Macchapuchhre (6,993 m), seen from a Gurung village called Baccha in Parbat district. “Machha” means fish and “Puchhre” is tail, the mountain looks like a fishtail hence the name.
Machhapuchhare Himal, a spectacular peak renowned for its religious sanctity, earned the name “Fishtail Mountain” owing to its distinctive summit formation. Towering above the Pokhara city, Machhapuchhre’s remarkable features have drawn the attention of trekkers, photographers, and “illegal” climbers, from across the globe.
Wilfrid Noyce published a book titled “Climbing the Fish’s Tail” in 1958, the chronicles of the daring attempt to scale Mt. Machhapuchhare but the details are scarce. He was an English mountaineer, author, and member of the 1953 British Expedition that made the first ascent of Mount Everest.
Following the establishment of democracy by King Tribhuwan in Falgun 7 2007 BS (18 February 1951 AD) Nepal became more accessible to foreigners. However, the influx of foreigners into the country had begun already. It was during this time that Wilfrid Noyce first arrived in Pokhara. Noyce was completely enthralled by the obscuring magnificence of Machhapuchhare. The mountain’s charm eluded him all day that day, then in the midst of the night, the Mountain woke him up. Bathing in the moonlight, he beheld an enormous white pyramid looming to the north which left him spellbound. It captivated his imagination, and he whispered to himself, “One day, I shall conquer that very Machhapuchhare.”
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A few years later, in 1953 AD, Col. Basil Goodfellow arrived in Pokhara and photographed the mighty Machhapuchhare’s south and south-east faces. These images heightened Noyce’s fascination further. Basil was a mountain photographer, he was the one who captured the world’s attention by photographing Mardi Himal for the first time in 1953 AD. As a result, Col Jimmy Roberts succeeded in climbing it in 1961 AD.
Basil’s pictures of Machhapuchhare deeply enchanted Noyce, intensifying his dream of conquering it he flew to Pokhara on Chaitra 27 2012 BS (March 1954). He could easily collect a climbing permit from the Government due to his close proximity to Kaiser Shumsher.
Although the distant view of two sharp peaks resembling a pair of majestic horns appeared joined together in reality the two peaks were approximately 800 meters apart from each other standing at 6998 meters (22,958 ft.) and 6993 meters (22,943 ft.). It presented Noyce with a formidable challenge, confusion about which mountain to climb.
While Noyce prepared his Himalaya expeditions with his loyalists Ang Nima and Lal Bahadur Gurung, Pokhara city was preparing for King Mahendra’s Birth anniversary. The arrival day of King and the Mountain climbers’ departing day luckily coincided. The majestic reception gates and elaborated arches constructed along the route to welcome the King into the city seemed as though they were being reserved for a grand farewell to the climbing team. It appeared that everyone had emerged from their Pokhareli homes to support them and extend their best wishes for a successful ascent.
Wilfrid Noyce was accompanied by around 50 porters, including James Roberts, David Cox, Charles Wylie, Roger Chorley, Dan Bahadur, Aang Nima, Aang Chiring, Tashi, and Dikshaman as the liaison officer. They trekked for seven days from Pokhara, passing through villages like Naudanda, Birathanti, Ghandrung, and Chomrong to reach the Base Camp. The daunting task of ascending Mt. Machhapuchhare, which soared to an impressive 6,993 meters (22,943 ft) was a grueling journey but the prospect of being the first ever to conquer it filled them with exhilaration. They had recently witnessed the acclaimed showered upon the triumphant Annapurna climber, Maurice Herzog, on BBC Television, they even imagined themselves being interviewed on the news channel.
Ultimately on Jestha 20 2013 BS (May 1957), at 2:30 PM, they found themselves a mere 150 meters from the summit. But David Cox and Wilfrid Noyce were compelled to make a difficult decision to turn back after facing insurmountable obstacles. They repeatedly failed to fix ropes to climb further and their feet were buried above the knees in the snow. This event is marked as the first and last unsuccessful endeavor to conquer Machhapuchhare.
Col. Jimmy Roberts was the leader of the expedition. After this setback, Roberts came to the forefront of the debate that this mountain should be kept virgin. A suggestion received unanimous approval and ultimately, King Mahendra imposed a comprehensive ban on climbing Machhapuchhare in Falgun 5 2020 BS (1964 AD).
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The significance of Machhapuchhare transcends mere mountaineering and represents a symbol of faith. Its twin peaks are revered as “Nar” and “Narayan” by Hindus. The Gurung, an indigenous group of Pokhara call it “Katasoon Klii” in their language, symbolizing the visage of a brimming fish.
There is still an ongoing dispute over the legitimacy of New Zealander mountaineer Bill Denz’s successful ascent in the 1980s, given the tragic loss of his life during the descent.
In summary, Machhapuchhare Himal, or Mt. Fish tail continues to stand as an enigmatic and enticing mountain, captivating adventurers with its physical trails while bearing deep spiritual significance.
From the collection of Collection of Sunil Ullak