The Vermont Sports 30

3. ANDREA & STEVE CHAREST:  COMMUNITY CLIMBERS Andrea and Steve Charest could have easily pursued their passion for climbing out West, but they too chose to stay in Vermont. Andrea started climbing in high school in Pennsylvania. While at the University of Vermont she worked at Petra Cliffs where she met Steve, a Johnson State College grad with a degree in outdoor education and some impressive climbs and backcountry ski descents to his name.

The Charests on Saturday, January 25, 2020. (Michael Pronzato)

The couple married and bought Petra Cliffs in 2012. Since then, they have not only built the gym into a destination but have helped grow the climbing community as a whole, hosting events such as the Smuggs Ice Bash and the Reel Rock Film Tour. Petra Cliffs guides are now AMGA certified and Steve’s work teaching climbing, avalanche protocol and mountaineering skills has inspired students such as Aaron Rice (the first to ski 2.5 million human-powered feet in a year).

In December 2018, Steve was ice climbing in Smuggler’s Notch when a rope failed and he plunged 60 feet. Steve was hospitalized for 7 weeks. Through his recovery, the Charests persevered and on 2019 closed on a new building site in Burlington’s South End, which will allow the gym to nearly double in size.

Petra Cliffs now hosts more than 500 kids in its summer camps and works closely with Vermont Adaptive and has hosted climbing events for the LGBTQ community.

Both Steve and Andrea have also been key board members in CRAG-VT, helping the non-profit in its efforts to conserve land and reopen climbing at Bolton Dome, Lone Rock Point, Upper West Bolton and many other spots around the state.


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