Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
China Doll is a provocative exploration of gender stereotypes, romance, and rock climbing. Witness Heather Weidner battle personal demons in the world of hard traditional climbing. With her ascent of China Doll, a 5.14- R traditional route in Upper Dream Canyon, Colorado, Heather Weidner nabs the first female ascent, and becomes the fourth woman in the world to climb a 5.14 traditional route. In the process, she discovers that loving herself is the ultimate project.
This story exposes the pervasive nature of unconscious gender roles and reveals differences in how men and women approach love and sport. Heather and her husband have what many climbers would call the perfect relationship. Despite external achievements and support from her husband, Heather refuses to believe in herself. This emblematic struggle is not just about discovering personal freedom, but giving oneself permission to enjoy it. Is confidence a choice?