At only 20 years old and 5 feet, 3 inches tall, Margo Hayes is closing the gender gap in climbing. In 2017, at the age of 19, Margo became the first woman to climb 5.1a, a grade only around 60 men in the world have climbed. After sending La Rambla, the iconic route in Spain, she followed it up with first female redpoint of Realization, another 5.15a route in and solidified her ranking among the greatest climbers of all time.
A talented young gymnast, Margo started climbing outdoors at age 10, in Boulder, Colorado with her father, an avid climber (Margo’s maternal grandfather, Dr. James Morrissey, led the first successful ascent of Everest’s Kangshung Face). Margo soon joined ABC Kids Climbing where Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou coached Margo to a spot on USA Climbing’s national team. The competitive teen developed her own training routines and set ambitious goals stored on checklists taped around her room. In 2013, she earned the North Face Young Gun Award, which honors up-and-coming climbers. Three years later, in 2016, she won three golds at the World Youth Championships, climbed fourteen 5.14s during the year (two in a single day) and won Climbing’s Golden Piton award for her “prolific and impressive 2016 tick-list.”
Hayes has been using her notoriety to champion women’s climbing and advocate for the environment. She wants to continue her college education, pursue her interests—which range from studying French to coding to digital art—and bolt her own route. But first, Margo is eyeing the 2020 Olympic Games, the first to feature a climbing competition.