Mustagh Pass

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The Mustagh Pass or Muztagh Pass is a pass across the Baltoro Muztagh range in the Karakorams which includes K2, the world's second highest mountain. The crest of the Baltoro Muztagh marks the present border between Pakistani and Chinese territory.

There are actually two passes, the eastern or 'Old' Mustagh Pass (alt. about 5,422 m.) and the so-called 'New' Mustagh Pass, about 16 km (9.9 mi) to the west (altitude variously given as 5,700 and 5,800 m.) The pass is on the watershed between the rivers which flow towards the Tarim Basin and those flowing to the Indian Ocean.[1]

The route across the Mustagh Pass is the shortest route from Yarkand to Skardu on the upper Indus River in Baltistan, from where caravans used to head on to Srinigar in Kashmir. The pass is situated about midway between the Karakoram Pass to the east, which leads to Leh in Ladakh, and the Kilik and Mintaka passes to the west which lead to Hunza and Gilgit.[2]

The route has been impassible to caravans since at least the middle of the 19th century due to the movement of the glaciers on it and, by 1861, when Godwin-Austen did his survey of the region, it was only in use by a few Baltis living in Yarkand who crossed it to visit their families. Frederic Drew reported that there had been no crossings between Yarkand and Baltistan between 1863 and 1870.[3]

It is unclear how much it was used in ancient times, though it is possible that it was in use as early as the Later Han Dynasty.[4] It also seems possible, even likely, that this is the route the Chinese pilgrim monk Fa Xian took in 399 CE on his way to India.[5]

There was apparently more abundant fodder and fuel along the Yarkand River than on the approaches to the Karakoram Pass:

"Turdi Kol took me a few miles further down the river and showed me two other equally good camping-grounds, and he says that there is considerably more pasture in the lower part of this valley than in that of the Karakash River, where Shahidula is situated, and that in the old days the valley was populated and cultivated and merchants went to and fro by the Mustagh Pass to Baltistan."[6]

Francis Younghusband (1863-1942) was the first European known to cross the pass which he did with much difficulty in 1887 after a request from Colonel Mark Sever Bell (1843-1906), finally reaching the village of Askole in Baltistan.[7]

Apparently there have only been two recorded crossings of the pass since then, "by an Italian expedition of exploration in 1929, and a French ski expedition in 1986."[8]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Younghusband, Francis. The Heart of a Continent: A Narrative of Travels in Manchuria, across the Gobi Desert, through the Himalayas, the Pamirs and Chitral, 1884-94, p. 189. Published: 1897. London. Reprint (2005): Elibron Classics Replica Edition. ISBN 1-4212-6551-6 (pbk); ISBN 1-4212-6550-8 (hbk).
  2. ^ Ferber, Aug. C. F. (1907). "An Exploration of the Mustagh Pass in the Karakoram Himalayas." The Geographical Journal, Vol. 30, No. 6. (Dec., 1907), p. 630.
  3. ^ Rizvi, Janet. Trans-Himalayan Caravans : Merchant Princes and Peasant Traders in Ladakh, p. 26. 1999. Oxford University Press. New Delhi. ISBN 0-19-564855-2.
  4. ^ Hill, John E. Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. An annotated translation of the Chronicle on the 'Western Regions' in the Hou Hanshu. Section 7, note 1.
  5. ^ Legge, James A. (1886). Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms: Being an account by the Chinese Monk Fa-Hien of his travels in India and Ceylon (A.D. 399-414) in search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline, pp. 21-22. Unabridged reprint (1965): Paragon Book Reprint Corp and Dover Publications, New York, N.Y. ISBN 0-486-21344-7.
  6. ^ Younghusband, Francis. The Heart of a Continent: A Narrative of Travels in Manchuria, across the Gobi Desert, through the Himalayas, the Pamirs and Chitral, 1884-94. Published: 1897. London. Reprint (2005): Elibron Classics Replica Edition, p. 236. ISBN 1-4212-6551-6 (pbk); ISBN 1-4212-6550-8 (hbk).
  7. ^ French, Patrick. (1994). Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer, pp. 53, 56-60. HarperCollinsPublishers, London. Reprint (1995): Flamingo. London. ISBN 0-00-637601-0.
  8. ^ Rizvi, Janet. Trans-Himalayan Caravans : Merchant Princes and Peasant Traders in Ladakh, p. 26, n. 7. 1999. Oxford University Press. New Delhi. ISBN 0-19-564855-2.

References[edit]

  • Ferber, Aug. C. F. (1907). "An Exploration of the Mustagh Pass in the Karakoram Himalayas." The Geographical Journal, Vol. 30, No. 6. (Dec., 1907), pp. 630-643.
  • French, Patrick. (1994). Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer. HarperCollinsPublishers, London. Reprint (1995): Flamingo. London. ISBN 0-00-637601-0.
  • Rizvi, Janet. Trans-Himalayan Caravans : Merchant Princes and Peasant Traders in Ladakh. 1999. Oxford University Press. New Delhi. ISBN 0-19-564855-2.
  • Younghusband, Francis. The Heart of a Continent: A Narrative of Travels in Manchuria, across the Gobi Desert, through the Himalayas, the Pamirs and Chitral, 1884-94. Published: 1897. London. Reprint (2005): Elibron Classics Replica Edition. ISBN 1-4212-6551-6 (pbk); ISBN 1-4212-6550-8 (hbk).
  • Younghusband, Francis. Wonders of the Himalayas. (1924) Reprint (1977): Abhishek Publications, Chandigarh. Chapter 4, The Mustagh Pass, pp. 55-71.

Coordinates: 35°53′00″N 76°31′00″E / 35.8833°N 76.5167°E / 35.8833; 76.5167