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0392 Innermost Asia : vol.2
Innermost Asia : vol.2 / Page 392 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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Ascent to Shitam pass.



On September 21st we left Shitam to cross the pass of the same name into Rôshân. After ascending the narrow valley, blocked in two places by masses of fallen rock debris, and passing old moraines as well as a small dried-up glacier lake at an elevation of about 10,400 feet, we camped that evening at Rijéw, about 12,600 feet above sea-level. This is the last point to which laden ponies can be taken, though under considerable difficulties. The ascent next morning brought us, at a distance of about three miles, to the lowest tongue of the ice stream which collects the flow from a succession of glaciers descending mainly from the south-west of the pass (Fig. 429). A huge ice-fall stretching across had to be avoided by gaining a high lateral moraine over a bare ice slope where we were obliged to cut steps. Farther up it became necessary alternately to advance over the much-crevassed ice of the glacier and to climb rock couloirs on its western side where there was danger in places from falling rock. Finally, after three miles more of such progress, we reached the narrow crest of slaty rock which forms the pass (Fig. 429) above the névé bed at the head of the glacier. Here, at an elevation of about 16,100 feet, we found the traces of a track by which Rôshân people somehow manage to bring across sheep, cattle, and ponies during the early summer months when snow facilitates the crossing of the glacier. There is no passage left for their transport lower down in the Bartang river gorges.

From the pass magnificent views opened to the W. and NW. (Fig. 43o), where the heads of fine glaciers unite in a large ice stream descending towards the Raumédh valley. To the SW. across the boldly serrated crest line of the range with its névé beds (Fig. 427) we could see the soft outlines of the snow-covered tops of mountains belonging to Badakhshân, and to the south fine snowy peaks of the range (Fig. 429) dividing Shâ.kh-dara and Ghund. The descent from the pass led first along névé beds (Fig. 419) and brought us, after a mile and a half of comparatively safe going, to a large lateral moraine. This was followed downwards until, after a march of another 31 miles, the first patch of vegetation was reached at an elevation of about 13,900 feet. Descending farther along the grey ice wall of the glacier for 1 miles, we arrived at the camping-place known as Sarkôlikhaberga (about 13,000 feet elevation) just below its snout.

Here I was glad to find a posse of men from Raumédh waiting to relieve our hard-tried load-carriers from the Shughnân side. It was interesting to note that, while most of the latter spoke Persian fluently, none of the men from Raumédh understood any language but their native Rôshâni, a dialectal variation of Shughni. It was a striking reminder of the isolation which the comparatively large settlement of Raumédh, said to include some 3o households, enjoys by virtue of its position in the mountains. It also brought home the fact of wider significance that Rôshân, owing to the natural difficulties of the Bartang valley, has never served like Shughnân as a thoroughfare between Badakhshân and the Pamirs.

Our march of September 23rd down the valley led for the first five miles over a succession of clearly recognizable old moraine terraces left behind by the Shitok-lâzar, as the Raumédh people call the glacier descending from the Shitam pass. According to their headman's statement the glacier had considerably advanced since his father's youth, and so also had the smaller glacier of Ferôkh-sangau (Fig. 420) which was passed at an elevation of some 1,700 feet below the snout of the Shitok-lâzar. It stretches down from WSW. into a perfectly level basin, about half a mile long and a quarter across. The first birch trees were met with at the ` Yailak ' of Zhawôr, just below the last moraine terraces, and a luxuriant growth of these, together with junipers of great size, continued along the stream down towards its junction with that coming from Raumédh. The large size of the latter and the grey colour of its water suggested that it is fed by considerable


Views from Shitam pass.



Rôshânïs from Raumédh.

Descent to Khaizhiz.