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July 2, 1863: Mount Lyell

July 2, 2013

Looking down from the top of Lyell Glacier; photo courtesy of Bob Burd

Looking down from the top of Lyell Glacier; photo courtesy of Bob Burd


Camp 119

[Today] we are up early. First, a hasty and substantial breakfast, then we prepare to climb the highest peak back. The frost lies heavy on the grass, and we are some distance before the sun peeps over the hill. Over rocks and snow, the last trees are passed, we get on bravely, and think to be up by eleven o’clock. We cross great slopes all polished like glass by former glaciers. Striking the last great slope of snow, we have only one thousand feet more to climb. In places the snow is soft and we sink two or three feet in it. We toil on for hours; it seems at times as if our breath refuses to strengthen us, we puff and blow so in the thin air.

After over seven hours of hard climbing we struck the last pinnacle of rock that rises through the snow and forms the summit—only to find it inaccessible, at least from that side. We had to stop at 125 or 150 feet below the top, being something over 13,000 feet above the sea, the barometer standing 18.7 inches. As we had named the other mountain Mount Dana, after the most eminent of American geologists, we named this Mount Lyell, after the most eminent of English geologists.

The view from our point was the most desolate we had yet seen. All my adjectives are exhausted in my former descriptions, yet this surpassed them all for sublimity. A high precipice, perhaps one thousand feet nearly vertical, lies on the south side of the dome, forming part of a great amphitheater a mile across, of which two other similar granite needles form part of the sides.

We got back nearly used up, and were not long out of our blankets.

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