Margo Hayes is a remarkable human being.
The Colorado-born climber is an incredible athlete with a relentless drive and dedication to her craft that keeps pushing her to new heights. These are qualities on show in Reel Rock: Break On Through, a short film that follows Margo’s journey to become the first woman to complete a 5.15a climb.
Margo joins us on Close-up Culture to talk about her historic achievements, the introspective nature of climbing, her connection with nature, and much more.
Q: Reel Rock: Break On Through’ is currently touring with the Banff Film Festival. It tells your story as you attempted historical climbs of La Rambla and Biographie. How do you reflect on your achievements in 2017 and having it all documented in this film?
A: 2017 was a big year for me that involved a lot of learning. I am proud of what I achieved on rock that year, but more proud of how I grew as a person through those experiences. Knowing that I’ll be able to look back and remind myself of those moments as I mature, is a gift. I am thankful that Reel Rock documented that time in my life!
Q: The film showcased your relentless drive and unwavering focus in becoming the first female to complete a 5.15a. Was breaking ground for other female climbers a big part of your mindset while attempting the climbs?
A: Throughout history, women have been instrumental in their ground-breaking contributions in all arenas and disciplines. My desire to climb a 5.15a was a personal goal and was possible because of the many talented climbers whom have come before me and have continued to push the boundaries of what is possible.
I am honored to be one of the many women in climbing who are supporting and encouraging one another. I have so much respect for the women who are out there challenging the status quo and taking risks in all walks of life. I commend them for their courage and thank them for their inspiration.
Q: The film highlights your gymnastics past and how you utlise your flexibility. How much do you relish having an inventive style and finding news ways of doing things?
A: One of the things that I love most about climbing is the fact that there is never a “right way” to do something. Simply being open minded and creative can be the key to solving the puzzle sometimes. No two moves are the same and I appreciate the ingenuity that climbing embraces and requires!
Q: I love the name ‘Biographie’ for a climb because it appears, at least to a novice like me, that a climb can tell you a lot about yourself. Do you find this to be the case?
A: I love the name as well! The process of trying a hard climb, much like any other challenge in life, can surely be a self-realization.
Climbing Biographie/Realization, was quite a journey. Because I was so focused on climbing the route, I didn’t listen to my body as I should have. I ended up with an injury and was forced to take a month off of hard climbing. That time gave me a chance to reflect on my process and readjust my focus. I had to surrender to the possibility that I may not succeed on the route. I had to learn to navigate my emotions and learn from my mistakes.
I was fortunate to have made some life long friends during this process and for that, I am forever grateful!
Q: One of the most interesting aspects of the film was seeing your process before the climb – visualizing your climb and studying videos. Do you enjoy every step of the process or do you just want to get out there and climb?
A: I think that visualization is a great tool. When I’m particularly excited about trying a certain route, I like to watch videos because I learn from them. I have realized through many years of climbing, that the process is what it’s all about! I fail much more than I succeed in climbing!
The process and the failures make success possible… sometimes! Most of the time, I just go out and have fun with my friends at the crag!
Q: We also get a glimpse of your fun and slightly silly sense of humor in the film. What are you like away from climbing? What do you like to get up to?
A: I definitely can be a jokester and I try not to take myself too seriously! I love to laugh! When I’m not climbing, I spend time with my loved ones, study, dance, bee-keep, and create art. Music is also a really big part of my life! Sia is my favorite artist.
Q: You have a few wonderful pictures of animals and bugs on your Instagram. Has climbing given you a greater appreciation of and closeness to nature?
A: Climbing isn’t the reason for my deep appreciation of nature, but spending time at the cliffs does give me the opportunity to connect with the natural world on a regular basis.
I have always been close to nature. My mom is an avid gardener and taught my sister and me to respect and protect the environment. I practically grew up in the soil. Since I can remember, I’ve had a fascination with insects and animals. When I’m visiting a new place in the world, I like to observe what creatures are present and learn about them.
Q: I’m excited for when they make a Hollywood movie about you! Is there any actor – past or present – who you’d like to star in your biopic?
A: Haha! I don’t think that is going to happen. There are many people out there who are making a much bigger impact than I am, whose stories should be shared with the world!
Q: I saw you were recently at the US Combined Invitational. What are you up to at the moment and what are your next big goals and ambitions?
A: I had a great time competing alongside so many strong women, some of whom have been my friends for over a decade.
Lately, I have been spending most of my time training. It’s nice to get into a routine at home. I love to travel, but I am also very close with my family and I love spending time with my best friend, Jessica, who lives here in Boulder.
Q: Lastly, you are such an incredible role model. What impact do you hope to have with your climbing?
A: I strive to be the best person I can be, which is a life-long endeavor. There is so much more that I want to learn and work towards.
Climbing is something that I do because I love it. Climbing continues to introduce me to interesting and passionate people. I listen and learn from them. I want to encourage others to do what they love and most of all to be conscience of the world around them.
Our environment is in crisis and each of us needs to make an effort to reduce our footprint. We can achieve this in many ways, such as protecting bees by not using neonicotinoids, avoiding plastic straws and carpooling! We are all in this together!
Title photo by Greg Mionske
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After The World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, I visited Oliana, Cataluña, and my first impression exceeded my high expectations. The cliff made a lasting impression on me, and I was able to enjoy climbing on many routes due to the tranquility of the summer season. Warm weather meant fresh figs, slow mornings, and time spent with generous climbers! Thank you to my Papa, and my good friend, Jan, for making the time so memorable. One of the first classics that I enjoyed was Fish Eye 8c.🌼 Established by @chris_sharma 📷 @jan_novak_photography @thenorthface @petzl_official @lasportivagram @frictionlabs @dogearedjewelry