It’s easy to envy those who climb for a living, ‘Do they realize how good they have it?’ I often wonder, with just a touch of resentment working my 9 to 5. Caroline Ciavaldini, pro climber and August’s Girl Crush of the Month, is very aware that she is living the dream. Despite living the dream, Caroline remains grounded and grateful, and very connected to her climbing community. In describing herself as a “professional climber,” Caroline explains, “Who am I? Just a climber like you. When I have a good day, I fight my very best, and if I am lucky, I get to the top of my projects. If I am in an idiot mood, and/or if I am not lucky, I fall, and I scream because screaming stops me from being scared.” Her grounded approach may be in part due to Caroline’s island roots which seem to have influenced several pieces of Caroline’s life and climbing.
Growing up on the tiny French island of Reunion, Caroline started climbing at the age of 12, and quickly worked her way to the top of the European and World comp circuit. Within a short time, Caroline exceeded the limited training facilities of the island and was ready to leave in pursuit of climbing. Not afraid of leaving the island’s comfort and security, Caroline applies this same audacity in challenging herself and her climbing partners. Although she pushes herself, she also recognizes that climbing is about the community: “Follow your goals, enjoy the path as much as the result, and on your way, try to bring people with you.” Caroline lives this motto, so much so that she and her partner (fellow climber, James Pearson), have started sharing their stories of journeys and interactions with the climbing community on their blog, Once Upon a Climb. As Caroline shared, “As we travel together, make projects together, climb together, James’ stories have become my stories. And my stories talk about James.” In staying connected to her climbing community, Caroline is able to balance the climbing dream with reality. Describing her climbing partner, James, she explained, “James is a dreamer. He has been dreaming of a perfect line for years, just enough protections, just enough holds, just his style, in the perfect place. I am more of a realistic person, I don’t dare set my hopes that high… But I like to help him chase after his.”
At the age of 30 she is living a “second life,” as she calls it, exploring the world of outdoor climbing, pushing boundaries. “I am learning to expand my universe: trad, multi pitch, bouldering, deep water solo.” Where something may be climbed free using bolts, Caroline is the first to suggest climbing it using trad gear, as she did in 2013 with Grazie Rickie, 8a+/5.13c. While the specific type of climbing motivating her changes, she feels most inspired by the community itself: “those people that give you a piece of sunshine when you meet them.” Caroline’s approach to climbing reminds us that even if we leave our island, no matter where we head, we remain connected to the climbing community.
Thanks for inspiring us, Caroline! Climb on! ~Cate