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some remark on the length of the route from Labrung to Soongnum, the guide now for the first time informed me that it was usually made in two marches, but fearing that I should feel it cold if I slept a night on the pass, he had not told me so before, least I should have halted there. Tired with the ascent, and the toil of climbing over the slippery snow, I did not feel the least grateful to him for his consideration, which I plainly saw was more on his own account than on mine; however, as revenge is sweet, I had some consolation in the thought that he had eaten nothing that day, while I had already breakfasted, and that he would consequently be preciously hungry before he reached Soongnum. However, there was now no help for it, for the baggage had gone by a different road, so onwards and downwards we must go.
From the spot where we stood, to fully two miles and a half below us, was spread one pure unbroken sheet of driven snow; beyond this for half a mile more it was broken and lying in detached masses. No vestige of a road was seen of course, until far below where the snow had ceased. There was however no danger, although the descent was somewhat steep; and the guide setting the example, we seated ourselves on the snow, gave a slight impetus at starting to set us in motion, and away we went on the wings of the wind, at a rate which seemed to the inexperienced to argue certain destruction. I had not gone very far, when I began to feel my seat rather moist and chilly from the melting of the snow, and by no means pleasant to the feeling, so I dug my heels well in, and brought myself to a stand still. Another of the party wishing to follow my example, and not sticking his heels firm enough into the snow, toppled over from the rapidity with which he was descending, and rolled away heels over head a considerable way down the hill, amidst the shouts of laughter, which we sent after him. He got up as white as a miller, with his eyes, mouth, and ears, crammed full of snow, and affording a capital representation of "Jack Frost."
Walking, although requiring some care to keep myself from falling, was far preferable to the chilly seat; and after sundry slips and slides, I succeeded, much to my satisfaction, in reaching a spot where the snow had melted away. But my situation after all was not much mended, for the cutting wind that was blowing from the pass, soon converted my moistened inexpressibles into a cake of ice, which was infinitely worse than the melting snow, and my legs and feet soon became so benumbed by the cold, that it was painful to move at all. Seating myself once more, by direction of the guide, I took off
my shoes and socks, and proceeded with a handful of snow to rub my feet and ankles, which although somewhat painful at first, soon restored them to a healthy glow, and then by jumping and fast walking backwards and forwards, I was enabled shortly to start again, and proceeded downwards by a path infinitely more dangerous than the snows we had just quitted.
Junipers and furze were the only signs of vegetation until we again entered a thin forest of pines lower down, through which we continued to descend until we crossed the Kushkolung river below by a capital sangho, and soon after arrived at Soongnum fairly fagged.
The fatigue of this double march may be readily conceived by those who have scaled the rugged sides of the hoary headed Ben Nevis of our fatherland; the height of that mountain above the sea does not exceed that of Subathoo in the lower hills, or about 4,200 feet, and its ascent and descent, if I recollect aright, occupies from 3 to 4 hours. Here we ascended from Labrung to the height of 5,212 feet, over snows which were incessantly giving way beneath the feet, and causing us to slip backward many paces, added to which was the glare from the sun, which tended not a little to increase our fatigue and discomfort. From the summit of the pass our descent was 5,168 feet in perpendicular height, but the sinuosities of the road made the actual distance travelled from Labrung to Soongnum at least 15 miles.
When we recollect also that from the snow to Soongnum we travelled in a temperature of nearly 90°, the fatigue of the whole march can scarcely be conceived by those who have not experienced it. Our ascent and descent each exceeded that of Ben Nevis by one thousand feet, and there are few who have performed that journey who were not right glad to get a rest and a bit of fresh salmon, (to say nothing of the whisky toddy) at the snug little inn at Fort William. We left Labrung at six o'clock in the morning; at 10 A. M. we reached the pass; from thence to the bottom of the snow occupied us till noon, when the thermometer indicated 89°, and from thence we arrived at Soongnum at half-past 2 P. M., making the whole time from Labrung to Soongnum, eight hours and a half; or allowing at least two hours for resting and looking at the scene, we performed the actual distance in six hours and a half.
The coolies who had gone round by a lower and somewhat longer road did not arrive until 5 P. M., when they begged for a halt the next day, which I readily granted, as much on my own account as theirs, for the nature of the road from the snow to Soongnum was as if all the sharpest stones in the country had been collected there.
by which not only were my shoes cut to pieces, but my feet blistered and swollen also.
On entering the town of Soongnum I was met by a son of the vuzeer, who welcomed me with a plate of raisins, and escorted me to a small bungalow of one room, built long ago by a Dr. Wilson. Shortly afterwards the vuzeer himself paid me a visit, and proved to be no less a person than the frank and honest Puttee Ram, the friend of Dr. Gerard, and the source from whence he derived much of his information regarding the higher portions of the hills towards Ladak and Chinese Tartary. He has only lately been raised to his present rank. Time has not slept with him, nor failed to produce upon his hardy and once active frame its usual effects. He is now grey and bent with age, and his sons have succeeded him in their trade with the people of Choomontee and Ladak. The old man entered at once into a history of his acquaintance with Dr. Gerard and Mr. Fraser, and talked with pride over the dangers he had encountered with the former in their rambles through Spiti and its neighbourhood. He asked me if I had ever heard his name before, and the old man's eyes actually sparkled with delight, when pointing to an account of one of Gerard's trips, I told him his name was printed there. He has not only been a great traveller through the upper hills, but has also visited Kurnal, Delhi, Hansi, and Hardwar, though like all true mountaineers he sighed for home, and saw no place in all his travels to equal his own rugged hills; and truly I commend him for his choice. He is a tall, strongly built, broad shouldered fellow, but hideously ugly, his eyelids being large and sticking out over his eyeballs like cups, beneath which his eyes are scarcely visible. He has indeed, a face as like a mastiff's as I
ever saw one.
From him I obtained a man who understood the Tartar language, to accompany me through Spiti, and he assured me I should experience no difficulties, as there was now a road across some parts of the mountains where, as. in the days when Gerard first visited those parts, there was none at all. He informed me also that the lake called Chummor-rareel was only four days' journey from Dunkur in Spiti, so I determined if possible to get a peep at it. On inquiring for fossils, he said that Spiti produced but few; chiefly ammonites (Salick ram) which were found near Dunkur, but that the best place to procure them was on the Gungtang pass, near Bekhur, but the Chinese were so jealous of strangers looking at their country, that if I went there I should not be allowed to bring any thing away. Besides this, the pass was at the present season impassable, and from the lateness and
quantity of the snow which had fallen, it could not be open before the middle of August. Hearing that the ibex was found at Koopa and at Poo,ee, in the neighbourhood of Soongnum, I again distributed powder and balls, and sent people to hunt them, telling them to have some ready by the time of my return. I made also some inquiries regarding the "excellent limestone" which Gerard says he discovered in this neighbourhood, and which the natives told him they should henceforth use in the construction of their buildings.
Puttee Ram said he recollected the circumstance I alluded to, but added that Gerard had failed in his attempts to convert the stone into lime. He had brought some fragments of it from the Hungrung pass behind Soongnum, and having made a small kiln, he burned the stone, but instead of producing lime it melted down into a hard slag. The experiment failed, and it has never been attempted since. At Soongnum during the winter months, the weather is sometimes very severe, the whole of the surrounding hills being enveloped in one white sheet of snow, often to the depth of several feet. The town, standing at an elevation of 9,350 feet, is completely buried during heavy falls. At such times the inhabitants assist each other in clearing their roofs from the weight of snow, which not unfrequently yield to the pressure, and are converted into a heap of ruins. To guard against the rigours of such a climate, is therefore the business of the summer months, at which season, accordingly, houses are stored with fuel and grass, and the leaves of trees are accumulated for the sheep and cattle, which are safely housed till the severity of the winter has passed away. At this season there is little, often no, communication between village and village, the inhabitants contenting themselves with clearing a track from house to house in their own villages, but not venturing beyond. This does not last, however, throughout the winter, but frequent thaws take place, succeeded by fresh falls of
This description is generally applicable to all places in Kunawur, and the Churriah who accompanied me said he recollected three different years in which the snow had fallen ten feet deep, even so low down as Tranda and Nachar. At Simla, in the winter of 1835-36, the snow is said to have been upwards of five feet, and I myself saw on the 10th May, 1836, some of it still lying on the northern side of Jacko, on which Simla is built.
On the 9th of June I left Soongnum, and proceeded towards the first Tartar village of Hungo, by the Hungrung pass, which rises up behind Soongnum to the height of 14,837 feet above the sea. The road
led us up a glen by the side of a stream which had its origin as usual among the snows on the pass. The ascent although greater than that from Labrung to the Koonung ghat, was more gradual, and consequently much easier; nor had we so much snow to climb over, as at the former pass. The bushes in this glen, (for trees had ceased to grow) consisted of a great number of rose, currant, and gooseberry bushes, which yielded as we ascended higher on the mountain's side to furze and junipers. Towards the summit of the pass these were so thickly spread around, and the hill had such a gradual slope, that substituting furze for heather, the scene had much of the appearance of a Highland Muir, nor was this resemblance at all lessened when with a loud whistle up sprung before us from the covert some beautiful large partridges, whose plumage is very like that of the ptarmigan in its summer dress, being a mottled mixture of white and grey minutely pencilled on the back. These birds are known in the language of Kunawur by the name of " Bhair." They are found in abundance near the snows among the covers of furze and juniper, retiring as the season advances to the extreme heights of the mountains. They delight to perch upon some high projecting crag, from whence, surveying the country below, they send forth at intervals a loud and peculiar whistle.
On the crest of the pass, which we reached at half past 10 A. M., the wind was piercingly cold, and quite benumbed our fingers, the thermometer again standing, as at Koonung, at 45°.
The view from this spot was dreary enough; the town of Soongnum was lost sight of behind an elbow of the range, and on either side therefore nothing but cold bare hills were to be seen; neither village, cultivation, nor trees appeared to break the chilling waste of snows which spread around and far below us over every mountain's side; no signs of vegetation were to be seen, save the brown and withered looking furze, which even at this advanced season of the year had scarce put forth a single leaf.
The summit of this mountain is, as Gerard has truly stated, composed of limestone; but the reason of his failing to convert it into lime for economical purposes was apparent enough. The rock is one of those secondary limestones which contain large portions of clay and sand unequally distributed through them, sometimes occuring in detached nodules, at others disseminated through the whole. These limestones therefore from containing this foreign matter, refuse to burn into lime, but usually form a hardened slag, or vitrified mass within the kiln, which exactly corresponds with