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0109 Serindia : vol.1
Serindia : vol.1 / Page 109 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000183
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summer grazing-ground of Showar-shur on the uppermost Yârkhün River. Thus two divergent routes offer themselves to the traveller who reaches the Darkôt Pass from the south and wishes to proceed to the Oxus. The one keeping to the Darkôt Glacier, which I followed myself on my visit to the Darkôt Pass, has its continuation in the easy track which crosses the Rukang spur and then the Yârkhün River below it to the open valley known as Baroghil Yailak, and thence ascends over a very gentle grassy slope to the Baroghil saddle, characteristically called Dasht-i-Baroghil, ` the plain of Baroghil'. From this point it leads down over equally easy ground, past the hamlet of Zartighar, to the Ab-i-Panja opposite Sarhad. The other route, after descending the glacier to the north-east of the Darkôt Pass, passes down the Yârkhün River past the meadows of Showar-shur to the grazing-ground of Shawitakh-yailak .and thence reaches the Hindukush watershed by an easy gradient near the lake of Shawitakh or Sarkhin-zhoe. The saddles of Baroghil and Shawitakh are separated only by about two miles of low, gently sloping hills, and at Zartighar both routes join.

The distances to be covered between the Darkôt Pass and Sarhad are practically the same by both these routes as far as the map and other available information allow me to judge. My original intention was to examine personally those portions of both routes which lie over the glaciers and permanent snow-fields of the Darkôt. But the uncertain weather conditions prevailing at the time of my ascent and the exceptional difficulties which, as described in my personal narrative, were encountered owing to the early season and the heavy snowfall of that spring, effectively prevented my plan of ascending from the side of Vedinkôt and descending to Showar-shur. Having thus personal experience only of the north-west route I am unable to judge to what extent present conditions justify the report which represents the glacier part of the north-eastern route as somewhat easier. It is, however, a fact that the Pamir Boundary Commission of 1895 with its heavy transport of some six hundred ponies used the latter route both coming from and returning to Gilgit. The numerous losses reported of animals and loads show that here, too, the passage of the muchcrevassed glacier and the treacherous snow-covered moraines proved a very serious difficulty for the transport. Nevertheless, inasmuch as for a force coming from the Wakhân side the ascent to the Darkôt Pass from the nearest practicable camping-ground would be about i,3oo feet less by the Showar-shur route than by that passing the Rukang spur, I consider it probable that the former was used.

Kao Hsien-chih's biography states that it took the Chinese general three days to reach ` Mount Tan-chu', i. e. the Darkôt, but does not make it quite clear whether thereby the arrival at the north foot of the range or on its crest is meant. If the latter interpretation is assumed, with the more rapid advance it implies, it is easy to account for the time taken by a reference to the ground ; for, although the Shawitakh-Baroghil depression is crossed without any difficulty in the summer, no military force accompanied by baggage-animals could accomplish the march from Sarhad to the southern foot of the Darkôt in less than three days, the total marching distance being about thirty miles. Even a four days' march to the crest, as implied in the first interpretation, would not be too large an allowance, considering the high elevations and the exceptional difficulties offered by the glacier ascent at the end.

The most striking evidence of the identity of ` Mount Tan-chü' with the Darkôt is supplied by the description given in the record of ` the precipices for over forty li in a straight line which dismayed the Chinese soldiers on looking down from the heights of Mount Pan-chü. All descriptions of the pass emphasize the extreme steepness of the slope on the southern face of the Darkôt. There the track, mostly over moraine débris and bare rock, descends close on 6,000 feet in a distance of little more than five miles before reaching the nearest practicable camping-ground above the small

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Advantages of northeastern route.

Itinerary of Kao Hsienchih.

Identity of Mt. T'anchit with Darkôt Pass.