I went to Gozo yesterday to meet up with Stevie and check out some of his new lines at Dahlet Qorrot. It started out really well, the weather was sunny, the sky was blue. The sea was rough during the crossing, but that was ok. Only problem was he was out of coffee so our customary “start of the day coffee” at his apartment had to be missed. Never mind, we had a chat then headed off to the crag. Soon we were walking up through the boulder field to the base of the first area. Taking pity on my weak form following weeks of taking it easy to preserve my painful elbow, Stevie pointed me up a new F5+ that followed a groove and short wall. I started up the initial easy slab enjoying the warm sun on my back and moved up the groove using easy layback moves. The final wall needed a bit of thought and a bold step up to reach the final jugs and it was over. I lowered off and then Stevie followed and stripped the route. At the top he walked over to the top of a new 7a line and set a toprope up on that. I lowered him down as he checked out the moves. The route still needs some cleaning of loose flakes but offers steep slabby climbing of a high quality, mostly about technique more than anything else. I had a go too, feeling good about getting to the top (without a rest of course cough cough).
By this time, the dark clouds were moving in quickly and drops were becoming a shower. We packed the bags and sheltered under the overhang which also happened to feature another new route which goes at about 6b+. The rain came down. We were protected from the wind and the wetness, it was almost cosy. Then Stevie had a wonderful idea, as he does. ” Lets solo pigeon crack!” he said. Awesome idea. This route follows a chimney he’d first climbed at the age of 13. He was clearly young and stupid. He hasn’t changed a bit, he’s just older now. I protested. My trainers were wet and had as much friction as my bedroom slippers. They’ve seen better days. Stevie on the other hand was wearing trainers you could climb 7a in, he said. So despite my protestations, verbal abuse and lots of whingeing, we set off through the boulders to gain the base of the chimney. I went first. He offered to take the lead but I wanted to make sure that if I fell, I’d take him down with me. At least before impact I would enjoy the horrified look on his face as I plummeted to my death. The chimney is easy, actually. Loose boulders and pigeon droppings are an acquired taste for sure, but you can basically press against both sides of the chimney, back on one side, feet on the other, all the way to the top, about 25m above the ground. We topped out to howling wind and rain. My fleece was getting soaked. My socks were wet, my glasses almost opaque with drops and condensation. We walked around for a while as Stevie pointed out various new lines he’d bolted. Some hard, some harder and others not so hard. He’d obviously put in a lot of work. This was going to be a major new area. Eventually we walked back down to the road passing a cave where he’d once led an E7, trad, along the huge roof. He’s bolted that too now. We made our way back to the base of the crag to retrieve the gear then headed back to the car..and a bar in Nadur for sausage rolls, coffees and an Averna, with ice of course.