How 20-year-old Margo Hayes is revolutionizing climbing for women

Margo Hayes is a soft-spoken 20-year-old who enjoys gardening and beekeeping. She’s also an elite athlete, with the track record (and the brawn) to prove it.

Hayes is one of the best climbers in the United States. She’s excelled in the sport since joining Boulder’s ABC team rock climbing team at the age of 10, but began to gain attention when she became the first female athlete to “send” (succeeding in climbing from the bottom of a route to the top without falling, in climbing language) one of the most difficult climbing routes in the world. In February 2017 Hayes summited La Rambla in Siurana, Spain.

Margo Hayes trains at Movement Climbing and Fitness in Boulder, Colorado.

The highest climbing grade is 5.15, with c being the most difficult. There is currently less than five routes worldwide rated a 5.15c. La Rambla is a confirmed rating of 5.15a. No woman before her had ever climbed a 5.15 on the record. It took him almost seven days to figure out how to get to the top.

Seven months later, she made the news again, climbing her second 5.15a and becoming the first woman to send Biographie/Réalisation to Ceuse, France, one of the most coveted climbs of her grade. Hayes was just the 15e the person to climb it.

“To be one of the women who opened the door to these possibilities is an honor,” she told CNBC Make It.

Hayes tracks his workouts, progress, travels, gratitude and “manifestations” in a bullet journal. She’s been writing her goals since she was 6 years old, when she dreamed of becoming an Olympic gymnast (she eventually gave up the sport after suffering a series of injuries.)

“I think one of my strengths is believing that hard work can lead to success,” says Hayes.

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Hayes typically trains six days a week, climbing two to five hours a day indoors and outdoors, and supplementing her ascents with running, strength training and stretching. Her favorite food is sweet potatoes – she has celiac disease, so they help her get fast carbs and energy to fuel her climbs.

Today, Hayes is sponsored by The North Face and four other companies: The Sportswoman, Petzl, Friction Laboratories and chipped. They all offer her the opportunity to climb professionally, travel, and ride the gear she needs to do her job, from leggings to chalk.

In September, Hayes competed at the International Federation of Sport Climbing World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria. She finished 1st in the block among American women – but tene generally – and did not reach the final.

Sport climbing will join the Olympics for the first time at the Tokyo Games in 2020. It’s too early to say whether Hayes will qualify or not, and she avoids discussing the subject. “I think it’s really important to focus on the process,” she says. “If you are focused on the future or on a past moment, you are not able to give your maximum.”

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