Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/198

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176

ASCENT OF BURKHAN BUDDHA.

the Yangtse-kiang, and considerably beyond these to the Tang-la mountains, which in all probability are even higher than the Burkhan Buddha.

The ascent from the foot to the chief axis of the range is about twenty miles,[1] rising by a gentle incline until within a short distance of the summit (15,300 feet), where it becomes steeper. The nearest peak, and also the highest in the whole range[2] (if we may believe the Mongols), also bearing the name of Burkhan Buddha, rises 16,300 feet above sea-level, and 7,500 above the Tsaidam plain.

Yet notwithstanding its great height, the Burkhan Buddha does not attain the limit of perpetual snow; even when we crossed in the beginning of December there was but a slight covering, a few inches in depth, on the northern slopes of the highest summits and of the axis of the range itself, and on our return march, early in spring, we saw no snow of the previous year unmelted, even in those gorges well sheltered from the sun.

This phenomenon is explained by the circumstance that, although at a great elevation above the sea, these mountains rise very slightly above the exposed plains to their south, and the currents of wind passing over the surface of the latter, after they have been thoroughly warmed by the summer sun,

  1. Between the foot of the mountains and the salt marshes of Tsaidam there is an intervening strip, ten miles wide, of sloping gravelly ground, completely devoid of vegetation and dotted with boulders.
  2. This is hardly correct, I think; some of the other peaks are higher than the one I measured, although perhaps only a few hundred feet.