12 February 2017

Caminito del Rey: The Most Dangerous Pathway in the World?

At first glance many might think I might like to have a go at doing that.  Then you look down. For most people, might like quickly turns in to would never, ever in a million years.  Welcome to Spain's Caminito del Rey, quite possibly the most dangerous pathway in the world.

There are some places in this world to which even the locals say you would be mad to venture.  Sometimes this can be dismissed as exaggeration or hyperbole designed to encourage the traveler to go and take a look.  In this case they are absolutely, one hundred percent correct.  Travel along the Caminito del Rey and you really would put your life in peril.  Don’t look down, now…

Look to the top left of this photograph and you can see two hardy souls - their presence on the pathway gives you an idea of the heights involved.  The Guadalhorce River in Adalusia, Spain is home to El Chorro.  This is a limestone gorge which, in 1921, was damned to form three reservoirs. 

Image Credit Flickr User Kozzmen
Image Credit Flickr User Kozzmen
The pass through is known as Desfiladero de los Gaitanes which climbs to seven hundred meters in height.  To cross it – if one is foolhardy enough, the Caminato del Rey – or in English the King’s Little Pathway may offer a route.  Unless of course, you plummet to your death as one unfortunate tourist did in 2000 prompting the local authorities to close the walkway.  A further four died in the two years preceding that.  Its reputation (or closure) has not hindered the more adventurous – or foolhardy – visitor, however.

Vuelta a casa,ultima viga.
There are always more adventurous tourists to whom Caminito del Rey is a challenge to be relished rather than their own worst nightmare.  With some knowledge of climbing it is still possible to access the Caminato del Rey and many do each year. 

Image Credit Flickr User Kozzmen
The local council is trying to secure government funding to recreate the path to its original 1921 form but there is no work expected till at least 2014.  Until then the pathway remains difficult to get to but still accessible.  How, though, did it get to be built, as high and remote as it is, in the first place?

El Chorro 03-04-2010 12-12-48
Image Credit Flickr User Magro kr
It all goes back to the beginning of the last century.  There were hydroelectric power plants built at the nearby Gaitanejo and Chorro Falls.  Much like the bridge over the Hoover Dam in the USA a way had to be found to connect the two in order to ensure that the carriage of materials would not take days.  It was also deemed necessary for the regular inspection of the channel and so the decision was made to construct a walkway.  It took a while – four years – to build and it was completed to much acclaim and celebration in 1905.

Image Credit Flickr User Kozzmen
Image Credit Flickr user Kozzmen
It got its name in 1921.  The then King of Spain, Alfonso XIII, traversed the walkway to open the Conde del Guadalhorve Dam.  In an ancient European tradition the walkway was thereafter named after the monarch and became the King’s Little Pathway.  When technology and transport improved years later, the pathway became redundant and fell in to disrepair.  That may have been the end of the story had it not been the replacement of workers with tourists, eager to experience for themselves the dizzying narrowness of the pathway, not to mention to superb views it offers.

Image Credit Flickr User Kozzmen
Caminito del Rey
Caminito del Rey
Until it is restored then the walkway continues to deteriorate and it is now considered highly dangerous.  It is only a single meter in width and is over three hundred meters above the river below at its highest.  There is virtually no handrail remaining and parts of the walkway have collapsed.  What still remains, though, between the parts still extant, are the original steel connectors.  These it seems are a particular challenge to climbers who choose to go to the Caminito del Rey.

Caminito del Rey
Camino Del Rey 2010
El Caminito del Rey
A climbing latch may be used to use the safety rope which has been placed there.  So, if the climber slips, it would hopefully avoid a rapid descent to the river below but it can obviously not hold too much weight.  You have to be a very adventurous kind of tourist (or one suspects, simply completely bonkers) to venture along the Caminito del Rey nowaday: yet still they come.

Image Credit Flickr User Gabirulu
First Image Credit Flickr User Sam Dredge