Nilkanth, West Ridge, New Route. Between May 28 and June 3, a guided British expedition
led by Martin Moran made the first ascent of the west ridge of Nilkanth. This ice spire rising directly above Badrinath Temple is one of the most beautiful summits of the Indian Himalaya and has an enigmatic reputation, with only two known ascents in 50 years of attempts on all sides. The summit was gained on June 1 by Moran, John Leedale (U.K.), Andy Nisbet (U.K.), Jonathan Preston (U.K.), and Casper Venter (S.A.). The route involved initial danger of serac fall on the climb from base camp, but thereafter was relatively safe with rock pitches up to IV+, some sustained Scottish grade II and III mixed climbing, and a fine corniced summit ridge at an overall grade of D+/TD-. The team fixed 200 meters of rope around pinnacles at the foot of the ridge but thereafter climbed in alpine style.
First inspected by Edmund Hillary during his first visit to the Himalaya in 1951, the west ridge was most recently attempted in 1993 by British climbers Chris Pasteur and Duncan Tunstall, who had to retreat from 5850 meters due to altitude sickness.
Having broken the run of bad luck that has dogged so many parties on Nilkanth, our ascent might help popularize the mountain as a feasible objective for short trips. The south and southwest faces offer technical superalpine challenges, and the fiercely pinnacled southeast ridge remains unclimbed, having repulsed both British and American parties.
Martin Moran, United Kingdom