Man who climbed Everest in 2013 may be first man to do so under duress

Canadian climber only recently allowed three women he encountered on a mountain to share the experience with him after being pressured to confide in a group of his friends

Lor Sabourin climbed Mount Everest in 2013. At the time, he was 30 years old, married and with a teenage son. He told the Guardian that he reached the summit of the world’s highest mountain in his brother’s name, after he had climbed some of the snow from behind the last Swiss climbers when he realised they were packing up.

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A few months after his ascent, Sabourin became “very successful” in his climbing career. At this point, he told the Guardian, “a lot of men were chasing me. They wanted to see me conquered.”

Amid the negotiations, Sabourin met three women he knew only as Seannie, Carolyn and Sheila, from Sweden, who worked at the same climbing business as Sabourin. Two months later, after much conversation, the women agreed to talk to him. When he was filming the documentary Between Land and Sea, one of the women gave her consent, and Sabourin reached out to his male friends to help secure the films, which had already been approved for broadcast.

What happened next surprised Sabourin: three of the seven friends approached him for a first-person account. After recording two for On Rise, an ensemble feature filmed last year, Sabourin told the Guardian that they asked him to include the narration as well.

The women had been “objectified” throughout the project, Sabourin explained to the Guardian, when they were filmed on, say, a Christian cult commune in Montana, and when Sabourin’s friends had “gone to her hotel room” after they went in the gym.

“I was under the impression that men don’t have rights, and women don’t have rights,” Sabourin said. But he realized how powerful his exploration could be if it portrayed the sexual relationship between himself and the women as “smart.” Sabourin was able to see their experiences as “equal.”

“The idea of vulnerability is much more empowering to women than to men,” he said.

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At Sabourin’s request, the women, Seannie, Carolyn and Sheila, the women who helped reach the summit, and Sabourin’s friends went in together to the crew hotel to talk about it. “I was in the middle of the group, and they stayed in the middle of the room,” Sabourin said. “It was kind of scandalous at the time, what I was doing, and they were in shock. I was like, ‘I think I do this in every chapter of my life.’”

Still, Sabourin said that some members of the crew were uncomfortable talking about it, and never mentioned it to him again. “I thought it was not a good idea to talk about it in front of people,” he said. “But when people need you, you do it.”

“I saw the beauty in what I was doing,” Sabourin said. “But I’ve been reminded of this as soon as I get back.”

Sabourin has since spoken about his experiences with his team on the island of Lamanai and with the other people he met during the trip. “The guy from Papua New Guinea told me, ‘I’ve met five or six,’” Sabourin said. He plans to speak to anyone he can who needs to hear it. “When you’re doing something positive in your life, it needs to be shared,” he said.

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