INTERVIEW: Margo Hayes on Her Semester in France, Three Gold Medals at the World Youth Championships, and Gaining Confidence Through Climbing Outside

Photo courtesy of Margo.

Margo Hayes is one of American’s top female climbers both indoors and outside. She has ticked well over a dozen 5.14s, including the first female ascent of Bad Girls Club (5.14d), while consistently taking the podium indoors nationally and internationally, most recently winning three gold medals (lead, bouldering and combined) at the World Youth Championships in China. She’s also just 18.

Margo talked to Coffee.Tape.Climb about her most recent challenge: Spending this semester immersing herself in the French language, culture and climbing community. 

What made you decide to spend this semester in France?

I studied French in high school and knew that to become more proficient I needed to live in a French speaking country. France has a rich climbing history, world class crags and an amazing climbing community. I have had the opportunity to climb with friends I have met at competitions, outdoor cliffs and at local gyms around Aix and Marseille.

What are the best parts of living abroad?

The best part of living abroad is being immersed in a culture and country which is so diverse compared to my hometown [Boulder, Colorado]. I am surrounded by beautiful architecture, art, music and food! I spend a lot of time outside because I walk an average of 7 miles a day to and from school, to the bus and train stations, and the climbing gyms.

What have been your biggest challenges?
Margo giving it her all on the French cliffs. Photo by Jan Novak and courtesy of Margo.

I think that the greatest challenge at the beginning was the language barrier. It has also been the object of a lot of laughter! Although I still have so much to learn, my French has improved quite a bit. Initially I thought I would only stay in France for a semester, but, a few weeks into my time here, I began thinking about extending my visa. My fingers are crossed that I will be able to do that. My post France plans include competing in the European World Cups and climbing outside as much as I can!

Related: INTERVIEW: Alex Honnold on “Alone on the Wall” and Climbing While on a Book Tour

What are your outdoor climbing plans and goals now that you have a break from competitions?

My outdoor plans are to explore and learn as much as I can while in France. There are so many incredible cliffs here! Climbing outside adds to my competition training because it makes me stronger in other ways. I feel happy when I can push myself 30-plus meters above the ground!

Photo by Jan Novak and courtesy of Margo.
What advice would you give female climbers looking to gain the confidence to send hard routes next to the guys?

There are many female climbers around the world sending hard routes. My advice is to get outside whenever you can! The more time spent outside naturally leads to more confidence in that environment. Climbing has taught me a lot; I have learned not to limit myself. I try to be open minded and remain positive. Each of us has our own path which gives us different opportunities for growth.

Related: INTERVIEW: Claire Buhrfeind on Embracing Herself as a Strong Female Climber, Her Transition to College, and Climbing for Team Texas

Three gold medals at the World Youth Championships is fantastic! How did you prepare for China, and what were your goals going into the competition?
Margo on her way to earning gold at the 2016 World Youth Championships. Photo by The Circuit Climbing and courtesy of Margo. 

Thank you! I was extremely motivated because I hadn’t climbed my best at the Paris World Championships in September. After my initial disappointment, I realized that that experience was exactly what I needed. It forced me to evaluate what had happened and how I could learn from it. I used that information as motivation. I wanted to top every climb at the competition. Although I didn’t achieve this, it remains my objective from now on.

Who do you look up to for inspiration and motivation?

There are many people I look up to for inspiration in climbing and in life. What they all have in common is commitment, kindness and generosity.

A huge thank you to Margo for taking the time to chat about her time abroad. To keep up with her travels and continued crushing, you can follow her on Instagram and visit her website



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