The 36 domes that make up Kata Tjuṯa cover an area of 21.68 km2, are composed of conglomerate, a sedimentary rock consisting of cobbles and boulders of varying rock types including granite and basalt, cemented by a matrix of sandstone. The highest dome, Mount Olga, is 1,066 m above sea level, or approximately 546 m above the surrounding plain. Kata Tjuta is located at the eastern end of the Docker River Road.
The alternative name, The Olgas, comes from the tallest peak, Mount Olga. At the behest of Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, Mount Olga was named in 1872 by Ernest Giles, in honour of Queen Olga of Württemberg (born Grand Duchess Olga of Russia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas I). She and her husband, King Charles I of Württemberg, had marked their 25th wedding anniversary the previous year by, amongst other things, naming Mueller a Freiherr (baron), making him Ferdinand von Mueller; that was his way of repaying the compliment.
On 15 December 1993, a dual naming policy was adopted that allowed official names consisting of both the traditional Aboriginal name and the English name. As a result, Mount Olga was renamed Mount Olga / Kata Tjuṯa. On 6 November 2002, following a request from the regional Tourism Association, the order of the dual names was officially reversed, to Kata Tjuṯa / Mount Olga.
The region surrounding Kata Tjuṯa / Mount Olga lies in the Amadeus Basin, an intracratonic basin formed during the Adelaidian, roughly 850-800 million years ago. During the Petermann Orogeny, approximately 550 million years ago, an event known as the Woodroffe Thrust lifted granulite facies rocks northward over low-grade metamorphic rocks. The eventual erosion of the formation resulted in a molasse facies, or deposition in front of rising mountains, in this case the Petermann Orogeny, to create the deposit known as the Mount Currie Conglomerate. The Mount Currie Conglomerate is made predominately of basalt, porphyry, granite, gneiss and volcanic rock fragments with a matrix composed of angular quartz, microcline and orthoclase among other minerals.
Both Uluru / Ayers Rock and the Kata Tjuṯa / Mount Olga are made of sediment originating in this Mount Currie Conglomerate and both have a chemical composition similar to granite. Scientists using Rb/Sr dating techniques to accurately date the rock have given it an age of 600 million years ago, matching the date of the Woodroffe Thrust event. The actual fresh rock that makes up the Kata Tjuṯa / Mount Olga and Uluru / Ayers Rock is medium to dark gray with green or pink hues in some laminae. The bright orange-red hue, for which the structures are noted, is due to a patina over finely divided feldspar coated in iron oxide.
There are many Pitjantjatjara Dreamtime legends associated with this place and indeed everything in the vicinity including Uluru / Ayers Rock. A number of legends surround the great snake king Wanambi, who is said to live on the summit of Kata Tjuṯa / Mount Olga and only comes down during the dry season. His breath was said to be able to transform a breeze into a hurricane in order to punish those who did evil deeds. The majority of mythology surrounding the site is not disclosed to outsiders, and in particular, women. As is the custom, should women become known to the "men's business" they are susceptible to violent attacks, even death. The Anangu Aborigines believe the great rocks of Kata Tjuta are homes to spirit energy from the 'Dreaming', and since 1995 the site is being used once again for cultural ceremonies.
Kata Tjuṯa / Mount Olga can be reached via Ayers Rock Airport, followed by a 55-kilometre (34 mi) drive south, then west. Visitors are required to pay an entry fee, which is currently A$25 for adults. Kata Tjuṯa is about 495 kilometres (308 mi) by road from Alice Springs, via the Stuart and Lasseter highways. It is a 4½ hour drive.