Kitty has been climbing since 1978 and guiding since 1981. She started rock climbing as a student at the North Carolina Outward Bound School and took up ice climbing while attending University of Vermont the following winter. She finished college a semester early with a degree in Recreation Management, and drove West to pursue her interest in alpine ascents in winter conditions. She never dreamed of becoming a climber, as she was afraid of heights, and never planned to visit or climb in less developed countries, or speak about her adventures to large audiences,
After four winters of alpine climbing and summers of working on rock staff at the North Carolina Outward Bound School, Kitty wanted to climb in other ranges of the world. To afford this, she either needed to become a guide or get sponsorship. Becoming a guide seemed easier and she started work for the American Alpine Institute. During the next five years, she guided in Alaska, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Nepal. Personal ascents during that time include the Cassin Ridge on Denali, the second ascent of the Bouchard Route on Chacraraju, the first American female ascent of Dhaulagiri, and the first female ascent of Makalu.
In 1991, having reached a plateau in her guiding career, Kitty enrolled at the University of Washington and earned an MBA. From 1994-1995, Kitty was part-owner, director, and guide for Exum Mountain Adventures.
In 1995, Kitty joined forces with Jay Smith. Together, they did three new Grade VI rock routes in Kyrkygzstan, a new Grade VI new route on Middle Triple Peak in Alaska, and a rare ascent of the Diamond Couloir on Mt Kenya. She also guided the special forces with Jay from 1996-2000.
Since 2000, Kitty has been guiding exclusively for Chick with Picks and Chicks Rock events. Her personal climbing achievements have centered around more technical rock and ice climbing – with other women. These ascents include five routes on El Cap in Yosemite and ice climbing expeditions to Norway, Scotland, and Iceland.
Kitty’s achievements have been recognized in various ways. Her awards include the American Mountain Foundation’s Catherine Freer Memorial Award and the American Alpine Club’s Underhill Award. She created the Mug Stump Award, and has been Chair of the AAC Expedition Committee and a member of the Gore Shipton-Tilman Panel of Judges. She was the main subject of the Outdoor Life Network documentary, “Fire on Ice”. She was the keynote speaker at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in 2000 and gave a Tedx talk, “Last Ascents”, in fall 1013.
Sponsors: Patagonia, Scarpa, Black Diamond, Julbo, PMI ropes, and MSR.