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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

A   HERMIT   IN   THE   HIMALAYAS

In the slanting rays of the early sun the sky colours reflect
themselves in the snows, which assume a delicate rosy tint, then
tones of pale pink and old gold. Soon they settle, after a few kaleido-
scopic changes, into silver-wiiite masses, freely dappled with grey
patches of bare rock, which shine transparently like mother o' pearl
For one hundred and twenty miles, and, out of the range of my
vision, more than one thousand four hundred miles beyond, the
line of icy heights can be seen in one vast view stretching to the
right and left. It runs in my sight from the Buranghati Pass at sixteen
thousand feet, in the north, all the way to Nanda Devi at twenty-
five thousand feet, in the east, where it finally closes. Nanda Devi
itself towers to an incredible height above all the other peaks like a
monstrous church steeple. Here is a solid wall of granite—the
loftiest upon this planet—reinforced by a casing of snow and ice
hundreds of feet thick, presenting such a formidable face to be-
holders that one understands readily why the world lets Tibet alone.
These massive ridges are the Gibraltar of the plateau beyond them;
they are impregnable and, except at a few points, impassable.

White smoke seems to float off a few peaks, as from volcanoes,
but it is only the powdered spindrift of feathery snow being driven
by the wind across the sky.

Jutting up out of the irregular whitish line I see at once several
immensely high summits which crown the range. Nothing much
lives, nothing much can live, at their exalted altitudes. Nature has
set them like proud monarchs upon their white thrones. No plebeian
creature of the animal or human species dare approach and make
its home in that regal though sterile domain, save in its valleys.
For their snowy heads rise twenty thousand feet and more boldly
above the sealine, and they have been generously given to this
territory. In the north-east, no less than a group of such giants are
clustered together near Gangotri, where the sacred Ganges finds its
glacial source. Closer to me is Bandarpunch, another twenty-
thousand-feet giant, west of which rises a second of India's mighty
rivers, the Jumna. The sacred, sun-kissed peaks of Badrinath,
Kedarnath and Srikant continue the jagged skyline and glitter
against a cloudless sky.

It is a curious and startling thought that a visitor from another
planet who was approaching our earth woqld notice first of all this
serried Himalayan range. For, with hundreds of peaks, at least,
more than twenty thousand feet in height, the Himalayas become the
most outstanding object on the surface of our own planet! Even the
North American Rockies cannot match it, for they possess only a
single twenty-thousand-feet mountain—Mount McKinley.
Mantled in forest and snow the heights rise into h^av^n