Image: Carlo Bezoari
This perilous-looking via ferrata bridge in the Dolomites had a starring role in 1993 action movie Cliffhanger.
Strolling along a scenic walkway and taking in the magnificent views of nearby nature is a great way to de-stress and clear the head. What’s more, tackling such elevated pathways around cliffs, mountains and treetops will certainly ensure that all other niggling little life problems disappear, at least momentarily, banished by the focus needed for the dangerous task at hand.
Featuring such perilous pathways as a bridge suspended at an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet and the ominously named “stairway to nothingness,” these vertigo-inducing pictures are bound to get the blood pumping and adrenaline spiking just from looking at them.
Image: Andrew MacDonald
Looking down while tackling the Hua Shan plank walk isn’t advisable.
The Hua Shan plank walk is known as one of the planet’s most treacherous – and indeed scariest – pathways. Despite this, it was conquered in 2011 by Mike Kowalski, who wrote on his Travels of Mike blog, “2,000 meters in the air, I peer over the edge of the rickety wooden planking and wonder why I am on this insane cliff walk.” Judging by the photographs of this precarious trail, such a question seems entirely reasonable.
Image: Karl and Betty Schendel
The treacherous way back along the plank walk
Mount Hua is positioned within the Qin range of mountains in China’s central province of Shaanxi. Part of an awe-inspiring cliffside pathway, the plank walk lies at an altitude of roughly 5,000 feet, up on Mount Hua’s South Peak – the mountain’s highest summit, itself rising to a total of more than 7,000 feet above sea level. The walkway is made up of shallow purchases cut into the rock and, as pictured, those narrow timber planks. In addition, to make edging along the risky route even more difficult, foot traffic flows both ways, forcing people to squirm past one another.
Image: James Vanas
Adventurers negotiate the “ladder” – really just metal bars jammed into the cliff.
Historically, Mount Hua’s sheer summits resulted in all but an intrepid few attempting to scale its lofty heights. These days, though, it draws crowds of visitors, all of whom can experience the thrilling plank walk and its stunning views for less than $5. The mountain is also now far safer to climb – thanks to structural improvements and safety procedures implemented by local authorities eager to keep its tourists alive. That said, attempting the plank walk is still a pretty frightening prospect.
Image: Clare Nolan
Even the photographer admits that she “can’t believe [she] went on the thing.”
It’s been described as the “world’s scariest bridge,” and according to titlis.ch, one requires “nerves as strong as the steel cables from which it hangs” to cross it. Suspended at close to 10,000 feet above sea level, the 320-foot-long, three-foot-wide Titlis Cliff Walk is the highest bridge of its kind in Europe – and quite possibly among the wobbliest.
Admiring the incredible view along the Titlis Cliff Walk
The suspension bridge is set beside the imposing Mount Titlis, which happens to be the highest peak in this section of the Swiss Alps. The bridge opened at the end of 2012 to celebrate the centenary of the Engelberg-Gerschnialp cable car, and the VIPs who first crossed it were plagued by heavy snowfall. When the weather’s good, though, it’s possible to peer down 1,500 feet to a glacier beneath, while distant Italy is also visible.
The bridge’s stunning surroundings may compensate a little for that terrifying drop.
Building the $1.6 million Titlis Cliff Walk took almost half a year – a timespan that was largely dependent on the weather. It looks incredibly scary to the casual observer, but thanks to nets on either side, it’s actually extremely safe, and it’s also able to endure heavy winds and snowfall. Furthermore, getting to the walkway is somewhat of an adventure in itself: visitors have to ride in cable cars and travel through a tunnel to get up close and personal with the awe-inspiring bridge.
A stroll amid the treetops along the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park’s Cliffwalk
Here’s something for nature lovers with a thrill-seeking side. Cliffwalk, found in North Vancouver’s Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, takes daredevils through rainforest foliage, over a canyon and at a maximum height of 300 feet above the Capilano River. And in case elevation alone isn’t enough to excite visitors, in some places the pathway is made of glass, allowing for unobstructed views of the landscape below.
The Cliffwalk bridge is rather disturbingly just 20 inches wide.
The 2011-opened Cliffwalk utilizes 1,600 feet of steel while having been “environmentally responsible” in its creation – becoming, in fact, a unique example of this type of construction. Moreover, the Cliffwalk’s magnificent natural surroundings are quite the draw: as Time magazine put it, the public can stand “at eye level with rock-clinging tree roots while gazing at bald eagles swooping below.”
Image: Marlene Thoms
Cliffs on one side, trees on the other along the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park’s Cliffwalk
Although the Cliffwalk is safe – provided visitors obey the rules – its short history hasn’t been without incident. Almost exactly one year after its opening, a man in his thirties scaled the Cliffwalk’s safety barrier, lost his balance and plummeted into the canyon below. Tragically, the 200-foot fall proved fatal.
Image: David Ruiz Luna
Via ferrata Brigata Tridentina is an in-demand route, partly due to its accessibility.
The various via ferrate high up in Italy’s Dolomites are not so much pathways as climbing trails, inclusive of steel cables, metallic rungs and the occasional bridge. Some are pretty tricky to negotiate, and quite often – as suggested by these photographs – they represent something of a terrifying experience to cross. There are several of these trails in the Dolomites, all with different lengths and difficulties, and many of them were created at the time of World War I.
Image: Carlo Bezoari
A treacherous section of the Dolomites’ via ferrata Ivano Dibona
A via ferrata’s difficulty is dependent on the number of available holds and the incline’s steepness. Its elevation may also present a considerable challenge; for example, one path takes intrepid explorers to the Marmolada mountain’s Punta Penia summit at more than 10,000 feet above sea level. While the Dolomites’ via ferrate are generally suitable for the average adventurer, climbers are advised to source the necessary specific equipment – namely gloves, a harness and a helmet – to traverse them.
Image: David Ruiz Luna
Via ferrata Cresta Ovest leads to the 10,960-foot-high Punta Penia.
Unfortunately, accidents do happen on these routes. In 2009 a British tourist plummeted 600 feet to her death from the via ferrata delle Trincee, with slippery conditions reportedly to blame. According to experienced rock climber Robin Van den Hende, writing in his blog The Severe Climber, the two things that bring about most via ferrate accidents are lack of research and over-confidence. “Ignorance of the risks involved in doing certain things,” he went on to explain, “or arrogance of the susceptibility to those risks.”
A cable car brings willing visitors to Mount Tianmen and its awe-inspiring Skywalk.
Perhaps the most terrifying thing about the Tianmen Skywalk is that it doesn’t seem like a path at all; venturing onto the glass-floored walkway is almost like stepping into thin air – 4,700 feet above sea level. No doubt the fact that visitors can see actual mountain peaks below their feet adds to the fear factor. It’s little wonder, then, that the skywalk – located on Mount Tianmen in the Zhangjiajie region of China’s Hunan Province – is nicknamed the “walk of faith.” Indeed, people require bags of confidence in the 2.5-inch glass supporting them as well as a belief that they won’t be reduced to a quivering mess somewhere along the around 200-foot transparent path.
The glass floor of the Tianmen Skywalk on Mount Tianmen
The skywalk on Mount Tianmen has become a major draw on what was already regarded as among the planet’s most attractive peaks and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site to boot. Indeed, it seems that many enjoy flirting with danger as they peer down a sheer cliff, with the terror elicited something that may be somewhat justified if the comments of a local tourism organization spokesperson are anything to go by. Should a stone fall onto the glass, they’ve said, apparently the surface won’t smash – but it may well fragment.
Image: Josep Folta
The “walk of faith” seems a fitting nickname for this incredible pathway.
The journey to the mountain involves a lengthy cable car ride, aptly named “avenue leading to the sky.” Taking half an hour to traverse a distance of a little more than four miles, the cable car travels at angles as steep as 37 degrees and is undoubtedly a thrilling way to reach Mount Tianmen – not to mention the transparent pathway that awaits.
There’s a good reason why the Dachstein Sky Walk got its name.
If the nickname “stairway to nothingness” doesn’t induce terror, then perhaps these photographs will. Dachstein Sky Walk, the stairway in question, is a dizzying 328-foot suspension bridge that culminates in 14 steps leading to an observation deck. Visitors to Austria’s Dachstein Glacier – positioned deep within the Alps – are afforded access to this fearful path.
Bitterly cold winds would make crossing Austria’s loftiest suspension bridge a challenge in itself, but building it in such conditions would have been an even taller task. Speaking to The Telegraph in 2013, Dachstein Sky Walk manager Josef Zörweg explained that the main obstacle to the Sky Walk’s construction was the icy weather, saying, “It meant working under every condition – snow, wind and extreme coldness of minus 20 degrees [Celsius].”
The vertiginous bridge is roughly 328 feet long.
Accessing the bridge – which opened in July 2013 – involves first taking a scenic cable car ride up the mountain. From here, it’s free to cross the bridge for those also visiting the always-open Dachstein Ice Palace. Otherwise, a mere $3.40 will provide admission to a one-of-a-kind experience.
Image: Ole Tora
El Caminito del Rey is nicknamed the “walk of death” for good reason.
This terrifying trail in Spain’s Malaga region winds along the sheer sides of the Gaitanes gorge in the Baetic Cordillera. The trail’s official name is El Caminito del Rey, which means “the king’s little pathway” – though some refer to it simply as the “walk of death.” And El Caminito del Rey’s reputation as the globe’s most hazardous path is well deserved. Four fatalities occurred there from 1999 through 2000, leading to the walkway’s entrances being shut off to the public for well over a decade. However, following extensive renovations and safety improvements, El Caminito del Rey is scheduled to open once more in 2015.
One brave explorer traverses El Caminito del Rey in 2010, despite its safety-enforced closure in 2000.
El Caminito del Rey was originally built at the start of the 20th century as a platform for employees traveling between power plants at Gaitanejo Falls and Chorro Falls. King Alfonso XIII crossed the pathway in 1921, giving it, as a result, the name by which it is now known. As for its vertigo-inducing qualities, in some places the steel-supported concrete track is as high as 330 feet above a nearby river. Moreover, perhaps this perilous position put off maintenance workers from using it, as the walkway was allowed to deteriorate.
Image: Ole Tora
An explorer makes the perilous pathway look easy.
El Caminito del Rey was originally shut down during the 1980s after several accidents. However, this didn’t stop thrill seekers from continuing to use it – at least, until the more recent fatalities forced the government to take more drastic measures by removing crucial whole sections. And even then, extreme sports aficionados managed to work around this with the help of a safety strap. Most people, though, will likely wait until the reopening, which will see the pathway’s crumbling concrete substituted with solid wood as well as the addition of handrails.