Interview: Margo Hayes Talks Papichulo, Her Third 5.15a

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Margo Hayes ticked her third 5.15a/9a+ route on March 22 with Papichulo in Oliana, Spain. The now 21-year-old crusher from Boulder, CO, became the first woman to climb the grade in February 2017 when she redpointed La Rambla (5.15a/9a+) in Siurana, Spain. Later that same year, she climbed Biographie (5.15a/9a+) in Ceuse, France.

Chris Sharma made the first ascent of Papichulo in 2008. The route has been repeated by a number of elite climbers, including Adam Ondra, Jonathan Siegrist, and Daniel Woods.

Currently, Margo is enjoying her next few weeks in Europe and will compete in the World Cup in Switzerland later this month. In the midst of her overseas travels, Margo spoke to Climbing about her ascent.

Tell me a little bit about the route itself—the holds, the moves, the crux.

The route is about 40-meters long with three distinct crux sections. The hardest moves are probably the boulder [problem] right off the ground. However, my personal crux was the second one, where I had to use a less common method, as the typical beta was too extended for my height [5'3"]. Overall the route is very sustained, and it was important to keep moving at a steady pace.

How long have you had your eye on Papichulo? How long had you been working the route?

My good friend, Matty Hong, successful climbed Papichulo several years ago. That was my first introduction to the route. However, I didn’t contemplate trying it until a year ago. I visited Oliana in September 2018 for the first time. My intention was to try and climb some of the classics and spend time exploring a new cliff. I did hop on Papichulo several times to check out the moves, and I thought it was an intriguing line. This trip, I wanted to try to weave some of the moves together and climb it if I could. I knew I could always come back to try it in the future if I wasn’t successful. I went up the route an average of twice a day, and I did it on our sixth climbing day this trip. 

How did you prepare?

I wasn’t really specifically training for the route or for my trip to Spain. I competed in a series of three competitions in the states just beforehand, so I was focused on training for those events. I was just excited to go back to Oliana, a cliff that I fell in love with back in September. 

Can you talk a little bit about the day of the send? Your mental state, physical state, weather conditions, etc.

The weather was nice that day. It was relatively warm outside, but when the breeze picked up, it cooled down significantly. There is a small window to climb during this time of year because the wall isn’t in the shade until 3:30 and it’s dark by 7:00. I tried to stay relaxed and enjoy the movement on the route as well as focus on fighting when it got hard. It was the last half of the route, past the crux, that felt the most difficult, actually. At the top I felt the most insecure, and it was getting dark when I reached the chains. 

How did you feel when you clipped the anchors?

I felt elated! It’s a great feeling to complete a challenge! Afterwards, I felt pretty tired for a couple of days. I was a bit sore as well, especially in my calves, from using a heel hook to rest on the route.

What's next for you?

I plan on enjoying my last couple of weeks in Europe. After that I’ll be home briefly to take an exam and then I’ll embark on quite a bit of travel over the next month or so. I will be joining the US team to compete in some of the international events.