I first met a 14-year-old Margo Hayes in 2012. She was spending Spring break at the Red River Gorge as part of a group of strong youth climbers from Boulder, Colorado. Amongst a small table of pizza-eating kids, including my sons Cameron and Jonathan, Margo appeared as the quietest and, perhaps, most thoughtful of the bunch.
My family and I crossed paths with Margo several more times over the years since. Gradually, I came to recognize that below the surface of Margo’s calm, quiet demeanor was an intense focus, curiosity, and will to experience and achieve the uncommon. Though it’s been two years since I last saw Margo in person, it’s been a pleasure for me—as a parent and coach—to see her mature into such a transcendent figure in our sport. While Margo’s passion and personal power may be unmatched among climbers her age, I believe her real superpower is her attitude.
In late March, Margo completed her third 5.15a/9a+ Papichulo in Oliana, Spain. Rock and Ice magazine recently published a brief interview with Margo that clearly reveals the winning attitude I’m taking about. Margo has the wonderful ability to put her big accomplishments into perspectice and to maintain a sense of balance and groundedness that’s commonly lacking among elite athletes. No doubt, many of us could improve our climbing (and perhaps find more joy) by embracing Margo’s attitude and disposition.
Following are a few highlights of Margo’s Q & A with Rock and Ice:
What was your process for tackling Papichulo? What was your mental state before and during the climb?
Last September, I visited Oliana for the first time. My intention was to experience some of the classics and enjoy the new crag. I hopped on Papichulo several times to check out the moves, and I was intrigued. This trip, I decided to attempt it again and the moves felt much easier. I set a goal to weave the sections together and maybe even do the climb. My main objective however, was to enjoy the sunshine and time on the beautiful limestone.
What did climbing this route mean to you?
Papichulo is one of Oliana’s most beautiful lines, in my opinion. It’s also interesting that it was the first route that Chris Sharma bolted there. I had listened to my friends’ stories about their experiences on the route, and the climb intrigued me. I was looking forward to getting on it to see how it felt… it felt like a great challenge!
What else is going on in your life? School?
I started taking classes online this winter, and I’m really enjoying it! I love math and science, so it feels great to dive back into academics!
As a professional climber, what takeaway message do you hope to give to your followers? If you could put a message on a billboard, what would it say?
Be curious and ask questions. Be kind and continually learn. Take risks and responsibility. Set goals and make a difference. Listen well and trust yourself.
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