Unfortunately I must call on all climbers to kindly keep away from Chapel Cave in Wied il-Għasel for the time being. The priest who had painstakingly restored the Chapel of St. Paul the Hermit in 1993 and who is responsible for the chapel’s maintenance, upkeep and services has called me up asking us to discontinue climbing there and remove the bolts which have been installed.
This is naturally very disappointing for all of us. Jeffrey has only recently visualised and equipped a brilliant trio of climbs in the cave, one of these being an 8a route. Just as everyone was getting enthusiastic about this new crag and discovering these climbs, we have been asked to stay away and remove all the bolts, which would bring Jeff’s hard work there all to nothing. Naturally no one wants this to happen. It is for this reason that I ask for everyone to stay away for the moment, until we try and negotiate a compromise to allow us to climb there, at least during some of the week, but not of course when religious services are taking place.
I will be meeting the priest in the coming days to put our case and see whether we can convince him of our good intentions. I hope that our skills in vertical access may also be offered as services for the maintenance and upkeep of the chapel, as a way of giving back something towards the excellent work that the priest and his sacristan have carried out in restoring and preserving this holy place.
Our recently installed climbs follow routes which travel directly over the chapel itself, as well as over the surrounding parvis. While we climbers know they are harmless, to the uninitiated they are intrusive. No doubt to the community who cherish this chapel they appear to dangerously threaten the fruits of their labour. We did not consult with them before we installed these routes over their heads so perhaps we should not be surprised that it has upset the guardians of the chapel. No disrespect was meant from our side, but clearly this is not the way it has been taken.
I will keep you informed of the outcome of our discussions. Perhaps what we can take away from this is that we should be respectful of other peoples’ space and act carefully before installing permanent fixtures in any potentially sensitive area, especially where culture, heritage and religion are concerned. The last thing any of us want is to turn the wider community against us and the wonderful sport we are all so passionate about!