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James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini - Training at Home with a Baby Interview

© Caroline Ciavaldini

James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini are hosting a live webinar on YouTube tonight at 7 p.m. UK time on their Once Upon a Climb Channel. The webinar, titled 'An Adventure State of Mind', will discuss the mindset required to explore and discover new climbing destinations around the globe - something of which this husband-and-wife team have plenty of experience. In 2018, however, the pair brought baby Arthur into the world, which has shifted their climb/life balance and their approach to expeditions.

The webinar will also discuss how lessons learned on expeditions can be useful during the current lockdown situation.

'What does it take to embrace a project where you don't know the destination, you're unsure of the rock, the people, the weather? What does it take to commit, not knowing if you can succeed, and never even knowing what "success" might hide…The only way you will even begin is to find a coping strategy, no matter what the outcome will be. Open your ideas, open your mind, you are in charge … Take whatever comes your way and make it your own. Today we are confined, but someday we will come out. Maybe tomorrow… next week, the month after, or the one after that. No matter what comes to us, we can take it, and we will be stronger on the other side.'

Ahead of their live session, we sent Caro some questions about training post-pregnancy, staying in form during lockdown while at home with a baby and her plans for the future, once life is back to (relatively) normal...

Caro was speaking on behalf of her sponsor, The North Face.


How did your body cope with getting back into climbing post-childbirth? How long did you wait before climbing?

I definitely didn't expect my body to be that affected by pregnancy! I think it's really not a subject that people find easy to talk about. So I was pretty unaware of the workload I would have to handle after baby was born… The main thing is getting your abdominals back - I was going to say you start from zero, but I don't remember ever having as little core strength as I had! My feet kept on slipping every two movements when I started climbing. I waited for a month and a half actually until the midwife gave me the green light to start climbing again, but I started really slowly; first I was simply trying to spend five minutes on the wall five times a day and that was hard enough!

Core exercises post-pregnancy.  © Caroline Ciavaldini
Core exercises post-pregnancy.
© Caroline Ciavaldini

How have your day-to-day lives and your approach to training changed since Arthur was born?

Both James and I had no idea how much our life was going to change. Obviously your free time really decreases so we constantly have to figure out how to take care of baby and work, climb, tidy… but that's pretty standard. I think we simply have to communicate even better than before because we have to share the load equally so we are both happy.

In terms of training we haven't changed that much after the initial eight months maybe, where I really had to train differently than before. I then came back to my best shape and now we are training as usual with a little extra element in the middle…

Training upper body strength at home.  © Caroline Ciavaldini
Training upper body strength at home.
© Caroline Ciavaldini

Has your approach to risk changed?

I had never really considered that I could die from my climbing. I don't really know maybe, this is a mistake that everybody who trad climbs makes.

But of course now we are more aware that we just can't afford to make serious mistakes, so we do a lot more thinking beforehand and thinking afterwards to learn what we did well and maybe what wasn't such a good idea so we learn faster and hopefully avoid any catastrophe. I was afraid that I would become less courageous, but I haven't because I'm still just the same climber - I love climbing and when I climb, everything else disappears. I am focused only on the rock around me. I come back to the ground after my route, and I remember: "Oh, my baby!"

Climbing waterfalls in Japan - Sawanobori.  © The North Face
Climbing waterfalls in Japan - Sawanobori.
© The North Face

You spend a lot of time abroad and on big trips. Has the type of adventure you look for now changed?

At the moment I mainly want to share adventures with James and baby, because even if they make climbing more complicated, life is better together! We just came back from a trip to Ethiopia actually, where we brought not only baby, but also his grandparents so they could babysit while we were climbing towers!

But it's still totally possible that at some point, James or I will want an adventure where we can't bring baby, because it's too cold, or dangerous, or…

We will organise ourselves so that the baby stays at home with one of the parents when the other one goes on her/his adventures!

Caro on the first female ascent of the Voie Petit 8b on the Grand Capucin.  © Dark Sky Media
Caro on the first female ascent of the Voie Petit 8b on the Grand Capucin.
© Dark Sky Media

How are you coping at home during COVID-19? You have a home gym, but is it difficult to keep a young child occupied during sessions? How do you keep him entertained?

Our gym is next to the living room, where Arthur can play safely or even go out on the terrace, but actually most of the time all three of us are in the gym and while one person is climbing the other one is making sure Arthur doesn't pass below because he loves to jump on the mattresses. He's learning to run at the minute and he just goes round and round running in the gym!

Caro training at home.  © Caroline Ciavaldini
Caro training at home.
© Caroline Ciavaldini

Has Arthur been climbing yet?

You would have to define climbing… it is super natural for a child to climb, so obviously just like any child he's learned to climb before walking on his feet. Of course he's been touching a lot of rock and scrambling more or less vertically. He's got soft shoes, a harness and a helmet so I guess the answer is yes!

What are your plans for the (uncertain) future? What are your longer-term goals?

As soon as we can come out again we want to do a bike and climb road trip around Europe. We have never taken the time to explore our backyard, and love the idea of going slower!

Then… well let's see!

Caro climbing on a TNF expedition to Jordan.  © Tim Kemple
Caro climbing on a TNF expedition to Jordan.
© Tim Kemple

How are you - and other athletes - working with The North Face during this time?

James and I just came back from Ethiopia so we were always going to spend a month at home to work on the pictures, videos, text etc. of the expedition and then start preparing the next one and at the same time training at home to get back to fitness. So we are doing just the same, actually!

I am sure it must be so much more frustrating for other athletes who had planned a project and had to cancel it. But we are lucky to all be friends (we just had a Zoom together) and some athletes who live in Italy, in Bergamo, are in the eye of the storm. They showed us how important it is to stay at home now and train with what we have at home!

We all have more time than ever to think about some new ideas and projects together, too… TNF is very present and supportive; brainstorming altogether makes you think better! Let's see what great plans come out of this time!

Check out The North Face's new Exploration Hub, where athlete expedition films, athlete workouts and influencer content can be found during lockdown.




Caroline's early climbing exploits were in the competition world where she had several years of excellents results. She later moved into sport climbing and eventually hard trad. She has made numerous difficult ascents...

Caroline's Athlete Page 16 posts 3 videos

James has gone from climbing near his family home in the Peak District of England to exploring walls and mountains in exotic locations around the globe everywhere from Tazmania to Thailand. His first venture into rock...

James's Athlete Page 23 posts 4 videos

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27 Apr, 2020

Thanks for the article, nice work

Nice photos too. But I've decided to never go waterfall climbing in Japan :)

27 Apr, 2020

The video has apparently been removed for violating youtube's terms of service...?

27 Apr, 2020

New link: https://youtu.be/C19H9gmkqa0

YouTube removed the original one for some reason.

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