At 6,993 metres’ altitude, it’s not Macchapuchare’s height that makes it such a distinctive mountain- in fact, by the standards of Nepal’s Annapurna Himal, it’s a tiddler. Instead, it’s what’s known geologically as its prominence– the amount by which its peak stands out from those around it. Possibly Nepal’s most visually memorable landmark- it’s less known than Everest, but photographed far more often- scarcely a visitor to the Pokhara region doesn’t have its sharp face etched on their memory.
From the front, the mountain has a distinctively pyramidal face, from whence it gets its nickname as the Matterhorn of the Himalaya. From the side, however, its peak is shaped like a ‘V’, giving rise to its Anglophone name, Fishtail Mountain.
To local Nepalese, the mountain- like many- is holy. The peak of Macchapuchare is thought to be a place where the gods come down from heaven and touch the earth. Therefore it is entirely taboo to climbers. Even trekkers passing beneath its mighty face are expected to leave a flower on the ground before it. The only expedition to gain permission to climb it was granted permission on the understanding that nobody would actually touch the summit. The climbing party did indeed manage to scale the formidable fortress of her walls, and then, within a short scramble of the peak, clung to their word and retreated back down the mountain.
I took this photo early in the morning from the small town of Dhampus, near the start of the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek. The sun had just broken clear of the low valley haze and was caressing the tip of the peak. The air was still and clear. It was the perfect start to a morning in my books.
To this day, Macchapuchare remains one of the most beautiful expressions of mountain that I have ever seen.