Risky trad ascents on family vacations

James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini proved once again that toddlers don't have to negatively impact climbing ability - quite the opposite. While on a family holiday in Rhoscolyn in North Wales, Caroline secured the first women's ascent of Olwen (E9, 6c), James repeated the infamous and dangerous Prisoners of the sun line (E10, 7a). And they also have an answer to the question of the compatibility of small children and dangerous trad lines.

This is what a family vacation looks like Caroline Ciavaldini and James Pearson from: She makes short work of Easel-EE (E7, 6c), only to then get the second repetition and the first women's ascent of the sparsely secured Trad route Olwen (E9, 6c). He attempts to flash Olwen and secures a walk on the infamous Prisoners of the Sun line, feared for its runouts (E10, 7a).

I think for both of us, a big part of the decision to do dangerous trad routes as parents is knowing when to say 'no'. We both find it difficult and make our decisions much more carefully than before the birth of our children.

Caroline Ciavaldini
Caroline Ciavaldini repeatedly on the Painted Wall at Rhoscolyn Olwen (E9, 6c) secures the only 3rd ascent and the 1st women's ascent of the notorious line. Image: David Simmonite / Once Upon A Climb
Caroline Ciavaldini repeatedly on the Painted Wall at Rhoscolyn Olwen (E9, 6c) secures the only 3rd ascent and the 1st women's ascent of the notorious line. Image: David Simmonite / Once Upon A Climb

James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini found their projects on the Painted Wall in the Rhoscolyn climbing area. James tackled Prisoners of the sun (E10, 7a) directly. The Trad line has just three gear placements along its entire length. Due to the poor conditions at the start of the family vacation, the inspection had to be on the second day.

After Caroline Olwen (E9, 6c), the toughest trad line since she was a mother, James attempted a flash ascent armed with his partner's beta. Unfortunately, he botched this one on the last difficult move and had a huge takeoff. Everything fell into place the second time around.

Small children and dangerous trad routes - no contradiction?

Caroline Ciavaldini is aware that James's endeavors of flashing a dangerous E9 or climbing very hard trad routes can seem unsettling to some, especially since they have two small children. However, James is an experienced trad climber. "And while from the outside it may seem like his approach to climbing hasn't changed, the reality is that he now trains a lot more and has more room for error than before."

Some of his earlier decisions were a bit reckless, but now he really calculates what he can do and has a deeper understanding of himself and his abilities.

Caroline Ciavaldini

"For the right reasons"

As far as she is concerned, she is now climbing routes that she might not have climbed before, says Caroline Ciavaldini. "Maybe I was just not able to properly assess the risk and consequences of a possible fall in the past."

"I'm a parent, but I'm also Caroline, and making that kind of decision is about choosing to exist, not just as a parent."

Caroline Ciavaldini

With Olwen, the second E9 of her climbing career, she made the decision to climb the route very carefully. "I wanted to do it for the right reasons. Not for the attention, not for the sponsors, just for me. Olwen has a relatively difficult section where you just can't fall and I wanted to find out how to have the right attitude in a situation like that."

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Credits: Cover Photo David Simmonite / Once Upon A Climb

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