Maggie Crawford climbing Lone Pine Peak
Maggie Crawford climbing Lone Pine Peak (Timothy Stillinger)

Maggie Crawford on Tackling All of California’s 14ers

The goal: Cover 15 mountains in six days. If Crawford succeeds, she'll hold the record for the fastest female ascent of California's 14ers

Maggie Crawford climbing Lone Pine Peak

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Maggie Crawford is a 23-year-old University of California, Berkeley grad who believes everyone should be able to do the basics: outrun her predators and gather her own food. In a show of self-reliance, she plans to break the record for summiting all of California's 14ers.

Why are you going for the record?
It combines my love of the mountains with my love of running and climbing. The bottom line: it’s all under my control. You can go apply for jobs and get rejected a million times, or you can be completely independent and put everything on yourself. That’s kind of what I like about this. Nobody is going to tell me that I cannot do it.

It’s the equivalent of running 20 marathons and free-soloing a bunch of stuff. My whole life I’ve been a really avid runner, and the last couple of years I’ve been focusing on climbing a lot. So it’s a nice combo.

What’s your inspiration for trying this?
I guess my friend Russ was the first person to ever hike them all, and he was the driving force behind me doing it. He asked me to go for the record. Beyond that, it’s really just that people who throw themselves at stuff and try to get something done inspire me.

How have you been preparing for it?
I moved back into the Sierras a month and half ago, and I’ve pretty much been climbing mountains every day since. A lot of recon—doing parts of the record. It’s kind of like a dress rehearsal; you’re learning the intricacies of the mountain for navigation. This last year, I ran a bunch every day and worked at a bouldering gym. I didn’t think that would help me as much as it has—doing lots of little bouldering movements.

And what kind of athletic background do you have?
I grew up playing soccer and running cross-country. I got into triathlon at Berkeley, got a national title and then right after that my friend introduced me to backcountry skiing, and it changed my life. After that, I quit triathlon and got into running ultramarathons. Through that I moved to New Zealand to ski. Then I just focused on backcountry skiing. It was a really bad snow year, and I realized everyone who had a rope in hand had a much bigger smile than anyone with a ski in hand. So I bought a rope and started climbing.

What’s your strategy for breaking the record, and how much support will you have?
My strategy: Wherever there is a trail, I’ll use it. I’m fine with mountain navigation, but I’m super good with trails from cross-country. My plan is to use trails when I can, and to sleep when I can. I could probably do it quicker and not sleep as much, but I wouldn’t be happy.

My boyfriend is climbing some peaks, and my boyfriend and my best friend are running support. I get driven to different trailheads to the record. I’ll link up five mountains in a row and then get driven to the next section.

Is there a portion of the experience that you’re most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to the Palisade Traverse because it’s technical. It’s not slogging. It’s fun, technical climbing, but at the same time it’s super scary. You cannot fall. I’m going to mountain bike up White Mountain—I’m stoked on that. One of my best friends made me a playlist so I have four days of music. That’s what I’m most looking forward to. There’s three playlists: Maggie Chill, Maggie Groove, Maggie Dance—it has a lot of Girl Talk on it.

Are you ready for the suffering?
Yeah, I’m pretty good at it. I’m ready for it. I took the last week off so I’m super antsy. I need to go do something. I’m super stoked to go to the beach afterwards as a reward.

And what else do you like to do, other than trying to smash records?
I went to UC Berkeley and I studied nutrition and physiology, and I spent the last year working for UC Berkeley on a project in the Bay Area and in San Diego County, and I’m starting a new job doing that in August in Santa Barbra County, and my job is all childhood obesity prevention oriented. I study the psychology and what goes into food choices—what people do and don’t know about food. Why kids don’t exercise enough. My goal is to get more kids active.

Does the record attempt relate to your day job?
It’s not financially related, but it goes back to why I’m doing it. I have a theory: I feel people should be able to feed themselves. It comes down to basic human needs: outrunning predators and feeding yourself. I don’t really think anyone can do any of that anymore. That’s kind of why I like the record. It’s sheer independence. You’re out there and you’re surviving. That’s something I’d like to instill in kids.

What’s next?
This is all about climbing the easiest route up the mountains. I feel the drive to climb harder routes up the mountains. I move to Santa Barbara in August, and I’m just going to focus on climbing hard stuff and getting better at surfing big waves.

Final words?
I’m supported by Clif Bar. They give me most of my food and nutrition.