Maria Boone Cranor’s death ripples through the climbing physics communities

Maria Bon Cranor was like a stone that fell into a pond – it might have slipped its way out of Valhalla or landed on Half Dome. And the ripples that come out of it are the people whose lives have been changed.

Cranor moved to Salt Lake with small climbing start-up Black Diamond Equipment in 1991. That was after establishing herself as a talented climber and unofficial member of the elite group known as the Stonemasters. It was just as she was seen as a marketing guru, and years before she developed into a physics professor.

Equipped with a sharp mind and stock of determination, it seems Cranor can be anything she wants. Every few decades, it has been looking for a new challenge and reinventing itself. She did so until January 15th, when she died at the age of 76 of cancer at the home of some of her close friends in Salt Lake City.

Of all of Cranor’s gifts, one stood out from the rest and endured many transformations.

“I think her biggest talent,” said Mike Cole, a videographer in Salt Lake City who’s working on a documentary about Cranor to be released later this year, “was seeing what potential someone had. She could look at them and say, ‘You know, you should.’ That you keep doing this.” She did it with me. She did it with all of my friends that she was friends with. And almost everyone who knew her, when I met them, ended up saying pretty much the same thing, which was, “You know, Maria, you changed my life drastically.” .”

Cranor is best remembered for her influence on the climbing world, although she didn’t get into it until she was in her mid-twenties. She was familiar with the outdoors at that point, having grown up along the beaches and cliffs of San Francisco and earning a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UC Berkeley. Until her first husband, Professor Carl Cranor at UC Davis, introduced her to climbing in 1973, however, she wasn’t going to fully immerse herself in nature.

(Kevin Powell) Maria Boone Cranor, a climbing pioneer who was integral to the success of Black Diamond Equipment and later earned a degree in physics from the University of Utah, passed away on January 15, 2023 at the age of 76.

However, that’s exactly what I did with the climb. Separated from Cranor, severing financial ties to her well-to-do family, she took on the “dirtybagger” lifestyle that reached its peak in the mid-1970s. This meant living simply, driving in a bright yellow Honda Civic, and making camp at now-famous sites like Camp 4 in Yosemite National Park and near Suicide Rock in Joshua Tree National Park.

The sport challenged her mentally and physically, but she was talented at it. Kevin Powell, a professional climber and photographer, described her technique as “a beautiful kind of dancer-like technique.” She quickly became one of the sport’s top female climbers, completing the Valhalla route at Suicide Rock in Joshua Tree on her first attempt. The route was so difficult that it served as a test for climbers willing to join the “Stonemasters”, who are considered the best of all. She was the first woman to climb it.

Cranor encouraged other women in sports as well. She is said to have witnessed Lynn’s first climb of the 14-year-old Hill and urged her to continue with the sport. Hill has become one of the most popular climbers in the world, both male and female.

“I have to believe someone as strong as Maria meets you at the bottom of a rock climb and tells you, ‘You’re really talented at it. You must continue to do so. I think that probably had such an effect on Lynn that, you know, she ended up becoming the best climber of all time,” Cole said. “And there was Maria, completely at her base, in the beginning. I don’t know, maybe I’m being overly romantic or expectant. But I feel that’s what Maria does. She helps people become better versions of themselves just by being Mariah. I don’t think she even tried that.”

Cranor’s ability to reassure and inspire was not limited to other women in climbing. Powell met her when he was 15 and said she served as a big sister, providing her voice and encouragement as he made his own journey through the boards and into adulthood. He adored her even though the first time she put him off he fell 60 feet.

(Ross Clone) Maria Boone Cranor in the parking lot of Patagonia Headquarters in the late 1980s. In the year Cranor went from being a sales associate to marketing director for Chouinard Equipment, the precursor to Black Diamond. She has used her ability to see the future of climbing while respecting her past to grow Black Diamond into the premier company it is today.

“She was very supportive and comforting,” Powell said. “And yeah, I think since that time, we’ve had this kind of special bond and magical bond from that first event. And we’ve had some other life-altering experiences because it was teaching me how to grow up.”

Calling Cranor “an integral part” to the company’s survival and success, Peter Metcalf, the founder and former CEO of Black Diamond, said it was just in the nature of Cranor. She often found herself in the center of attention, he said, not because she was looking out for him but because people respected her and her opinions. Metcalfe added that she also has the unique ability to make a person feel like they are the center of the world.

That magnetism allowed her, over the course of a year, to parlay a position in customer service at Great Pacific Ironworks—the first retail store in Patagonia—to be named Chouinard Equipment’s director of marketing. Patagonia’s hard goods division, Chouinard Equipment was put out shortly after bankruptcy and successfully revived by a handful of employees, including Metcalf, Cranor and her husband of 14 years, Johnny Woodward, as Black Diamond.

Metcalf said he would never forget the first time he met Cranor.

“The energy, her passion for the sport, was palpable,” he said. And you can tell by her intelligence. I mean, she was an incredibly smart person. And then last but not least, she had the ability to disarm you and focus on you, ask thoughtful questions and care to focus on your challenges, what your problems are. It wasn’t about her, it was about her. It was about you and what do you do or what do you need? And I did that with everyone.”

(Kevin Powell) Maria Boone Cranor, a climbing pioneer who was integral to the success of Black Diamond Equipment and later earned a degree in physics from the University of Utah, passed away on January 15, 2023 at the age of 76.

By the time Black Diamond moved to SLC, Cranor was named Vice President of Marketing and Creative Director. to her Ability to translate notes obtained from climbers Knowing where the sport is headed has helped her direct Black Diamond’s marketing campaigns and ethos. Behind the scenes, the company called for such staples of the day as the Spot bouldering shock pad and backpack, ATC belay device and wiregate carabiner. In addition, she directed the content, images, and color schemes at Company catalogwhich has become the sports yearbook and industry standard.

Cranor has ensured the company gives back to the community as well. I worked behind the scenes in development access box, which promotes ethical climbing and advocates access climbing. As it started Backcountry featurethe Utah Avalanche Center’s largest annual fundraising event.

“Without it, we wouldn’t have become what we have become,” said Metcalf. “She was an integral part of creating this image, the feeling, and the vibe.”

When she turned 50, Cranor decided it was time to start a new chapter. I left Black Diamond and enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Utah to study physics, of all things. Regardless she hasn’t taken a math course since high school and fumbled the basics of algebra.

Cranor’s niece, Alastair Boone, said her aunt craved challenges and loved “taking the hard way”. With hip pain and arthritis limiting her climbing, she turned to exercising her mind.

“Maybe it was good for her to excel at something in her fifties when she could no longer climb well because her body was getting old,” said Boone, one of Cranor’s nine nephews and nephews. “She had a voracious mind and she could do that. She had the intellectual capacity to devour complex subject matter. I think she loved to solve difficult problems.”

As with every other phase of her life, Cranor has climbed to the top. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics and then enrolled in a Ph.D. program. She became a research fellow and lecturer. It has changed people’s lives.

(Kevin Powell | Contributed) Maria Boone Cranor, a climbing pioneer who was integral to the success of Black Diamond Equipment and later earned a degree in physics from the University of Utah, passed away on January 15, 2023 at the age of 76.

Robert Owen, who studied physics with her at the U, praised Cranor’s influence on his life in a post on Codoboard is for her.

“Not only did you make me realize that I could be a serious physicist,” he wrote, “I made sure the professors knew that too.”

It’s like a rock that fell into a pond. The rock has since disappeared, but its ripples remain.

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