Canadian mountaineer Marc-André Leclerc has climbed some of the toughest peaks in the world in his short life, including Torre Egger in Patagonia and the Emperor Face of Mount Robson, British Columbia. In 2021 documentary ‘The Alpinist’, viewers watch Leclerc, a tiny speck in an enormous landscape, accomplish feats other climbers only dream of – and he does it in free solo, arguably the most extreme sport in the world. A free soloist scales rock faces or ice on mountains without harness or protection – nothing but skill and willpower keeps him from falling into the abyss.
Leclerc had achieved more than most free soloists when his life was cut short during an ascent in 2018. He was 25. “The Alpinist” recounts both his accomplishments and his untimely death.
“The Alpinist is…not just a rock climbing movie,” said Steamboat-based life coach and podcaster Andrew Petty. “It’s a story about how writing a beautiful story with our life can change the lives of others.”
Petty’s podcast, “Andrew Petty is Dying,” is inspiring rather than morbid.
“The podcast is (about) confronting our mortality so that we can use it to motivate us to live as well as possible,” Petty said.
On Mother’s Day, Petty spoke with Leclerc’s mother, Michelle Kuipers, about her son’s childhood, climbing accomplishments and how she raised such an adventurous person.
Kuipers, who was featured in “The Alpinist,” was Leclerc’s first and most important influence. Kuipers inspired his son with a love of adventure and nurtured his free spirit, rather than trying to rule it.
“I used to say that he came to this planet enraged to be in the body of a helpless child. I knew we would both be happier as soon as he could start moving and that he could express his greedy mental activity through physical activity,” Kuipers said during his interview with Petty.
The overactive child, branded a misfit by a school system that tried to contain him, finally found a sense of belonging in the mountains.
“Marc-André lived the life he was meant to live,” Kuipers said, talking about how she responded to those who told her climbing was too dangerous. “It wasn’t so much that I encouraged him to climb, it was more that I allowed him to pursue something he loved. … Holding back someone else to give me a little more peace inner as a parent, I think that’s an incredibly selfish thing to do.
Petty and Kuipers shared how parents can let their kids learn from their mistakes.
“You don’t want them to crush and burn per se, but sometimes a little crushing and burning is okay because that’s how they learn,” Kuipers said. “The reality is that as soon as you bring a child into the world, you go through the process of letting it go. It’s the hardest thing a person can do. »
Petty added that even adults can be paralyzed by the thought that they might “crash and burn”, explaining that some people never pursue their passion because they fear failure.
“When you start doing something…it takes courage and humility to be willing to make mistakes in front of the world,” Petty said.
Leclerc embodied the definitions of courage and humility; from an early age, he learned to face his fears. “The first time Marc-André went on a climbing wall when he was 6 years old, he cried. He was scared,” Kuipers told Petty. “But at the same time, he had this incredible desire to live fully. He would do things over and over again that he wanted to achieve. He was willing to invest time and effort – mostly blood, sweat and tears.
By age 15, Leclerc was leading climbing expeditions that included adults.
“These climbs in the Stanley Headwall or Mount Robson and or Torre Egger were sort of the grand finale of thousands of climbs that came before, of the investment of hours and hours of practice,” Kuipers said.
In the episode, listeners also got a glimpse of Leclerc’s life philosophy, which they can borrow for their own lives. One of Leclerc’s philosophies is to fully appreciate every moment of life, big or small, since you only experience something once for the first time.
“A huge thing about living like Marc-André is not living without living,” Kuipers said. “Sitting on your phone, scanning social media, half-heartedly doing your job, going through the motions. And then, thinking back to your week and being unable to remember anything… that felt significant to you. To live like Marc-André is to get out of that.
Leclerc made every moment count in his time on earth. He left a legacy in the hearts of many, from his family, to his climbing partners, to those who simply watched his climbs from afar. Petty concluded his interview with a dedication to Kuipers.
“There is no Marc-André, there is no movie called ‘The Alpinist’ and no life-changing legacy without all the courage, wisdom and love you have invested in Marc-Andre,” Petty said.
Only a few humans out of millions will master free climbing solo. But even if a person’s vocation is more docile than Leclerc’s, they can still embody his spirit in everything they do.
“Marc-André lived in a way that is very similar to how I hope to help others live. Her story was important to me because it demonstrated the value of fulfilling our true calling to the best of our ability,” Petty told Sky-Hi News. “He just wanted to be the best mountaineer he could be and have amazing experiences in wild places. He couldn’t know the benefits of it… for the world would be this great story that inspires people.
Many more people will be inspired by Petty’s interview with Kuipers. Petty added that listeners should go deeper into that emotion.
“Inspiration is great, but if it doesn’t have the ability to create change, it comes and goes,” Petty said. “I hope that with this episode, people will have important new ideas for themselves, will be ready to act on these ideas, and it will produce some transformation in their lives.”
“Andrew Petty is a Dying Man” is a Graveyard Group production. There are currently 59 episodes in the podcast, and usually new episodes are released every two weeks. Episodes are available now on Petty’s website or any podcast platform. In addition to her podcast, Petty also hosts The Graveyard Group, a motivational group where peers encourage each other to solve problems, and offers one-on-one life coaching, both in person and virtually.