El Camino del Rey
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El Camino del Rey

A Dangerous Hiking Trail:  El Camino del Rey Walkway

El Camino del Rey is the name of a very dangerous walkway that winds its way along the steep walls of a narrow gorge known as El Chorro.  The bridge in the picture on the right is part of El Camino del Rey. 

The El Chorro gorge is located in Spain near Alora, a village close to Malaga.  As you can see from the map, El Chorro is very close to the Mediterranean Sea. 


According to Wikipedia, El Chorro is a limestone gorge in Andalusia (a province in southern Spain), through which passes the Guadalhorce River.  This river was dammed in 1921, forming three reservoirs which are flanked by thick pine forests.  Rivers, lakes, canyons, and trees are the trademark of the Makinodromo, an area renowned as being one of the best rock climbing areas in Europe, but is also very popular for mountain biking, hiking, and camping.

The El Chorro gorge
sits next to the 700m high Desfiladero de los Gaitanes Pass (see picture. If you look closely, you will see the walkway on the side of the mountain). 

This pass
is famous for a very dangerous path called El Caminito del Rey (The King's little path).  The path was constructed back in 1901.  It got its name because the path was officially opened by Alfonso XIII of Spain.

People have traversed the path for many years now, but the path has fallen into serious disrepair.  Official access to the path was removed in 2000 after a tourist died trying to cross it. 

However that doesn't seem to have stopped many people.  El Camino del Rey remains a popular climb even today thanks to a very unusual Internet video.

Here is a passage that describes Camino Del Rey:

El Chorro is one of the strangest places that I have ever climbed. The Camino del Rey is a walkway constructed on the gorge wall.  It travels the full length of the gorge and sits a hundred meters above the canyon base is an unusual feature. Walking out on this 80 year-old suspended sidewalk had me shaking in fear from the sudden exposure.

The walkway is no longer in the best shape, with sections of concrete broken away. Even though parts of the walkway have fallen, walking the full length is still possible. It is said that the walkway was built so that the King could observe the engineering work taking place in the gorge. Instead of Royalty, the walkway now carries climbers to their chosen climb. Climbs are positioned above and below the walkway.

Access to other climbs can be attained by walking through the train tunnels and following the train tracks, preferably between trains.

Rick Archer's Note: As you can see from the picture on the left, El Caminito del Rey (El Camino del Rey for short) is a frightening mountain walkway indeed!

The El Camino del Rey walkway was built in 1901This narrow, gut-wrenching path is only 3 feet wide!  The path is held to the mountainside by pins driven into the stone. If you fall, it is nearly 700 feet the river below.  How would you like to trust the building technology of a century ago? 

It was built to allow local workers the ability cross between two nearby waterfalls, Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls.  It served as a shortcut so the workers would not have to climb down the mountain on one side and climb back up on the other.  Now a century later, the walkway has fallen into a state of serious disrepairMany parts of the walkway have completely collapsed, leaving nothing but a metal beam and a wire between you and 700 feet of nothing.  As you walk the narrow path, whatever you do, don't look down!

The danger doesn't seem to stop people from climbing it.  This
walkway serves as time-saving approach to Makinodromo, the name of a famous climbing sector of El Chorro.  Since the walkway is just as much a shortcut today as it was one hundred years ago, people risk their lives on a daily basis despite its illegal status.

Several years ago El Camino del Rey became famous thanks to an amazing 6-minute video.  Although I was unable to learn who actually filmed it, I watched the incredible footage with my mouth wide open.  The video is so riveting you feel like you are the one risking your life (the horror movie Cloverfield was filmed in a very similar style).  Some intrepid climber videotaped the entire route himself.  He shot footage with one hand while barely keeping his balance with the other hand.  Watching the gaps in the path plus all the
insane people he had to pass along the way made me queasy.  I could barely stand it! I was convinced he would fall at any minute.    I actually developed a bad case of vertigo even though I was sitting in complete safety at my computer screen. 

Thanks to this infamous video, El Camino del Rey has acquired a bizarre status. Today El Camino del Rey serves as
a death-dying climbing dare for adventurous people


Rick Archer's Note:  Now you need to go watch this incredible famous video.  The El Camino del Rey video is posted in many places on the Internet.  For your convenience, I have listed two places to view the video.  Take your pick; it's the same video. 
If one of the links stops working, please let me know and I will find a new one.

From: Götz Gressnich
Sent: Sunday, August 16, 2009 11:19 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Camino des Rey video

Hi Rick,

Since you asked people to report, I wanted to let you know that both video links you provided in your Camino del Rey article are dead. The first one apparently lead to Brightcove.TV which went off the air, and the second took me to an article on planetmountain.com which contains an embedded YouTube video that has been taken offline for copyright violations.

Keep up the good work =)

 

Rick Archer's Note: As of August 17, 2009, I put in two new links.  Please let me know if they stop working  ( dance@ssqq.com )

 

Video One: El Camino del Rey

Video Two: El Camino del Rey


Another link to El Camino

From: J H
Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2009 4:36 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: el caminito del rey

if you go to youtube and type in "el caminito del rey original version" you will see the 9.35 minute version. there is a girl climbing who also appears to be on the shortened version so it appears that this is an accurate discription of this tape. hope you will find this useful. it also has the opening sequence of the music.  regards john
 

Response to Letter Twenty Six:  Regarding Angel's Landing in Zion and El Camino del Rey

-----Original Message-----
From: Sarah Brown
Sent: Friday, November 26, 2010 4:22 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Angels Landing in Zion and El Camino Del Rey

Hi there. My name is Sarah, and I am from Cambridge in the UK and rock climbing is a hobby of mine. I'm writing this from a B&B in El Chorro, Spain, however, where I have just completed one of my life's ambitions - both yesterday and today I traversed El Camino Del Rey, which was amazing fun.

I guess I want to say a a few things about it. The first is that it's a type of trail known as a via ferrata. Via ferratas are "equipped paths", originally invented in Italy for alpine troops to move around the mountains in WW1. They still have a lot of them and they are a popular tourist attraction. I did some in the Italian dolomites in August this year. A basic via ferrata consists of a steel cable which to follow. Wearing a climbing harness, you use something called a Via Ferrata kit attached to your harness which consists of two lanyards with carabiners at the ends as well as a shock absorber, to break your fall should you lose your grip. The idea behind having two lanyards is that each time you pass an anchor point, you unclip one, clip it to the other side, and then follow with the second. That way you are always attached to the cable.

In addition, a via ferrata will often have ladders, stemples, pegs etc. drilled into the rock to help you along.

El Camino Del Rey is equipped as a Via Ferrata - most of it is protected by stemples or a steel cable, and by via ferrata standards it's actually really easy. Anyone with climbing skills would consider it a walk in the park. Without climbing skills you would want a guide, but you will need a head for heights - it's really exposed, and the bits where the concrete has fallen away are kinda spicy. They make great spots for photos to terrify your friends with though!

The cable is also a lot thinner than a typical Via Ferrata cable. I wouldn't like to rely on it to hold me in a fall, but it probably would. I honestly think the Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites are scarier and tougher than El Camino, although perhaps not as famous nor as unique! The thing is, I've seen people take kids on some of those!

Anyway, I noticed on your site that you asked about Angels' Landing in Zion, and that's why I have decided to write to you. I go to Zion most years, to descend the canyons there. It's a lot of fun. No trip to Zion is complete without doing the Angels' Landing hike though, and I have been up there several times.

The hike itself is quite short - 2 1/2 miles in each direction (it's an out and back hike), and starts from the valley floor on a mostly paved trail, ascending over a thousand feet up a series of switchbacks to a junction called Scouts Lookout. Left is the west rim trail, which eventually leads out of the park. Right is the half mile ridge hike to Angels' Landing itself.

Angels' Landing is a 1500 feet high promontory sticking out into Zion Canyon. In places the walls on either side are sheer all the way down and the path is only a few feet wide. There are chains to hold on to in the more exposed bits. It's a very popular hike and lots of people attempt it, and scare themselves silly! Most I would say reach the top. While a few people have died falling from there, if you take care and pay attention to the weather, I really don't think it's dangerous.

Certainly unlike El Camino Del Rey, you don't need climbing experience to hike to Angels' Landing - its not technical in any way, it's just a hike with some very long drop offs! Still, if you search the web there are plenty of dramatic photos of it up there. It has to be one of the coolest walks in the world though, and rightly deserves a mention on your site. The view from the top is incomparably stunning, and if you find yourself passing through Southern Utah on I15 with a day to spare, do take a diversion and check it out - I promise it's worth it!

In a nutshell, I think Angels' Landing is probably one of the more extreme things you can do as a hiker. El Camino Del Rey is a not-especially extreme thing to do as a climber, but it is interesting and fun! As a climber I felt pretty safe up there, but without proper equipment and technique it would be very easy to die.

Meanwhile I have to work out what's next on my list after crossing off El Camino Del Rey. That's the problem with life goals, isn't it? What to do when you've accomplished them!

Let me know if you'd like photographs of either - I'm sure I could dig some out for you.

Kindest regards,

Sarah

 

 

From: Mike M
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2011 2:26 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: El Camino Del Rey

Hi Rick,

Just found your site on google, I hiked El Camino Del Rey a year or two ago, and just found out its going to be fixed. . Thought it might be of interest to you since I saw this article. Have a good day!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

From the Cheap Route
El Caminito Del Rey To Be Restored

€9 million over 4 years to fund the restoration

The announced restoration of the landmark El Caminito Del Rey was decided yesterday, with one of its major obstacles being the funding. The full council of Malaga approved a multi-year economic plan to fund the works between 2011 and 2015. The investment amounts to 9,076,880 euros, which will be contributed equally by the provincial body and the Junta de Andalucia at a rate of 907,688.05 per year for each institution.

“The board has already prepared the decree and we are committed to signing it on June 17, following the local elections,” the president of the council Salvador Banner announced yesterday, adding that, once the agreement is signed, it will bring the contract for execution of work very near.

Thus, it seems that the landscape is cleared for the execution of the works presented by the project commissioned by the council and presented last December. The study, prepared by the engineering firm specializing 75, presents a complete rehabilitation of the bridge built in the 1920's to gain access to the dam of El Chorro, between the towns of Ardales and Alora.

“This is a very important project for recovery of historical heritage and also fuels the most important economic activity: tourism,” said Salvador Banner.

On the other hand, the council said that a second phase is to build a visitor reception center and small museum of hydroelectric power in the region. The institution said that it also maintains conversations with ADIF (Railway Infrastructure Manager) for the train to go directly to El Chorro and rehabilitate the halt of Coscojales.

 
 

A Note from Mike one year later

From: Mike  (email: mike@thecheaproute.com )

Sent: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 2:04 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: El Camino Del Rey Part 2

Hi Rick,

This is Mike from www.TheCheapRoute.com

I emailed you a while back to let you know about the upcoming restoration of El Camino.  I have some more info on the path, actually a couple things.

First, as a fun thing, I posted a clip from the 1965 film Von Ryan’s Express which features the walkway: Caminito Del Rey Von Ryans Express Video

And second, which is more exciting, is the fact that the walkway we all know and love, is actually only half of it!  The path actually starts up again and goes twice as far, which I never knew, and don’t think most people do.  I just posted a detailed article on it including photos here: El Camino Del Rey Second Half

Hope this message finds you well!

Thanks, Mike

 


Directions to
El Caminito

From: Richard
Sent: Monday, July 11, 2011 12:21 PM
To: 'Rick Archer';
Subject: directions to El Camino Del Ray

To get to El Caminito, catch the train to a town called Alora.

Alora is about 12 or 13 km away from El Choro, which is your final destination. There is a train station in El Choro, you can try and catch a train directly there, but the trains do not run often. From Alora take a taxi, I believe there is only 1 taxi, the driver's name is Antonio, and if you ask at the local bar outside the Alora train station they'll call for you. About 20€ for the ride, which is likely too much, is expected or whatever you can negotiate.

Antonio will drop you in El Choro at a market which has a flyer for the local climbing shop which is just down the road. Arrange a rough time for Antonio to come pick you up, allow plenty of time to catch your train as he'll probably have to drive from Alora to come get you. Head down the road, it's pretty obvious which direction you need to go to find the trail, and you'll find the climb shop to your right.

If you already have a harness, the straps, and carabiners, you can skip this part, or go in and ask any questions you may have. If you plan on renting your harness, be aware that they only have 2 for rent, and they may already be rented.

You may have to buy your harness, it cost about 65 euros. The shop is run by a German guy who can answer questions. I'm not a climber so I need all the info I can get.

DO GET A HARNESS as no matter how confident you are in your abilities, the path is old and falling apart, and you don't want to be the sucker who makes the next section crumble. Even the cables you latch into are questionable, so don't fall.

Now that you have your harness, continue walking up the path with the river on your left, its about 15-25 minutes to get to the trail head. You'll start to see things you recognize, then you'll catch your first glimpse of the bridge and El Camino Del Rey high up on the cliff.

 
   
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