Yosemite

Yosemite
photo by Bradford MacArthur

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Malta Motion


Malta

Poking out of the middle of the Mediterranean Ocean is a small limestone land called Malta, along with its even smaller co-island, Gozo.

On May 10th Marc and I boarded the ferry from Pozallo Sicily heading to Valetta, Malta, ready to get our sport climbing on. As Valetta came into view it appeared like no other place I had ever seen; A land completly absorbed in  sandy city walls, narrow steets winding in every which way, and big industrial like tankers and machinery in the harbor.

My first impression was that Malta was chaos. 

Our rental car agency dropped a car off for us at the ferry terminal and left us to fend for ourselves. I was surprised to find the steering wheel on the right side of the car and the manual shifter was left handed.  More surprised still to learn that the Maltese drive on the left side of the road. 

Just like that we set off on a quest through the interconnected maze of cities to find the one and only climbing store. It's quite complicated navigating through these cities as is, but given that Malta is lacking 80% of their street signs makes things much worse.

With a bit of luck two hours later we were on our way to the first crag, The Mellieha Cave. The cave is located in a sink hold on a plateau just above the ocean.  Overhanging walls of pockets and stalactites worked me over pretty quick.  (not to mention we had been two days on from climbing in Sicily already)
Marc climbing Crazy Monkey
  We set up our tent outside of the cave where the dirt road meets the seaside cliff, overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Ocean.
Our tent at the Mellieha Cave


I awoke during the night to the sound of thunder off in the distance, and a quick flash of light.  Less than 20 minutes later, a full blown light show was directly overhead striking through the sky. I darted off the the car for shelter to comfortably watch while Marc decided to stay in the tent… I imagined what kind of horrific rescue situation would play out if I had to save Marc from a lighting strike.

Fortunately the storm passed without a single disturbance and I returned to the tent. 

The calm morning was preceded by a light windstorm, which I was asleep for.  I woke up to Marc squishing a tick from my shoulder.  Looking around the tent, we found about 12 more tikcs creeping around by our feet.  We quickly killed them all and searched our bodies for more.  With absolutely no idea how they entered the tent, our only conclusion is that they were blown in by the slight wind and happened to enter the tent while part of the Zipper was undone.  Just our luck.  


Blue Grotto -Wied iz zurrieq and Ghar lapsi

We cruised down to the other side of the island to check out the sea cliff climbing.  
Marc rappelling down to Red Wall

We rappelled down to a small isolated bench lined with climbs.  I dove into the ocean for a cool wake up.  The swimming is amazing except that small boats are continuously passing by.  Strangley enough the Blue Grotto town is famous for its 'tour boat' attraction.  Hundreds of tourists pile in by bus to be taken out to view the sea caves.  They were pointing in awe at us all day as we climbed, got to see me take some fun whippers :)

 



Greek Odyssey multi pitch, Red Wall

Within a few days we were ready for a change and headed over to Gozo.

Gozo

The small island of Gozo can be crossed in no longer than 20 minutes, that is, if you don't get lost, and is a paradise for sport climbers and divers.  Caves and tunnels connect the underwater world, filled with colorful fish and flora. This small limestone island is also home to the world class climber Stevie Haston. 

Marc and I rented a small apartment in Xlendi Bay, a charming ocean town and set off to climb at some of the sea cliffs. Day one we climbed a beautiful multiptich on the sea cliffs called White Wings.  

Day two we ventured down to the Underworld, a Stevie Haston creation.  The swells from the Mediterrranean ocean seem to be directed precisely to this cave creating an atmosphere of booming intensity.  Right away we knew we were in for some excitement. The dark morphed rock was wet but  amazingly full of giant pockets and jugs.  We spent the afternoon climbing various routes such as Vampire Lats, Furry Animals, and I love Elvis.
Me climbing out of the Underworld via the 7b+ Furry Animals 

Marc exploring the Underworld

   

Gozo- The White Tower

Our exploration of Gozo continued as we headed over to The White Tower to climb with Stevie, Alix and Inigo.  Unfortunately I don't have any photos.  We both loved the climbing here. The walls are steep and sustained, but each route varies in style.  There is techy face climbing to intricate stemming to juggy endurance climbs, all overlooking another spectacular bay. 

Our Gozo/ Malta days were summed up with another few days of climbing, swimming and exploring the Mediterranean Cuisine before we jumped back on a plane to Italy. (well, before spending the night in the airport, and getting hassled by the airport security, losing a rope along amongst other complications. )





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