Himalayan Journal vol.02
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.02

Publication year:
1930

Editor:
Kenneth Mason
Index
  1. EXPLORATION AND CLIMBING IN THE SIKKIM HIMALAYA
    (LIEUT.-COL. H. W. TOBIN)
  2. THE GERMAN ATTACK ON KANGCHENJUNGA, 1929
    (PAUL BAUER.*)
  3. THE GEM-STONES OF THE HIMALAYA
    (DR. A. M. HERON.)
  4. BIRD NOTES OF A JOURNEY TO GYANTSE
    (L. R. FAWCUS)
  5. THE SHYOK FLOOD, 1929
    (J. P. GUNN)
  6. THE KAGAN VALLEY
    (LIEUT. J. B. P. ANGWIN.)
  7. SONAMARG AS A CLIMBING CENTRE.
    (DR. E. F. NEVE.)
  8. ISTOR-O-NAL AND SOME CHITRALI SUPERSTITIONS
    (LIEUT. D. M. BURN.)
  9. IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE GERARDS
    (W. E. BUCHANAN)
  10. ROUND THE KANAWAR KAILAS
    (H. M. GLOVER.)
  11. THE MAZENO PASS
    (Captain J. BARRON.)
  12. NINE DAYS' SPORT ON THE PAMIRS
    (Captain A. A. RUSSELL.)
  13. THE MUZ-ART PASS IN THE CENTRAL TIEN-SHAN
    (LIEUT.-COL. REGINALD SCHOMBERG.)
  14. EXPEDITIONS
  15. IN MEMORIAM
  16. NOTES
  17. REVIEWS
  18. CORRESPONDENCE
  19. CLUB PROCEEDINGS.
  20. CLUB NOTICES
  21. LIBRARY NOTICES

THE MUZ-ART PASS IN THE CENTRAL TIEN-SHAN

LIEUT.-COL. REGINALD SCHOMBERG.

THE Muz-art pass is the chief artery for traffic between the cities of Chinese Turkistan, south of the Tien-Shan, and the important trading city of Ili or Kuldja. The pass is well known to travellers, particularly big-game hunters. An account of a crossing of it early in the year may therefore be of interest. Strictly speaking, it is never closed, and is used throughout the year, though stress of weather may make it impassable for one or two days at a time.

I crossed the Muz-art on the 8th April 1929. Two days before, coming up the valley, we had been delayed by a snow-storm, but the weather cleared, and we had a perfect day for the crossing. Leaving Tamgha-tash, at the foot of the glacier leading to the pass, at half- past four in the morning, we reached the head of the glacier at 11-15 ; as the distance is fourteen miles, the time taken may be considered good. This point is called " Ishparlik," as it is here that mountain sickness is said to begin. The ponies had to be " man-handled " in two places only, where steps had to be cut in the ice. The numerous crevasses, however, caused considerable delay, and entailed most wearisome detours.

The head of the glacier is not the crest of the pass, for a short steep zig-zag ascent over shale ascends from it for four hundred yards to an almost level area between low hills. The track ascends very easily along this for about two and a quarter miles to the summit. This nearly level stretch was covered with snow, from eight to ten feet deep, with a very narrow path traversing the centre of it. If an animal or man stepped a few inches off this beaten track, the snow engulfed him at once and it was a hard task to dig him out again. No Turki has ever any thought for anyone except himself, and consequently caravans were always meeting here, with a resulting head-on collision, followed by a panic among the animals which floundered and plunged, as they sank deeper into the fine dry snow. Victory went to the strong, and it is regrettable that firm selfish ramming forced the weaker caravans off the narrow path that led to ease and safety.

The pass is certainly not difficult in itself. The ascent from the south is steady but nowhere severe, the glacier is merely a nuisance, but the wind is dreaded by the caravan-men, as dangerous storms come on, though a rapid descent is made into the northern valley. This pass has one enormous advantage : there is never any danger from avalanches, as the steep mountains cannot hold the snow. Apart from storms, the crevasses are the chief danger, though the numerous casualties amongst the animals are due far more to bad condition and overloading than to the gradient, difficulties or dangers of the road. Donkeys are the chief sufferers, as they form the chief means of transport. Camels cannot be used, though they bring goods to the foot of the pass, where a huge heap, suggestive of a commissariat dump, is made-to be brought over the pass later by donkeys.

We took altogether nine and a half hours to reach Khan Yailak, over the pass from Tamgha-tash, a distance of twenty-five miles. This was very good going, but it is usually better to halt at Toghra Su, at mile 20, immediately north of the pass, where there is wood, grass and water.