Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/18

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plan, seat themselves in a large, shallow, circular, brass basin, called a chillumchee, the common apparatus for washing the hands in India; and thus, protected from too rough encounters with the rugged sides of the steep, glide down the snow with indescribable rapidity.

The Bruang pass is 15,296 feet in height, the ascent frightfully steep, and, in consequence of the rarefied nature of the air, it is impossible to proceed many yards without pausing to draw breath. The snow in the month of September is in many places a foot in depth, and the torrents rushing into the river Paber from the mountain's side are full of icicles, clinging to the frost-bound stones. In nearing the crest, very few persons are unassailed by a sensation of qualmishness, accompanied by great weakness and dizziness in the head. At the summit, the sámár, or icy wind, blows furiously; and the pass, shut in by precipitous walls, affords the most dreary prospect imaginable. The descent being abrupt, and leading down icy precipices stretching for a quarter of a mile, is very distressing, and must be slipped and slid, few places admitting of a walk—baggage, every thing, in fact, being usually rolled down to the bottom. The Hungrung pass, 14,800, is less difficult, and there are not so many complaints from those who cross it, of the rarefication of the air. In the month of August, a pool a few yards in length, upon the summit, on the northern side, was frozen hard, and the adjacent dells exhibited considerable quantities of snow. The climate, of course, differs very greatly at different periods of the year, and in different parts of the mountains, and, according to their several aspects, vegetation is found higher or lower, some of the elevations having, in consequence of their more genial situation, trees a thousand feet above those which are to be found elsewhere. The extreme height of cultivation on the southern slope of the Snowy Range, is 10,000 feet, and it is frequently necessary, at this altitude, to cut the crops before they are ripe. The habitations of men are not carried above 9,500 feet, and at 11,800 the forest ceases; bushes are found at the height of 11,400 feet, and in ravines and sheltered spots, dwarf birch and bushes creep up to 13,000 feet. On the northern side, in the valley of the Baspa river, we meet with villages at 11,400 feet, and cultivation at the same height, while the forest stretches to 13,000 feet. Advancing farther, villages are found at the same height, cultivation 400 feet higher, fine birch trees at 14,000 feet, and furze bushes, affording excellent fuel, at 17,000 feet above the level of the sea. Farther eastward, towards lake Ranasa Rovaro, we are assured, upon the authority of the Tartars, that vegetation reaches a much higher elevation. In the exterior chain to the south, where the heat is only reflected from one side, there is much less warmth than in the interior cluster, where it is given out on all sides.

We may vainly seek throughout the history of the world, for any thing approaching to a parallel with the British occupation of India; a dominion so extraordinary, that but for the stubborn nature of facts, we might almost be justified in deeming it incredible. At the beginning of the present century, the existence of the Himalaya was very imperfectly known; and at a still later period, its gigantic ranges of mountains were supposed to be inferior to those of the Andes, while so rapidly has our acquaintance with this interesting region been extended, that in the course of the last fifteen years their altitudes have been measured, and every approachable recess explored.