Beautiful, yes… but worth it? Climbing the many, many stairs up Adam’s Peak


Several weeks ago, I climbed over five thousand stairs in the middle of the night.

When I had first heard of the Adam’s Peak climb in Sri Lanka, I was excited. I love hiking!, I (naively) thought and eagerly awaited the time when I, too, could conquer the peak. When I was actually climbing these stairs, however, I wasn’t as excited. In fact, I was downright cranky.

If I’m being honest, I hated about ninety percent of the Adam’s Peak “hike”. You’ll note that I refuse to call it a proper hike because it is literally just stairs. More than five thousand of them. Uneven, concrete stairs. You climb these stairs in the middle of the night. It was splendid.

My roommate Julia and I started climbing at about two in the morning. It was dark and cold and we hadn’t slept since we had taken a bus then a tuk-tuk from our home in Colombo to the town of Hatton and onwards to Dalhousie (oddly pronounced del-house here) all in the same night. Both the bus and the tuk-tuk drove terrifyingly fast along winding, cliff-edged roads. Julia and I thought that the getting-there would be the worst of it that night… But then we started to climb.

Nope, it was climbing that was the worst. The worst of the worst.

Look, I know Adam’s Peak is a beloved trail in Sri Lanka. This is because it boasts gorgeous views from the top and also because it is a religious site of pilgrimage for Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist people in the country… But let’s get one thing straight: it’s a site of pilgrimage because it’s a VERY HARD climb. It’s a good way to show that you’re devoted to your faith because climbing all those steps is awful and everything hurts while you’re doing it.

Now, I’d like to think I’m in pretty good shape but by a third of the way up, I was ready to keel over from exhaustion. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one struggling. Even the huge group of military trainees who (hilariously) wore matching tracksuits and white sneakers were struggling. Heck, ALL of us on that mountain were struggling. (And by “all” I mean everyone EXCEPT for that one small crew of perky middle-aged Europeans that beat most everyone to the top. Great job at making us look like slow pokes, friends!)

All this is to say, I guess it was worth it for the view at the top. My legs shook for the rest of the day and my thighs burned for at least four days after and we didn’t get the most beautiful sunrise because of the clouds… but watching the sky lighten as day broke over the mountains was nonetheless an incrediblly beautiful and moving sight. Even with the spectacular views, the best part of being at the top of Adam’s Peak is knowing that you didn’t have to climb any more of those godforsaken stairs…

Until you realize that the way up is the same as the way down… which means five thousand more stairs in the opposite direction.

And, of course, that group of middle-aged Europeans beat us to the bottom.


Some of the crowd waiting for the temple gates to open at the top of Adam’s Peak (excuse the blurriness… this was taken at 4AM, a charming hour to be awake… UGH)


See those stairs I’m standing on? Imagine 5000 of them! Then imagine climbing them!


Stopped for a photo break about a third of the way down… because even going down hurt our legs at that point!

PS: For the record, I would definitely climb this thing again. The promise of an even more spectacular sunrise might draw me back in… in another few months… because I still haven’t forgotten about the pain!


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