Pokhara Valley

Machupuchare (Fish Tail) from our hotel balcony

Machupuchare (Fish Tail) from our hotel balcony


Machhapuchhare (Fish Tail), at 22,943 ft., which stands in the center of the photo above, is an iconic mountain, which has never been climbed, as it’s considered sacred to Shiva. Climbers have approached the summit, but have always stopped out of respect for Shiva and his followers.

Flowers en route to the World Peace Stupa

Flowers en route to the World Peace Stupa

Machhapuchhare’s distinctive fish tail shape would make it special anywhere. It’s also amazingly tall. Nothing in North America comes close to its height.

For example, the tallest mountain in Mexico is Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl) in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. At 18,406 ft. it’s 4,533 ft. below Machupuchare. Mount Logan in the Saint Elias Range is the tallest mountain in Canada, at 19,541 ft. Denali in the Alaska Range, the tallest in the US at 20,310 ft, is still 2,633 ft. less. The tallest mountain in the contiguous US, Mount Whitney, barely deserves comparison, at 14,505 ft.

World Peace Stupa

World Peace Stupa

You begin to understand the mountainous nature of Nepal when you learn that Machupuchare, which stands tall above every mountain in North America, is far from the highest even among its nearby neighbors.

Three of the ten highest mountains in the world—Dhaulagiri at 26,795 ft., Annapurna at 26,545 ft., and Manaslu at 26,781 ft., are visible from the Pokhara Valley, and all within 35 miles. All three can often be seen from the World Peace Stupa, but it was cloudy on the day we climbed up to that. See what we missed.


Bring on the flood

Imja Tsho

Imja Tsho

Today’s BBC News reports on an important development in Nepal, one which should be a warning to us all (Nepal drains dangerous Everest lake).

Nepal’s army has just completed lowering Lake Imja by 10 ft. This is because it was in danger of flooding downstream settlements with over 50,000 people.

Lake Imja, near Mount Everest (Sagarmatha) at 16,400 ft altitude, is one of thousands of such glacial lakes in the Himalayas. Many of the lakes are filling fast because of accelerated melting of glaciers due to rising temperatures.

The Himalaya region has been described as the third pole of the earth. It is melting, just as the Arctic and Antarctic are.

Lake Imja is a good example of that melting. It is a new lake, composed of glacial meltwater blocked by a terminal moraine. In 1962, it was 7.5 acres, and is now over 260.

I can only guess at the enormous cost of the six-month project, not just in dollars, but in terms of using up limited Nepali resources. It has been necessary to save lives, but sherpas in the region say there are many more lakes that endanger communities.

High above the Trishuli Nadi

flowerWhen Shiva had been walking for a long time in the mountains north of the Kathmandu Valley, he grew thirsty, but there was no water to be found. Angry at that, he drove his trishula, or trident, into the ground to create three springs, which in turn created a river.

shiva_kanachur_mpSome say that the Trishuli begins with snow melt in the Langtang Himal. Other accounts, such as Wikipedia, say that the Trishuli River arises in Tibet, where it’s called Kirong Tsangpo.

In any case, Shiva’s river, the Trishuli, later joins the Bhote Kohsi that flows from Tibet and becomes a spectacular mountain river, with exciting rapids and impressive gorges. It is no surprise that it’s Nepal’s most popular rafting river. It looks like large parts of it could be canoed as well.

The Trishuli flows through mostly Buddhist regions then into Hindu areas. It is one of the major tributaries of the Narayani River, which eventually goes into India to join the Ganges.

trishuliAt this moment, I’m sitting on a veranda looking out at a series of hills that we would call mountains in New England. The view is partially obscured by a profusion of bougainvillea, poinsettia trees, palms, and many tropical plants I can’t identify, Workers at this guest house where we are staying have to keep cutting back the gorgeous greenery that people in Massachusetts would struggle to nurture as tiny house plants.

Yes, the economic conditions are bad, the roads are full of surprises, the electricity is whimsical, and the effects of the 2015 quake are still felt, but all the people we meet are warm and generous. They use their adequate English to help me learn a few words of Nepali.

valleyLocals directed us to a walk one way to see the hilltop village of Nuwakot with its durbar, or palace, square, now being restored; another to make a circuit of the hill behind with spectacular views; another to explore the farm with its geese, turkeys, donkeys, goats, and naturally organic vegetables.

But this evening seems like a time to stay on the veranda and take in the mountain air and the beautiful sunset silhouetting the hills.