Climbing to Innsbruck, Austria

This week I’m on the journey of a lifetime. But it isn’t my journey this time, it’s my friend Kaitlin Heatherly’s. I first met in 2017 when she attended my SheLift Retreat in Moab, Utah. In many ways, Kaitlin is ironically similar to me - we both have blond hair, we both have an affinity to adventure in the outdoors…. and we both have one arm. 

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Surface similarities, aside, Kaitlin is an incredible young woman. She has the sense of humor and personality that welcomes and invites people everywhere she goes. Professionally she works with children as an occupational therapist – helping mentor kids with learning and developmental disabilities while normalizing the exposure to differences. Kaitlin is the kind of girl you can be yourself around, because she is irrevocably, unapologetically, Kaitlin.

The reason I’m writing about Kaitlin this week is because a little over a month ago, she reached out to me to share her great news – that after attending the SheLift retreat, she had gained the confidence to become a rock climber! And as it turns out – she was really good. So good, she entered herself into the national championship competition for para-climbers and placed 4th in the country – all within 5 months of taking up the sport. Kaitlin shared with me that the next step in her journey was to head to Innsbruck, Austria to compete in the world championship - a no brainer for herself and anyone who weighed in. 

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Ecstatic and proud, I decided to interject myself into Kaitlin’s journey and told her I’d be there to support her and cheer her on every step of the way. Over the course of 2 weeks, I’ll be traveling through Europe with Kaitlin documenting her journey – her wins, her falls and her learnings along the way – to inspire young women that regardless of your physical limitations, or how late in life you start, anything is possible. 

We kicked the adventure off in Innsbruck, Austria – where the competition itself is held. Austria wasn’t necessarily ever on my travel bucket list, but now that we’ve experienced it, I’m not sure how it wasn’t! Being in this alpen city was charming, romantic and like a trip back in time. On our night off from filming Kaitlin, Dylan and I decided to have a special date night in the old town of Innsbruck. 

Wandering past the iconic River Houses, the historic Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof), and under the Triumphal Arch felt dreamy and timeless! Getting all dolled up for the night was part of the magic (and a little extra for my typical adventure night out). My dress is the Trench Wrap Dress from Banana Republic, the Buckle Block-Heel Sandal in Navy Suede, the Felt Fedora Hat in dark denim and the Italian Suede Bucket Crossbody bag.

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From Innsbruck, we headed to Lago di Garda, Italy to hang with Kaitlin and do some rock climbing in Arco. Be sure to follow along to hear how she did in the world competition and to learn more about our documentary! To follow Kaitlin on her journey, be sure to check my stories and cheer her on at @k8tieheatherly

Also, for more story on my style choice and SheLift, be sure to check out an interview I did exclusively on the Banana Republic blog!

sarah herron