Nothing quite compares to conquering a mountain in darkness and watching dawn arrive at the summit.
Adam’s Peak is the tallest point in Sri Lanka, making it a challenging hike – especially as you tackle it in pitch blackness. It was a magical experience and although fog marred the views at the top, the clouds parted halfway down and we were rewarded with spectacular landscapes, illuminated by the early morning sun.
The mountain is named after the footprint at the top, which is said to be the place Adam first set foot on earth (amongst other theories). Either way, it’s an magnificent mountain surrounded by heavenly Sri Lankan countryside.
Our alarm clock abruptly broke the silent night at the unsightly time of 2am. Blurry eyed we tied our shoes, put on warm layers and embraced the dark night.
Admittedly, it wasn’t too difficult getting out of bed, as everything in the room was damp due to the moisture in the air. So not only was it a short sleep, but also very unpleasant!
Our guide met us outside on the deserted street and led the way up the quiet village of Nallathanniya to the start of the trail.
We visited in the off-season meaning the chances of a good sunrise were lower and the path was also poorly lit, but it also meant it was less crowded.
Shortly after starting, a bright fluorescent light led us towards a monastery. Inside, monks tied on a white bracelet to all those climbing and blessed you with a prayer.
The path beyond went continuously uphill, disappearing into blackness. The start of the walk was fairly easygoing, despite overwhelming tiredness and not being able to see further than the torch’s beam.
Our first rest stop was at a small metal shack. The owner had on a Buddhist television station and half asleep, we listened to prayers in strange tongues.
With monks voices still ringing in our ears, we continued. The relatively steep path made way for even steeper, uneven steps. Varying in height and width, you constantly had to watch your step. They continued all the way to the top, making progress very slow.
After 3 hours of continual uphill walking, we reached the summit. I practically ran up the last few steps, reaching the top exhausted and jubilant.
Sat comforting a cup of black tea, we awaited daybreak. Spirits were high, as we anticipated a magical sunrise.
As dawn broke, it revealed a sea of fog hugging the mountain, obstructing the views below. Dejected, we patiently waited 30 minutes for them to clear, but to no avail.
To make matters worse, the temple at the top was also closed (it’s only open January to April). So unfortunately we missed seeing the famous footprint as well!
Clouds Begin to Part
The clouds were thinning with every step of the descent. Around halfway down, the fog began to blow quickly off the mountain, revealing jagged rock faces and cascading waterfalls.
These moments watching the fog continually plunge the cliffs in and out of view, made the 2am start and the 3 hour dark uphill climb more than worthwhile. The early morning sun cast everything in a magical radiant light and Mother Nature put on a spectacular show.
A lake down in the valley glistened brightly, guiding us back to the village. Weary legs were forgotten as we drank in the beauty which surrounded us.
Although it was disappointing not being able to see the famous views from the summit, it was an unforgettable and remarkable experience.
I would definitely return and maybe next time, I’ll be more fortunate.
Advice for Climbing in the Off-Season
- Take a guide – although the way is fairly obvious, it allows you to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. It’s also great for setting the pace, so you know how quick to go and when you can afford to stop.
- Pack warm clothes – the top gets very cold as you stand around for sunrise, so you’ll need a few extra layers.
- Take a torch – we used ours the whole way up, as there’s no lights on the route in the off-season.
- Plan a few days – if you’re determined to see a good sunrise, more time will definitely improve your chances.