The Throne of Shiva
Michael and I take the lead up a scree-choked stream draining from the Gangjam glacier. Two hours of climbing through talus brings us to ice-blue seracs rising like frozen waveforms from the mottled glacier. An hour further, in the cirque beneath the black wall of Kailash, we begin to sink up to our knees in sun-softened snow. Michael’s altimeter reads 17,500 feet, and above us, the mountain’s north face rises in a 4,000-foot vertical thrust of glazed rock, capped by a treacherous overhanging white cornice. Jaws gone slack, we lift our eyes in awe toward the Throne of Shiva.
“How about it, bro? Break out the crampons?”
“Jesus! I am not seeing a good route on that wall,” Michael replies, and we both laugh. Kailash remains one of the few legendary mountains on this planet left unclimbed—out of reverence. “And look at that freakin’ cornice!” Michael adds “Nevé ice for sure. Like frost on a windowpane. Won’t hold your points for shit.”
There were rumors, nearly a decade ago, that the legendary Austrian mountaineer, Reinhold Messner had surreptitiously planned to bag Kailash, a task which he certainly had the skill and resources to accomplish. But when Messner saw the Precious Snow Mountain for himself, he realized what a desecration it would be to set crampons on its face or boots on its summit. He’s since become a vocal proponent of keeping Kailash off-limits to climbers in perpetuity.