National Geographic : 1921 Sep
OUR GREATEST NA' summit while it was yet clear. A breeze had sprung up out of the northeast and we knew it was only a question of time before our mountain would be hidden in the clouds. Indeed, they had begun to gather already. We made rapid progress now, over the smooth snow-field, circling the base of the cone, for the low point in the crater rim lay on the side opposite to our ap proach. We were in the clouds now, but had a glimpse out across the range to the Pacific. When we came around under the low notch in the rim, we sat down and waited for a break in the clouds to get our bear ings before taking the last steep slope, eating our lunch as we waited. Hardly more than a hundred yards away was the hillock where we had stop ped on our attempt from the opposite side. This time, however, we never doubted but that we should soon have our chance, for the clouds were only be ginning to gather. Indeed, we had hardly begun to eat when they blew off a little. There was the crater rim, seemingly only a few steps directly above us. Great masses of steam came rolling up close against it, but as we were on the wind ward side they were quickly carried off in the opposite direction. From a distance the smoke of Martin always appears snow white, but from our position it took on a weird lemon-yellow color, which Dr. Fenner suggested must be due to reflection from a large body of sulphur within the crater. The rim seemed so close that, dropping my cracker, I started for it, but before I could go a dozen steps the clouds closed in again. But we had our bearings now. As soon as we had finished our lunch we started up, so as to be on the rim when the next break came. That last pitch, 250 feet it proved when we climbed it, was the steepest slope I have ever attempted. If it had been rock climbing, it would have been easy; but it was boulder clay left there by a glacier which had capped the moun tain during its dormant period. The slope was 60° by the clinometer (as compared with about 300 in a steep railroad embankment). The round boul- TIONAL MONUMENT 269 ders on which we depended for foot- and hand-holds were loosely held in the un cemented clay, so that it was extremely difficult to hang on. Finally we reached the rim at 5,300 feet, but were unable to see anything in the cloud and steam that beset us. Inside the first sharp edge we found a slight depression, and then a second similar sharp inner rim. The original rim had evidently broken loose and slumped into the hole a little. In the depression between the two rims was a little pool, over which we bent to secure a drink, for we had only snow with our lunch; but-ugh! it was strong acid. The fumes at the rim were dis agreeable, and I was glad to retreat into a little hollow, where I could take notes in comparative comfort. DESCENDING INTO THE CRATER OF MT. MARTIN After a little, Fenner came back out of the cloud and reported that if we used our handkerchiefs for respirators we could go down inside the crater. So we all held our handkerchiefs to our noses and plunged over the edge. On the rim we could see readily 50 feet through the cloud, but once inside it thick ened rapidly until, only a few feet below the rim, we could hardly see each other, though standing close together. Whenever a gust of wind swept the smoke back a few feet, we leaped on farther down until the obscurity closed over us again, and we were compelled to halt for fear of stepping off the edge of the precipice into the vent that we knew must be at the bottom of the funnel. There we stood huddled together, like ninnies, panting through our handker chiefs and pulling down our hats in futile efforts to protect our smarting eyes. If we loosened our handkerchiefs a little to get a freer breath, we got a suffocating draft that at once compelled us to clamp the protection back again. Silent as ghosts we stood until one of us, caught by the ridiculous attitudes of his companions, burst out laughing, set ting us all a-snickering behind our hand kerchiefs like school-boys who fear the teacher's wrath, for we durst not lift our handkerchiefs to let in the fumes.