The path from Gschloss leads straight up to the foot of the dark pyramid of the Kesselkopf, and then in steep endless zig-zags along the edge of the great glacier. I saw, at first, the pinnacles of ice far above me, breaking over the face of the rock; then, after an hour’s breathless climbing, I could look right into the blue crevasses; and at last, after another hour over soft snow-fields and broken rocks, I was at the Pragerhut, perched on the shoulder of the mountain, looking down upon the huge river of ice.
It was a magnificent view under the clear light of evening. Here in front of us, the Venediger with all his brother-mountains clustered about him; behind us, across the Tauern, the mighty chain of the Glockner against the eastern sky.
This is the frozen world. Here the Winter, driven back into his stronghold, makes his last stand against the Summer, in perpetual conflict, retreating by day to the mountain-peak, but creeping back at night in frost and snow to regain a little of his lost territory, until at last the Summer is wearied out, and the Winter sweeps down again to claim the whole valley for his own.
In the Pragerhut I found mountain comfort. There were bunks along the wall of the guest-room, with plenty of blankets. There was good store of eggs, canned meats, and nourishing black bread. The friendly goats came bleating up to the door at nightfall to be milked. And in charge of all this luxury there was a cheerful peasant-wife with her brown-eyed daughter, to entertain travellers. It was a pleasant sight to see them, as they sat down to their supper with my guide; all three bowed their heads and said their “grace before meat,” the guide repeating the longer prayer and the mother and daughter coming in with the responses. I went to bed with a warm and comfortable feeling about my heart. It was a good ending for the day. In the morning, if the weather remained clear, the alarm-clock was to wake us at three for the ascent to the summit.
But can it be three o’clock already. The gibbous moon still hangs in the sky and casts a feeble light over the scene. Then up and away for the final climb. How rough the path is among the black rocks along the ridge! Now we strike out on the gently rising glacier, across the crust of snow, picking our way among the crevasses, with the rope tied about our waists for fear of a fall. How cold it is! But now the gray light of morning dawns, and now the beams of sunrise shoot up behind the Glockner, and now the sun itself glitters into sight. The snow grows softer as we toil up the steep, narrow comb between the Gross-Venediger and his neighbour the Klein-Venediger. At last we have reached our journey’s end. See, the whole of the Tyrol is spread out before us in wondrous splendour, as we stand on this snowy ridge; and at our feet the Schlatten glacier, like a long, white snake, curls down into the valley.