Lor Sabourin, climbing climber, published “Stumbling Toward Who We’ll Be: Our Changing Intersections with Nature” in June 2012. In it, she explains her connection to a single childhood event that helped push her toward an interest in climbing: feeling “defeated and vulnerable” while exploring a small icy gorge on the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.
It’s the same account of “fearing the punishing journey home” that inspired one of Sabourin’s climbing feats, leaping across cliffs to a ledge 100 feet above a river in Katmandu, Nepal, in 2003.
After giving an elaborate talk on mountaineering at the 13th Washington Outdoor Conference this year, Washington Post sportswriter Casey McNerthney invited Sabourin to talk about how that great fall in 2001 influenced her new book.
You grew up in a large family in Pittsburgh, Pa. It must have been a little intimidating being surrounded by such great athletes.
I was super competitive. But I always loved to be outdoors. … When I was a kid, if my friends were playing a game, I always wanted to play with them. I wanted to climb with them.
I loved the feeling of being outside. I was always the person who would stick their hand in the cracks of the ice to make sure it was safe.
When you were a child, you went in the desert seeking adventure. Is there anything that piques your interest as an adult?
I’m always interested in learning how nature works. I’m also interested in sharing that knowledge with others.
As a climber, I get caught up with climbing and how I can push the limits as a climber, and that’s always important to me.
Do you have a favorite book you read this year?
A woman I’m working with in Washington wanted me to share my “Top 10” list of books that inspired my writing and life.
I listened to things at the library: historical, spiritual, and ecological books.
The sci-fi author Susan Cooper said, “You keep going back to get information that helps you navigate your world.”
I’m a little bit on the spiritual side myself, so I love books with stories of how science can help us build closer relationships to nature.
You’ve also been climbing a lot in Nepal since 2003. What were some of the emotions you felt that day?
I’m not sure what emotion you mean.
When you’re in a position where you don’t know what’s about to happen, you feel… like a minority.
Growing up, what was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to you in the outdoors?
A summer camp my mom arranged in Vermont, and this was years ago. … We were going over the forest and fighting off bears that kept coming towards the camp. It was the most shocking experience.
I’m not sure I ever liked being near animals. I like being in the safety of nature.