Sven Hedin's Expeditions

1986 -1935

Google Map 3
To view his route click on Google Map 3

Two More Attempts to Scale Mustagh Ata, 7506 m

21 Jun - 19 Oct 1894

In the summer of 1894, after the disasterous expedition searching for the Khorla River, Hedin turned his attention to the cool highlands around Mustagh Ata.

After the first attempt in 1893, Hedin with a small entourage made two attempts in August 1894. Both were unsuccessful because of the altitude and the ill planned preparation for climbing a 7500 m high mountain.

Second Attempt on Mustagh Ata
6 Aug1894

Leaving Islam Bai to take care of the camp, I set off on August 6th at half past six in the morning accompanied by Yehim Bai Mollah Islam and three other Kirghiz and a train of seven splendid yaks.

We made good progress and by ten minutes past seven had reached the height of 14,760 feet The steep declivities were now littered with gravelly material of the same varieties as the solid rock higher up The gravel was so closely packed that no vegetation was able to insinuate its roots Two of the yaks had already struck and as they delayed us very much we left them behind The Kirghiz preferred to walk and took it in turns to lead the big handsome yak I was riding which climbed up the sloping debris without any apparent effort By eight o clock we had reached the altitude of Mont Blanc and a short distance above that at 16,250 feet we reached the snow line At first the snow lay in smallish patches with the debris exposed between them then in a continuous sheet through which individual fragments of rock protruded here and there The snow was compact and coarsegrained but had no hard crust After we had ascended another six or seven hundred feet the snow was caked with a thin crust and lay so solidly packed that the men's soft leather boots left no footprint behind but then it is true they were not provided with wooden soles The snow crunched under the yaks pointed hoofs but the animals never once stumbled The higher we went the deeper grew the snow though it never formed drifts worthy of the name From a quarter of an inch its depth increased to four or five and at the highest point we reached it was just under fourteen inches.....

....We stopped to rest more and more frequently. I employed the time in making sketches, and in taking our bearings with the compass.
At an altitude of 16,700 feet Mollah Islam and two of the other Kirghiz left their yaks in the snow, declaring that it would be better to walk. However, they did not get more than six hundred feet higher when they fell down from exhaustion and headache and were soon dead asleep in the snowdrifts.

I went on with the two remaining Kirghiz and the two yaks. My beast was always led by one of them; the other yak they rode turn and turn about They too complained of splitting headache and were ready to drop from breathlessness. I did not suffer much from either of these symptoms though I had a slight headache, which increased when we got higher up, but I was only attacked with breathlessnes, when I got off the yak.

Meanwhile a fresh wind sprang up from the south west driving the snow which was as fine as flour and without a crust into eddies while the sky became hidden by thick clouds. As we were all now rather done up we determined to halt and take observations. Bread and tea were brought out and fuel to boil the water for the latter but we had only to look at the food and we were seized with such a choking sensation that none of us would touch it. We suffered only from thirst and looked longingly at the snow which the yaks licked up in large mouthfuls. The view which presented itself from this point 20,660 feet was inconceivably grand.

We now held a council of war. The day was drawing to an end, and it was beginning to be cold in the wind 33 3 Fahr or 7 deg C at 4 pm. Moreover the Kirghiz were so done up that they could go no farther the yaks stood panting with their tongues hanging out. We had reached the foot of a dome shaped elevation which gradually merged into the flat crown of the summit

Though sorely against the grain I now determined to turn back. We rapidly descended in our own footsteps and soon reached a more clement region picking up the deserters and the yaks which were still standing where we had left them and reaching the camp at seven o clock in the evening There we found visitors awaiting us with gifts of provisions.
Sven Hedin “Through Asia”

Third Attempt on Mustagh Ata
11 Aug1894

Chaltumak Glacier

We tried a third time further south planing to reach altitude on the Chaltumak glacier. This time we were equipped to spend the night enroute. But my plans were unexpectedly thwarted. For like an evil spirit my old inflammation of the eyes (iritis) suddenly seized me, causing me excruciating agony. I applied the remedies I had with me, but all to no purpose. The next day the pain was so intense, that I was obliged to leave my men and ride down to Subashi. Thus ended my ambitious hopes. The members of the expedition were paid off, and the company dissolved. And Mus-tagh-ata, which glittered in the glorious sunshine, a magnificent sight for those who had eyes to see withal, was for the time being left to enjoy his solitary state in peace.
Sven Hedin, "Through Asia" 

Boating on Little Karakul Lake
30 Sep-9 Oct 1894

Their improvised sailboat on the lake

They took it easy, went boating on the Little Karkul Lake and spent some time with Kirghis in Bassykul
Sven Hedin, "Through Asia"

The Beauties of the Bassykul Kirghiz
9 Oct 1894

Hedin's sketch of the beauty

When a young Kirghiz wishes to marry, his parents choose him a suitable wife, whom he is obliged to take; if, on the other hand, the bride-elect is not willing, the marriage may be abandoned, though the girl, too, is in most cases dependent on the will of her parents. If the youth has no parents, he chooses a bride for himself; but he must always pay kalim (dowry) to her parents. A rich Kirghiz pays as much as ten or twelve jambaus (one jambau equals ,£9 to £10); a poor one pays a couple of horses or yaks. The girl's parents, therefore, always endeavor to secure her a bai (rich man) for a husband; the young man's a plain and poor daughter-in-law, who will be content with a modest kalim. If the girl be young and pretty, a very large dowry is always asked.

19 Oct 1894

Hedin reach Kashgar again 10 days later an stayed until July 1895.