

Whymper did not own up to his chief motivation: a zest for high adven­ture. It enlivens page after page of his Travels. He was driven by an urge to find ways, however dangerous and difficult, to climb impressive peaks. He enjoyed setting foot on a mountaintop - especially if he was the first to do so. He liked to set records in an age when record-setting was not the rage that it is today.
 
Whymper termed the experience 'sport' in an earlier book, his classic Scrambles Amongst the Alps. He wrote Scrambles when he was concerned less with demonstrating erudition than extolling the manly virtues of moun­taineering. 'Caution and perseverance gain the day - the height is reached!' it concludes, 'and those beneath cry, 'Incredible; 'tis superhuman!' '

 

Most people view scaling dangerous heights as unnecessarily risky, if not downright peculiar. So some climbers, as they grow older, try to upstage their aberration with a show of higher purpose. But after such theatrics, and after adding a log to the fire and opening a bottle, they usually reveal a mania for mountains far more intimate than any affair with a microscope or petri dish.

This syndrome can be traced back to naturalist Alexander von Humboldt's attempt to climb Chimborazo in 1802, when that mountain was thought be the world's tallest. The climb was the high point of a five-year scientific sojourn in the New World by the father of modem geography, and the feat helped him to achieve international renown. Learning thirty years later that British surveyors of the Himalayas had reached greater elevations, Humboldt the climber felt let down: 'All my life I have imagined that of all mortals I was the one who had risen highest in the world - I mean on the slopes of Chimborazo!'

In a way he had: the earth's equatorial bulge raises Chimborazo's sum­mit higher than any mountain-nearly two miles higher than Everest's­ when measured from the center of the globe.

One of Edward Whymper's reasons for casting his expedition to Ecua­dor in a scientific mold was to gain the support of officialdom in a land where no one would believe climbing was sport. But Ecuadoreans were not about to be taken in by the 'science' ploy. They knew the Europeans were really looking for treasure. Ever since the Spanish conquest of the Incas in the 1500s legend has held that loot lies buried in the mountains. In 1966, when I came down from Cotopaxi, rural authorities demanded to know whether I had found the treasure that climbers keep seeking.

In 1880 their predecessors put the same question to Whymper's porters, who replied, 'The Doctor, dressed like a king, went from one place to another, looking about; but after a time Senor Juan and Senor Luis seemed afraid of him, for they tied him up with a rope.' 'Enough of this; tell us, did they find treasure?' 'We think they did. They went down on their hands and knees searching for it, and they wrapped what they took in paper and brought it away.' 'Was it gold?' 'We do not know, but it was very heavy.' The royal attire was Whymper's Ulster coat over a dressing-gown. His crown was a Dundee whaling-cap. The treasures were mineral samples.

Another reason for Whymper's insistence that he climbed for scientific reasons is that he was still burdened by the bitter aftermath of his con­quest of the Matterhorn in 1865. That triumph ended in a tragedy that brought Whymper notoriety and 'held up the tide of mountaineering for fully half a generation,' according to one alpine club president. Four of Whym­per's companions perished on the way down from the summit. One was a famous guide, another an English lord.

The accident took the joy out of 'scrambles' that Whymper had begun at age twenty when he journeyed to the Alps in 1860 to sketch major peaks. During the next four years he made several first ascents in the Alps.

Eight times Whymper attacked the Matterhorn without achieving the summit of that awesome pinnacle. Other climbers were trying to get there first. The best of them was an Italian guide from the village of Valtournanche who had often embraced the mountain but had never gotten on top of it. He was Jean-Antoine Carrel, who was sometimes hired by Whymper and who long afterwards would become Whymper's 'chief of staff' in Ecuador.

By 10 July 1865 Whymper had climbed 100,000 vertical feet in eight­een days and was ready to tackle the Matterhorn, with Carrel as guide, by the hitherto 'impossible' northeast ridge where he had discovered that the tilt of the strata afforded better footholds. But on the 11th, Carrel stole a march on Whymper by heading without him up the southern face of the Matterhorn, bound for the summit with six of the best Italian guides.

Whymper chose not to linger 'as a foolish lover' at the foot of the Matterhorn. He combined forces with three other Englishmen and their guides and raced up the northeast ridge on the 13th and 14th.

'At 1.40 p.m. the world was at our feet, and the Matterhorn was con­quered.' It was a splendid day. The seven climbers built a cairn and shouted at the defeated Italian party, still 1,200 feet below.

But on the way down, the inexperienced middle man on the rope fell and knocked three others off the cliff. The rope broke, saving Whymper and two guides. The others plunged 4,000 feet onto Matterhorn Glacier.

Three days later Jean-Antoine Carrel reached the summit from the more difficult Italian side.

Chastened by the Matterhorn's 'terrible vengeance' and by critics unable to share his enthusiasm for mountain climbing, Whymper turned in 1867 from the many-peopled Alps to the vacant ice of Greenland. But a survey in 1872 convinced him that crossing the icecap was beyond his means.

Colonial politics thwarted a Himalayan project in 1874. Then the War of the Pacific in 1879, involving Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, put an end to his preparations to climb the highest peaks in the Andes. 'I turned to the Republic of Ecuador, the most lofty remaining country which was available.' He brought along Jean-Antoine Carrel, then fifty-two, and his nephew Louis Carrel, twenty-six.
 
Edward Whymper at forty was a more sober man than the exuberant author of Scrambles. Few Ecuadoreans appeared to him to be as 'upright, brave, and true' as his Alpine friends of yore. A fastidious fellow, he detested untrustworthy hirelings and filthy lodgings, 'though, after all, a muddy ditch is not the worst of beds-one soon becomes attached to it.'

He had utmost confidence in himself and Jean-Antoine, although he regarded the famous guide as a bit of a bumpkin and laughed at his super­stitions. Jean-Antoine's cure for all ailments from dysentery to anoxia was red wine. 'Especially when heated and beaten up with raw eggs. . . at the Eve of St. John, when the moon is full, for women who are in family way; providing it is drunk whilst looking over the left shoulder. . . .'

In Ecuador, while Whymper abstained from 'high gymnastics' in the interest of science, the Carrels grew tired of being mere porters. 'They pined for work more in harmony with the old traditions; for something with dash and go, - the sallying forth in the dead of the night with rope and axe, to slay a giant; returning at dusk, with shouts and rejoicing, bringing its head in a haversack. I sacrificed a day to meet their wishes, and told them to select a peak, just as one may give a sugar-plum to a fractious child to keep it quiet.'
 
The Carrels got more headhunting than they could handle at the sec­ond camp on Chimborazo, about 16,000 feet high, and Whymper got a flying start at studying the pathology of oxygen deprivation. All three of the experienced alpinists turned belly-up with AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), also termed soroche in English, Spanish, and Quechua-the Inca tongue. They suffered splitting headaches, fever, and 'found it impossible to sus­tain life without every now and then giving spasmodic gulps,' like fish out of water. They could not eat, but 'wished to smoke, and found that our pipes almost refused to burn, for they, like ourselves, wanted more oxygen.'
 
Whymper was mystified that a companion, Mr. Perring, 'a rather debilitated man [who] could scarcely walk on a flat road without desiring to sit down,' was not distressed by the altitude. To the contrary; Perring nursed the fallen veterans for two or three days.

They followed Alexander von Humboldt's 1802 route to a cliff so steep that Whymper declared, 'Thus far and no farther a man may go who is not a mountaineer.' His barometer read 18,400 feet. The place was about as high as Humboldt and his three ill-equipped companions could have climbed, although Humboldt had asserted that 'According to the barometric formula given by LePlace, we had now reached an elevation of 19,286 English feet.'

Whymper did not accuse that most famous scientist of the nineteenth century of exaggerating the height, but he did marvel politely at 'the divine speed' of Humboldt's descent: 3,686 feet in one hour. [Whymper's swiftest descents in Ecuador were hardly half as fast. He constantly clocked himself. His idea of a good rate of climb was 800 feet an hour. On the level at 10,000 feet eleva­tion his walking speed was twelve minutes a mile in hobnailed mountain boots. His sea-level norm was eleven minutes.]

I photographed the route from both surface and air while writing a book about Humboldt's sojourn in the New World. My guide was Marco Cruz, an Ecuadorean who has climbed on five continents. Marco first scaled Chim­borazo at fourteen, with his father, and has returned to the 20,702-foot summit more than fifty times. At Humboldt's approximate high point, both my excellent altimeters as well as Marco's registered 18,200 feet-a bit loftier than one-half sea-level pressure.

Working north from Chimborazo, the three Europeans scaled ten more of Ecuador's highest mountains between 1 February and 30 June 1880. One historic first ascent, up the steep twin peaks of Illiniza, belonged to the Carrels alone. On two other Illiniza attempts, Whymper stopped short of risking a fall from steep friable rock, glazed with ice and concealed in cloud.

Similar dangers kept the team from assailing the spires of EI Altar, once the highest mountain in Ecuador. Indian legend tells of the stupendous eruption of Capac Urca - Almighty Mountain - that laid darkness on the high­lands centuries ago. Its cone exploded and left an enormous caldera rimmed with a crescent of peaks. Seeing the mountain as a great cathedral, Spaniards named it The Altar. They called the northern rim The Canon and the eastern The Tabernacle. The southern spires, at 17,457 feet the loftiest rim, they named The Bishop.
 
Whymper did not go near Sangay, Ecuador's sixth highest peak, a sym­metrical cone south of El Altar that fires salvos of lava projectiles so lethal that the Matterhorn's bounding rockfalls are confetti by comparison. Seldom­seen Sangay is almost always blanketed with clouds that swirl up from the Amazon Basin. Whymper sighted it only once, while climbing Chimborazo, and described huge jets of steam that shot skyward at twenty-two miles a minute. For hundreds of years Sangay has been ejecting lava and ash con­tinually and therefore may be higher than the 17,159 feet long listed as its altitude.

One splendid morning I approached the summit in a small plane to marvel at Sangay's ongoing spectacle of fire and ice. Rivers of lava sizzled through fresh snowfalls. Out of the crater floor burst molten blobs of lava that whizzed hundreds of feet above my plane, froze into contorted black stones, and arched back down to pockmark the snow.

More passive perils, crevasses, endangered the expedition on all four of the largest snowpeaks, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, Cayambe, and Antisana. Whymper saw crevasses on Antisana half a mile long, two hundred and fifty feet deep, and eighty feet across. He fell into a hidden one seventy feet deep when a snow bridge collapsed, and dangled for anxious minutes between sheer ice walls on a taut rope held by Louis Carrel on one side of the cre­vasse and Jean-Antoine on the other. This time a good rope saved him, whereas on the Matterhorn it was the failure of a bad rope that saved Whymper's life. Although Whymper was apparently unruffled by the fall, he did write later ofJean-Antoine's complaint that 'his blood had been turned sour by the crevasse episode. This dangerous malady, however, yielded to the benign influence of the universal remedy. . . .'

One insidious glacier flows from the 18,996-foot summit of Cayambe south across the Equator. It is not very steep and seems to offer an easy route to the top, yet it is riddled with crevasses concealed under smooth layers of snow. The three Europeans climbed it from the southern hemi­sphere into the northern, from autumn into spring, and back again the same day.

Upon arrival in Ecuador, Edward Whymper and the Carrels had climbed from the sea to the summit of the country in three quick weeks. Now the Englishman decided to exit the Andes in the same grand manner that he had entered: via Chimborazo.
 
On their second ascent of Chimborazo the climbers felt little of the acute mountain sickness which had felled them during their first venture into the virgin heights six months earlier. Weather was good enough to let them witness an eruption of Cotopaxi, sixty miles to the north. Dense clouds of ash drifted overhead, staining the sun green. The sky turned the color of blood, of tarnished copper, of polished brass.

In 1966, while reading Whymper's Travels on the slopes of Cotopaxi, I had wondered whether the great volcano might someday blow itself to smithereens, leaving only a jagged-edged caldera like El Altar's. Whymper's concept of Cotopaxi's geologic future was more gentle. He imagined that 'the great cone which has so often trembled with subterra­nean thunders' will simply become extinct. 'Its crater will disappear,' he wrote, 'and over its rugged floor and its extinguished fires, soft snowflakes will rear a majestic dome loftier than Chimborazo.' – Loren McIntyre


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