Sunday was a great day for me. I’d spotted this line back in April 2010 while out walking with my wife, enjoying the fantastic Gozitan countryside and seascape in this area. I saw this huge corner splitting the cliffs from a platform at sea-level all the way to the top of the cliff and just knew there was a great route there in the making. We walked over and looked down the corner but couldn’t really see much except the final 3 or 4 metres. I left Gozo that day knowing I’d have to go back for a closer, a much closer look. Fast forward to July and I returned with Kurt Vella Haber. I’d told him about this fantastic new line and he was keen to have a look at it himself. I could see he was impressed by the size of the cliff and the amount of exposure. I remember him commenting that “not many people would go down there”. We geared up, set up the anchors and Kurt lowered me down the corner for the very first time. Scary. It looked amazing. The further I went down the further I was from the rock and the more concerned I was that I’d be lowered straight into the sea! But the platform at the bottom was quite wide and I touched down safely. So then I climbed back up. It was steep and felt hard. But awesome! Then Kurt went down as well and came back up with a big smile on his face, describing how he’d pulled up on a pebble jammed in the crack to surmount the final (crux) bulge at the top.
Since then we’d gone back once more, Kurt put in a couple of staples at the top to belay from. The second time was a disaster for me as a foothold broke off right at the bottom and I fell back onto the rocky platform due to the rope stretch. Psyched out, bleeding and with a twisted ankle, I jumared back out of the route that time, shaken but not stirred!
Fast forward to 2012. The route had been at the back of my mind for a long time by now. So a couple of weeks ago I went back with Stephen Farrugia and Stevie Haston and after top-roping they both agreed that it was indeed, brilliant. So I decided I had to do the route once and for all. I also decided to bolt it. Not an easy decision as the crack would probably take reasonable trad protection from the bottom all the way to the top. But who would climb it?? Hardly anyone is the answer. I wanted to create a classic that lots of other climbers would enjoy. The route deserves to be climbed over and over again. I spent many hours on an ab rope, drilling, brushing, cleaning, gluing….work spread over four days, but it was a great investment in our sport. I used sea water bolts designed to last 50 years for the bottom two belay bolts and the first three protection bolts, and each stance has a sea-water bolt too. The rest of the bolts are 316 stainless steel glue-ins.
I finally climbed the route last Sunday with Josue Antoñanzas Lainez a Spanish climber newly arrived in Malta. It was a bit of a milestone for me as when I’d first tried it it had seemed like a huge insurmountable challenge – too hard, too big, too scary. I was very unfit. So leading it clean was a confirmation that I had made some progress.
I decided to call it “You Shall Not Pass!” as the route throws down a challenge, intimidating as it looks. The route can be split into three distinct pitches. The first is a steep wall climb on good holds left of the crack. The second pitch is a tight, awkward groove involving various techniques, while the third is a long, perfect layback to a small bulge – the move over this being the crux move of the whole route, right at the top. Its worth noting that some might think that the second pitch is the crux as it is more sustained and definitely VERY awkward. Judge for yourself. The pebble is still there.
The route can be found to the right (looking in) of Ghar Harq il-Hamiem. Drive through Gharb past the church and head for San Dimitri chapel via various rough tracks. Stop before you get to the chapel at a newly built (illegal I think) thick white wall and then head for the seacliffs nearby on foot. I’ve placed two 316 stainless steel 150mm bolts as anchors for the abseil. The platform is reached easily with a 60m rope. Contact me if you need more precise directions. I’ll be pleased to hear your comments.