DENVER - To find a new perspective, sometimes you have to pick a different summit. For Fairview High School grad Margo Hayes, getting a new viewpoint means looking at things from a much higher elevation.
"I feel really fortunate to have that chance to experience the world from so high up," she said.
In her young 19 years, Hayes has flipped the professional climbing scene. She competes in both sport climbing and bouldering (sport climbing requires a participant to rely on anchors fixed on the rock that they can clip to as they go, while bouldering uses shorter walls, no protection on the rocks, but mats underneath). Over the years, Margo has ascended to the top of her craft, winning both national and international competitions.
"I think it's this sensation, and it's hard to explain with words, but on the competitive side of things, I've always been a competitor since I was little growing up as a gymnast," she said. "That's just part of my nature, and so getting the butterflies, having to perform under pressure, I thrive in that kind of environment."
Margo grew up attending classes at CATS Gymnastics in Boulder. Little did she know at the time, she would be watching some of the best climbers in the world on the gym's climbing wall. She eventually tried the sport, fell in love, and set out to pursue her new passion.
Over the years, the awards have poured in. Most recently, Hayes finished second in the 2015 Youth World Bouldering Championships, first in the 2016 SCS Open National Championships, and fourth in the ABS Open National Championships. Outdoors, her climbs got more difficult, too. Eventually, Margo set her sights on conquering a 5.15 -- the most difficult grade of free climbing that exists.
"A 5.15 has been one of my main goals as a climber for a long time," she said. "It's been kind of a dream, something that I wanted to come true, but it seemed like something that was far in the future."
Turns out, it wasn't as far off as she thought.
"I wanted my first 5.15 to be something very historic, and La Rambla [in Spain] was just that," she said. "I was drawn to it because of its beauty, its history [and] its difficulty."
This winter, her friends invited her to join them for some climbing in Spain. Margo saw it as a perfect opportunity to take on the historic La Rambla cliffside. On February 26, 2017, she became the first female to ever conquer a 5.15.
"I'm honored to be able to stand beside so many women who are taking our sport to new levels and building upon the accomplishments of those who have come before us," Hayes said. "There's such an individual journey for each person when they try a route that's testing their strength mentally and physically. For me, I just knew it was a big step forward, and it represents opening a door."
Hayes sees her success on La Rambla as a way to push her own personal climbing limits even higher.
"It's such a personal, intimate moment when you're on the wall, and sometimes I can't even remember what I'm thinking about because I feel so in the present," Hayes said. "I'm not worried about the past or the future."
The teen is hopeful climbing will continue to grow. After all, she has seen firsthand how a new angle can provide a new perspective.
"Whether it's on an easier route or a harder route, it doesn't really matter. It's just people coming together and trying to better themselves," she said.
Margo is currently studying and climbing abroad in Europe.
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