lovely at the top
The ordinary man looking at a mountain is like
an illiterate person confronted with a Greek manuscript."
To me, these words by Alister Crowley, certainly do make sense now.
Being a first-timer climbing Adam's Peak, just looking up at this
majestic mountain while still at the foot of it, I admit I did feel
quite helpless. It's amazing how small man can feel next to such
magnificent creations of nature.
To those of
you accustomed to more moderate mountains and climbs such as Sigiriya
and Mihintale, take it from me, you need to be properly prepared
for this challenge. Considering that Adam's Peak is indeed, the
second tallest mountain in Sri Lanka, you really shouldn't be surprised
at its magnitude.
Of the many
routes to get to the location, the Hatton road is the most regularly
used. We too chose this route and accompanied by two cousins and
an aunt and uncle, I began to enjoy the scenery around me as we
slowly entered the cooler climes of Sri Lanka. As we proceeded,
views of the Wimalasurendra power station and the Castlereigh and
Moussakelle reservoirs welcomed us. Looking at these picturesque
waters, we couldn't help but marvel at the wonders of man.
our agenda, we were to stay at a small bungalow in Maskeliya. We
were to rest for a couple of hours and then start our journey up
Sri Pada around 10.30 p.m., keeping to the normal routine of beginning
the climb in the night, in order to reach the Peak at about 7.00
a.m. We would then be able to witness the much talked about sunrise,
which was a 'must-see' for those climbing Adam's Peak; almost as
important for some, as worshipping the sacred foot print was for
sure that we had all the necessary requirements, we finally left
the bungalow and reached Nallathanni (the last town before our gruelling
challenge), by about 11.30 p.m. But alas, it started drizzling and
this literally 'dampened' our mood since we knew for sure that bad
weather meant that the already tough climb was going to be much
tougher. Believe me, when you are wearing almost four layers of
clothing, a raincoat and headgear that makes you look like something
out of a science fiction movie, having a heavy drizzle accompany
you while you have to climb up a mountain for almost seven miles,
The climb up
Adam's Peak has its very own vocabulary, traditions and beliefs.
You must never state the fact that you might not be able to make
it to the top. If such pessimism is voiced, you are told by the
more experienced folk, that you will surely find yourself unable
to move your legs, and can consider yourself punished by the numerous
Gods said to be residing at the top of Adam's Peak. As for the unique
vocabulary; first timers are referred to as kodu karayo and are
given very specific advice regarding certain things. More or less
a Buddhist tradition, all first timers are told to take a pure white
piece of cloth to place on the sacred footprint, before worshipping
it. I too was given strict instructions from back home, and dared
not question them so the piece of white cloth was carried up with
If you are
climbing the Peak in a group, you are referred to as a nade and
there are specific verses sung by the nades that are simultaneously
crossing each other at a particular moment. While climbing up, you
are sometimes greeted with cheerful smiles and encouraging words
from people climbing down, and this gives you the much needed support
to keep going. But there are also those mean ones climbing down,
who are bent on making you feel like the most unfit individual on
earth. They have an air around them that pronounces the fact that
'they've been there and done that' and you haven't and probably
never will. They go to such great extents to make you feel that
way, that they even reword age-old phrases to suit the group climbing
up, in one instance referring to our group as 'battery bahapu nade!'
The steps are
lined with little shops that are filled to the brim with all manner
of imaginable things. They brighten the way and also give you that
much needed bit of rest at regular intervals. With the width of
the steps leading up to the Peak ranging from about 5 inches to
almost one and half feet, you need all the rest you can get. Especially
when you suddenly spot a faint light up in the sky and try as hard
as you can to convince yourself that that is Not the Peak. The feeling
of helplessness that I felt when I was told that the faint light
I could see was indeed the Peak, was just indescribable.
Along the way,
we came across several locations that are referred to by various
names, most of them deriving from a folk story. Starting with Makara
Thorana, we then came across Seetha Gangula, Gangule Thanna, Indikatu
Pahana and Golu Thanna. The Peak is called Maluwa, while the surroundings
are quite appropriately referred to as Ahas Gauwa (sky line), since
this area is almost in the sky.
Pahana, there is yet another requirement to be filled in by first-timers.
I too purchased the packet that had the needful to perform the ritual.
You are expected to entangle a needle and one end of a thread on
an already existing mass of thread that resembles a gigantic cobweb,
and then drag the other end up a few steps and hang it on a particular
iron pole. The sad part was that almost all the visitors just dropped
the empty polythene packet that contained the items onto the ground,
creating a huge garbage dump.
With the drizzle
constant, and since our pace was extremely slow, our nade's hopes
of witnessing the sunrise were slowly diminishing. Our worst fears
were confirmed by the people climbing down who told us that though
they got to the Peak on time, they had not witnessed that exceptional
sight due to the bad weather.
When we finally
reached the only part of the climb that had railings, we were sure
that this final lap would be a breeze. We were mistaken. Though
hard to believe, holding on to a railing while climbing, was much
tougher than climbing without support. What kept me going was the
faint sound of a loudspeaker, that made me feel that we were now
finally close to humans whose feet were touching a horizontal ground
area, and who were not climbing up or down a mountain.
By now, having
climbed 7360 feet for almost nine hours, we were hungry, tired,
cold yet hot and perspiring, and all we wanted to do was to sit
down somewhere. Placing my foot on the final landing of Adam's Peak
and looking back over my shoulder, I admit I did feel quite gratified
about the feat that I had just accomplished. But of course I was
promptly reminded that I was here for a religious purpose and so,
very reluctantly took my socks and shoes off and almost froze then
and there in the 3-degree temperature. Basically not feeling my
feet as I stepped on the icy cold cement floor, I tried to ignore
the freezing air. Obediently, my cousins and I, all first-timers,
laid out the white cloth on the sacred footprint of Lord Buddha
(according to our faith) and worshipped it. Once all the formalities
were done, we realised that the sun was shining brightly, and the
atmosphere was now very pleasant and comfortable .
us we had absolutely no reason to hurry back down, so we spent almost
two relaxed hours on the Peak, taking in the beauty of Sri Lanka.
I felt as though I was touching the sky as clouds passed by below
us, and marvelled at the many miles that had brought me to this
magnificent and sacred mountain. This was a moment when I truly
felt thankful I was alive.
was not as bad as I expected it to be, and though we took almost
nine hours to do it, it was quite enjoyable, as now roles had been
swapped and we were the ones who had 'been there and done that'.
We chose random people and smiled encouragingly at some, while being
mean to others for no valid reason. Believe me, climbing thousands
and thousands of steps in the middle of the night, makes you do
All in all,
climbing Adam's Peak was an extremely fulfilling experience. It
is one of those feats that you just cannot comprehend until you
have really done it. It might have left me feeling that my legs
didn't belong to me anymore, made me run away from the sight of
a stairway for the next two weeks and left me immobile for a number
of days, but if I had the chance to do it again, I would. Especially
to see an incredible ball of fire leaping out of the horizon and
making that phenomenal entrance to announce that yet another new
day has dawned.
a pilgrimage, not a joyride"
to Ven. Dharmapala Seelananda, trustee of Sri Pada, the facilities
available at the top are quite adequate for devotees. "The
regular season begins on Unduvap Poya Day, in December and ends
somewhere in April/May. The people who climb Sri Pada need to be
responsible for their actions and remember that first and foremost
it is a pilgrimage and not a joyride. It's the same when it comes
to garbage as well. Garbage bins have been placed at regular intervals,
but we still see people just throwing things to the ground. It's
this don't care attitude that they have to get rid of," the
Ven. Thero says.
Jagath de Silva is the postman for the area and has been climbing
Adam's Peak almost every day for the last six years. "I was
working in a completely different field in Kuda Maskeliya, but was
assigned this job back in 1999 and have stuck with it ever since.
The climb up takes me one hour and fifteen minutes and though I
could climb down much faster, I take about two and half hours, in
order to save energy for the next day."
safe is the climb up Adam's Peak?
of us, especially first-timers, worry about the risks involved in
the climb. Fear not, as the steps are quite wide, and there is absolutely
no way of you 'falling off the cliff'. But it must be mentioned
that the first aid facilities available aren't adequate. Apart from
the one extremely efficient first aid station situated about quarter
of the way up and managed by Siddalepa, climbers are left in quite
a helpless situation if an emergency were to occur. We witnessed
one such incident where an elderly man slipped on the wet steps
and fell. It was quite sad to see him have to walk a long distance
helped by his family, to receive any aid.
Also, if the
weather does not hold and even a slight drizzle occurs, the first
part of the climb, though on almost flat land, is extremely slippery.
The fee levied for vehicle tax at the base of Adam's Peak should
be utilised to provide better facilities for pilgrims.
Eat a hearty, but not heavy, meal and sleep a while before starting
2. A method to make the climb easier is to go up (or down) the steps
side ways, walking across the steps following an alternative diagonal
3. Don't climb
up too fast, or you just might run out on all the energy that you
need to come down.
4. Get ample
rest while you are at the top before you start climbing down.
5. Finally, be extra careful that you don't fall backwards during
the climb down, due to the unsteadiness in your knee joints.