Margo Hayes: "No secret weaphon, I had to be willing to fail"
Exclusive Interview to great American climber after her La Rambla and Biographie ascents04 October 2017
Exclusive interview to Margo Hayes, the climber that did first female 9a+ with La Rambla and first female ascent of Biographie, another great 9a+. At the moment she’s the unique woman able to climb this grade with Anak Verhoeven and after our first meeting at Arco di Trento where 19 years old American climber received the Arco Rock Legend Awards, we spoke with her about these two climbs, her mental approch and her sensations.
Another 9a+, Biographie this time. Which differences do you feel respect La Rambla?
It is difficult to compare climbing La Rambla and Biographie. They were such different experiences for me! I have so much respect for both of the climbs and their requirements to succeed on them. I think that, although I really wanted to
succeed on La Rambla, it was a dream. I had not climbed that grade before so I may have been a little more relaxed. I also knew that I wanted to try and climb Biographie while I was in France, but wanted to make sure that I was mentally and physically ready to make that commitment.
I think that your mental approch was different this time. Can you explain your mental status to face this route?
I knew that once I decided to try Biographie, it would be a big commitment. I had listened to friends talk about their experiences on the climb and I watched Chris Sharma’s process on the climb. I knew that it would be a process and that I would face some challenges along the way. At a couple of points, I had to walk away from the climb to put some distance between me and my goal and to ground myself.
Did you have a particular partner or friend that helps you during this ascent?
Although I visited Biographie with various friends and worked on it with Matty Hong and Daniel Woods, my friend and mentor, Arnaud Petit, was my touchstone for Biographie. Arnaud and I spoke often about climbing and he taught me so much during my year in France. He was generous with his knowledge and perspective and having his teachings and support were instrumental in me climbing Biographie.
At the moment, just you and Anak Verhoven did this grade. It's logical to think that just atheltes of Word Cup could to get 9a+ routes?
Big congratulations to Anak Verhoven for the First Ascent of Sweet Neuf, 9a+! It is so exciting! Women are excelling and pushing the boundaries in the different disciplines in climbing! There are other women who are working on Biographie as well and I know that there will be more women climbing this grade! I don’t think that you have to be a World Cup athlete to climb 9a+ routes. Other women have been working on this grade and may not compete in world cups.
Why did you decide to try first La Rambla and then Biographie. It seems that you find not only the grade but also historical aspects of a route...
I had the opportunity to climb La Rambla because my two friends, Matty Hong and Jon Cardwell invited me to join them before I left for France. I had been thinking about La Rambla because of it’s beauty and it’s history. While in France, I wanted to explore the many climbing areas and I also knew that I wanted to try Biographie as well. I Biographie is an absolutely beautiful line and with Chris Sharma’s extension, Realization, the first 5.15a established. It is an historic climb. I had to mentally prepare to try it, just as I had to mentally prepare to try La Rambla.
Which are for you your "secret weapon" to climb this routes? Naturally a lot of training and motivation but di you have a specific aspect of your body or mind that you've exploited?
I don’t have a ‘secret weapon’ to climb these routes. I knew that I had to make a commitment when I decided to climb La Rambla and Biographie, and I had to be willing to fail. Many strong climbers have tried these routes and have not succeeded. I knew that I had to stay grounded and focus on the process, not just my end goal. I also knew that I needed to be patient and put my time in. These routes are very demanding and I wanted to stay positive and not get discouraged by failing.
Do you feel now a particular pressure for your 9a+ during competitions or just for the incredible increase in notoriety?
There isn’t any more pressure for me in competitions due to climbing 9a+. I am learning how to balance competitions with outdoor climbing.
Which are the main differences for you during competition and sport climbing for preparation, pressure and frustration when things do not go as they should?
The main difference between competitions and sport climbing outside is that there is no time limit when I climb outside. In competitions, you have only one attempt on a route. There is a sense of urgency in a competition. At the cliff, it is relaxed and supportive and playful! Sometimes I get frustrated at the cliff if I lose my focus on a climb, but overall, it’s an incredibly positive experience!
Interview Stefano Michelin