The effect of the storm was peculiar and extraordinary. For the present fall of snow coming
upon the top of that which was there before,
and had remained from the last winter, it was
found that the former, being fresh, was soft and offered no
resistance to the foot; but when the feet reached the lower
frozen snow, they could no longer make any impression upon
it, but the men found both their feet slipping from under
them, as though they were on hard ground with a layer
of mud on the top. And a still more serious difficulty
followed: for not being able to get a foothold on the lower
snow, when they fell and tried to get themselves up by their
hands and knees, the men found themselves plunging downwards quicker and quicker, along with everything they laid hold
of, the ground being a very steep decline. The beasts, however, when they fell did break through this lower snow as they
struggled to rise, and having done so were obliged to remain
there with their loads, as though they were frozen to it, both
from the weight of these loads and the hardness of the old snow.
Giving up, therefore, all hope of making this detour, he encamped upon the ridge after clearing away the snow upon it.
He then set large parties of his men to work, and, with infinite
toil, began constructing a road on the face of the precipice.
One day's work sufficed to make a path practicable for beasts
of burden and horses; and he accordingly took them across
at once, and having pitched his camp at a spot below the snow
line, he let them go in search of pasture; while he told off the
Numidians in detachments to proceed with the making of the
road; and after three days' difficult and painful labour he got
his elephants across, though in a miserable condition from
hunger. For the tops of the Alps
, and the parts immediately
below them, are completely treeless and bare of vegetation,
because the snow lies there summer and winter; but about
half-way down the slopes on both sides they produce trees and
shrubs, and are, in fact, fit for human habitation.