Project, text and pics by Stephen Farrugia
An overcast Sunday morning saw a handful of MCC members take on the jungle that is Wied Qirda to resume the work started by Alex Pako, Leta Slipper and myself in September. On our first foray into the valley we had managed to make a sizeable clearing at the base of Inscrutable Smile.
This time, armed with shears, clippers, secateurs and plenty of determination our team of vertical gardeners abseiled into Wied Qirda with the rather ambitious intention of clearing the base of the entire crag. While Nicky Sammut busied himself with cleaning the vegetation from the actual routes Annina Lahti and Thierry De Henau took on the task of clearing an access path from the base of the crag to the rough track in the valley floor. They then “paved” the path they created with branches and trimmings that were being cleared by the green-fingered Bertu Aquilina, who came heavily-armed with massive shears and a hacksaw.
Thomas Ripard and I busied ourselves tackling the brambles and spiny bushes that barred (and barbed) the way for climbers before turning our attention to the sturdier growth. Leta Slipper lent a hand all round as was required with her excellent secateur technique, while Simon Alden took on the task of clearing the area to the right of Sphinx Buttress; making it possible to access the right hand part of the crag and the two climbs – Black Spasm and Shotgun Alley.
A couple of hours of light trimming and bamboo engineering saw the base of the crag transformed from a bamboo and bramble trap to a reasonably open area where climbers can easily belay and move around. Hopefully the open air will encourage the hundreds of tiger mosquitoes that live beneath Sphinx Buttress to move elsewhere. Certainly, after our visit they are well fed and very content. Now lets hope they move on to somewhere else.
Hard work deserves to be rewarded with some play, and so the vertical gardeners took to what they do best and climbed the newly cleared routes. Once at the top after repeating Inscrutable Smile, Simon and Bertu installed ring lower offs (bolt + bolt and ring) for Tutenkamun and Black Spasm, meaning that between the MCC and MRCC bolting effort the Sphinx Buttress is now nearly entirely equipped with lower offs.
The retreat from the valley floor didn’t start a moment too soon, as while the last two climbers were making their way up the wall the light rain started to gain in intensity and had turned into a heavy drizzle by the time everyone was up and safe.
Now that the base of the crag is cleared the MCC hopes that this wonderful climbing area in the heart of the Qormi / Luqa urban sprawl will see more climbing traffic, which will no doubt help with keeping the base of the crag clear of brambles and bamboo.