Little Mother Up the Morderberg

Posted on: December 26, 2007

They didn't like the way I lifted my aviator's nose to the peaks. [Photo] Andreas Schmidt

The following story, "Little Mother Up the Morderburg," was written about a century ago by H.G. Wells, best known for his works of science fiction such as The War of the Worlds and The Island of Dr. Moreau. This climbing tale was reprinted, with the exquisite illustrations you see here—thanks to Andreas Schmidt—in Issue 7 of Alpinist.

Most readers are aware that a devastating fire burned the Alpinist warehouse on December 5, 2007. The lighthearted story that follows is a tribute to our lost back issues and a reminder that anything, with the right vision, is possible.

Little Mother Up the Morderberg

I think I mentioned when I was telling how I sailed my first aeroplane that I made a kind of record at Arosa by falling down three separate crevasses on three successive days. That was before little mother followed me out there. When she came, I could see at a glance she was tired and jaded and worried, and so, instead of letting her fret about in the hotel and get into a wearing tangle of gossip, I packed her and two knapsacks up and started off on a long, refreshing, easy-going walk northward until a blister on her foot stranded us at the Magenruhe Hotel on the Sneejoch. She was for going on, blister or no blister—I never met pluck like mother's in all my life—but I said, "No. This is a mountaineering inn, and it suits me down to the ground—or if you prefer it up to the sky. You shall sit in the veranda by the telescope, and I'll prance about among the peaks for a bit."

"Don't have accidents," she said.

"Can't promise that, little mother," I said; "but I'll always remember I'm your only son."

So I pranced...

I need hardly say that in a couple of days I was at loggerheads with all the mountaineers in that inn. They couldn't stand me. They didn't like my neck with its strong, fine Adam's apple—being mostly men with their heads jammed on—and they didn't like the way I bore myself and lifted my aviator's nose to the peaks. They didn't like my being a vegetarian and the way I evidently enjoyed it, and they didn't like the touch of color, orange and green, in my rough serge suit. They were all of the dingy school, the sort of men I call gentlemanly owls—shy, correct-minded creatures, mostly from Oxford, and as solemn over their climbing as a cat frying eggs. Sage they were, great headnodders, and "I-wouldn't-venture-to-do-a-thing-like-that"-ers. They always did what the books and guides advised, and they classed themselves by their seasons; one was in his ninth season, and another in his tenth, and so on. I was a novice and had to sit with my mouth open for bits of humble-pie.

My style that! Rather!


I would sit in the smoking-room sucking away at a pipeful of hygienic herb tobacco—they said it smelt like burning garden rubbish—and waiting to put my spoke in and let a little light into their minds. They set aside their natural reticence altogether in their efforts to show how much they didn't like me.

"You chaps take these blessed mountains too seriously," I said.

"They're larks, and you've got to lark with them."

They just slewed their eyes round at me.

"I don't find the solemn joy in fussing you do. The old-style mountaineers went up with alpenstocks and ladders and light hearts. That's my idea of mountaineering."

"It isn't ours," said one red-boiled hero of the peaks, all blisters and peeling skin, and he said it with an air of crushing me.

"It's the right idea," I said serenely, and puffed at my herb tobacco.

"When you've had a bit of experience you'll know better," said another, an oldish young man with a small gray beard.

"Experience never taught me anything," I said.

"Apparently not," said someone, and left me one down and me to play. I kept perfectly tranquil.

"I mean to do the Morderberg before I go down," I said quietly, and produced a sensation.

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