Weekend Warm-Up: The Long Road Home

During Arthur’s first year of life, he toured Ethiopia while his parents climbed the Towers of Tigray. As a new mother, I watched in awe while imagining my daughter exploring the contrasting colors and cultures of life on the trail, like Arthur. Now his family are at it again. This time, bike touring France and climbing along the way.

Arthur’s parents, James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini, are two of the most accomplished climbers of their generation. Based in France, they each started climbing as youngsters (Ciavaldini age 12, Pearson age 15) and quickly developed a global reputation. Their partnership intertwines a love of travel and scaling rocks. In 2018, when Arthur arrived, none of that changed.

Parenting is tough; traveling as a parent even harder

Ciavaldini says, “I am living the dream life now.” Most likely, she is referring to sharing her passion with her best friend, partner, and the father of her child. In my eyes, she and Pearson are inspirational. Parenting is tough, let alone simultaneously upholding pre-child ambitions.

Anyone with a toddler knows that the previously simple task of leaving the house becomes an elaborate affair with a phenomenal amount of baby paraphernalia. No matter how simple a family keeps child necessities, there are a ton of extras required. Throw in COVID-related travel restrictions, and any parent would be forgiven for putting family travel in the “too hard” category.

Not this family. On their recent adventure, Ciavaldini has the additional responsibility of being pregnant with Arthur’s sibling. Yet the family make a few adjustments and continue following their passion.

Solution-oriented people

When they become frustrated by cross-border restrictions, the family make transport a part of the adventure. They attach a trailer to the back of Pearson’s e-bike, turning it into Arthur’s mini-oasis. On the back of Ciavaldini’s e-bike is another trailer equipped with the family’s kit.

Then, the couple ride for three weeks from the Alps to their home. Along the way, they visit some of France’s most highly regarded climbs.

Riding in southwest from Briancon, they first stop at Ceuse. Arthur rides up front near the handlebars on the long approach to Cascade, one of Ceuse’s oldest sections. Next, they follow single track through to Orpierre. When a trailer breaks, they have a local ironmonger fix it.

The family take time between climbing to find parks and ice cream for Arthur. Then they leave the Alps behind. The scenery becomes green valleys as they head toward Provence.

At Saint-Léger, Ciavaldini does a final lead climb. She decides to ease back on difficulty as her pregnancy progresses.

As I write this during my own final weeks of pregnancy, I can’t help but once again be in awe. The physicality of climbing during pregnancy is not lost on me.

Now or never

Timing wasn’t generous for the family though. It was now or never, said Pearson as he weighed up waiting for warmer weather with second trimester pregnancy. Leaving later in the year would have offered fewer wet days. But the relentless rain doesn’t matter much. In any case, Arthur is warm and dry in his trailer, which is their main concern.

Toward the end of their journey, temperatures rise to the mid-30s Celsius and the terrain flattens. The family make a final stop in Gargantua, a local haven similar to an outdoor climbing gym where almost all holds are chipped and quickdraws in place.

Ciavaldini and Pearson seem to be solution-oriented people. Many families find it easier to hunker down at home until COVID restrictions ease. Some also choose to wait until their young form reliable behaviors and sleep patterns before traveling.

But Ciavaldini and Pearson seek out ways to overcome barriers associated with young family travel. Without letting life pass them by, they reward Arthur with new experiences.