In fact, few in Nepal know that the Gurungs living on the southeastern slopes of Machapuchre have their own name for the mountain: ‘Katasunkli’ which means ‘snowy fish mouth’. Herders from the villages of Lwang, Lahchok, Ghachok, Ghale Khakra and Chyadlung used to take their sheep up to high pasture on the eastern spur of the mountain in the monsoon.
Streams from glaciers below Machapuchre, Annapurna II and Annapurna III form a lake called Tin Shir, which is the headwater of the Seti River and is a pilgrimage site for Hindus on Janai Purnima full moon day in July. Pilgrimages were discontinued after devotees were killed by the avalanche-flood on the Seti in 2014.
The Municipality’s government elected in 2017 had passed a village council resolution demanding that the ban on climbing the mountain be lifted. The new municipal government elected in May is also in favour of opening the mountain.
The Gurungs were originally animist, later Buddhist and some have assimilated Hindu practices. Gurung herders revere the mountain gods, and extend special prayers and offerings for protection from the elements before embarking on their annual migration up to the high mountain meadows. And the dangers are many: lightning strikes, hailstorms, landslides, rockfalls, floods and wildfires.