Published on 04/16/2022
The Canadian climber, author, and mountaineer Peter Croft has made a name for himself by performing feats that, to many, seemed impossible. Croft’s career-defining solo and free solo climbs have made him a hero to countless climbers around the world. Croft is arguably one of the most accomplished climbers alive today by combining incredible stamina and grit with great technique.
Croft’s illustrious career is impressive enough to inspire climbers at all skill levels. Whether you’re new to climbing or have been doing it your whole life, you can probably learn a thing or two from Croft’s successes. This article goes over some of Croft’s career highlights and his background and specialties.
Origins: the Early Life of Peter Croft
Peter Croft was born in Nanaimo, British Columbia, on the 18th of May, 1958. He grew up in Departure Bay, a city on the east coast of Vancouver Island, BC. Croft loved the outdoors from an early age, with fishing and hiking being two of his hobbies. Climbing, though, was something else entirely. Croft has stated that the first time he tried rock climbing, he remembers thinking to himself, ‘…this is it. This is who I am.’
Croft began climbing in and around Departure Bay, home to some impressive basalt crags. Croft climbed in his street clothes and took trips to different climbing areas with friends as a teenager. He then spent a period climbing Grand Wall boulders and living rough. Croft slept in a cave in the area unless it rained; then, he would crawl under a car he shared with friends!
It wasn’t long before Croft sent his first 5.10. Not long after, Croft made his first trip to Yosemite and, soon later, sent some career-defining projects. He soloed the Evolution and Minaret Traverses and linked the Nose of El Cap and Half Dome in a single day! Croft has gone on to climb all around the US and later penned the famous Fifty Favorite Climbs guidebook.
Croft’s Climbing Style and Specialties
Overall, Peter Croft is an exceptionally gifted and well-rounded climber, but he is perhaps best known for his free solo climbing and free climbing. Croft is a noteworthy figure in the climbing world for his impressive number of first ascents of some particularly difficult routes.
Free soloing has perhaps attained particular notoriety in recent years thanks to Alex Honnold’s ascent of El Capitan. However, Croft was free soloing well before Honnold. Free soloing involves climbing a route with no rope or direct aid, and it is a discipline that many climbers won’t even touch.
Free soloing is controversial in the climbing world due to the inherent risks involved. Some praise the purity of climbing with no supportive gear, while others feel that the practice is unnecessarily dangerous and even egotistical. Sadly, many prominent free soloists have died while climbing.
Croft has managed to pull off one stunning free solo ascent after the other. Early on in his climbing career, Croft’s near-obsessive passion for climbing and his incredible stamina were evident. Croft is known for working as a free soloist, which the Canadian more or less naturally fell into doing. In interviews, Croft has explained that he started free soloing when he had finished a training session with his climbing partners.
While his friends rested by the campfire after a long day of climbing, Croft would still have some fuel to burn. Instead of joining them, after a full day of climbing, he would head off alone for some free soloing! This incredible dedication to rock climbing and his flawless technique have made Croft a true master of the sport.
Croft has also made his name through some high-profile first ascent climbs. Making the first ascent of a route requires planning skills beyond physical climbing ability. In addition to his first ascents, Croft has made the first free ascent of some challenging routes as well. It’s not mere daring that has defined Croft’s career, but his desire to push his limits and abilities to the max.
In addition to his free soloing and free climbing, Croft is an accomplished mountaineer. One of his career highlights is a first traverse of the Waddington Range, nestled in the Coast Mountains of B.C., Canada. The Waddington Range and Mount Waddington, in particular, were long shrouded in mystery due to their seemingly impenetrable nature.
Local First Nations lore was inconclusive as to whether parts of the Range existed due to their being so hard to reach! Croft has been awarded the Robert and Miriam Underhill Award to recognize his achievements in mountaineering.
Five of the Most Notable Feats of Croft’s Career
First One Day Link Up of El Cap and Half Dome (Yosemite)
Ok, this one is kind of a big deal. Croft’s one-day link-up of the Nose of El Cap and Half Dome with fellow climber and friend John Bachar has gone down in history as one of the incredible feats of the sport.
First Ascent of the Evolution Traverse (the Sierras)
Croft listed the Evolution Traverse as one of the best and longest traverses in the Sierras in his guidebook to The Good, the Great, and the Awesome.
First Ascent of the Venturi Effect (5.12+, High Sierra)
This exceptionally challenging route is one of the most awe-inspiring in the High Sierras, characterized by intense crux pitch after crux pitch.
First Free Solo of Astroman/Free Solo Link Up of Astroman and the Rostrum (Washington Column, Yosemite)
One of Croft’s first high-profile free solos was executed to perfection. Croft subsequently went on to send a number of free solos of similar stature.
First Free Ascent of the University Wall (5.12, Squamish)
In a show of elite crack climbing, Croft made the first free ascent of the University Wall in 1982.
Some Fun Facts About Peter Croft
Croft is remarkably grounded despite his pretty fantastic string of free solos and countless other career-defining climbing feats. The climber has stated that he’s never afraid or ashamed of backing down from a climb or project if it feels sketchy or not entirely comfortable. This humility is a huge part of keeping him safe throughout a lifetime of cutting-edge first solo, free solo climbs, and close calls.
It may sound unlikely, but Croft was not naturally drawn to climbing in contrast to many other professional climbers. Despite being outdoorsy as a child, he had no interest in climbing when he was young. In interviews, Croft has explained that climbing seemed ‘alien’ to him and like it was ‘out of [his] league.’ Reading the book I Chose to Climb by Chris Bonington led Croft to decide to try climbing for the first time.
Out of all of the mountains and parks that Croft has visited and climbed, the Charakusa Valley in Pakistan is the one spot he’d most like to return to. Croft recounts that the valley is ‘like Yosemite walls topped by ice faces with sharp needle summits.’
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Croft is still an active climber. In addition, he also works as a private guide and climbing coach.
In addition to the career highlights we mentioned above, Croft has also sent an insane number of extremely difficult projects. Other feats of his include sending Solar Flare (5.12, Incredible Hulk), linking four Celestial Aretes in Temple Crag,
Croft’s training routine includes some fingerboarding and supplemental training. However, he has stated that he does almost all of his training for a big climb on the rock. Extra work is only a small part of his routine.
If you want to get to Peter’s level, then listen up! Croft advises that you warm up properly, take rest days, and carefully pick your goals.
Peter Croft began climbing at the age of 16.
Currently, he’s in Bishop, California.