For Buddhists, the peak is believed to hold the footprint of Gauthama Buddha. For Hindus, the rock formation at the summit holds the footprint of Lord Shiva. Christians believe it is the footprint of St Thomas, the early apostle of India. Muslims believe that the peak is the place where Adam descended on to the Earth after being banished from the heaven – hence, the name Adam’s Peak. Encyclopædia Britannica (1910) notes with reference to the footprint at the summit of the Peak; “…the Portuguese Christians were divided between the conflicting claims of St Thomas and the eunuch of Candace, queen of Ethiopia.” Poetically the peak is also called Samanalakanda, a place where butterflies go to die.
Nearly 2,243 meters in height, this lofty mountain peak has sparked the imagination for centuries and a focus for pilgrimage for more than 1000 years. Adams Peak remains a focal attractions for the diverse communities in Sri Lanka; an embodiment of unity.
Climbing the summit of Adams Peak to watch the sunrise is a story reserved for a different day altogether. Those who have been fortunate to watch the first glint of the sunshine will tell you that it is unlike any other, anywhere on Earth. For some it’s a devotional journey, others it’s a ritual, sometime spiritual and if not those, then it’s a challenge.
Whatever the motivation, climbing the Sri Pada is not an undertaking that anyone takes lightly. Climbers will tell you there are six routes leading to the sacred peak from around the mountain: Hatton-Nallathanni, Ratnapura-Palabaddala, Kuruwita-Erathna, Murraywatte, Mookuwatte and Malimboda.
Of these, the Hatton-Nallathanni route is relatively the easier climb with Ratnapura-Palabaddala closely followed. Kuruwita-Erathna is the third most popular route. It is a rather strenuous route of 12 kilometers and takes about 8-12 hours for the climb, depending on the ability of each climber.
The first landmark encountered along this route is the Warnagala Falls. Although its volume of water has now been reduced as a result of a hydro-power plant upriver, legend says Warnagala Falls was a voluminous in that it used to flow over the expanse of a large rock bed.
Today, this landmark what is prominent is the rock surface that covers an extensive area. Up to this point the trail is rather difficult. There are steps along the way only at the most difficult parts. The scenery is dotted by abandoned lush tea plantation. After reaching Warnagala the vista of greenery that is laid before one’s eyes is enough to dispel any physical exhaustion.
Climbers will then encounter the Seethagangula (The Cold River), after climbing five kilometers of the distance. There is a natural pool of cool water that no visitor can resist taking a plunge. Whether every climber can resist the biting cold of the pool is a different story.
After passing this point, is where the intense part of the climb beings. The trek enters dense wilderness. During the off season, the part of the route is particularly pleasing to the eyes.. The flowers of vibrant colours and butterflies are abundant in this area. At Galwangediya, the route merges with the Rathnapura-Palabathgala trail.
After a brief trek comes the most formidable challenge of the entire journey; Maha Giri Damba. As the name suggests, the ‘Great Rock’ is a steep climb that is not suited for the faint hearted. The point of climbing the Sri pada is to witness the ‘Ira Sevaya;’ the rising sun, according to legends paying homage to the holy peak. On a clear day, in the far away distance, one can faintly discern the skyline of capital Colombo. And that is the true reward of the climb.
The peak pilgrimage season is in April, and the goal is to be on top of the mountain at sunrise, when the distinctive shape of the mountain casts a triangular shadow on the surrounding plain and can be seen to move quickly downward as the sun rises. Climbing at night can be a remarkable experience, with the lights of the path leading up and into the stars overhead. There are rest stops along the way. The mountain is most often scaled from December to May. During other months it is hard to climb the mountain due to very heavy rain, extreme wind, and thick