Rock climber Kaitlin Heatherly doesn’t mince words.
“I placed last in the World Championship, and I’m f***ing stoked about it,” she said in Dead Last, a short documentary produced by REI.
The outdoor giant featured Heatherly and her journey to the World Championship for good reason. She’s a fierce 26-year-old adaptive athlete who was born with one arm.
Growing up, she was uncomfortable with her looks and admittedly, didn’t have the most confidence. But, after attending a SheLift retreat in Moab, Utah for women with physical differences, she was introduced to the sport of climbing by a friend.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I couldn’t even make a fist for a week,” Heatherly said in the film. After that, I started Googling ‘how do you become a rock climber?'”
She trained hard and practically lived on the wall in order to advance quickly.
“I was just always frustrated, always, but I kept coming back. I know, like any other thing in life, you will adapt, find your way and progress,” she said.
Within five months, she entered the National Paraclimbing Championship, where she placed fourth and became one of eight women to qualify for the World Championship in Innsbruck, Austria.
The occupational therapist, who mentors children with learning and developmental disabilities dug deep at the World Championship, climbing further up the wall than she ever thought possible, and with tears of joy streaming from her eyes, came in last place. It was an experience that taught her more about her body than any medal or trophy could.
“Yeah, I don’t like this, I don’t like that, but I’m also really strong, and I know what this body has done and helped me do,” she said. “Even if you’re a girl, you can climb. Even if you have a physical difference, you can climb. It doesn’t really matter what your situation is. You just need to try things, and you never know what could happen.
Enjoy the film: