There were a few families of Lolos about two miles away and these were engaged as hunters. They told us that serow and muntjac were abundant and that wapiti were sometimes found on the mountains several miles to the northward. Although the men had a large pack of good dogs they were such unsatisfactory hunters that we gave up in disgust after three days. They never would appear until ten or eleven o’clock in the morning when the sun had so dried the leaves that the scent was lost and the dogs could not follow a trail even if one were found. Moreover, the camp was a very uncomfortable one, due to the wind which roared through the trees night and day.
We were rejoined here by Hotenfa, who had left us at the Taku ferry to see if he could get together a pack of dogs. He brought three hounds with him which he praised exuberantly, but we subsequently found that they did not justify our hopes. Nevertheless, we were glad to have Hotenfa back, for he was one of the most intelligent, faithful, and altogether charming natives whom we met in all Yuen-nan. He was an uncouth savage when he first came to us, but in a very short time he had learned our camp ways and was as good a servant as any we had.
TRAVELING TOWARD TIBET
Since the hunters at the “Windy Camp” had proved so worthless and the traps had yielded no small mammals new to our collection, we decided to cross the mountains toward the Chung-tien road which leads into Tibet.
The head mafu explored the trail and reported that it was impassable but, after an examination of some of the worst barriers, we decided that they could be cleared away and ordered the caravan to start at half past seven in the morning.
Before long we found that the mafus were right. The trail was a mass of tangled underbrush and fallen logs and led straight up a precipitous mountain through a veritable jungle of dwarf bamboo. It was necessary to stop every few yards to lift the loads over a barrier or cut a passage through the bamboo thickets, and had it not been for the adjustable pack saddles we never could have taken the caravan over the trail.
Late in the afternoon the exhausted men and animals dragged themselves to the summit of the mountain, for it was not a pass. In a few hours we had come from autumn to mid-winter where the ground was frozen and covered with snow. We were at an altitude of more than 15,000 feet and far above all timber except the rhododendron forest which spread itself out in a low gray mass along the ridges. It was difficult to make the slightest exertion in the thin air and a bitterly cold wind swept across the peaks so that it was impossible to keep warm even when wrapped in our heaviest coats.