Malcolm Bass and Guy Buckingham have just made the first ascent of the beautiful NW Ridge of Gangstang in the Himachal Pradesh Himalaya. They reached the summit on the 9th June and descended to base camp the next day completing a five day round trip.
Gangstang is a classically pyramidal peak which is reminiscent of the Matterhorn. It was first reportedly climbed by Italians in 1945 via the South West Ridge which has since become the normal route. In 2007 Martin Moran and team explored the northern and western aspects of the mountain establishing a partial new route from the west that joined the normal route at 5850m. It was Martin’s photos of and enthusiasm for the unclimbed NW Ridge which inspired the climbers.
After making a tiny impression on the superb granite bouldering surrounding base camp, the team with their Liaison Officer, Parmender Sharma acclimatised with a climb of Neelkantha (5324m), previously know as Thirot Shivling, the rock bastion that stands on the tip of the NW ridge of Gangstang. For those going on expedition to India, it’s worth noting that the Indian Mountaineering Foundation will now hire out bouldering mats to expeditions at a very reasonable rate.
After a couple of day’s rest at the comfortable and well located base camp the climbers headed off towards the ridge packed for a five day adventure. The first night was spent on the glacier under the North Face at around 5000m and in the early hours of the following morning they crossed the bergshrund and climbed a couloir onto the North West Ridge. From then on it was rock and mixed climbing all the way; they torqued and crimped, they jammed and pressed down, with the blissful absence of any objective danger from above. By Himalayan standards the rock quality was good but just needed to be managed with respect
There were two camps on the ridge itself, one being palatial compared to the other, which was half perched over a cornice with everything and everyone tied off in numerous directions.
The climbing, on blocky granite, was excellent, with brilliant situations; for example on day three, Guy torqued up a short wall and reached onto a slab above to find himself peering through a hole straight down the immensity of the west face overhanging the ridgeline by a good 5 metres. However that was the end of the “fun times”.