Encounter at The North Face


Chris Prescott at Hot Aches Productions

As an outdoor store in Glasgow re-opens after a re-fit, Neil Braidwood calls in to meet up with two renowned climbers.

The_North_Face_logoShoppers wandering in from Buchanan Street are enjoying drinks and nibbles. DJ Gemini is providing the sounds. Street artist Conzo Thob is customising free gifts for the first 150 visitors. And Scotland Outdoors buttonholes two astonishing athletes, James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini. Both halves of this fearless married couple are sponsored by The North Face, and the guests of honour were happy to answer Neil’s questions.

Who inspired you to climb?

James: My family were very outdoorsy, and living in the Peak District we went out hiking a lot, and even went to Scotland to climb Ben Nevis. But my parents weren’t into climbing with a rope – the perception of climbing in the UK is danger and risk, not like in Europe, where kids as young as 7 or 8 are getting into climbing in places like France and Austria. One day a friend from school said he was going climbing and I jumped at the chance to join him. As soon as I pulled the boots on I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Caroline: My family were not into climbing either, but I got into competition climbing, and one of my big heroes when I was young was Yuji Hiramaya. He’s done it all, and I have now met him and he exceeds my expectations as a climber and a person.

Do you have a favourite rock to climb on?

James: There are so many different types – but I’d say good quality sandstone. The best we can hope for in the UK is in Northumberland I’d say, but for me, the best in the world is in Fontainebleau in France.

Caroline-Ciavaldini-003-webCaroline: I cannot choose. Rocks are like wine, they are all so different and have unique characters. Long ago I would have said limestone, like the kind you get in France, where I would go tufa climbing, but since marrying James, he has opened my eyes to so many other rocks, like basalt and quartzite. Recently we were climbing in slate quarries, and that is an interesting experience.

Do you have a favourite climbing area in Scotland?

James: Definitely Dumbarton. I tried the Rhapsody route some years back and failed to crack it, but this year I came back and we made a film called Redemption, which will be premiered at the Kendal Mountain Festival. It is probably the toughest climb of its type in the world.

What is your next goal?

James: We travel to some amazing spots in the world, and when we leave, we literally leave nothing behind. We want to address the fact that in places like the Philippines, there are so many talented climbers, but the only thing holding them back is money. We want to help the climbing communities in places like that. Our sponsors are helping, and you can find out more on our website, www.onceuponaclimb.co.uk

Do you train on a climbing wall?

James: Oh yes, of course, I think they are amazing.

Caroline: We have just bought a house in France, and we had some spare rooms, so we thought, why not build a climbing wall? So we did! It’s every climber’s dream to have a wall in their house that they can train on, whatever the weather.

James: Yeah, we built in various overhangs, and I built special handholds similar to those at Rhapsody, and that training with those definitely helped me through.

Redemption_Cover-webRedemption, the James Pearson Story, a film by Hot Aches, premieres at the Kendal Mountain Festival on 21 November 2014. Watch the trailer here

The North Face is at 153-155 Buchanan Street, Glasgow G1 2JX. 0141 221 3302. The North Face

Find out more about James and Caroline at www.onceuponaclimb.co.uk


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