DEEP WATER SOLOING
Most people associate the sport of climbing with distant mountain ranges, soaring peaks, Sherpa porters and rugged, heavily clothed mountaineers carrying large loads of equipment up steep snowy slopes and rocky faces.
But climbing can be very different. There is a type of climbing that is perfectly suited to the Mediterranean. It is colourful and refreshing as well as exhilarating. Equipment needed? Just a pair of climbing shoes, a swimsuit and a chalk bag to absorb the sweat from your fingertips or to dry a greasy handhold. Oh yes, and a boat would be useful too.
It’s called “deep water soloing”, or as its known in Italy, “Psicobloc”. Over the past few years in Malta more and more locals and foreign climbers are trying it out as it’s the perfect way to enjoy the sport during those long hot summers. When deep water soloing or “DWS” you’re climbing above the sea without using a rope. That’s it. The rest is up to you. You can climb sideways, inches from the surface of the sea, or you can climb up, slowly getting higher and higher until you either reach the top of the cliff or lose your nerve and throw yourself off to plunge into the deep blue waters below. That’s an important point. The water below should ideally be deep! You have to be aware of what’s below you at all times. Sharp rocks, rocky reefs, maybe even other climbers. All to be avoided!
The Malta Climbing Club members regularly practice the sport and in summer, when most people are lying lazily on the beach or splashing about in the sea, they can often be seen deep water soloing at such beautiful locations as Ghar Hasan, Wied Babu, Ghar Lapsi, Ix-Xaqqa, Mistra and many other places where steep limestone meets the sea. Climbers enjoy the feeling of pulling themselves up steep rock faces using just their arm and finger strength and often tiny footholds until the moment they decide to jump off …either due to fear or simply because the holds have run out…or just for the rush – that moment of fear and exhilaration as they fall through the air, then the relief of the cool water closing in over their head amidst an explosion of bubbles.
The Malta Climbing Club organizes a couple of boat trips every summer specifically to take its members deep water soloing on Comino and Gozo. Photographer Matthew Farrugia was there to document the skillful DWS climbers in action. These pics are the result. Enjoy!
Contextual writeup by Simon Alden
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