Kirigalpotta : a precarious climb | Sunday Observer

Kirigalpotta : a precarious climb

3 September, 2017

In the wee hours of one morning, last week, my travel companions, Manju, Krish, Danushka, newcomer Nayanjana and I, entered the National Park, Horton Plains, shivering in the cold and soaking wet from the frosty rain. It was not to visit the famous World’s End or Baker’s Fall. Our destination was to reach the 2nd highest mountain in the country - Kirigalpotta. As we got to Horton Plains, the area was covered by a thick fog.

Kirigalpotta summit is situated 252 metres above from the visitors’ centre. The footpath gently ascending the 1.3 km through breathtaking views in the vast valley, reached up to the first landmark, the stream of Belihuloya. After a short break we crossed the stream and took a right turn to reach Agrabopath. The weather was gloomy, and the sun was hidden in the thick cloudy sky. The Maharatmal trees, laden with flowers, stood lonely on the hills, four to five metres from each other. The cold breeze embraced us, and we crossed the muddy area with care, the surface being wet and slippery. Walking through the open plains, we passed through the shrubs, grassland and bamboo bushes to reach the thicket. The small forest is testimony to Horton Plain’s rich bio-diversity. We hopped and crept through fallen tree trunks, continuing our journey. We could hear drops of water fall on the leaves making a ‘tok’,’tok’ sound. The nil mesimara and the mischievous kahakan pihatta, all residents of the forest, flew in all directions, breaking the silence with their shrill singing. Endemic and non- endemic orchids were everywhere.

We met a group of youngsters, four of them, retreating half way through, unable to find the way to the summit. They happily joined us and resumed their journey. At the end of the tree canopy we entered a muddy, open area. We stood spellbound, at the amazing sight unfolding before us, lost in a field of flowers on the plain. Patches of flowers of different shades and hue engulfed us. After hours of hiking we reached the rock surface which is the base of Kirigalpotta. We were confused by the footpaths leading in different directions, and decided to take the left path on the rock surface. From here the path runs through the forest to the mountain top.

We walked in the fog to reach the second observation point. Misty rain still shattered the plain, and the rain drops pricked us like needles. Taking a short break to rest our tired feet, we moved further up. But movement was hampered due to winds of high speed. Slowly, we managed to reach the first view point. To our surprise, nothing could be seen, everything was blanketed by mist, without a mercy. Mount Kirigalpotta had disappeared completely from view. Now the path becomes narrow and dangerous. We had to go through a two-foot wide path and if you were unlucky to miss a step, you would fall 300m steep, on to the right. It was indeed an extremely precarious climb on the narrow rock path with two endless slopes on both sides, amid growing darkness caused by the heavy fog. Mist hindered the progress of two of our companions, but the three of us got through the final obstacle to stand on the top of the second highest mountain in Sri Lanka, which is 2,388 m above sea level.

Alas! our disappointed camera lenses nestled at the bottom of our bags, as we completed our exciting journey. However, it was indeed a most adventurous tour and a rich experience, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

pix: Kumudu Gunasekara and Sidath Danushka