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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

Before we reached the solid ice of the great glacier


The cream-coloured courser nearly wrecked my Kashmir holiday at this point, owing to the silly dislike of white folk which he possesses in common with the buffaloes. As I was incautiously handing Jane her beloved parasol, he whisked round and let out at me, and I was only saved from a nasty kick by my closeness to the beast, whose hock made such an impression upon my thigh as to cause me to go a bit short for a while.

We camped in rather a moist-looking place, where the wood begins to show signs of finishing, and the slopes fall steep and bare to the river.

A rather rank and weedy undergrowth was not inviting, and was strongly suggestive of dampness and rheumatism. It was fairly chilly, too, at night, as our camp was some 11,000 feet above the sea, and the little breezes that came sighing through the pines were straight from the snow.

_Sunday, June 25_.--A most glorious morning saw us start early for an expedition to the Kolahoi Glacier. The sombre ravine in which we were camped amid the pines lay still in a mysterious blue haze, but the sun had already caught the snow-streaked mountain-tops to our left, and gilded their rugged sides with a swiftly descending mantle of warmth and light.

A very fine waterfall came tumbling down a wooded chasm on our right, and as fine waterfalls are scarce in Kashmir we stopped for some time to admire it duly.

The track now led out into a wide and treeless valley, flanked by snow-crowned mountains, and we pushed on merrily until we arrived at the brink of a rascally torrent, which gave us some trouble to ford, being both exceeding swift and fairly deep. Luckily, it was greedy, and, not content with one channel, had spread itself out into four or five branches, and thus so squandered itself that Jane on her pony and I on coolie-back accomplished the passage without mishap. For some miles we held on along an easy path which curved to the right along the right bank of the river, which was spanned in many places by great snow bridges, often hundreds of yards in width. We lunched sitting on the trunk of a dead birch which had been carried by the snow down from its eyrie, and then left, a melancholy skeleton, bleaching on the slowly melting avalanche. Some two miles farther on we could see the end of the Kolahoi Glacier, its grey and rock-strewn snout standing abrupt above the white slopes of snow.

Behind rose the fine peak of Harbagwan, in as yet undisputed splendour, Kolahoi being still hidden behind the cliffs which towered on our right.

Distances seem short in this brilliant air, but we walked for a long while over the short turf, flushing crimson with primulas and golden with small buttercups, and then over snowy hillocks, before we reached the solid ice of the great glacier.

It was so completely covered with fragments of grey rock that Jane could hardly he persuaded that it really was an ice slope that we were scrambling up with such difficulty, until a peep into a cold mysterious cleft convinced her that she was really and truly standing upon 200 feet of solid ice.

The sight that now burst upon us was one to be remembered. Kolahoi towered ethereal--a sunlit wedge of sheer rock some six thousand feet above us--into the crystal air. From his feet the white frozen billows of the great glacier rolled, a glistering sea, to where we, atoms in the enormous loneliness, stood breathless in admiration. Around the head of the wide amphitheatre wherein we stood rose a circle of stately peaks, their bases flanged with rocky buttresses, dark amid the long sweeps of radiant snow, their shattered peaks reared high into the very heavens. A great silence reigned. There was no wind with us, and yet, even as we watched, a white cloud flitted past the virgin peak of Kolahoi--ghostly, intangible; and immediately, even as vultures assemble suddenly, no one knows whence, so did the clouds appear, surging over the gleaming shoulders of the mountain ridges, and up and round the grim precipices. We turned and hurried down the face of the glacier, and made for camp, as we knew from much experience that a thunderstorm was inevitable.


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