Kitty Calhoun

Kitty Calhoun is an American Mountaineering Heroine, having done cutting-edge climbing and guiding for over 40 years!

In the beginning, Kitty was a rock-climbing student at the North Carolina Outward Bound School.

Then, motivated by her interest in skiing, Kitty went to the University of Vermont. At the University of Vermont, Kitty earned a Recreation Management degree and started ice climbing with the outdoor club. This is when she fell in love with climbing. Motivated by her strong, new-found interest in winter-alpine ascents, Kitty graduated early and immediately drove west.

For the next 4 years, Kitty lived in her car during the wintertime.

All winter she alpine climbed throughout Western North America’s ranges. In the summer, she taught rock climbing.

When Kitty realized that she wanted to climb in other ranges of the world, she decided to become a mountain guide. For the next 5 years, Kitty guided in Alaska, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Nepal.

During those years, Kitty also accomplished many climbing achievements including:

  • A rare female assent of the Cassin Ridge on Denali (20, 310 ft), Alaska.
  • The second ascent of the Bouchard Route on Chacraraju (20,039 ft), Peru.
  • First American female ascent of Dhaulagiri (26,795 ft), Nepal.
  • First female ascent of Makalu (27,838 ft), Nepal.

With almost a decade of guiding under her belt, Kitty felt she had hit a guiding plateau.

So she decided to get an MBA from the University of Washington. And, with her MBA, she became part-owner and director of Exum Utah Mountain Adventures.

However, climbing was calling. In 1995 Kitty joined forces with Jay Smith and climbed:

  • Three new Grade VI rock routes in Kyrkygzstan.
  • A new Grade VI route on Middle Triple Peak in Alaska.
  • A rare ascent of the Diamond Couloir on Mt Kenya.

From 1996-2000, Kitty and Jay guided the US special forces.

Since 2000, Kitty Calhoun has guided exclusively for Chicks.

For the last decades, Kitty’s personal climbing achievements center on technical rock and ice climbing with other women. These ascents include:

  • Five routes on El Cap in Yosemite.
  • Ice climbing expeditions to Norway, Scotland, and Iceland.

Kitty never dreamed of becoming a Climber. She was afraid of heights. Certainly, she never planned to visit or climb in less developed countries and to speak to large audiences about her adventures or to have such a strong interest in all-women’s climbing and skiing.

Kitty Calhoun Notable Achievements

  • American Mountain Foundation’s Catherine Freer Memorial Award
  • American Alpine Club’s Underhill Award
  • Founder Mugs Stump Award
  • Chair AAC Expedition Committee
  • Member Gore Shipton-Tilman Panel of Judges
  • Main subject of the Outdoor Life Network documentary, “Fire on Ice”
  • Keynote Speaker – Banff Mountain Film Festival
  • Tedx talk, “Last Ascents
Kitty Calhoun First Ascent
Kitty Calhoun
Kitty Calhoun