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Margo Hayes: America’s Best Woman Sport Climber? (2024)

Margo Hayes

Published on: 03/03/2023

Margo Hayes is an American professional rock climber who has ticked off an amazing number of achievements in her brief climbing career. Considering her young age and level of accomplishment, she’s proven to be one of the strongest climbers, among men and women.

Let’s take an in-depth look at her incredible history of top results in competitions, bouldering, sport climbing, and first ascents by a woman.

Early Life

Margo was born in 1998 in Boulder, Colorado, one of the centers of the rock climbing universe and home to many elite athletes and adventurers. While she did some training as a gymnast at a young age, her father also had climbing experience. She began dedicating herself to climbing at the age of 10.

Hayes eventually joined Team ABC at a local climbing gym. She was coached by long-time pro climber Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou (and mother of Brooke and Shawn Raboutou). This environment, along with the outdoor culture and recreational opportunities prevalent in Boulder, proved to be the perfect breeding ground to create a young climbing phenom like Margo Hayes.

Margo Hayes at the world youth championships

Climbing Style and Specialty

Although Hayes has excelled at both lead climbing and bouldering in indoor competitions, she really made her reputation by climbing some of the most difficult outdoor routes on the planet. She has already cemented her place in the history of climbing with her unmatched ability to succeed at the longest, steepest sport routes in existence.

At the age of 19, she sent two 5.15a sport routes, La Rambla and Biographie. This immediately established her as one of the world’s top sport climbers and the first woman to climb at the grade. These routes showcase Margo’s talent for technical, crimpy, and powerful movement, not to mention the extreme endurance required to finish.

“I started bawling my eyes out, which I didn’t expect. When I’ve sent a climb before or achieved a big goal, sometimes I’ve cried, but it wasn’t like this.”

– Hayes, after clipping the anchors on her first 5.15a route, La Rambla (1).

When it comes to bouldering outside, Hayes has sent at least one V11 (Sunshine at Hueco Tanks) and flashed V10. Clearly she can boulder at the highest levels of the sport. However, she isn’t focused on that specialty and prefers to spend her energy on the toughest sport climbs she can find.

Unlike many competitive climbers, Margo accepted the challenge of competing at arguably her worst discipline, speed climbing. Admittedly, she took up this style in her attempts to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games. Nonetheless, she should be commended for pushing her boundaries and competing outside her comfort zone.

Competition Results

Margo Hayes’ early introduction to climbing and training led to notable successes on the competition circuit, at both youth and adult levels. She’s competed as a member of the US National Team in all three disciplines of international climbing: speed, lead, and bouldering.

Hayes launched her international competition career in 2012 in Singapore, placing 8th in lead climbing at the IFSC (International Federation of Sport Climbing) World Youth Championships.

She won gold medals at the Panamerican Youth Championships in Boulder and Lead disciplines in 2014, then scored another gold and silver in 2017 in the same categories.

In 2016, Margo won gold at the IFSC World Youth Championships at Guangzhou, China in the Juniors category for both lead climbing and bouldering. The previous year, she’d won the silver medal in both lead and bouldering disciplines behind Janja Garnbret, who may be the best woman competition climber of all time!

During that busy 2016 season, Hayes continued her winning ways with top honors at the USA Climbing Sport National Championship in the Speed and Sport Open class.

World Cup Competitions and Olympic Qualifying

After moving up to the adult level, Hayes continued to enjoy success. She competed on the World Cup circuit regularly from 2015 through 2019, mostly in the bouldering and lead climbing disciplines. Margo finished as high as 6th in both lead and bouldering, and as high as 11th in the combined category (lead/speed/bouldering).

Hayes’ last competitive run came in 2019 as she attempted to qualify for the Olympic national team and compete in the Tokyo 2020 Games. Ultimately, she barely lost out to Kyra Condie and Brooke Raboutou for the two women’s places on team USA.

One has to wonder if her concentration on outside climbing at the highest levels may have affected her strength and conditioning for competition-style climbing.

Margo Hayes in Catalunya, Spain, showing incredible grace in her climbing movement
© Margo Hayes (photo by Jan Novak)

Notable Feats and Projects

Margo’s historic ascent of La Rambla on February 26, 2017, marked the first female ascent of a route at the 5.15a (9a+ French) grade. This test piece in Siurana, Spain, is considered to be one-third of a 9a+ trilogy that also includes Biographie (aka Realization, a Chris Sharma route in Céüse and the first 5.15 ever) and Papichulo in Oliana.

Hayes completed this trilogy by successfully completing Biographie in November 2017 and Papichulo in March of 2019. She was the first woman to summit each of these routes, and the first to complete the coveted 9a+ trilogy.

One of her more recent redpoints was the Tommy Caldwell route Kryptonite 5.14d (9a) in western Colorado. In addition, she nabbed the first woman ascent of Bad Girls Club 5.14d in Rifle, Colorado at age 18, her first route at this grade.

In 2016, Climbing magazine awarded Margo Hayes a Golden Piton for her year of impressive sport climbing and competition results (2). Upon receiving the award, she commented:

“I consciously work on being positive in life. When I am positive, I’m more productive and open-minded, and that carries over into climbing.”

Margo had set a goal at 17 years old to climb 14 routes at the 5.14 level in one year. She succeeded in style, beginning with a send of the classic Scar Face 5.14a (8b+) in Smith Rock, Oregon.

YouTube video

Personal Life

Margo lives in Colorado, in the western US, and divides her time between climbing and her growing modeling and business pursuits. She follows a mostly vegetarian diet and is professionally sponsored by La Sportiva, The North Face, Friction Labs, and Petzl.

Hayes has spent a great deal of time climbing and filming with top-level rock climber and budding filmmaker Matty Hong. He contributed greatly to her ascent of La Rambla as a belayer, camera person, and emotional support system.

While living and studying in France in the mid-2010s, Hayes also received mentorship and advice from renowned French climber Arnaud Petit.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does Margo Hayes still climb?

Margo Hayes is still rock climbing, training, and pursuing new projects. She seems to be on an extended break from competitions and focuses on the challenges of outdoor climbing that interest her the most.

How tall is Margo Hayes?

Margo’s sponsor North Face reports her height as 5 feet, 3 inches tall (160 cm).

How old is Margo Hayes?

Margo Hayes was born on February 11, 1998, so she is 25 years old at the time of this article.

Does Margo Hayes speak French?

Margo has spent time in France studying the language and culture, so she is fairly proficient at writing and speaking French. She has also traveled extensively throughout Europe, especially France and Spain, so she has been exposed to a diverse international community of rock climbers.


Rock climber Margo Hayes is quickly becoming a phenom in her sport
ESPN, 2017 (retrieved on 03/03/2023)

2016 Golden Pitons: Sport Climbing
Climbing Magazine (retrieved on 03/03/2023)

Cover photo: © La Sportiva

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