Adam's Peak - Sri Pada

(Sacred mountain in Sri Lanka)

This is my unofficial home page for Adam's Peak; a tribute to it's majesty and grandeur.
 

Index



History and information

The following quote is from 'The Worlds Great Religions' - where I read about Sri Pada the first time and made me look forward to it.
Buddhist pilgrims climbs the 2245m (7242ft) high mountain to honor the legendary footprint of Buddha. Approx. 300.000 pilgrims visit this place a year. Sri Pada means "holy footprint". To the Hindus the mountain is holy for another reason: they call it "Shivas Peak". Christians from the old Indian Church think that the apostle Thomas have lived there during his mission in India, and the Muslims call it "Adam's Peak" and interpret the footprints as those of the first man. In the history of religions, Sri Pada is a holy mountain of classic importance.


Way points for your GPS


During my last hike, I recorded way points using my Garmin eTrex GPS. You can download way points and a map. Not that it is difficult to find your way, but it always good to know how far there still is to go. Note that the short trip up starts from point '002', and ends at point 'Adam'. Going the long way down is from point 'Adam', ending roughly at point '018' - back in civilization.

Adam's Peak location: N 06.80933, E 080.49933, 2243 meter.

I have used a program, 'GARtrip', which you can download from www.gartrip.de.
Below you can load a scanned map, and plot in your way points and transfer them to your GPS. I'm not so experienced with what you need so I have packed images, calibration files and way points in different formats in this adam.zip file:
Download adam.zip (229KB)
Download SriLanka.GARtrip.txt (4 KB) - text file with way points for Adam's Peak and specific places in Sri Lanka
 


Routes

The pilgrimage season is from poya day in December and until may - most busy in January and February. You can go at other times, but the mountain is usually included in clouds and it can be a wet experience to climb.
 

Northern Route

You go to Nuwara Eliya (bus), and on to Hatton (train from Colombo or bus from Nuwara Eliya) through tea plantations. From Hatton, you'll either go by crowded busses, three-wheeler or taxi to Dalhousie, 33 km south-west of Hatton.You'll pass a big reservoire, and can see Adam's Peak most of the way from Hatton.We met two travellers who took trhee-wheeler from Nuware Eliya - that is not a good idea.
The climb takes 2½ to 4 hours. Most locals start after dark, or latest around midnight, which is a terrible mistake. When you get to the top, you can see all the local people shivering, and freezing half to death. Most have to leave back down before morning because of this. The first signs of dawn comes around 6 and sunrise is usually between 6.30 and 7. So a start around 3 am is fine, and if you bring a sleeping bag or plenty of clothes, you might start earlier.
 

Southern Route

Don't try climbing the mountain from this side, though the many local prefer to to this, because of more merit gained. It will be at least 7 hours, more likely 10. You'll have to go to Ratnapura and take a Taxi to the Carney Estate, or a bus, if you are lucky. There are plenty of supplies in the village, and for the first 2-3 kilometers up. After the village, the stretch up the mountain side through rainforest is extremely tirering (haven't tried, but have seen hundreds of locals) and never any plain stretches. Just steps, up, steps, up. Going down this way is very rewarding and a great trip, taking about 5-7 hours. I don't think you can stay here in the village, but Ratnapura is not so far from here.
Actually there is another route from the South; it merges with the Ratnapura path a few kilometers before the mountain. I don't really know where it ends.
 

Places to stay

Wathsala Inn: An expensive, not very nice place (see my story below)
Green and Yellow House - those two were recommended by all other travelers we met.


My previous experiences:

 

1991:

We get off in Hatton and buy lunch: (guess what ?) Yes, bananas, biscuits and Fanta. On the station, we meet white people for the first time, since we left the French guys. Susan (New Zealand) and Sarah (Canada). Nice to speak with somebody who speaks decent English - your English is ruined here because you have to speak the same (bad) way as the people here do, to be understood. They had been traveling in the northern part - in the ancient cities from the 4th century, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. I wanted very much to go there as well, but Kurt and Niels were much against it, they thought it to be near the Tamil people. It might have been in the border area. Well, they are, like us, going to climb Adam's Peak (Sri Pada). We were previously told that we should go to a village called 'Nallathania'. TSK says that the village is called Dalhousie. The village is on the northern side of the mountain. The bus leaves to Nallathania leaves right outside the station. We all get a seat in the empty bus. Slowly more and more people enter. And more and more. And more and more. Then the bus is completely full and we move on.....but only to stop in the middle of Hatton. 40 more are waiting here! 10 minutes later they have, by a miracle, been crammed, more or less, into the bus. 5 of them are hanging out of the doorway! A pretty ride, but we sit a bit uncomfortably so it is a bit difficult to enjoy. We count how many that gets on and off during the ride and the result is that at the worst time, we have been 105 passengers in a 32-persons bus!!!! I think that is an entry for Guinnes Book of Records. No wonder why it is so cheap to ride busses here.

There is a small joint which has rooms for rent (TSK had warned us about it), and we have to pay 175rs (4.37$) for a very disgusting room. The room with bath turns out to be a room where the 'bed' takes up the whole room and the bath is a barrel with cold water. We try to sleep at 7pm but it is so hot that we cannot fall asleep until 3-4 hours later. Most people climb the mountain at night to see the sunrise. The path is illuminated all the way up by lamp posts.
 

Day 9: 6 February


We get up at 0:30am to the big trip. We have decided to take the much longer and steeper trip down the south side, so we have to bring our backpacks. At 1:15am we are on our way up the lightened path. There is tea shops every 300m (968ft), so it is very festive - one should notice that the sodas cost 10 rs (25c) at the foot, but 50 (1.25$) near the top. There are steps all the way - 7 km (4.3 miles). The season for pilgrims is from December through April, so there is quite some people on their way up tonight. But it should be really bad in the weekends and at full moon. It is mostly old and young people we meet tonight. Our backpacks make a big impression to people we meet, going down. All of them stops and looks amazed at us and some shake their head. Besides that, everybody greet us kindly with a "hello". Some groups of people sing songs - one of them leads the singing and then the rest of them repeat the song. A rather nice ascent. We sweat a lot, but are quickly cold when we rest - the temperature is close to zero (32F).

We reach the top in a new record time (that is backpack climbing record) - 2 = hours!! The normal ascending time is 3-4 hours. We had hurried the last stretch; we could not see the top and was afraid we would not make it before sunrise. We meet Sarah and Susan on the top. They had left about 1 am too, but had not slept. A small castle is build at the top and in it, a small temple with the footprint. I go in to see it and talk with a young Buddhist. He explains that the print I see is only a cast and that the real print is underneath. The real print was a bit worn off by the many pilgrims. We mail a couple of letters - they have a nice postmark here, so be sure to mail one home.

Sunrise is at 6 am. We see the first light beams from east and everybody is were expectant. But then clouds starts coming. We are quickly surrounded in gray and wet clouds and the expectation is relieved by disappointment. On the west side we should have been able to see a beautiful shadow of the cone shaped mountain if the clouds hadn't come. We are very sorry for the many children who have walked the long way up and waited (freezing) for a long time. People are busy getting down again and at 6:20 we are almost alone.

We start the descent of the southern side to the town of gems - Ratnapura. We had read in TSK that the trip would be much more strenuous (14 km (8.75 miles) of steps), but we thought we were tough guys. Furthermore it would gain us much more merits :-) - according to the Buddhists. Ascending Sri Pada gains you many merits - like helping people.

No problems on the first part though we can feel the extra weight of 15 kilos (33 lbs) from our backpack, when we step down. After an hour (the vertical stretch), we enters jungle vegetation. Very vigorously though we still are in pretty high altitude. One hour more passes by and we are now rather sore several places and tired. Niels' neck hurts; just like on our way up, the temperature is changing when we rest. The rest of the descent is unfortunately rather bad. I had very sore legs and had to step down with stretched legs - so it was rather slowly. We had to admit that Niels had caught a neck infection and he his back hurts much too. Kurt's legs hurt as well, but it was him who kept us going. 3/4 the way down we were in real tropical rain forest - including all the natural jungle sounds.

Unfortunately, it was hard for us to enjoy it all... Next time, we will take this trip without the backpacks, but I promise we will do it again; the jungle was very beautiful and it is a great trip. There is also lamp posts all the way along the southern route, so it is definitely this one we would recommend people - if they/you are able to do with 14 km of steps. There is also small shops on this route. Suddenly a quick tropical rain shower hits us and we sit down in a open shed. Some workers come and try to talk to us. They don't speak English, so the communication is done by sign language and laughing. They cut some palm leaves for us to use as umbrellas. The rain stops rather quickly though. Almost down, near a village (we never discovered the name of this village), I'm almost fainting. We have only had bananas, biscuits and sodas for 20 hours. Finally; 8 hours after we had started the descend, we see a road.
 

(the full story)
 

1993:

Sorry, no Adam's Peak trip this time. But many other things from Sri Lanka: (the full story)

1995:

It was a couple of days before Easter, and it must have been at the end of the Pilgrimage season. I rented a mini-van in Kandy and traveled with a family (from nephews to their old English School teacher), and arrived early evening. Most of the family were eager to get going, but I tried to hold them back. Around midnight, I had to give in, and I left last together with the english teacher (done it 10-15 times), my friend Nilu and her mother. It was Nilu's first trip, and her mother had been there a couple of times. One the way up, we met the rest of the family who of course got there before midning, and were freezing, and had to return. The family were Buddhists, and explained some of the traditions on the way up. At one place (actually there are two places, I don't know which one is the right one), there is a lot of thread on the bushes. It is to signify someone (Buddha?) who tore his rope at this place. We arrived at the top between 3:30 and 4 am, and it was very cold. I had recommended to bring lots of clothes, but... it was only me who had brought a light jacket, which I gave to Nilu and her mother. We made it to dawn, and watched a beautiful sunrise. There were not so many people on the top this day. There was a wonderful pyramid shadow this day, and Nilu and her mother did not know of this, and I think we were the only one who noticed it this day - but a perfect shadow on clouds in lower altitudes. The picture here is from this morning.

2002:

Abe picks us up at 1:30 pm and we go through beautiful hill country; tea plantations to Adam's Peak. Through Bandarawela, a quick lunch in Nuwara Eliya (which is high situated town with many old English mansions), through hundreds of tea plantations, Hatton to Dalhousie.
Now, the place Abe choose - Wathsala Inn was really bad. Overpriced (900 Rs for a small cellar room), but with nice view of the illuminated Adam's Peak. A rat fell down from the roof - one other stayed there. We had this musty rice - it's smell ruins everything. From the menu, one could have 'Brake Fast'. I wonder if it is when people are rolling down from the mountain. We asked for a towel, and the boy came with only one - he excused: 'others are in the shower' :-)
Went to sleep at 8:00 pm and was mistakenly woken at 1:45 am and 2:20. The boy could not understand that it was not us who wanted to get up at this time, and asked if we were not going to climb tonight?
 

Monday 25. March, Adam's Peak - Ratnapura

We got up at 3:00 am and left 3:15. I think we were the last to leave this night (most Sri Lankan start before midnight for some reason). We took it quite slowly and were up at 6:15 (3 hours).
It was my third ascend and a good hike, which we enjoyed. We met maybe 150-200 people going down (those who started early and forgot clothes to stay on the top). We just passed one another western couple going up, and I don't think they made it; we did not see them on the top later. On the top there were also about 150 waiting for sunrise (at 6:39). The peak shadow was not so clear today, but could be seen. The last time I was here, it was very clear on multicolored clouds Anyway, only the 3 other westerners and the Buddhist monks seemed to know about the shadow; the rest either went down, or participated in a Buddhist morning worship. It is a pilgrimage site for 4 religions, but I would say 95% are Buddhists.
We walked down the 14 km Ratnapura path (also illuminated in the night). From the many wandering looks, I don't think it is everyday that non-srilankans do that. The Ratnapura path is quite strenuous; going down is OK and it took us from 7:30 to 1 pm (5½ hours) on a slow steady pace. Going up this way: either you are a very devote believer, or very crazy - 14 km of steps going up. I recalled when we walked down with backpacks in '91 and that was about equally stupid. (read about it in the Adam's Peak web page). I'll have to ask my brother how on earth we could have gotten that idea.
A dog followed us the whole way down from the top. Maybe we were the first not o kick it hard. When we rested, so did it. The Sri Lankans we met wondered why these crazy tourists would have such a flea infested dog with them. We were at the main road in the village of Pallapadalla (?) in the Carney estate at 1 pm and Abe arrived almost at the same time; we had just had time to enjoy a cold coke.
In Ratnapura we changed some dollars in the bank and went to Kalavati Holiday & Health Resorts. Nice Place, 1125 Rs. Too many mosquitos, immune to DEET.

(the full story)
 
 
 


Other Links

(soon to appear)


Picture Gallery



Evening from Dalhousie - the lighted path can be seen. 1991.


Adam's peak seen in the mist - from north east, across the reservoir.


Postcard


Morning shadow
 


Watching sunrise from on the top.

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