As a visible member of the non-binary community, Lor Sabourin was already charting their own path in the sport of rock climbing.
Then this past winter, they climbed a route in Sedona, Arizona known as East Coast Fist Bump. In doing so, they then became the first non-binary climber that we know of to free-climb the most difficult grade in the sport.
East Coast Fist Bump is graded at 5.14. According to Climbing.com’s Kevin Corrigan, “5.14 represents the pinnacle... 5.14 separates the good from the great. It’s the grade that puts you in the top 1% of climbers.”
As precedent-setting accomplishments go, that’ll do.
In an interview with Rock and Ice’s Owen Clarke, Sabourin revealed that climbing a 5.14 had been on their mind for quite a while:
“I think I first articulated the goal about five years ago. In some ways, though, it feels like part of a continuous progression. It’s always fun to ‘open up’ a new grade because it feels easier to try other routes of that grade.”
Sabourin didn’t always consider the sport to be fun, as they admitted to a (quite understandable!) fear of falling when they first started climbing at age 12. However, they eventually developed a process to deal with the fear, which they illustrated on their recent climb by “taking practice falls during my warm-up on the route next to East Coast and then incrementally taking bigger falls above the gear.”
To put it another way, most of us would refer to their fear-reduction technique as “the scariest thing I’ve ever done.”
As a non-binary climber accomplishing incredible feats, Sabourin has still had to deal with the isolation that often accompanies being a trailblazer:
“It’s always helpful to have role models that do things before you and pave the way, but I haven’t been able to see very many people who share my experience in the climbing world. That’s given me a lot of freedom to explore my identity, but it’s also felt pretty lonely. In the last few years, I’ve met more trans and non-binary climbers which has been awesome.”
In the absence of having a number of role models to follow, Sabourin has become one themselves. They also revealed that part of the burden that accompanies being a non-binary groundbreaker is that they are sometimes hesitant to take climbing trips to certain parts of the country or socialize with other climbers.
Despite this, their dedication to the sport has led to incredible feats, with climbing East Coast Fist Bump being the current pinnacle. Going forward, they’re going to continue climbing and working as a teacher with motivational group The Warrior’s Way.
After all, one of the best things about being a barrier breaker is that sometimes there’s no limit to the number of new goals you can conquer.