The gorge – Desfiladero de los Gaitanes is placed in the occidental part of the Bétic Mountains. Some of its walls are more than 300 metres high and less than 10 metres wide. It is mostly caved in Jurassic limestone and dolomite, although some of the outcrops in the area are from the Miocene. The most incredible form is the one of the vertical sharp limestone stratification made by the river. In the area of Desfiladero de los Gaitanes, there are about twenty cavities, which can be dozens of metres above the river flow, and whose evolution was affected by a progressive spreading of the Guadalhorce River, which was progressively making some parts of the gorge deeper and deeper.
Among many different units, there are conglomerate and limestone formations, Miocene sediments, which outline beautiful shapes, some whale fossil remains, and ‘taffoni’ sandstone formations as well, which consist of promontories surrounded by sandstone where some caves or shelters were made by erosion.
The path El Caminito del Rey is hanging in the air and it is built on the walls of the gorge – Desfiladero de los Gaitanes. This way, attached to the gorge, is tree kilometres long and less than one metre wide with long sections. It starts in the Town of Ardales, goes through Antequera, and ends in El Chorro (in Álora). It is suspended on the vertical walls of the gorge, hundred metres above the river. The path was built because the Hydroelectric Company El Chorro, owner of Salto del Gaitanejo (Gaitanejo Precipice) and Salto del Chorro (El Chorro Precipice), needed an access way between the two precipices in order to make it easier for the maintenance workers to approach the zone, transport materials and watch the places.
The works were started in 1901 and finished in 1905. The pathway used to start at the Renfe railway and go along the gorge, so it used to connect the both sides and make them approachable. King Alfonso XIII went along the path on his way to Count of Guadalhorce’s reservoir in order to officially open this great building achievement in 1921. This is when people started to call the path ‘The Kings Little Pathway’, and this name was kept up to date.
One of the most famous parts of the pathway is a boardwalk on the gorge – Desfiladero de los Gaitanes. This projecting structure can be easily seen from the railway. Its risky construction, as well as picturesque scenery can be admired from that point. From the road that connects Álora and El Chorro with the entrance to the gorge, a small and beautiful footbridge that connects the boardwalk from one to another side of the wall can be seen. From that point, continues a pathway on a vertical rock that ends at the railway that goes from Córdoba to Málaga.
Damage and Closure
As time went by, above-mentioned unique and important structure has become almost impassable due to the lack of maintenance. Moreover, all along it, the handrails are missing and there are parts of the pavement which are destroyed and worn away so that only the main beam is left. Nevertheless, precisely the hazard and the fact that it is one of the most important climbing areas in Europe made it even more famous. Many hikers go to visit El Chorro precisely because of El Caminito del Rey. This also caused many accidents, some of which were mortal, and created negative picture of it.
In 1999 and 2000, there were many hikers who suffered mortal accidents, so that the Andalusian government decided to close the access to the pathway in order to avoid more casualties. Therefore, they demolished the first section of the way. Today, those who approach the way by jumping over the closed access or climbing the wall or through the tunnels (this way can also be used as the pathway exit although it is highly dangerous), can be fined with the sum of € 6,000.
Málaga County Council started the process of assignment of the whole path restoration works in February 2014.