18 Months of Parenthood
3.0 minute read
Caroline Ciavaldini and her husband, James Pearsons, introduce us to their journey through the first 18-months of parenthood, as they aim to balance their careers as professional climbers with their newly found responsibilities as parents.
This is precisely what I found when I stepped onto the route. After the initial (6c) pitch, I put my hands on what I discovered to be a 40-meter, full endurance (8b) on tuffas. This pitch is varied, technical, and pumpy. After working the moves, I knew right away I was lucky to have chosen such a beautiful route; this single pitch at any crag would be a must-do, 5-star. As I took in the rope with a smile, I could hear my second’s agreement as he worked the moves with exclamations of delight! The (7b) pitch is a long stunning colonnette, and then there are the two magnificent (8a)’s on tuffas. The easier traverse and top pitch might not deserve too much celebration, but they allow you to link between four incredible pitches.
Working on Une Jolie and figuring out every detail, I couldn’t help but remember my adventure on the Voie Petit (500m, 8b max) back in 2016. At altitude, above a glacier, and on granite, these two routes have little in common, but my process was just the same. Negotiating with my fear 300 meters up a new wall is always an intimidating position, especially my fear of failing. I had to refocus on the pleasure and enjoy it. After all, I was abandoning my kid for a full day, so I had better make it a worthwhile success.
My achievement wouldn’t come through a grade, though; for a long time, I have realized grades are all relative. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if it is a 9c or 7c; no one cares! It’s only climbing. It can only be for MY pleasure that I decide to put myself through fear, tiredness, and then, hope, and belief, which all turn into a passion. Of course, over the two days that I worked the route, I had quite a few moments where I despaired in figuring out a method. I also went to bed those nights, asking myself why I was doing this. But then, waking up at 5 am to beat the afternoon sun, I itched to put my hands on the rock, savored the idea that I could only rely on myself to get the rope up; this project reawakened the climber that I am.
I came home with precise sequences in my head and the knowledge that if I trained, visualized, and prepared, I had a chance to link it all. I knew training would be challenging, especially motivating for another endurance lap through the summer heat. But I was finding myself again, finding my space to be a climber and a good mum.
I returned to the route with James a month later while the grandparents took care of Arthur. Part of me wondered why we were leaving our baby, and we both felt a bit empty without him jumping around the van. But then in the early morning, I put my game face on, James transformed into Mr. Perfect Belayer, and the fun began. In the (8b), I had no idea if I had the necessary endurance, but in a month’s training, I had noticed that it was all coming back quickly. I climbed precisely without a single mistake. I have no idea how it happened–maybe being a parent and having little time forced me to improve my efficiency. The (7b), the first (8a), the (5c) it all went smoothly. Then, in the last (8a), I made a few mistakes. I forgot a few methods, and there was a moment at the very end, where I realized I had to make the right decision very fast, or I would be off, and maybe not have the energy to try the pitch again.
It is here that I faced my old friend, the fear of failing; every climber has to find a way of dealing with this. When I was a competition climber, I used to tell myself to focus closer on the pleasure of the movements. This time, with my forearms about to explode, and while I was struggling to slow my breathing on a relatively restful tuffa, I could see in my mind Arthur dancing to his favorite music. With that, I realized that falling would be ok; failing was indeed not that sad. Accepting the possibility of not doing it gave me the energy to finish the pitch and scrape my way to the belay. One more (6b), and I had done it, I was again the climber I wanted to be! I had proven to myself that there was a balance between being a mum and a climber. That even the joy of my little one could give me strength for climbing that I hadn’t had before.
I'd love to tell you James and I drove back home playing Une Jolie, but that would be too whimsically poetic. After all, ticking the climb for its name or notoriety is not the experience I was after. Plus, James hates the song, but James's story of understanding French poetry, and as I say, “truly” becoming French, is another story altogether.
Written by Caroline Ciavaldini e James Pearson
Photo by DarkSkyMedia
Stage 6- Buoux
We stayed four days at the "Auberge des Seguins," which is a perfect location to go to the crags on foot. They even let us take our dinners outside by the bedroom while the baby was already in Bed. Buoux doesn't need any publicity. It is a unique, incredible crag, and there is a reason for its Fame. Buoux is a Must visit". No matter what your level is, you will find a gem to climb!
Stage 7- Mouries
Mouries is a long way from Buoux, and we had initially planned some extra stops. But the heatwave had begun, and the other planned spots were not as exciting. So, instead of climbing stops, we biked for two days, visited an abandoned troglodyte village (les grottes de cales), and loved it!
Mouries again is an old lady, and if you can get away from requiring extremely tough grades and enjoy the technical climbing, you will love it. Mouries is a climbing lesson in itself.
Stage 8- Fontvieille secret crag
I can't tell you the secret crags, as they are secret because they aren't technically allowed. To find them you have to ask as you meet climbers on your previous days and if you are lucky they may tell you the secrets! France is full of them, and sometimes these are the best crags!
We arrived back home after 25 days of traveling and climbing. It wasn't always restful, but then living with a baby is never restful! Every day brought us load of discoveries, from a wild tortoise to incredible pains au chocolates, to meeting an old friend. Baby Arthur loved it. The minute we stepped back in the house, he was pointing again at the window, asking, "where next?" For James and me, we finish this adventure delighted to have realized that we still have so much left to explore, and it is all less than 100km from our home. This bike and climb trip is only the first!
Baby Arthur is now 1 and-a-half years old, and I just finished my summer project: “Une jolie fleur dans une peau de vache” in Verdon. James just sent his second and third 9a sport routes. I also climbed my very first 8A Boulder last winter, whilst James did his first 8B+. On paper, at least, parenting seems to have made us better climbers.
1 year and 3 months ago, we were both drowning. Almost literally drowning under a lack of sleep, dirty nappies, and our exhausted, crying infant. At the time, we would have bet our lives on the idea that simply becoming pro-climbers again would be a stretch too far. If a little fairy could have assured me there and then of the place we would be right now...it would have helped so much.
The few words “300m multi-pitch with 8b max” are very far from summarising our summer. Of course, I had the satisfaction of “ticking” this route, but the reality is that our tiny baby and all his belly aches, teething, and tantrums taught us something that we had never managed to learn by ourselves up until now: the importance of living in the moment, to enjoy every blade of grass, every bite, and then every hold and every second, high up above the Verdon. It didn’t come easily. I definitely had the temptation to allow myself to “disappear” behind my new role as a Mother. I focused primarily on the baby, and James - who was initially forced to become a hands-on Dad by my feminist side - soon became a “papa poule” as we say in French, a super involved dad. We learned to make our climbing sessions more efficient, Arthur learned to be an outdoorsy baby, and we soon found ourselves loving our time at the crag.
In rediscovering our world, through a child’s marveling eyes – climbing suddenly has this new silver lining.
We really hope you enjoy following our journey in this film, the full version will be released in December but we want to share this introduction with you as we are excited to share our story with all of the climbers, families, and especially female climbers out there. We really put our hearts into it this and into becoming a climbing family as the two of us become three.
The route is a 7-pitch (8b), and 6-months after having a baby, the idea of achieving this was going to be my “I am back” diploma. When I chose it, I knew I was on my way back to fitness, and I had just figured out a rhythm where baby let me train and sleep a bit. Fitness isn’t everything, though I also needed focus, dedication, and the will to finish such a route. What I experienced as a young mum was a total shift of focus in my life. Every second of the day, part of my mind was on my little one – Does he need anything? Is he in danger? When baby Arthur was 6-months old, I couldn’t write a full text, read a book, or focus. I willingly disappeared behind “the veil of mum.” But I was hoping I would find my fully functional brain again, on top of my late abdominals.