Mt Kailash, at 6714m, is not the mightiest of the mountains in the region, but with its distinctive shape like the handle of a millstone, according to Tibetans and its year-round snowcapped peak, it stands apart from the pack. Its four sheer walls match the cardinal points of the compass, and its southern face is famously marked by a long vertical cleft punctuated halfway down by a horizontal line of rock strata. This scarring resembles a swastika – a Buddhist symbol of spiritual strength and is a feature that has contributed to Mt Kailash’s mythical status Kailash is actually not part of the Himalaya but rather the Kangri Tise (Gangdise) range.
Mt Kailash has long been an object of worship. For Hindus, it is the domain of Shiva, the Destroyer and Transformer, and his consort Parvati. To the Buddhist faithful, Mt Kailash is the abode of Demchok (Sanskrit: samvara) and Dorje Phagmo. The Jains of India also revere the mountain as the site where the first of their Tirthankara (saints)
entered Nirvana. And in the ancient Bon religion of Tibet, Mt Kailash was the sacred Yungdrung Gutseg (Nine-Stacked-Swastika Mountain) upon which the Bonpo founder Shenrab alighted from heaven.
In May 2001 Spanish climbers gained permission to climb the peak, only to abandon their attempt in the face of international protests. Reinhold Messner also gained permission to scale the peak in the 1980s but abandoned his expedition in deference to the peak’s sanctity when he got to the mountain.