Through the window of a bus one summer, I remember being awestruck by the faint outline of a giant triangular mass of rock and snow, shrouded in a swirl of clouds for a brief minute, towering over Nepal’s famous Pokhara valley and its eponymous city. Seeing an imposing peak dominate the skyline of a bustling town was unlike any other first glimpse of a Himalayan mountain I had experienced in my decade-long exploration in the Himalayas, either in India or in Nepal. I was quite amused that I didn’t have to trek for days to get a glimpse of the elusive beauty; I merely had to sit in a bus.
The mountain that inadvertently captured my imagination was neither Everest nor any of the country’s seven other peaks that are more 8,000m tall, but a relatively lowly peak whose height would easily betray its beauty. Turns out, I wasn’t alone in my obsession. Decades before me, another man also fell in love with this mountain – and left behind a rather quirky legacy.
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Machhapuchhare – which translates to «fishtail» – is an iconic 6,993m mountain in central Nepal’s Annapurna range that contains three of the world’s 10 highest peaks. And yet, Machhapuchhare effortlessly steals the show, thanks to its position far from the much higher peaks of the Annapurna range, where it stands isolated and appears tall despite its humbler height.
The peak’s geographic position affords easy views of its different profiles from several places, and the stunning prominence of its vertical relief is inescapable from any angle or distance. Rising like twin spires twisting into each other, Machhapuchhare’s double summit is joined by a sharp ridge and has as much allure as the steep, symmetrical triangular tip – its other profile.