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El Camino del Rey - Guided Via Ferrata in El Chorro

 

El Torcal Via Ferrata

Via Ferrata at El Torcal

Torcal

Climbing at Torcal

Via Ferrata Summit

El Torcal Summit

Memomorial on Camino del Rey

Memorial on Camino del Rey

 

 

 

El Caminto del Rey

Lower Gorge of Camino del Rey

El Camino del Rey (Path of the King) is the most well known gorge walk in southern Spain and has made El Chorro a popular destination for adventurers wanting to traverse the narrow walkway that clings to the cliffs high above the white waters of the Rio Guadalhorce gorge.

You can now book your own tour on

www.caminitodelrey.com

The Camino del Rey is still very exposed and dramatic but not technically difficult and only a normal fitness level is required.

 

 

A bit of history...

Up until the ealy 1980's it was relatively straightforward for climbers to walk along the brick and concrete walkway in order to climb the walls of the gorge - exposed and exhilerating, but not technically hard.

The next few years saw time catch up with the Camino del Rey as several rockfalls took away sections of the walkway to create large gaps that were difficult and dangerous to cross without safety equipment.

The reputation of the Camino del Rey as the 'most dangerous walkway in the world' grew as there were a couple of accidents involving non-climbers trying to traverse the now damaged walkway. That reputation was cemented in place when a further accident led the authorities restrict access to only climbers or those with climbing equipment by removing several meters of the walkway at the start and the finish.

This meant that to get onto El Camino del Rey you either had to abseil in at the top end near the Embalses or do a combined via ferrata traverse/scramble at the lower El Chorro end.

In order to continue climbing safely in the gorge climbers had equipped all of the exposed sections with steel cable that runs horizontally along the cliff walls parallel to the walkway and is secured to the walls with bolted anchors. This way you could stay clipped to a lifeline all the way along the walkway.

 

 

The Camino del Rey has been reconstructed and it is currently very safe to walk. It comprises 3 separate sections:

1.the upper gorge -close to Ardales end-starts in dramatic manner and very soon you start feeling the exposure. The rock structure is very impressive and varied here with narrow water channels and stairs seen underneath the new path. The gorge soon closes in with large walls looming on both sides.

2. the central meadow is an oasis of calm after the confines of the gorge and we often stop here for a bite to eat. This meadow was used as a massive free campsite by climbers in the early 1980s and it is easy to see the attraction.

3. the gorge at the El Chorro end is probably the most dramatic part of the Camino del Rey with with massive vertical walls on either side - the feeling of exposure is really felt when you look down a 100m drop to the river. The rock architecture here is fantastic and remains really impressive all the way until you reach El Chorro village itself.

 

 

 

Logistics

The Camino del Rey is currently One Way and can only be started from the Embalses


View El Camino del Rey meeting points at El Chorro and the Embalses in a larger map

The map above shows the two common meeting places:

- El Chorro Train Station (Lat Long 36.911024,-4.768152)

El Kiosco Cafe at the Embalses (Lat Long 36.928728,-4.781241)

You can expand the map into Google Maps to get accurate directions from your departure point

 

 

Holes in El Camino del Rey

A bit more history

The Camino del Rey was originally built so that workers on the hydroelectric project had direct access to the reservoirs at the top and bottom of the gorge that supplied the water that powered the generators.

The Caminito del Rey was started in 1901 and finished 4 years later in 1905. It is a remarkable piece of construction and it is even more remarkable that it has lasted so long - the construction seems so crude by modern standards. It is interesting to look underneath the walkway if you get a chance - it is guaranteed you will be trying to walk more lightly during the remainder of the trip.

In 1921 the King of Spain walked along the pathway at the opening of the dam and the walkway gained the name El Caminito del Rey (Little Path of the King), although this is now normally shortened to El Camino del Rey (Path of the King).

The walkway led a fairly quiet life until Hollywood visited in 1964 to film Von Ryan's Express - the final chase was filmed in the gorge and it is fairly safe to say that the various explosions and crashing planes did not help the general condition of the walkway.

Climbers then discovered El Chorro in the late 1970s and they used the walkway to explore the walls of the gorge - it was common at the time to abseil from the railings to reach the routes that started by the river. The walkway was still in reasonable condition at the time and climbers would happily walk along it without any additional safety measures - however over the next 15 years it deteriorated really quickly and large gaps started opening up.

It was still common for non-climbers to walk across and the inevitable accidents occurred.

A bad accident in August 2000 led the authorities to take measures to stop non-climbers from accessing the walkway - removing 15m sections at both ends and adding a large gate to the start.

 

 

Camino walkway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         
         
     

 

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