Audrey Gariepy

Audrey Gariepy - © Cory Richards
  • 3 September 1979
  • St-Jean-Chrysostome (Quebec)
  • Sports teacher
  • Foreman for Celtic Reforestation
  • 2008

A lifestyle choice
«I graduated from university in 2002 and was planning to become a sports teacher. However, I began climbing during my last few years of school and by the time I finished school I was completely addicted to the climbing lifestyle. So instead of looking for a job as a teacher I decided to buy a van and go looking for adventure. In order to make a living and to pay for my trips I began working in the forest planting trees during the summer. It’s been eight years since I chose this lifestyle. Time has passed and I am now a foreman and for three or four months every summer I work with a team of 16 planters. This enables me to have the free time to do what I love most.»

«As the years have passed climbing has become more than just a hobby. Everything I do seems to have a connection to climbing: the seasonal work that I chose was originally so that I would have more time to climb and travel. Now, it’s impossible to imagine what my life would be like without climbing. In life, I think it’s important to live every moment of every day. It’s obvious that most of us will grow old and that we must think about this as well, but that should not be the guiding force in our lives. Climbing allows me to appreciate every little moment. It helps me focus on the here and now. During the autumn I climb as much as I can to get in shape. Then when winter arrives I go as often as I can to the Canadian Rockies, to a paradise of ice in the heart of these magnificent mountains, to take advantage of the long ice climbing season there.»
Another important thing in my life
«TO BE is more important than TO HAVE.
I am happy I don’t have too many material things.
Of course, climbing gear doesn’t count. ;-) »
Feeling alive
«I have always felt a strong need to play outside. When I was a kid, my parents struggled to keep me inside, especially in the winter when it was cold outside. When I started rock climbing in 1999 I immediately loved the feeling I got from this new activity: to be outdoors, to focus on every movement, and to be aware of everything around me. It seems to me that everything I previously worked on in my life has made me a better climber. When I was in college during the winter I had to climb indoors. I loved that time but after a year I needed to get outside more often. That’s why I started to ice climb, which satisfied my love for climbing and the outdoors during the long Canadian winter. I became addicted very quickly. There are so many new places to explore and techniques to learn... I love getting up early in the morning and driving while it is still dark, half asleep and listening to music, making the approach by headlamp while watching the sun slowly rise, and then arriving at the base of the route. Nothing in life gives me that same feeling of being alive as ice climbing. I am completely focused on the first and last movement, aware of the sounds that my ice tools and crampons make, aware of everything around me. I don’t have time to think about what I’m going to eat for dinner and, in any case, I won’t be home in time to cook. It’s a feeling that’s both quiet and intense. Of course, when I’m fully exposed to the cold wind and freezing my derriere at a belay, or when the blood finally returns to my fingers after a long cold spell, I sometimes ask myself why I love this so much. Fortunately, I quickly forget as soon as I look at everything around me. I feel so small in the middle of these giant, snow-covered mountains. I am so lucky to be there and doing what I am doing.»
Planting trees
«When I am not climbing, I love snowkiting, working with wood, reading, watching movies... and eating ice cream. However, my work represents a big part of my life. From April through July, I am responsible for a strong team of planters and together we plant around 30,000 trees per day. The days last close to 15 hours so I don’t have much time for climbing. But my work represents another of my passions and I love this short break from climbing.»
My favorite places
«I love to travel in the northern Canadian territories. The people there are very proud of the place where they live. It seems like time passes more slowly there and that everyone talks about this place with stars in their eyes. Another place I really like is Nepal. The people from the Khumbu valley really impress me. They carry and build everything with their hands. Simply to bring fruit to their village it is necessary for them to leave Lukla for several days. I was very impressed by their mental and physical strength, just like the giant, endless mountains that surround them. I should also mention Iceland because this country is also so incredible. When Inès Papert and I were there we had really good luck with the weather and we could climb as much as we wanted. We even climbed 1000 meters of vertical ice in a day. But if I was forced to choose only one place, it would have to be Norway. I get a big smile every time I think about my trip there in February 2008 with Guy Lacelle, Mathieu Audibert, Chris Alstrin and Alex Lavigne. Our timing was perfect and there was so much ice to climb. Driving along the fjords, through tunnels, high into the mountains and then down again… it was magic to be there with someone as experienced as Guy who guided us to the best places and who radiated positive and contagious energy. The ice was incredible and I think that we made some first ascents (that’s what we thought, anyway). But what made this trip so great was the other people, the guys I travelled with. To be with great people is now more important for me than the destination.»

picto plus Major ascents

2007 – Ouray Ice Festival (Colorado, USA), first place women’s category, second place overall
2007 – Icefall Brook Canyon (in the Canadian Rockies, north of Golden). Women’s expedition with 11 first ascents, ice and mixed, in 10 days with Inès Papert, Caroline George and Jen Olson

picto rss Other informations

Films, videos
- Higher Ground: by Chris Alstrin and Alex Lavigne.
- Continuum Project: by Chris Alstrin.

picto photo Photos

picto video Videos

I remember
«In 2003, when I had begun working as a tree planter, Guy Lacelle was my foreman. That’s how I first met Guy and working on his team was an honor. He worked as hard as possible every day, always giving his best. Without asking us to do the same, he provided the best example and that encouraged the entire team to give 100 %. Rain or shine, he was always happy to work. He wanted to do something good for the planet and he felt responsible for a great team that planted trees every day. We felt like he was proud of us. The following winter I had the chance to meet Guy in completely different circumstances, in a world that he preferred more than any other: ice climbing. All the qualities that he showed when he was planting trees were present but in a cooler environment. I was still a beginner ice climber and Guy taught me and I quickly improved. He never told me explicitly what to do but he would always tell me things that would make me think and react. Guy was my mentor and an incredible source of inspiration. He could always get the best from everyone.»
Guy Lacelle died in an avalanche in Bozeman, Montana in 2009


picto featured Audrey and the Petzl team

«I compete in a number of competitions and what I mean by competitions are things like the world championships. In Quebec, we had an international competition called the Festiglace. In 2002, during my first year of ice climbing, I was invited to compete in the event as a local climber. With the encouragement of Guy Lacelle, I decided to go even though I thought I wasn’t good enough. It was a team competition and as luck would have it I was teamed up with Stéphane Husson. We had two days to climb as many routes as possible and earn points… and we won the competition!
That is how my relationship with Petzl slowly began and in the end it really motivated me to learn more and increase my skills.»