Born to an impoverished family in Montreal, Monique had a difficult childhood. Early on, it was through sports that she learned to channel her anger and frustration, developing her passion and her taste for action. At 22 years old, she had explosive energy and a strong desire to discover the world. Though, without a degree or job and with no light visible at the end of the tunnel she fell into a deep depression, deep enough to consider ending her own life.
That’s when an unexpected event completely changed her life. One day, a friend brought her a newspaper ad, published by a Swiss family looking for a young woman from Quebec to take care of their children and clean their home for one year. Three months after responding to the ad, Monique flew to Switzerland. She explored Europe insatiably. In the end, she stayed for six extra months.
When she returned to Quebec, she earned her degree in arts and literature all while continuing to travel. To this day, she has visited more than 42 countries! In 2006, owner of a café with her boyfriend at the time, she fell into another period of depression. She admitted that she needed simplicity, travel and authenticity to her therapist who gave her the idea of the Way of St. James.
In less than two months, she sold her café and went to Europe alone to walk 1 600 km in eight weeks. On the way, she learned the hard way that to accomplish your goals, you have to prepare, study and build habits in view of your goal. “I had seven blisters on one foot, I developed tendinitis and I had plantar fasciitis. I had a hard time walking because the pain was so intense. I had to change my backpack and pack lighter, and buy new boots. Giving up wasn’t an option.” When she returned she didn’t have a job but she wanted to continue on her path somehow, so she became a letter carrier for Canada Post.
She discovered mountains later, during her hike of the GR20 in Corsica when she was 34 years old. It is one of the toughest hikes, with 200 km of peaks and valleys. Monique finally found her peace of mind in this environment: “I felt all of my potential come to life and I wanted to go higher!” Her first experience with altitude would be on Kilimanjaro in 2009: “It was love at first sight!” After the climb, she did a safari where she came face to face with a leopard, her spirit animal, for the first time. “The fire in his eyes seduced me instantly and I saw myself in this wild animal. This is why I change my Facebook profile picture to a leopard whenever I leave on an expedition.”
Upon her return, she dove into lectures about mountaineering, met people from the field, attended conferences and, as soon as possible, joined an expedition to Europe’s highest peak, Mount Elbrus, in Russia. Then, on to Mount Everest base camp, the Aconcagua and the rest of the highest peaks in all 7 continents in only 32 months: a female record in Canada. “This quest was so fulfilling for me; it constituted a kind of education that I’ve never had. The mountains are, in a way, my teachers…”
Since then, Monique has climbed at every opportunity. She has accomplished more than 30 major ascents in the last 10 years, including both sides of Everest in one year and Makalu, which is the fifth highest peak in the world. Climbing Makalu made Monique the first Canadian woman to reach the summit. In 2016, she lived through a tragedy while on Mount Rainier. Monique was descending with her best friend and mountaineering buddy when they were hit by a surprise storm and were stuck for a night in extreme cold. Unfortunately, her friend didn’t survive and died of hypothermia in Monique’s arms. Monique was profoundly affected by this loss.
Despite this tragedy, Monique continued on her quest, and on May 30, 2018, at 2:39 p.m., she completed a feat that no person had ever done before: reaching the highest peak in Canada, Mount Logan, solo. She has a ritual of listening to Pink Floyd’s “Learning to Fly” whenever she leaves on an expedition, at the moment of takeoff. Several of her fans encourage her by joining her in this ritual. “I don’t like to say that I’m making my dreams come true, I prefer to say that I’m living my deepest desires. For me, that’s more concrete and more representative of my visceral passion!”
The unique story of Monique Richard is a true epic, and her history continues to be written.
7 Summits in 32 months (By a Canadian woman)
Kilimanjaro, Africa 5 895 m
Elbrus, Europe 5 642 m
Everest, Asia 8 848 m
Denali, North America 6 194 m
Vinson, Antarctica 4 897 m
Aconcagua, South America 6 960 m
Carstensz Pyramid, Oceania 4 884 m
First Canadian Woman
Makalu, Nepal 8 481 m
Mount Logan Solo 5 959 m
(Rescue during descent)
Mont Blanc, France 4 810 m
Lobuche Peak, Nepal 6 120 m
Island Peak, Nepal 6 189 m
Ama Dablam, Nepal 6 812 m
Monte Rosa, Switzerland 4 634 m
Castor, Switzerland 4 228 m
Pollux, Switzerland 4 092 m
Cervin, Switzerland 4 478 m
Breithorn, Switzerland 4 164 m
Toubkal, Morocco 4 167 m
Kala Patthar, Nepal 5 643 m
Jungfrau, Switzerland 4 158 m
Alpamayo, Peru 5 947 m
Artesonraju, Peru 6 025 m
Mönch, Switzerland 4 107 m
Fiescherhorn, Switzerland 4 048 m
Rainier, United States 4 392 m
Dent Blanche, Switzerland 4 357 m
Alphubel, Switzerland 4 206 m
Partial Major Ascents
Logan (2017), Canada 5 000 m
Everest Nord, China 8 800 m
K2, Pakistan 7 300 m