From Lhotse to Annapurna and the soaring Mount Everest, Nepal’s mountainous landscape stuns at every turn
Nepal is a small country tucked between two Asian giants, India and China, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in jaw-dropping sights, especially tall ones. There are 14 mountains over 8,000 m around the world and the Himalayas are home to eight of them. More than 6,000 snow-fed rivers snake through valleys and around mountains, keeping the land lush.
Here, an introduction to some of Nepal’s most impressive mountains.
The world’s tallest mountain needs no introduction. Standing proudly at a staggering 8,848 metres, Mount Everest (or Sagarmatha in Nepali), straddles the Tibetan border just 160 km east of Kathmandu. For mountaineers (and adventure-seekers) around the world, climbing Everest is the ultimate goal and since Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay conquered the mountain in 1953, more than 4,000 people have successfully followed in their footsteps. As uninhabitable as the terrain seems, several animals call Everest and its surrounds home. Musk deer and Himalayan tahrs wander the forests at the base of the mountain, while elusive snow leopards live in the higher, snowy terrain.
Just 3 km south of Everest, Lhotse is roughly 300 m lower, yet just as technically difficult to climb. The fourth highest mountain on earth is currently experiencing a boom in popularity, due to its lower permit cost, but it shouldn’t be underestimated. Climbers will follow the same route as someone tackling the south-side of Everest until Camp 4 where the courses diverge. This means that mountaineers must traverse the Khumbu icefall, a treacherous section of crevasses, widely regarded as the most dangerous part of an Everest climb due to the constantly falling ice from the Khumbu glacier.
The West Face Couloir is the most popular route to Lhotse and although it is challenging, the route is relatively stable. Make it to the summit and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of neighbouring Everest and the surrounding Himalayas.
Annapurna I Main
Although its size is modest compared to nearby Everest, standing at 8,091 m, Annapurna I Main is the eastern part of the Annapurna mountain range and known as the most dangerous mountain in the world. Since it was first summited in 1950, the first of the 8,000 m mountains to be successfully climbed, less than 200 people have completed the ascent.
The Annapurna region is a breathtaking part of Nepal, located near the city of Pokhara. For those that wish to trek but lack mountaineering experience, the Annapurna Circuit is a great alternative. The journey circles the Annapurna range and while it still requires a high level of fitness, it isn’t anywhere near the difficulty of a summit expedition which means more time to soak up the scenery. Another alternative is the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek (or Annapurna Base Camp), which is easier and lower in elevation, while still taking you to the base of Annapurna I Main.
The stunning, craggy mountain is visible from nearby Pokhara and features a steep, double peak that juts up from the landscape. Known as fish tail in Nepali, Machapuchare is part of the Annapurna Himalayas and while it’s a much smaller 6,993 m, it has never been conquered - this isn’t due to difficulty, but rather religion.
In Hinduism, Machapuchare has long been considered sacred to the God Shiva and thus, is off-limits to climbers regardless of their religion. In 1957, a British-led expedition climbed to 6,947 m but did not set foot on the summit out of respect. Since then, the mountain has been closed to climbers. For those keen to get up-close, the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek will lead you to its base where the views are as spectacular as you imagine.