Climbing Pregnant: Caroline George Interview
When I published some of my first blogs on climbing while pregnant, I got a barrage of messages and notes from women around the world who had been through the same thing. Some of them I knew and some of them I didn’t. Caroline George is someone who reached out to me in the very first months. Although I don’t know Caroline personally, we have many many mutual friends and she’s been a great source of information for me.
Caroline holds the prestigious title of IFMGA certified guide, something only a few women in the world can say; and she runs a successful guiding company Into the Mountains. She grew up in the heart of the Swiss Alps to a family of alpinists, so her passion and profession run in her genes. I’ve interviewed a lot of women that have rock climbed throughout pregnancy, but thought it would be great to hear from a respected and accomplished woman alpinist. She now has an adorable daughter, Olivia.
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I was guiding until I was about 4.5 months pregnant. But one day, I was guiding above 13,000ft and I could feel that I was hurting and that it was hurting the baby. So I decided then to stop guiding. I think with the first pregnancy, a part of you is in denial that there is a little being inside of you and that it’s life depends on you and it’s at your mercy. But if I was to do it again, maybe I would do the same, because the fetus is very well protected when it’s still so small. Soon there after, I stopped rock climbing too because it really hurt my hips. I couldn’t turn in bed at night after climbing because it hurt so badly after a day of climbing. So I picked up biking, hiking and swimming and I would do two of these sports almost each day. When the snow came, I went ski touring and that felt the best. The skins on the skis prevent you from contracting the muscles in the hip area, they do the work instead, so I was never in any pain after ski touring. The snow was fluffy, I was in control and I picked terrain that wasn’t prone to avalanches, so it felt really safe to me. The funny thing though is that people were very judgmental of me ski touring, saying that the baby didn’t have a say and that I was endangering my little girl, etc. I think this came for a general misunderstanding of the activity though, as no one frowned upon the fact that I was road biking, which I thought was actually way more dangerous: if you fall road biking, the consequences are high. But with mellow ski touring and skiing, the consequences are low. Ski touring is the sport that felt the best to me. When I would hit the 2500ft mark, Olivia would push really hard on my ribs with her feet to tell me to stop, that she had had enough. But I think she really enjoyed it. It was weird when she was born to no longer have her with me as company. Gotta say, sharing these moments with her are some of the best moments of my life.
I did my last ski tour with her in my belly on her birth day. The previous day, I had gone for a 3300ft ski tour with my mom in really cold temperatures. But I thought every day would be my last day of “freedom,” as everyone kept repeating to me. The following day, I went for a short ski tour in the sun. I finished touring at 4pm. And she was born at midnight that same day.
After having your daughter, how has your climbing lifestyle changed? Are you able to get into the mountains as much?
I started ski touring again when she was 10 days old and guiding and going into the mountains for myself 5 weeks after she was born. My goal was to make sure my life wouldn’t change. I didn’t want to later say: “If I hadn’t had kids, I would have done this, or that.” And an infant can be really intense, so I needed that time to myself to come home and be a good parent to her. It has been a good balance. What really changes is that you can’t pick up and go. You have to plan ahead of time who is going to watch her, for how long, etc. Spontaneity is no longer a reality. But I am really lucky because I have a good support system with my parents and my in-laws, with daycare and babysitters. Someone once told me: “don’t feel guilty because when she is 14, she will walk out the door saying: “by mom, I’m going to play with my friends” and she won’t feel guilty about it. That is sound advice because guilt and motherhood go hand in hand and it’s hard to have perspective on it. So I often think back these words. We haven’t taken her to the crags much at this point, but it will get easier once we can.
Is it something you share with your daughter?
We have taken her skiing a few times. We haven’t taken her to crags much as I think until they can obey you, they are in danger to getting hit by a rock. They don’t understand what can happen, so it’s a bit scary to take them to crags at this age. But I can’t wait until we can share and she can enjoy this lifestyle.