Andrea Charest, 33, is co-owner of Petra Cliffs Climbing Center and Mountaineering School in Burlington. A Mammut-sponsored athlete, she is seeking to become certified at the highest level as a Rock Guide by the American Mountain Guides Association. She teaches mountaineering and climbing in Vermont and beyond.
We profiled her in Winter 2015-16’s Q&A. The following is the extended interview.
VL: How’d you get introduced to climbing?
AC: I didn’t know climbing was a sport until I was 18, but I had always been a climber. I climbed trees, rocks, I dabbled with climbing things that I wouldn’t climb now without a rope. I had some friends that found an indoor climbing gym in Pittsburgh — where I’m from — my senior year in high school. So that was the first time I tried indoor climbing. I had decided at that point in high school that I was coming to UVM for school, so I started looking into work study opportunities and found one working at the climbing wall at UVM. I started working there and through the outdoor community and the Outing Club, I linked up with people who were climbing outside, and started doing more outdoor climbing.
VL: What attracted you to UVM?
AC: Partly location. Mostly location. … I had been looking all over New England at schools and looked at Burlington, looked at UVM, applied early decision, got in, didn’t apply anywhere else. I totally fell in love with Burlington, mostly the ski opportunities.
Andrea Charest in the Smugglers Notch area. Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur.
VL: What was your major?
AC: I originally went in with a chemistry major, but then switched to psychology.
VL: That must come in handy with your profession.
AC: Oh yeah. Your mind limits you a lot more in climbing than your body does. So breaking through some of those barriers can be challenging but it feels really good when you do.
VL: Do you have a preference for rock or ice?
AC: If I had to do only one for the rest of my life? I would rock climb.
VL: What do you love about it?
AC: So many different things. The challenge for sure. It’s a problem, kind of a puzzle that you have to work out. It feels good physically while you’re climbing, but it’s very mental too. You get to try to work something out, look at it, think about it, make a plan, readjust if it’s not working. Sometimes you fail, but most of the time you get to try again. I really like the places it can take you to. It’s a little bit different