Planning for the Hike
As a blogger and travel writer I had to think long and hard about whether I should include this hike through the Torrent de Pareis, perhaps the finest walk on Mallorca, on my blog. After discussing it with Chris, I decided to write about our experiences for the main reason, that I should make people and that includes parents, aware of the dangers of this hike, especially as it features in a number of guides and on some of the maps. Before you read further be aware that this is not a hike in the normal sense, it borders on scrambling and canyoning in parts and it would be dangerous if undertaken un-prepared. Every year, casualties and accidents happen on this decent, these are usually caused by people who over estimate their own abilities or choose to set out without planning and preparation. The hike is not a walk in the park, it is the most strenuous hike on the island! To consider attempting it you must be a fit and experienced mountain hiker, not scared of heights, be steady on your feet, flexible and able to squeeze through gaps in the rocks, and be able to climb down larger rocks and boulders.
Planning and preparation for the route is essential – NEVER venture onto this hike if it has rained in the last 10 days and only if the weather forecast shows dry conditions, with zero chance of rainfall. Rain not only makes the rocks treachery and slippery, if large amounts of rain fall, the torrent turns into a dangerous, raging mountain stream and will sweep away everything in its path including you. Recommended for a hike are the months of May to October. Having said that, in dry years we have hiked the Torrent de Pareis once in March and the second time in April and we did not encounter any water in the gorge during our hikes. You should never attempt this hike on your own, always go in a group of 2, ideally 3 or more people.
When preparing make sure you have the right provisions and equipment. It is absolutely essential to take a rope with you, ideally around 5m in length. Take a phone for emergencies but keep in mind, there is no mobile reception in the gorge! Take plenty of water, 1.5l per person, more during the hot summer months. Food and snacks are essential, plus a first aid kit and a hiking map and ideally a guide book with detailed descriptions of the route down.
Some Additional Advice
Finally, inform someone, that you are going on this hike, this can be a friend or family member or even your hotel reception, and check in with them when you have finished. Leave early in the morning to have enough time to enjoy the beauty of this incredible hike and not be in danger of missing the last bus or boat at Sa Calobra. My advice is to plan at least 6-7 hours for the hike, plus more if you want to include the detour into the most difficult gorge on the island, Sa Fosca. The entire way is only about 8km with 680m descent but the difficulty of the terrain will mean that progress is much slower than you expect.
Having read all that and those warnings you maybe surprised to learn that the first time we hiked the Torrent de Pareis, Jerome was just 5 years old and he walked the whole way. Bear in mind not every five year old could do that, he was already an experienced mountain hiker, and he has been on walking holidays every year since he was born. He himself wanted to hike the torrent after he had seen photos of the gorge and heard stories about it from his grandparents and friends on the island. One dry spring after a lot of talking it through with my parents and Chris, we decided that we would attempt the walk with him. A local friend had told us that he had done the walk with his sons a few times and considering how much Jerome had hiked before he should be fine.
That first time, we took a taxi from Soller to the start of the hike and came back by boat. On our second attempt five years later we drove to the start, and used a taxi to collect the car. The main starting point for the hike is just before you reach the Restaurant Escorca from Soller, at km 25.5. There you will find an information board, which details and warns about the difficult parts of the hike. To the left is the entrance to the hiking trail that starts around some sheep fields. Shortly after you will pass through a gate and walk through a field, following a wall. On the morning of our hike the sun was only just reaching the top of the surrounding mountains and the morning air was still fresh with dew on the grass and the sheep in the field looked as sleepy as us. Both Chris and my Dad carried full backpacks with our equipment and food, we had taken a special rope that you normally would use to lift and deliver large sacks of sand, plus some normal climbing rope too. The special rope we used later to lower Jerome down some of the larger rocks and boulders. The climbing rope came in useful at a few points, even for the adults.
The First Part of the Hike
About fifteen minutes into the walk, we had left the woods behind and were on the zigzag path through the fields, where we found a sunny spot to sit down. We had breakfast of freshly baked croissants from our favourite bakery and hot tea and coffee from our flasks. Down below we could see the gorge with its sharp cliffs, still pitch black, the sun had not yet reached this part of the Serra Tramuntana. Keeping an eye on the time we moved on after a brief stop, slowly downhill, through the tall clumps of pampas grass, some of the leaves were taller than Jerome and we had to keep an eye out to not miss him among the green. To the other side of the gorge we could see Puig Roig with the old police halt to stop the smugglers and the cave houses of Escorca, that were built into the mountainside eons ago.
First Glimpse into the Torrent de Pareis
The stony path, winds itself downhill following dry stream towards the main riverbed that cut the gorge. When we had reached the stream bed we got our first glimpse into the torrent. Still shady inside, the sun was not high enough to reach into the gorge. Reaching the riverbed we walked left along the Torrent de Lluc until we got to the junction at the Torrent des Gorg Blau, this is where the real Torrent de Pareis starts. It is also possible to take the longer route in via the riverbed of the Torrent de Lluc but that takes far longer and misses the impressive views on the descent.
Entering the deep gorge, it is there that the real beauty of the torrent becomes visible. 300 metre tall cliffs to either side, towered above us, with just a narrow opening where we could see the cloudless, blue sky high above. Until there, the hike had been a fairly normal hike, the gravel and stones in the river bed meant that we could not walk as fast and had to watch our steps, but there had been no difficult sections yet. We all gazed at the immense beauty and Jerome was very excited that he was able to join us on the walk.
At the junction of the canyons and if you have enough time for the little detour to Sa Fosca (plan in another 1h) walk up along the torrent des Gorg Blau to your left, until you get to some slippery rocks, which will make your passage more difficult. Past these rocks you will find Sa Fosca, the most difficult gorge on the island, some parts never see the light of day and at the narrowest it is only one step across the top. We did not venture to Sa Fosca on our first hike with Jerome, however, the second time we made the detour and we all agreed it was definitely worth the extra effort and time. Brave souls do descend this canyon from the top but it is one only for the canyoning experts.
The First Difficult Parts of the Hike
After leaving the junction of the two torrents and heading into the entrance to the Torrent de Pareis we had to walk to the right side of the streambed. If you keep an eye out, you might be able to see a cave up in the cliffs. Some 15 minutes later you will encounter the first difficult part of the hike. A massive stone blocks the canyon base and must be negotiated. Carefully find yourself a way around two pools, they might be filled with murky water and then down the “steps” or ledges, which someone has carved into right side of the boulder. It is there that we first used our rope, we slowly lowered Jerome down the side of the boulder, when he was five years old. Last time he found his own footing and we did not need the help of the rope, we just gave him some advice on where to put his feet.
The hike goes on winding along the riverbed, make sure to stay on the right path, this might be indicated by where people have trodden before or by coloured markers and stone cairns. The next difficult places are some narrow sections where you will have to lower yourself with the help of the ropes that have been fixed to the rocks, we found having some extra rope here useful. A little while later a pool follows, which needs to be passed on the right. Jerome was always eager to be the first one for the next challenge ahead, however, usually it would be my Dad or I, who would test the waters and give Jerome some help from down below in case he needed it. My Mum would go next and Chris would follow last to make sure everyone was OK.
Mastering the Rest of the Hike
At some points we could see where the water level would be when the gorge is filled with water, in parts green moss had grown on the smooth rocks along the riverbed. It is a sobering thought to realise that after a storm that water will rush through the canyon as much as 6 metres or more deep. About half way into the hike we found a flat rock where we could all sit down and enjoyed our packed lunch, being sure to keep some food and water for later.
At some point we had to leave the riverbed on the left side and shortly afterwards we passed another cave. There were still a few more tricky passages to come though. We had to squeeze ourselves through a narrow gap and then our last ordeal, which used to be even more difficult, until someone made an opening into the rocks. The last difficult point is called in Spanish “fat men get thin” and involves descending 2 to 3 metres down a small hole in a massive rock. I think the name says it all.
Having mastered all the treacherous sections, it is possible to enjoy the last spectacular stretch of the gorge before it ends. On the last section it is usual to find some curious ill equipped tourists coming towards you on the flat stretch from Sa Calobra, they probably read the warning sign at the entrance to the gorge and want to find out what it is like for themselves. Few get further than the last big obstacle thankfully.
The gorge finally opens out, the large rocks turn into a field of gravel and there is a small lake that is normally filled with murky, green water to the right. The impressive view of the sea between the rocks and the beach at Sa Calobra will come into view, giving a spectacular end to the hike through the Torrent de Pareis.
We always have to accustom ourselves at this point, to the many tourists around, after barely meeting anybody for the whole day. Most tourists visit Sa Calobra to experience the hairpin road that descends from the mountain pass, to see the secluded beach, relax and go for a swim. A large number of them are not even aware of the beauty that is hidden behind the sheer rocks and cliffs further behind their backs.
The Return Journey
I always have mixed feelings after ending the hike through the Torrent de Pareis, for one I am relieved we made it, unharmed and safely down the gorge, on the other hand I wish I could have savoured the beauty of it for longer. Straight after finishing the hike we always say never again but I know, possibly not next year, or the year after but for sure we will attack the hike again, the next time we have a dry spring.
With our legs weary and our feet sore we walked the last stretch through the man made tunnel to the port of Sa Calobra. On the last occasion we still had some time spare before Jerome and I would take the boat back to Soller. My parents and Chris called a taxi that would take them back up the road to the car at Escorca, but as the taxi would not take five, so it gave Jerome an excuse to enjoy the boat again. There is a bus service that goes from Sa Calobra past the restaurant but it only runs at certain times of the year and it was only scheduled to start a few weeks later. I wonder at the patience of the drivers of both buses and taxis that ply the twisty road down and up to Sa Calobra.
While waiting for our transport we went down to one of the cafes overlooking the little, stony beach in the port to have our well-deserved coffee and ice cream. There were surprisingly few tourists around, despite the Easter holidays and many of the cafes and restaurants were still closed up. Once the boat arrived we left my parents and Chris behind, they were still waiting for the taxi, while Jerome and I boarded the boat back to Soller. We both enjoyed the calm ride, past Cala Tuent and the beautiful coastline back to Port de Soller..
There are some hikers that say it is easier to hike up the Torrent de Pareis than down. We have twice hiked it downhill and I can say that the view and option of a hot coffee and an ice cream is more appealing to us than climbing for 7-8 hours straight up the hill.
I will finish this post not on the joy of the adventure but with a final warning. This is not a hike for everyone, the route is tough and needs planning and preparation. There are also experienced guides that will take you through the Torrent de Pareis, I can recommend Tramuntana tours in Soller. It helps to have someone with you, that knows the in and outs of the Torrent de Pareis. Remember if you are having any doubts about whether you are fit and experienced enough for this hike, it might be better to say no I am not, and do not set out – better safe than sorry later. No one wants to be rescued by the mountain rescue or even worse not make it out. Having written all that, I will finish by saying that after both our hikes Jerome had a big grin on his face and we were rather proud that he achieved such an incredible adventure.