The climb is by no means easy. And yet the feeling you get once you reach the summit, has to be experienced to be understood. Adam’s Peak is a mist tipped lofty peak that has been attracting pilgrims for over a 1000 years and has the distinction of being the only mountain in the world that attracts pilgrims and devotees from different faiths.
This mountain located in the Southern Hill country is known by a variety of names, all attributed to a different lore centred on the sacred footprint to be found at the summit. The name Adam’s Peak stems from the belief that this is the place where Adam first set foot of earth, after being cast out of heaven, Siri Pada is the name it is referred to by Buddhists as the belief is that the sacred footprint is that of Lord Buddha’s, on his journey to paradise. Other beliefs include that the footprint belongs to St. Thomas or that of Lord Shiva, which is why this amazing mountain attracts so many visitors annually.
There are two approaches to reach the summit of the mountain. One from Ratnapura which is the older of the two, is most often referred to as the ‘difficult path’ and is where pilgrims will come across the river. However, owing to it being a more strenuous track infested with leeches, it is less crowded than the other option, and is ideal if you are looking to challenge yourself and avoid the crowds. The second path starts from Hatton and is known as the ‘Raja Mawatha’ as in ancient times it was the route used by Kings to reach the summit. This climb is less strenuous than the first path.
Whichever path you might choose, the climb might seem like a daunting task at first, but in reality you will find old ladies clad in white saris negotiating the winding path up the mountain, with amazing agility. It is said that this is truly a climb where mind rules over matter. All you need is a positive attitude and the encouragement of your fellow climbers and you are good to go. The heartfelt songs of encouragement and devotional cries that echo along the way truly do inspire and urge you on.The climb which you start at night, depending on your abilities, will take several hours so that you will reach the peak just before dawn. The sight of dawn breaking makes the effort more than worth it. Along with way you will come across resting places, which, if you are not a seasoned hiker will come in very handy and even food stalls selling hot tea and warm <em>rotis</em>, when you travel along the route from Hatton. Those on the Ratnapura route will come across the winding river that separates the mountain and the peak in which some pilgrims do a ceremonial bathing. From here on the climb will consist of about 6000 ancient steps leading up to the mountain peak, which feels like a climb to heaven.
Adam’s Peak is accessible from December till May as it becomes too windy with torrential downpours and thick cloud cover during the rest of the year, making it almost inaccessible and is usually deserted as a result. Today the pathway and steps are lit up with electric lights where there was once lamps, making the climb easier. Also there are convenient railings to help you with your climb. It gets cold on the way so be sure to be well bundled up with warm clothing and a sturdy pair of hiking shoes will stand you in good stead. Judge the time to start your hike but your abilities and if you feel that you will need quite a few breaks then start earlier in the evening. However, if you are a more seasoned hiker then you can afford to start later.At the summit you will reach a small plateau, where there is also a big boulder. It is under this boulder that the sacred Footprint is located. It is believed that the God Sakra covered the footprint which lays upon a blue sapphire with the boulder for protection.
Whether you decide to climb as a pilgrimage or simply because you love the excitement and thrill of a really good mountain trek, Siri Pada will not disappoint. Your sense of achievement and accomplishment will be doubled, tripled, as you gaze upon the sunrise at dawn. Despite the crowds you will feel as though you are alone with nature’s miracles as you watch the sun gently light up the surroundings. Your legs will be sore, your lungs at bursting point but this is an adventure you will not regret and remember forever.