Mountaineer Climbs California's Highest Peaks for Dystonia Awareness
Kit Smith Refuses to Allow Little-Known Brain Disorder to Keep Him Down
An avid outdoorsman, Smith was hooked after summiting his first 'fourteener.' He said, "The very first one I did, White Mountain, I did with my dog and even though it wasn't the most technically difficult, it was the one that made me decide I wanted to climb them all. I wanted to prove to myself that I could still do these things and not let dystonia push me away from what I love."
Smith is diagnosed with cervical dystonia which causes powerful, involuntary muscle contractions in the neck. These muscle contractions twist his head to the right, making it difficult to face forward. He struggles to keep his head straight while typing at work, washing dishes, or jogging—let alone while scaling dangerous terrain that demands strict concentration. The go-to treatment for cervical dystonia, botulinum neurotoxin injections ("Botox"), do little to reduce the head turning or pain.
Smith documents his climbs on social media to bring greater awareness to dystonia. He is partnering with the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation to raise funds in support of urgently needed research toward a cure. Once he conquers the California fourteeners, his sights are set on tackling the highest peaks in the western states. Ultimately, he hopes his story brings hope to others living with dystonia.
Causes of dystonia can include genetics, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, and other triggers. In many cases there is no apparent cause. Estimates suggest dystonia affects 250,000 Americans and millions worldwide. Common signs include abnormal movements or positions of the head, excessive blinking, a breathy or strangled-sounding voice, hand cramps, or a twisted foot. Although there is not yet a cure, treatment options and support resources are available.
The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) is the leading dystonia patient advocacy organization, serving 50,000 people annually. Since 1976, DMRF has funded groundbreaking dystonia research, increased public awareness, and offered resources to affected individuals and families. More information is available at: https://dystonia-
Jessica Feeley, Dystonia Medical Research Foundation