Bolted climbs are going up sharply
About 500 rock-climbing routes, of the 1,500 climbs spread across the Maltese islands, have been fitted with bolts in a project to make the sport safer.
The initiative was launched in 2005 but has picked up momentum over the past couple of years after interest in rock climbing soared, explained Andrew Warrington, president of the Malta Rock Climbing Club.
Not all of the climbs – routes up cliffs – will be equipped with the bolts (to which climbers attach their ropes). Some areas will remain “wilderness”, where climbers attach temporary equipment to the bare rocks, he said.
Over the last few years interest in rock climbing has risen with more locals trying the experience and more foreigners coming to Malta to get a foothold in the new tourism niche.
“A community that until 2005 still numbered only about 25 has now grown into an active body of around 150 climbers,” said Mr Warrington, who has been climbing for three decades and is also the author of Malta Rock Climbing – The Comprehensive Guide.
Last April Malta made it onto the international rock-climbing map when two of the world’s topmost climbers, Canadian Sonnie Trotter and American Tommy Caldwell, spent a fortnight pushing their limits to set up daring new routes.
They were accompanied by one of the world’s leading adventure photographers, Corey Rich, who captured dramatic shots of Maltese cliffs and the climbers to be used to promote the island as a climbing destination.
Last month the online sports catalogue, Black Diamond, featured shots of Malta on its front page as well as a feature about the island.
The front cover picture showed Mr Trotter leading his new route up the north cliffs of Gozo, close to a cave called Għar Ħalq Ħamiem.
The bolting project is being carried out with the support of the Malta Tourism Authority, which has funded the purchase of specialised equipment, including safety harnesses, a drill and professional bolts of marine steel that do not corrode with sea spray.
This year Hilti, a firm that manufactures power tools, donated a second cordless drill, speeding up the bolting process.
This year alone members of the club have installed about 100 bolts, bringing the total number of equipped climbs to about 500. Each climb consists of six to 12 bolts, Mr Warrington said.
The project is also supported by Media Consulta Adventure that helps raise interest in the cause.
For more information visit climbmalta.com.