Flying high to Nepal’s sacred mountain in a tiny ultralight

IT is the sacred mountain high up in the Himalayas, believed to be the home of Lord Shiva. The double summit resembles the tail of a fish, giving the peak its name of Machhapuchchhre – Fishtail Mountain.

And it is held in such respect that nobody has ever claimed the summit, nor have any permits been issued by the authorities to climb the 6,993m ‘Matterhorn of Nepal’ for more than sixty-five years.

The only confirmed attempt was back in 1957 by a British team led by one Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Roberts. Climbers Wilfred Noyce and A. D. M. Cox climbed to within 150m of the summit via the north ridge.

But, having given their word to then King Mahendra that they would not disturb the sacred Hindu heights, they descended without stepping up to the summit, and kept the climb quiet for a year afterwards.

These days the best views of the magnificent mountain are accordingly from the air, especially if you take a flight from Pokhara Airport in an Ultralight, a tiny two-seater propellor-powered aircraft open to the elements.

I’m taking the trip with intrepid tour guide Matt Hugh, who regular readers of the blog will recall earlier flew guests to Everest in a small plane. The South African ex-pat video editor loves adventure challenges.

Read more: The man who flew to Everest with 600 pals

Not that I’m getting the wind in my hair on this occasion. I’m travelling virtually from my armchair at home in the UK as Matt takes 300 virtual passengers up over the Himalayas via the Heygo live streaming travel platform.

We take off from Pokhara, our guide filming on his mobile phone. Wrapped up in mask, helmet, jacket and gloves supplied by the flight operator, Matt admits with a wry grin that he doesn’t really have a head for heights.

No, there are no parachutes; yes, he’s holding on to his phone for dear life. But yes, he’s confident in the knowledge that even if the engine cuts out, the Ultralight can most likely glide safely to the ground and land on its wheels.

With a maximum fuel capacity of 90 litres and a total weight of less than 600kg, including fuel, pilot and passenger, the craft flies at an average speed of 80kph (49mph) but can reach up to 130kph (80mph).

The initial views over Pokhara, with a beautiful backdrop of snow-capped peaks, are a tasty appetiser for the scenic sightseeing in store on the flight out North towards Lord Shiva’s Machhapuchchhre.

Far below, the Seti Gandak river glistens like a winding trail of mercury in the early morning light, leading the eye to the Fishtail mountain in all its glory. If you asked a child to draw a dream peak, this would surely be it.

Nepal is blessed with one of the most inspirational landscapes in the world, with snowy mountains, green hills, serene rivers and lakes, and there are few better places from which to see it all than our bird’s eye view.

We’re heading to the sun as it rises over the expanse of freshwater Phewa Lake – the second largest in Nepal – around which Pokhara has gradually grown over the years.

We pass the impressive statue of Lord Shiva, which at 51ft tall – 108ft if you add the stupa on which it stands – is the second tallest in the country, and which was completed in 2021. In the early sunlight it appears bathed in blue.

There’s also the hilltop Shanti Stupa, a World Peace Pagoda with Buddhist roots, which stands 115ft tall and has become both one of Pokhara’s leading attractions and a spiritual sanctuary.

On a small island below us next stands the Tal Barahi temple – also known as Lake Temple – dedicated to the Hindu goddess Barahi, and the most important religious monument in these parts.

The only way to visit it is by boat, but our Ultralight flight, courtesy of Avia Club Nepal, gives us uninterrupted aerial views in the chill morning air.

The air sports company has been flying here since 1996, not only offering flightseeing tours but also providing professional services to movie makers, for scientific research and expeditions.

For more information about Avia Club Nepal, and flight schedules, see To see Matt’s forthcoming free-to-join live streamed tours see his Heygo channel.

Categories:Asia, heygoTags: , , , , ,

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