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How one pro-climber mom renegotiated life—and risk—on the rocks

It’s an age-old topic of discussion, one that seems to place a particular burden on climber-moms: How much risk is appropriate as a climber-parent, and how do you balance your passion for the vertical with your obligations as the caretaker of a young life? As I’ve observed myself as a father, the threshold is completely individual—of course you want to come home safe and sound at the end of the day to your kids, but at what point have you throttled back on your goals and dreams to such a degree that climbing no longer ignites any passion in you?

In the excellent, new 25-minute film “New Life,” the professional climber Caroline Ciavaldini faces these and other complex and interlinked questions as the new parent, with her husband, James Pearson, of a son, Arthur. As Arthur grows from a baby to a toddler, Ciavaldini resumes her life as a pro climber, seeking to strike the balance between her approach to climbing before motherhood and a reconsidered approach to climbing now, culminating in a decision about whether to lead the notorious gritstone route Gaia (E8 6c or 5.12c R/X). The movie is well worth a watch. Whether you’re a parent or not, these are topics and decisions that affect us all in a sport—and life—that will never be without risk.

Want to learn more about how the pro climbers Caroline Ciavaldini and her husband, James Pearson, balance the demands of parenting with performance climbing? Then pick up our upcoming Fall Issue, No. 379, with a photo feature by Tristan Hobson on this very topic. By purchasing an Outside+ membership, you’ll receive a year of Climbing in print PLUS get our coffee-table special edition of Ascent, and you can access over 3,000 other top-shelf features and articles.