H. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) Lynch.

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over 14,000 feet. The width of the snow-field between these
limits varies as it descends ; on a level with the shoulder, or

1 See the photograpli of the svimmit region (Fig. 36, p. iSo), which clearly shows
these various features.

Ascent of Ararat 173

head of the causeway, it appeared to span an interval of nearly
200 yards.^ The depth of the bed must be considerable,
and, while the surface holds the tread in places, it as often gives
and lets you through. No rock-projection, or gap, or fissure
breaks the slope of the white fairway ; but the winds have raised
the crust about the centre into a ribbon of tiny waves. Our plan
was to cross the stony region about us, slanting a little east, and
to mount by the rocks on the western margin of the snow-field,
adhering as closely as might be possible to the side of the snow.
It was in the execution of this plan — so simple in its conception
— that the trained instinct of the Swiss availed. Of those who
have attempted the ascent of Ararat — and their number is not
large — so many have failed to reach the summit that, upon a
mountain which makes iQ.\N, if any, demands upon the resources of
the climber's craft, their discomfiture must be attributed to other
reasons : to the peculiar nature of the ground traversed, no less
than to the inordinate duration of the effort ; to the wearisome
recurrence of the same kind of obstacles, and to the rarity of the
air. Now the disposition of the rocks upon the surface of the
depression is by no means the same as that which we have studied
in connection with the seams which lie below. The path no
longer struggles across a troubled sea of ridges, or strays within
the blind recesses of a succession of gigantic waves of stone. On
the other hand, the gradients are as a rule steeper ; and the
clearings are covered with a loose rubble, which slips from under
the feet. The boulders are piled one upon another in heaps as
they happened to fall, and the sequence of forms is throughout
arbitrary and subject to no fixed law. In one place it is a tower
of this loose masonry which blocks all further approach ; in another
a solid barrier of sharp crags, laced together, which it is necessary
to circumvent. When the limbs have been stiffened and the
patience exhausted by the long and devious escalade, the tax
upon the lungs is at its highest, and the strain upon the heart
most severe. Many of the difficulties which travellers have
encountered upon this stage of the climb may be avoided, or met
at a greater advantage, by adhering to the edge of the snow.
But the fulfilment of this purpose is by no means so easy as
might at first sight appear. You are always winding inwards to

1 Yet it looks a mere streak in the illustration (Fig. 36). The lower end of the
snow slope was not well seen from the standpoint of that photograph. Actually it
resembles a ma<jnificent river.

1 74 Armenia

avoid the heaps of boulders, or emerging on the backs of gigantic
blocks of lava towards the margin of the shining slope. In the
choice of the most direct path, where many offered, the Swiss was
never at fault ; he made up the cone without a moment's hesita-
tion, like a hound threading a close covert, and seldom if ever

At twenty minutes to seven, when the summit of Little
Ararat was about on a level with the eye, we paused for awhile
and turned towards the prospect, now opening to a wider range.
The day was clear, and promised warmth ; above us the snowy
dome of Ararat shone in a cloudless sky. The landscape on
either side of the beautiful pyramid lay outspread at our feet ;
from north-east, the hidden shores of Lake Sevan, to where the
invisible seas of Van and Urmi diffused a soft veil of opaline
vapour over the long succession of lonely ranges in the south-east
and south. The wild borderland of Persia and Turkey here for
the first time expands to view. The scene, however much it may
belie the conception at a first and hasty glance, bears the
familiar imprint of the characteristics peculiar to the great
tableland. The mountains reveal their essential nature and
disclose the familiar forms — the surface of the tableland broken
into long furrows, of which the ridges tend to hummock shapes.
So lofty is the stage, so aloof this mighty fabric from all surround-
ing forms, the world lies dim and featureless about it like the
setting of a dream. In the foreground are the valleys on the
south of Little Ararat, circling round to the Araxes floor ; and,
on the north-east, beside the thread of the looping river, is a little
lake, dropped like a turquoise on the sand where the mountain
sweeps the plain.

In the space of another hour we had reached an elevation
about equal to that of the head of the causeway on the opposite
side of the snow, a point which I think we should be justified in
fixing at over 14,000 feet.^ We were now no longer threading
along the shore of an inlet ; alone the vague horizon of the
summit circle was the limit of the broad, white sea. But on our
left hand the snowless region of rock and rubble still accompanied
our course, and a group of red crags stood up above our heads,
just where the upward slope appeared to end.

Yet another two hours of continuous climbing, and, at about

1 Al/ich {Geologische ForscliKugen in den kaitkasischcii Landcrn, \'ienna, 1882, part
ii. p. 455) ascribes to it an elevation of 14,600 feet.

Ascent of Ararat 175

half- past nine, the loose boulders about us open, and we are
approaching the foot of these crags. The end seems near ; but
the slope is deceitful, and when once we have reached the head
of the formation the long white way resumes. But the blue vault
about us streams with sunlight ; the snow is melting in the
crannies ; a genial spirit lightens our toil.

And now, without any sign or warning, the mysterious spell
which holds the mountain begins to throw a web about us,
craftily, from below. The spirits of the air come sailing through
the azure with shining gossamer wings, while the heavier vapours
gather around us from dense banks serried upon the slope beneath
us, a thousand feet lower down.

The rocks still climb the increasing gradient, but the snow is
closing in. At eleven we halt to copy an inscription, which has
been neatly written in Russian characters on the face of a boulder
stone. It records that on the third day of the eighth month of
1893 the expedition led by the Russian traveller Postukhoff
passed the night in this place. At the foot of the stone lie
several objects : a bottle filled with fluid, an empty tin of biscuits,
a tin containing specimens of rock.

At half-past eleven I take the angle of the snow slope, at this
point 35°. About this time the Swiss thinks it prudent to link
us all together with his rope. The surface of the rocks is still
uncovered, but their bases are embedded in deep snow.

It is now, after six hours' arduous climbing, that the strain of
the effort tells. The lungs are working at the extreme of their
capacity, and the pressure upon the heart is severe. At noon I
call a halt, and release young Wesson from his place in the file
of four. His pluck is still strong, but his look and gait alarm
me, and I persuade him to desist. We leave him to rest in a
sheltered place, and there await our return. From this time on
we all three suffer, even the Swiss himself My cousin is affected
with mountain sickness ; as for me, I find it almost impossible to
breathe and climb at the same time. We make a iQ.\w steps
upwards and then pause breathless, and gasp again and again.
The white slope vanishing above us must end in the crown of
the dome ; and the boulders strewn more sparsely before us
promise a fairer way. But the further we go, the goal seems
little closer ; and the shallow snow, resting on a crumbling rubble,
makes us lose one step in every three, A strong smell of
sulphur permeates the atmosphere ; it proceeds from the sliding

176 Ariuenia

surface upon which we are treading, a detritus of pale sulphurous

At 1.25 we see a plate of white metal, affixed to a cranny in
the rocks. It bears an inscription in Russian character which
dates from 1888. I neglect to copy out the unfamiliar letters;
but there can be little doubt that they record the successful
ascent of Dr. Markoff, an ascent which cost him dear.

A few minutes later, at half-past one, the slope at last eases,
the ground flattens, the struggling rocks sink beneath the surface
of a continuous field of snow. At last we stand upon the summit
of Ararat — but the sun no longer pierces the white vapour ; a
fierce gale drives across the forbidden region, and whips the eye
straining to distinguish the limits of snow and cloud. Vague
forms hurry past on the wings of the whirlwind ; in place of
the landscape of the land of promise we search dense banks of

Disappointed perhaps, but relieved of the gradient, and elated
with the success of our climb, we run in the teeth of the wind
across the platform, our feet scarcely sinking in the storm-swept
crust of the surface, the gently undulating roof of the dome. . . .
Along the edge of a spacious snow-field which dips towards the
centre, and is longest from north-west to south-east, on the vaulted
rim of the saucer which the surface resembles, four separate
elevations may conveniently be distinguished as the highest points
in the irregular oval figure which the whole platform appears to
present. The highest among these rounded elevations bears
north-west from the spot where we first touch the summit or
emerge upon the roof That spot itself marks another of these
inequalities ; the remaining two are situated respectively in this
manner — the one about midway between the two already
mentioned, but nearer to the first and on the north side ; the
other about south of the north-western elevation, and this seems
the lowest of all. The difference in height between the north-
western elevation and that upon the south-east is about 200 feet ;
and the length of the figure between these points — we paced
only a certain portion of the distance — is about 500 yards. The
width of the platform, so far as we could gauge it, may be some
300 yards. A single object testifies to the efforts of our fore-
runners and to the insatiable enterprise of man — a stout stake
embedded upon the north-western elevation in a little pyramid of
stones. It is here that we take our observations, and make our

Ascent of Ara7^at 177

longest halt.^ Before us lies a valley or deep depression, and on
the further side rises the north-western summit, a symmetrical
cone of snow. This summit connects with the bold snow
buttresses beyond it, terraced upon the north-western slope. The
distance down and up from where we stand to that summit may
be about 400 yards ; but neither the Swiss nor ourselves con-
sider it higher, and we are prevented from still further exploring
the summit region by the increasing violence of the gale and by
the gathering gloom of cloud. The sides and floor of the saddle
between the two summits are completely covered with snow, and
we see no trace of the lateral fissure which Abich, no doubt under
different circumstances, was able to observe.

We remain forty minutes upon the summit ; but the dense
veil never lifts from the platform, nor does the blast cease to
pierce us through. No sooner does an opening in the driving
vapours reveal a vista of the world below than fresh levies fly to
the unguarded interval, and the wild onset resumes. Yet what if
the spell had lost its power, and the mountain and the world lain
bare ? had the tissue of the air beamed clear as crystal, and the
forms of earth and sea, embroidered beneath us, shone like the
tracery of a shield ?

We should have gained a balloon view over Nature. Should
we catch her voice so well ? — the ancient voice heard at cool of
day in the garden, or the voice that spoke in accents of thunder
to a world condemned to die. " It repented the Lord that he
had made man, and it grieved him at his heart. The earth was
filled with violence : God looked upon the earth and behold it
was corrupt. In the second month, the seventeenth day of the
month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep
broken up and the windows of heaven were opened. And the
rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights."

We are standing on the spot where the ark of gopher rested(
where first the patriarch alighted on the face of an earth renewed,'
Before him lie the valleys of six hundred years of sorrow ; the
airiest pinnacle supports him, a boundless hope fills his eyes.
The pulse of life beats strong and fresh around him ; the busy^
swarms thrill with sweet freedom, elect of all living things. In'

1 The temperature of the air a few feet below the summit out of the gale was 20° F.
The height of the north-western elevation of the south-eastern summit of Ararat is given
by my Hicks mountain aneroid as 17,493 f^^t. The reading is no doubt too high by
several hundred feet. The Carey aneroid gives a still higher figure, and the Boylean-
Mariotti mercurial barometer entirely refused to work.


178 Armenia

the settling exhalations stands the bow of many colours, eternal
token of God's covenant with man.

The peaks which rise on the distant borderland where silence
has first faltered into speech are wrapped about with the wreaths
of fancy, a palpable world of cloud. Do we fix our foot upon
these solid landmarks to wish the vague away, to see the hard
summits stark and naked, and all the floating realm of mystery
flown ? The truth is firm, and it is well to touch and feel it and
know where the legend begins ; but the legend itself is truth
transfigured, as the snow distils into cloud. The reality of life
speaks in every syllable of that solemn, stately tale — divine hope
bursting the bounds of matter to compromise with despair. And
the ancient mountain summons the spirits about him, and veils a
futile frown, as the rising sun illumines the valleys of Asia and
the life of man lies bare. The spectres walk in naked daylight
— Violence and Corruption and Decay. The traveller finds in
majestic Nature consolation for these sordid scenes ; while a spirit
seems to whisper in his ears, " Turn from him ! — turn from him,
that he may rest till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day."



Retracing our steps down the side of the cone, we soon regained
the streaming sunlight. I called a halt, and we rested on some
rocks, embedded in snow. Our next task was to search for
Wesson ; but he had left his sheltered cranny, and, as the day
was warm, we concluded that he had returned to camp. The
Swiss and myself determined to try a glissade down the snow
slope ; my cousin preferred to adhere to the rocks. I was aware
of the danger of the glissade down Ararat, and we therefore
planned our course with care. We broke the descent at several
points, made errors on the side of caution, and glided safely into
one of the inlets about the base of the cone. It was still some
distance to the encampment ; we proceeded with the utmost
leisure across the boulder-strewn waste. At last we beheld the
lake of snow, and our tiny tent beside it, and the gaunt figures of
the Kurds. These also perceived us, and sent us a cry of greeting,
which vibrated in the still air. Wesson and the dragoman were
there to meet us ; my cousin arrived almost at the same time.
Our climb had been accomplished without a single mishap, and
all except the dragoman, who pleaded that he had been half
frozen in camp, were pleased with the day's work. It was twenty
minutes past six o'clock ; yet I thought it best to strike our tent
and seek a less exposed and less elevated spot. After a toilsome
walk of about half an hour we found some grass in a little valley,
and there composed ourselves for the night.

I had sent two Kurds to collect firewood while we were
sleeping ; it was morning before they returned. We breakfasted
beside a pleasant fire, and decided to devote the earlier hours to
rest. I was able to avail myself of a convenient physical habit
of being refreshed by violent exercise. The summit was clear of


A nnenia

cloud, and I sallied forth with the camera to seek a standpoint
in full view of the cone. At some little distance from our camp
I found such an eminence, whence all the characteristics of
the summit region were exposed (Fig. 36). The peak of Great
Ararat bore almost due north-west of this point, that of Little
Ararat a little south of east.^ On the left of the picture you see
the hollow in the face of the cone and the rocks struggling

Fig. 36. Summit of Ararat from the South-East, taken at a
height of about 13,000 feet.

upwards to its top ; on the right is the shoulder, or head of the
causeway, bordering the snow slope on the opposite side. In the
afternoon we regained our standing encampment in the valley of
Sardar Bulakh.

Relieved of the tension of a fixed purpose, we were able
to turn with real enjoyment to the contemplation of the
surroundings in which we were placed. There can scarcely exist
in the world another such standpoint as the platform of the
sirdar's well. You never tire of the contrasting shapes of the
massive dome and the graceful pyramid ; below you in the plains
the silent operations of Nature proceed on their daily course.

1 The readings on the prismatic compass were 310" and 105' respectively.

The Heart of Ararat i8i

Morning breaks, and the floor of the plain is shrouded in white
mist ; the sun rises, and the opposite peaks of the Sevan ranges
are crowned with banks of billowing cloud. Stray films wander
out into the blue vault of heaven, and graze the sides of the
dome. As the day grows, the warm air mounts these sides and
melts the snows, which distil into a white vaporous mass. The
ground of the landscape increases in definition of feature — the
rich campagna, the looping river, the sites of the towns. It is
the subtle quality no less than the scale of the composition which
distinguishes this prospect from other views, similar in character,
which are unfolded from the summit of a pass. And if you turn
from the immense expanse and rest the eye on the forms about
you, those forms respond to your emotions and invest them with
a deeply religious cast. This vast fabric, so harmonious in design,
in position so self-sufficient, touches chords in the nature of man
which sound through all the religions, and die away only when
they die. Yet how vulgar appear their dogmas in this pure
atmosphere of religion, in the courts of this great cathedral of the
natural world ! You feel that this mountain has been the parent
of religions, whence they strayed into devious paths. To this
parent you would again collect the distracted ; in this atmosphere
you long to bathe the populations of our great towns. Our
morbid dramatists, our nervous novelists need the inspiration of
these surroundings — the promptings of Nature in her loftiest
manifestations, from which the life of man can never with impunity
be divorced.

In a lighter sense, to the traveller who seeks rest and enjoy-
ment, I can confidently recommend a pilgrimage to this beautiful
upland valley, and a sojourn among the marvels of this site.
For the sportsman there are partridges in abundance ; the
botanist and the man of taste will admire the brilliancy of the
flowers which nestle in the crannies of the rocks. Junipers clothe
the ground, and a plant with spiked foliage like the juniper, and
with a lovely little flower like a star. I have taken a specimen
to Kew, and they call it AcatitJiolivion echinus — a peculiarly
appropriate name. Tiny bushes of wild rose flutter in the
breezes ; and, a little lower down, the earth is yellow with
immortelles {Helichrysum), which, as I write, recall the southern
sun. The journey to Erivan, by way of Tiflis, can be performed
in luxury ; from Erivan you can drive in a victoria to the foot of
Ararat ; on the mountain you have need of nothing but a tent

1 82 Armenia

and a cook. The Kurds are well-behaved, and will provide you
with milk and mutton, of which it is a treat to taste. The old
lawless times are passing into legend, thanks to the vigorous rule
of the Tsars. The Russian officials abound in real kindness of
disposition ; and, if you can only succeed in patching a peace
with the system, you feel that they really wish you well. We
returned to Aralykh on the 22nd of September after an absence
of nearly six days.

The cantonment of Aralykh faces the jaws of the great chasm
which extends from the snowy roof to the base of Ararat, and
lays the heart of the mountain bare (Fig. 37). We were anxious
to penetrate within these dark recesses, and, after a day's rest,
carried our project into effect.

It is a melancholy reflection that nothing is lasting — that
the strength of the earth withers and the strength of the Junnan
body, that faith dies and the closest friendships dissolve. In the
ivorld of sense Time is all-powerful, and nothing escapes destruction
at his hands} This painful lesson is written with terrible
emphasis on the fabric of Ararat, where it fronts the historic
river and the historic plains. Another earthquake, and the
massive roof may tumble headlong into the abyss which now
yawns beneath its cornice of snow. I have already observed that
Herrmann Abich was able to remark a lateral fissure between the
two highest elevations in the surface of the crown of the dome.
He suggests that this fissure may have been caused by the con-
vulsion of 1840, to which the present configuration of the chasm
is due."' It would therefore appear that Time has already taken
a decisive step towards the overthrow of the uppermost portion of
the cone. The chasm itself and the subsidence of the flank of
the mountain date from an epoch beyond the range of history.
Tournefort, who visited Ararat in 1701, presents us with such a
vivid picture of the rent side of the giant, that one cannot doubt
that the essential features of the chasm existed in his day.^ The
little monastery of St. Jacob, which, prior to the catastrophe

' .Sophocles, CEdipus at Colonus, 1. 6\o seq.

- Abich, Besteigitng des Ararat, in Baer and Ilelmersen's Beitriigc ziir KeiDitniss
des Kussischen Reickes, St. Petersburg, 1849, vol. .xiii. p. 63. He supports this sugges-
tion by the fact that neither Parrot nor Spasky Avtononioff mentions the existence of
such a fissure. But whether you may be able to see any trace of it or not must depend
upon the state of the snow.

•^ Tournefort, Voyage dii Levant, Paris, 171 7, vol. ii. pp. 357 seq. See also Ritter,
Erdkmide, vol. x. p. 507.

The Hcai't of Ararat 183

of 1840, stood within the recesses of the gulf, probably occupied
the same site when it was first erected in the early Christian
times. The reader may not be acquainted with the story of the
catastrophe, and ma}^ like to learn or to recall it in this place.

Several travellers have presented us with a description of the
locality as it existed before those events.^ Some 10 miles from
the banks of the Kara Su, on the base or pedestal of Ararat, at
a height of some 5600 feet above the sea, or 2900 feet above
the plain," was situated the Armenian village of Akhury or
Arguri — the only village, we are informed by Dubois, which had
hazarded a position on the side of the mountain,^ and a place
which boasted a remote antiguity. According to Armenian
tradition, it was there that Noah built the altar, and offered up
the burnt sacrifice, after his departure from the Ark and safe
descent of the mountain, with his family and the living creatures
of every kind. It was at Akhury or Arguri^a name which is
said to signify in the Armenian language Jie has planted the vine ^
— that, according to the same tradition, the patriarch planted his
vineyard and drank to excess of its wine. The inhabitants
would point to an ancient willow of stunted growth, bent by the
action of snow and ice ; it stood in an isolated spot above the
village, a rare object on a mountain which is almost devoid of
trees. They believed that it drew its origin from a plank of the
Ark which had taken root ; and they would not suffer any
damage to be done to the sacred object, or the least of its
branches to be taken away. The population amounted to about

^ I refer my reader to the works of Tournefort (already cited), Parrot [Reisc ziiin
Ararat, Berlin, 1834), and Dubois de Montpereux {Voyage aiitour dit Caucase, Paris,
1839-45, vol. iii. ).

^ The measurements are my own. Dubois speaks of Akhury as being five leagues

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