The forbidden mountains - Mt. Khumbila & Machhapuchhare

Many cultures that developed around tall mountains consider mountains to be the abode of gods, and for this reason, they refrain from climbing these mountain peaks themselves. They also do not allow others to climb them. 

Interestingly, the Sherpas who lived around Mount Everest worshipped and called it Chomolungma, which means mother of the world. In fact, even now, the Sherpas perform pooja to appease the gods before starting the expedition to Everest peak. Perhaps, this sacred belief, Mount Everest, was not summited much earlier than 1953 when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay finally made it to the top of Mt. Everest, and thus the world.

The belief that gods live on mountains is widespread - from Navajos in Arizona, USA (North America), Kailash mountain in Tibet, to Mount Fuji in Japan. 


Mt. Khumbila

In the Khumbu Valley sits a mountain much-revered by the Sherpas called Khumbila. In fact, Khumbu Valley got its name from this mountain. It is so respected that no one has been allowed to climb it, and there are tales detailing the misfortune of those who tried to scale it, including one story involving Sir Edmund Hillary. 

This mountain is so sacred that during a local festival called Dumje, the Khumbila god is believed to descend from his abode to dance in the local monastery. 

Locals believe that Khumbila was a god who was subdued and converted to Buddhism by Guru Rimpoche around the 8th century and that Guru Rimpoche himself meditated in a cave on the Khumbila mountain, signifying its religious and historical importance.

Khumbila, at 5,761m, is not very tall compared to the surrounding mountains - Everest, Cho Oyu, Makalu, and so on. Yet its religious and spiritual significance remains unsurpassed by other nearby mountains. 

The Sherpa holy books state that the region above the tree line of Khumbila is the abode for gods, and breaching this line evokes the wrath of gods in several forms, such as altitude sickness. 

This mountain lies within the Sagarmatha National Park and has never been climbed. One expedition attempt took place in the 1980s, but unfortunately, an avalanche killed all the expedition members. Since then, no one has attempted to summit this mountain.

The locals believe stepping on the top of Khumbila is like climbing on a god’s head. You will see prayer flags on bamboo wands to honor Khumbila in local houses.


Mt. Macchapuchhare 

Macchapuchhare, which means “fishtail”, is an iconic mountain in central Nepal that stands isolated from the Annapurna range. Its height is 6,993m, and due to its shape, this mountain is very remarkable. However, the Nepal Government does not permit climbing this mountain. 

BBC mentions that the ban on climbing Mt. Macchapuchare is the result of a request made by British Army officer Jimmy Roberts, who contributed immensely to the development of mountaineering in Nepal is profound. Jimmy Roberts did mount an expedition to climb Machhapuchhare but abandoned his mission 45m shy of Machhapuchhare peak. 

Later Jimmy Roberts requested the Nepal government to ban expeditions to Machhapuchhare. It might have stemmed from his fondness for the local Gurungs. The Gurungs considered Machhapuchare sacred and were unhappy to see foreigners trying to scale it. 

The ban on scaling Macchapuchhare continues to this day. In fact, Machhapuchhare has been a symbol of purity and beauty in Nepal. Hence, this mountain even appears in Nepali folk songs. 


Honorable mentions


Kanchenjunga lies at the border region of Nepal and the Sikkim State of India. Until 1852, Kanchenjunga was considered the highest mountain. But in 1856, Kanchenjunga was declared the third-highest mountain. 

Kanchenjunga is also considered a sacred mountain. In fact, the first persons who made it to the Kahnchanjunga peak from Sikkim in India did not climb the last six feet for religious reasons. 

Until recently, you couldn’t climb Kanchenjunga mountain from the Indian side. However, it has changed, and you can now climb Kanchenjunga from the Nepali as well as the Indian side.


Annapurna III 

Though Annapurna III (7,555m) was first ascended in 1961 by an Indian expedition team, the attempts to scale Annapurna III from the southeast ridge were unsuccessful until 2021.

Numerous attempts starting from 1981 were made, but the success eluded many mountaineers until recently. Finally, the three climbers from Ukraine - Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin, and Viacheslav Polezhaiko - reached Annapurna III top from the southeast ridge on 6th November 2021.  

The mountains have constantly been challenging humans. They have attracted ambitious adventurers throughout history. The successes of the pioneer mountaineers also remind us that nothing is impossible and that you should not stop exploring.

Though you cannot climb Khumbila or Machhapuchhare, you can certainly enjoy the views. We recommend the Annapurna Base Camp trek to view Machhapuchhare and the Everest Base Camp trek to enjoy the views of Khumbila. 

You can call/Viber/WhatsApp us at +977-9840055491 or email [email protected] to plan for these treks. 


Paul Gurung

Paul has an extensive experience in the tourism industry. Through his blogs, he shares his deep knowledge about the stunning trek regions in Nepal, inspiring trekkers worldwide to explore these regions and enrich their lives. In addition to geography, his writings delve into the human side of the trek regions, including culture, traditions, religions, and etiquette, offering a comprehensive and enriching perspective on the Himalayan trekking and expedition experience.