When I decided to travel to Sri Lanka, I started searching for what to do and where to go around the island. And during the process I came across Adam’s Peak or Sri Pada. The Peak is not the highest summit in Sri Lanka but its importance comes from the footprint at the top of its peak which holds a religious value among Sri Lankans. Buddhists identified the footprint to be belonging to Buddha, for Hindus the print belongs to Lord Shiva, to Muslims it’s the footprint of Adam and to Christian Portuguese, it belongs to St. Thomas.
To Buddhists, climbing the rock is considered a pilgrimage and the season for it is usually between December and April. To know more about the holy mountain, please click here.
The climb comprises roughly 6 000 steps one way making it around 12 000 for a roundtrip, give or take! Though I think it’s more give than take 😀 Oh man, my poor knees! Despite the fact of me having a bad knee and steps are a big no, Adam’s Peak was a challenge that I was determined on accepting. Why? I had no idea! What did I want to prove by doing so? You tell me! I just knew I wanted to do it. Maybe I wanted to show myself that I can still undergo such a physically demanding hike even with my permanent knee situation. Who knows? I can’t really be sure! I just needed to fulfil the urge of doing so.
I did more searching about the climb, the location, when and how in order to see if I can fit it in and I did fit it in indeed. Now the blog posts I read about the peak were close to horror stories! They talked about how demanding it is, how it will leave your knees wobbling regardless of how fit you are, the severe exhaustion you will experience afterwards and most of the posts strongly advised leaving it till last so no other hiking is to be done after! Gee, that was worrisome! My friend had second thoughts about it after all that she read and was thinking to skip it. So, what did we end up doing? We ended up going on that climb and let me tell you how it was.
It was tough I admit, it wasn’t a walk in the park at all, however it was pretty much doable and it didn’t leave us dog-tired as we both thought. And actually, Sara did really well despite all her worries. I was the slow one slacking behind as I always do. I’m slow and I know it but I get the job done nonetheless 😀 hahaha
It’s customary to start the climb at an appropriate time so you can make it to the summit on time for the sunrise and the ceremony that comes after. And so, we left our accommodation around 1:00 am and started on our way. The beginning was quite easy, small steps with some spaces in between. We passed temples, shrines, and stalls that sold lots of goods from food and drinks to sweets and toys.
As we kept on ascending, it started to get tougher on me. I get out of breath easily so I always feel the need to stop to take a rest. And I usually try to stick to kinda a slow pace so I wouldn’t strain my knee. And that was the case, I had to stop for rests every now and then and take it easy on my knee by not speeding up. And I was doing fine I guess till we got a little higher and I suddenly felt out of energy that it was obvious on my face! I didn’t know what happened and why I felt the way I did that night! I had quite a good rest and ate well few hours before I started the climb and was going according to my own pace so where did the sudden change of drive come from? I had no idea!
Sara and I were not at the same level since we hiked at different speeds. She wanted to slow down so she can keep me company but I didn’t want to keep her down especially when I became slower than my usual. We agreed to keep our own separate paces and meet at rest points.
As we advanced through the hike, the steps became narrower and higher making it a little difficult to manage. Thank God I had my hiking poles with me, I would have caused more damage to my knee if I didn’t have them. It wasn’t hot during the hike and I wasn’t sweating at all but I got wet actually because of the humidity. So when we reached the final resting spot, 300+ steps to the summit, I replaced my soaking wet scarf and t-shirt with a knit hat and a fleece. We took our time at that spot since there was more than an hour to sunrise and we had very few step to climb to reach the top (it’s ironic how 300 are considered few 😀 ). We treated ourselves with hot tea, biscuits, and bananas before we continued on our way.
We reached the summit and it was so crowded with people which was weird considering that the steps on the way up were not at all busy! We took off our shoes and passed the temple walls to get inside the premises in order to find a spot where we can watch the sunrise from. We actually had to stand, facing the east as it is usually the case, in order to see anything but the sunrise wasn’t spectacular due to the cloudy weather we were experiencing in the area. After the sun rose, the ceremony that follows started then it was time to start the journey down the stairs. Everyone was quiet during the ceremony and the atmosphere was sedative and comforting.
I didn’t really see the footprint and I’m not sure if one is allowed to see it. I didn’t actually make a fuss about it since I wasn’t allowed in to any Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka! I feared that trying to locate the footprint might look disrespectful.
What we couldn’t see on the way up due to the darkness that surrounded us, revealed itself when we were going down and it was utterly beautiful. As the clouds unfolded and the sun rays managed to find a way through, the scenery that exposed itself was mind-blowing and it made the descend journey a lot enjoyable but not easier though 😀
Going down is always harder, at least this is what I personally think, and it makes it worse for my knee so I need to be more careful. After some time my knees started jiggling of course, there is no escaping that. I kept on going down the steps as steadily as I could leaning on my poles to spare my poor knees. Sara and I finally made it down and off the steps and as we both walked through the gate we crossed on our way up, a sense of accomplishment took over me and I was really proud of myself. I was proud for being able to do it, to make the climb and enjoy the whole experience. I think I wanted to to assert myself that I can do anything I want instead of blaming my bad knee for not doing something! A feeling that got fixated within me after a certain doctor made me believe I should stop being active due to my injured knee! Being able to annul such a feeling by challenging myself every now and then is very empowering and also rewarding if I may say. After all, maybe this was what I wanted to prove by going up Adam’s Peak.
We made it back to our accommodation on time for breakfast which was devoured as you can imagine! And after such an overwhelming night, we started our journey to the west coast bidding Sri Pada farewell.
I think all I really want to say here is that yes Adam’s Peak is hard but don’t let what is written online intimidate you or stop you from doing it. I never thought I will be able to do any of this with my very humble fitness level after what I read online. But I was able to climb all the way up and down despite my knee and having a very hectic day before the hike! I saw old people doing it without help nor any kind of support and was ashamed at the thought of me thinking that I can’t do it! The climb needs stamina and willingness so if you have what it takes just do it, experience it yourself then form your own opinion afterwards but don’t forget to enjoy the process. Challenging yourself in such a way can surprise you, just be ready and give yourself a shot 🙂
If you will be doing Adam’s Peak then I hope the below list of advice will help you through it:
- Dalhousie is the best place to stay in for the hike, it offers lots of accommodation and ours was sufficient.
- People usually start the hike around 2:00 am. If you are slow, like me, start a little earlier so you won’t miss on the sunrise.
- Try to have some rest before the hike, it will be better if you are not already tired.
- Have a good meal few hours before the hike to give you energy.
- Take water and some fruits/food with you, they will be needed. There are lots of vendors along the way so don’t worry if you ran out. But honestly, I was advised by a local not to eat from those vendors so I didn’t. Whether to eat or not, that depends on you.
- Layers are essential as it gets colder the more you go up. A warm layer for the summit is important, a knit hat (the guy we met on the bus in the morning advised us regarding the hat and I’m thankful for that piece of advice) and gloves can be a good idea if you get cold easily. A dry fit base layer will be perfect, stay away from cotton unless you will change it once you reach the final resting point or the summit. Cotton will tend to get wet easily and it will not dry out fast which will increase the feeling of being cold.
- The Adam’s Peak climb is very popular during full moon nights and weekends, try to stay away from those dates. I read about people not being able to make it to the summit because of the crowds.
- Hiking poles can come in handy whether you have bad joints or not as they will take some of the pressure off your knees.
- You will be facing the sun as you go down and it can get really hot even early in the morning so if that will bother you, try not to linger.
I hope this was helpful 🙂
This post reflects my opinion based on my personal experience so I mean no ill to any other online posts whether I agree with them or not.