Why you should climb 5,500 steps in the dark

By Sarah Harvey
January 15, 2018, 5:15:18 PM EST

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dark stairs

(Photo/AAron Kroeker)


Your thighs are burning and sweat is glued to the back of your neck, but the icy wind has frozen your fingertips and toes. Then you peer into the darkness and distinguish the shapes of barefoot pilgrims resolutely plodding up the concrete steps behind you. And you realize that if sari-clad grandmas can climb this mountain, then you’ve got this.

The Big Foot The 5’ 11”-long rock indentation on the summit of Adam’s Peak is said to be the super-sized footprint left either by Buddha, Shiva, or Adam. As such, thousands of Sri Lankan pilgrims endeavor to see it once in their lifetime. A large number of these pilgrims choose to make the ascent in the dark. Sure, scaling a mountain at night may sound somewhat nutty, but there are two sensible reasons for it. One is if you set out at 2 a.m., you avoid the daytime sun (the temperature can reach 95°F). The second reason is it ensures you have the best seat in the house to watch the incredible sunrise over Hill Country.

sri lanka 2

(Photo/AAron Kroeker, Karen Knutsen)


They’ve Got Sole There are several routes to choose from, but the most common entry-point is a 7-kilometer route from Dalhousie which takes an average of 3-4 hours each way. While it’s a challenging trail, no technical climbing is involved, just a seemingly-endless number of concrete steps to trudge up. You’ll pass septuagenarians climbing in flip-flops, and even barefoot pilgrims forgoing shoes as a gesture of purity and sacrifice. But sports shoes are fine for tourists.

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