Sec. ii] THROUGH YASÏN TO THE DARKÔT PASS 45
Wakhan, and that the plentiful ornamental wood-carving in his panelled ` Aiwan ' was of a distinctly Persian style.sa
A move of some three miles northward across a boulder-strewn plain, no doubt once the bottom of an ancient glacier basin, brought us to the entrance of the narrow gorge by which the stream
from the glaciers adjoining the Darkôt pass has cut its way through a transverse ridge. This ridge, which the route crosses, is known as ` Darband ', from old walls intended to form a chiusa. It was from the crest of this ridge, at an elevation of about Io,000 feet, that the ice-covered depression in the range forming the Darkôt pass, 15,38o feet above the sea (Fig. 44), first came into view from the south. Both to the west and east of it glaciers, of far greater size than that below the pass, descend from peaks towering to heights well above 20,000 feet. The abundant moisture assured by the vicinity of the streams that drain all these ice-clad slopes favours vegetation. I was therefore not surprised to find that besides pasture and numerous birch-trees, terraced fields cultivated by the Darkôt people extend above those streams to an elevation of about I I,000 feet. Our march that day was continued past these fields of Gakushi and up the broad but steep spur which gives access to the pass, until at an elevation of about 12,300 feet we encamped on the last level bit of ground, known as Khamba. The smiling alpine landscape spreading to the south struck me by its contrast with the great wastes of ice and rock that I remembered so well on the north side of the pass from my ascent to it seven years before.
It was the desire to see the scene of Kao Hsien-chih's great exploit that had then induced me to visit the Darkôt pass in spite of the early season, bad weather, and an exceptional winter snowfall.' It was the thought of it, too, that now invested the actual crossing of the pass with special interest for me. It was effected on August 29th, with all the advantages of the late summer season and ample arrangements for transport. All the same it served to impress me again with the seriousness of the natural obstacles presented by the glaciers of the Darkôt. I realized more than ever that the Chinese general's passage in A. D. 747 with a relatively large force, already severely tried by their march across the whole width of the Pamirs, deserves to rank, as a great military achievement, side by side with the most famous alpine feats of leaders such as Hannibal or Napoleon, if it does not surpass them. I have discussed elsewhere this remarkable exploit in full detail,$ and have shown how closely the topographical features of the Darkôt pass agree with the exact âccount of this expedition which Kao Hsien-chih's biography in the Tang Annals has preserved for us. I need therefore only record here such of the observations made on my renewed visit to the Darkôt as will help to supplement my previous description of the pass.
The track above our camping-place, Khamba, ascended very steeply along bare rocky slopes, but when free of snow it was practicable for laden animals. After about a mile it passed at an elevation of about 13,100 feet the large inscribed boulder of which I had first heard at Yasin (Fig. 46). It lies a few yards above the track, and its top, sloping at an angle of about 45°, presents an almost flat surface measuring approximately five feet by four. The stone appeared to be a dark-grained granite ; the surface on the exposed top has weathered to an almost black appearance. This surface shows in its middle portion and engraved to a depth of about one-fifth of an inch the outlines of what manifestly is meant to represent a Stûpa, and by its side to the right five rows of Tibetan characters, two in each for the most part manifestly coeval with the Stùpa. In
6a The following describes a piece of wood-carving acquired from the same Darkôt house :
Darkot. oi. Carved wood Takhti '. Handle at one end. Pattern, repeated three times in length, composed of four ` nests ' of long pointed leaves growing towards a common centre four-petalled flower. The ` nests ' are joined
by looped stems. All cuts V-shape. Background and pattern picked with square pointed tool. Rev. shows similar pattern
roughly sketched in black ink. Dark, straight-grained
wood ; well preserved, r3i" x 3i" x I". Pl. LXVIII.
7 Cf. Desert Cathay, i. pp. 56 sqq.
8 See Serindia, i. pp. 56 sqq.