SLAYDIES

Emily Harrington, Paige Claassen, and Margo Hayes talk friendly competition, inspiration vs. jealousy, and women supporting women.
By Julie Ellison ,

Slaydies /slādēz/ noun – Ladies who slay, otherwise known as female climbers who crush while bringing as much joy to climbing as they do progress for women in the sport.

Videographer: Tara Kerzhner

In the fall of 2017, three pro climbers and two videographers traveled to Mallorca to sport climb, deep-water solo, and experience the overwhelming psych of having an all-female crew. Although Emily Harrington, 31, Paige Claassen, 27, and Margo Hayes, 20, all grew up in the climbing scene near Boulder, Colorado, they had never done a climbing trip together just for fun. As each woman was making a name for herself with impressive comp titles and outdoor ticks, Emily and Paige experienced a sense of competitiveness that prevented an authentic friendship. It wasn’t until they moved on from competition climbing that they were able to let go of the past and become true friends. Instead of perpetuating their rivalries, these three Slaydies have chosen respect and admiration over jealousy of each other’s unique skill sets. What they have realized is that there’s no need to cut other women down—there’s room for everyone at the top.

We sat down to talk about this shift in perspective, and how that’s changed from their early days of competition.

Emily Harrington on Ejector Seat (7c)
Tara Kerzhner   

Emily Harrington: I was so threatened when I first saw Paige climbing. I think we remember it differently, but in my head, Paige was clearly stronger than me. We like to say that we are “ex-frenemies” because we were totally competitive with one another in the beginning. It was half-friendly, half- jealousy. I just remember knowing there would be a day when she would surpass me, and that fueled my desire to keep pushing myself.

Paige Claassen: When I was competing as a kid, Emily was winning all the adult comps in the U.S. and making finals at all the Lead World Cups. Meanwhile, she was also sending 5.14s in Rifle [Colorado], which was unheard of at the time. I wanted to be like her, but I also think I was eager to be her friend. She was the cool older girl who always had awesome braids and made climbing seem really fun.

EH: We aren’t like that anymore—like at all. I think the shift occurred when we moved in together in 2010 or 2011. We just grew closer and got to know one another outside of climbing. We became real friends who trusted one another and told each other everything. I think we both grew up a bit during that time, but we also both stopped competing so that definitely put a bit of a damper on our hard-core competitive attitudes toward one another. We just saw each other as best friends and not climbing competitors.

PC: Today, we influence each other in a much different way. We both know how to rock climb, but at this point, the mental blocks are the biggest threat to both of our successes. When we're around each other, we try to keep climbing really light and fun, less serious. We sing, dance, make fun of ourselves. We cheer each other on, but maybe with an accent, or incorporating some puns, or some nicknames. It's hard to be bummed when you fall if your friend is yelling at you not to be a Grumplestiltskin.

 Margo Hayes on Reikiavik Energy (9a)
Tara Kerzhner   

Margo Hayes: Since I began climbing, Paige and Emily have influenced my climbing and belief in what was possible. I was lucky to grow up in Colorado and watch them pave the way in competition and outdoor climbing. When I was younger, Emily and Paige were “the big girls” in my eyes, and our age gap seemed huge! Now that I am older, it feels as though that age difference has narrowed, and we can relate to each other much more than before.

EH: When I first saw Margo, she was a 6-year-old gymnast at CATs [gym] in Boulder. She always showed up early to practice before the other kids got there. I used to do gymnastics too, so I knew she was one of those special, talented kids. She was so damn cute and smiley, yet fiery and driven at the same time.

PC: I knew Margo as the super-bendy 6-year-old on the CATS gymnastics team, but when you're 14, you don't really take the time to get to know the 6-year-olds. She was always one of the strongest youth climbers, but I wouldn't say I really paid attention until she started climbing outside, particularly the summer of 2016 with her ascents of The Crew (5.14c) and Bad Girls Club (5.14d) in Rifle.

EH: I used to be a bit threatened by the whole “not being the best” thing, but I got over that pretty quick. I had to. Women in sport climbing were stepping it up in such a major way—I couldn’t really keep up! Paige and Margo are two of the most genuine and authentic humans I know, and they are strong female ambassadors for our sport. They (and hopefully me as well) represent a female climbing community that brings out the best in one another and is supportive in a way that might have been a bit absent before. It causes a sort of “there’s only room for one of us” mentality, and a bit of an unhealthy relationship among the females within that sport, like one person’s success is another person’s loss.

I have felt that way in the past but not as much anymore. I think women like Paige, Margo, myself, and the countless other female role models in climbing are responsible for that shift. I can see it on social media, and I feel it at the crags I visit all over the world. There’s such a positivity to seeing other girls out there trying hard.

MH: Climbing with an all-women’s team in Mallorca was one of the highlights of my year. There was a level of comfort and openness that I hadn’t previously experienced. I’m looking forward to more trips like that one.

Paige Claassen on Chulita (8c)
Tara Kerzhner   

PC: Climbing with Slaydies in Mallorca was just more fun. Slaydies encompasses ladies who are trying their hardest, supporting each other, and having fun, but I think it goes beyond that too. It's about climbing with other women, without the idea that there is only room for one of us at the top. It's cheering for your friends without undertones of jealousy. It's dropping that front that we all have to be or act or look a certain way. It's going to the cliff and raging on your proj and then lowering to the ground to bust out a quick dance party. It's not defining your self-worth based on the grade you climbed, but on the quality of the day you had out with your friends. We all just have to stop pretending we're too cool for school, because honestly, we're all just a bunch of dorks bleeding on sharp rocks because we think it's fun.

EH: I left Mallorca with this really positive feeling. Like I had made friends for life, friends who truly supported me and loved me for who I was. It sounds cheesy, but it made me feel confident in myself and proud of the community I am a part of. I want climbing to be that for everyone. Professional athletes now have really strong platforms and loud voices to help make changes within and beyond their sports. I hope our little film contributes to that inspiration and encourages some little girls out there to get psyched to push one another and try hard and have fun. That’s really all that matters when you boil it down: sharing that stoke and positivity with as many people as possible. 

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