French climber Caroline Ciavaldini ticked the grovelly 'Groove' pitch of The Quarryman E8 7a on Friday, just a few days after husband James Pearson completed the full four-pitch historic route (UKC News Report).
Made famous by first ascensionist Johnny Dawes contorted performance in the film Stone Monkey, the Groove - given a tentative grade of F8a - is a test of flexibility, friction and gutsiness to boot.
Despite her competitive roots, 'Caro' has made rapid progress in traditional climbing in the UK, having spent considerable time here after meeting and eventually marrying James in 2013.
We caught up with Caro during a filming session at Millstone on Saturday. Here's what she had to say about the climb and her plans for this summer...
"I expected it to be weird, it was more than that: a dihedral of glass.... nearly. Only nearly, and that's lucky: you pass your fingers over the slate to feel rougher patches, and decide that they will be your footholds.That was an exercise of perfection, and I only want to say this : Hats off Mr Dawes, this is a diamond route!"
Why did you choose the Quarryman?
I had heard a lot about the Quarryman even though I'm not British. I think in Britain people care more for history and simply because of your trad background the overall level hasn't raised as much as it has in sport climbing, so there is more respect for what was happening back in the day because they were...well...really crazy!
Had you watched the video of Johnny Dawes in Stone Monkey?
I had never seen the video of Johnny actually, it was just pure verbal reputation that I was going off. I decided to go and look at the Groove pitch this trip, but I didn't really think I'd be able to do it - i just wanted to have an idea for what could maybe be a future project. I feel like you can't really set yourself a project if you have no idea what it's like!
What were your initial thoughts?
I remember the first time I looked down from the top and the corner actually looked more "closed" than I expected, then I thought "I think I'm gonna like this!" It's not crimping on holds, it's just chimneying really and the first time I went up it I didn't have a sequence, but after 1.5 hours on it I knew I could do it.
Was it scary?
The first time you go up it you look at the bolts - they are the original ones I think - you have no idea how deep they are in the rock and they all spin, so I pre-clipped the first quickdraw as I wasn't bothered about doing it in such a good style that meant I wouldn't clip anything. That's all down to personal opinion, of course!
Are you planning to do the full route next?
If I wanted to do the full thing this year I wouldn't have time - I already have a big project for this summer, theVoie Petit 8b on the Grand Capucin. If I wanted to do The Quarryman in full, it would take a lot of headspace for me and I want to save that for my project. I'm really glad I did this pitch though, because even if I did do it fairly fast I still had time to go through all the "Oh my god, it's really hard - why am I even here?" thought processes, then you move through that; the working process of something that feels too hard. So now I have a little bit of experience that I can carry towards my summer project. So to do it all, firstly I don't have time and secondly I don't want to expend energy in it.
One for next year maybe?
Whether I'll come back next year, I'm not 100% sure yet. I want to look at the crux of the last pitch as I only went up it once with James very quickly and I couldn't figure out a method. I've heard everything from a horrible mantle to a 3-point dyno. James has a method that works perfectly for him but he's much taller so it doesn't work for me!
Good luck on the Voie Petit this summer, Caro!
Read a UKC interview with Caro about her transition to hard trad climbing here: Caroline Ciavaldini Talks Trad.