Climbing Adam’s Peak (also known as Sri Pada) was one of the highlights of my time in Sri Lanka. It’s an incredibly beautiful climb but an exhausting one, and it’s so important to be prepared in order to make it to the top and enjoy the experience.
Things to Consider Before Deciding to Climb:
Adam’s Peak is a challenging and exhausting climb consisting of 7km of stairs (around 5500 steps). It is slippery, steep and you will be making the climb in the dark. I would recommend that only people with a fairly reasonable level of fitness attempt the climb, and do not attempt it if you are unwell or have some sort of injury, particularly knee injuries.
When to Go:
Climbers usually commence walking during the night (around 2:30am) in order to reach the top in time for sunrise. Adam’s Peak is open for climbing year round, however it can be dangerous in the wet season (May to September) due to the steep and slippery nature of the track and it being breeding season for the wildlife – it’s also less likely that there will be a cloudless view or beautiful sunrise. The path is totally dark except for the pilgrimage season (begins on Duruthu Poya day, usually in December or January lasting until Vesak Poya in May) when there are lights to guide the way and small shops selling tea and snacks lining the track. If possible, try to avoid climbing on long weekends, Poya days or other days of significance in the Buddhist calendar because the track can become extremely crowded with pilgrims making for a frustratingly slow ascent sometimes resulting in missing the sunrise.
Where to Begin the Climb:
There are 2 possible routes you can take to reach the top of Adam’s Peak – an overgrown, extremely difficult 15km track from the Ratnapura side that leaves from Palabaddale and a shorter, yet still very strenuous 7km track that begins in Dalhousie. Most tourists choose to go via Dalhousie which takes around 4 hours one way – this also the path I chose. It is still an incredibly difficult climb but is also a lot safer than the longer Ratnapura track which is totally overgrown, slippery and takes around 7 hours. Begin climbing at 2:30am to ensure you have plenty of time to reach the top before sunrise and can stop to rest along the way. It takes around 4 hours to reach the top and about 2.5 to get back down.
Where to Stay:
Like most climbers we chose to stay in Dalhousie to begin the climb from that side of the mountain. To get to Dalhousie using public transport you can take the train to Hatton and from there take a tuk tuk to Dalhousie. It is about a 25 – 30 minute tuk tuk ride passing through beautiful tea plantations and there are a few places to stop at along the way (notably a church, tea factories and some beautiful viewpoints). We pre-arranged a tuk tuk through our guesthouse and paid Rs1500. We stayed at the White House which we booked through AirBnB. The rooms are basic but had everything we needed for the short amount of time we spent in the room, and the buffet dinner was awesome.
What to Pack:
It’s important not to weigh yourself down by bringing too much but there are a few necessities that will make the climb a lot more enjoyable.
a torch or head lamp
water – there are also stalls on the way up selling water so a litre should be plenty
snacks – again, there are stalls selling snacks so just bring something small
a raincoat – Sri Lanka’s hill country is notorious for rain and you don’t want your clothes getting wet
warm clothes – it is very windy and cold at the top so pack a jumper, scarf and maybe a beanie
band aids – for those pesky blisters
small amount of money – in case you want to buy snacks/tea/water
The Night Before:
Make sure you have packed, sorted out what clothes to wear and checked your torch batteries before going to bed. Set your alarm for 2:15am so you are ready to start climbing at 2:30. Have a decent sized meal for dinner so you are nice and energised then try and get to bed early (aim to be asleep by 8-8:30pm).
A Few Things to Be Aware Of:
There are leeches around and we saw a few people who had leeches on them, so you may want to wear long pants (tuck them into your socks) and possibly bring some small sachets of salt in case you do get bitten (salt kills leeches). Along the way you will come across many Buddhist monks who will offer to bless you in exchange for a donation. The orange string they tie around your wrist is a cool souvenir but don’t fall into the trap of feeling pressured to donate large amounts after they show you what previous climbers have donated written in a book – often these exorbitant donations are fake and are used to encourage you to donate more. When you do reach the top remember to remove your shoes and socks before entering the enclosed area.
Adam’s Peak is exhausting but so rewarding. The scenery is beautiful and if you’re lucky with the weather, the sunrise is just spectacular. This is a must-do when visiting Sri Lanka!
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