Remembering Maria Cranor, rock climber, physicist shaped by time as Berkeley student during Free Speech Movement

February 1, 2023

Maria Boone Cranor — luminary female rock climber, co-founder of Black Diamond Equipment, and lecturer in physics at The University of Utah — died of cancer on Jan. 15, 2022, at the Salt Lake City home of her great friends April and Dale Goddard. She was 76 years old.

Maria grew up in San Francisco, the oldest of five. From the start she was the leader of the pack — bold, adventurous and creative. Her siblings followed her everywhere, even when it might have been wiser to stay home. She led them to the bluffs above San Francisco’s China Beach, where they scrambled along vertical cliffs, much to the dismay of her parents. However, Maria’s fierce spirit could not be contained. A precocious reader, she began school at the age of 4 and graduated from high school at 16 having read Tolstoy and Dostoyevski and become fluent in French.

She studied anthropology as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley from 1963-68 in the heyday of the Free Speech Movement, the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War protests. She attended marches led by Mario Savio and attended rallies where students put flowers in the bayonets of the National Guard sent to quell the dissidents. By her own account, she was transformed by her time at Berkeley, and left the university intellectually challenged, energized, and committed to progressive politics.