Some people can change your life with a single sentence. 

Maria was one of those people. 

I met her when she was in her forties and I was in my early twenties, but somehow, we were fast friends. Sport climbing was a powerful wave crashing over the world, inviting people to try a style of climbing that was more focused on athleticism and less on danger, making it accessible. The bouldering revolution was just beginning. Under Maria’s guidance, Black Diamond embraced sport climbing (a defiant stance, given BD’s pedigree of traditional climbing). She was the VP of Marketing at BD and was relentless in pushing into this new era.

This gave Maria and me a common language.

Black Diamond Presents: The Mentor
Video by Mike Call

Back in 1991, she sat down on the ratty old couch at the Body Shop (our beloved climbing gym of plywood, concrete, and carpet for flooring, and first-generation plastic holds), and casually said, “You know MC, watching the pecking order here is just like a surf lineup.”

I just listened. She had a way of dropping astute wisdom on you and it was best to just listen.

“Everyone is free to climb, but when the big guns roll up, everyone gives way and lets them through.”

A photograph of Maria.

Yep. We all bouldered together, but there was a respect given to the strongest. 

It was a simple observation, but her mind worked like that; constantly observing patterns, social tendencies, and connections to the big picture. And through those observations, she would make connections and decisions that most of us don’t immediately see. 

This was one of her superpowers. Connecting.

I think it’s not a stretch to say Maria had more to do with pushing climbing into the modern age as any single person I’ve met. And yet, what made her one of the most important people I’ve known is her ability to look you in the eye, say one simple, powerful thing, and change your life.

Just like allowing the stronger climbers to do their thing, Maria had that same level of respect when it came to her vision. No matter who was in the room, she commanded respect, but also made everyone feel welcome. 

She forever altered every single person that knew her, and they subsequently had that as an example to try to live up to. 

This film is part three of a series I started with Russ Clune and The Lifer, then continued with Boone Speed and The Artist. But it always needed to connect back to Maria. It was intimidating to try to capture her somehow, to have it live up to her strict standards. But when I would get stuck, or overwhelmed, I would remember her advice: “MC, you have to keep doing this.” So as incomplete or imperfect as it is, this film is my tribute. 

I hope it moves you, the viewer, to measure your words, your actions, to give to someone that could use good wisdom, to make connections, and to listen. These are some of the qualities that I admired in her, and ones that I wish I did more.

Maria never wanted credit and was always quick to deflect praise to others. She was fiercely private. So, I was incredibly honored that she allowed me to make this film. 

Thank you, Maria. 

--Mike Call