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- Himalayan Journals (Complete) - 90/157 -


The rocks of these spurs were all of red quartz and slates, cut into broad terraces, covered with a thick glacial talus of gneiss and granite in angular pebbles, and evidently spread over the surface when the glacier, now occupying the upper end of the lake, extended over the valley.

The ice on the cliffs and summit of Kinchinjhow was much greener and clearer than that on the south face (opposite Palung); and rows of immense icicles hung from the cliffs. A conferva grew in the waters of the lake, and short, hard tufts of sedge on the banks, but no other plants were to be seen. Brahminee geese, teal, and widgeon, were swimming in the waters, and a beetle (_Elaphrus_) was coursing over the wet banks; finches and other small birds were numerous, eating the sedge-seeds, and picking up the insects. No view was obtained to the north, owing to the height of the mountains on the north flank of the Lachen.

At noon the temperature rose to 52.5 degrees, and the black-bulb to 104.5 degrees; whilst the north-west dusty wind was so dry, that the dew-point fell to 24.2 degrees.

CHAPTER XXIV.

Ascent of Bhomtso--View of snowy mountains--Chumulari--Arun river--Kiang-lah mountains--Jigatzi--Lhama--Dingcham province of Tibet--Misapplication of term "Plain of Tibet"--Sheep, flocks of--Crops--Probable elevation of Jigatzi--Yarn--Tsampu river --Tame elephants--Wild horses--Dryness of air--Sunset beams-- Rocks of Kinchinjhow--Cholamoo lakes--Limestone--Dip and strike of rocks--Effects of great elevation on party--Ascent of Donkia --Moving piles of debris--Cross Donkia pass--Second Visit to Momay Samdong--Hot springs--Descent to Yeumtong--Lachoong-- Retardation of vegetation again noticed--Jerked meat--Fish-- Lose a thermometer--Lepcha lad sleeps in hot spring--Keadom-- _Bucklandia_--Arrive at Choongtam--Mendicant--Meepo-- Lachen-Lachoong river--Wild grape--View from Singtam of Kinchinjunga--Virulent nettle.

In the afternoon we crossed the valley, and ascended Bhomtso, fording the river, whose temperature was 48 degrees. Some stupendous boulders of gneiss from Kinchinjhow are deposited in a broad sandy track on the north bank, by ancient glaciers, which once crossed this valley from Kinchinjhow.

The ascent was alternately over steep rocky slopes, and broad shelf-like flats; many more plants grew here than I had expected, in inconspicuous scattered tufts.* [Besides those before mentioned, there were Fescue-grass (_Festuca ovina_ of Scotland), a strong-scented silky wormwood (_Artemisia_), and round tufts of _Oxytropis chiliophylla,_ a kind of _Astralagus_ that inhabits eastern and western Tibet; this alone was green: it formed great circles on the ground, the centre decaying, and the annual shoots growing outwards, and thus constantly enlarging the circle. A woolly _Leontopodium, Androsace,_ and some other plants assumed nearly the same mode of growth. The rest of the vegetation consisted of a _Sedum, Nardostachys Jatamansi, Meconopsis horridula,_ a slender _Androsace, Gnaphalium, Stipa, Salvia, Draba, Pedicularis, Potentilla_ or _Sibbaldia, Gentiana_ and _Erigeron alpinus_ of Scotland. All these grow nearly up to 18,000 feet.] The rocks were nearly vertical strata of quartz, hornstone, and conglomerate, striking north-west, and dipping south-west 80 degrees. The broad top of the hill was also of quartz, but covered with angular pebbles of the rocks transported from Kinchinjhow. Some clay-stone fragments were stained red with oxide of iron, and covered with _Parmelia miniata_;* [This minute lichen, mentioned at chapter xxxii, is the most Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine in the world; often occurring so abundantly as to colour the rocks of an orange red. This was the case at Bhomtso, and is so also in Cockburn Island in the Antarctic ocean, which it covers so profusely that the rocks look as if brightly painted. See "Ross's Voyage," vol. ii. p. 339.] this, with _Borrera,_ another lichen, which forms stringy masses blown along by the wind, were the only plants, and they are among the most alpine in the world.

Bhomtso is 18,590 feet above the sea by barometer, and 18,305 by boiling-point: it presented an infinitely more extensive prospect than I had ventured to anticipate, commanding all the most important Sikkim, North Bhotan, and Tibetan mountains, including Kinchinjunga thirty-seven miles to the south-west, and Chumulari thirty-nine miles south-east. Due south, across the sandy valley of the Lachen, Kinchinjhow reared its long wall of glaciers and rugged precipices, 22,000 feet high, and under its cliffs lay the lake to which we had walked in the morning: beyond Kongra Lama were the Thlonok mountains, where I had spent the month of June, with Kinchinjunga in the distance. Westward Chomiomo rose abruptly from the rounded hills we were on, to 22,000 feet elevation, ten miles distant. To the east of Kinchinjhow were the Cholamoo lakes, with the rugged mass of Donkia stretching in cliffs of ice and snow continuously southwards to forked Donkia, which overhung Momay Samdong.

A long sloping spur sweeps from the north of Donkia first north, and then west to Bhomtso, rising to a height of more than 20,000 feet without snow. Over this spur the celebrated Chumulari* [Some doubt still hangs over the identity of this mountain, chiefly owing to Turner's having neglected to observe his geographical positions. I saw a much loftier mountain than this, bearing from Bhomtso north 87 degrees east, and it was called Chumulari by the Tibetan Sepoys; but it does not answer to Turner's description of an isolated snowy peak, such as he approached within three miles; and though in the latitude he assigned to it, is fully sixty miles to the east of his route. A peak, similar to the one he describes, is seen from Tonglo and Sinchul (see vol. i., chapters v and viii); this is the one alluded to above, and it is identified by both Tibetans and Lepchas at Dorjiling as the true Chumulari, and was measured by Colonel Waugh, who placed it in lat. 27 degrees 49 minutes north, long. 89 degrees 18 minutes east. The latter position, though fifteen miles south of what Turner gives it, is probably correct; as Pemberton found that Turner had put other places in Bhotan twenty miles too far north. Moreover, in saying that it is visible from Purnea in the plains of Bengal, Turner refers to Kinchinjunga, whose elevation was then unknown. Dr. Campbell ("Bengal As. Soc. Jour.," 1848), describes Chumulari from oral information, as an isolated mountain encircled by twenty-one goompas, and perambulated by pilgrims in five days; the Lachoong Phipun, on the other hand, who was a Lama, and well acquainted with the country, affirmed that Chumulari has many tops, and cannot be perambulated; but that detached peaks near it may be, and that it is to a temple near one of these that pilgrims resort. Again, the natives use these names very vaguely, and as that of Kinchinjunga is often applied equally to all or any part of the group of snows between the Lachen and Tambur rivers, so may the term Chumulari have been used vaguely to Captain Turner or to me. I have been told that an isolated, snow-topped, venerated mountain rises about twenty miles south of the true Chumulari, and is called "Sakya-khang" (Sakya's snowy mountain), which may be that seen from Dorjiling; but I incline to consider Campbell's and Waugh's mountain as the one alluded to by Turner, and it is to it that I here refer as bearing north 115 degrees 30 minutes east from Bhomtso.] peeps, bearing south-east, and from its isolated position and sharpness looking low and small; it appeared quite near, though thirty-nine miles distant.

North-east of Chumulari, and far beyond it, are several meridional ranges of very much loftier snowy mountains, which terminated the view of the snowy Himalaya; the distance embraced being fully 150 miles, and perhaps much more. Of one of these eastern masses* [These are probably the Ghassa mountains of Turners narrative: bearings which I took of one of the loftiest of them, from the Khasia mountains, together with those from Bhomtso, would appear to place it in latitude 28 degrees 10 minutes and longitude 90 degrees, and 200 miles from the former station, and 90 degrees east of the latter. Its elevation from Bhomtso angles is 24,160 feet. I presume I also saw Chumulari from the Khasia; the most western peak seen thence being in the direction of that mountain. Captain R. Strachey has most kindly paid close attention to these bearings and distances, and recalculated the distances and heights: no confidence is, however, to be placed in the results of such minute angles, taken from immense distances. Owing in part no doubt to extraordinary refraction, the angles of the Ghassa mountain taken from the Khasia give it an elevation of 26,500 feet! which is very much over the truth; and make that of Chumulari still higher: the distance from my position in the Khasia being 210 miles from Chumulari! which is probably the utmost limit at which the human eye has ever discerned a terrestrial object.] I afterwards took bearings and angular heights from the Khasia mountains, in Bengal, upwards of 200 miles south-east of its position.

Turning to the northward, a singular contrast in the view was presented: the broad sandy valley of the Arun lay a few miles off, and perhaps 1,500 feet below me; low brown and red ridges, 18,000 to 19,000 feet high, of stony sloping mountains with rocky tops, divided its feeders, which appeared to be dry, and to occupy flat sandy valleys. For thirty miles north no mountain was above the level of the theodolite, and not a particle of snow was to be seen beyond that, rugged purple-flanked and snowy-topped mountains girdled the horizon, appearing no nearer than they did from the Donkia pass, and their angular heights and bearings being almost the same as from that point of view. The nearer of these are said to form the Kiang-lah chain, the furthest I was told by different authorities are in the salt districts north of Jigatzi.

To the north-east was the lofty region traversed by Turner on his route by the Ramchoo lakes to Teshoo Loombo; its elevation may be 17,000 feet* [It is somewhat remarkable that Turner nowhere alludes to difficulty of breathing, and in one place only to head-ache (p. 209) when at these great elevations. This is in a great measure accounted for by his having been constantly mounted. I never suffered either in my breathing, head, or stomach when riding, even when at 18,300 feet.] above the sea. Beyond it a gorge led through rugged mountains, by which I was told the Painom river flows north-west to the Yaru; and at an immense distance to the north-east were the Khamba mountains, a long blue range, which it is said divides the Lhassan or "U" from the "Tsang" (or Jigatzi) province of Tibet; it appeared fully 100 miles off, and was probably much more; it bore from N. 57 degrees E. to N. 70 degrees E., and though so lofty as to be heavily snowed throughout, was much below the horizon-line of Bhomtso; it is crossed on the route from Jigatzi, and from Sikkim to Lhassa,* [Lhassa, which lies north-east, may be reached in ten days from this, with relays of ponies; many mountains are crossed, where the breath is affected, and few villages are passed after leaving Giantchi, the "Jhansi jeung" of Turner's narrative. See Campbell's "Routes from Dorjiling to Lhassa." ("Bengal As. Soc. Journal.")] and is considered very lofty, from affecting the breathing. About twenty miles to the north-east are some curious red conical mountains, said to be on the west side of the Ramchoo lakes; they were unsnowed, and bore N. 45 degrees 30 minutes E. and N. 60 degrees 30 minutes E. A sparingly-snowed group bore N. 26 degrees 30 minutes E., and another N. 79 degrees E., the latter being probably that mentioned by Turner as seen by him from near Giantchi.


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