Climbers and hunters will today sign an agreement aimed at resolving issues of access to sites where both practise their respective activities.

The Malta Climbing Association and the Federation for Hunting and Conservation will be signing an MOU “to create an environment in which hunters or trappers and climbers can enjoy a friendly relationship to their mutual benefit”.

Climbers and hunters often use the same spots in the countryside and along the coast. According to the MOU, they face similar issues related to access to private land and both are sometimes involved in negotiations with government entities and NGOs.

Also, certain climbing areas can only be reached through land owned or rented by hunters.

Last week the association downplayed claims by a rock-climber that there had been clashes between hunters and trappers out in the field.

The association’s secretary, Kenneth Abela, told this newspaper that hunters and climbers had a relationship of tolerance – hunters allowed climbers to climb cliffs on their private land and climbers helped them clean up the site.

This relationship will today be set out in black on white. The two entities will, according to the MOU, seek to resolve any issues where their interests overlap and will also cooperate on charitable, philanthropic, environmental and other causes.

Jeffrey Camilleri heads the Malta Climbing Association.Jeffrey Camilleri heads the Malta Climbing Association.

The agreement comes as rock-climbing grows in popularity not only locally but also with tourists.

According to the new association, which is seeking to make the sport safer, Malta’s rock-climbing tourism has become almost as popular as the diving niche.

The Malta Climbing Association and the Federation for Hunting and Conservation will be signing an MOU ‘to create an environment in which hunters or trappers and climbers can enjoy a friendly relationship to their mutual benefit’

“Rock-climbing is reaching the same popularity levels of diving in Malta and at least 500 tourists travel to Malta every year specifically for climbing,” Jeffrey Camilleri, who heads the Malta Climbing Association, said.

Set up last year, the association will next week open its doors to new members and has started working on a policy that makes it mandatory for routes to be equipped with safe bolts (to which climbers attach their ropes).

It will also be looking for indoor premises for training.

The association’s secretary, Kenneth Abela, hopes the work of the association will boost the sport’s popularity among the younger generations.

Malta Climbing Association secretary Kenneth Abela.Malta Climbing Association secretary Kenneth Abela.

“I will never forget the day I saw an eight-year-old girl born without fingers climbing a wall at a park in Marsascala. I was told that, since taking up the challenging sport, she believed more in her abilities and was even faring better at school,” he said.

Interest in the sport has soared over the past few years but climbing in Malta has been documented to at least the mid-20th century, when the British military trained on a site known as Ix-Xaqqa, in Għar Lapsi.

Since then, climbing has grown in popularity and two clubs were set up. Interest in local routes reached international shores and climbing personality Stevie Haston has even moved to Gozo. He is now the honorary president of the association.

Meanwhile, over the past few years the Malta Tourism Authority, in collaboration with the Malta Rock Climbing Club, also funded the bolting of some climbs. So far, some 600 rock-climbing routes, out of 1,500 climbs spread across the islands, have been fitted with bolts.

Mr Camilleri said the local routes are world class. He explained there is a scale to measure how challenging a route is, with the hardest measuring at 9b+, of which there are only a couple abroad. So far, the most challenging local route is 8b+ and climbers are still on the lookout for harder ones.

The association can be contacted on info@maltaclimbingassociation.com or on the Facebook page called ‘Malta Climbing Association’.

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