I was walking along the cliffs in Gozo with Stevie Haston and Mark McGowan on the 30th March checking out possible new routes, as one does, when I received an email on my Blackberry saying that a message had come in on the MCC website. It was from Sonnie Trotter commenting on an article I titled “A Stevie 3-knees Haston Experience”. I had written about the new mega seacliff route I did with Stevie Haston a couple of weeks before. Here’s the message:
“Hey Simon, Thanks for the great read. It’s 6am in British columbia, Canada, right now and I can’t sleep. So over a morning coffee I stumbled upon this report. So much fun, and a little scary too. I will be leaving for the same cliffs of malta (gozo) next week exactly. I hope to have the chance to climb this route. Maybe more. Actually I was in Malta years ago doing some deep water soloing, why not eh, and never thought I’d have the chance to return with a rope, but alas, here I am, one week away from those big intimidating sea cliffs. The adventure continues. Thanks again. Sonnie.”
Great! I was excited. Sonnie had last been to Malta a few years back for deep water soloing, that time he was accompanied by another climbing celebrity Katie Brown. The videos they produced about the visit can be seen here. Exciting and inspiring stuff! Unfortunately, that time he hadn’t “connected” with local climbers, this time it seems, is going to be different.
So yes, I was definitely excited to hear that he’d decided to come back, and I have to admit that I was a bit flattered that he’d even read my article! I replied to him immediately of course and we started to correspond. His next email confirmed that another top American climber would be joining him – Tommy Caldwell. Last time I saw Tommy it was on the “Sharp Edge” dvd climbing 5.14s and other really hard stuff at Yosemite Park! He’s done some amazing first ascents including a possible 5.15a (F9a+) he called “Flex Luthor“.
Wow – things are really happening on the climbing scene. Currently on Gozo legend Stevie Haston has over the past few weeks been based at his own apartment in Nadur developing plenty of new routes over there for us to enjoy. Stevie is in fact an honorary member of the MCC and his visit to Malta has been coordinated and fully supported by the MCC. We have to acknowledge here that the GCA and more recently the MRCC have also provided some bolts, for which we thank them wholeheartedly. So far about 15+ new routes have been bolted, including a number of F5s, and F6s, an F7a, a couple of F7cs and one F8x…final grade still unknown as the route hasn’t been led yet. More news about this later 🙂 And more routes are still to come..
Back to Sonnie and Tommy. What are there plans during their stay on Gozo? Again, quoting from Sonnie’s emails to me: “As far as our goals, to be honest, I have always wanted to put up a route on those giant Gozo cliffs. When I was there last time, I saw what looked to me like a pretty big cave feature, I can’t recall how big it was now to be exact, but possibly 300 feet. My dream was to deep water solo the whole thing, ha ha, but then I grew up and realized the best way to execute this without dying, was to climb it like any other route, with a rope and partner:)
So, Tommy and I hope to establish some new routes, preferably on all natural gear. “
Ok so they’re after new trad routes. Big ones. Seacliff ones. That’s becoming more unusual in Malta for sure – the trad part I mean. Most new routes in Malta are being bolted. The more I speak to climbers visiting Malta the more I realise that people do appreciate the fact that while we’ve embraced sports climbing and enjoy bolt clip-ups as much as anyone else, it was positive that we had a number of classic trad lines for trad junkies to enjoy. It distinguishes our climbing “product” from that of the competition i.e. other sports climbing crags in the Mediterranean. Looks like Sonnie and Tommy will be creating some new, hopefully classic ones (hopefully also not F9a+!) to add to our trad inventory.
I met Tommy in Valletta with his family the day after they arrived. Over a hot cappuccino and sitting very surrealistically under an umbrella at Cordina, he confirmed to me that they were even bringing along a portaledge! Clearly they were geared up for a major siege on some spectacular line up Gozo’s highest cliffs.
I hadn’t posted anything about their visit on our website until now as I was intending to respect their privacy fully. I was planning to meet up with Sonnie and Tommy and discuss things and see whether they would mind if I made it public that they were on the island. However, clearly the news came out from other sources, so I thought I would write a few words myself for those who haven’t heard.
Incidentally, accompanying the Americans is well known adventure photographer Corey Rich who has captured on film the likes of Chris Sharma and taken pictures for National Geographic, the New York Times Magazine and Sports Illustrated amongst other distinguished publications. The pictures taken by Corey will no doubt be excellent and when published in some of the world’s climbing magazines, as no doubt they will be, should throw a superb light on the climbing that our islands offer.
The MCC, MRCC and GCA are planning on jointly organising a climbing meet to give local climbers the opportunity to meet up and chat with them. Looking forward!