Hard Grit Repeats for James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini

By Rock and Ice | January 4th, 2021

Pearson on Harder Faster, which was originally climbed by Charlie Woodburn back in 2000. Photo: Chris Prescott.


On Thursday, December 24, 2020, James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini repeated two iconic testpieces at Black Rocks in the Peak District, England: Pearson made the third ascent of Harder Faster (E9 7a), while Ciavaldini did the third female ascent of Gaia (E8 6c).

Harder Faster was originally climbed by Charlie Woodburn back in 2000. Mike Weeks made a determined attempt at the serious testpiece a year later in 2001 but bailed out just prior to “the point of no return” and took a spectacular fall trying to reverse back down from the headwall. Toby Benham, the late Australian climber, did the second ascent on Christmas Day in 2003 and was belayed by Pearson himself.


[Also Read QuarryWoman – Caroline Ciavaldini And The First Female Ascent Of The Quarryman]


Gaia, the Johnny Dawes 1986 testpiece, has seen numerous ascents but only two from female climbers previously—the American climber Lisa Rands in 2005 and the British climber Katy Whittaker in 2013.

Pearson reported: “When I belayed Toby Benham (who later became known as Lucky Chance) on ‘Harder, Faster’ 17 years ago on Christmas Day, I never thought that I’d one day be up there too. At the time it really seemed like the ultimate hard grit test piece, desperate, uncontrollable climbing with no illusions about the ground fall awaiting you! 17 years later it seems odd that now, as a father, I felt intrigued enough to go back and check it out. Rain, snow and subzero temperatures tested our commitment, but finally, it all fell into place, and just like Toby, I could feel the peace and serenity high up there on those slopers.”

Ciavaldini commented: “After meeting James, the very first trad route that I saw when I googled trad climbing was Gaia and specifically the video of Jean-minh Trin-Thieu falling off and smashing his leg! At that moment I remember deciding that trad climbing was stupid! Still, regardless, in that same moment, Gaia became a very emblematic route for me, and whatever the reasons, I’m super happy to have had the chance to climb it today, and to experience for myself some of that real spicy magic that is hard grit.”

Both James and Caroline’s ascents will feature in the upcoming 2021 film “New Life” by Dark Sky Media.


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