Passing over the stream—the Hsiang-shui Ho, I believe—I stepped out across the plain with one foot soaked, a pony having pulled me into the water as he drank. Peas and beans covered with snow adjoined a heart-breaking road which led up to a long, winding ascent through a glade overhung by frost-covered hedgerows, where the sun came gently through and breathed the sweet coming of the spring. From midway up the mountain the view of the plain below and the fine range of hills separating me from the capital was one of exceeding loveliness, the undisturbed white of the snow and frost sparkling in the sunshine contrasting most strikingly with the darkened waves of billowy green opposite, with a background of sharp-edged mountains, whose summits were only now and again discernible in the waning morning mist. Snow lay deep in the crevices. My frozen path was treacherous for walking, but the dry, crisp air gave me a gusto and energy known only in high latitudes. In a pass cleared out from the rock we halted and gained breath for the second ascent, surmounted by a dismantled watch-tower. It has long since fallen into disuse, the sound tiles from the roof having been appropriated for covering other habitable dwellings near by, where one may rest for tea. The road, paved in some places, worn from the side of the mountain in others, was suspended above narrow gorges, an entrance to a part of the country which had the aspect of northern regions. The sun, tearing open the curtain of blue mist, inundated with brightness one of the most beautiful landscapes it is possible to conceive. A handful of Dublin Fusiliers with quick-firing rifles concealed in the hollows of the heights might have stopped a whole army struggling up the hill-sides. But no one appeared to stop me, so I went on.
Climbing was characteristic of the day. Lu-feng-hsien is about 5,500 feet; Sei-tze (where we were to sleep) 6,100 feet. Not much of a difference in height; but during the whole distance one is either dropping much lower than Lu-feng or much higher than Sei-tze. For thirty li up to Ta-tsue-si (6,900 feet) there is little to revel in, but after that, right on to the terrific drop to our destination for the night, we were going through mountain forests than which there are none better in the whole of the province, unless it be on the extreme edge of the Tibetan border, where accompanying scenery is altogether different.