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representative of British authority, a policeman so called, had been sent with me to Darcha; but the policeman soon came back to my tent in a bruised and bleeding condition, complaining that the people of the village had given him a beating for his interference; and the men who did engage to go, tried to run away when we were well up the desolate pass, and gave me other serious trouble.
THE GREAT SCHINKAL PASS, OR SCHINGO LA.
THE VALLEY OF STONE AVALANCHES-A HINDÚ DEVOTEE—THE DREAD
MOTHER-RAMJAKPÚK- COL OF THE SHINKAL-HEIGHT OF THE
The first day of our ascent from Darcha, the last village, was certainly far from agreeable. The route —for it would be absurd to speak of a path—ran up the left bank of the Kado Tokpho, and crossed some aggravating stone avalanches. My dandi could not be used at all, and I had often to dismount from the large pony I had got at Kaelang. Our first campingground was called Dakmachen, and seemed to be used for that purpose, but had no good water near. On great part of the next day's journey, granite avalanches were also a prominent and disgusting feature. Indeed there are so many of them in the Kado Tokpho valley, and they are so difficult and painful to cross, that I was almost tempted to wish that one would come down in my presence, and let me see what it could do. They were very like Himálayan glaciers, but had no ice beneath ; and an appalling amount of immense
peaks must have fallen down into this hideous valley. An enterprising dhirzi, or tailor, well acquainted with the route, was our guide, and the owner of my pony, and I could not help asking him if this were one of the maidan of which Mr Heyde had spoken ; but he said we should meet one presently, and found one wherever there was a narrow strip of grassy land.
At one place we had to work up the side of a sort of precipice, and met coming down there a naked Hindú Bawa, or religious devotee, who was crossing from Zanskar to Lahaul, accompanied by one attendant, and with nothing but his loin-cloth, a brass drinking-pot, and a little parched grain. He was a young man, and appeared strong and well-nourished. It was passing strange to find one of these ascetics in the heart of the Himálaya, far from the habitations of men ; and when I went on without giving him anything, he deliberately cursed both my pony and myself, and prophesied our speedy destruction, until I told him that I had slept at the foot of the Dread Mother, which seemed to pacify him a little. *
The first day and a half were the worst part of this journey over the Schinkal Pass. Its features changed greatly after we reached the point where the Kado Tokpho divides into two branches, forded the stream to the right, and made a very steep ascent of about 1500 feet. Above that we passed into an elevated picturesque valley, with a good deal of grass and a few birch bushes, which leads all the way up to the
* Kalika, the most inaccessible peak of the holy mountain Girnar, in Kathiawar. It is consecrated to Kali, or Dúrga, the goddess of Destruction; is frequented by Aghoras—devotees who shun all society, and are said to eat carrion and human flesh. The general belief is, that of every two people who visit Kalika, only one comes back.
glacier that covers the summit of the pass. The usual camping-ground in this valley is called Ramjakpuk, and that place is well protected from the wind; but there are bushes to serve as fuel where we pitched our tents a mile or two below, at a height of about 15,000 feet. Towards evening there was rain and a piercing cold wind, with the thermometer at 36° Fahr., and many were the surmises as to whether we might not be overtaken by a snowstorm on the higher portion of the
pass next day.
In the morning the thermometer was exactly at freezing-point, the grass was white with hoạr-frost, and there was plenty of ice over the streams as we advanced upwards. For some way the path was easy; then there was a long steep ascent, and after that we came on the enormous glacier which is the crest of this awful pass. The passage on to the glacier from solid ground
. was almost imperceptible, over immense ridges of blocks of granite and slabs of slate. Some of these first ridges rested on the glacier, while others had been thrown up by it on the rocky mountain-side ; but soon the greater ridges were left behind, and we were fairly on the glacier, where there were innumerable narrow crevasses many of them concealed by white honeycombed ice, numerous blocks of stone standing on pillars of ice, and not a few rills, and even large brooks, the sun having been shining powerfully in the morning. It was not properly an ice-stream, but an immense glacial lake, on which we stood—for it was very nearly circular; it was fed by glaciers and snow-slopes all round, and it lapped over into the valleys beneath in several different directions.
I was prevented by an incident, to be mentioned presently, from calculating the height of this pass ; but as Kharjak, the first village in Zanskar, is 13,670 feet, and it took me the greater part of next day to get down to Kharjak, though I camped this day at least 1500 feet below the summit of the pass, on the Zanskar side, I conclude that the Schinkal cannot be less than 18,000 feet high, and that it may possibly be more. I notice, however, that in the list of heights given by the Schlagintweits,* the Schinkal or “Schinku La ” is set down at 16,684 feet; and the estimate seems to have been made by the unfortunate Adolph Schlagintweit, who was murdered farther to the north. In the early days of the Trigonometrical Survey it was set down at 16,722 feet, but I have been unable to discover whether or not it was one of those heights where sufficient observations were taken. I learn, from the best authority there is on the subject, that reliance cannot always be placed on the accuracy of the heights which have been given by the Schlagentweits. Kharjak is more likely to have been accurately ascertained, in connection with the other observations which were taken in Zanskar by the Trigonometrical Survey; and if that village be 13,670 feet high, it is scarcely possible that the Schinkal or Schingo La can be only 16,684 or 16,722, as that would give a difference between the two points of only 3000 feet, which would not by any means cover the descent we made.
However, even taking the lowest estimate, or 16,684 feet, that is nearly a thousand feet higher than the summit of Mont Blanc. Of course the difficulty of breathing at this height was very great; some of my
* Results of a Scientific Mission to India and High Asia, by H. A. and R. de Schlagintweit (Leipzig, 1862), vol. ii. p. 382.