Last weekend saw many MCC members travel to Gozo to check out some of the new routes as well as to escape the election fever that gripped Malta. The weather was perfect so a great time was had by all.
While most of the club members headed for Wied Mielah on the first day, Jeffrey and Andy Hooper led a Spanish “delegation” to the White Tower at Dahlet Qorrot where they worked on the steep hard routes offered by this crag. All of them the work of Stevie Haston needless to say. On our part, at Wied Mielah we climbed the routes on the window itself, on the northwards facing side. Easy routes on grey limestone ripples in a spectacular location above the sea. As the evening closed in, a few droplets of rain gifted us with the sight of two rainbows, while the setting sun turned the sea into a lake of liquid copper. Afterwards we all headed over to Marsalforn to watch Alex Alden and Luke Briffa perform their live acoustic set at a local piano bar while Stevie and Inigo gave a virtuoso performance of their own, fuelled by Malta’s finest brew.
Sunday, bright and early. .erm no actually it was quite late, due to recovery time from the previous evening, when we met up at Sopu Tower. Thomas was leading the 6c/7a arete route on the Tower of Power while the others were trying out the new lines on the face to the left. Superb climbing in hot sun, surrounded by a huge brown cliff and boulders on one side, and the sea on the other. In the distance, across the valley we could see Rael and Jeff and the other Conquistadors fighting their vertical battles on the leaning walls and in the chimney. Back on our side, Thomas started running out of steam as he clawed his way up past his last placement then took flight with an epic leap of faith, swinging back onto the rock with an unfortunate, but not too serious twist of the ankle. Game over for Tom today.
Rael had a particularly good weekend. He managed to redpoint two major lines – Negresse Verte and Aprcot Tart. The first he felt to be about 7c and the second 8a. Impressive. In Rael’s words:
“I can’t emphasise enough how thankful I am to you guys and especially Stevie for making possible such excellent steep climbs in such a wonderful place! It is quiet and cool! These routes are outstanding in my opinion, both quite similar in grade…long sections with rests into a final crux. Especially on Apricot Tart which obviously has a much more spicy end.”
We also explored the Lower Sopu Tower area, enjoying the numerous 5s and 6s in this area. Eventually I wandered over to the Chalice of Malice area with Stevie as he wanted me to try out his new creation “Scoop de Jour”, of which he seemed to be particularly proud. I felt a little bit apprehensive about this. The evening before, as Alex sang a cover of “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty, he’d looked at me with that evil glint in his eye and told me that I’d be doing a lot of that the next day. So we clambered over the boulders and made our way past the Chalice and arrived at the base of a white limestone cliff. The line of bolts above beckoned. The route looked hard but not sooooo totally beyond me. So I geared up and set off. Stevie made encouraging sounds, remarking that my footwork had improved. It was quite intricate up to the 5th bolt, probably just 6b. I was glad I hadn’t made a hash of it on the easier section. At this point, the day before Inigo had to dyno for quite a good hold at the base of the first scoop. With a bit of nifty footwork and my long reach I got the hold statically and heaved. I looked around for a hold for my left hand but all I could see was a mono-doigt which I stuck my thumb in….and clung there, basically all my weight on my right hand. “Reach up with your right hand Simon!” Stevie suggested. I couldn’t take my hand off the hold, so that was not really an option. I pumped out and sagged back onto the rope. I tried again but couldn’t really see the move, and lowered back to the ground from there. Bugger. Stevie tied in and set off to show me how it was done. He got past my high point about half way up with hardly a pause, then carried on twisting, bridging, smearing and pulling hard all the way to the top. Back down, I tied on and tried again with a toprope. Frustratingly, this time round I spotted a couple of thin edges I hadn’t used before, and grabbed these and stepped right with relative ease. The route remained sustained all the way to the top. All the moves are there, but take figuring out. Its technical, but pumpy without being TOO pumpy. I rested again at what was probably the crux – a layway on a good sidepull, a little dance with the feet, a smear on the left then stand up and reach for the next pockets. Very very nice. “Scoop de Jour” goes at about 7a and it was the highlight of my day. I will certainly be back to work on it.