It is now definite that no climbing is permitted in Chapel Cave at Wied il-Għasel. After discussions with the caretakers of the Chapel, the Mosta Local Council and the Curia, it is confirmed that all climbing within the area delineated by the metal fence around the cave is banned. Most of the bolts which were installed there have been chopped (some bolts still to be removed) and the caretakers have firmly requested that all climbing activities there cease.
In a full day of work last Wednesday Roland, Sandro and I tackled the sad job of removing the bolts from the three excellent routes there. The resin bolts were cut off as close to the rock as possible and then the stubs ground down to be flush with the rock. The expansion bolts had the hanger removed and the stem hammered down until flush with the rock. The top anchors will be removed for reuse. Two routes have been completely removed, one and a half still to go…another day of work still to come!
Fr. David and Raymond, the caretakers of the cave spent the day with us, helping where they could and providing coffee. They have been very good about the whole thing. Considering that the routes constituted an act of trespass on church land and affected the tranquillity of a religious shrine, both reacted with calm and understanding and were patient in allowing us time to remove the bolts without too much fuss. It is a pity that not all local climbers reacted with the same level of maturity. However this can be put down to inexperience and over enthusiasm for our sport. In this as in all things it is important to see both sides of a situation and react appropriately. I am sure that this experience will help us be more aware of the impact of our activities in future. We should always ask first and bolt only after enough consideration has been given to potential consequences. And I think we are fortunate in having made two new friends out of this: Fr. David and Raymond are great guys and I am sure we will see more of them over the coming years.
In light of this experience, the Bolting Policy of the Maltese Islands will be updated in line with the suggestions of Mike Caffrey to incorporate suitable safeguards against this happening again. Thanks to Roland Sultana and Sandro Pace for giving up a day of work to spend it doing the right thing at the cave.