10 Mar 2012

The Road to Hell is Paved with 6500 steps

I was hesitating between that title and "6500 steps into History", but couldn't resist the word play on the name! What name? El Barranco del Infierno, which pretty much translates as "Hell's Ravine"! :D

Yellow=PRCV147, with Ravine in centre
Although we didn't really do "Hell's Ravine" itself (you have to have the necessary equipment + quite a bit of canyoning experience to do that!), we did the PR-CV 147 which basically does a big loop around the part of the ravine know as the Barranco del Infierno. But when you go hiking there you usually call it by that name instead of its code, or its other nickname La Catedral del Senderista ("the Hiker's Cathedral"). With a nickname like that you just know this is going to be one spectacular hike (it's considered one of the "must do" hikes in the Province of Alicante), and it sure as hell didn't disappoint! Of course this means I took waaaaay too many photos... over 300! Which I knocked down to 210 after deleting fuzzies, repeats etc, and I managed to only put up 170 in my FB album, but try as I might I can't seem to bring it down to a reasonable number to properly illustrate the hike blog... so I guess I'll just have to divide this hike in two posts! It's that or not show you any of the almond and cherry blossoms (and goofing around, lol!) I know you're dying to see... :p

So last Sunday (March 4th) we got together in "petit comité", hopped into two cars, and set out to do this gruelling (distance ~15km -9.32mi- with a total climb of  ~750m -2460ft-) but magnificent hike. We totally lucked out with the weather! Sunny and warm (18ºC ~ 64.4ºF), but not hot, with a light breeze from time to time to help cool us off. In fact, we started off from the town of Fleix in t-shirts! (well, some of us did)

Just outside of Fleix we came across their old "lavadero" (village public laundry area). A beautifully conserved structure:

A few metres past the lavadero... and it was time to start tackling those 6500+ steps!

Here's a pretty good view of the whole path down and then up the other side of the ravine:

What's the deal here? Who on earth would go to such great lengths as to design a path in and out of a ravine and actually put in steps?!?!?! 

Well, as usual in Spain, if it wasn't the Romans then it was the Arabs! The people who lived around here about a thousand years ago (during the Arab occupation) did some incredible agricultural engineering by terracing the flanks of these ravines and using the space for agriculture. The path and steps were to facilitate the access to the terraces and the houses on the other side of the ravine. Simply amazing when you stop to think about it!

The path down takes us through a fun "Forat" (a.k.a. a hole in the wall!).

And when you go through it the view framed in the rock is breathtaking!

So in case you haven't noticed, this descent follows along the flanks of a smaller ravine, one of the many that ends up in the principal canyon. Which makes this a very dangerous place when it rains...

It was a much easier trek down than I had anticipated, the path is very comfortable (as long as you watch where you put your feet on those "steps!), and within half an hour we were down among the smooth stones forming the bed of the River Girona... which was bone dry!

you can see the terraces and beginning of the climb on the other side

Smooth stones maybe... but so many of them, big and small, not comfortable to walk on! (blisters guaranteed). But with this curve in the river just ahead of us, tantalising us... and it being the beginning of the hike... why not do a bit of exploring before climbing out? We're told that there's a dam not far down which is an interesting sight... 

So on we go, admiring the canyon walls as they reach up to the skies around us. This region is called "La Vall del Laguar". The name has an Arab origin, and "Al Agwar" apparently means "The Caves". Looking at the walls in these canyons/ravines it's not hard to understand the choice of name...

Aha! The damn should be just up beyond that curve, the narrowest point in the river...

Lol! We had fun with a kind of "hide and seek" in these dry canes! :D

There it is: the Isber Dam!

Apparently a monumental fail in engineering... because as you can see there's no water being retained on this side creating a reservoir! The fellow who designed it failed to take into account the very high porosity of the ground... and all the water just seeps through! (doesn't do much to stop floods down on the coast either)

We found the most random things lying around here... like this washing machine drum!

Did you notice the recent wild boar tracks around it? Didn't see any of those... but we did spot this little critter:

Random junk lying around does have its uses... when you don't have a tripod and want to get a group shot! :p

Walking back along the riverbed to the official path allowed us to admire the canyon from a different perspective, and we had such perfect light that it was truly gorgeous!


Climbing up was definitely harder than down... I huffed and puffed my way up (legs fine, breathing not so much!). 

But fortunately my "breathing" brakes were the perfect excuse to just stop and soak in the views! This one is looking "upriver" from our crossing point, and is the exit of the actual Barranco del Infierno.

Then straight in front of me, our path down from the other side of the ravine...

The climb smoothed out in a little forest up near the top, and soon we were walking by a farmhouse with a well available for hikers. VERY refreshing! :o)

And then fun for the eyes... a little bit further up the road we came upon fields of almond trees! 

Most of them had already more leaves than flowers, but there were enough in bloom to inspire us to just goof off for a bit and have fun with our cameras...

I'm going to stop here for now... If you look back at the map at the beginning of the post we're at the Juvées d'Enmig. I was thinking to myself "gee, that wasn't so bad! Why do people say this is such a tough hike?". I figured there would be some road or path up high to get us back to Fleix... boy was I wrong! I knew about the 6500+ steps... I didn't know it involved going down and up THREE ravines to complete the circle!!! oops!

So tune back in on Monday for part two! Tomorrow I'm going hiking again and will probably be too tired when I get home to work on the blog. ;o)


  1. This was my favorite hike yet! Love the photo of you laying in the flowers. And the picture of Pol with the flowers. What a really cool hike!

    1. Glad you liked it! I'll try to get the equally impressive (I hope) 2nd half up asap. I'm off to hit the trails now! :o)

  2. Yes, I also love the picture of you looking like a red-headed flower yourself. I look forward to the next part, Cris. Good job! :-)

    1. My face makes it an extra red flower! :D

  3. Que alegres son las fotos! I love them! :D


  4. I don't know how you have the energy for so much exercise! It looks amazing though

    1. Juliette, when my alarm clock rings at 7am on a Sunday, sometimes I don't know where I find the energy to do this! :p

  5. Pol looks adorable in the daisies! Beautiful photos as usual...

    1. Pol absolutely loved all the flowers! ;o)


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