El Caminito del Rey (VIDEO)

Famed as the "World's Most Dangerous Hike", El Caminito Del Rey (The King's Little Pathway) is a one-meter wide walkway traversing a gorge, over 100 meters above the torrents below - El Chorro, Spain.

Tucked in the outskirts of a quaint town in Southern Spain, El Caminito del Rey, lies nestled in a gorge 100 dizzying meters above a chalky blue river.  The walkway begins with a final partner check before you head out, walking along a narrow ledge, the ground rapidly falling away below you.  The original start to the trail is no longer passable, so to reach the pathway one must take a traversing pitch of climbing across old iron supports utilizing a rope and clipping bolts for protection.

The traverse surpassed, the path heads up a broken corner, which rises upwards enabling you to join the original trail.  Beginning at the corner, there are fixed steel cables, which run the remainder of the pathway enabling via ferrata protection.

The path, constructed between 1901 and1905 is built of arched bricks, held together by cement, and suspended above the gorge resting on a steel framework bored directly into the limestone walls.  The path, a meter wide, traverses the gorge at a height of over 100 meters above the torrents below.   The original path had no handrails, though a few were subsequently added along its length.  Having joined the trail, the path now follows stairs upwards.

The path was built on the order of Spanish King Alfonso XIII.  It was constructed to facilitate workers movement through the canyon, to work on hydroelectric power plants at Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls.  Prior to the paths construction, the workers had to take a time consuming route around the mountains that pinch together and form the gorge.   In 1921, when the King crossed the completed pathway for the inauguration of the Conde del Guadalhorce dam, the trail became forever known as El Caminito del Rey, the King’s little pathway.

Now the pathway is well over 100 years old and is at varying stages of decay.  Several sections have fallen away entirely, leaving behind only the supporting iron bars.   It is important for walkers to maintain space as they travel along the pathway, distributing weight to lessen the likelihood of punching through or a section collapsing.  As the pathway is now well over 100 years old it has fallen into varying stages of decay.  Several sections have crumbled away entirely, leaving behind only the support beams.  In some cases these support beams are only held in place by guy wire.

The pathway eventually stops climbing, reaching a bridge spanning the gorge carrying the channel utilized to generate hydro-electricity.  The channel now leaks; creating a waterfall that mists you as walk by.  The bridge now reached; there is only one way to go, across.  As you unclip the safety wire to traverse out into the void, the wind on the bridge will make you catch your breath.

The story of the pathway is not without tragedy.  Several people have lost their lives on the walkway in recent times and after two fatal accidents in 1999 and 2000 the local government closed both entrances to the pathway.

While formally closed, guides still provide unofficial tours of the pathway which has been featured in National Geographic and climbing magazines.  The regional government of Andalusia and the local government of Málaga have agreed to share the costs of restoring the pathway, to include construction of a car park and museum.  They allocated some 9 million Euros to the project in 2011 but as of 2014 work has not yet started.  Work is currently expected to begin at anytime, the budget now reduced to 3 million euros, with a projected completion date of February 2015.  The restoration work will aim to maintain the pathways original features while keeping as much as possible to the original designs and materials.

Once hydroelectric projects were completed, the path was still used for a period to inspect the water channels, and workers regularly traveled its length to operate a water wheel at its far side regulating channel flow.

As technology and transportation improved, use of the pathway ceased, and it slowly fell into its current state of disrepair.  The pathway would have been totally forgotten if not for its discovery by thrill seekers wishing to experience for themselves the exhilarating heights of this three-kilometer trail, pinned to the walls of the El Chorro gorge.

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Quick Reference Guide

Location: El Chorro, Spain.

Getting There: Fly into Malaga, Spain.  Rent a car and drive to El Chorro, Spain is your first option.  Your second option is to travel by train from Malaga to either El Chorro Train Station on one of the two daily departures or to Alora on one of its hourly departures.  Alora is 12km from El Chorro and you can take a taxi to El Chorro for 20 EUR.

  • Train information: renfe.com
  • Taxi Alora:  +34 952 496 424

Best Time to Hike: Year round, though if combining with a climbing trip Spring and Fall offer the best sending temps.

Gear:

Accommodations:

Emergency Services:

  • Dial ‘112’ for emergency services

Article by

Ilana is a native of Southern California. She is an accomplished rock and ice climber and is the brains behind Thrillseekers Anonymous. Currently residing in Colorado, she is a Registered Surgical/Trauma Nurse, who can be found leading her own adventures on days off. Ilana is a sponsored athlete with GoMacro, WoolX, and an Arcteryx Denver ambassador. She has been featured in various media outlets including the February 2015 issue of ‘Climbing’ magazine, December 2013 issue of ‘Rock and Ice’ magazine, December/January 2013 issue of ‘Gripped Climbing’ magazine, Canyoneering: A Guide to Techniques for Wet and Dry Canyons (How To Climb Series) by Dave Black and Pasadena Magazine as well as a Climbing Expert on MTV’s Parental Control (Season 7 – “Heather”).

Ilana has written 110 articles for Thrillseekers Anonymous.

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