Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/256

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SLIPPERY PATHS. FORDING THE TATUNG.

The road over the mountains was now more difficult than ever, owing to the slipperiness of the paths after the night frosts; patches of winter snow too lingered on the northern sides of the higher summits.[1] Our loads, increased in weight by the excess of humidity, lay heavier on the camels' backs without the slightest increase of advantage to us, and these animals, from lying on the damp ground at night, began to cough and grow thin. Our unshod horses were continually falling on the slippery paths, so that we ourselves had to go on foot; an exercise for which the make-shift boots we had improvised out of old leggings and yak-hide were no better adapted than the thick-soled feet of the camels. To add to our troubles we had twice to ford the Tatung-gol; the first time over the ice, which had settled to the bottom of the river, and the second time through four feet of water, in a place where the current was rapid, and the channel full of huge boulders. Had one of our camels missed its footing here, it must inevitably have been drowned, with the precious burden of our collections. Besides other work, I had now to survey the route back from the Murui-ussu, having purposely avoided doing so on the outward journey in order not to excite the suspicions of our guides.

Although the mountains were no longer infested by Dungans, we might at any time have a dis-

  1. The cause of the small quantity of snow on the Kan-su mountains so early in spring, is that the snowfall in winter is small, and soon thaws in the sun, which on calm, bright days, even in February, is hot.