The Caminito del Rey is a legendary part of Andlucian history; a pathway built in the gorge at El Chorro 350 feet above the Rio Guadalhorce which still attracts adventurers, adrenaline junkies, hikers and climbers from all over the world; ten years after the first twenty metres of the path was destroyed by the ajuntament (local government).
The Caminito del Rey (which translates to ‘Path of the King’) is an absolute deathtrap as confirmed by the two deaths per year that have occurred since it became a disused transport for workers to move materials in and out of the gorge as part of the hydro station building schemes.
Work commenced on the Caminito del Rey (not its original name) in 1901 and the path was built by skilled ropes-men (much like today’s oil rig workers and maintenance people) who were suspended from the cliff face while fixing triangular frames into the rock that would support the metre wide concrete path.
In its day it was a magnificent feat that allowed materials to be moved much more easily between the hidden valley within the gorge and the hydro station at its mouth.
Construction was completed in 1905 and around that time, having heard about the views and excitement of the gorge, as well as wanting to spend time in the mountains to help overcome his breathing problems, King Alfonso XIII wanted to walk the path. It was named ‘Path of the King’ to honour him.
Today it lies in utter ruin with gaping holes in the single brick thick walkway and large chunks of it have collapsed altogether. That doesn’t deter the many visitors a year who wish to chance their luck in the gorge where death is an ever present threat, waiting for a wrong footed move or a strong wind at the wrong moment.
A plaque is fixed to the wall on the other side of the old bridge and it is dedicated to three climbers who went over the edge together and lost their lives. It’s a sobering reminder of just how fragile the line between life and death really is in a place of such majesty, beauty and absolute danger.
Many climbers who have completed the walk have found themselves confronted by local police at the end who have quickly slapped a fine on them. The walk was closed to the public for their own safety and the ajuntament fiercely uphold the laws they have put in place.
That said, there is a glut of videos and blogs about the gorge and Caminito del Rey to be found on the internet and they all say much the same thing; this place is well worth the risk.
Without proper climbing equipment you should not consider entering the walkway and at the very least you should have a ‘cowtail’ (a short rope that fastens to a safety line fixed into the rock – I had neither) otherwise you’ll stand a much higher chance of joining those who never left the gorge. There is a climbing shop in El Chorro but there is still the risk of fines or death.
A 50 million euro scheme was arranged to restore the pathway but when Spain hit financial difficulties the plans were shelved so for now it remains a well guarded heritage site.
Some things are there to be revered and the Caminito del Rey is one of them. Enter at your own peril.
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