Becoming a crazy cat lady in Malta


IMG_2403
Attard, Malta
Like a broken record, I replay those final moments in my head as my stupidity was almost laughable. I had done the climb before but I never considered the consequences of not using a stick clip. Having gone from fearing the first bolt to happily soloing to it in just under a month, I felt confident and strong.

I suppose the blame can’t be placed squarely on me – in times like those the line between wanting to push past (at times) unreasonable fear/personal limits and blatant disregard for danger is blurred to obscurity.

It has been another week now and while the baking experiments have been equally entertaining and fulfilling, I yearn for the touch of sweet limestone once again. I fear that should I not return to climbing soon I will morph into a crazy cat lady, as patting cats has become part of my daily repertoire.

While weekly visits to the physio sees my bank account trickle slowly downwards, I am comforted knowing I am in good hands. You see, my physiotherapist is the same gentleman who treats Malta’s football team. What a lucky girl I am. Thanks to him, not only has my painful wincing with every step decreased, I can now hobble more than 30 seconds without buckling over.

I feel fortunate to have all the cats catch my attention during my hobbles and vegetative state on the couch. Of course, I am there to cater to their every whim, from filling their bowls to opening the door for them to curl up onto my bed at 5am in the morning.
IMG_2396
This one wailed until my cuddles soothed her wallowing. We had never met before but I soon fell in love and feel that I must own one or two, or three soon. Hmm.. I probably should get out.
IMG_2375

IMG_2376

IMG_2377

Advertisements

Saving my sanity through baking in Malta


IMG_2219
Attard, Malta

There’s a certain kind of malaise one experiences when injury struck in a foreign country away from their friends and family.

From what I hoped was a simple sprain turned into what I had feared – a torn plantar fascia that will leave me unable to walk, let alone climb, for the next few weeks. With South America just a whisker’s breadth away, I am approaching this news with extreme trepidation.

Would I be safe as a solo female traveller in Buenos Aires?
If things do go awry, would I be able to get away?
What if I fail to find climbing partners?
I clearly have some big decisions to make.

Fortunately, this snafu I find myself in could have been far worse and often find myself taking note of this reminder whenever my wanton thoughts begin to spiral. Engaging in penny-saving and amusing activities have been my saving grace.

My days now consist of three things:
1) ample hobbling and physio exercises
2) watching episodes of the Great British Bake Off
3) as a result of number two, baking experiments
IMG_2216

IMG_2217

IMG_2220

IMG_2321
I figured at the very least I would live a deliciously depressed life while I continue to beseech recovery.

Sleepless in Malta


Lissette's Pictures 039

Attard, Malta

I’ve had a few sleepless nights.

You know, the ones where you lay awake in tears at the realisation that your dreams may have been dashed as a result of a split second decision.

The ones where you feel helpless and lost.

The ones where you are wrapped with discomfort because you can no longer walk anymore because your injury is too severe.

I cast my mind back to that fateful second where I, barely two metres above the ground, feel an ephemeral buzz of panic as I realise that I am too short to reach the clipping hold for the first bolt.

In a “bravery” effort to control my fear, I ignore the flashing sirens and attempt to climb higher to some better holds. Three points of contact are plastered on the slightly overhanging rock as I make my way up to a well chalked flake. I eyeball a jug out to my right and not even a hair’s breadth from cautioning my spotter, the entire flake explodes in my hand and catapults me off the wall.

Time stands still for just a minute before the pain arrives. It’s all I can remember as it sears up my left ankle.

I’m disgusted at the decrepit state of my harness and clothes as they are sprayed with dirt and choss when I hit the ground. My first thought was a burning desire to keep climbing. Surely, after a small rest, the pain would subside and I’ll be able to continue.

Even after a quick thinking Claudine (bless her nursing career path) bandages and elevates my ankle, it doesn’t go away. I try to stand up only to fall over in pain.

A week has passed and my mind has wandered to a familiar wanton place. Unable to dig myself from the myriad of self deprecating thoughts I descend into the rabbit hole of despair and can see no end in sight.

“It’s only a sprain,” the GP says. “Take some paracetamol.” A glimmer of hope.

Until then, I am a prisoner in my home while my Maltese counterparts are gallavanting on rock and my supportive parents a 24 hour plane ride away. Limited to limping and hopping, my days have been passed watching the Great British Bake Off and patting the cats – so I guess it hasn’t been all bad. Becky has been a wonder and I am thankful to Stephen and Claudine who embarrassingly piggy backed me out of the crag. Bless Malta for its easy access cliffs. And a support network however small of great locals.

My journey to big wall climbing starts in Malta’s Wied Babu


IMG_2187
Wied Babu, Malta
Having only begun my rock climbing journey a year ago, I am still learning new things everyday. How to belay with different devices, how to tie varying knots, how to handle potentially death defying situations.

One thing I have really been keen on is multi pitching, which I’ve only had the opportunity to do twice before. Once back home on a juggy 5c+ and another over a Maltese sea cliff where I swear some poop o’ fear actually came out. Both, I was seconding but now that my confidence has grown, I feel up for the responsibility of leading others.

Wied Babu was the most picturesque multi I’ve ever done. While there are only three short pitches, the exposure, dramatic sea cliff backdrop and the billowing ocean gusts that engulfed us made the climbing (it’s almost a scramble that can be done in trainers, honestly) stellar. I could almost picture myself 1000m up on a big wall climb in the Dolomites, experiencing that same thrill by tenfold. My illusions of grandeur were further bolstered when I arrived at the top with Stephen comfortably walking up the climb next to me as I began to top belay Becky. I led all the pitches! I am the master of control! No one died!

IMG_2182

IMG_2176

1374773_10151655047712353_202704002_n

All sarcasm aside, it somewhat saddens me that all these experiences have come now after I left Australia and the comfort of my partners back home. But gazing over the crashing waves and admiring the stunning Blue Grotto before us I couldn’t be happier. The past two months have been the most thrilling, scariest, happiest, diverse learning curves I’ve ever faced and I can’t wait to explore more of Maltese climbing ahead of South America.

Sure, I have acquired some strange habits since I’ve been here but everything I’ve done in the past month has stemmed from the love for climbing. Every day has yielded fruitful and exciting escapades up and down rock albeit waking with no expectations. I can’t remember the last time I felt so much freedom while travelling.

What’s next? Even I am not privy to know. My choose-your-own-adventure continues..

Strange habits indeed: weird clothing combinations

Strange habits indeed: weird clothing combinations

Just when you think it couldn't get weirder.. bikini bottoms, sports bra and hiking shoes. Complete with tummy flab. The greatest life choices I make have been the most obvious ones.

Just when you think it couldn’t get weirder.. bikini bottoms, sports bra and hiking shoes. Complete with tummy flab. The greatest life choices I make have been the most obvious ones.

What is your climbing limit? How climbing in Malta has reset all my beliefs


IMG_2056

Naxxar, Malta
There’s something quite special about The Wave crag in Naxxar. The rigid stone bears little resemblance to the fingertip shearing knife point formations that other areas have. Centrally located in Malta, easy accessible via public transport and within walking distance from three other crags, Naxxar is an ideal quickie climbing spot for beginner to intermediate grades. The Wave itself is characterised by knee bar infested tufas, positive holds and flakes on a slightly overhanging wall (the golden climbs however, are 7b and up – so I’ve made a mental checklist…).

The view, as always the case at most Maltese crags, is stunning. On this day, in my line of sight was Claudine climbing and in the distance, a sail boat floating along the ocean while a paraglider drifted above reinforcing Malta as an adventure playground yet to be discovered by the world.

IMG_2131

Here, I’ve found my perfect project: Nighthawks at the Diner – a stunning line with an early crux, a no hands rest (for my little shortness!) and breezy traverse finish. At 7a (23), it would be the accomplishment of all my lamentations in the last few months. I would finally come away from the plateau I’ve suffered.

At first it seemed impossible; the body tension-intensive moves threw me off the rock and the smoothness of the crux footholds holds tested my confidence.

Clipping from a straight arm undercling twice in a row was a tough challenge. One mouthful of rope wasn’t enough but two was too much for my weary forearms. The solution? One a half mouthfuls and believing that I wouldn’t plummet to the ground should I fall at that exact moment. Of course, these were all irrational fears – as most climbing limitations usually are.

If that wasn’t enough, a sideways dead point on the crux pulled me off so many times I didn’t believe I could ever send. A shuffle in feet, body memory and increased strength and suddenly everything began to fall into place. Stay low on the traverse and voila, the anchors are in sight.

I’m never quite sure how my sequences happen to work in the end when at first it seems so incredibly strenuous. Feeling defeated, we yell “I can’t do it! I can’t do it! Falling! Falling!” constantly like a broken record but over time our bodies answer our desperate pleas for adaption and without thinking, the moves come through us.

Every time I project a new route above my grade level, I become enamored with climbing all over again. From working out the moves and constantly falling to fluidly clipping the chains, I witness my fingers, my body and my mental stamina become stronger and what I thought was my limit reset itself. Where once was a fear of lead climbing, I am ferociously attacking each bolt without fear. All of this coming from someone who hadn’t entertained the idea of sport or exercise in the 11 years before she discovered climbing, these experiences have been life changing.

It took a few weeks to tick Nighthawks, but the feeling of accomplishment was immense. Even as I stuck the dead point and moved through to the no-hands rest on the traverse, I didn’t believe I would send. As always, Claudine was my supporter and when I finally reached my second milestone I was glad that my new friends were there to witness it. Would I be able to project Sea of Illusions now? How would I go on another 7a? The options seem endless now.

IMG_2054

Malta Climbing Reel: day seven


Wied Babu, Malta
I cannot stress enough the beauty of rock climbing in Malta. It is just sublime. On these fine cliffs in Zurrieq in the south of Malta, you can enjoy the morning shade before cooling down at Blue Grotto. Afterwards, if you fancy a 1 euro beer it’s not a problem, or if you would prefer to return to the crag for a late afternoon jaunt up the rock, that option is also at your disposal. For the avid like me, nothing beats returning to the crag after a quick splash, feeling refreshed and in the beast sending zone.

Okay, so this might not have been the hardest climb in the world but having my picture professionally taken with the Maltese sun setting in the background while breezing up the wall was a pretty fantastic feeling.
This is me on Denny 6a/17 after some cruisy layback moves. Photos by Stephen Farrugia.

HAVE I mentioned that rock climbing in Malta was fairly awesome and then some yet?

1374084_10151647525787353_240132202_n555934_10151647525767353_1817362542_n

Malta Climbing Reel: day six


1385447_10151918553935763_803412132_n-2

Garden of Eden, Malta
Forget the treacherous scramble down the cliff face to get to the crag, just focus on the superb cave that greets you with its handful of incredible quality routes and ocean views.

1374881_10151909896585763_433615451_n
I have been working hard at Tufa Baroque, an extremely pumpy 6c/21 (personally, I think it’s a lot harder for its grade) for a few days now. At first glance, it seemed relatively simple, big holds and plenty of laybacking opportunities blended in with a nice traverse and some nice heel hooks.

It wasn’t until I jumped on it and realised that my ahem.. vertically challenged body would prove a disadvantage to making the crux hold without performing a powerful deadpoint from a layback.

But the story of Tufa Baroque and I will be told another day. Today is about inspirational people.

You see, your mind is a funny thing to master particularly when you are on a climb and your arms are absolutely melting and the first thing you’d love to do is let go and escape this hell that you’ve created for yourself. For me, a fear of big falls stops me from pushing past the initial desire to let go and making those few extra moves to get to the next clip. Instead, I retreat back to the safety of being barely above the bolt and happily take a little comfortable fall that doesn’t shake my sanity.

This of course, is not the secret to becoming a better climber.

But watching this guy:

20140102-153726.jpg

20140102-161122.jpg

20140102-153746.jpg

reset everything for me. He is on an overhung 7b+ (26) which required gargantuan amounts of core strength to stay kneebarred into the tufa before eventually moving up to toe hooking it and moving over the lip.

He was screaming bloody murder and even after he prepared himself for the fall and screamed out take…. he didn’t let go. He just kept going.

Well, he fell eventually but I think we all verified (because we already knew this, didn’t we?) that mastering what you believe are the limitations to doing the next few moves, you will send. Witnessing that single episode of epic beast mode completely shaped the way I am climbing today: fearlessly (after the second bolt).