JBO'C's Historical Reference

The Hindu Kush Mountains

The Hindu Kush Mountain Range is the name for tthe dominant mountain range in Afghanistan. It takes in the The Paropamisus Mountains in the west and the Pamir Mountains in the east.

From the Imperial Gazetteer of India: Provincial Series 1908

By far the most important of these ranges is the The Hindu Kush. This range takes its origin at a point near 37° N. and Kusli, 74° 38' E., where the Himalayan system finds its north-west termination in a mass of towering peaks, and extends in a south-westerly direction to about 34° 30' N. and 68° 15' E. Its peaks probably rise throughout to the region of perpetual snow, 15,000 feet above sea-level, while many of them arebetween 20,000 and 25,000 feet in altitude.
Imperial Gazetteer of India: Provincial Series
Published by Supt. of Govt. Print., 1908

From: The Baburnama The Passes through the Hindu Kush

The country of Kabul is very strong, and of difficult access, whether to foreigners Passes over or enemies. Between Balkh, Kunduz, and Badakhshan on the one side, and Kabul on the other, is interposed the mountain of Hindu-Kush, the passes over which are seven in number. Three of these are by Panjshir;' the uppermost2 of which is Khewak;3lower down is that of Tul;4 and still lower, that of Bazarak. Of these three passes, the best is that of Tul, but the way is somewhat longer, whence it probably got its name of Tul (or the long). The most direct pass is that of Bazarak. Both of these passes lead over to Sirab. As the pass of Bazarak terminates at a village named Barendi, the people of Sirab call it the pass of Barendi. Another route is that of Perwan. Between Perwan and the high mountain there are seven minor passes, which they call Heft-becheh (the Seven Younglings). As you come from the Andcrab side, two roads unite below the main pass, and lead down on Perwan by way of the Seven Younglings. This is a very difficult road. There are besides three roads in Ghurbend. That which is nearest to Perwan is the pass of Yangi-yuli (the new road), which descends by Walian and Khinjan. Another route is that of Kipchak, which leads by the junction of the rivers of Surkhab and Anderab. This is a good pass. Another route is by the pass of Shibertu. During the summer, when the waters are up, you can go by this pass only by taking the route of Bamian and Sikan; but in the winter season, they travel by way of Abdereh. In winter, all the roads are shut up for four or five months, except this alone; such as then proceed to Shibertu through this pass travel by way of Abdereh. In the season of spring, when the waters are in flood, it is as difficult to pass these roads as in winter; for it is impossible to cross the water courses, on account of the flooding of the torrents, so that the road by the water courses is not passable; and as for passing along the mountains, the mountain track is so difficult, that it is only for three or four months in autumn, when the snow and the waters decrease, that it is practicable.
Memoirs of Zahir-Ed-Din Muhammed Baber, Emperor Of Hindustan, Written By Himself, In The Jaghatai Turki, And Translated, Partly By The Late John Leyden, Esq. M.D. Partly By William Erskine, Esq. Published By Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, And Green, Paternoster Row; and R. Cadell And Co.Edinburgh. Printed By James Ballantyne And Co. Edinburgh. 1826.

Alexander in the Hindu Kush Mountains

Alexander, instead of retracing his steps and following the route to Bactria , resolved to fetch a circle. Marching through Afghanistan , subduing it as he went, he would cross the Hindu-Kush Mountains and descend on the plain of the Oxus from the east. First he advanced southward to secure Seistan and the northwestern regions of Baluchistan , then known as Gedrosia, wintering among the Ariaspa, a peaceful and friendly people whom the Greeks called "Benefactors." A Gedrosian satrapy was constituted with its capital at Pura. When spring came, Alexander pushed northeastward up the valley of the Helmand. 3298.0. The chief city which he founded in Arachosia was probably on the site of Kandahar, which seems to be a corruption of its name, Alexandria. The way led on over the mountains, past Ghazni, into the valley of the upper waters of the Cabul River , and Alexander came to the foot of the high range of the Hindu-Kush. The whole massive complex of mountains which diverge from the roof of the world, dividing southern from central, eastern from western, Asia — the Pamirs, the Hindu-Kush, and the Himalayas — were grouped by the Greeks under the general name of Caucasus. But the Hindu-Kush was distinguished by the special name of Paropamisus, while the Himalayas were called the Imaus. At the foot of the Hindu-Kush he spent the winter, and founded another Alexandria to secure this region, somewhere to the north of Kabul ; it was distinguished as Alexandria of the Caucasus. The crossing of the Caucasus, undertaken in the early spring, was an achievement which seems to have fallen little short of Hannibal 's passage of the Alps. The soldiers had to content themselves with raw meat and the herb of silphion as a substitute for bread. At length they reached Drapsaca, high up on the northern slope — the frontier fortress of Bactria. Having rested his way-worn army, Alexander went down by the stronghold of Aornus into the plain and marched to Bactra, now Balkh .
The pretender, Bessus Artaxerxes, had stripped and wasted eastern Bactria up to the foot of the mountains, for the purpose of checking the progress of the invading army; but he fled across the Oxus when Alexander drew near. Another province was added without a blow to the Macedonian empire. Alexander lost no time in pursuing the fugitive into Sogdiana. This is the country which lies between the streams of the Oxus and the Jaxartes. It was called Sogdiana from the river Sogd, which loses itself in the sands of the desert before it approaches the waters of the Oxus. Bessus had burned his boats, and when Alexander, after a weary march of two or three days through the hot desert, arrived at the banks of the Oxus, he was forced to transport his army by the primitive vehicle of skins, which the natives of central Asia still use. Alexander's soldiers, however, instead of inflating the sheepskins with air, stuffed them with rushes. They crossed the river at Kilif and advanced to Maracanda, easily recognized as Samarkand .
A students' history of Greece. John Bagnell Bury, Everett Kimball, Editor Everett Kimball Macmillan, 1917 pages 341 and 342

Alexander the Great's Hindu Kush Mountains

THE HINDU KUSH from Through the Unknown Pamirs: The Second Danish Pamir Expedition 1898-99

The Hindu Kush consists of a range of mountains of granite, gneiss, and slate—huge masses that are here and there varied with lime. The Hindu Kush forms, at its eastern end, up to the meridian of Kalai Pandsh, for a distance of about 160 kilometers, the southern boundary of Pamir; and throughout all its length to the west it is the watershed between the tributary streams of the Amu Darya (Oxus) to the one side, and of the tributary streams of the Indus to the other. In Ishkashim, the Hindu Kush turns southwards, and from Ishkashim to the valley of the river Wardosh the pass of Sebak makes the boundary between Wardosh and the Badakhshan mountains which now form the northern boundary of the valley of the Pandsh up to Kalai Khumb in Darvas.
All the way from Langarkish to Ishkashim, the Hindu Kush resembles an immense majestic Alpine range; and this is especially so near Langarkish, owing to its wild rugged peaks. At Sirgyn and Dries, it stands out like a huge wall, the top only visible when we look straight up into the sky, and even then we see only its advanced foremost spurs. It springs straight an4 steep from the valley, and is inaccessible. Everywhere in Vakhan are seen in the ravines of the Hindu Kush, through which run the tributary streams, greenish blue glaciers and patches of snow lying in curves down into the valley. Seen from the valley, the Hindu Kush stands out still more lofty and majestic the further west we go into Vakhan, until we come near the village of Ishtragh—where the highest peaks recede so far into the south that they cannot be seen from the valley of the Vakhan; indeed, from this point only some large rounded hills are visible, sloping in smooth undulations towards the province of Ishkashim, where the valley widens out considerably towards the south—the territory between Sebak and Ishkashim being saddle-backed.
Here an easily accessible pass is found which forms the gate by which the peoples from round about Balk, the mountaineers from Kafiristan north of Kabul , and the people of India have easy access to the valleys of the Pamir , each from his own side.
Unlike the mountains of southern Pamir, the Hindu Kush all through the summer has snow and glaciers along the complete length of its ridge, and terrible snow-storms rage and whirl about these black ruin-like peaks. Throughout all this long distance from Mustagh to the Badakhshan Mountains only two good passes are to be found. The pass of Boroghil lies towards the east, 3650 meters above the sea, which near Sarhad (3422 meters) leads from the valley of the Vakhan Darya to the river Yarkhun, towards south-west to Mastudsh, and across the Darkot pass to Yassin, Hunza, Nagar, and Gilghit. This pass can be traversed in about half a day, summer and winter alike. Snow of any importance it’s only found in the pass during March and April, and rarely enough to prevent one from forcing a passage. From the pass of Boroghil to near Kalai Pandsh, the Hindu Kush forms one mighty insurmountable mountainous mass, the height of which exceeds 6000 meters, covered with glaciers and perpetual snow.
Almost in front of'Kalai Pandsh we have the pass of Resh, or Rish, about 5100 meters above sea-level. This is a very difficult pass to traverse; the incline is exceedingly steep, and the passage is in addition filled with fragments of rock. According to the natives, the pass is above the line of perpetual snow; yet an Indian testifies to having made his way through it in December, though, according to his account, he did so with great difficulty. Immediately west of the pass of Resh, facing the town of Drais, are some passes which lead to Chitral; these passes are the eastern passage, as high as 5600 meters above sea-level, and the western passage as high as 6700 meters above the sea. These passes can only be crossed, even by pedestrians, during a couple of months of the year, whilst the ascents are so steep that beasts of burden cannot be employed.
From these passes to the next pass on the west, the pass of Ishtragh, the Hindu Kush attains some of its greatest heights—the mountain of Lunkho rising to 6900 meters above the sea, and the heights of Ssad Istragh, immediately to the east of the pass of Istragh, thrusting itself 7350 meters into the heavens. The whole range is in these parts covered with glaciers and perpetual snow, of which we catch white glimpses from the valley of the Vakhan, and a larger vision from the village of Namatgut , which commands a view right into the pass of Istragh as far as the point at which the immense glacier pushes down into the valley.
Whilst spending September in Vakhan, we witnessed every day the splendid sight of the tremendous snowstorms that whirled and raged about these dark mountain peaks. The flying snow would wrap the mountains about to a height of some 4500 meters; the storm would pass, lifting like a veil, leaving the mountains white with snow, which in an hour would be blotted out by the sun's heat; then, in another hour a snowstorm would leave them white again.
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Down in the valley, where we were, it was lovely summer weather all the while; and we enjoyed without danger or chill these grand and imposing spectacles of wild nature.

The pass of Istragh, which leads from the valley of the Pandsh to Chitral, is difficult of access. The ascents from Vakhan are very steep, and the paths run across stony river-beds filled with fragments of rock. According to the Vakhans this pass is quite impassable in the winter; and even in the summer it is necessary to ascend into the area of perpetual snow, which, however, is not always a very dangerous thing to do. It is my experience that the moraines of broken rocks are much more dangerous than the snow and ice, for they easily give way under a man when he steps upon them, and, once set moving, they start others, until they threaten to bury or overwhelm the whole caravan. I judge by the evidence of natives that the snow in the pass of Istragh during the summer is confined to a few small patches which, being sheltered from the heat of the sun, do not receive enough heat to melt them. The height of the pass I estimate to be about 5300 meters above sea-level.

West of the pass of Istragh, between the Arkari river and the valleys of Yarkhun, the highest peaks of the Hindu Kush spring upwards in two separate mountain giants—the northern peak, called Nushau, is 7460 meters high, its glaciers discernible from the town of Rang in Ishkashim— the southern peak, called Tirach-mir, reaches the great height of 7463 meters, and is one of the most magnificent and most imposing glacial formations of the world. (The calculations for the heights of these two splendid peaks are only trigonometrical measurements, and must be considered as not too accurate, though they are probably pretty nearly correct.

Immediately west of the Nushau glaciers is the pass of Nuksan, 5064 meters above sea-level, which forms the watershed between the tributaries of the Wardosh river and the tributaries of the river Arkari. Nuksan is said to be a pass very difficult to traverse where the road ascends above the line of perpetual snow. According to the natives, however, it can be crossed during the greater part of the summer.

West of the pass of Nuksan, the Hindu Rush again attains a considerable height, and is covered with a less isolated glacier at 6500 meters height; but at about the meridian of Sebak the range becomes saddle-backed as we come to the Dora pass. The height of this pass has been given by several authorities, and with as many different results. It is, however, according to all these authorities, very easily accessible, and from natives who had traversed it I learnt the same fact. I therefore presume that 4260 meters, the lowest of the estimated heights, is the most correct one. Yet it is a pass that is much dreaded on account of raids by the rapacious Siaposh.

The passes of Boroghil to the east, and Dora to the west, are the easiest and most accessible passages across the Hindu Kush into India. At the pass of Dora the majesty of the Hindu Kush is at an end, and from this point its imposing greatness dwindles steadily.
Through the Unknown Pamirs: The Second Danish Pamir Expedition 1898-99, Denmark. Ministeriet for kirke- og undervisningsvęsenet. Ole Olufsen , Denmark. Ministeriet for kirke- og undervisningsvęsenet, Carlsbergfondet ( Copenhagen , Denmark ), Danske Pamirexpedition, 2d, 1898-1899. W. Heinemann , 1904 Pages 14 - 19

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