Climbing in Malta: Two Beginners Take On Gozo’s Limestone Rock

By on 3rd June 2020

Jade and I are always on the lookout for new things to try (and new things to scare us), so recently whilst in Malta for my birthday, Jade arranged for us to try out rock climbing.

The site of our first climbing experience was the tiny Maltese island of Gozo, home to just under 40,000 Gozitans and well-known for its rural ambiance and stunning limestone topography. Gozo is a mecca for rock climbers of all abilities, so it seemed like the perfect place to kick-off our amateur climbing careers.

Gozo Channel Line operates three ferries between Gozo and the Maltese mainland
The ferries are modern with plenty of places to sit down including an on-board cafe
The Mediterranean waters between Gozo and Malta sparkle in the sunshine

Getting to Gozo

Getting to Gozo was a bit of an adventure in itself. We were being met by our guides at the ferry terminal in Mġarr, Gozo at 9am. To get there, we had to get a taxi and then a ferry.

The taxi picked us up from our Airbnb townhouse on the outskirts of Valletta early in the morning. The driver had arrived on time and we’d allowed plenty of extra time for potential delays, but he still seemed keen to demonstrate to us how much he resented speed limits. The Maltese landscape whizzed past in a blur as our driver rocketed across roundabouts and switched lanes without so much as a glance.

Since we were early for our sailing, we killed some time at the terminal by drinking tea and complaining about how early it was. As our departure time neared, we felt a buzz of excitement and started to limber up in the waiting area.

The sailing was fun and offered us some beautiful views of the Maltese archipelago amidst an expanse of sparkling blue water. The Gozo Channel Line ferry service operate 24 hours a day and is a bit of a lifeline for residents of Gozo. Without it, they’d be cut off, not just from the rest of Malta but the rest of the world. Since it’s pretty much the only way on and off of the island, the ferry operator assumes that eventually most passengers end up going back to the Maltese mainland. They therefore run a novel fare system, where foot passengers only pay on the return leg.

Upon arrival in Mġarr, we were greeted by our guide. Little did we know at the time, but firmly shaking us by the hand was none other than former ice climbing world champion and legend of the climbing world, Stevie Haston (whose blog is awesome, by the way!). You could say Stevie has written the book on climbing in Malta and Gozo, mostly because he has literally written a book on climbing in Malta and Gozo which details all the best climbs.

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Our first view of the gorge we’d be climbing in near Mġarr ix-Xini
Rope, shoes and a first aid – all you need for a climb
Matt scales one of three 30 metre high climbs near Mġarr ix-Xini, Gozo

Our Climbing in Gozo Experience

The location for our climb was a gorge near Mġarr ix-Xini. Much like the rest of Gozo, the location was gorgeous, particularly under blue skies and bright Winter sunshine.

Before slipping on our climbing shoes and attaching ourselves to ropes, we first had to descend into the gorge. We edged our way down a steep slope and scrambled across limestone rocks. Jade and I held each other’s hands over the trickier bits whilst Stevie strode ahead in his flip-flops, his dog in tow, both seemingly not bothered by the rocky terrain. With a long length of red rope slung onto his shoulder, Stevie looked every bit the climber.

It was a calm and sunny day, not too hold or cold, therefore perfect for climbing. Jade and I completed three climbs, each around 30m high. They were taxing, sometimes a bit scary, but ultimately great fun. There was something quite grounding about the experience and we both felt that we’d accomplished something. It felt good.

Stevie was calm and supportive throughout the experience and gave lots of sage advice. He was also full of great stories about his career and was able to recount the history of Gozo and climbing in general. We always felt like we were in safe hands and after some initial apprehension, we were able to put our trust in him and the equipment.

I actually found that my long limbs came in handy and that my poor upper body strength didn’t hinder my performance too much. Rock climbing relies mostly on your legs providing the strength to lift you upwards. You arms and hands are used for gripping on and anchoring you to the rock face. I surprised myself, as well as Stevie and Jade below, when I shot up the third climb within a few minutes. It seemed that I had a knack for climbing.

Jade has shorter limbs and therefore found the going a little trickier. That said, she still managed to get to the summit on her first two climbs (once she’d stopped screaming). On her third climb, a ledge in the rock face proved too much of a challenge and she had to come back down. On reflection, she said she’d enjoyed the whole experience, but favoured the abseiling rather than the climbing.

After an hour or so, it was time to make our way back up to the top of the gorge. We gleefully soaked in the surrounding landscape, taking lots of photos as we walked. We both felt oddly liberated. At the top of the gorge, our ride was waiting.

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You can’t go climbing in Gozo without the correct equipment
Matt scales the third of three climbs during our climbing in Gozo experience
Stevie and his dog leads the way across the top of the limestone cliffs near Mġarr ix-Xini, Gozo

How You Can Try Climbing in Gozo

We’re so glad we gave climbing a go and will definitely be looking to continue our climbing careers. If you’re at all interested in climbing, we totally recommend you give it a go. It’s awesome!

To get started with climbing in Gozo, get in touch with Gozo Adventures who are super-friendly and helpful and offer guided climbs to suit anyone’s experience. They also provide guided hiking, biking and kayaking.

Have you tried rock climbing or are you now tempted to give it a try? Have you or will you try climbing in Gozo? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

Thank you to Gozo Adventures for taking us on our first climb in exchange for coverage on our website. Our arrangement with Gozo Adventure did not influence the content of this article, nor our genuine recommendation of their services. 

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