Adam’s Peak, or Sri Pada, Samanalagira as us locals call it, is a beautiful solitary mountain standing almost 2,300 metres tall and is found close to the Ratnapura and Hatton cities.Its importance is immeasurable. It’s no wonder that it is sighted by thousands, not only during the trekking season but even sometimes in between. Sri Pada is famous for being one of the must-visit places in Sri Lanka. Buddhist pilgrims believe that, at its summit, Sri Pada holds the footprint of Lord Buddha himself. Arabs, having visited Sri Lanka during travels, believed that Adam was buried atop the mountain and gave its distinct name. Christians believe that Adam, after being cast out of Eden had stood atop on one foot for a 1000 years! And Hindus say the footmark is of Lord Siva’s. They believed that it was placed when he settled on the summit once to spread light to mankind. Whatever the reason, Adam’s Peak holds along its rocky slopes numerous wonders that would enthral even the most stubborn non-believer. Here’s why it should be on every serious wanderer’s trek list.
The decision to climb Sri Pada should not be taken lightly however. It looks easy when climbed by old ladies in white but don’t be fooled into a false sense of security. It is quite a climb and is not for the faint of heart. That being said, it is also important to never to utter even in joking, a word of complaint or despair. Legend has it that can lead to travellers being lost forever along its winding trails.
The base of Adam’s Peak can be reached in two ways. Either through the Colombo-Hatton route (150km in 4- 5 hours) or Colombo-Ratnapura (122km, 3 hours) routes. Both these cities can be reached via bus and Hatton also has a train that can be used.
If there are no time restrictions it is advisable to reach the base and rest up before the climb. Having somewhere you can rest after climbing down comes recommended too. There are plenty of hotels and quaint little inns in Hatton and Nallathanni. However, places to stay are few and far between in Ratnapura. Having some preplanning and research before travelling is important! Plenty of places offer packed breakfasts to take up the climb at nominal fees as well.
The season starts after the full moon poya in December and ends on the Vesak full moon poya in May. The advantage of going during the season is that there are plenty of little shops along the climb. This means there is no need of hoarding food and drinks for the climb. The disadvantage is of course that it will be full of pilgrims making the rounds and can be slightly claustrophobic. Therefore the best time to go is during December or January, just as the season starts, to beat the crowds. Weekends and public holidays also tend to get busy so it seems prudent to avoid these if possible.
There are a total of 4 hiking trails that scale up the mountain. The lesser known being the Kuruwita and Deraniyagala trails. The more popular trails are the Hatton and Ratnapura routes and both have their distinctive allures.
The Hatton trail (5km) is known to be somewhat easier, taking on average 4-5 hours to climb. The Ratnapura route (8.5km) is famous for its gorgeous natural beauty and breathtaking wilderness. However, it takes a grand total of 12-13 hours to climb! The climb down takes a shorter time but it’s best to remember to take it easy or there’ll be knees to pay with the next week. Never fear however, both trails have paved steps that have been cut into the mountain so it isn’t as daunting a task as it sounds.
The time to start the climb can be calculated according to the choice of the trail because any hiker worth his salt knows, the best thing about great heights is the magnificent seat it offers to a glorious sunrise.
There are a few essential items that need to be in every traveller’s bag no matter what you’re climbing. Sri Pada is no exception. Useful things on this climb would be a flash light (there are some areas that are not as well lit), a pack of glucose, some isotonic drinks (keep your electrolytes balanced), a small packet of salt, some balm for the not so hale and hardy, ear mufflers or a beanie that covers the ears because it gets very cold up there and a sweater for the summer inclined. There’s plenty of food and coffee joints on the way! Some special ritualistic things to take would be a ball of thread and needle (description to follow), and a piece of white cloth and a coin to tie on your wrist as an offering. Wear comfortable walking or hiking shoes and thick socks to keep the feet warm and dry. There’s also the requirement of wearing a white shirt to go up to the upper most sanctum where the footprint lies so be forewarned. A long smooth stick is also beneficial to lean on when the going gets a little rough!
Makara Thorana: Literally translated to Demon Pandol, it marks the day Adam’s Peak received electricity.
Seethagangula: Which basically means icy cold stream, this is a small waterway that makes its way across the mountain carrying fresh, icy cold water!
Indikatupana: Indikatu means needles and this is where the needle and thread are offered in memory of the Lord Buddha stopping on his way up the mountain to attend to a torn robe.
Mahagiri Dambaya: A really steep climb, this is a part of the mountain which tests every traveller’s resolve. But hey, at least now there are steps to climb instead of ropes to scale up!
The Sunrise Festival: One of the most magical things to see in one’s lifetime, lookup the exact time the sun will rise on the day of travel to make sure it is not missed. The aim of the climb is to be right at the top and in a prime position before the sun rises, in order to take in all of its magnificent glory.
The Foot Print: (5ft long and 2 ft wide) Found right at the top of the mountain it is walled off and shown to every weary traveller after the festival of the sun following which everyone gets to ring the enormous bell as many times as they’ve visited the summit.
Climbing Sri Pada is an amazing experience sure to mesmerise even the most cynical of travellers, and for any explorer willing to make the effort, it’s safe to say, after visiting Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka will never be the same again.