Generation 5.16: Margo Hayes

Age 19 / Boulder, Colorado

This story is part of our series, Generation 5.16: 10 Young Crushers That Could Take Rock Climbing to the Next Level. It was originally published in the December/January 2018 issue of our print edition.

Margo Hayes Rock Climbing Competition Youth Bouldering Nationals USA Climbing

Margo Hayes at the USA Climbing Youth Bouldering Nationals, SLC, 2017.   

In February 2017, Margo Hayes became the first woman to climb a 5.15a with La Rambla in Siurana, Spain—this September, she followed up with the first female redpoint of Realization, Chris Sharma’s benchmark 5.15a in Céüse, France.

Originally a gymnast, Hayes started off climbing with her dad, Tom, who would take Margo and her older sister, Nola, climbing in Boulder Canyon. At 10 years old, Hayes joined ABC Kids Climbing in Boulder, Colorado, where Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou coached her. At 13, she quit gymnastics to focus on climbing. In July 2017, Hayes competed in her first IFSC lead World Cup in Briançon, France, where she came in sixth. In September, Hayes came in third at the IFSC Youth World Championships Combined in Innsbruck, Austria.

Like any top climber, Hayes has faced setbacks. In 2014, she bottomed out through the pads at the Pan American Championships in Mexico City. A trip to the doctor revealed that she’d sustained a compression fracture in her vertebrae that landed her in a body brace for two months, with another month of enforced rest after that. Says Hayes, “It was frustrating not being able to climb, let alone be active at all.” Moving on from the injury, Hayes has been careful to strengthen and engage her core to better support her spine.

Since La Rambla, Hayes has become a champion for women climbers. Outside of climbing, her curious, playful demeanor leads her into all types of learning. Currently, her interests include independent study in French, digital art, coding, and drawing. (Since graduating from high school, Hayes is on a gap year.) She also hopes to establish routes of her own, to give back to the climbing community. Says Hayes, “To climb a route takes effort, but not even a fraction of what it must take to establish one.”


  • First woman to climb a 5.15a with La Rambla in Siurana, Spain, February 2017
  • First female ascent of Realization (5.15a), September 2017
  • First female ascent of Bad Girls Club (5.14d), Rifle, Colorado


2017: Sixth in the Briançon World Cup, third in the IFSC Youth Combined in Innsbruck


Become fluent in French, learn Spanish, take university classes, continue to compete and climb outside.

Read more Generation 5.16 profiles.