Climbing Adam’s Peak
Adam’s Peak, or “Sri Pada” in Sinhalese, is a holy pilgrimage spot for Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Christians. There is a “sacred footprint” aka a rock, which is believed to be of Buddha, Shiva, or Adam, depending on which religion one practices. Standing 2,243 meters tall, Adam’s Peak is an imposing mountain. All Sri Lankan Buddhists are supposed to make at least one pilgrimage to the summit during their lifetime. As such, climbing during weekends or holidays is strongly discouraged, as Adam’s Peak is known to draw large crowds during these times. There are over 5,500 stairs to climb to reach the summit. While that may be daunting for some, it is an entirely feasible climb. It is popular to start the climb during the night in order to witness the sun rise. Climbing during the night also avoids having to do the climb under the hot Sri Lankan sun.
There was no direct route from Kandy to Dalhousie, the starting point for Adam’s Peak. The easiest way would be to take a 3 hour train ride to Hatton, and then a 2 hour bus to Dalhousie. The train only ran twice, once at 11am, and the other at 6pm. Since the climbing of Adam’s Peak starts well before sunrise, I opted for the 11am train to give myself plenty of time to get to Dalhousie.
As I was still waking up on the early side (~around 6-7am each day), I hung around my hostel in Kandy for a couple hours to kill time until the train. I struck up a conversation with a Danish girl named Emilie, who also had planned to climb Adam’s Peak the following day. Since there were limited accommodation options in Dalhousie, we decided to pre-book at a guesthouse in order to guarantee a place to sleep that night. It ended up being my most expensive accommodation for the trip, topping out at $17. It did come equipped with a spacious queen bed and attached bathroom, so it was a decent value for the price.
I decided to buy a second class ticket for the train, as it only cost 110 LKR (~75 cents), in order to see the difference between that and my third class ride from Colombo to Kandy. Second class carriages still didn’t guarantee the ticket holder a seat, but I was able to snag one by a window. The views during the 3 hour ride were very stunning, lush green hills and trees. It helped that the train’s speed topped out at around 40 kilometers an hour, allowing passengers to really soak up the views.
When the train arrived in Hatton, a bus was conveniently waiting at the station to pick up the pilgrims planning to climb Adam’s Peak. This ride was much slower, as we wove around many tight curves, covering only 30 kilometers in the little less than 2 hour ride. Emilie and I then checked into the White House (yes, that’s the actual name), and we decided to lie down before the 6pm buffet dinner, which was included in the price. Right around this time, it started to pour down rain. I was glad that we weren’t set to climb it that afternoon and hoped that the weather would improve by early the next morning.
The buffet dinner was alright, but nothing special. Whilst we ate, one of the workers gave us a few tips for the climb the following morning. He showed us a painted map of the climb on one of the walls and the different landmarks we would encounter along the way. The sun was set to rise around 6am, and he told us to start no later than 2am. I had read other accounts on travel blogs and Trip Advisor, where climbers had said they made it in under 3 hours. Emilie and I decided to leave at 2:45 am, to minimize the time at the top prior to sunrise, as I had heard that it can be very cold at the summit prior to sunrise.
Emilie and I arose at 2:45, having each only managed a few hours of sleep. Armed with water, headlamps, and long sleeved t-shirts and sweats, we headed off. It was about a 20 minute walk from the White House to the official base of the climb. We signed our names in the guestbook here before continuing on. The path was well lit, making our headlamps not necessary. At the beginning of the hike we passed several groups of Sri Lankans heading back down. I guess they decided to climb at off-peak times to avoid the crowds entirely.
Emilie and I started at a brisk but steady pace. I wasn’t in a rush to get to the top, as I wanted to minimize the time spent on the summit due to the cold. Emilie decided that she wanted to quicken her pace, so we decided to separate and meet at the summit. Along the way up, there were several vendors selling water and snacks. There also were a few squat toilets where I had to make an emergency pit stop-I was thankful that I had brought some toilet paper along with me!
I arrived to the last stop before the summit at 4:45 am. I had a bite to eat and waited a half hour there, trying to warm up under one one the vendor’s tents. At around 5:15, I climbed the last 100 or so meters worth of steps and made it to the top. I was surprised at how crowded it was at the top. There were already a few hundred people up there, huddled together for warmth. I rang the bell at the top one time, signaling it was my first ascent. A woman after me rang it nine times! I then headed down a little bit in order to find the best vantage point for the sunrise.
When the sun began to rise, the crowd made an audible “ahhhh”, which was funny to hear. The sunrise was pretty good, but it was not spectacular by any means. I didn’t linger too much at the top after the sun had fully made its appearance and began the long journey down. The descent took almost as long as the ascent, I clocked myself around 2 hours. Emilie met up with me near the bottom and we walked back to the White House together.
The bus to Hatton wasn’t scheduled to leave until 11:30, so after a luxurious shower, I gladly stretched out on my bed for a few hours to relax. What a fulfilling day, I thought to myself, and it isn’t even yet 10 am!