- HB Thapa
Machhapuchhare –religiously sacred mountain for Gurung indigenous tribes –also known as “Fish Tail Mountain” is a virgin mountain where no climber has ever set foot on its top. The reason is that it is still restricted peaks of Nepal. The mystical peak is the second highest peak in the Annapurna region.
Elevated at a height of 6993 meters and situated around 25 km north of Pokhara city is deemed to be the sacred mountain for the local people. That’s why the climb is prohibited here and one can only wish to have climbed it in his lifetime. The sight of Machhapuchhare is indeed stunning to the observers when its snowy shadow is seen inside the water of Fewa Lake.
It straddles the regions of Modi Khola in Pokhara which is 28 km from Fewa Lake. The peak seen in the twilight of the rising and setting sun can be all the more fascinating and pleasing to look at. It is said that one attempt was made by a British team in 1957 to climb atop this peak. The climbers Wilfrid and A.D.M. Cox had climbed up to 50 m of the summit via the north ridge.
However, they did not want to contaminate the sacred top of the mountain as they had promised to the locals before climbing. So, they retreated from there only.
The Fish Tail Mountain (Machhapuchhare) is considered most sacred because the locals believe that Lord Shiva the Hindu, is believed to reside on the top of this mountain.
The peak is located just opposite to Annapurna peak. The trekkers going for Annapurna base camp must pass through the Machhapuchhare base camp. The majestic view of the Machhapuchhare peak can also be seen from Pokhara.
The story related to the first attempt closest to the peak reads, “In fact, it was a member of that expedition, one Wilfrid Noyce who came the closest anybody ever has to the summit on a 1957 expedition. The king of Nepal had asked Noyce to respect Hindu religious customs and not set foot on the summit. He and his climbing companion, A.D.M. Cox, turned back 150 feet short of the summit. This expedition produced the only climbing record of this mountain, a very rare book called “Climbing the Fish Tail.”
However, the reason for not being able to scale the peak is more personal than religious. Col. Jim Robberts, a British Gurkha officer who led both the reconnaissance (1956) and expedition (1957) teams to the mountain, had to retreat just 45 meters short of the summit due to heavy snowfall.
Dr. Harka Gurung pointed out that Col. Roberts happened to be military attache at the British Embassy in Kathmandu and it is not difficult to imagine that his sentimental advice to the Foreign Ministry (that handled expedition) regarding Machhapuchhare ’s sanctity influenced the fate of the mountain.
Col. Roberts in his memoirs writes, “So Machhapuchhare became for me the ideal mountain, a personal possession yet out of this world, unattainable but mine by illogic right, brooding over a country and a people which will shape the rest of my life.
However, Karna Bahadur Gurung -Chairman of Machhapuchhare Rural Municipality says, “We are thinking of opening Machhapuchhare (Fish Tail Mountain) for the climb to the mountaineers in the near future. The peak should not remain a virgin for long. Once it is permitted for climbing, it will boost up the economy of the locals and the Gandaki provincial government. And the mountain has nothing to do with the Hindu religion and the Gurung community. It is just a beautiful mountain that looks like a fishtail in shape and everyone likes to climb.”
A meeting of Chief District Officers (CDOs) of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur on Sunday…