Margo Hayes / the La Rambla Siurana climbing interview
Interview with American climber Margo Hayes who on 26 February 2017 became the first woman to climb 9a+ with her ascent of La Rambla at the crag Siurana in Catalonia, Spain.
On 26 February 2017 America’s Margo Hayes took the climbing world by storm and redpointed La Rambla at Siurana in Spain. In climbing the 40m stamina fest the 19-year-old from Boulder, Colorado, shifted the borders and took female climbing to unprecedented heights, claiming the world’s first female 9a+ after Basque climber Josune Bereziartu first entered into these unchartered waters fifteen years ago. Hayes made remarkably fast work of this benchmark 9a+ and only seven days were needed to redpoint the line established in 1994 by Germany’s Alexander Huber and extended in 2003 by Spain’s Ramón Julián Puigblanque, indicating clearly that this is only the beginning of a whole new era.
Margo, a month has passed since the historic first female 9a+. How do you feel now?
I feel great! It has been a wild and wonderful couple of weeks. I am so appreciative of all of the support that I have been receiving from the climbing community and beyond. I am getting excited to begin the World Cup season as well as plan some outdoor excursions. I took a couple of weeks to rest and spend time with my family, but now I am focused on my upcoming goals!
This result certainly didn’t come out of the blue. A while back you set yourself the specific goal of finding out more about top-end grades. Tell us more.
Last year I set a goal to climb fourteen 5.14’s. I wanted to familiarize myself with more difficult climbs so that I could become comfortable with various movements and rock quality. I climbed routes in seven different locations, most of them in Colorado and France.
Having a project away from home is twice as hard! So why did you choose this route in particular?
I was drawn to La Rambla because of its beauty, difficulty, and mostly its history. I had never attempted La Rambla before my recent trip to Siurana. Throughout the year I watched videos and looked at images of the route. La Rambla became an obsession of mine before I had even touched the rock.
So how were the first sessions on it? And did you expect to get it so fast?
I really enjoyed each attempt I made on La Rambla. My plan was to spend a week in Spain, so my expectation was to send the route relatively quickly. You never know when or if you will have the opportunity to return to such an incredible destination, so I wanted to make the most of it!
Jacopo Larcher told us that on your lasy attempt, just before the successful redpoint, it looked like you were climbing 7a! So how close do you feel this is to your limit?
Thank you Jacopo! By the way, I was thrilled to hear the news that he sent La Rambla as well! In answer to your question, I don’t feel like I am at my limit in climbing. I still have so much to learn and that is really exciting for me!
What sacrifices, if any, did you make to achieve your goal?
In order to achieve a goal, there are always some sacrifices that you have to make, and these are different for everyone. I stayed dedicated to my training and overall health. When a dream finally becomes a reality, you forget about those sacrifices and rejoice in the success.
So can you quickly tell us how you trained for this and, if you want to, tell us about your diet if you have one?
I was preparing for the US National Bouldering Championships so my focus was bouldering and increasing my power. I was confident that my endurance would improve quickly once I got on a rope. My diet is colorful, I eat a lot of sweet potatoes, protein, rice, vegetables and fruit!
You’d already climbed 9a in the past. But what does this + represent to you?
The + represents a door to me. In a sense, La Rambla liberated me. By climbing my first 9a+, I feel as if I have opened a door leading to many more exciting adventures!
15 years have passed since Josune Bereziartu became the first woman to climb 9a. What did you know about this and what did it mean to you?
I have a lot of respect for Josune Bereziartu. I had read about Josune and her accomplishments and I admire her dedication and commitment to the sport.
How do you see yourself compared to men’s climbing? Josune told us she was happy to be an inspiration for male climbers, too.
I agree with Josune! I think that inspiration goes beyond gender. I am inspired by women and men alike. We are all in this together; sharing a passion and defining what is possible in our sport.
Last question: what’s important for Margo nowadays?
Kindness, commitment and generosity are most important to me.
TOPO: Siurana, Spain