Climbing Adams Peak
It is 2:30 am and we are at the base of Adams Peak, Sri Lanka’s sacred mountain. Ahead of us is a 3,280 ft climb to reach the top by sunrise.
Climbing Adams Peak in time for the sunrise also means a chance to see the enigmatic triangular shadow which floats over the valley at dawn.
Looking up at the dark path above us, flashlights and headlamps of other climbers and pilgrims bob and weave like fireflies.
It is tme to join the trail.
Stairway to Paradise
Adam’s Peak, or Sri Pada – which means sacred footprint – has been a pilgrimage destination for over 1,000 years. On the summit is a small depression resembling a footprint. Buddhists claim it belongs to Buddah, Hindus to Shiva and Muslims and Christians to Adam.
February is peak pilgrimage time and the trail is busy. There are women carrying babies and men trudging uphill with shoulder-born toddlers. Elderly pilgrims clutch hand-hewn walking sticks. Some walk barefoot others have flip-flops.
There are 5,500 steps to the top which head straight up the mountain. There are no gentle zig zags. Originally steps were carved into the rock These are now augmented with concrete steps of various depths and heights. There is a handrail for the last 500 steps where the path narrows.
Nirvana at Last
Just before 6:00 am we reached the summit on cue for the sunrise. At first there was a glimmer then the sky became rose tinted. This turned golden as the tiny glowing orb became visible over distant mountains of the hill country in the east. It was one of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen.
Then I climbed a few final steps to the top to see if I could see the shadow.
There it was and it was breathtaking. The elusive, enigmatic shadow of the mountain was clear and magical. What a reward after the long climb. I stood and gazed at it transfixed.
I could hardly drag myself away from the view but wanted to see the footstep. Unfortunately the little temple built over it was inundated with pilgrims. I left without seeing the footprint or ringing the bell. I was content and had my reward – it was the sunrise and the shadow. Two indelible memories.
What goes up must come down
The temperature was warming now the sun was up, and daylight made the descent easier. But there were still 5,500 steps back to base. I was glad of my hiking poles.
Some of the stalls which line the path were offering leg massages to the weary. I had some steaming sweet Sri Lankan tea which was refreshing.
From the base of the mountain we returned to the rolling hills of the tea country by van and tuk tuk. Awaiting us was lunch, a swim, and a much needed rest.
Climbing Adams Peak?
I stayed at Tea Trails who arranged transportation and guide. Most climbers start from Dalhousie. Lost in translation: Hiking poles translated to local wooden sticks. I was able to find a pair of mismatched poles to rent. Another time I would take my own. In pilgrimage season there is plenty of water and snacks available on the climb.