Climbing To The Heavens Up Adams Peak (Sri Pada)
You might know it as Adams Peak, or you might not. The mountain has various significant meanings to different groups of people, which also go hand in hand with the name that they know the mountain by. For example, the mountain is often referred to as Sri Pada, which would more than likely be used by Buddhists, who believe that the foot shape of the summit was left by Buddha. Hindus believe it to be the mark of Shiva. Muslims & Christians feel that is in fact the first location where Adam step foot on earth, hence the name Adams Peak. As you can see the mountain holds great significance to many people and religions, which makes the walk to the summit so popular amongst pilgrims from around the world.
Adams Peak stands at a height of 2243 metres. Although I was excited to start the laborious climb up the longest staircase I’ve ever laid eyes on, I knew in my head it would be a massive challenge…
The Climb Up Adams Peak
We arrived by bus into Dalhousie the day before our climb up Adams Peak. On the journey into the small town, we got our first view of the mountain, at that moment, the realisation of what we were actually climbing sunk in, my first and initial thought was ‘that is huge’. I have a knack for underestimating things and this was the case until I first saw the mountain in person. Thankfully, that was the moment that I ceased underestimating the climb and not when I was half way up the thing.
Once we had checked into our guest house, grabbed our dinner, collected some supplies from the nearby shop (water, biscuits and fruit), we headed to bed for an early night, in anticipation for the 1:45am alarm. It felt like a couple of minutes after I had closed my eyes, that I heard the dreaded iPhone alarm noise. I was excited for the climb ahead though, so it wasn’t too much of a challenge rising from bed and getting ready at that ridiculous time to wake up.
We left our hostel at 2am and made the short walk in the pitch black to the first checkpoint of Adams Peak, the police station. It was quite eerie walking around a town – which already seemed like a ghost town in the day – in the middle of the night.
There is no entrance fee to Adams Peak (unlike many of the other attractions around Sri Lanka), but you will more than likely get the monks asking you for a donation, we walked right past them and felt a bit rude not to, so we gave them 1000Rs ($6.90), which according to the book they had, seemed to be what everyone else was donating.
From the first checkpoint of the police station, it takes around half an hour to reach the concrete gates for the entrance to Adams Peak, shortly after the concrete gates the – what seems like – never ending steps begin. Armed with a torch, a backpack with a few snacks in, a jumper and a raincoat (which we didn’t need to wear yet as it was quite warm while walking) we began the arduous journey up the approximately 5500 steps to the summit of Sri Pada Mountain.
For around the first hour of our walk, we didn’t see another soul around (we questioned whether we had actually set off too late a couple of times), however, after around an hour and after our short snack break, we began to see several lights from the torches of the other hopeful climbers. Around 2 hours into the journey, the stairs get steeper and steeper as you close the distance to the summit, we looked back at this point and could see a trail of torch lights behind us.
Up to now, I was wearing just a t shirt as it wasn’t that cold near to the foot of the mountain, even though it was 2am, however, as we ascended further and further up the mountain, the wind began to send shivers down my spine and make the hair stand up on my arms. I had to put my jumper on at this point. My legs and body were thanking me every time we had a little rest stop, my mind wasn’t though, I was anxious about getting to the summit on time, not to miss the sunrise.
The steps began to get steeper and steeper, each step harder than the previous, “we must be near the top now”, I kept saying to myself and Olivia. I didn’t actually know whether we were or not, but it made me feel better about the never ending stream of steps I had before me. 3 hours after we had began our journey from the guesthouse located 100 metres from the foot of the mountain, we finally reached the top of the mountain. I somehow found a burst of energy and ran up the last set of stairs I was that happy!!
We reached the summit at 5am, with more than enough time to spare until sunrise. When we got there, there was quite a few people there already. Everyone was sat around shivering or with blankets over them, all huddled by the steps to the monastery. “Why is everyone just sat here?” I said to Olivia. Then I asked someone and he said that the gates to the monastery did not open until 6am. After the worrying of whether we would reach the summit or not in time for the sunrise, we were actually there, if anything, too early. We had to wait around in the blistering cold for an hour until they opened the gates. I was extremely glad I had brought a couple of layers to wear, but even this wasn’t enough to cease the constant shivering. I’ve never been so jealous of the people who had sleeping bags or blankets.
After what seemed like the coldest and longest hour of my life, they finally unlocked the gates to the monastery. We had to take our shoes off to enter. My bare feet turned instantly numb as soon as they touch the icy-cold stone floor, but I didn’t care, the view from the highest point in the monastery was absolutely incredible. It was like nothing I had ever seen in my life. While we were waiting from 5-6am, there was mist from the clouds all around us and I was unhopeful that we would be able to see anything at all, but with the gale force winds, the sky soon cleared up and it was like a scene from a movie where they are in heaven on top of the clouds.
Well worth the back-breaking, leg-shattering journey up 5500 steps!!
How Long Does It Take
One thing I would say, this climb isn’t for the faint-hearted and it isn’t for everyone. It is very punishing on the joints and leg muscles. By the time we had arrived back at the stone gated entrance to Adams Peak, my knees, calves and thighs were all aching!
Overall the ascent and descent should take you anything between 4-7 hours. Before climbing the 5000 and odd steps myself, I read that the ascent can take up to 4 hours, but I would disagree. We were going at quite a slow pace and it took us 3 hours. You would have to be stopping every 2 steps for it to take 4 hours.
The journey down Adams Peak takes roughly about the same amount of time at the climb itself. This was the case for ourselves anyway, however, we did stop quite a few times on the way down to take pictures of the breathtaking scenery. I’m sure you will yourselves, it truly was something else.
Where To Stay
If you are planning to climb Adams Peak, you will more than likely be staying in Dalhousie. There are a number of budget to mid-range guesthouses around the small town. Due to Sri Lanka’s tourism industry rising in popularity, there are new guesthouses being built around the town. If you are doing the climb out of pilgrimage season (starts Duruthu poya day in December or January until Vesak poya in May) like ourselves, it won’t be necessary to book in advance, meaning you will get a better price than online.
A couple of cheap-ish, recommended guest houses in Dalhousie are –
- Daddy’s Guest Home – Cost 4000Rs ($27.50). Double room, en-suite with hot shower & breakfast included. This was the accommodation which we stayed at during our time in Dalhousie. The owners were extremely nice and made our stay all the better. The food was also delicious which was served at the restaurant and the portions were huge which is always a bonus.
- The Mango Tree Holiday Bungalow – Cost 3250Rs ($22.25). Double room, en-suite with hot shower & breakfast included. A couple that we met on the bus to Dalhousie and then later saw on the way back down Adams Peak said this was a great little guesthouse and really worth the money they paid.
How To Get There
As I mentioned the majority of people who climb Adam’s Peak do so from Dalhousie.
The cheapest and most efficient way to reach Dalhousie is to first of all, catch the train to Hatton, which is the closest train station. We got the train to Hatton from Kandy. A ticket for unreserved 2nd class cost us 110Rs ($0.75) each.
Once you reach Hatton, the cheapest way to reach Dalhousie is by bus. Unfortunately as we were climbing Adams Peak outside of pilgrimage season, this meant there was no direct bus from Hatton to Dalhousie and we had to catch two different buses.
The first bus, we got on from Hatton bus station, which is around a 10 minute walk from the train station (no matter what the tuk tuk drivers tell you), was to Maskeliya. This bus cost us 45Rs ($0.30) and took 1 hour 30 minutes.
At Maskeliya, the bus which had come from Hatton, will usually then carry onto Dalhousie around an hour later. If not you can change bus at the bus station. The bus from Maskeliya to Dalhousie cost us 40Rs ($0.27) and took around 45 minutes.
When To Go
In terms of when is the best time of day to go, from what I have heard the best time to get to the summit is for sunrise. This is when the sky will be clearest. We have heard from others that the sky is much less clear when you reach the top at midday onward.
I have mentioned that the pilgrimage season runs from December/January until May. This is peak season to climb the mountain, where you will get the best views at the top, the pathway will be lit up and there will be shops along the way, but this is also when you will share the stairs to the summit with the most people.
We climbed the mountain and in August, so a few months out of peak season. There are much less people climbing it at this time of year. However, in terms of the views from the top, it is much more of a risk, we were lucky with the weather at the summit, but not everyone we spoke to was.
- Bring plenty of warm clothes for the top. On your ascent up the mountain you will more than likely be warm, sweaty and thankful for a bit of breeze. Once you reach the peak you will be clinging for every bit of warmth you can get!
- Carry water with you, especially if you’re climbing in off season as there are no shops along the way.
- … Same goes with food.
- Be prepared for your feet to be absolutely freezing and numb when you have to take your shoes off to enter the monastery, a spare pair of warm dry socks isn’t the worst idea in the world.
- Carry a torch with you for the climb, it’s pitch black when you start the walk at 2-3am.
- You don’t need a guide, it’s just a straight flight of stairs straight to the top.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you. If you’ve already climbed Adams Peak, how was your experience?