Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/199

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GREAT ELEVATION. EXHAUSTION.

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drive the snow off the very highest summits. Moreover in winter the snowfall is very slight,[1] and although heavier in spring it soon thaws in the sun, without having time to drift into more compact masses, such as might last throughout the summer. The extreme barrenness of the Burkhan Buddha is its most prominent characteristic. The slopes are of clay, small pebbles, débris or bare rocks of schist, syenite, or syenitic porphyry; the latter are most marked on the borders and along the axis of the range. Vegetation is almost exclusively confined to stunted bushes of budarhana and yellow kurile tea; birds and beasts are also rare.

The southern slopes are in general somewhat less sterile than those facing the north; here too running streams are more abundant, and something like grass may be seen. But the herbage is soon eaten off by wild animals, or by the Mongol cattle driven hither during summer to escape the swarms of insects which infest the Tsaidam marshes.

Notwithstanding the gradual nature of the ascent, the exertion to both man and beast was very severe, owing to the enormous elevation, and the consequent rarefaction of the atmosphere. Our strength failed us, a feeling of languor supervened, respiration became difficult, and our heads ached and grew dizzy. Camels frequently fall down dead here; indeed one of our own expired on the spot,

  1. The Mongols told us that the snowfall was very unequal. One winter there would be more, another less.