If there was one thing we needed to do in Sri Lanka, While We’re Alive, it was climb Adam’s Peak. It’s a feat that most Sri Lankan’s accomplish in their life many times, but one that few foreigners ever tackle. To Sri Lankan’s, climbing Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) during pilgrimage season is their way to connect with their religion more deeply. Whether Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim, each religion holds a different belief as to how the “footprint” at the top originated. For us, we had to climb to the top to really appreciate how important and meaningful of a place it really is.
Here are 11 things one should know before making the climb:
1. 5200+ stairs to the top! – Yup, you read that correctly. Over five thousand two hundred stairs to reach the peak. The first 4500 are a walk in the park. It’s the last 700 that really hurt. Oh, and then there’s the walk down.
2. There are leeches. They suck your blood. Even ours. Enough said. (Apparently, the local Ayurveda balm works as a deterrent – it deterred them from our ankles, but those bloodsuckers will climb as high as they need to).
3. It can rain even at the holiest of sites. Be prepared. On our first attempt to reach the peak, we were rained out 30 minutes in. We learned we needed a rain jacket. On our second attempt, it poured again, but this time, we stayed dry (sort of). Or, you can accept that fact that you’re going to get wet, and continue on anyway (Don’t mind the leeches).
4. Never say die. When others turn around and give up, that should only motivate you more to continue on. Watching countless people turn back in the rain only made it sweeter when we reached the top.
5. ETA: 2 – 9 hours. Depending on physical fitness, weather conditions, time of year, motivation, and human traffic, time of arrival varies. Be sure to factor this all in when choosing a start time. Especially if you’re going for sunrise.
6. The sun will rise. It always does. Whether it’s clear enough at the top to see it come above the horizon is a different matter. If you’re going up for sunrise, expect the worse. Then, anything you get will be a bonus.
7. The half-way point is only the beginning of the worst. Just when you’re thinking, “this isn’t so bad”, you cross the bridge at the waterfall, halfway to the top, and the stairs become narrower, steeper, and never ending.
8. There is a railing for the worst of it. If you reach this, it’s the most daunting part of the climb, but signifies that you’re almost there. Just another 1000 stairs to go. Plus, if you make it to the top, there’s a bell you can ring to announce your accomplishment. Boy, that sure was satisfying for us!
9. If 80 year old grandmas, and 5 year old preschoolers can do it, so can you! Don’t get us wrong, this doesn’t mean it’s easy. During pilgrimage season, everybody and anybody all want to make the climb to the top. Ask a local how many times they’ve climbed Adam’s Peak, and they’ll most surely reply with a number greater than your measly 1.
10. The base town of Dalhouse is just that. A base town. With nothing more than a few guest houses and shops open in the off season, this place really is a ghost town. During pilgrimage season, however, it’s likely hustling and bustling, making it tough to find a room. We recommend the Punsisi Hotel (See review).
11. The next 3 days really hurt. Reaching the top and making it back down Adam’s Peak feels really good! What doesn’t, are your calves for the next three days. Explaining to locals and foreigners why you’re walking like you have a stick up your butt is always a good conversation starter though. :)