Monday, October 13, 2014

Hiking Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka

Adam's Peak on a clear day -- not the day we went (Photo from Wiki)

My main reason for coming to Sri Lanka had nothing to do with elephants (they were an unexpected perk). My main reason was Adam’s Peak.

Me at the start of the 5,200 stairs wearing my $4 rain jacket (bonus!)
What? You’ve never heard of it? Well, me neither…until I did a Google search on “what to do in Sri Lanka.” And there is was. Adam’s Peak. This majestic mountain is full of history and was there waiting for me to climb.

 I mentioned it to my friend Christine in Houston and she was instantly up for the challenge. What’s amazing about Christine is that even though she nearly died from exhaustion on the crazy Grand Canyon hike I took her on, but she was totally into pushing her body to the limits again.

Usually these stairs would be packed with pilgrims - but not during rainy season.
But this time her sore muscles would be for a good cause. It would be for the myth…or myths that go along with the mountain.

Reclining Buddha -- what we wanted to do after climbing to the peak.
You see, Adam’s Peak has all these stories attached to it. The Buddhists believe the rock formation near the top of the mountain is the footprint of Buddha, in Hindu tradition it’s the footprint of Shiva and in Islamic and Christian tradition, it’s Adam’s footprint that’s way up there.

Well, we were going to leave our footprints up there too and do the pilgrimage to the top.

Entrance to Adam's Peak
The pilgrimage season is December until May with an average of 20,000 people climbing the 5,200 steps to the top each weekend. They usually start their climb at 2:30 am and end at the top just as the sun is rising at 6:30 am. The view is supposedly spectacular.

Only during the rainy season will you see these waterfalls. 
We were going in October, which is not pilgrimage season. The reason there are no pilgrims is that October is in the rainy season. In fact, we almost didn’t get to climb it as the rain had caused a landslide a few days earlier and part of the trail was closed.

 Thankfully, they were able to clear the area and reopen the trail the day of our planned hike.

Getting closer.

Climbing Adam’s Peak during the rainy season is interesting. First of all, it’s rainy (duh) – which also means it’s misty and cold. The stairs are also a little slippery.

Secondly, you will be the only crazy people hiking it in the rain. Instead of the thousands of pilgrims that hike it in the dry season, we saw maybe six other people in the four hours it took us to get to the top. Yes, that's right. We had the mountain to ourselves!

The only vendor that was open. 
One other thing you won’t find is vendors. Normally, there are little shopkeepers selling lights, food and beverages to keep you going along the way. There was only one open when we went – and we were so happy to see him. Really, really happy!

The Buddha near the top of the mountain

Finally, you may not see anything when you get to the top. Rain means clouds – and when you climb over 5000 steps up a mountain, you are pretty much in the clouds.

The temple at the top. As you can tell, I was way up in the clouds and could see nothing.
But it’s totally worth it. The scenery is beautiful on the way up and it is a challenging climb. And if you go with a good friend like I did, it makes for lasting memories and laughs about how hard it was and how sore you felt the day after.

On a clear day, you would see for miles, but I was in thick mist and drizzle…so this is what I saw at the top. Then it was time to climb the 5,200 steps back down.

It’s an adventure that's good for the body and the soul.


1) How much does it cost?  
Climbing the mountain is free.  You can do it on your own, but we went with a guide, who was a friend of the person who owned the resort we stayed at (  We were thankful as it was hard to find the entrance as we weren't familiar with area.  He also was the one who scouted the trail the day before to make sure the landslide had been cleared away.

2) Do you need to be in shape?
No, but it does help as it is 5,200 steps up and then 5,200 steps down.  However, it's a pilgrimage site so people of all ages do the climb.  Our guide says he's seen sons carrying their mother up the stairs so that she could complete it before she died.  It will take longer if you are out of shape and you may be sore the next day.

I trained for it as I like to be prepared and so did my girlfriend.  Our driver decided to join us last minute for the fun of it, but he looked really sore the next day.  Our guide was like a little mountain goat and bounded up the stairs -- wearing flip flops!!

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