Written by By Naomi Rovnick, CNN
Climber Lor Sabourin explores a vibrant travel scene in her latest book — “Vulnerable: Women Who Defy The Rules” — in which she documents how rising tourism in the western Andes and other similarly high-profile destinations has overwhelmed women, turning their lives into a “battle against the territory.”
The 46-year-old from West Yorkshire, who has climbed the great summits in Yosemite, the Himalayas and Nepal, explores a wide range of hot spots — from a remote region in South America to the North Pole — during her book, which details a more nuanced approach to climbing.
“Tourism needs powerful women for tourism to thrive,” says Sabourin, a radio producer, in an email interview with CNN Travel. “But, the more I climbed, the more I was appalled by how eager we are to sell the same trip as male clients… The price and the infrastructure encouraged everyone to climb the same, very familiar, incredibly dangerous and dangerous places — where there are very few female options for travel.”
‘Dominant men… go to where the money is’
“Vulnerable” co-author: ABC reporter Kelly Scott
In some parts of the world, male-dominated climbing is a society standard. In the Andes, for example, male-dominated climbing is part of a group culture that encourages respect for the mountains’ fragile ecology, whereas female climbing often requires absolute commitment from climbers.
“In these places, men have got a track record and a history and a reputation for ‘doing it,’” Sabourin explains. “Women basically have no female role models, so just lack the confidence to try different things.”
Such a scenario creates a hostile female-male environment, Sabourin continues.
“It’s like being in a foreign land where the dominant men are so entrenched in the community they’ve reached that they get all the jobs.”
‘The chase for the moment that celebrates us’
A lot of her book addresses how climbing these mountains fosters a fiercely macho environment — causing women to be conditioned to perform under pressure. But Sabourin’s outlook is more optimistic than that. She sees climbing as a way for women to challenge all kinds of stereotypes.
“The way you climb has to be specific to your person and the situation you’re in,” she says. “But in general it can always be modified as you go — there are ways of pulling yourself out of situations and showing that you can better understand what you need to survive in there.”
“You can find the same thing in adventure sports, whether it’s kayaking or windsurfing.”
‘Women could use strong female role models’
Climber Lor Sabourin
For Sabourin, climbing has helped her to become the person she is today. Her attempt to scale Mt. Everest this year would not have been possible without the discipline, she adds.
“It’s always wise to combine a strong work ethic with spirituality,” she says. “We are all intelligent people who are part of the human race — the world is simply a bigger place, and you need to know how to navigate it.”
Throughout her book, Sabourin also urges women to push the boundaries of their activities in different ways — whether that means exploring a new route or trying something that’s beyond their level.
“Women can use strong female role models to find answers and have a chance to be bold,” she explains. “And I think it’s a great way to answer the question why we do things.”
Climbing provides people with a space where they are supported by others, says Sabourin. “I’ve developed a knack for making new friends in mountain climbing and other adventure sports,” she explains. “The best way I know of maintaining a group is by offering more than a one-sided adventure, rather than trying to control it.”
Sabourin hopes her book will inspire a larger discussion about the status of women on climbing sites — one that also extends to, for example, the hundreds of women-only adventure excursions around the world, which allow women to experience risks they may otherwise not.