Mountains are symbols of stability, immutability, and of purity. It is home to the gods, and the way to enter a relationship with them. Mountain symbolism is numerous. It seems to touch the sky. That is why so many cosmologies have made a link between it and the world. – Seen from above, the mountain looks like the tip of a vertical cercle, it is the center of the world. Seen from the horizon, it’s an axis (of the world), but also a slope to be scaled. Many cultures and traditions have designated mountains as sacred places were religious practices and pilgrimages took place. – For the Africans mountains are the places where the sacred reside, places full of mystery and spirits, but also home of hidden forces that should not be disturbed. – For the Hindus and the Jainists the golden mount of Meru represents the center of the Cosmos. Its summit is larger than its base whose roots plunge into Hell. This mount is the residence of gods; it represents the protecting roof in the temples of India. – According to Genesis, Noah’s ark ran aground on the summit of Mount Ararat (Turkey), at the end of the flood. It’s at the summit of Mount Sinai that Moses (according to the Hebrew texts) spoke to God and received the Ten Commandments. – The jagged summits and frequent storms of Mount Olympus create a dramatic backdrop to reinforce the power of Zeus’, the king of gods, thunder and lightning of Olympian myth. Access to the summit was blocked by barriers of cloud and darkness controlled by the goddess of time whose duty was to protect the sacred mountain. – Mount Fuji. No peak more beautifully embodies the spirit of a nation. The elegant simplicity of its lines, sweeping up into the graceful shape of an inverted fan painted with delicate patterns of pure white snow, symbolizes the quest for beauty and perfection that has shaped so much of Japanese culture – Sacred mountains are often centers of cosmos, centers of the world. Kailas in Tibet is the image of the mythical Mount Meru. It is the axis around which the universe is centered in the Hindu and Buddhist cultures. – In Australia, first there was “the time of dreams”. It was a time when the earth was flat and uniform, when the “Tjukurita” giants arrived. They thought and acted like humans but were in the form of different animals…even plants, that merged with those of the great totemic Ancestors of the aborigine tribes. – They lived at the mercy of the mountain peaks. They drew their knowledge and strength from the mountains. The Incas once lived beneath the highest peaks of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru and they carried gifts to the gods of the peaks: food, animals, decorated artefacts, and sometimes a human sacrifice. For the Incas, as opposed to the religions of the east, the mountains were not the dwelling places of the gods, but were the gods themselves. And these gods could kill: by avalanche, by lightning or by wind. – The symbolism of transcendence is often represented in pictorial art: a summit rising to the sky, a superb mountain symbolizes the superior qualities of the soul, a great force, the destiny of man (to go from the bottom to the top, to drive man to the peak of his development). – The steep high ridges of the Rocky Mountains meet the Alaska Range and the Wrangell St. Elias mountains in the north. The glaciers transport phenomenal quantities of ice from the 5000-metre peaks down to the sea, and make life here practically impossible. – The aboriginals called it The Great one, most likely because its peaks completely dominate the vast tundra, the mountain plateaux and the river valleys. Today this peak, the highest in North America, bears the name Mount McKinley. Rising to 6195 metres above sea level, it is a symbol of the last boundary, as Americans call Alaska. – Some people consider this is the most beautiful place on earth. A vast white expanse unspoiled by human presence. The last untouched virgin landscape. Antarctica, clothed in ice and snow. Others see this as a raw and lifeless region, which they would never wish to visit. Scientists have here recorded the lowest temperatures on earth, and measured the terrible speeds of the winds. Antarctica. The most inhospitable and lifeless expanse in the world. The end of my Antarctic journey brings happiness, tinged with the sadness of imminent departure. Happiness prevails. Not so much because I climbed formidable mountains, but because I know that this place of perfect beauty will live always in my thoughts. For me it will be the most sacred place in the world.