About Climbing In Malta
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There are over 1,300 established rock climbing routes in the Maltese islands (Malta, Gozo and Comino) in about 30 different climbing areas. This is by no means exhaustive, as plenty of virgin rock still awaits. The various climbing crags and cliffs are easily accessible. Any crag is no further than half an hour’s drive by car, followed by a couple of minutes walk which will bring one to the bottom, or top, of the intended climb. Also, there is no problem with crowding /queuing (only about 50 local climbers frequent the crags! The Maltese are football mad!). The climbing is on limestone, which over time the Maltese elements have molded into interesting and fascinating formations. One can choose whether to climb in the sun or in the shade, according to the respective season. Following a rainy downpour, the rock is usually dry after about an hour, due to the rock porosity and breezy conditions. No poisonous creatures inhabit the climbing crags. There are no seasonal restrictions, so one can climb all year round.
Although Malta has no mountains – the highest point above sea level being 253 meters (829 ft.) - the variety and beauty of climbing scenarios are plentiful and stunning. The rugged coastline offers magnificent single or multi-pitch sea cliff walls, pleasant sea slabs or sea level traverses or deep water solos, where one can drop into the clear blue sea to cool off in the hotter summer months. Inland are the picturesque valleys (widien in Maltese), the sides of which offer solid limestone walls of a single pitch. Also one finds interesting rock outcrops which are very often indented with caves. Some hard bouldering problems will even test the hardiest of boulderers! One can either climb traditional routes (leader placed protection) or sport routes (bolt protection).
Malta has had climbing visitors of the likes of Patrik Edlinger, Stevie Haston, John Dunne, Crispin Waddie, Garry Gibson, Simone Moro, Katie Brown, Sonnie Trotter and Johnny Dawes! So whether you’re a novice, an intermediate climber or an expert rock athlete, there are various grades of difficulty for all. At present, the hardest grade that has been climbed is at E7 6c (French 8a, USA 5.13b, UIAA X) – for the uninitiated, all climbs are graded, in order to help climbers choose the routes suitable for them.
When to Climb in the Maltese Islands / Weather
Rock climbing in the Maltese islands is possible throughout the whole year due to a typical Mediterranean climate. Winters are mild with January/February averaging daily temperatures of 16 ºC. The best time for a full blown rock climbing trip to the Maltese islands is anytime in Spring, Autumn and Winter. Due to hot and humid conditions, a summer climbing trip would have to be extremely well planned, like climbing in the earlier part of the day (6.00am till 11.00am) and the latter part (5.00pm till 9.00pm). It is dark by 9.00pm in summer. danby portable dishwasher Climbing then would have to be restricted to the shady crags, which would be rather limiting as a lot of the crags are south facing (sun all day!). However, a great way to cool off during the hotter months is by deep water soloing and sea level traversing and falling into the clear blue Mediterranean sea. For more about the Maltese climate click here.
Traditional Climbing and Equipment
The rock type in the Maltese islands is limestone, so for trad climbing a rack suitable to this kind of rock is required. A pair of 50 metre half ropes should be sufficient. Plenty of different sizes of slings are useful, dyneema better than nylon, as the Maltese rock abounds with natural threads. A 'threader' (a stiff piece of wire fashioned into a hook) is useful for getting slings through the narrower threads. Nuts are the staple of protection. It is usually a good idea to have a set of Wild Country Rocks (or similar) as most cracks are curved and also a set of DMM Walnuts (or similar) to deal with curved jagged cracks. Micro nuts are useful on smooth slabs. Hexes are extremely useful too, Wild Country Rockcentrics (or similar) being good placements for the wider cracks. Spring loaded camming devices (SLCDs) are not used very frequently due to the curved and jagged natures of cracks. However a small assortment of friends can be useful. A couple of the smaller range of tricams are helpful for lipped pockets and could also be used passively in cracks. A half dozen or so of locking carabiners are needed, especially in rigging up anchors at the tops of climbs. Most route tops do not have abseil points, so be prepared to leave a couple of old carabiners/slings/cord behind you. There are 984 single and 63 multi- pitch traditional routes described in the local rock climbing guide book... Malta Rock Climbing the comprehensive guide. The grading system is that of the British descriptive/adjectival e.g. HVS 5a, E5 6b, etc. If you require to purchase any climbing equipment, you`ll not find much down here, so come well equipped!
Sport Climbing and Bolting
Most of the climbs in the Maltese islands have been put up using traditional protection. The reason being that it was the British (who are traditional diehards) who introduced the sport and who put up many of the routes along the years. However, sport climbing is becoming more and more popular both with the locals and foreigners. The late eighties saw the first desperate (French 7a and above) complete clip ups, which really pushed up Maltese climbing standards to new frontiers. Some of the very bold trad routes have now been retro bolted in order to make these climbs more popular as a lot of them have never had a second ascent. Today, the idea is to have particular climbing venues totally dedicated to sport routes in order to satisfy the bolt happy clipper. If you`re a bolt clipper, a single 60 metre rope should suffice and a dozen quickdraws. However, it is always wise to carry some extra protection, in order to back up suspect looking fixed gear. Some slings and locking carabiners are necessary in order to construct lower- offs on some sport routes. Malta Rock Climbing the comprehensive guide details the bolting ethic for each and every climbing venue and describes 98 sport climbing routes. Climbs are graded according to the French system e.g. 6b, 7a+, etc. The only fixed gear allowed on traditional crags are abseil/belay points where nature has not provided any. The main sport climbing crag in Malta is at Wied Babu near the village of Zurrieq and at Mgarr Ix-Xini Valley near the village of Xewkija in Gozo. Both locals and foreigners have been involved in equipping routes and the Malta Tourism Authority has provided funding for some of these projects. Most of the climbing venues are close to the sea and the limestone is full of salts. Therefore bolt corrosion is an issue. The best type of bolts to use are resin bolts (glue in anchors). Vide picture above. Expansion bolts are prone to stress corrosion cracking (SCC) and to unscrupulous abseilers nicking the hangers off the bolts. The latest problem is bolt vandalism. Recently, at Mgarr Ix-Xini, resin bolts were flattened with a mallet (don`t worry they have been replaced!). In conclusion, if you are planning any bolting activity, please consider the following points (1) the environmental impact (2) that particular crag`s bolting ethic (3)the type of bolt used due to corrosion and vandalism and (4) I hope you have the proper skills to bolt!
Deep Water Soloing and Sea Level Traversing
Bouldering over the sea (aka psikobloc) is one of the purest forms of climbing and the Maltese islands are an undiscovered paradise in this respect. Malta Rock Climbing the comprehensive guide describes 31 deep water solos and 21 sea level traverses. All these recorded climbs are accessible from a land approach. These climbs use the British descriptive with the S grade. However, there are loads of undiscovered lines and all one has to do is take a boat out and explore the Maltese island's jaggy coastline. The main venues to catch sight of climbers dangling over the sea in Malta is Wied Hasan Sea cliffs just south of Hal- Far, Mgarr Ix-Xini Bay in Gozo and on the west coast of Comino. The main season for this type of climbing is from about mid- April till around mid- November. However, if one is planning on sea bouldering outside of this season, it might be a good idea to don a wet suit. Check out the monthly sea temperatures by clicking here.
78 bouldering problems are described in Malta Rock Climbing the comprehensive guide. The grading system used is the American V grade (Hueco) e.g. V1, V6, etc. Challenging bouldering venues are Wied Hasan Valley in Malta and Ghajn Ghabdul in Gozo. However, the new router has plenty of virgin rock to prey on. A bouldering matt (or crash pad if you come from the other side of the Atlantic) is mandatory, as the ground is quite rocky.
Access and Conservation
Rock climbing access and conservation restrictions are very sparse in the Maltese islands. There are no seasonal restrictions, so one can climb at any climbing venue throughout the whole year. Malta Rock Climbing the comprehensive guide details the access for each climbing area. Most climbing venues can be driven to within half an hour and from the parking, approached on foot between 5 to 15 minutes along public footpaths. However, it is important to be sensitive to the locals and respect their pastimes, even if you disagree with them. It is important to respect the natural environment in which climbing takes place. Chipping is definitely a big no no. A bit of gardening is allowed where a foot/handhold or placement need better access. Chalk should be used sparingly and in chalk balls. Avoid using brightly coloured cord for in situ thread slings. Every effort should be made to remove unsightly jammed gear. One plant to watch out for (its flower in picture above) is the Maltese Rock Centaury (Widnet il-Bahar in Maltese). This plant, which is found on the southern and western cliffs of Malta and the south western cliffs of Gozo, is endemic to the Maltese islands and is protected by law. So if you come across this plant on one of your climbing escapades, please don`t breath on it! For more about the local environment and conservation please check out the following websites:
Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA)
Nature Trust Malta
Malta Wild Plants
Local Climbing Guide Books
Walks and Climbs in Malta
Showell Styles (Midland Association of Mountaineers)-Progress Press1949
Walks and Climbs in Malta by Showell Styles (Midland Association of Mountaineers)-Progress Press1949
Rock Climbing in Malta by John D. Graham (Royal Naval Mountaineering Club)-West Col Prod. 1971
Malta New Climbs by Roger Brookes and Simon Alden-Fylde Mountaineering Club, 1987
Malta Rock Climbing the comprehensive guide by John Codling, Andrew Warrington & Richard Abela-2007
about Climbing in Malta:
about Climbing in Malta:
Climber and Rambler: Issue February 1979
Climber and Rambler : Issue September 1985 - "Rock Climbing in Malta" by Simon Alden
Alpinisme et Randonnee : Issue no 212 January/ February 1999 - "Pierre au gout de Malte" by P. Royer
On The Edge : Issue no 95 March 2000 - "Haston in Malta"
Rotpunk : Issue July/ August 2000
Fit For Fun- Malta : Issue Summer 2003 - "Rock Jocks" by Andrew Warrington
Alp Wall : Issue 13 April/May 2005 - "Malta Paradiso del Mediterraneo" by David Munilla.
Desnivel : Issue 228 September 2005 - "Isla de Malta. Cultura fenicia, escalada británica".
Klettern : Issue October 2005 - "Malta und Gozo, Mediterran und Englisch Zugleich"-Stefan Heiligensetzer
KM - Air Malta Inflight Magazine : Issue April/May 2006 - "Cliff Hanger" by Fiona Galea Debono.
Rock and Ice : Issue 151 June 2006 - "Going off the Deep End" by Sonnie Trotter.
La Montagne & Alpinisme : Issue 231 Mar/Apr/May 2008 - "Goutez a la Pierre de Malte" by Francois Carrel.
DAV Panorama : Issue 5/2010 - "Klettern auf Malta, Treffpunkt der Kulturen" by Andi Dick.
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