François Guy has been sharing his passion for the mountains in Quebec for 33 years now. He first discovered the mountains at age 6 near Mount Washington in New Hampshire and started climbing in 1980. In his younger years he dreamed of being a mountain guide, in 1985 he began as a rock instructor guide and in 1989 he realised his dream, opening his climbing school, L’Ascensation. Shortly after, in 1993 he opened the first climbing gym in Quebec, Roc Gyms, becoming an entrepreneur, a passionate climbing guide, and an adventurer.
Many people have attempted to establish a work-life balance with climbing and entrepreneurship but not many have been able to do what François Guy has accomplished. He has been able to follow his dream, while at the same time establishing many climbing and business firsts along the way. A genuine ambassador for winter and exploration, François Guy has developed his climbing and entrepreneurial spirit hand-in-hand.
Often, when we think of someone who has summited the Seven Summits and skied to both Poles we don’t also think of someone who is a technical climber. This is not the case with François Guy, in the early to mid-1990s he was one of the leading climbers in Canada and around the world. In the early 1990s, he opened the ice route La Dame du Lac, WI6 in France referred to by Jeff Lowe as “the prettiest ice pillar I have ever seen”. He subsequently climbed the first WI7 in Quebec with Lowe called Squider. Thivierge is now well known for his adventure retreat at the Palissades near Saint-Simeon but in 1993 he established one of the hardest ice routes in Quebec there called the India Thivierge, WI6+. Also, near Quebec City, in Pont-Rouge he established Valentin WI5+ and over another 100 rock and ice first ascents in Quebec.
Not only an ice climber François-Guy established several notable rock and alpine routes too. Les Joyeux Lurons, 5.11 c/d at Cap Trinité in Quebec was the first to be climbed free, bottom to top in a single push. In 1994 he headed to Baffin Island and put up a new route on Mount Thor, The Southeast Buttress, 1500m which was 40 pitches, 5.9 A2 and in 1995 he established a new route on the North Face of Mt Temple.
During the early 1990s while Thivierge was making a name for himself on the climbing scene he was also establishing some other firsts in Quebec too.
The dream: Follow your passion and build a business you love. It sounds like a difficult challenge but François-Guy figured this out a long time ago and has been doing it for decades; 25 years to be exact. In 1993 he opened the first climbing gym in Quebec and to this day Roc Gyms is still one of the focal points of the Quebec climbing scene. With frequent presentations by the top climbers in Quebec, Roc Gyms fosters a community around climbing while at the same time staying current with gym trends; just recently adding a new ninja component. Roc Gyms features 4 big rooms, three are set up for bouldering and then there is one larger room for ropes, with an estimated 55,000 users a year the gym is busier than ever.
François-Guy’s ability to integrate his business life and climbing does not stop there, he was one of the first ice climbing guides in Quebec and has been a dominant force in introducing most Quebec climbers to ice climbing at Montmorency Falls in Quebec City. If you ask a climber from Quebec where they learned to ice climb there is a high probability they’ll mention at Les Chutes Montmorency with François Guy.
Taking guiding to the next level, François-Guy brought the first via-ferreta to North America and created a mountain adventure park, Palissades de Charlevoix which is an adventure resort like no other. The resort, located just outside of Saint-Siméon is unique in North America offering climbing, hiking, a via ferrata, lodging, cabins and camping. He has also established two more via ferretas in Vallée Bras-du-Nord and Sainte-Anne canyon.
In 2009, while searching for a charity that aligned with his vision, François-Guy decided to start his own foundation, La Montagne de l’Espoir. It was Thivierge’s goal to help under-privileged Quebec City youth by offering them challenges that help them achieve their full potential. In 2010, shortly after the earthquake in Haiti, the foundation was able to raise $100,000 in medicine and sports equipment along with $65,000 in cash and flew to Haiti to help in the rebuilding process.
On top of his businesses and Foundation, François-Guy published a book in 2011 that has sold over 5000 copies called “Reaching the Summits” which is an account of reaching the Seven Summits and the Poles.
In the 1990s his attention was focused on establishing first ascents, opening the Roc Gyms, and guiding on Montmorency Falls, but in the 2000s his motivation began to focus on the Seven Summits. Between 2007-2009 he completed the highest peak on every continent and a few years later in 2011, he reached both poles by skiing to the North and South Pole. The number of people who have completed the Seven Summits and the two poles is less than the number of people who have gone to space.
François-Guy’s unyielding commitment to climbing is clearly seen in everything he does. From owning one of Quebec’s original climbing gyms, establishing 100s of routes throughout Quebec, climbing leading-edge technical routes in the ‘90s, completing the 7 Summits, the 2 poles and introducing many an aspiring climber to the sport through his guiding organization and his charity. He has been successful in turning his passion into business without losing his desire for climbing.