Crevasse Poppet

A couple of years ago I had reason to mention a crevasse wanker. Today, while solving the Guardian crossword, I was reminded of that rather more charming figure of the mountaineering world, Gertrude Chumpot, known as the crevasse poppet (16 down, 3 down). Gertrude earned this soubriquet because she was a sort of one-woman mountain rescue service, adept at saving the lives and limbs of hapless mountaineers who, not looking where they were going, plummeted down crevasses to what would otherwise have been certain death.

One of the great mysteries of the crevasse poppet was the manner in which she effected her rescues. Eschewing the usual kit of ropes and pitons and whatever else is used by standard mountain rescue teams, she employed a form of inexplicable mesmerism. Standing at the edge of a crevasse wherein languished a moaning ninny who had fallen in some minutes earlier, Gertrude would make enigmatic sweeping movements of her arms while babbling gibberish and gazing at the sky. By this means, she somehow levitated the nitwit out of the crevasse. At least, that is what she told the Commission of Inquiry when it was considering whether to prosecute her for witchcraft. She was such a charming poppet that the case was dropped.

The crossword is particularly ingenious because it is littered with references to her story. The chairman of the Commission, for example, was an unromantic taciturn Lett (23 across, 1 down, 24 across), named Arpad Klingklang. Arriving for the first session on his horse (9 across), he gave a press conference where he stated that he was ready to burn Gertrude Chumpot immediately, given that in his view it was a clear case of possession (11 across) by Old Nick (10 across). The crevasse poppet had only been on the witness stand for a few minutes, however, before the Lett was like a moonstruck calf, hopelessly in love. Soon enough, he called proceedings to a halt, put all the paperwork through a shredder (5 down), and was persuaded to take a rest cure (26 across) at a seaside resort (7 down), where he spent his time drinking café noir (8 across), dancing the habanera (20 across) with various ladies (22 across), and poring over erotica (17 across). In an attempt to rid him of his Gertrude-mania, the staff fed him a diet of gruel containing bits of leek (2 down) and locust (22 down).

There are several Alpine folk songs about the crevasse poppet, usually yodelled to the accompaniment of an alpenhorn. If you listen to them you will probably need to take a rest cure yourself.

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