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Community Spotlight: Andrea Charest, Co-Owner of Petra Cliffs

January 23, 2019 | Uncategorized

Andrea Charest is an athlete. She is a sponsored ice and rock climber with Mammut, and holds a Single Pitch Instructor certification and extensive rock and alpine training with the American Mountain Guides Association for guiding others outdoors. She is also a mother of a toddler, the co-owner of Petra Cliffs Indoor Climbing Center and Mountaineering School, and a longtime supporter of Vermont Adaptive.

We got the chance to catch up with this superhero of a woman in Burlington, and chat about what being involved with Vermont Adaptive has meant to her and her business.

Petra Cliffs was on the forefront of the climbing gym wave in 2000, and since then their doors have been open to Vermont Adaptive. Andrea and her husband bought the business in 2012, and they’ve continued working hard to accommodate all Vermont Adaptive athletes.

“Whenever we have Vermont Adaptive groups in, we do the work on our end to make sure all participants get the experience they want from us,” Andrea says.

The crew at Petra Cliffs pride themselves on creating a climbing gym for all ages and all abilities, and Andrea knows that adaptive athletes are so much a part of the Vermont sports community, so she and her team want to be there for them. A typical group session at Petra is usually around 2 hours with as much or as little climbing as people want.

Some athletes spend their entire time on the wall. The Petra staff and Vermont Adaptive staff and volunteers belay for them and manage the ropes. Athletes in wheelchairs and those with more limited mobility can learn to belay, climb with only their upper body (called “campusing”), or stay low to the ground and traverse or boulder. Being on the wall is not the only part of the climbing experience, so Petra Cliffs ensures that everyone who wants to participate can do so in some way.

There are plenty of groups that come through Petra Cliffs. It’s a prime place for birthday parties, team building activities, and family outings. Andrea can’t step away from her computer to spend time with every group that comes in, but she makes a point to clear her schedule to hang out with us. She says that there’s more laughter in a Vermont Adaptive group than in most others, so on days that we come in, she and her daughter take a break from running the business, to spend time with other athletes who love climbing like she does.

In the future, Andrea wants to see more adaptive athletes in the gym and out. The other half of the Petra Cliffs business is a mountaineering school that brings people outside to climb rock and ice. Andrea wants to do even more with Vermont Adaptive in the outdoors on real rocks and on ice.

Since interviewing Andrea for this blog post, her husband and Petra Cliffs co-owner, Steve Charest, was involved in an accident in which he fell 40+ feet while ice climbing/guiding in Smugglers Notch, Vermont, and suffered major traumatic head injuries as well as many others. He was airlifted from Smugglers Notch and is currently recovering at UVM Medical Center .

Steve has been an outdoor leader in Vermont and a mentor to many. He is a pillar of the Vermont climbing community and he and Andrea have ensured that climbers in Vermont will always have a home at Petra Cliffs. Friends of the Charest family have started a GoFundMe campaign to support the family on Steve’s road to recovery.

If you are able to give at this time, please consider supporting the family on their road to recovery.

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