Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka

Adam's Peak

My wife and I spent a year in Sri Lanka teaching English at the Worldwide Educational Institute in Nuwara Eliya. Climbing Adam’s Peak was one of the highlights of our year. The peak is a triangular mountain which has become a center for thousands of religious pilgrims each year. The Buddhists call it “Sri Pada” (sacred footprint) because there is a famous footprint at the top which they claim belongs to the Buddha. Christians and Muslims claim it belongs to Adam (from when he first stepped onto earth) and Hindus believe it is Shiva’s. There is a dirt path the whole way, which eventually (nearer the top) becomes constant stairs (a bit crude in parts though). During the climbing season (December-April), the path is also lit the entire way.

We started the climb at about 10:30pm on April 30th, 1998 from the Hatton side. You can also climb from the Ratnapura side but it is a longer and more difficult journey. With us were our friends Sutharshan, Niranjala, Chaminda, Tanya and Kristine. We climbed at night to escape the heat.

There were a few hundred other climbers that night but only four other foreigners that I saw. I was amazed to see little children, mothers carrying babies, adults helping very elderly parents and even a cripple with no legs pulling himself up with his arms!

As we climbed up the stairs at night, which kept getting steeper and steeper, we aimed for the little light we could see on the distant top. I think the real reason people climb at night is so they don’t know how much further there is to go. If you did, you might give up. I was reminded of what hell might be like as each corner that seemed to be the last was followed by yet another. We made several stops to rest but never bought from the dozens of drink stands (much too expensive). We each brought a 2L bottle of water – we later realized we should have brought more.

We finally reached the top at 2am (3½ hours of climbing). We regretted having started so early because we had to wait several hours for the sunrise and it was extremely cold (especially because we were dripping with sweat). We bundled up in sweaters though and waited. We looked around the temple (we were disappointed to see that the famous footprint was covered). There were some toilets at the top but kinda smelly and you had to climb over sleeping people to get to them.


The sun rose at about 6am and the view was absolutely beautiful! We got to see the triangular shadow of the peak against the clouds. It took us about 2½ hours to climb down and this was more painful than going up – very jarring on the legs!

As we went down we took pictures of the amazing views. The other interesting thing about our climb was that the LTTE bombed the nearby town of Hatton that night and we could see the blast from the top – we didn’t realize what it was though until we talked to people at the bottom.

If you are going to climb Adam’s Peak, be sure you have:

  1. good boots
  2. a fit body and/or determination
  3. lots of bottled water
  4. a warm blanket in a backpack for the top

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