|Elevation||6,596 m (21,640 ft)|
|Prominence||1,200 m (3,937 ft)|
|First ascent||June 3, 1974 by Sonam Pulzor, Kanhiya Lal, Dilip Singh, Nima Dorje|
Neelakant (or Nilkantha, Nilkanth, Nilkanta,Neelkanth) is a major peak of the Garhwal division of the Himalayas, in the Uttarakhand region of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Although substantially lower than the highest peaks of the region, it towers dramatically over the valley of the Alaknanda River and rises 3,474 metres (11,398 ft) above the Hindu holy town of Badrinath, only 9 km (6 mi) to the east. Frank Smythe described the peak as "second only to Siniolchu in Himalayan beauty."
The Satopanth Glacier lies on the northwest side of Nilkantha, below a 2,500 m (8,200 ft) face of the peak. The Panpatia Glacier lies to the southwest, and feeds the Khirao Ganga, a stream running under the south side of the peak. Further away, to the west of the peak, lies the well-known Gangotri Glacier and its associated peaks. Across the Alaknanda valley lie the Kamet and Nanda Devi groups.
It is believed that there was no mountain on the spot where Nilkantha stands today. There was an adage route between Kedarnath and Badrinath. The "Purahita" or the worshiper of the two temples worshiped them in one day. This continued for a long time until due to some sins of the worshiper, Lord Shiva became displeased with him and stood blocking the way as a huge sky-kissing mountain, which is said to be modern Nilkantha.
The peak was purportedly first climbed on June 13, 1961, by an expedition led by Col. Narinder Kumar, with Shri O.P. Sharma and Sherpas Lakpa Giyalbu and Phurba Lobsang reaching the summit. They placed their base camp on the Satopanth Glacier and ascended via the north face. Jagdish Nanavati, Honorary Secretary of the Himalayan Club, Bombay, studied the ascent and came to the conclusion that the expedition had gravely underestimated the route and faltered far below the summit in bad weather. Nevertheless, a committee of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation ratified the ascent late in 1963, though they recommended the expedition to be repeated the next year to confirm the terrain and timing.
The generally accepted first ascent was made on June 3, 1974 by Sonam Pulzor, Kanhiya Lal, Dilip Singh, and Nima Dorje of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. The expedition was led by S. P. Chamoli. After unsuccessfully attempting the west ridge, they reached the summit via the north face, making three camps above base camp.
The second ascent of Nilkantha was only in 1993 by an international team under Col. H.S. Chauhan via the north-east ridge. No fewer than 32 climbers made the summit between May 31 and June 2.
In 2000, five British climbers led by Martin Moran made the third ascent and the first ascent over the west ridge. In November 2001, the Slovenian climbers Marko Prezelj and Matic Jost repeated this route. In 2007, the Himalayan Club Calcutta claimed an ascent via the west ridge as well, but their climb was later shown to have stopped about 150 metres below the highest point on the mountain.
- Corrected SRTM data, available at Viewfinder Panoramas
- Garhwal-Himalaya-Ost, 1:150,000 scale topographic map, prepared in 1992 by Ernst Huber for the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, based on maps of the Survey of India.
- American Alpine Journal, 1956, p. 77
- Himalayan Index (However note that this incorrectly lists the 1961 expedition as an attempt, not a successful ascent.)
- American Alpine Journal 1962, p. 272. Online link.
- Neelkantha, Col. N. Kumar.
- Harish Kapadia, High Himalaya Unknown Valleys, Indus Publishing, 2002, pp. 60-61
- American Alpine Journal, 1975, p. 208
- Martin Moran (2002) Nilkanth West Ridge, The Alpine Journal
- Jagdish C. Nanavati (2001) Nilkanth Missed, The Himalayan Journal Vol 62. The Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) has not yet formally rejected the claim.