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Caroline Ciavaldini climbing The Quarryman above Llanberis, North Wales in April 2016. On 14 April 2018 the Frenchwoman made the first female ascent of this legendary 1987 Johnny Dawes climb
Photo by Richard Felderer / La Sportiva
Caroline Ciavaldini inching her way up the glass-like corner of The Quarryman above Llanberis, North Wales in April 2016.
Photo by Richard Felderer / La Sportiva
Caroline Ciavaldini climbing The Quarryman above Llanberis, North Wales in April 2016.
Photo by Richard Felderer / La Sportiva

Caroline Ciavaldini makes first female ascent of The Quarryman in Wales

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France's Caroline Ciavaldini has made the long-awaited first female ascent of The Quarryman in the slate quarries above Llanberris in North Wales. First ascended by Johnny Dawes back in 1987, this climb is one of the most famous multi-pitch rock climbs in Great Britain.

French climber Caroline Ciavaldini has made the coveted first female ascent of The Quarryman, one of the most iconic multi-pitch rock climbs in Great Britain freed by Johnny Dawes back in 1987. Located deep in the Twll Mawr slate quarry high above the village of Llanberris in North Wales, the route offers four pitches of highly technical climbing up to E8 7a, including the unique Groove pitch immortalised in the cult film Stone Monkey and described by Dawes in our 2011 interview as requiring "you to climb very accurately while your body is under a full physical assault. To succeed, you really need to master both its technicality and physicality."

Ciavaldini, who started to comprehend the intricacies of British trad climb thanks to her husband James Pearson, eyed the route in 2016 when her partner successfully redpointed the unique line. At the time she remarkably repeated the smooth corner Groove pitch, but although this is generally regarded as the technical crux, she opted against redpointing the entire line as the first pitch poses some difficult and dangerous climbing with serious ground fall potential.

Two years down the line evidently the draw of Dawes’ masterpiece proved too alluring and the duo returned to North Wales specifically with this route in mind. After dodging raindrops earlier in the week and briefly working the moves, Ciavaldini summoned the necessary psyche to lead all pitches free, with Pearson following on jumars.

While things ran smoothly on the psychologically testing first pitch, the glass-like Groove proved somewhat of a different story, as Ciavaldini explained “the groove pitch is pretty crazy, every single move basically feels like it’s wrong. But you have to somehow keep on going wrong and then perhaps, maybe, at some time... When I did it I basically fell off but somehow got jammed and suddenly realised “oh I’m still on the route” and continued to the top.”

Even nowadays, 31 years after Dawes' ground-breaking ascent, repeats are few and far between and the magnitude of Ciavaldini’s first female ascent on Saturday 14 April should not be underestimated.

James Pearson climbs The Quarryman


Links: FB Caroline Ciavaldini, Instagram Once Upon a Climb, onceuponaclimb.co.uk, La Sportiva

Rock climbing in Wales - a choice selection
- Dinas Cromlech - some of the best extreme rock climbs in the entire UK.
- Cloggy - Clogwyn Du'r Arddu - the shrine of British rock climbing.
- Vivian Quarry - the most popular slate crag in Wales
- Rainbow Slab - arguably the jewel in the crown of Llanberis slate.
- Gogarth - one of the best sea cliffs in Britain. Fullstop.
- Lower Pen Trwyn - simply the best sport crag in North Wales.
- Huntsman's Leap - one of the most popular sea cliffs in Pembroke, South Wales.

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