Annapurna is a massif in the Himalayas in north-central Nepal that includes one peak over 8,000 metres (26,000 ft) and thirteen more over 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). The highest of these is Annapurna 1, at 8,091 metres (26,545 ft) above sea level it is the tenth highest mountain in the world. It was the first of the major 8,000 metre peaks to be climbed, achieved following a line from the north by a French expedition led by Maurice Herzog in 1950. Another notable ascent was that of a British expedition in 1970 led by Chris Bonington that made the first ascent of the mighty South Face of Annapurna.
The entire Annapurna massif is 55 kilometres long from east to west, and is bounded by the Kali Gandaki gorge on the west, the Marsyangdi River on the north and east, and by the Pokhara Valley on the south. On its southern flanks the massif encloses a high glacial basin called the Annapurna Sanctuary and to the north it shelters a high valley, very much Tibetan in character, known as Manang.
The entire massif and surrounding area are protected within the 7500-square-kilometre Annapurna Conservation Area, the first and largest conservation area in Nepal. The Annapurna Conservation Area is home to several world-class trekking routes, including Annapurna Sanctuary Trek that visits this basin on the south side of the massif, and the Annapurna Circuit Trek - a route that completes a circumnavigation of the whole range by way of the 5,200 metre Thorong La Pass.
At the end of a long spur ridge to the south of the main backbone of the Annapurna Himalaya, and which forms the eastern boundary of the Annapurna Sanctuary, is one of its most notable summits - Machhapuchhare, 6,993 m (22,943 ft). The mountain stands about 25 km north of Pokhara, the main town of the region, and due to its southern position and steep, pointed profile, it is a particularly striking peak. Its double summit resembles the tail of a fish, hence the name meaning "fish's tail" in Nepalese. It is also nicknamed the "Matterhorn of Nepal".
It is believed that Machhapuchhare has never been climbed to its summit. The only confirmed attempt was in 1957 by a British team led by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Roberts. Climbers reached within 150 of the summit via the north ridge but they did not complete the ascent in deference to local wishes. The mountain is said to be 'sacred' and no permits have been issued to climb the mountain ever since.