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Home » Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region nature. Climbing in the Pamir.

Rangkul cave on Pamir.

Nature of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region.

“Nature abhors annihilation” 

Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Active tours in the Pamir mountains.

The caravan routes from China to Iran passed through the Eastern Pamirs. Among the local population, recently forgotten legends exist that one of the Chinese caravans once died in the Lake Rangkul area, and all its values ​​are hidden there to this day.
In the newspaper "Turkestan Gazette" for 1898, an article by L.O. "Rangkul Cave and Charaktash", in which this legend is cited. “About 200 - 300 years ago, in the Rangkul war pot, many Chinese troops appeared. Finding good pastures along the banks of Rangkul, they decided to winter here and set up a camp near the cave on the lake.
Soon, however, such deep snow fell that the horses could not forage for themselves from under it and their mortality began. In addition, food stocks began to be depleted. The troops began to grumble and rebel. Then the cleverer allies of the Chinese chose the best horses and ran out of the camp at night, and in order not to chase after them, they cut the leg veins of the remaining horses, which therefore fell to the morning.
Thus, the Chinese troops remained in a completely helpless position, half covered with snow and deprived of the possibility to move anywhere. The Chinese, seeing the inevitable death, decided to save at least the treasury and wealth.
Choosing a place to store valuable things, they turned their attention to the cave, which seemed to them a completely reliable repository. It remained to find a way to get to it. To do this, they cut the corpses of horses into pieces and apply them to a plumb rock.
Pieces were strongly frozen to granite, and thus an improvised staircase turned out, along which the Chinese reached the cave and laid down all their riches in it and settled themselves in another cave on the southern side of the ridge, but soon they all died of cold and hunger.
With the onset of spring, the pieces thawed and fell, and the cave again became impregnable, saving up to this day the treasures brought to it. The Kyrgyz tried many times to get to the cave, but without success, and concluded that Shaitan lived there, guarding the treasures that were put there.
About half a year ago, one rich Kirghiz, taking advantage of the harsh winter, decided to make a ladder from the meat of animals too. To do this, he cut all his cattle and reached the cave, but only looked at it, as he heard strange sounds, which he was scared to such an extent that he fell and was killed.
Seventy years ago, a Tajik ventured on such a risky venture: tse-pinging for minor irregularities of the rock, he crawled to the cave and halfway through the path he saw folded hawks, chests and various bales, and between them sat a terrible black beast that the Tajik was so scared, that fell and broke his ribs.
After this accident, no one else dared to encroach on the hidden treasures, and yet, from time to time, the Kirghiz tell, they make themselves known. So, for example, in the nineties of the last century, a brocade canvas was blown out of this cave, and about twenty years later a small silver bucket fell out, which was sold by the Kirgiz who found it in Kashgar for 90 rubles.
Thus, the local population was convinced of the existence of riches in this cave, and, passing along the road near which the cave is located, looked with envy at a visible hole. In the same cave, in which the Chinese allegedly died, it is possible to penetrate during the day without much risk.
Once, the legend says, several Kyrgyz, taking with them enough fat for the lamps, climbed to this cave in the hope of finding a passage connecting both caves, and thus getting to the riches. Reaching the cave, they found a mass of ash and a pile of human bones.
A long narrow corridor in which there were a lot of huge bats, often blowing the lights, led deep into the cave. They walked this corridor for about three days and finally stumbled upon the enormous size of a human skull. They were so frightened of this skull that they did not dare to go any further.
In addition, the fat they had a little, and they hurried back. There were also attempts to get to the cave with this corridor, but none of them were crowned with success: some came back after seeing a sitting man on the road, and others - a terrible black beast, etc.
These stories finally convinced the local population that treasure in the cave, of course, exists, but is firmly guarded by shaitan.” The same L. O. writes: “Not far from Rangkul, the famous lake in the Pamirs, there is a sheer rocky ridge, on the north side of which there is a hole, apparently a cave, and under it [a hole] something white, resembling from afar small heaps of bags.
Looking at the hole in the binoculars, I quite clearly distinguished these lumps, but with a simple eye it is very difficult to look at them, and it seems that there is something folded up and covered with a tarp. To reach this cave due to the significant height of the ridge is absolutely impossible neither from above nor below, and this is the fantasy of the rangkul Aboriginal people who cloaked the cave with mystery and created a whole legend.”
Nowadays, no one remembers the Chinese caravan, but the idea of ​​the wealth hidden in a cave remains in the memory of the population. According to rumors, occasionally argali appeared in the cave opening, but it was not possible to find eyewitnesses to this.
It is also said that in the 30s of this century a certain Mussa Musatdinov went to the cave (in Kyrgyz “unkur”). He walked for a long time, all the time going down, and finally turned back, fearing that the course would lead him under Lake Rangkul.
In the summer of 1950, I was in the Eastern Pamirs and decided, in the footsteps of a legend, to go in search of caves and treasure. From the tract Chechekty (near Murgab), where I was visiting the Pamir biological station of the Tajik branch of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, by car I reached the western tip of the lake. Shorkul, connected to the lake.
 Rangkul duct. Both lakes are elongated in the latitudinal direction; Shorkul is smaller and lies to the west of Rangkul. The lakes basin is wide, the low-lying shores barely rise above the surface of the water. From the northern side, low spurs of the Muzkol Range with soft smooth outlines stretch; beyond the lakes a large flat valley goes to the east, to the foot of the ridge crowned with snowy peaks of Kungur and Muztagata.
The effect of karst processes and weathering is especially noticeable on the limestone massifs of the southern coast; the lake is bordered here by high steep crests, now by steep rocky capes, now by outcrops of peculiar forms, lonely towering in side gorges.
There is almost no vegetation, and the colors of the rocks create that amazing color that is characteristic of the Eastern Pamirs: light, almost fawn colors alternate with sulfur and red-brown, as if covered with a softening smoke. Especially beautiful view from the lake.
Rangkul on Muztagat: in the foreground you can see the calm dark crimson contours of the foothills, seemingly velvet from a distance, right behind them rises the sparkling, dazzlingly white cap of the top. On the slopes of the southern coast of both lakes one can see a lot of caves and grottoes; some of them are through, the blue of the sky seems to fill their holes.
I walked along the southern coast, carefully examining the slopes and side gorges, but I did not see anything close to the legend. Only by the middle of the second day, when, quite desperate, I had already intended to turn back, a bright horizontal strip on a rocky plumb caught my attention.
About 2.5 km from the eastern shore of Lake. Rangkul to the south departs a small side gorge, which the local population calls Sakalash; a river cone thrust from the gorge almost to the shore. To the left of the entrance to the gorge, there begins a rocky ridge, 5 - 6 km long, with steep, as if shaved, dark-pink color slopes and with a fancifically jagged upper edge.
On its northern slope, 50 meters from the entrance to the gorge, a cave was visible just below the middle of the slope. On a pink background of the entire array, a heart-shaped hole about 6 m high stood out sharply, with the tip pointing downwards and two-thirds clogged with some kind of gray mass.
In the biennial it was possible to consider that this mass resembles a conglomerate of river or moraine deposits, where individual large stones are interspersed among the gravel and sand. The upper part of this cork protrudes forward forming a balcony.
At first glance, this seems to be some kind of artificial structure, but upon closer inspection it became apparent that this was not the case. It can be assumed that this plug formed by the sediment of rock with water penetrating into the cave from the top of the ridge through some kind of internal drain.
This is confirmed by the reports of argali, which they saw in the cave's aperture: the steepness of the surrounding slopes makes it impossible even for argali to penetrate into the cave in any other way than the inside.
At the same time, it is not clear why this traffic jam, and even more so its fragile cornice, is not washed away by water and does not collapse. In addition, no traces of water flow are visible on the wall under the cave, and below the bottom of the slope there is not any outlined scree; everywhere a uniform monotonous cover of scrubby greenery with individual stones.
The arch of the cave is light gray and slightly pushed forward; powdery whitish-gray powder falling from it falls on the upper surface of the bed, smoothing out its irregularities, filling up large stones and forming a horizontal light strip at the cave entrance.
It was about this band that LO wrote: “it seems that there is something piled up and covered with a bentant”. From the foot of the rock to the lower tip of the cork, 70 meters, there are almost no cracks and protrusions on the wall. Some layers of the massif formed a large slab on the surface of the rock below the scaffold, which can somewhat facilitate the ascent to the cave.
From a distance
I carefully examined the cave; all signs are consistent with the legend. It remained to find the second cave, where, according to legend, the Chinese wintered and which was located on the other side of the ridge. I went to the side of the gorge.
As soon as I entered it, I saw quite a few small holes in the end of the ridge. A green-covered rise led by green grass led to them, after which no more than 1-1.5 m remained to the lower entrance. The day ended, I was tormented by thirst, back to go over 20 km; having decided that the second group of caves is in front of me, I, satisfied, headed for the lake.
A few days later a group of five people left Chechekty for a detailed survey of the caves. We took with us tents, sleeping bags, ropes, batteries, lights and batteries, buckets for water, provisions, dry alcohol, the Meta kitchen - in short, everything you need for a long hike. We had a five-liter can with us for the emergency supply of water.
The car unloaded us at the entrance to the gorge Salakash; in the depths of the gorge at the cape of the outpost, we broke the bivouac. Water had to be taken from the lake for 3 km, so one of us went after it, while the rest went to explore the caves.
Unfortunately, I was mistaken: the holes that showed me the entrances to the cave where the Chinese were wintering represented only small grottoes. We were somewhat rewarded for the vain excursion by the multitude of interesting crystal formations in the two grottos.
For the first time, we had to see how crystal druses appear in the rock, precisely in the cut: crystals, like rays, form rosettes around an oval amorphous saddle, resembling giant flowers like daisies or asters, embedded in the walls of the grotto.
We saw three such large sockets. In addition, in the second upper grotto on a flat platform there was a vertical druse with a diameter of 60 cm and more than a meter in height of slightly conical shape. If you cut this pillar horizontally, the plan would have made the same socket as we saw on the vertical walls of the lower grotto.
The approach of the evening made us return to the camp. In the morning we broke up into three groups, each went to a specific site. S. Steshenko and B. Verkhovsky first discovered a large hole that could serve as an entrance to a wanted cave.
It was at the end of the day, the climbers, tired after repeated ascents and descents, postponed further examination of this place until the morning. In the camp, they were met by T. Kishkovsky, who, having learned about the entrance, decided to look at it immediately.
He managed to get into the cave, go through the first gallery with a length of 70-80 m and get to the large hall. There was no doubt that the legend could only tell about this cave and that it can be reached during the day.
This cave is really located on the south side of the same ridge, on the north side of which there was a cave opening with a white stripe. However, both caves are not only located on different sides of the ridge, but also at least 3 km away from each other, so it is difficult to assume the possibility of the existence of an underground passage between them.
To get to the cave from the entrance to the side canyon, one has to not only bend around the end of the ridge, but also, bypassing it, walk 4 km deep into the canyon to the east along the southern side of the crest. On this site a lot of talus; the upper part of the ridge is crowned with rocks of various forms.
At a height of 350 m above the valley, a cone of long black scree comes out of a rock gate. On the entire length of the slope, this scree stands out for its color and is clearly visible even from the place of our bivouac. Scree leads to the very entrance to the cave, which is not visible from below and opens only when it is 15 minutes away.
The whole ascent from the valley to the entrance takes two hours, not difficult, but tedious. The elevation of the entrance to the cave above the valley level is 400 m vertically, and the absolute height of the entrance is 4,400 m above sea level.
In this area, apparently, a lot of caves; climbing the scree, we saw a row of holes on the right and left. Especially one of the eastern massifs stood out, with at least 20 entrances. However, it is possible that these are only shallow grottoes.
The first impression of the cave was unpleasant: from the entrance of irregular oval shape (about 3.5 m in height and 5 in width), falling sharply downwards, the increasing gallery disappeared. The bottom of the cave (steeper than its arch), as far as we could see in the dark, is covered with coarse clastic material; large boulders, stones, fine dust did not leave a single free area.
All these heaps were complemented by a half-meter layer of the argali and wild pigeons litter. In the arch and side walls of the gallery there are a lot of canal outlets and water-washed crevices. Probably, these drains originate in the upper part of the ridge, penetrating the entire array.
The nature of the channels suggests that the cave on the north side of the ridge has the same origin and also connects with slots to the upper part of the ridge, so it is not surprising that argali appeared in it, three groups of which we saw when climbing into the cave on the south side.
Immediately after the entrance, the gallery expands to 10 – 12 m, and its height from 4.5 – 5 m increases gradually to 6 – 7 m. The gallery has a length of 70 – 80 m and in the last 12 – 15 m enters a semicircular hall with a high ceiling, almost in the middle of which is also a large hole drain water.
The last section of the floor is especially steep and is so abundantly covered with clastic material that you have to crawl along it, holding onto separate stones. The gallery ends in a dead end, and we must pay tribute to T. Kishkovsky, who not only found the continuation of the course, but, being alone in the cave, decided nevertheless to crawl there.
On the right, at the bottom of the side entrance, amid the chaos of the wreckage, you can hardly find a small, half-stoned crack in which you can crawl on your stomach. The entrance to the slot is followed by a four-meter descent on a steep talus, and then a low (up to 5 m) hall, also completely covered with debris to lumps weighing one to two tons.
The diameter of the hall is about 10 m. To the right and to the left there are extensions of the cave. Two small grottos to the right are located one above the other; in the depth of the upper grotto in the floor there is a through hole leading to the lower one.
With their forms and location, these grottoes reminded us of the chapel, and we called them “chapel”. To the left is the continuation of the hall, fenced off from it by a high roll of debris, behind which a second hall is formed. The shape of the arches of the first and second halls also emphasizes their isolation.
The second hall is smaller and lower than the first one, or rather, there is a higher level of rock blockage covering the floor. I was the first to cross the dam threshold. The beam of the flashlight, sliding on a high conical pedestal, stopped at something brilliant.
Comrades hurried to me. On a high tour, built of stones, there was a bottle filled with gasoline with a metal cap and a wick; next to it, under a flat stone, lay notes and two boxes of matches. On the label of one of them was a lion, none of us remembered such boxes.
The matches lit up perfectly, and the wick caught fire just as well. With trepidation, we pulled out the notes, there were three of them. “On September 26, 1928, we, the undersigned, members of the Pamir Expedition, explored this cave.
On the place where this note lies, we found a note dated 1898 and signed by a number of persons. We took this note with us. From the present point, the cave in all directions, except for the weekend, has an insignificant stretch - several tens of meters.
The main outgoing cave passages from this point of direction are 45 ° and 152 ° at the command point, the temperature at 18 hours is 0.9 °, the humidity in the psychro ¬ meter is 5.0 °. The amount of dust particles in the air is 50,000 per 1 cm. see.
The height of this point above sea level is 4,325 m. The height of the entrance above sea level is 4,400 m. The height of the lower point of the cave is 4,300 m. The cave stayed for about three hours. Took mineralogical samples. We leave a candle and matches ”(the signatures of the participants went on).
The second note belonged to members of the geological exploration party and was dated August 30, 1930, the third group of the commanders of the Red Army, who visited the cave on September 9, 1934. The last note was signed by guides Mullah Musatdinov and Tagay Tagaev; It is possible that Mulla Musatdinov is the very “Mussa Musatdinov” whose journey to the cave was told to me.
We, in turn, left a note, matches, a few candies. Our disappointment was great: two short dead ends, and the end of the entire cave, while we were preparing for a three-day journey “to the depths of the earth”! We decided to inspect both passages, about which the 1928 group wrote. We started from the north-east passage. It has a length of about 100 m and drops down sharply, the steepness of the fall is not less than 35 - 40 °, its height gradually decreases to 2 m.
In the middle of the course there is a pronounced degree with a decrease of about 4 m. The step is emphasized by a kind of crystalline slate, creating here a transverse partition, from which a nearly two-meter-high crystalline partition extends deep into its course.
This formation consists of calcium salts without a pronounced crystalline structure, slightly moist, smooth and shiny. At first, we thought it was ice; the surrounding cold intensified this impression, only later we made out that it was some kind of sediment.
We had to wade through the partition through the left cell, where we just rolled about five meters along an inclined drain, resembling a children's slide. A shorter and more steep move to the southeast ends in a small side branch, where the continuation of the course, now filled with stones, was clearly.
Frequent rock falls gradually fill the entire course with detritus. The volume of crumbling rock exceeds its volume in the massif; therefore, the vertical movement of the arch line is slower than the bottom line, the level of the corridor floor seems to be close to its arch and, probably, the time is not far when the whole course will be filled with stone fragments.
Our expectations were not justified: we hoped to find a cave that had not yet been explored by anyone and admire those oddities of the underworld that are widely known for the Kungur, Adelsberg and others caves, but there were neither stalactites, nor underground lakes, nor rivers.
The cave makes not even gloomy, but rather some untidy impression because of the continuous blockages of stones, dust and dirt. Except for the original “chapel”, here you can admire only rocks on certain parts of the arch, hanging like heavy draperies.
However, this occupation is not safe, as these rocks are ready to collapse at any moment. Finally, the main purpose of our visit to the cave was to search for traces of the presence of people there, in particular the Chinese. However, in the chaos of detrital material, we had nothing to think about and look for material traces left 300 - 400 years ago.
If they existed, by the time of our arrival they were buried with a layer of debris, which we could not dig out. Back we returned without much enthusiasm. I wanted to quickly get out of the darkness into the light, to heat and water.
When we just entered the cave, S. Steshenko drew attention to a small gap about thirty meters from the entrance in the lower part of the left vault. On the way back we decided to examine it. Kishkovsky reached into the gap, Steshenko lit up his path, I stood beside myself, sure that stones and dust filled the whole space.
Suddenly, from the depths, Kishkovsky’s deaf voice rang out, stumbled upon a small cave with a flat bottom. The cave was really small - 6 - 7 sq.m. In its depth there was a high vertical slot, which further extended somewhat. To the right in the cave arch a wide opening gaped, rapidly narrowing upwards - another flow of water.
The flat bottom of the cave was covered with small pebbles and consisted of solid frozen ground, resembling a frozen lake. It was half a meter below the entrance slit, from which something like a mound long stretched to the bottom of the cave, probably the sediment of spring waters.
On the rocks of the right wall of the cave, we noticed three groups of dashes scratched into the stone. These lines, which, it seems to us, are directed towards the drain in the cave's vault, are obviously scratched by the hand of a man.
In the vertical gap in one of the walls we found a lot of feathers piled in a heap. After examining the entire cave, we came to the conclusion that this is the only place where you can try to look for traces of the Chinese, and began excavations at the cave entrance.
Half an hour later, at a depth of about 20 cm, we found the ashes of a fire, then some rags, another hour or two before us something green flashed before us, and we pulled out a small metal object. Considering how our finds in the cave should have been impossible.
Imagine our surprise in the morning, when it turned out that the metal object was an image of a beetle with well-defined wings and wings. The head of the beetle was repulsed, the back is made of silver, and the abdomen is of copper.
Two corals and a greenish pebble, possibly a jasper or a serpentine, were inserted into the back, and there were two holes - traces of dropped stones. Apparently, the beetle's sculpture was some kind of amulet - there was a hole for suspension on it.
The cloths turned out to be a piece of red cloth with a blue border of very good dressing, a piece of wool rope and a piece of white silk, trimmed with a white felt board. These findings gave reason for reflection. The very location of the cave excludes the possibility of people living there; a person could appear here, only hiding from persecution or temporarily.
The items we found were not of local origin and were obviously brought to the Pamirs. In the manufacture of our finds can be attributed to approximately the XVI century. ad. So, we received some confirmation of the plausibility of some events that caused the appearance of a legend.
The first confirmation of the legend we received in the fact of the existence of caves, their relative position and appearance. However, it is common for people to associate the caves of their area with all sorts of fantastic events, and therefore our findings were more convincing than simply matching the appearance of the caves with the events described by the legend.
Our thoughts immediately moved to the first cave, and we went to her detailed examination. Unfortunately, disappointment awaited us here: a careful review of the approaches to the cave convinced that without rock hooks and other equipment it could not be reached.
We had three hooks and two carbines - obviously not enough to overcome the seventy-meter wall. In addition, a seemingly strong breed exfoliated in the most inappropriate places. After several, fortunately, successfully ended disruptions, we abandoned further attempts to climb into this cave.
A few days later, Kyshkovsky and I again went to a cave on the southern side of the ridge. After four hours of excavation, we found an open oval-shaped bronze bracelet, the ends of which were decorated with stylized images of beetles.
We could not spend more time exploring the caves and left this area of ​​the Eastern Pamirs, giving more successful explorers further exploration of the Rangkul caves. The following year, V.I. Ratsek, having learned about our discovery, went to inspect the caves with a group of Tashkent climbers.
Arriving at the cave, the Tashkent people divided into three groups; one climbed the ridge above the cave and tried to approach it from above, the second began its ascent to the cave from the valley, the third corrected the actions of both groups.
Unfortunately, and the group V.I. Ratsek, despite its large number and technical equipment, could not penetrate the cave. Both the upper and lower groups were away from the cave entrance and could not reach it. The mystery of the cave remains unsolved.
IN AND. Ratsek placed in the Ukrainian newspaper “Molody Ukrainy” of January 14, 1953 an article entitled “The Story of a Legend”, in which there are some inaccuracies. It is incorrectly reported that V. Ryabukhin crawled to the cave entrance and looked into it.
Ryabukhin and others, climbing up the cliff, took to the right and reached a small grotto located to the right and below the entrance to the main cave, which they could not reach. Rusted metal hook, discovered by V.I. Ratsek, left by me. It is not at a height of 50 m above the ground, as Racek points out, but considerably lower, at a height of about 8 m.
After I broke off about the same place with the second hook that had broken loose, I did not have the slightest desire to crawl out this hook . At the end of the article V.I. Ratsek writes that, according to some signs, it can be assumed: there was a site of primitive people in the southern cave.
However, the features of the location and character of the cave completely exclude such an assumption; however, if that were the case, then any signs of the presence of people would be buried in the wreckage of the constantly collapsing arches of the cave.

Enlightener and photos:
A.B.Blechunov. Odessa.