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down the left bank of the Chandra (the route which I followed), throwing out its glaciers down to and almost across the river, so that it may easily be conceived that few portions even of the Himálaya, which are at all accessible, afford such a stretch of desolation and of wild sublimity.
It was necessary for me, on this part of the journey, to take sixteen bigarrís, nearly half of whom were women, besides an extra yak to carry wood; and for my own use I got a little dark Spiti mare, which looked nothing to speak of, but actually performed marvels. We also took with us a small flock of milch goats, which could pick up subsistence by the way, and one or two live sheep to be made into mutton on the journey. A few miles beyond Losar we came to the end of the Lee or Spiti river, which I had now followed
from its confluence with the Sutlej, through one of the wildest and most singular valleys in the world. Its whole course is 145 miles; but such figures give no idea of the time and immense toil which are required in order to follow it up that short course, in which it has a fall of about 6000 feet. It has an extraordinary end, which has already been described, and also a curious commencement; for it begins, so to speak, at once, in a broad white bed of sand and stones, being there created by the junction of two short and (when I saw them) insignificant streams, of about equal size and length; the Líchú, which comes from the Kanzam Pass, and the Pítú, which has its rise in the 20,000 snowy peak, Kii. Earlier in the season, however, just after mid-day, when the snows and glaciers are in full melting order, there must be a
magnificent body of water in this upper portion of the Lee raging and foaming along from bank to brae.
The marches from Nako in Hangrang, to Kokser in Lahaul, on the cut road to Leh, are :
Nako to Chango,
4 9 10 6 4 6 8 8 7 8 9 9 5 4
O O O O 0 #
THE VALLEY OF GLACIERS.
THE KANZAM PASS—THE L PEAKS-ENORMOUS GLACIERS-SHIGRI OR
GLACIER VALLEY-STORM AND SNOW-A NIGHT SCENE-CROSSING
STARTING from Losar at six on the morning of the 25th August, with the thermometer at 42°, the first part of the journey gave no idea of the desolation which was soon to be encountered. The day was bright and delightful, and the air even purer and more exhilarating than usual, as might be expected above 13,000 feet. After leaving the Spiti river and turning south-west up the Líchú river, we found a beautiful valley, full of small willow-trees and bright green grass, though it could have been very little less than 14,000 feet high. It was the most European-looking valley I saw among the Himalaya before reaching Kashmír ; and it was followed by easy grassy slopes, variegated by sunshine and the shade of passing clouds, which slopes led up to the extreme summit of the Kanzam or Kanzal Pass, a height of 14,937 feet. Here there was a very imposing view in front, of immense glaciers and snowy peaks, over or about 20,000 feet high, which rose up not far from perpendicularly on the other side of the youthful Chandra river, which raged down, far beneath our feet, in a manner which made it no wonder that the Kokser people were unwilling to encounter its turbid current.
These mountains are the L peaks of the Topographical Survey; three of them had some resemblance to the Matterhorn, though with more snow, and they rose abruptly from the Chandra, so as in the pure air to appear almost within a stone's-throw of the place on which we stood. Great overhanging beds of névé fed enormous glaciers, which stretched down to the river like buttresses of the three nearest peaks. To an unpractised eye, it might have seemed as if the glaciers extended only half-way to the Chandra, because the lower portions of them were not only thickly covered with debris of rock, but in some places this debris bore living grass. This is a striking phenomenon, which occurs on the Himalayan glaciers ; but I shall return to the subject directly, when I get past the great glaciers of the Shigri valley.
There was a steep descent from the top of the Kanzam Pass to the Chandra river, which we followed down a short way until a camping-ground was found about the height of 14,000 feet, beside a sort of pond formed by a back-flow of a tributary of the Chandra. Looking down the valley immense glaciers were seen flowing down the clefts in the high mural precipices on both sides of the Chandra, and extending from the great beds of snow above, down to, and even into, the river. This was the Abode of Snow, and no mistake; for nothing else but snow, glaciers, and rocks were to
be seen, and the great ice-serpents crept over into this dread valley as if they were living monsters. In the local dialect Shigri means a glacier ; but the word is applied to the upper Chandra valley, so that the Shigri valley may be called, both literally and linguistically, the “Valley of Glaciers.” But the collection of glaciers between the Chandra and Bhaga rivers, and above the left bank of the Chandra, large though it be, is really insignificant compared to the enormous congeries of them to be found on the southern side of Zanskar.
There was no sward. here of any description; and I began to realise the force of the Afghan proverb, “When the wood of Jugduluk burns you begin to melt gold.” Of this Shigri valley, in which we spent the next four days, it may well be said that
“ Bare is it, without house or tract, and destitute
Of obvious shelter as a shipless sea.”
That, however, is by no means the worst of it; and in the course of the afternoon a fierce storm of wind, rain, and snow added to the savagery of the scene. As I had noticed from the top of the pass, some of the clouds of the monsoon seemed to have been forced over the two ranges of lofty mountains between us and the Indian plains; and soon the storm-clouds began to roll grandly among the snowy peaks which rose close above us on every side. That spectacle was glorious ; but it was not so pleasant when the clouds suddenly descended upon us, hiding the peaks, and discharging themselves in heavy rain where we were, but in snow a few hundred feet above. There was a storm-wind which came